Long’s Chapel is the still-standing church of the Zenda community, an historically African-American settlement in Rockingham County which thrived until the turn of the 20th century.
In 1869, Hannah and William Carpenter deeded land for the church to trustees who represented the Church of the United Brethren. The deed granted sole use of the site to the United Brethren and stated the transaction’s purpose as giving the “congregation of colored people” land that would serve as “theirs and their successors forever.” The Church’s original structure remains on this land today, along with an adjacent cemetery where some of Zenda’s founding residents were laid to rest.
The Brethren Church helped newly freed slaves in the community raise money for the Church and hired contractor Jacob Long to construct the chapel. By 1871, the chapel was completed with help from community members and was named Long’s Chapel after Jacob Long. It was also known as the Old Athens Church after the original name of the Zenda community. Church minutes from 1900 describe 47 members in Long’s Chapel’s congregation.
Long’s Chapel functioned as the religious and educational center of the Zenda community, housing the first school for the community’s children, where Lucy F. Simms, a dedicated educator from Harrisonburg, taught for a short time. The church played a significant role in Zenda residents’ efforts to establish themselves in their new-found freedom through religious practice, education, and property ownership.
The Long’s Chapel Preservation Society, founded by Al and Robin Jenkins, has worked since 2004 to restore and preserve the church and the surrounding cemetery in order to pass on its history and heritage so that “descendants of slaves and slave owners can visit and honor the legacy of religion, education, and property ownership memorialized at Long’s Chapel at Zenda.” A Virginia state historical marker honoring Longs Chapel and Zenda was dedicated in September 2007. The restoration of Long's Chapel was completed in 2009.
Long's Chapel is a wooden structure with a tin roof located along Route 881 in Rockingham County. A graveyard behind the church contains both visible gravestones and sunken graves.
Geographical and Contact Information
1334-B Fridleys Gap Road