Sounds a bit dramatic, but it got your attention, didn’t it? On Good friday, one of the holiest of holy days, I ask you to remember a small but historically significant church that is rotting in Frazer in East Whiteland Township, Chester County. It is on Bacton Hill Road and it is Ebenezer AME Church.
It started as a fascination of a ruined structure that I later received more information on. Ebenezer AME in Frazer was built in 1835.
Apparently the oldest grave stones in the cemetery date back to the 1830s. An Eagle Scout named Matthew Nehring had been working on uncovering the gravestones. (Have no idea if his project is finished.) According to the photos it appears some of the dead buried here are soldiers and veterans. One gravestone is for a Joshua Johnson (Pvt., Co. K, 45th Reg., United States Colored Troops (USCT) (Civil War). I find this to be incredibly historically significant as the army began to organize African Americans into regimental units known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1863.
According to the East Whiteland Historical Society (which I am not sure what they do because all I see are historic structures rotting in East Whiteland) this church used to serve as a “hub” of African American society in Frazer. So again on Good Friday I ask again why isn’t any of it being protected?
In any Christian religion, Easter is a very big deal. Imagine Easters of the past in this little church. Ladies and gents in their Sunday best, the ladies sporting spring hats. The laughter and joyful sounds of children outside after services have concluded? The pastor standing outside wishing his congregation well and God speed?
A reader of my blog tells me County records indicate that the lot is owned by the “African Methodist Episcopal Church”. This online directory shows the a church in Malvern – St. Paul’s.
The headquarters of the AMEC church are as follows:
500 8th Avenue South Nashville, TN 37203 Phone:(615)254-0911 Fax:(615)254-0912 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
I am going to e-mail these posts to AMEC and see if they will care. Certainly no one else I have e-mailed to date has appeared to care.
East Whiteland always seems to be Johnny on the Spot for historical data yet all this stuff just rots. Peter H. Spengeman, a member of the East Whiteland Township Historical Commission wrote to me recently in part:
I appreciate the writer’s interest and concern about the considerable historical resources in the Township , and the ongoing need for protection of structures such as the Ebenezer AME Church, a recent focus of beginning conservation planning. All of us shudder when we pass a formerly stately structure crying for help.
He continues with what East Whiteland has done in the past, and well, the past is the past. What is going on today? I am going to not try to sound harsh, but what is it they do besides bemoan the fact that a heck of a lot of history in East Whiteland is rotting? Loch Aerie, Linden House, and more? For example (I do not know all the municipal boundaries so feel free to correct me) but isn’t part of Duffy’s Cut that Amtrak won’t allow any more archeological digs on in East Whiteland? Is the mass grave important enough that maybe another marker closer to the actual site is in order?
I get that part of the problem is East Whiteland has probably more commercial zones than residential so why not get smart with zoning and planning? Is it possible to write into ordinances and make conditions of approval that not only include these developers to improve the roads and infrastructure, but to kick in towards the preservation? I mean seriously they have developers with huge, deep pockets like Brian O’Neill and Eli Kahn, right? I mean Brian O’Neill is Catholic with a sense of religion, right? Why couldn’t they ask someone like him to save a church? Help get another historical marker closer to the actual location of Duffy’s Cut mass grave (Where AMTRAK halted archeological digging) ? Or help find a conservation minded buyer for say Linden Hall or Loch Aerie?
Both developers and their partners have made noises out here and elsewhere about how their developments add to the character of an area, so why not have them put their money where there mouths are on historic sites? Paoli Battlefield and Battle of the Clouds are important, but why is it I see neighboring municipalities succeeding with preservation efforts? Historic Sugartown, Historic Goshenville, and even though sometimes I think they need to do more, Historic Yellow Springs?
And again, when you go to East Whiteland’s really poorly designed website and pull up the historical commission you get a big bowl of nothing.
This church meant something to residents of Chester County for generation upon generation. I was also told (and I quote) “Some of the family names on the gravestones are the same as families still living in Malvern Borough. I can’t blame the Township when the church and the families don’t seem to care.”
I will tell you what, if some of my people were buried in an abandoned churchyard I sure would care.
So here is wishing on Good Friday that apathy dies an untimely death and people remember this site before my photos are the only things left standing.
Again, I am happy to share the photos I have taken to date. If the African Methodist Episcopal Church were to roll up with East Whiteland to save it, I would continue to offer my photographic skills as a donation as well as my PR talents. But someone other than I has to care, first.
Blessed Easter all.