Two years ago, I wrote three posts on an abandoned church I had stumbled upon:
ebenezer ame church – bacton hill road
it’s palm sunday, so why not post about an abandoned church?
on good friday, remember the churches abandoned by time and man
Well, interestingly enough there has been renewed interest in this church, formerly located on Bacton Hill Road in East Whiteland Township, Chester County. Yes, I am writing again about Ebenezer AME Church.
For me, this all began 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 did a project a few years ago now 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 this church used to serve as a “hub” of African American society in Frazer. Also according to East Whiteland Historical Society:
Members of this community have been documented as former slaves. Their ability to construct this church demonstrates the prosperity and commitment of this community.
The trustees of the Ebenezer AME church purchased the land in 1831 from James Malin. The oldest gravestones found in the cemetery date from the early 1830’s. The congregation disbanded for a time between 1848 and 1871 during which time the building fell into disrepair. By June 22, 1873 the church had been rebuilt and rededicated. It continued to be used until 1970; then intermittently until the 1940’s. Now it is abandoned.
I will note that when Patch covered this in 2012 they showed a lot more gravestones than I was able to locate in 2013. It is now 2015. The Eagle Scout (Matthew Nehring) put what he found on Find A Grave. On that website it is listed as Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery (Also known as: Chester Valley African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, Valley Hill Cemetery).
On Memorial Day I thought of Joshua Johnson, the Civil War soldier buried there. He is a valid part of our soldiering and military history in this country, yet who remembers him? Does the East Whiteland Historical Society remember him? Does anyone? Does he have any ancestors still living in Chester County who may not know his grave exists?
On Pennsylvania Gen Web I do not even find this church or cemetery mentioned. Its not listed on other websites on which you would go to look up information. I do not know how to look the property up on Chester County property records to attempt to track a deed, I have tried.
I would venture a guess that this church once upon a time was part of The First Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. But once again, locally some of us know this church existed, but it is very hard to find information.
This church is a definite candidate for a Pennsylvania Historical Marker but in addition wouldn’t it be great to get this site preserved in some way? The graveyard cleaned up and preserved? I think the land is still owned by the AME church, but how to find the records and get them to acknowledge this sacred place escapes me.
This place should MATTER. I have no idea if the National Trust for Historic Places would be interested but they should be. #thisplacematters
East Whiteland has some fascinating history. And if we are not careful, it will all fade away. East Whiteland isn’t just home to business parks along 29 and 202. Between this crumbling church and places like Loch Aerie and Linden Hall, shouldn’t the historical commission be reaching out to national and state wide preservationists?
If you have any information on Ebenezer AME Church please feel free to post it on a Facebook Page called Living in East Whiteland. Living in East Whiteland is a closed page, but you may request to join. You may also post information on Chester County Ramblings’ Facebook Page.
Together we can try to not only preserve the beauty that is Chester County, PA but the history as well.
Thanks for stopping by.
in the 1990s in the midst of the Churchill rezoning battle, we contacted a professor at Temple who was documenting African American Historical sites…..no reply. During the Churchill hearings it was discovered that a straw company was purchasing historic bldgs along swedesford and conestoga roads. Once Churchill was turned down, they were resold. We were concerned for this Church if Bacton Hill Road was widened…but could not find anyone interested outside of EW. the Chester Co Historical Society in WC may have a grave listing …they had volunteers in the 1930s and 40s documenting graveyards. Believe many graves are unmarked or stones fell over and the woods floor covered them in time. Wish you the best in drawing attention to this Church!
There are lots of these little African-American cemeteries that have fallen to ruin – and one in Hopewell Furnace that is lovingly maintained.