private joshua johnson and the other old souls at ebenezer a.me. on bacton hill road in east whiteland

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Someone asked me what it was that made me want to save the graves in the ruins of the Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill Road in East Whiteland or what old timers in East Whiteland like to call “that old black church”.  What first moved me was the grave you see above of Private Joshua Johnson(1846-1916) who was a member of Company K of the 45th of the United States Colored Troops in the Civil War.

How could he just be abandoned by his church? How could the others? These are people’s ancestors – you know like William Reason who died in 1892? joseph Thomas who was born in 1751? (list below at end of post along with very old article excerpts courtesy of a friend.)

The most history we have on Ebenezer AME was compiled by Eagle Scouts. Daniel Baker was one.  In 1989 he wrote History of the Ebenezer AME Church on Baction Hill Road. Another Eagle Scout,   Mathew Nehring also adopted this site in 2010 and documented graves and did a clean up. Nehring put his results on Find-A-Grave .

This summer is the bicentennial celebration of the A.M.E. Church A/K/A Host of the 50th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference, African Methodist Episcopal Church. It is being held in Philadelphia before the DNC.

Oh yeah, I have tried countless times contacting the AME Church regionally and nationally since we discovered they still own the ruins of Ebenezer A.M.E.  When I did a GIANT e-mail I got some responses last year, but never any follow up. Ministers and church officials asking me to send them information and I have…so many times. And NOTHING.

Ok so NONE of these souls moldering in this forgotten graveyard aren’t my people, don’t share my race or religion, but these people belong to some descendants somewhere, right? Surely the big A.M.E church must care about Ebenezer A.M.E. right?

No. Apparently not.  I have reporters who have expressed interest, but mostly it is just regular people like me and the late Chester County poet A.V. (Ann) Christie. Yes, A.V. Christie. That is how I met her. Because of a graveyard abandoned by time and man.  She died April 7, 2016.  Those of us in East Whiteland and elsewhere who are just regular folk would love to be able to honor Ann’s memory by getting this little graveyard taken care of. She had no tie to it either. Like me she happened upon it.  I believe she helped clean it up a few times a few years ago as well.  Ann once lived nearby to the graveyard.

So yes, #thisplacematters too. 1st District A.M.E. Church is on Twitter about the upcoming bicentennial.  @1stDistrictAMEC is their handle. Maybe they need to be tweeted at to remember the ancestors buried here. They have to be someone’s people, right? The most recent local A.M.E. Church elder I sent information to was a Reverend Lett.

He never replied. It makes me wonder why I care, but I do.  These forgotten people deserve to be remembered and some of the names in the graveyard are still the names of some descendants living in Malvern and Chester County today.

A.M.E. Church does still own Ebenezer A.M.E. Someone trying to assist with research wrote to a friend a few months ago “The county still lists the owners as the African Methodist “Episcapal” [sic] Church, with a mailing address as Malvern R.D. 1. You can see then it hasn’t been used in quite a long time!”

EBene

I also sent information to Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III Editor of the Christian Recorder. That is the official paper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. I have contacted innumerable local ministers of A.M.E. Churches.

Yet there the graveyard rots on the eve of their bicentennial.  Yep, that is some way to honor the past. To honor freed slaves and civil war soldiers.

The Daily Local was kind enough this week to pick up the tale of Linden Hall. Hopefully they or SOMEONE will decide that the dead of Ebenezer A.M.E. are worth a little bit of attention.

Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery is also known as Chester Valley African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, or Valley Hill Cemetery. You can also see tombstone photos on Pennsylvania US Gen Web Archives – someone named Fred Kelso popsted them in 2008. One of his photos shows that in 2008 someone still left a Christmas wreath on the ruins of the chuch.

If you know anything about this cemetery or people buried here, please leave a comment.

And also read this fascinating write up of another cemetery probably long gone in East Whiteland – The Flat Road Amish Mennoite Cemetery.

Here is an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1999:

A Lonely Battle For Black Cemeteries In This County Alone, At Least Six Are Abandoned Or In Serious Disrepair. Regulations Are Sparse, Records Mostly Nonexistent.

POSTED: August 10, 1999

Lee Carter pressed paper and pencil to the weather-ravaged tombstone inscriptions, laboring in vain to make out the faded names of the dead…..“It breaks your heart,” Carter said. “You devote your time to these things, and after a while it gets to you. You have to walk away.”

African American cemeteries are vanishing across Chester County, despite efforts of a small cadre determined to save them. At least six independent burial sites, and a seventh just outside the county, have been abandoned or are in serious disrepair, and no one knows how many may already be lost.

It is a phenomenon taking place across the country, black historians say, for reasons that include a lack of regulation, the remote locations of land granted to former slaves, and rural-urban migration…

A registry or listing of all cemeteries does not exist, Hardester said. While for-profit cemeteries are regulated by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission and state Health Department, no group or agency regulates older fraternal or church cemeteries – where the bulk of people living in the 1800s and early 1900s are buried.

Limited state legislation exists to protect unmarked cemeteries from development and to force municipalities or churches to care for neglected or abandoned cemeteries. But Hardester said such legislation, which dates to the 1930s, is rarely invoked because it is obscure and fragmented.

So it is often left to persistent individuals to save them – such as Roger Grigson, president of the Downingtown Historical Society…..

cultural traditions may also play a role, noting that maintaining an oral record traditionally was considered more important in black culture than marking graves with elaborate headstones.

“The people who do remember the oral histories are the older people,” she said. “When they die, they take the knowledge of who’s buried where with them. It’s happening all over the place, and nobody really seems to care.”…Grigson said he spent six months calling the A.M.E. Church’s District 1 headquarters in Philadelphia and was all but ignored.

“They didn’t want to cooperate,” he said. “I called the A.M.E. over and over with no response. When I did get somebody, I was told, `Keep your nose out of it.’ ”

Renee Carey, a South Coatesville resident who is trying to create a database of the people buried in forgotten cemeteries, said she also failed to get any information from the A.M.E. Church after sending repeated e-mails to the records office….The remnants of one A.M.E. church stand next to a trailer park on Bacton Hill Road in East Whiteland. A long-forgotten cemetery surrounds the church, hidden in a jungle-like mix of tall grass, trees, rocks and moss. A headstone has become embedded in a tree trunk.

Many graves there are crudely marked with rocks, which are rounded by rain and embedded like teeth in the ground. The clearest headstone belongs to Joshua Johnson, a Civil War soldier who lived from 1846 to 1916 and whose military unit is etched on his headstone.

Township records say the land belongs to the “AME church at RD 1” in Malvern. Asa McCollum, vice chairman of the trustees for St. Paul’s A.M.E. Church in Malvern, said that the church was not affiliated with his and that the ground belonged to A.M.E. District 1.

Graves identified by Matthew Nehring:

A., H. 54

Bently, James
b. 1819 d. Jun. 12, 1849

Brown, Ann
b. 1811 d. Feb. 5, 1901

Brown, John
b. 1837 d. Apr. 17, 1852

Cogins, Jane
b. 1849 d. 1887

Curtis, Walter
b. 1879 d. Mar., 1880

Davis, Hannah
b. unknown d. Apr. 5, 1898

Edwards, Harriet
b. 1809 d. Dec. 25, 1839

Gassaway, Alice
b. 1867 d. Aug. 28, 1911

H, A E
b. unknown d. unknown

Hooper, Anna E
b. 1821 d. Feb. 23, 1868

Hooper, John
b. unknown d. Apr. 23, 1847

Hooper, Mary Ann
b. 1812 d. Jun. 22, 1889

Johnson, Howard J.
b. unknown d. Oct. 8, 1921

Johnson, Joshua
b. 1846 d. 1916

Johnson, Winfield
b. 1861 d. Jun. 22, 1907

Jones, Clara Bertha
b. unknown d. Jul. 13, 1886

Jones, Sarah
b. unknown d. Jan. 18, 1875

Jones, Sarah J.
b. unknown d. Jan. 12, 1891

Laws, John
b. unknown d. Mar. 20, 1879

Poinsley, William
b. unknown d. Aug. 20, 1906

Reason, Mary
b. 1823 d. Jun. 30, 1888

Reason, William
b. 1817 d. Nov. 26, 1892

Smith, Viola
b. Nov. 30, 1899 d. Mar. 26, 1913

Thomas, Joseph
b. 1810 d. Sep. 10, 1849

Thomas, Joseph
b. 1751 d. Sep. 16, 1840
Trowery, Mabel Bell
b. May 1, 1906 d. Nov. 1, 1906

Trowery, Pauline
b. Apr. 1, 1894 d. Sep. 25, 1906

Williams, Amelia
b. Jul. 11, 1832 d. Feb. 3, 1911

Williams, Ellen
b. unknown d. Apr. 21, 1841

Woodyard, Hiram
b. 1824 d. Dec. 20, 1900

Woodyard, Sarah B.
b. unknown d. Aug., 1896

Collection: African American Newspapers

Publication: THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER

Date: December 18, 1873

Title: NEWS FROM THE CHURCHES.

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Rev. Wm. H. Davis writes from Phoenixville, December 8, 1873. MR. EDITOR:

Upon my arrival at my post I found one of my points at the Deep Valley, the church was in a bad condition, about to fall down. We tore it down and rebuilt it gain, and on last Sunday the 7th we had a good time in the Church. As my presiding elder could not be with me, I got the Rev. R. Norris of West Chester who dedicated the church anew on Sunday morning. I tried to preach, 1 Cor. XV, 57. WE took a collection and got the last dollar. In the afternoon having raised in the morning the last dollar owed on the church the Rev. W.R. Norris commenced the grand jubilee in the afternoon and selected for his text Joshua VI, 16, and the Lord blessed us. WE have a church worth two hundred dollars, today at the Deep Valley.
Collection: African American Newspapers

Publication: THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER

Date: June 7, 1883

Title: REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON MEMOIRS, —–

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON MEMOIRS, —–


PHILA., PA., May 14, 1883.

To the Bishop and Conference: DEAR FATHER IN GOD, AND BRETHREN, -We, your committee, to whom was assigned the sad and solemn duty of considering the life and demise of our brethren and co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord, whom death has claimed as his since last session of the Philadelphia Annual Conference, beg leave to submit the following as the result of our labors”

Rev. Shadrach Blackson was born in Christeen, Deleware, in the year 1809. His parents being in bondage, he was born a slave. His master sold him to a Presbyterian minister in East Whiteland, Chester County, Pa., in 1814. Here he received a common religion and joined the A.M.E. Church at Valley Hill, where he held his membership for over 60 years. 50 years of this time he labored as a local preacher and was a local member of the Philadelphia Annual Conference over 39 years. He departed this life on the 18th day of March, 1883, in the full triumph of faith. He leaves a wife and three children to mourn their loss, but their loss is his eternal gain.
Collection: African American Newspapers

Publication: THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER

Date: November 20, 1890

Title: —– —–

Author: REV. J.M. PALMER, P.E.

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Downingtown circuit under Bro. Reuben L. Patterson is showing signs of improvement worthy of one of far more experience. Membership and interest both increasing.

A genuine quarterly meeting was hat at Ebenezer (Valley Hill) recently began Saturday morning, with preaching by five of the brethren. The great spiritual feast on the Sabbath old fathers declared had not been equaled in many years. Downingtown will soon have a new church. We are confident the people have a mind to work.
Morning Republican, January 27, 1894
Revival meetings were started at the Ebenezer A.M.E Church, near Bacton, on Sunday evening. They are being conducted by the pastor, Rev. R. L. Patterson.
Morning Republican, May 31, 1899
The colored people of Bacton will give a strawberry and ice cream festival on Henry Tinson’s lawn, on mile west of Bacton, Saturday night, June 10th, for the benefit of Ebenezer A.M.E. Sunday School. Committe of arrangements: Henry Tinson, Annie Tinson, Lundon Asparagras, Mary Asparagras, Susan Thomas, Ameilia Johnson, Lydia Wilson. All are welcome.
Morning Republican, December 26, 1899
The Ebenezer A.M.E. Sunday School of Bacton will give their Christmas entertainment in Bacton Hall on Saturday night. There will be recitations, dialogues and singing by the school, and tree sharing and treats for the scholars, after which there will be a sale of refreshments and oysters for the benefit of the Sunday School treasury. The committee of arrangements consists of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Tinson, Mr. and Mrs. Louden Asparagus, Mrs. Amelia Johnson, Mrs. Susan Thomas, Miss Lydia Johnson, Miss Laura Jacson (sic), secretary.
Daily Local News, April 11, 1934
Visitors in the Chester Valley speak of the little building which was once well-known as the colored Baptist Church of Bacton. It has been unused for services for some time, but is yet in fair condition, with the old-fashioned box and pews and the coal oil lamps, and beneath the building the groundhogs have been sleeping in comfort during the past winter. Many old stories are told about that church and the enthusiastic meetings held in other days.

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3 thoughts on “private joshua johnson and the other old souls at ebenezer a.me. on bacton hill road in east whiteland

  1. Collection: African American Newspapers
    Publication: THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER
    Date: December 18, 1873
    Title: NEWS FROM THE CHURCHES.
    Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Rev. Wm. H. Davis writes from Phoenixville, December 8, 1873. MR. EDITOR:
    Upon my arrival at my post I found one of my points at the Deep Valley, the church was in a bad condition, about to fall down. We tore it down and rebuilt it gain, and on last Sunday the 7th we had a good time in the Church. As my presiding elder could not be with me, I got the Rev. R. Norris of West Chester who dedicated the church anew on Sunday morning. I tried to preach, 1 Cor. XV, 57. WE took a collection and got the last dollar. In the afternoon having raised in the morning the last dollar owed on the church the Rev. W.R. Norris commenced the grand jubilee in the afternoon and selected for his text Joshua VI, 16, and the Lord blessed us. WE have a church worth two hundred dollars, today at the Deep Valley.

    Collection: African American Newspapers
    Publication: THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER
    Date: June 7, 1883
    Title: REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON MEMOIRS, —–
    Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON MEMOIRS, —–

    PHILA., PA., May 14, 1883.
    To the Bishop and Conference: DEAR FATHER IN GOD, AND BRETHREN, -We, your committee, to whom was assigned the sad and solemn duty of considering the life and demise of our brethren and co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord, whom death has claimed as his since last session of the Philadelphia Annual Conference, beg leave to submit the following as the result of our labors”
    Rev. Shadrach Blackson was born in Christeen, Deleware, in the year 1809. His parents being in bondage, he was born a slave. His master sold him to a Presbyterian minister in East Whiteland, Chester County, Pa., in 1814. Here he received a common religion and joined the A.M.E. Church at Valley Hill, where he held his membership for over 60 years. 50 years of this time he labored as a local preacher and was a local member of the Philadelphia Annual Conference over 39 years. He departed this life on the 18th day of March, 1883, in the full triumph of faith. He leaves a wife and three children to mourn their loss, but their loss is his eternal gain.

    Collection: African American Newspapers
    Publication: THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER
    Date: November 20, 1890
    Title: —– —–
    Author: REV. J.M. PALMER, P.E.
    Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Downingtown circuit under Bro. Reuben L. Patterson is showing signs of improvement worthy of one of far more experience. Membership and interest both increasing.
    A genuine quarterly meeting was hat at Ebenezer (Valley Hill) recently began Saturday morning, with preaching by five of the brethren. The great spiritual feast on the Sabbath old fathers declared had not been equaled in many years. Downingtown will soon have a new church. We are confident the people have a mind to work.

    Morning Republican, January 27, 1894

    Revival meetings were started at the Ebenezer A.M.E Church, near Bacton, on Sunday evening. They are being conducted by the pastor, Rev. R. L. Patterson.

    Morning Republican, May 31, 1899

    The colored people of Bacton will give a strawberry and ice cream festival on Henry Tinson’s lawn, on mile west of Bacton, Saturday night, June 10th, for the benefit of Ebenezer A.M.E. Sunday School. Committe of arrangements: Henry Tinson, Annie Tinson, Lundon Asparagras, Mary Asparagras, Susan Thomas, Ameilia Johnson, Lydia Wilson. All are welcome.

    Morning Republican, December 26, 1899

    The Ebenezer A.M.E. Sunday School of Bacton will give their Christmas entertainment in Bacton Hall on Saturday night. There will be recitations, dialogues and singing by the school, and tree sharing and treats for the scholars, after which there will be a sale of refreshments and oysters for the benefit of the Sunday School treasury. The committee of arrangements consists of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Tinson, Mr. and Mrs. Louden Asparagus, Mrs. Amelia Johnson, Mrs. Susan Thomas, Miss Lydia Johnson, Miss Laura Jacson (sic), secretary.

    Daily Local News, April 11, 1934

    Visitors in the Chester Valley speak of the little building which was once well-known as the colored Baptist Church of Bacton. It has been unused for services for some time, but is yet in fair condition, with the old-fashioned box and pews and the coal oil lamps, and beneath the building the groundhogs have been sleeping in comfort during the past winter. Many old stories are told about that church and the enthusiastic meetings held in other days.

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