This photo was taken the day many of us were interviewed for the Philadelphia Inquirer article. We had brought the reporter Kristin Holmes out to see the state of the site herself.
Well as lots and lots of people know, The Philadelphia Inquirer covered the story of Ebenezer A.M.E. that was once located at 97 Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, East Whiteland Township, Chester County, PA.
Interestingly, a couple of fairly powerful and influential members (or so I was told) of the A.M.E. Church were interviewed : Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown, executive director of the national denomination’s department of research and scholarship and Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, senior pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia.
I had contacted Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown in the past and it kind of got nowhere. I have contacted the A.M.E. Church Elder Rev Charles H. Lett and that was late December, 2015. He never responded after we had a brief telephone conversation where he instructed me to write to him.
Most recently because of the Inquirer article, I contacted Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, senior pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia. Three times. I have not even received an acknowledgement of my efforts to reach him.
So either the A.M.E. Church cares very little about honoring their history and their dead or they don’t want to hear from a woman who is not of their faith and is not related to anyone buried at Ebenezer AME in Frazer.
How sad and too bad, I am not giving up. The A.M.E. can’t just talk the talk of their history, they need to walk the walk of their history. And if they could afford a giant bicentennial celebration in the city of their faith’s birthplace, surely they can afford one cleanup of one small old and sacred and historic place, right?
Here is the article before I tell you who I wrote to today for help:
Updated: JULY 17, 2016
Tia Manon trudged through the swampy cemetery of the old Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, looking for two names belonging to one man. (SLIDESHOW)
Perry Ringgold was a slave who escaped the South on the Underground Railroad. James Williams was the free man he became after he was harbored by a Quaker family in Exton.
According to family lore, this relative of Manon’s helped found the East Whiteland church in 1832, but none of the stone markers bore a trace of him, by either name. She did come across one name she recognized, a Reason – William Reason. Could he have been an ancestor of her late husband, George Reason?
….”It makes you feel very, very sad,” said Manon, 47, of Paoli, a student at Immaculata University.
She is among a group of neighbors and history buffs who want to clean up and preserve the two-acre tract on Bacton Hill Road. Officials of the Chester County township said that they will coordinate the effort, but that they first need permission from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which they believe owns the property….
The 2.5 million-member A.M.E. Church, founded in Philadelphia by Bishop Richard Allen in 1816, is the oldest independent Protestant denomination established by African Americans. It currently has 7,000 congregations, but the number that sprang up over the centuries and then vanished is unknown.
Chester County is filled with the ghosts of churches past. Like Ebenezer, they grew in concert with pre-Civil War black communities in locations such as Uwchlan and Downingtown, said Renee Carey, a Chester County history enthusiast and South Coatesville borough councilwoman who has researched black churches and cemeteries.
I have only included an excerpt of the article, please read it in it’s entirety. I worked for close to a year alone to get that article placed, and I am grateful to Tia for agreeing to be part of it.
So anyway, today I decided to read a biography from the Mother Bethel website of this senior pastor Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler. I got the bio off a Google cache truthfully because the Mother Bethel website is down more than it is up. I noticed he had been interviewed by a gentleman I believe to be the foremost authority today on African American history, Dr. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates of Harvard University. A lot of you would recognize him as the brains behind the PBS Series Finding Your Roots.
So I decided to e-mail Dr. Gates, it can’t hurt. Here is part of what I said:
You don’t know me but I am a huge fan of your work. I watch your shows on PBS. I live in Chester County, PA, and I am desperately trying along with others including the people on this e-mail to get the A.M.E. Church to save a 184 year old church ruin and cemetery.
The Church is named Ebenezer AME and land was deeded by a Quaker named Malin around 1831 and the church was completed in 1832. It was one of the earlier black churches out here and there is a graveyard too. In the graveyard there are USCT Civil War soldiers and freed slaves. It is because of one of the Civil War soldiers I became interested in the first place. His name was Joshua Johnson. Ebenezer A.M.E. is still located even as a ruin on 97 Bacton Hill Road, Frazer, PA (East Whiteland Township, Chester County, PA)
I am a blogger and a native Philadelphian who moved to Chester County, PA a few years ago. I have been trying for a few years now to get help.
All records indicate the AME Church still owns the land. We just really want to get this place saved. And I am hoping the reason I am ignored by the AME church doesn’t have to do with the fact it’s not my church and these aren’t my ancestors. To you, I respectfully submit these ARE the ancestors of people in the area, and there are more in addition to Tia who was in the article I placed with Kristin Holmes recently in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
I think you might be surprised by the people who wish to help get Ebenezer cleaned up before it is too late. The A.M.E. Church needs to spearhead the initial clean-up as we all believe land is STILL owned by the AME Church and merely not owned by a church congregation that no longer exists. But there are people interested in helping the church after that as in volunteering their time. The boy scouts always want service projects, in addition. And there is a history with local scouts and this place.
The A.M.E. Church just finished hosting their bicentennial in Philadelphia. This is part of the history they celebrate this year.
I have been routinely ignored by the A.M.E. Church for three years now.
I am not the only one.
I am a realist, and not every sacred and/or historical place can be saved. But this place is special, truly special.
I also promised the poet A.V. (Ann) Christie before she died this spring of breast cancer I would keep working with others to save this. I want to keep my word.
Most recently I contacted someone you interviewed not so long ago, Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler of Mother Bethel in Philadelphia. He was interviewed in the Inquirer article. I alone have now sent him 3 emails with information to try to get Ebenezer saved. He has not even acknowledged receipt of the e-mails. I can’t tell you how discouraging it all is.
I know you are so incredibly important a person and busy, but I thought maybe if someone like you expressed an interest, the A.M.E. church would actually respond to us. We just want them to help us get it cleaned up. It is so badly overgrown, we can’t just go onto their property and clean it up. We need their permission, and we need them frankly to pay for the initial clean-up. After that we feel we can get volunteers organized and with the permission of the A.M.E. church hopefully keep it cleaned up going forward.
But we are at a critical juncture, and we need to get the A.M.E. Church moving now before all is lost forever.
I am not asking you for any sort of financial input, but I am asking you to help us because of your unique academic and celebrity position. You are the one who teaches us how to find our roots and the importance of our personal histories. You are also the foremost authority on African American History in this country today. The people buried at Ebenezer are part of that history. Plus there are local residents and not so local residents interested in honoring their ancestors buried here.
I hope you can help us.
So we will see if that helps, or if Dr. Gates responds. He is kind of famous, so maybe he won’t. But I hope he does.
Here are some e-mail addresses for any of you out there interested in getting Ebenezer saved:
The pastor at Mother Bethel interviewed in the Inquirer is Mark Kelly Tyler. Markkellytyler@gmail.com
Rev Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III, The 20th Editor,
The Christian Recorder — Since 1852
“The Official Newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church”
Office: 615. 714-0986
Other emails I found to add to emails:
Dr. Richard Lewis Richlew1@aol.com
email@example.com – Unfortunately note that the Malvern folks have never replied to anything. Ditto for Info@MotherBethel.com
Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown firstname.lastname@example.org or AMECHistoryintheMaking@yahoo.com
Bishop Ingram BishopIngram@firstdistrictame.org and alternate e-mail for First District AME is Clinton@FirstDistrictAME.org
Click HERE for a Google Cache of organizers of the A.M.E’s bicentennial.
Be polite but please consider writing to these folks to get them to help save the ruins and graveyard of Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, East Whiteland, Chester County.
If you are a member of an AME congregation please tell them and the location of your church. If you have ancestors or think you have ancestors buried at Ebenezer, tell them that as well. I would also suggest including a link to the Inquirer article.
Seriously, just because they don’t respond to me it doesn’t mean they won’t respond to you- the MORE emails they get the more likely they will pay attention.
In closing, yes the song remains the same, but we can hope the more people talk about Ebenezer, the better our chances to save it and what remains of the graves.
The only photo I have ever seen from a book by Chester County Historian Catherine Quillman (History of the Conestoga Turkpike)