Remember the Kim Carnes song Bette Davis Eyes from 1981? Lots of artists have covered it since then, including Taylor Swift.
I had it pop up on a Spotify 80s play list recently and now it’s an earworm. It’s in part an earworm because it reminds me of someone I knew and lost track of a long time ago.
Long ago and far away I knew a woman who had a bright future. A rising star in pharmaceutical sales she reminded you of Bette Davis when you looked at her. (My age is showing indeed because half of the people who read this will be in the camp of “Who was Betty Davis?”)
This girl also reminded me of the William Blake poem with the line “tyger, tyger burning bright.”
She was a lot of fun, often exhausting and she loved to dress up, dance, and party. It was the 1980s, so a lot of us did. Girls just wanted to have fun…quite literally.
Then one night she showed up someplace after another party. She was just too, too. I think you get the drift, right? We had her keys taken away at a place and someone was either supposed to drive her home or pour her into a cab. I left that place early, and for days I did not know what had happened. It was the days of BEFORE as in way before social media and really even cell phones (there were pagers entering our world somewhere around that time but I do NOT remember when. I never had a pager.).
I realized after a few days I had not heard from her. And she wasn’t picking up answering machine messages. I remember calling around and finding out she had wrapped herself around a tree and was in the hospital. In ICU. Her accident occurred on a twisty road where within a short amount of time someone else I knew had a late night after-partying accident and for a while was even in the same hospital as this woman I knew. The sad difference was the second person was given the gift of a real second chance at life and recovered, got married, and had a family.
This woman I knew? She ceased to exist as any of us knew her that one fateful night. I don’t know if she became a quadriplegic or a paraplegic, but she was in a wheelchair and she also had brain damage. A lot of it as I remember.
And what was the most awful thing about the brain damage? Her memory seemed to stop at a certain point. I remember trying to visit her after it happened, and even up to a couple of years after it happened. She had absolutely no clue who I was because those memories were instantly erased on impact the night of the accident. That was crushingly hard. You remembered her, had some really great memories of going to the beach and to black tie parties and so on, but she had absolutely no clue who most of us were. It did make you cry.
Eventually a lot of us stopped trying to visit her. I was one of them. She was in a wheelchair and she lived with her parents. And her parents were obviously very protective of her and well if you didn’t grow up with her, go to church with any of them…. you just felt uncomfortable. So I let her go. I still have a photo of her somewhere sitting on a fireplace bench at my parents’ house. Bright red lipstick and a smile that not only lit up her face but every room she was in.
Soon as time fades and life goes on, you meet other people. But every once in a while, like when I hear a certain song, there she is all shiny and bright and we are in our early 20s.
Suffice it to say, I learned at an early age why you didn’t drink and drive. So I had not thought of her in years at this point until I heard that Kim Carnes song.
But I think why I am writing this is it’s time, and also because we also have this total addiction crisis in this country. Addicts and alcoholics…who doesn’t know people with these issues…. and for all of the rehabs and programs the numbers keep growing. And growing.
I have one friend who was made a widow by heroin a few years ago now. Her husband decided to be a teenager, and one dose, one fatal dose was all it took to overdose. I have another friend who more recently lost her son to an overdose in another state. These life circumstances have had a profound effect on their lives. One friend has persevered and become stronger and the other worries me because emotionally she is a fragile shell.
I had another childhood friend whom a lot of us lost to an overdose in 1998. It was long before people were talking about it as much. He had struggled with addiction and alcoholism from the time he was a teenager. He was often so bad he was terrifying. I remember about a year or so before he died ending up in a car with him on the Schuylkill Expressway and literally being afraid I would not get home alive he was driving so fast. He was back from a stint in rehab and I thought he was sober – we were just going to dinner in Philadelphia. He loved speed. And the speed at which he fell off the wagon and died of an overdose at 35 in 1998 was another terrifying flash. And a wasted life. I still remember where I was when I was told he had died.
The faces of addiction have changed. Or maybe they haven’t but we are talking about them more? I don’t know. But addictions are a disease. Some people are strong enough to get clean and get sober. Others aren’t. I know someone from my high school era I have completely shut the door on. I know when I can’t handle things, and their life will just drag down whomever is left and they have sadly, completely tanked their life. Right or wrong, I choose not to be around them.
I had a maternal uncle and a paternal grandfather who were drinkers. I knew it from a very early age. I did not love them any less, but it made me sad. And I have to be honest as a child it often made me uncomfortable. Adults didn’t think you knew…but you knew.
One of my earliest memories of my paternal grandfather was the shortwave radio on the enclosed front porch and the smell of Schlitz beer. He was never outright blotto but you could always sense the hum of alcohol.
As a result of these relatives and friends’ issues, maybe I notice things too much or worry about them too much. All I know is there are way too many people with substance abuse issues from every walk of life. I feel incredibly lucky that I have not had to struggle with these demons personally. But for the grace of God go any of us, right?
This Friday, August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day.
As per the Daily Local, Chester County is participating.
None of us today are immune to these sad events. We have to commit to being part of positive change. I don’t have the answers. But I have watched too many experience the loss. I have experienced loss on a certain level because of the alcoholism and addiction of others.
If you think you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, reach out to friends and family and ask for help. That is the first step. I know from people I have known in various programs over the years that sobriety and staying clean is a process and often a tough road. But living is such a gift.
Also educate yourselves (and your children and loved ones) on the dangers of herbal opiods like Kratom and vaping. Sorry not sorry no good comes out of being addicted to nicotine without the cigarette, either.
Here is another article on the events for Overdose Awareness Day this coming Friday:
The county’s Department of Drug & Alcohol Services has announced the county’s participation in International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31.
To mark the occasion, 144 pinwheels will be displayed in front of the Chester County Justice Center on Market Street in West Chester and the Chester County Government Services Center on Westtown Road, representing the 144 lives lost to accidental overdose in Chester County in 2017. Citizens are invited to participate in a moment of silence on Aug. 31 at 9:30 a.m. to remember those lost to overdose and the loved ones left behind.
“Sadly, Chester County lost more loved ones to accidental drug overdose last year than in previous years,” said Vince Brown, executive director of the Chester County Department of Drug and Alcohol Services. “Our community, as well as our country, continues to face an opioid and heroin epidemic and the disease of addiction knows no bounds. Addiction does not discriminate against age, race, socioeconomic status or education level.”
Several organizations will be holding events on Aug. 31, including:
- A candlelight vigil hosted by Kacie’s Cause at First Baptist Church (415 W. State St., Kennett Square) from 7 to 8 p.m. This event will include featured speakers, a lighting of candles and an open mic sharing for the attendees.
- A candlelight vigil hosted by Kacie’s Cause at The Green of Oxford Presbyterian Church (3rd Street, Oxford) from 7 to 9 p.m. This event will include featured speakers, a lighting of candles, ABE the pony, the Kacie’s Cause Mascot, and an open mic sharing for the attendees.
- “Building Community, Sharing Hope,” hosted by Pennsylvania Recovery Organization-Achieving Community Together (PRO-ACT), at Charles A. Melton Center (501 E. Miner St., West Chester) from 6 to 8 p.m. This event will include a free buffet dinner, free Narcan, several keynote speakers, recovery resources, and a moment of silence with a luminary ceremony to remember the victims of the disease of addiction.
A long overdue post prompted by amazing customer service even after I had long since left Bermuda. In July, we were in Bermuda. One of the places I visited was the Royal Dockyard at King’s Wharf Bermuda because that is where our ship docked.
Two of my favorite places in Bermuda were the Bermuda Arts Centre at Dockyard and the Bermuda Craft Market. Located in Dockyard and very close together (the Craft Market is in the old Cooperage building and the Art Centre in a neighboring building close to it. And if you go, also make time for one of the oldest pubs right there at the Cooperage called the Frog & Onion Pub. They do delicious old school fish and chips served the proper British way and have quite the beer selection as well as some of the nicest t-shirts you can purchase as a tourist.
The Arts Centre has a lovely book section as well as absolutely amazing plein air paintings for sale. If you are a fan of the plein air style you won’t be disappointed. I especially liked the art of Michelle Smith, Christopher Marson, Heidi Cowan, and Christopher Grimes.
Now onto the excellent customer service. When I was in the Craft Market buying some things to bring home (sherry pepper sauce and beach glass earrings from Morrell Designs) their Internet had a blip – Bermuda is an island in the middle of a rather large ocean, right? So my purchases were doubled.
The Craft Market corrected their mistake immediately and last week took the time to call me to make sure the doubled charges had dropped off my credit card statement as it had on their bank reconciliation report. I was there mid-July. That is amazing customer service when people take the time to call over one month later just to be sure.
Not to be overlooked, but Craft Market is also home to a cigar roller named Grant and the Bermuda Cigar Company.
Another place to visit for local crafts would be the Dockyard Glass Works. They have some predictable tourist stuff, yes, but also some amazing glass orbs and vases and things. They also make these feathery light glass snowflakes for your Christmas tree.
This was a relatively short trip to Bermuda, courtesy of a cruise ship, so I will have to hope to go back at some point in the future to explore more. But because I like supporting local artists and craftspeople I wanted to make sure I posted about these places.
I was not compensated in any way for this post, nor did I receive special treatment as a tourist. These are places I discovered on my own along with the National Museum of Bermuda which is also right there in Dockyard. Enjoy the photo sets. The photos at the bottom are of the National Museum and the old fort. It was super cool to explore.
Thanks for rambling briefly to Bermuda this morning!
I will let John McCain’s final words be a lot of this post. He was a great American. He was an American Hero. We were lucky to have him in our corner.
We live at present with turbulence and ugliness that is NOT a hallmark of being an American and certainly resembles no Republican party I recognize and, in fact, it’s a travesty. Maybe you don’t like my opinion, but it is what it is and I am not alone in my sentiments. In my humble opinion, John McCain represented a good portion of what I respected once about most Republicans.
Sad trivia: John McCain died 9 years to the day from when Ted Kennedy died…and McCain and Kennedy died from the same cancer. Sadly, I will never view Ted Kennedy with the same eyes.
Time for a brief segue… (come on now, it’s only a wee ramble…)
When I was child, Ted Kennedy was in Philadelphia. It would have been after Chappaquiddick. Anyway, he was making a stop at the American Catholic Historical Society at 263 S. 4th Street in Society Hill. My family at the time lived at 271 S. 4th Street.
I was a little girl with an autograph book (remember those?) and I knew a Kennedy would be a few doors down from listening to all the grown-ups talk about it. So I asked my parents if they could take me down for an autograph. Kennedy got out of the car. He didn’t see me and waved his arms out I guess to wave at people or greet them or something a politician would do… and he knocked me down. Seriously and for real. He didn’t stop to see if the little girl he knocked over was o.k. But that is why at an early age, I became an UN-fan of Senator Ted Kennedy.
Back to John McCain. He was true to himself and to the American people. You can’t ask for more than that in a public servant/politician.
John McCain was a man whom I would have been proud as an American to have had as a President. Sadly, they paired him up with Caribou Barbie, otherwise known as Sarah Palin. He would have had a much better shot at becoming President I think if they had not stupidly chosen Sarah Palin. No I have nothing kind to say about Sarah Palin. I have always found her to be ridiculous. Her comments upon his death are no exception. She sounds like a bitter divorcée who lost her alimony or something. However, since even our current President is apparently lacking in the decorum at death department, why should Scarah Palin be any different? Maybe she’ll be the next new hire on the White House edition of the Apprentice?
The New York Times has written a beautiful obituary on John McCain . READ IT HERE.
Excerpt from New York Times Obituary:
John S. McCain, the proud naval aviator who climbed from depths of despair as a prisoner of war in Vietnam to pinnacles of power as a Republican congressman and senator from Arizona and a two-time contender for the presidency, died on Saturday at his home in Arizona. He was 81.
According to a statement from his office, Mr. McCain died at 4:28 p.m. local time. He had suffered from a malignant brain tumor, called a glioblastoma, for which he had been treated periodically with radiation and chemotherapy since its discovery in 2017.
Despite his grave condition, he soon made a dramatic appearance in the Senate to cast a thumbs-down vote against his party’s drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act….A son and grandson of four-star admirals who were his larger-than-life heroes, Mr. McCain carried his renowned name into battle and into political fights for more than a half-century. It was an odyssey driven by raw ambition, the conservative instincts of a shrewd military man, a rebelliousness evident since childhood and a temper that sometimes bordered on explosiveness.
Also read this Penn Live Editorial and here is an excerpt:
By PennLive Editorial Board firstname.lastname@example.org
Fittingly for someone who always seemed larger than life, the death Saturday of U.S. Sen. John McCain at the age of 81 seemed like several events wrapped into one.
For McCain’s family, friends and colleagues – both in Washington and across the nation and world – it was a time to mourn a beloved father, spouse and colleague who battled bravely against an aggressive form of brain cancer to the very end.
For historians and political scientists, it offered the chance to observe, in real time, the passing of one era of American politics and the continued dawning of a new – and very different – one.
And for the rest of us, it was an opportunity to reflect on an extraordinary career of public service….Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who appeared at McCain’s side throughout his 2008 White House bid, said his longtime friend “lived a life to service as few others have. And when you take a look at that lifetime of service, his was performed with unfailing integrity.”
….He taught us that we work best when we work together.
I hope you read the entire Penn Live Editorial. It is brilliant.
By Karen Tumulty August 25
U.S. Sen. John S. McCain, the son and grandson of four-star admirals, was bred for combat. He endured more than five years of imprisonment and torture by the North Vietnamese as a young naval officer and went on to battle foes on the left and the right in Washington, driven throughout by a code of honor that both defined and haunted him.
Sen. McCain, 81, died Aug. 25 at his ranch near Sedona, Ariz., his office announced in a statement. The senator was diagnosed last year with a brain tumor, and his family announced this week that he was discontinuing medical treatment…..A man who seemed his truest self when outraged, Sen. McCain reveled in going up against orthodoxy. The word “maverick” practically became a part of his name.
Sen. McCain regularly struck at the canons of his party. He ran against the GOP grain by advocating campaign finance reform, liberalized immigration laws and a ban on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” — widely condemned as torture — against terrorism suspects….Once Trump was in office, Sen. McCain was among his most vocal Republican critics, saying that the president had weakened the United States’ standing in the world. He also warned that the spreading investigation over Trump’s ties to Russia was “reaching the point where it’s of Watergate-size and scale.”
John McCain was indeed a maverick. And American here. An example of a dying breed of public servant. We need more like him from both parties. I think it’s high time to look for actual public servants, true voices of the people. Not puppets for their respective political parties, beholden to lobbyists and deal makers.
John McCain, thank you for your service. A literal lifetime of service. You weren’t perfect, you did not pretend to be, but I think you were amazing. May your memory be a blessing.
Imagine it as the tour guides knew it growing up: a little village of charming gardens and close knit neighbors. Children running on summer days from house to house, picking fruit where they knew it to be growing (berries, black cherries, apples, peaches).
A bull in a fenced in orchard named “bossy”.’
Double daring each other to be on top of the bridge when the locomotive went under.
Walking to school in the snow.
Hoboes arriving each summer via the freight train cars and their mother would set up a card table, feed them, and tell them about God.
The old lady across the street who gave them birthday cards and made them sweet treats.
This was Fricks Locks.
And then…they were all told to leave. Progress was at their door.
A little history courtesy of Preservation PA circa 2009:
The Girard Reach of Schuylkill Canal was constructed circa carry coal from the Anthracitic region to markets in Reading and Philadelphia. The two Locks 54 and 55 were constructed in the village to provide a lift of 18 feet. To guide traffic, a canal right-of-way,towpath, canal basin and aqueduct were constructed. A lock tender’s residence was also built on site. The small village— comprised of vernacular Federal style residential properties,agricultural properties, and retail structures—expanded to support
the booming transportation route. The extant Canal features and many of the associated properties contribute to the Fricks Lock National Register Historic District.
Today a friend of mine and I made the pilgrimage to the other side of the county from us, to East Coventry to go on a Fricks Locks tour. The tours run in pleasant weather months and will be open Saturdays in early fall — September 8th and 22nd, October 13th and 27th. The tour times are 10 am, 11:15 am, 12:30 pm. If they have to cancel, it is posted on the East Coventry website after 12 noon on the Friday prior to the scheduled tour.
Today we were joined by a little fawn I hope doesn’t get locked in the village without it’s mama:
The volunteer tour guides are a bit strict, and slightly inflexible at times. And although you ‘may take photographs’ you aren’t allowed to stop and are instructed to keep moving. I mean REALLY instructed to keep moving. You also may not deviate from the path or go on the grass except where they expressly tell you to. And if you aren’t keeping up and are trying to get that perfect photo, be warned, you will be scolded. One of the guides in particular reminded me of an old fashioned school librarian watching her watch, and tour takers for infractions. The hideous and destructive spotted lantern flies were allowed wherever they pleased, however.
Although I see Fricks Locks videos all over You Tube, you are not allowed to take videos. That was a real bummer because the history of the village we learned on the tour was super interesting and it would have helped to have been able to record it.
The Limerick Power Plant looms in the background the entire tour it is that close. However, we were told repeatedly that it and the old train station which is now some grungy warehouse property was not part of the tour. I beg to differ for the simple fact that they are very much part of the history.
It is this crazy feeling as you drive down Fricks Locks Road off of Sanatoga Road. All of a sudden, while following the signs to Fricks Locks, there you are facing an abandoned village frozen in time.
As you stare at the houses and structures, in your mind’s eye (or maybe just my vivid imagination) I could swear as the tour guides spoke, I could hear the distant sounds of life as it once was in this sleepy little village.
While some buildings date from the American Revolutionary War era, the village name was a result of the “Schuylkill Navigation” canal. The canal required construction, in the early 1820s, of a set of locks at that point along the Schuylkill River.
Locks #54 and #55 were built on farmland acquired from John Frick and the village became known as Frick’s Locks/Fricks Locks. The village thrived due to the economic stimulus of the canal. Eventually the commercial canal traffic declined toward the turn of the century and gave way to the railroad.
Fricks Locks had become the singular Frick’s Lock after the Pennsylvania Schuylkill Valley Railroad arrived and built a station with the latter name. The canal was filled in starting in 1942. While the railroad eventually declined after Conrail was formed on April 1, 1976, the village remained inhabited until near the end of the 20th century.
In the 1960s, the then Philadelphia Electric Company began Limerick Nuclear Power Station immediately across the river from Frick’s Lock. The station went on line in 1985.
PECO acquired all the land around the station site, which included Fricks Locks. There are possibly conflicting stories as to how the residents were bought out and relocated. All of the buildings were vacated and simply boarded up.
Fricks Locks was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 21, 2003. In February 2011, East Coventry Township partnered with Exelon Corporation to preserve and protect the historic site. A lot of this preservation occurred because of a gentleman named Paul S. Frick who died in 2014. I will also note that State Senator Andy Dinniman has been instrumental in getting the preservation of this very cool place this far.
Here is the history compiled by East Coventry:
Before European settlement, the lands of Fricks Locks Village were rolling hills covered primarily with mature woodlands of white and black oak, hickory and chestnut trees. The level lands were mainly floodplain areas extending along the Schuylkill River. The Schuylkill River was reported as having an abundant supply of herring, sturgeon and shad. The Lenni Lenape Indians of the Delaware tribe inhabited the region and trapped beaver along the river for their pelts as a valuable trading product. The advent of change in land use can be attributed to King Charles II of England awarding the lands of the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to William Penn in 1682.
The lands of Fricks Locks Village were additions to the neighboring Grumbacher farm in land grant parcels and land purchases of 1749 and 1764. The original 117 acres of the Grumbacher farm consisted of a long narrow parcel, located to the southeast of the two parcels that contained the village area. The lands were primarily agricultural served by the river and the wagon road (theorized as the Old Schuylkill Road alignments). Historical records indicated that farmsteads usually kept a portion of their property as woodlot. Historic tax records indicate the extent of lands, buildings and livestock of the property.
The first known building in the Frick Locks Village district was the 1757 farmhouse built by the Grumbacher-Engel household on the 119-acre parcel, purchased in 1749. Presumably a barn and outbuildings were also constructed at this time. Access to this residence was presumably from the Old Schuylkill Road via a primitive dirt road eventually becoming the alignment of Fricks Locks Road.
John Frick married Catherine Grumbacher in 1781. And shortly thereafter they moved to the Gruambacher property. Through marriage and bequethment upon the death of Catharina Grumbacher-Engel, John Frick acquired the lands of the future Village. John Frick died in 1822, three years before the canal system was completed and open to travel.
The Schuylkill Navigation Company was chartered in 1815 following the March 8th authorization by the Pennsylvania Legislature to “incorporate a company to make a lock navigation on the river Schuylkill”. Roads were rough and primitive during this era and open river navigation was plagued by falls, shallow areas, and fishermen’s weirs. The Schuylkill River navigation canal was originally intended to bring anthracite coal from the deposits above Pottsville into Philadelphia.
After a ten-year construction period, the navigation system was completed for approximately 110 miles and at a cost of about three million dollars. The entire system was composed of 63 miles of canals with 34 dams and 109 locks. The section of canal through Fricks Locks Village was located about 100 feet north of the 1757 farmhouse. The double lock was located about 250 feet west of the farmhouse. The canal contributed to the growth of Fricks Locks Village as it did with all its stopover points and trading locations.
John Frick’s heirs chose to see his lands at a public auction in the spring of 1826. Jacob Frick, the eldest son purchased a portion of those lands that contained the village district. Upon his death in 1852, the village district was divided among different heirs. Over the next hundred years, the immediate area of the Village had minor “improvements” added, mostly associated with the owner’s farming operations.
In 1832, the depth and width of the canals were increased to accommodate larger boats. (The original canal dimensions had not been followed per specifications.) The new supply of coal enabled more industrial operations along the river. The coal cost seven dollars a ton and was the cheapest fuel available. Canal boats could carry up to 80 tons of coals. The locks in Fricks Locks were an important stopping place in the areas. The village hosted a “convenience” store that stayed open 24 hours a day to supply the needs of the boatmen. Passengers on packet boats stopped in Fricks Locks to go ashore for dinner or stay overnight for a stagecoach connection. The Village became an important trade center. In 1849, a covered toll bridge, the Lawrenceville Bridge, was the area’s first dry crossing of the river. This improved connection (competing with the ferry service) to Montgomery County increased the trading opportunities and growth associated with the canal and the Village.
In the 1880s, the Pennsylvania Railroad located a station in Fricks Locks and the US government established a Fricks Locks post office in the 1890s.
The canal was drained and closed permanently sometime in the mid 1920s. Improved railroad service, better roadways and trolley systems contributed to the demise of the canal by providing faster, smoother and more efficient transportation services. Without the vitality of the canal stopover/trading function, the importance of Fricks Locks Village changed to isolated farming activities.
In 1969 and 1970, PECO obtained the separate parcels that encompassed the current Fricks Locks Village area as part of their property acquisition under federal regulations for nuclear generating stations. At the time of property acquisition, most of the buildings were boarded up and vacated. The federal regulations governing the operations of a nuclear generating station exclude certain uses (including residential) within a 2,500 foot radius of the nuclear facility. The recombination of parcels under single ownership along with restrictions on possible residential use and desirable land use has contributed significantly to preserving the integrity of the Fricks Locks historic area. Its isolation from major roadway and new development affords the potential to present a highly unique example of an extant canal-ear village in context with the agricultural activities of the Schuylkill River corridors’ past history.
Here are some old Fricks Locks photos I found mostly on Pinterest:
Here is a video from You Tube of a 1941 train accident at Fricks Locks:
I had heard about this place but today was my first time visiting. A recent Philadelphia Inquirer article brought the village to life and made me want to visit.
Philadelphia Inquirer PENNSYLVANIA NEWS
A Chester County village was vacated for a nuclear power plant. Today, it’s a ghost town.
by Katie Park, Updated: August 3, 2018
Also on the topic:
Daily Local News: The abandoned town of Frick’s Lock tells story
Gene Pisasale Jan 1, 2012
I will note that a problem here has been trespassing and vandalism over the years. The local police can and will arrest you. (Read about one account here.) People, there are tours. It is being preserved. Take a tour. Don’t be a tool and trespass. Respect the efforts of the folks trying to preserve this place.
We loved our time in this historic village today. It was fascinating. It was also so oddly almost unnaturally still. I wonder what all of the people who once called this place home over the course of time would think now?
I hope that the restoration continues. I hope they will bring school tours in. It is not suitable for small children in my opinion, but older kids should be fine.
Fricks Locks is also featured on the Iron & Steel Heritage website.
I wonder. I wonder if where some of us call home today, will end up like Fricks Locks tomorrow abandoned and all but forgotten for whatever reason?
If you go…bring bug spray. Wear a hat. Bring water. Wear closed toe shoes. I saw flip flops today even on some of the guides and this is definitely a closed-toe tour.
Enjoy my photos.
The other day I wrote one my last big post on Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, PA. I told you my faithful readers and local history buffs why I was giving up, and there is no need to re-hash that. Nothing has changed.
However, my friend and I came down Bacton Hill on our way back from Fricks Locks. As she was driving, I was able to snap a few photos. I think it is important to record it now, because as soon as those development houses go up next to Ebenezer and the Malvern Courts mobile home park, what is left of old Bacton Hill will cease to exist for sure.
It’s almost gone, now. This farmhouse I have photographed should be some sort of historic asset, but it is not. It has been rotting and will be demolished so the land can be cleared for part of this development that is coming.
Bacton Hill has serious historic significance, but it doesn’t matter. Only progress and development seem to matter. The park East Whiteland is planning up the road towards where the road meets Swedesford will carry the name Bacton Hill, but give it 10 years more and no one will remember what Bacton Hill was.
Bacton Hill is a region in East Whiteland that was an early village (and one of the largest early settlements) in Chester County settled by and for African Americans. The Ebenezer AME Church and cemetery is a sacred space where at least three Civil War soldiers are buried.
The AME Church grew out of the Free African Society in the late 1700s, but the church became it’s own entity founded in Philadelphia around 1816. So you can see given the age of Ebenezer AME in East Whiteland, Chester County, PA that it is truly part of the early days of a church and religion founded in Philadelphia. Bishop Richard Allen died in 1831, just months before Ebenezer came to be after Joseph Malin deeded the land.
Hiram Woodyard was a Township resident and former slave who served in the Union Army as a teamster. He was a leader in the African American community and is buried at the Ebenezer AME Church. His home still stands on Congestoga Road. Other homes he built still stand. He was an inhabitant of Bacton Hill.
Soon all that will be left of the area will be my blog posts including this one from 2017 which is an oral history complete with some really cool photos courtesy of Claude Bernadin, or this one from 2015, this one from 2016, this one from 2017, the ceremony November 2016, a post from October 2016, another one from October 2016, when for brief moment people stopped to visit the old souls now covered by weeds and brush once more, 2015 post which had links to earlier posts. Also will be the occasional newspaper article from every newspaper reporter who tried to raise awareness to this area and to Ebenezer.
Once upon a time people tried to get a Bacton Hill Historic District or something like that. It’s a shame it never happened. Because at least then there would have been a more organized history of the place.
We can’t keep developing away our history, or can we?
I will leave you with that for now.
In February, 2018 I wrote a post titled will 2018 mark the year of history at risk at the ruins of ebenezer on bacton hill road, frazer in east whiteland?
Well I am back to tell you sadly, I think I am right. Ebenezer looks like hell. Again. I am done with trying to get people to pay attention and preserve and save this site. It is pointless.
I drove past Ebenezer today and the photo above is from 2016, but essentially that is exactly the way it looks now. Perhaps worse. I couldn’t stop and take a photo as there was traffic. Ebenezer has been swallowed by the green death of weeds. The old farmhouse across the street is pending the wrecking ball as the development which alarmed me due to it’s proximity to Ebenezer was apparently approved?
These houses are going to be right next to Ebenezer on one side. A concern I still have is a lot of us have always wondered if there were more graves on each side of the fences (See blue arrows). A new development right on top of this site of ANY size puts this historic site at risk, in my humble opinion. Which is why a lot of the conversations concerning any development anywhere has to also include protecting historic sites, right? And this site is fragile so what will the vibrations of earth moving construction equipment do? My guess is nothing good.
This is a historic site that East Whiteland has never seemingly wanted to deal with (except for the historic commission as they have wanted it better preserved only how do we get there?), and the AME Church always seemingly wants to pretend it never exists. (I mean remember that promise Bishop Ingram made the Inquirer reporter Kristen Holmes to check this all out quite a while ago, right? And what do you bet he never, ever did? (Sorry I don’t see slick city bishop walking through the mud at Ebenezer, do you?)
Anyway….I am repeating myself (sorry.)
But my post in February was noticed by a lady named Patricia J. Henry who was doing Quaker research on the Malin family (and it was James Malin who deeded the land in 1831 to the then fairly new AME Church.) She was researching East Whiteland Malins in connection with “some individuals connected with Valley Meeting burial ground as well as Tredyffrin area residents.” (I have a couple of emails I am quoting from.)
To continue…this Patricia emailed Bertha Jackmon the historian at the uber historic Mt.Zion AME in Devon, PA. (I will digress for a moment and wonder aloud about Mt. Zion as it looked like it needed a lot of love when I drove by earlier this summer. I have heard like many other old historic churches they have an aging and dwindling congregation?)
Back to my topic at hand: Ebenezer.
This Patricia asked them if they were familiar with Ebenezer. Bertha replied yes. (I laughed to myself reading the e-mail chain because when I started my Ebenezer odyssey years ago I went to the Pastor of Mt. Zion April Martin. Pastor Martin was super interesting and inspiring to speak with, but nothing ever happened back then with Ebenezer via Pastor Martin.)
From this email I learned that as according to Bertha that Ebenezer was “originally known as Bethel AME Church as stated in the Deed. A/K/A Bethel Bacton Hill AMEC and names.”
Aha, I thought, quite the light bulb going off. Another link to the AME Church that seems more tangible, no? As in Mother Bethel in Philadelphia from whence the Mothership of the AME Church was born? As I have always suspected? (You see I have never been able to find definitive proof that the AME church ever divested itself of Ebenezer. It was more like over time, they just ignored it as they have ignored so many other sites across the country, right?)
Then there was discussion of me and this blog. That always amuses me when these things get forwarded. Mostly what was said was really flattering. This Patricia lady thanked Bertha and said that “this should give me plenty to follow up with.” ( I never heard from this Patricia, although not sure I was supposed to.)
Bertha next contacted Steve Brown at East Whiteland Township and eventually me as well. Apparently with Steve from East Whiteland they discussed East Whiteland and this Bacton Hill development site. Steve also gave Bertha the court reporter information for the zoning hearing on the Bacton Hill development plan I guess it was.
So then Bertha and Pastor April reached out to me again. We had a nice phone call back on February 20. I will admit being snippy at first because well, they were among the first I reached out to years ago when I started this odyssey. And back then they made me feel like the teenage girl dumped at the high school dance – they just evaporated at the time. Or at least that was my perception….
Amusingly enough, apparently East Whiteland really did not notify the AME church of this plan because well, the non-existent mailing address for Ebenezer was (as in decades ago, right?) RD1 Malvern Pa, and ummmm… hey now it’s been a long time since there were any RD rural delivery addresses around these parts due to all the freaking development, hmmm?
East Whiteland should know the address of the church was/is 97 Bacton Hill Road. East Whiteland should have maybe tried contacting the corporate offices of the AME Church or Mother Bethel in Philadelphia, right? But government is government and if something appears abandoned, how far do you go on the notification process? Especially when no one has really stepped forward to say Ebenezer is their responsibility, right?
So I did then have a conversation with Bertha and Pastor April back in February. At that time there was limited time for the AME Church to file a zoning appeal if they wanted to go that route. I do not know whatever happened, because I had no standing in the zoning matter and zero involvement because I knew I had no standing (I don’t live over there on Bacton Hill Road and I am not on the East Whiteland Historic Commission), even if I worry about the history of Ebenezer. You need standing in zoning matters.
The AME Church had they chosen to get involved with their history on Bacton Hill could have possibly sought an appeal based on ground vibrations or perhaps the impact to a historic site and also perhaps for the basic fact they did not receive good notice of a zoning hearing and should have if they are admitting the AME Church still owns the Ebenezer site, so is that what the AME Church was contemplating admitting here? Since I do not think an appeal was ever filed would that be part of why they didn’t appeal? Because then they would have to admit they let their own historic site rot and go to hell in a hand basket?
Anyway, to the best of my knowledge the development of those houses is going to happen and Ebenzer is SO overgrown that no construction crew is even going to notice what is there except a seemingly empty lot. But I am done. If the AME Church doesn’t care about preserving it’s early history, why should I care? It’s not my Church, after all. I did not expect this development plan to stop, but I was hoping that for once the AME Church would at least act to see Ebenezer’s ruins were stabilized and preserved.
Yes, I am really done.
I have ridden this pony as far as it can go. My last hope was the late Al Terrell. But he is dead more than a year and no one is stepping into his shoes to get the site cleaned up. And that is not anyone’s job truthfully other than the blasted AME Church. And they do not seem to care.
So why should I?
Some day, I predict, in the not too distant future the only records of what was Ebenezer AME will be what I have saved on this blog.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
I am tired of expecting different results. I will post news as I get it, but I am divorcing myself from this. It’s too aggravating to care about a place that no one else, let alone the church that apparently still owns it, cares about.
History is important, but time is fleeting. I am sorry to the old souls buried at Ebenezer. I tried.
But I am done.