This is why gardening is so worth it. With the help of Mother Nature you can create such simple beauty and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
After the Inquirer article appeared on the ruin of Ebenzer AME in Frazer, I contacted Rev Dr Mark Tyler via e-email with a few interested folks on the e-mail including local historians.
Why email? Because also included was information to help them make an informed decision. I stupidly thought maybe if they could see what we’ve been looking up, and see photos of the spot over the past few years, they would be interested in working together to clean this place up.
When not even a simple acknowledgment of what had been sent to him was received after three attempts, I took to Twitter. Why did I take to Twitter? Because I learned that they respond to Twitter.
But the lesson I learned again is there not particularly nice about anything if you aren’t one of their “flock”.
So I will call the good pastor but I’m not expecting much. Because the continued message I received from any level of this church is they aren’t interested in preserving their history. They also aren’t interested in communicating or speaking with me.
They can pony up the money for fancy bicentennial celebration which must have been super expensive to put on, but they can’t clean up one small church yard and secure one small ruin?
I don’t even know where to go in my head with this.
And what a horrible thing to think about any church. It’s so terribly sad. They all want to speak about and preach about their marvelous history, yet when their marvelous history needs saving they don’t want any parts of it?
I guess they might not want to respond in writing because then they have wiggle room for potential deniability down the road or something?
Wow, what a take away lesson.
I do not like to think the worst of anyone, let alone a religious organization, but it’s been over three years at this point of my trying to get this place saved and it just gets more disappointing for everything of effort I expend.
The phone number is 215-925-0616.
I just phoned and I left a detailed message and who I was and why I was calling. I don’t expect a call back. I don’t expect an acknowledgment.
I really want to save this place but at this point in time I am just thoroughly disgusted. I thought doing God’s work meant you tried to save places like Ebenezer AME. You do it for future generations, you do it for ancestors living today, do it for the history and the fact it’s a sacred place, and you do it because it’s the right thing to do.
Apparently I have been operating under a misapprehension all these years. Is no wonder that people step away from organized religion.
No I’m not disappointed in God, just the people representing him.
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”
Other emails I found to add to emails:
Dr. Richard Lewis Richlew1@aol.com
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.
I found out the evening before last from a mutual friend, that Tom Hickey had died. Knowing him a little bit for eight years was a good thing. He was kind and loved animals. Now he and PSPCA’s George Bengal are fighting the good fight from heaven. Homeless pets have another guardian angel watching over them.
But darn it, I am sad.
I liked Tom a lot and before his first stroke we would speak every now and then. My cell phone would ring and I would get “Hey it’s Tom. Got a minute?” and then he would launch into whatever he was thinking. Or he would text me similarly and ask me to call.
I first met Tom on August 21, 2008. I met him through Bill Smith at Main Line Animal Rescue. It was when Bryan Lentz and others were presenting the PA Dog Law Puppy Mill stuff in Radnor Township. Tom Hickey was with the PA Dog law Advisory Board,and at the time Jessie Smith was with Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.
From then on, I would keep in touch with him. He was funny, nice, an animal lover, and adored his family.
He could get controversial and would go to the mat for homeless pets. Animal Rescue is a tough business and he was one of the ones who gave it their all.
In 2010 it was because of him that the people selling puppy mill puppies inside Zern’s were punished for cruelty. They had puppies, little puppies in unventilated fish tanks inside the non-air conditioned Zern’s. Such a horrible horrible thing.
If you did not know him or knew that happened, you would never know he was the quiet force behind that. But he was.
In 2013 when Chester County was gripped with the horror of two family dogs being shot in West Vincent, in what became the movement called Justice for Argus and Fiona, Tom stepped up and rolled up his sleeves, and was a big part of justice actually happening in that situation. I was also as my readers know part of getting justice for the family in that case, and it was a pleasure to work with him on that. He was always positive and encouraging and said the right thing would happen, and it did.
He was also a former member of the board of the Chester County SPCA now known as the Brandywine Valley SPCA, and always, always was a champion of homeless pets. Tom was a board member during tumultuous times at the Brandywine Valley SPCA, but he should be remembered there for his contributions. He was passionate, and incredibly dedidicated. He was also just one heck of a good guy.
Tom was one of a kind. I enjoyed knowing him even a little bit for a few years. To his family I send prayers and hugs and condolences. He was one of a kind and a lot of use will miss him, but I know how much you loved him, and he you.
Good-bye Tom. You were way too young to go. Sigh. Now you and Sharon are together again.
In the end, it’s still that amazing love story between he and his wife. Good-bye Tom.Here is Mari Schaefer’s article on Philly.com – read the whole thing, I have only featured an excerpt:
Updated: JULY 18, 2016 — 3:22 PM EDT
Thomas Hickey Sr., 61, a passionate advocate for animals and the underserved, died of a stroke on Sunday at Jefferson Hospital.
“The canines of Pennsylvania have every reason to be sad today,” said former Gov. Ed Rendell, who appointed Hickey to the state’s Dog Law Advisory Board in 2006. “They lost a great, great champion.”
…Sharon Hickey, who died in January at age 59 of cancer, shared her husband’s love of animals, said Kimberly Cary, their daughter.
“We always rescued our dogs,” said Cary.
Her parents, who both went to Holy Cross Elementary School in Springfield, Delaware County, and then Cardinal O’Hara High School, met as teenagers, Cary said.
“They were together ever since,” Cary said.
Hickey helped start a rescue called Dogshome and also founded DOGPAC, a political action committee focused on promoting laws to protect animals….
Visitation is planned for Thursday at 9 a.m. followed by a service at 11 a.m. at the D’Anjolell Memorial Home, on 2811 West Chester Pike in Broomall.
Donations can be made to the Saved Me Animal Rescue, 860-862 N. 3rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123.
Today I have something sad to share. Someone I know who was a friend who had moved away passed away suddenly from a heart attack in June, and I did not know until today. His name was Chris Thompson. I thought he deserved more than a paid obituary locally so I have decided to write something today. He was a really good guy and extraordinarily talented.
A lot of you would remember him as Christopher Arthur Thompson as the former Director of Land Preservation from 2006 to 2009 at the Willistown Conservation Trust.
Or simply as Chris Thompson who lived in Berwyn. Or as in Chris Thompson who used to own a sustainable food business, a true farm to table venture called Panache Foods.
To me he was just Chris, father of Alexandra and Margaret. He was the former husband of my dear high school friend Sandra Hitschler Thompson (also Shipley 1981). He and Sandra had divorced after their move back to the Midwest around 2011, and at his death he was married to Jennifer Drackley Thompson. To all of them I send love and condolences. The dynamics of couples you know change over time, but that doesn’t mean you stop being their friends or thinking about people and remembering them fondly. Such is how I feel about Chris. He was just a good guy.
Writing about the death of someone you knew and liked is so darn difficult. I liked Chris a great deal and his former wife and daughters will always be close to my heart. When I heard about his passing I thought not only of his career in land stewardship and conservation, but his art. Chris was an accomplished artist and his work hung all over the Midwest and East Coast. His art was powerful and lyrical and always blew me away.
Christopher Arthur Thompson, 56, late of Three Oaks, MI and formerly of Berwyn, PA Joliet, Ill., passed away suddenly on Friday, June 3, 2016.
Born January 27, 1960 in Joliet, he was the son of Arthur and Marilyn (Smith) Thompson. Surviving are his wife, Jennifer Thompson; two daughters, Alexandra and Margaret; his mother, Marilyn Thompson of Joliet, IL; two brothers, Jeff (Nancy) Thompson of Joliet, and David (Carla) Thompson of Coal City, IL; one sister, Marianne (Joe) Haake of Joliet; his former wife, Sandra Hitschler Thompson; and several nieces and nephews.
Chris was previously employed by Willistown Conservation Trust, and worked as Executive Director of the Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy in Sawyer, MI for the last five years. Chris Thompson joined Chikaming Open Lands in 2011 at the conclusion of a nationwide search for an executive director.
He was also the former owner of Panache Foods which was based in Berwyn, PA until a move back to the Midwest in 2011.
Panache Foods offered locally sourced local Chef prepared foods and offered CSA boxes seasonally. Panache had partnered with Kimberton Whole Foods at the time and local Chefs like Chef Francis Pascal (Trzeciak) of the Birchrunville Store Café and introduced me to my now friend Deb Street Davitt of MacDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes. I had actually photographed the launch of this business at the time, and my friend Caroline O’Halloran wrote about it when she was with Main Line Media News.
I mention this business not to diminish any other aspects of my late friend’s career but because this business at the time was at the head of the class when it came to CSA and locally sourced food. The so called Locavore movement was just revving up in our area when this business began in my opinion. There weren’t many businesses like this in existence if at all at the time. There were folks who were offering CSA shares, but not a direct to the consumer’s home business like this. This wasn’t pizza delivery, it was much more and they offered catering connections and introductions as well. It is through Panache I also made the acquaintance of the now very popular Chef Jennifer McCafferty, owner of JPM Catering in Ardmore, PA.
For 18 years while living in the Chicago area, Chris owned Event Management. He offered many jobs to local youth who helped him with the Food and Beverage at the Taste of Chicago. Those were challenging, but very fun times. That was part of the inspiration later in his life for Panache Foods.
He attended Joliet Catholic High School and received his undergraduate degree in Art and Anthropology, and Masters of Fine Arts degree from Northwestern University.
Chris, as I mentioned, was an accomplished artist. He was the recipient of the Scholastic Gold Key Award, a Scholastic National Gold Medal for painting, the Rotary International Scholarship for Art, the Ford Foundation Arts Fellowship, the Quita Brodhead Memorial Award from the Wayne Art Center, and the Squirrel Gallery Award of Excellence. Now as a related aside, the Squirrel Gallery was the brainchild of the late mother of my friend Averil Smith Barone (also an accomplished artist) named Valerie Lamb Smith.
Chris will be remembered for his dedication to preserving the natural beauty of both Chester County and Southwest Michigan and his appreciation for the arts. He was a wonderful husband, father, son, brother, athlete and most of all friend. He loved life and was a warm and welcoming and inclusive person by nature. He was so truly multi-faceted that on some levels he could be considered a true Renaissance man.
Chris was also a Board member of Michigan’s Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation Policy.
Memorials in his name may be directed to the Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy. For information please call (815) 741-5500 or follow their donation and gift instructions on their website.
Father, artist, husband, friend, conservationist. Chris Thompson was that and so much more. He will be missed. Rest in Peace, Chris.