saving heritage: the ruins of ebenezer ame on bacton hill road

ebenezer ame

Two years ago, I wrote three posts on an abandoned church I had stumbled upon:

ebenezer ame church – bacton hill road

it’s palm sunday, so why not post about an abandoned church?

on good friday, remember the churches abandoned by time and man e1

Well, interestingly enough there has been renewed interest in this church, formerly located on Bacton Hill Road in East Whiteland Township, Chester County. Yes, I am writing again about Ebenezer AME Church.

e3For me, this all began as a fascination of a ruined structure that I later received more information on.  Ebenezer AME in Frazer was built in 1835.

e9Apparently the oldest grave stones in the cemetery date back to the 1830s. An Eagle Scout named Matthew Nehring did a project a few years ago now  uncovering the gravestones. (Have no idea if his project is finished.) According to the photos it appears some of the dead buried here are soldiers and veterans.e8

One gravestone is for a Joshua Johnson  (Pvt., Co. K, 45th Reg., United States Colored Troops (USCT) (Civil War). I find this to be incredibly historically significant as the army began to organize African Americans into regimental units known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1863.

e4According to the East Whiteland Historical Society  this church used to serve as a “hub” of African American society in Frazer. Also according to East Whiteland Historical Society:

Members of this community have been documented as former slaves.  Their ability to construct this church demonstrates the e5prosperity and commitment of this community.

The trustees of the Ebenezer AME church purchased the land in 1831 from James Malin.  The oldest gravestones found in the cemetery date from the early 1830’s.  The congregation disbanded for a time between 1848 and 1871 during which time the building fell into disrepair.  By June 22, 1873 the church had been rebuilt and rededicated.  It continued to be used until 1970; then intermittently until the 1940’s.  Now it is abandoned.

I will note that when Patch covered this in 2012 they showed a lot more gravestones than I was able to locate in 2013.  It is now 2015. The Eagle Scout (Matthew Nehring) put what he found on Find A Grave. On that website it is listed as Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery (Also known as: Chester Valley African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, Valley Hill Cemetery).e6

On Memorial Day I thought of Joshua Johnson, the  Civil War soldier buried there. He is a valid part of our soldiering and military history in this country, yet who remembers him? Does the East Whiteland Historical Society remember him? Does anyone? Does he have any ancestors still living in Chester County who may not know his grave exists?

On Pennsylvania Gen Web I do not even find this church or cemetery mentioned. Its not listed on other websites on which you would go to look up information. I do not know how to look the property up on Chester County property records to attempt to track a deed, I have tried.

I would venture a guess that this church once upon a time was part of The First Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. But once again, locally some of us know this church existed, but it is very hard to find information.

This church is a definite candidate for a Pennsylvania Historical Marker but in addition wouldn’t it be great to get this site preserved in some way? The graveyard cleaned up and preserved? I think the land is still owned by the AME church, but how to find the records and get them to acknowledge this sacred place escapes me.

This place should MATTER. I have no idea if the National Trust for Historic Places would be interested but they should be.  #thisplacematters

East Whiteland has some fascinating history.  And if we are not careful, it will all fade away.  East Whiteland isn’t just home to business parks along 29 and 202. Between this crumbling church and places like Loch Aerie and Linden Hall, shouldn’t the historical commission  be reaching out to national and state wide preservationists?

If you have any information on Ebenezer AME Church please feel free to post it on a Facebook Page called Living in East Whiteland. Living in East Whiteland is a closed page, but you may request to join. You may also post information on Chester County Ramblings’ Facebook Page.

Together we can try to not only preserve the beauty that is Chester County, PA but the history as well.

Thanks for stopping by.

e7

on good friday, remember the churches abandoned by time and man

DSC_0053Sounds a bit dramatic, but it got your attention, didn’t it? On Good friday, one of the holiest of holy days, I ask you to remember a small but historically significant church that is rotting in Frazer in East Whiteland Township, Chester County.  It is on Bacton Hill Road and it is Ebenezer AME Church.DSC_0006

It started as a fascination of a ruined structure that I later received more information on.  Ebenezer AME in Frazer was built in 1835.

Apparently the oldest grave stones in the cemetery date back to the 1830s. An Eagle Scout named Matthew Nehring had been working on uncovering the gravestones. (Have no idea if his project is finished.) DSC_0041According to the photos it appears some of the dead buried here are soldiers and veterans. One gravestone is for a Joshua Johnson  (Pvt., Co. K, 45th Reg., United States Colored Troops (USCT) (Civil War). I find this to be incredibly historically significant as the army began to organize African Americans into regimental units known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1863.

DSC_0022According to the East Whiteland Historical Society (which I am not sure what they do because all I see are historic structures rotting in East Whiteland) this church used to serve as a “hub” of African American society in Frazer.  So again on Good Friday I ask again why isn’t any of it being protected?

In any Christian religion, Easter is a very big deal.  Imagine Easters of the past in this little church.  Ladies and gents in their Sunday best, the ladies sporting spring hats.  The laughter and joyful sounds of children outside after services have concluded? The pastor standing outside wishing his congregation well and God speed?

DSC_0007A reader of my blog tells me County records indicate that the lot is owned by the “African Methodist Episcopal Church”.  This online directory shows the a church in Malvern – St. Paul’s.

The headquarters of the AMEC church are as follows:

500 8th Avenue South Nashville, TN 37203 Phone:(615)254-0911 Fax:(615)254-0912 Email:cio@ame-church.com

I am going to e-mail these posts to AMEC and see if they will care.  Certainly no one else I have e-mailed to date has appeared to care.

East Whiteland always seems to be Johnny on the Spot for historical data yet all thisDSC_0051 stuff just rots.  Peter H. Spengeman, a member of the East Whiteland Township Historical Commission wrote to me recently in part:

I appreciate the writer’s interest and concern about the considerable historical resources in the Township , and the ongoing need for protection of structures such as the Ebenezer AME Church, a recent focus of beginning conservation planning.   All of us shudder when we pass a formerly stately structure crying for help.

He continues with what East Whiteland has done in the past, and well, the past is the past.  What is going on today? I am going to not try to sound harsh, but what is it they do besides bemoan the fact that a heck of a lot of history in East Whiteland is rotting?  Loch Aerie, Linden House, and more?  For example (I do not know all the municipal boundaries so feel free to correct me) but isn’t part of Duffy’s Cut that Amtrak won’t allow any more archeological digs on in East Whiteland?  Is the mass grave important enough that maybe another marker closer to the actual site is in order?DSC_0093

I get that part of the problem is East Whiteland has probably more commercial zones than residential so why not get smart with zoning and planning?  Is it possible to write into ordinances and make conditions of approval that not only include  these developers to improve the roads and infrastructure, but to kick in towards the preservation?  I mean seriously they have developers with huge, deep pockets like DSC_0072Brian O’Neill and Eli Kahn, right? I mean Brian O’Neill is Catholic with a sense of religion, right?  Why couldn’t they ask someone like him to save a church?  Help get another historical marker closer to the actual location of Duffy’s Cut mass grave (Where AMTRAK halted archeological digging) ? Or help find a conservation minded buyer for say Linden Hall or Loch Aerie?

Both developers and their partners have made noises out here and elsewhere about how their developments add to the character of an area, so why not have them put their money where there mouths are on historic sites? Paoli Battlefield and Battle of the Clouds are important, but why is it I see neighboring municipalities succeeding with preservation efforts? Historic Sugartown, Historic Goshenville, and even though sometimes I think they need to do more, Historic Yellow Springs?

DSC_0095

And again, when you go to East Whiteland’s really poorly designed website and pull up the historical commission you get a big bowl of nothing.

This church meant something to residents of Chester County for generation upon generation.  I was also told (and I quote) “Some of the family names on the gravestones are the same as families still living in Malvern Borough.  I can’t blame the Township when the church and the families don’t seem to care.”

DSC_0029I will tell you what, if some of my people were buried in an abandoned churchyard I sure would care.

So here is wishing on Good Friday that apathy dies an untimely death and people remember this site before my photos are the only things left standing.

Again, I am happy to share the photos I have taken to date.  If the African Methodist Episcopal Church were to roll up with East Whiteland to save it, I would continue to offer my photographic skills as a donation as well as my PR talents.  But someone other than I has to care, first.

Blessed Easter all.

 DSC_0100

 

 

ebenezer ame church – bacton hill road

Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, PAThanks to Pete Kennedy of Malvern Patch I know the identity of a ruin I like to photograph from the road on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer.

So sad.

It is an abandoned church that had historical importance to the area: Ebenezer AME Church.  I hate when this happens, and it makes me think of a whole slew of at risk churches.

Historical Photo Location Revealed: Ebenezer AME Church

The church, now crumbling, is on Bacton Hill Road.

By Pete Kennedy Email the author September 27, 2012

Last week’s historical photo challenge didn’t offer much in the way of contextual clue, but one reader got it right.

JoAnn Richardson hit the nail on the head with this comment:

This is Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, PA. There is a cemetary on the property as well.

That’s correct. The church was built circa 1835 and is still barely standing today.

Apparently the oldest grave stones in the cemetery date back to the 1830s.  An Eagle Scout named Matthew Nehring had been working on uncovering the gravestones. (Have no idea if his project is finished.) According to the photos it appears some of the dead buried here are soldiers and veterans. One gravestone is for a Joshua Johnson  (Pvt., Co. K, 45th Reg., United States Colored Troops (USCT) (Civil War). I find this to be incredibly historically significant as the army began to organize African Americans into regimental units known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1863.

According to the East Whiteland Historical Society (which I am not sure what they do because all I see are historic structures rotting in East Whiteland) this church used to serve as a “hub” of African American society in Frazer.  So why isn’t any of it being protected?

The church was used through into the 20th century as per Patch and the information from East Whiteland, and now it is abandoned.  So who owns the graveyard and the church?  In Radnor, the Radnor Historical Society has been caring for the historically important and abandoned First Baptist Cemetery off Conestoga Road.  They have gotten volunteers to help keep weeds in check and right upended grave stones.  So why is it that East Whiteland always seems to be Johnny on the Spot for historical data yet all this stuff just rots?

I understand completely that you can’t save every old house or church, but wow, people including soldiers who fought and served are buried here.  Show them some respect. Shame on East Whiteland for not trying to find avenues of preservation for this and other sites.

I think I am going to go back out there and photograph graves when the weather improves and the ground isn’t so soft from rain. But who owns the land? Is it truly abandoned?