a gift of chester county history from south dakota: learning about hiram woodyard

Above is the grave of Hiram Woodyard. He was a freed slave and Black Civil War Soldier who resided in the village of Bacton, “Bacton Hisotric District”, AKA “Bacton African American Community”.

In 1991, Jane Davidson, the then Chester County Historic Preservation Officer certified that one of the houses attributed to him on Conestoga Road as a “County Historic Resource”. She said “The events and activities that have occurred in and around the site form a chronological record of past knowledge that portrays a history of the area.”

The historical information listed in some of the paperwork states:

This resource is part of the Bacton Historic District which is a post-Civil War, Afro-American community. This resource is also connected with Hiram Woodyard who was a prominent member of this community….Due to previous development there is an eminent potential to widen Rte. 401,this threat would negatively impact the integrity of this resource.

In other paperwork, the same author continues:

Hiram Woodyard, one of two leaders in the Bacton African-American community, has become a local folk hero in recent years. While part of the timber industry as a fence maker, he also commanded a great deal of respect for his leadership ability, not only in the community, but also in the Union army.

 

This fascinating information would have been something my friend the late (and missed) Al Terrell, would have loved.  He and I shared another soldier (it’s how we both became interested in the site),  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.

Al was so excited this time last year when grave after grave was uncovered, including Hiram Woodyard, whom we knew had started out life as a slave.  As a freed slave he did so much, including by all accounts being a revered community leader, and he fought for a country which had originally enslaved him.

This new information (and I will embed everything shortly within this post), did not come to me via Chester County.  It came to me all the way from Winner, South Dakota, thousands of miles away!

This information started to arrive on September 12, 2017 from Eleanor Miller, who along with her sister, Grace English, once lived in East Whiteland at 416 Conestoga Road.

In the first packet of information was a letter and here is an excerpt:

Enclosed please find the papers in regards to my grandparents’ home. (Charles and Stella Rost, 418 Conestoga Road.)

I married and moved away from my home, 416 Conestoga Road, in 1967…In 2012, Malvern Patch identified the house on 414 Conestoga Road as Hiram Woodyard’s.  I believe they were incorrect….My sister and I try to visit Bacton Hill once a year.

To follow (embedded) is what Eleanor sent to me.  It is part of Hiram’s history she gained through personal research.  This is such a treasure to receive!

Ebenezer is hanging in there and one of Al’s sons still comes back and cuts the grass and weeds when he has time, but Ebenezer needs ALL of our love.  I put out the plea once again if anyone can interest the AME church in their own important history, please do.  These old souls belong to us and all of our history in Chester County as well as being crucially important historically to the AME Church and black history in general.

Say a prayer in remembrance for the old souls buried at the ruins of Ebenezer on Bacton Hill road in Frazer, and remember Al Terrell too.

Pax

 

 


 

 


 

 

 

Hiram Woodyard Chester County Paperwork

Hiram Woodyards House

The House That Hiram Built

 

remembering soldiers on memorial day that a.m.e. church doesn’t care about.

 
 I said in a prior post that 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.

Today is Memorial Day so I thought I would take the time to recognize Private Joshua Johnson and the other Civil War Colored Troop Soldier buried in this graveyard OWNED and ABANDONED by the A.M.E. Church. The head of the East Whiteland Historical Society told me recently that there is yet another soldier in this graveyard. (And did you know there is another abandoned graveyard of unknown denomination behind Queen Appliance in Frazer? That is more of an aside, just pointing its existence out.)

Anyway, I still can’t believe that the A.M.E. Church doesn’t give a damn about the Ebenezer A.M.E. but after YEARS of trying to get them to pay attention and discovering all of the OTHER people also ignored in years gone by, I pretty much think they don’t care about the familial history of their members or enough about the history of their churches.  That makes me really sad. It also makes me wonder if I am just the wrong race and religion to be asking them about this? And if THAT is true (as has been implied by people I have spoken with) wow what a sorry state of affairs.
 

 The A.M.E. Church is celebrating a remarkable milestone this summer in Philadelphia, their bicentennial. One would THINK or HOPE or WISH they would give a damn about the dead in the decrepit and disgraceful graveyard at Chester County’s Ebenezer A.M.E. on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, Pa but alas, they don’t. They want to talk about their history and the struggles of their people but if they truly valued the contributions and suffering of their membership the past 200 years they would respect their dead and at least regularly tidy up this graveyard, right?

The following article appeared recently in an out of state newspaper:

Indianapolis Recorder: African-American churches and their vision of faith and freedom

Posted: Friday, May 20, 2016 3:01 am

By ANGELIQUE WALKER-SMITH 

“Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me. And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave. And go home to my Lord and be free.”

This post-Civil War African-American freedom song, often associated with the 20th century Civil Rights Movement in the United States, provides a helpful historical lens for understanding why elections have been important to African-American churches. For these churches, voting and other methods of engaging their public voices have been important in their quest in obtaining freedom from social and legal racism in the U.S., while relying on the biblical promise of a transcendent freedom in the afterlife.

Albert Raboteau at Princeton University points out the following concerning religious formation of African-American churches: “These Christians appropriated Christianity on their own terms despite what they were told or not told by their slave holders and U.S. law. African slaves experienced dissonance between their dignified African identities and the disempowering and undignified messaging of White colonizers and missionaries.”

This kind of social marginalization and oppression of people of African descent, and the acceptance of the biblical narrative of struggle, deliverance, hope and faith, have provoked and encouraged the faith of people of African descent. Such faith has informed their vision and mission to fight for a dignified and equitable quality of life as evidence of earthly freedom.

OK so maybe I am being terribly politically incorrect,but does anyone else see the pure hypocracy  of a religious organization that can write things like the above and preach about the above and they can’t care for their dead in a relatively small old graveyard of land they own and probably pay no taxes on??

It’s Memorial Day and at a bare minimum they should respect those soldiers more!  

So A.M.E. Church, I double dog dare you. Prove me and others wrong – take care of your dead in this graveyard. Surely if you can foot the bill for a Bicentennial Convention and celebration you can afford to clean up one small and very historic  graveyard?