Poor Ebenezer. Historically significant as quite literally perhaps the second oldest AME site in the country, except for Mother Bethel AME in Philadelphia. And I believe Mother Bethel’s current Pastor Mark Kelly Tyler knows this as he was in West Chester prior to Philadelphia.
Everything the engineer told me a few years ago now that I passed along to East Whiteland Township and East Whitehead Historical Commission is sadly happening. The walls have never been shored up, and the development going along around it is taking a toll. Time, weather, and circumstances are not friends to this site.
This is so sad. Quite literally an important historical asset, including as part of black history in Chester County. This was part of Bacton Hill. I have been told Bacton Hill was one of the early black settlements and well, most of the history has been bulldozed away, hasn’t it?
Black History Month starts when? February 1st? I would say maybe this February 1st someone will care about the history of Ebenezer and Bacton Hill, but really does it ever happen enough to make a difference? Sadly, no. So all I can ever do is point out further deterioration and prior posts over the years.
Before COVID hit, there was a lady from the National Trust for Historic Places I had connected with who seemed interested. Her name was Lawana Holland-Moore. I have tried following up since, but nothing, not even a reply. (Sigh.) Who knows? Maybe she will see this post and renew her former interest. There are so many historic places and structures at risk, but I just wish this place would matter for more than just an occasional minute.
I also hope that someday the East Whiteland Historical Commission really gets a fire lit under them. I have kind of given up there, I find little point in trying to connect with them at this point. Their chair is very nice, but they have never really been comfortable with me or interested in what I have to say.
At one point I had wanted to volunteer for the commission, but political road blocks came up and COVID happened. I’m not welcome there, and why should I keep trying? At one point I even offered to donate my time to help them photograph historic assets and I helped the former members who updated the History of East Whiteland Book, but they cycled off the commission. Hell, when I contacted a member of the commission last June looking for an update on Ebenezer I never even got a reply from them or anyone so I can take a hint.
But, I still need to remind people that #ThisPlaceMatters . Ebenezer and Bacton Hill are disappearing.
I have not written about the ruin of Ebeneezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road in East Whiteland for a couple of years now. It’s not my party any longer, and truthfully there are members of East Whiteland’s Historical Commission whom I am sure would prefer I not have an interest in this site. I guess it doesn’t matter that I did a lot of work for this site, some of my friends did a lot of work for this site, and years ago when no one was paying attention I did the placement for the media coverage which was local and regional.
But I do have an interest in this site. It spoke to me years ago, and today I listened again. In 2016 a structural engineer reviewed this historic site and warned about not addressing the bowing of the longer north and south facing walls. There were also warnings of the use of heavy equipment on and close to site. Well today I got a couple of photos from the road because of what I saw a couple of weeks ago that disturbed me.
The walls are coming down. No, no one is taking them down, the years and years of neglect leave no other option for old walls.
I think this is tragic and really upsetting. But it’s not within my power to change it. It is still within the power of the AME Church, unless they have suddenly transferred the property to another entity. I also think East Whiteland Township could try to do a little more.
I asked someone for an update on the site in June and never heard a peep. OK fine, they aren’t interested in conversing with me, but now I am saying I told you so. If they want to preserve any part of the ruling of that church, they need to move a little more quickly. They also need to preserve the graves that are in the graveyard.
Ebenezer represents a heck of a lot of history and there are freed slaves, black Civil War Soldiers, and ancestors of people who still live in the area today. This site deserves respect. Respect just isn’t a historical marker, respect is a better degree of historic preservation. You can read about my coverage of Ebenezer by doing a search on this site or CLICK HERE.
But East Whiteland has historical significance and as I do not wish to damage the spine of my book, I converted photos I took with my phone into a PDF so people can see it.
East Whiteland is one of those places thanks in part to organizations like the Chester County Planning Commission that people think they can just keep dumping development in. Someone said to me again last week how King of Prussia was once upon a time farms and open space. They then compare East and West Whiteland to King of Prussia, as in these municipalities are getting WAY over-developed.
I have said it before that I object to the Chester County Planning Commission being head up by a carpetbagger from Lower Merion Township. He doesn’t live in our county, how much of the history of places like East Whiteland does he know?
East Whiteland is a funny place because as much as it use to be farms, it was also equal parts mines and quarries and industrial. That of course is why there are some astoundingly toxic areas past and present in East Whiteland Township.
East Whiteland is home to random historical facts and locations. For example: Dead Horse Hollow. Yes, a lovely name and according to J. Wilson Gilmore was at one time located south of the then PA Railroad, a quarter-mile east of the township line. As the railroad was being built all dead horses and mules were…well…dumped there. Can you imagine how THAT place stunk to high heaven in warmer weather? Gross.
Or how about Cabbagetown? It was a small community on Summit Road. And Barker’s Corners? That was a little village at the intersection of Swedesford and Church Roads.
Or how about the giant Penn Oak that was said to pre-date colonial settlers on Flat Road? Does it still stand somewhere, or was it cut down or did it die years ago?
What about the Native Americans who once lived and roamed what is East and West Whiteland? Like the Okohocking which were for a while given a 500 acre reservation somewhere in Willistown Township? Do the residents of East Whiteland know the Indians referred to the area as “The Dark Valley” because of all of the woods? Of course today they would not recognize the area given all of the development.
How many know East and West Whiteland used to be one Whiteland? And they split into two areas circa 1764-1765?
Around 1777 do people realize that George Washington and his army after the Battle of the Brandywine marched into the area and encamped near Malin Hall? To quote Mr. Wilson:
With his troops deployed along this ridge from Three Tuns at the junction of King Road and Goshen Road, and west approximately three miles as far as Ship Road, he was in an excellent position with an army of approximately 11,000 men. During his march up the Valley, quite a number of local farmers joined his ranks.
And residents see reference to the Battle of the Clouds in East Whiteland but do they realize this was a battle which didn’t actually ever happen? Why? Inclement weather, apparently. Mr. Wilson states had the battle occurred, “the British army might well have been routed.”
The history goes on and meanders from schools to Duffy’s Cut to all of the inns and taverns and residents and industry and quarries and farms and early schools and churches. Did you know the Catholic Church tried several times to build a church in various locations in East Whiteland but were never able to complete the task? Mr. Wilson also talks about Ebenezer AME whose ruin barely stands today on Bacton Hill Road with its abandoned graveyard with a mobile home park to one side, and new development approved last year to spring up and around it.
This book is fascinating and this is why I wish more local historical societies had really good websites with archives available online. I can tell you East Whiteland does not. Bits of local history continue to get lost and it would behoove the township to give the historical society more resources or help them build a proper website and archives.
Things in this book Mr. Wilson refers to are a mystery to me. What were the Speakman apartments, for example? And the Chester County Academy? Where is it?
And what of a crazy cool log barn ?
Or a crazy cool log cabin? “South of Conestoga Road, on Bacton Hill”?
But Mr Wilson’s book? To me finding a copy was like finding the holy grail. It’s fascinating. And I wish more would take an interest in the history of East Whiteland before everything of historical value disappears. Because if this township doesn’t start to have more interest that extends past people like me and members of the historical society, then what?
Until I got this book I had no clue that they totally celebrated East Whiteland’s Bicentennial. And then I found related to that, this super cool thing from a page about Frazer on Facebook:
And East Whiteland had a tagline/slogan before “The Heart of the Great Valley” and it was “Land of Limekiln, Plow and Millwheel”.
Enjoy the book, I think I got it all back into order before I converted to a PDF. East Whiteland has history. And it’s not just the modern-day history of groaning under development.
I love parks. And a park naming contest is just good fun! East Whiteland Township is having a park naming contest through March 8th. And two of the finalist names involve parts of Chester County history right in East Whiteland that I feel very strongly about.
The suggestions to name the East Whiteland Township’s next park are in and the finalists are Bacton Hill Park, Woodyard Park and Patriot Park. You can vote on the next name until March 8.
Finalist Name Number 1: Bacton Hill Park
Bacton Hill is a region in East Whiteland that was an early village (and one of the largest early settlements in Chester County for African Americans. The Ebenezer AME Church and cemetery is a sacred space where at least three Civil War soldiers are buried. (Blogger Note: the ruins of Ebenezer and graveyard are currently in a somewhat precarious position due to proposed development)
To vote on the new name, please email email@example.com with a selection from the three finalists by March 8, 2018.
Finalist Name Number 2: Woodyard Park
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. (Blogger Note: the ruins of Ebenezer and graveyard are currently in a somewhat precarious position due to proposed development)
To vote on the new name, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a selection from the three finalists by March 8, 2018.
Finalist Name Number 3: Patriot Park
This name reflects the historical significance of the Township, region and members of the East Whiteland community.
To vote on the new name, please email email@example.com with a selection from the three finalists by March 8, 2018.
My opinion? Please e-mail East Whiteland for either Woodyard Park or Bacton Hill Park. It is the most fitting due to the physical location of the park, and it is a VERY important piece of Chester County History, as well as East Whiteland history. Some of the dearly departed who lay in the Ebenezer graveyard have descendants who still live in and around East Whiteland, Malvern Borough, and Chester County today.
As a matter of fact, a slight segue but related to the importance of this particular area is in neighboring Charlestown on Bodine and Valley Hill Roads are the ruins of a little school for slaves and/or the children of the African Americans that settled in this area (like Bacton Hill). It is the Longwood School and the school was built in 1857 as a one-room schoolhouse for African-American children. Charlestown Township secured the ruin and stabilized it – something I wish for Ebenzer.
On March 27, 1858, the “colored” school was opened for business. It was the place where the School Board sent their “colored” children. All the “colored” children had to pay $0.04 to go to school everyday. This marked the beginning of the Longwood School.
In December of 1858 the school board agreed to add a stove, and a month to the school year now making it five months. Although the school year was increased, the schoolmaster’s salary went down.
In 1859, vast changes occurred for Charlestown Township Schools. For example, they required each student to purchase a textbook for every subject. This was a hassle for many parents. The board also demanded that the pupils were to bring absent notices, and be given an exam at the end of the year. These changes were attempts to make the schools more high quality learning systems. Exams were given at every school EXCEPT Longwood School.
During the next five years, the School Board dropped the term “colored” school and started to call it “Longwood School”. Even though this act may have seemed more respectful, it would take a lot more for Longwood to be noticed as a school.
The summer school session stopped, and the Board changed the school year to nine months. That is, in every school EXCEPT Longwood School, where it was still only five months.
By 1873, all of the “regular” schools had funding for new facilities and had been completed by this time, EXCEPT Longwood School, where no funding was made.
In 1879, Mary Lloyd was to be the teacher, but she didn’t remain long. After trying to get a new teacher, they gave up, and the children at Longwood School had no teacher for that term.
In 1887, a new teacher, Linda McPherson began taking attendance records to the public’s attention. She noted that nearly 50% of all the students had perfect attendance or missed only one day of school. This was a step to show others what a great school this was. To show that it was just like all the others, and they didn’t slack off. They worked as hard as any other school.
Finally in 1889 the Board decided to equalize the Longwood school term to the other schools, as well as the teacher’s salary. The board finally started to realize that Longwood School was a regular school.
Acceptance of the school grew when a 94-1/2 foot well was built for the school in 1895. On March 18, 1895, the Pride of Pickering Council gave the Longwood School a flag and flagpole. At last, the students were beginning to feel like a respected part of the community.
On April 26, 1885, a celebration was held for attendance of the pupils. They sang songs, read poems, and planted an oak tree. They named the oak tree “Bryant” in honor of a poem’s author, William Cullen Bryant. Under “Bryant” a glass bottle with the names of people who attended, as well as the pupil’s names was buried.
In 1901, the final teacher was reassigned, and after serving 44 years of educational services, the Longwood School was closed.
On June 1, 1902 Longwood School was sold for $2,000 dollars.
That school is so close to Bacton Hill. 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.
I will freely admit it, to see Ebenezer rise like a Phoenix from the ashes at 97 Bacton Hill Road and to have people from all over recognize how historically important Ebenezer and her departed souls are is what I would love to see. I would also love to see a park named either Bacton Hill Park or Woodyard Park so the history (much of which we can no longer see) is remembered.
Photo is of the grave of Hiram Woodyard at Ebenezer. 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 history is all interconnected. Naming a park to reflect the history that took place right there, and to remember the people of Bacton Hill just seems right.
Anyway, the name for the new park, a 16-acre property off Bacton Hill Road that is currently known as the Swanenburg Property, will be announced at the March 14th, 2018 East Whiteland Board of Supervisors meeting.
To vote on the new name, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a selection from the three finalists by March 8, 2018.
Find where East Whiteland posted the naming request on their website BY CLICKING HERE. ***Also note that in the screenshot below the information, historical information is different than what I have written or which the historic commission will provide. That is because (I guess) of whomever does the East Whiteland website is very, very busy because this is one of many historical fact errors I have found in the past couple of weeks alone. The devil is in the details as they say….. ****
For the past few years, I have been writing about this. I see the importance of this site intertwined with its 184 years of individual history combined with the 200-year-old history of the AME Church founded by freed slave Benjamin Richard Allen. (The AME Church as all know celebrated its 200th anniversary this year in Philadelphia.)
The parcel’s 1832 deed of trust transfers ownership of the land from James Malin, a prominent Quaker farmer involved in the Underground Railroad, to three African Americans – “Samuel Davis, Ishmael Ells, and Charles Kimbul” – for the purpose of constructing a church with a burial ground in East Whiteland.
Ebenezer’s floor was a raised platform on stone piers, according to research by archival consultant Jonathan L. Hoppe, for the Chester County Historical Society. Its single room had a door facing the road; opposite was the raised pulpit. The interior walls were covered in wainscoting.
So Al and I have been messaging back and forth. He and the scouts from Willistown have been clearing brush. Trust me, you remember the photos from June. It was a horrible mess with 10 and 12 foot weeds and more. A complete sea of poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Brambles, wild weed trees. Completely sad and crazy.
As we drove up yesterday to meet with Al Terrell for a little bit, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I almost couldn’t focus my eyes from the tears that kept welling up.
These aren’t my people, this isn’t my religion or church, yet those souls buried there mean something to me. It all started with a soldier named Joshua. Al Terrell visits Joshua too.
To see the weeds disappearing and to see graves I had not even seen three years ago was almost overwhelming it made me so happy.
Think, just think, of what the people buried here saw. The history they lived through. Slavery. Becoming free. How can we as a society which values our freedoms and ancestors let these people disappear without trying?
Before me, the poet Ann Christie also tried to save this graveyard. She and I met and became new friends because of Ebenezer. Then cancer took her from her daughter and family this past spring.
I promised Ann in her last months of life I wouldn’t give up. And I almost did. Until Al Terrell, Joe Rubino and scouts from Willistown came along with volunteers from Al’s bible study, a wonderful lawn service gentleman and more.
I walked around taking it in. I visited the Reasons, who still to this day have family in Malvern and East Whiteland and elsewhere local. Al says to me that our friend was waiting. Joshua Johnson.
When I saw Joshua’s grave unearthed from all the weeds and debris once again my eyes were so filled with tears I really couldn’t speak for a couple of minutes. My friends will tell you that is a rare occasion.
I also saw graves that we have never seen before.
The whole time I was there with Al Saturday morning, cat birds sat on the fence and nagged and scolded us. To me it was a good omen. And I have to tell you when you visit this graveyard you will notice an extraordinary thing – it’s not a sad or creepy place — it’s a very peaceful place that felt somehow inexplicably happy that people cared about it once more.
The history these people lived was remarkable. I can’t imagine being born a slave, and some of the people buried here were freed slaves. Like one gentleman in particular whose grave was discovered by boy scouts today, Hiram Woodyard. Hiram was also our other USCT member – a black Civil War soldier.
….Only none of us have seen his grave for a very long time. So I was tremendously excited when Al texted me from the graveyard.
Willistown Scouts cleaning up Ebenezer October 2, 2016 ~Al Terrell photo
Al and these boys and the other volunteers who have taken on the Herculean task of unearthing the graveyard and church from their green prison are my every day heroes.
They have restored my faith in people just doing the right thing.
In a day and age when every day when you pick up a newspaper or turn on the television all you see is the ugliness of humanity and political battles tearing people apart, this is what brings it all back around and takes you home to what is important. Home, hearth, faith, history, humanity.
I bet most people do not even know what happened in Philadelphia in 1830 right before Malin gave the AME Church this land do you?
This first convention, which occurred before the Civil War hosted about 40 people, including Bishop Richard Allen of Mother Bethel AME Church, and founder of the AME Church. (He died in 1831 a few short months before the land to Ebenezer was deeded to Mother Bethel and/or the AME Church.)
During the first ten years of this organization’s existence white abolitionists worked with the black members to try to come up with ways to deal with oppression and racism in this country. The last convention of this very important yet short-lived movement which was ahead of its time was in Syracuse, NY in 1864.
Ebenezer AME when it was first built was built within the midst of a thriving and historically important black community of which very few traces actually remain. As people died and moved, like many other communities, it shifted, rearranged, disappeared. Which of course is yet another reason WHY Ebenezer’s preservation is so important.
There is a house that I am not sure if it still sits on Conestoga Road that freed slave and former soldier Hiram Woodyard actually built. 418 Conestoga Road. Family members whose grandmother lived there many, many years ago when they were growing up, used to go to the graveyard and leave Hiram flowers on his grave.
The people buried here saw so many things. All ordinary people who lived in some cases during extraordinary times.(Which makes them somewhat extraordinary to me.) And many of these souls still have ancestors in this area today in many cases.
Ebenezer is living to see another day. I hope as time progresses now a more permanent solution to her upkeep and preservation is found. I would love to figure out when exactly Pennsylvania might have a year where a historical roadside marker might become a possibility. I would like to see the Chester County Historical Society to become a little more proactive here.
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:
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.
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:
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)
I have a file of e-mails and attempted contact. National A.M.E. church leaders, regional leaders, local ministers. Some give an initial acknowledgement of my outreach, some have wasted my time with pleasant platitudes and a complete lack of action and I wonder if they really care, but most? Most just blow me off.
There are bits of newspaper articles here and there, including this one from the 19th century with horrible language that was sadly acceptable and not considered offensive back then:
It is maddening. These aren’t my ancestors, this isn’t my religious history per se, but this place speaks to me. It speaks to me of our country’s history and the important part these brave individuals buried there played. Freed slaves, free people of color, black Civil War soldiers. They matter. #ThisPlaceMatters — yet it rots.
Then, all of a sudden people have started to connect with me again about this place:
One of my friends…. lives in Malven Borough. She and her brother went o try and locate that headstone but weren’t successful. I’ve never been back to the site myself but would love to go once the poison ivy is gone. I don’t know the exact location..is it at the corner of Bacton Hill and 401 or Bacton Hill ? I don’t want to trespass. Their family has been around forever. Her father was a minister and there were a large number of siblings but all are gone. Thanks
And then this from another local historian I just met:
I recently had a lady reach out to me who’s looking for information on their relatives that were supposedly buried at that Ebenezer Church. I was hoping I would be able to find more information when I went there but everything was so grown over that we couldn’t even find the gravesite…The people that she is looking for is a James Williams, but he also went by the name Perry Ringgold. He bought his freedom in 1851 and lived in this area as a circuit preacher in the AME churches. He had a daughter who we do not have any records of and that is who I’m looking for. The daughter also had a daughter and then passed away shortly after the baby was born leaving the child to a Sophia Lane, who we do not know the relation of them to the baby. I think it may have been a sister-in-law
And then a lady named Tia contacted me. She is looking for family buried there. She is looking for the family the historian told me about above. She shared wondrous documents with me. The original deed, and a few other gems. I do not know where the originals of these documents are, but I was so happy to receive her e-mails.
It will take a village to save this. I would love to get the weeds hacked back so we can see the graves. It has been a couple of years. I heard the boy scouts will do this, but the gentleman I messaged who suggested it never responded.
If anyone from the A.M.E. church sees this, I really wish they would give a damn. We are talking about cleaning up and maintaining a historic sacred place. Is it as exciting as Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia? No, but it is JUST as important. A lot of the history of these churches is being lost, not just here. Records were haphazard, a lot of the history oral.
Here is the text Tia sent me from the deed:
Deed of Trust
James Malin to Samuel Davis et al.
This indenture made the eleventh day of the sixth month in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty one between James Malin of the Township of East Whiteland in the county of Chester and state of Pennsylvania, yeoman of the one part and Samuel Davie, Ishmael Ells, Charles Kimbul all the said county of Chester, Trustees of the African Methodist Episcopal Church to erected in the Township of East Whiteland in the said County of Chester, of the other part. Witnesseth that the said James Malin as well for and in consideration of the trusts, hereinafter mentioned, created & declared for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar, lawful money of Pennsylvania, to him in hands paid by the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells & Charles Kimbul, the receipt of which one dollar is hereby acknowledge, hath granted, bargained, sold, aliened, enfeoffed, released and confirmed and by these presents doth grant, bargain, sell, alien, enfeoff, release & confirm unto the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells and Charles Kimbul, their heirs and assigns a certain lot or piece of land situate lying and being in the Township of East Whiteland aforesaid, beginning at a post or stone thence by land late of Doctor John Jacobs, deceased, north sixty degrees, east eight perches to a post or stone, thence by other land of the said James Malin, North thirty one degrees and an half, West nine perches to a post or stone, thence by same and land sold to Charles Kimbul, South sixty degrees west eight perches to a post or stone, thence by land late of John Jacobs now of Joseph B. Jacobs, south thirty one degrees and an half, East nine perches in the place of beginning, containing seventy two perches of land which Joseph M Paul by deed of Indenture dated the eighth day of the fourth month on thousand eight hundred and sixteen and recorded in the recorder’s office in and for the County of Chester in book M3, page 245, granted and conveyed unto the said James Malin, his heirs and assigns forever. Together with all & singular the ways, rights, liberties, privileges, improvements, hereditaments & appurtenance whatsoever thereunto belonging on or any wise appertaining and the reversions and remainders, rents issues and profits thereof, and also all the estate eight title interest use /codeftion property claiming demand whatsoever as well at law as in equity otherwise housover of him the said James Malin of in to and out of the same. To have and hold the said described lot or piece of land, hereditaments and premises hereby granted or mentioned or intended so to be with the appurtenances unto the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells and Charles Kimbul and their heirs to the use and behoof of the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells & Charles Kimbul their heirs & assign and the survivors and the survivor of them and the heirs and assigns of such survivors and survivor forever. In trust nevertheless and to the use, intents & purposes herinafter mentioned, expressed & declared that to say that the said lot or piece of land hereby granted and conveyed shall be appropriated as a place & spot of growing whereon to build and erect a church to be called and styled the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Township of East Whiteland in the County of Chester for the members of said church to meet in and at, for the purpose of performing divine worship and for the erecting other necessary guildings for the conveniency and accommodation of the members of said church and for the purpose of a burial ground to bury and inter their dead and to and for no other use, intent or purpose whatsoever. And the said James Malin for himself his heirs, executors or administrators doth covenant, declare & agree to and with the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells & Charles Kimbul & their several & respective heirs & assigns in manner following that is to say that upon the death of any one of them the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells and Charles Kimbul or upon their or any of them being mindful or desirous to quit him or themselves of the said Trust, or upon their or any of them being expelled from religious membership by the discipline of said Church, it shall & may be lawful to & for the majority of the members of said Church in meeting assembled as often as occasion may require to make choice of another or others to manage and & requite the said Trust in the room and stead of such as shall depart this life, be desirous of parting him or their selves of the said Trust, or being expelled from religious membership as aforesaid. And the said Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells and Charles Kimbul and the survivors and survivor of them and the heirs and assigns of such survivor shall at the request of the majority of the members of the said Church in meeting assembled as aforesaid convey the said lot or piece of land with the appurtenances agreeably to the Trusts, uses intents and purposes aforesaid to such person & persons and their heirs & assigns as shall be by the majority of the said meeting in that behalf chosen, nominated & appointed in order to keep on foot and in continuance the said Trust estate for the uses and purposes aforesaid. And also that the Samuel Davis, Ishmael Wells & Charles Kimbul or any or either of them shall not, nor will not at any time or times hereafter assign or convey over his or their said trust estate of or in the said dasonibet lot or piece of land and premises or any part therof unto any person or person or persons so as to make a tenancy in common or otherwise to sever the joint tenancy on the premises hereby created or intended so to be or in any other manner whatsoever buy shall stand and be (?) of the premises with the appurtenances to and for the uses, intents & purposes aforesaid, and to have no other use intent or purpose whatsoever. In witness whereof the said James Malin have hereunto set his hand and seal dated the day, month & year first above written. JamesMalin. Seal. Sealed & delivered in the presence of us John Rogers, James Dilworth, before me the Subscriber, one of the Justices of the peace in and for the County of Chester cam the above named James Malin and acknowledged the above written Indenture of Trust to be his ad & deed to the intent the same as such might be recorded according to law. In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hands and seal the eleventh day of the sixth month in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty one. James Dilworuth. Seal
If you noticed I phrased the title of this post with a question mark at the end. I have to as much as it pains me, because after almost five years I am still trying to figure out what the East Whiteland Historical Commission actually does and what historic preservation means in East Whiteland.
Yes they have a page on the East Whiteland Township website. But it says nothing. Except they meet once a month. There are no meeting agendas posted or archived on the township website that can be found and the same can be said for meeting minutes. Yes they meet once a month but people have lives and it is a nice theory to attend their meetings every month of every year, but wouldn’t it be easier if they simply posted an agenda? And meeting minutes after the fact?
For years all I did was go to municipal meetings. We live in the Internet age, we should be able to discover what is going on via each township website if it does not happen via local access television. And every other historical commission or whatever a municipality calls their historical preservation committee pretty much does that. They post information. They host events. They interact. They are generally speaking, really cool people who really care about the history of where they live. Willistown, East Goshen, Radnor, and Lower Merion Townships come to mind immediately. You might not always agree with what the various independent hstorical societies or municipality based historical commissions do or don’t do, but you can find them. They don’t act like a social club meets secret society.
Look at Historic Sugartown and Historic Goshenville. That is preservation in action. Those were two things I checked very soon after I came to Chester County. And the Historic Village of Yellow Springs was a favorite before I moved to Chester County.
East Whiteland as a municipality is one a lot of people do not recognize. It is a place people go through. There is no town center. It’s identity gets lost in the “Malvern” of it all. And Malvern is in how many municipalities? None of this is East Whiteland’s fault, it is just the way the township evolved with it’s place in Chester County.
East Whiteland has more commercial “residents” than residential “residents”. But it is a cool place with a lot of interesting history. And the history is at risk, because much like a neighboring municipality (Tredyffrin) there really is not anything written down anywhere that can save historic assets. Not that a lot of municipalities in Pennsylvania are truly protected when it comes to their historic assets.
There are a lot of people with good intentions in Pennsylvania but the truth is if you go through the Municipalities Planning Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania there isn’t enough on historic preservation – there is guidance but the truth of the matter is Pennsylvania does not make it as enticing as some other states do with regards to rewarding people for historic preservation. A number of states offer a tidy bit of “encouragement” in the form of serious property tax abatements, credits for rehabilitation, including owner-occupied residential properties, and tax deductions for easement donations. (See preservationnation.org and truthfully historic tax credits in other states are a little shaky in a funky economy according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.)
I have watched as historic structures have fallen. Literally. I watched it happen with Addison Mizner’s La Ronda which stood until the fall of 2009. And even the extremely well-heeled and politically connected Lower Merion Township could save that beauty. And they tried. It was one of those rare occasions in that politically over-active township when all residents and factions came together with the purpose of saving La Ronda. The sad thing there is the commissioners vowed after La Ronda fell to do better at historic preservation. Residents, sadly, still wait for that as they fear every new development plan.
At a recent open house at Loch Aerie I encountered some woman from the East Whiteland Historical Commission. Seriously, if she could have willed the ground to have opened up and swallowed me she would have. Her name escapes me. She mentioned that Loch Aerie was going to be discussed at an upcoming meeting. I asked what it was they were going to do to save the mansion, what could they do? Blank stare. What did I mean? (Yes, really.)
So I asked about other historic preservation efforts namely Linden Hall also on Lancaster Ave at the foot of Route 352. She tells me it is saved. I asked if it really was since the only thing that had really occurred was the developer said they would save it during plan approval stage, but they in truth don’t have to save it as there was nothing to make them save it.
And Linden Hall just gets more and more sad by the day. The stick frame cheap looking townhouses are going up all around her and Linden Hall? Just sits there and continues to deteriorate. If Linden Hall is being preserved and it was a condition of development approval from another developer different from the one now building the surrounding townhouses, when is preservation set to begin? Is there a date? A plan? A time line?
There has been increasing media attention on the fate of Loch Aerie. That has not been generated by the East Whiteland Historical Commission. It has been generated by concerned Chester County and East Whiteland residents NOT part of the East Whiteland Historical Commission or having anything to do with the township at all. But East Whiteland residents and those in Chester County concerned with historic preservation would love it if the East Whiteland Historical Commission were more visible and consistently verbal. They had media at a recent meeting because residents told them when the meeting was, not because they were invited.
Look East Whiteland is not the only municipality that needs to be more active and consistent in historic preservation, but the needs are pressing in this particular township because of structures like Linden Hall and Loch Aerie.
Loch Aerie has been described by more than me as being Chester County’s La Ronda. Only there is a chance here if everyone pulls together of Loch Aerie NOT succumbing to the same fate as La Ronda, which ceased to exist on a brilliant fall day in 2009.
Here is the press thus far on Loch Aerie (and more is coming now that the Philadelphia Inquire put her on the front page of the Sunday paper):
The photos except the black and white at the bottom which I took are all old ones taken for that August 1958 study. Only I never saw the photos until someone suggested I check the Library of Congress listing for the mansion. These photos are available to the public courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Even the folks at The Library of Congress thinks this Chester County symbol and gem are special. See??? #thisplacematters
And finishing with one of my favorite photos that I have personally taken of Loch Aerie: