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.
The secret is out. Once again the billboard baron is on the march. A reminder of what they did in East Whiteland Township, Chester County:
Oh and these are the trees they weren’t allowed to take in East Whiteland because residents went to PennDOT:
What has recently been heard regarding East Whiteland is that Catalyst withdrew their application from Penndot not so long ago and something like the billboard site is being sold to yet another billboard company?
And here are more views of current uses of the West Conshohocken sign not really so far away from where they want them in Lower Merion:
Yeah so read what came out from one Lower Merion Township Commissioner, Josh Grimes. And people say the commissioner in Bryn Mawr, Scott Zelov is all for moving the billboards so it now becomes the problem of another area of the township? Pretty obnoxious if true, right? Especially given all of the support other commissioners have gladly provided to him all these years over billboards in Bryn Mawr? Really hope this isn’t true don’t you? I also wonder who he’s using for a lawyer this time? Because unless I am mistaken I believe the lawyer he used and East Whiteland is actually Radnor Commissioner Jack Larkin and I wonder how he would feel if the shoe was on the other foot and they wanted to put billboards in Radnor?
And what’s with the carrot and rabbit psychology by billboard company? Kind of like what they did in East Whiteland, right? Perhaps it’s being done this way in Lower Merion because the objective all along was to get the giant TV billboards on the Schuylkill Expressway? Maybe the billboards should go up at “Maple Hill”? That’s in Gladwyne, right?
So my opinion which I’m entitled to have as I hope lower Merion fights these billboards because just because the man can buy a house in Lower Merion it doesn’t mean Lower Merion should have to be the location for his billboards unless they’re going on his own front lawn, Anyway, here is what Lower Merion residents are now facing:
I received a note today and like Alice down the Billboard hole I went, reading what is posted towards end of post which was sent with:
📌”East Whiteland Township is proposing to rezone the Township’s 19.45 acre open space and Ecology Park Land near Mill Lane and Route 401 to professional office. Also, the Township wants to adopt a new ordinance which would allow for the construction of large electronic billboards within the rezoned land. The Chester County Planning Commission has recommended that the township consider other areas that would be more appropriate for electronic billboards, such as the Route 29 corridor. ” 📌
Sigh….even the Chester County Planning Commission is saying BAD FREAKING IDEA to REZONE PARK SPACE and since East Whiteland shares the same solicitor as Upper Merion and didn’t Upper Merion just kill a similar plan there, why is it still alive in East Whiteland?
This is slated for February 1st when East Whiteland has two public hearings, both related to the community scourge of billboards/electronic signs.
Oh and this is more on 202, where in West Whiteland there is one of these suckers being proposed. Off Dunwoody Drive, a sign would go up on some boggy kind of weird space in an office park, right? Wasn’t that the gist of the continued West Whiteland hearing that appeared in the paper on January 8th? But the weird thing is there are two LLCs kind of close together in I guess West Whiteland? See what someone sent:
Now the West Whiteland hearing on January 27th was continued. Until February 10, 2021. The West Whiteland Township billboard hearing meeting was a complete technological cluster F. The video kept freezing but it was interesting in parts especially this lawyer who is representing West Whiteland as special counsel on this. He’s very bright. His name is Ryan Jennings. Amazing to watch. There was some discussion about whether or not a billboard application is actually land development. And then West Whiteland was referring to some other kind of litigation involving the signs and I didn’t really understand what was going on it was very unclear if it was actually related and how were the LLCs related to the parent company or something?
Of course because West Whiteland has issues with being sunshine friendly they said they don’t keep the zoom recordings and only their notes or something become the record and what kind of crap is that?
Back to East Whiteland. Just can’t help thinking about say West Whiteland signs get approved and East Whiteland is foolish enough to allow open space/park land to get rezoned, wow what will 202 end up looking like? I-95? Las Vegas? And you can’t say that residents won’t be affected because these townships all allow these developments to be built to the edge of these highways don’t they?
So one of the East Whiteland hearings February 1st is for a settlement agreement, the other is for the re-zoning. So if the billboard company deals in individual LLCs per site, are both public hearings under E. Whiteland Outdoor, LLC, or are other LLCs involved?
How many LLCs for billboards and electronic signs from these folks over the entirety of Chester County? How much litigation is going on over these signs in Chester County alone?
These public hearings are on East Whiteland’s website. They are slated for Monday, February 1, 2021 at 7 PM. It’s a public zoom hearing and the residents of East Whiteland need help, just like the residents of West Whiteland need help. These signs do not benefit residents. Residents will also be watching for residents and businesses who seem suddenly billboard supportive, won’t they?
Open space means parks and trails and preserving the area the way it used to be before development ran it over. Open space means trying to maintain an environment that will last for all of us and future generations. Do none of you remember the whole situation at Downingtown’s Kardon Park a few years ago that went to PA Supreme Court? It was all about open space, park land becoming something else…via zoning tweaks etc wasn’t it? It’s not the exact scenario but legal precedent would mean any municipality could face potential litigation that could be quite costly which would affect residents/taxpayers, right? That not so in the past case essentially told Downingtown Borough that they could not sell or lease park land, right? But it also possibly sets a precedent for all open space, doesn’t it? For open space that has been set aside as such and parks there are these pesky things in PA like the Donated and Dedicated Property Act, the Public Trust Doctrine, and our own Pa Constitution Article I, Section 27.
For reading about the Kardon Park case, just hit up Google and see these two links as well:
Back to what started this which was outreach by residents. This to follow in screen shots is what was sent to me by concerned residents. Their thoughts and a community call to action, as well as the letter from the Chester County Planning Commission. These are their words, no prompted by me, they asked me to share.
Roundabouts. That is PennDOT new speak for traffic circles. I know, I know I have been writing about this a lot on this blog. Most recently at the beginning of this month (October, 2019) That is when East Whiteland and East Goshen released a letter they received from PennDOT September 30:
At that time I said September 30th was Monday, so why has it taken this long for the people to be notified and have they even notified the potentially affected residents? I marvel that PennDOT dated the letter September 23rd and it took until September 30th to be received? DO they not also send an electronic copy?
PennDOT needs to define “minor construction” and does that mean any eminent domain land takings?
PennDOT will do this project when exactly and how long will it take?
And if PennDOT was offering to meet with both townships, I suggested that when that occured the most directly affected homeowners should be present with whatever representation they so chose to be with them.
Well guess what? According to residents I know (directly affected in fact) the meeting DID take place. And East Whiteland Towsnhip verified this on October 15 when they said on their website “On September 30, East Whiteland and East Goshen Townships received a letter from PennDOT regarding its recommendations for the Route 352 and King Road intersection.
The Townships recently met with PennDOT to discuss those recommendations. No decisions as to road improvements have been made, but the Townships agreed to update traffic counts along the roads and expect to continue discussions with PennDOT when those studies are completed.”
Please note who was missing at said meeting with PennDOT. Yup, you’ve got it, the potentially affected residents.
When they received the news these residents (my extended neighbors) replied to East Whiteland very politely but firmly:
Thanks for keeping us in the loop and for pushing back on PennDOT’s recommendations.
That said, while we appreciate that you may be hesitant to proceed with the only two options PennDOT is permitting (a roundabout or making the roads perpendicular), we still have much to talk about. Will you share why the townships are willing to pay for new traffic counts, what the townships think are the existing problems that must be fixed and what is your goal?
It is my understanding that the various justifications the township has presented have been adequately debunked. It started with cut through traffic, then law breaking cut through traffic, then rush hour delays, then unjustified future traffic predictions, and eventually it morphed to safety. Now, it seems like rush hour delays may be the leading reason again. Or, is this all just a means to mask future plans for over-development? Whatever the reason, it is concerning and very disappointing that the township hasn’t ruled out eminent domain given the community feedback as well as an overwhelming evidence contradicting those justifications.
If the township still feels adequate justification exists and cares about the affected residents, you will help us to understand those justifications. We don’t need to wait for new counts.
If people were dying in the intersection, bad accidents were above “normal” or traffic was backed up frequently enough that it was unpleasant for those of us who actually live here, we would understand (or move). However, these conditions absolutely do not exist. We live here because we want to. If you plan to take our land, destroy our properties, reduce our quality of life, eliminate our privacy and reduce our safety by making the traffic move faster and closer to our homes, we need to understand and accept your justifications or we will fight you to the bitter end.
Finally, can we audit the new counting process when it occurs? Or can we be involved in hiring the firm to perform the counts? Given the conflicts of interest identified with McMahon and the weakness of their presentation, the legitimacy of any further data they present will be called into question.
Subsequent email letters went to PennDOT (three times) from directly affected residents and as they can be obtained on a Right To Know Request, I am publishing them now.
I read your September 23, 2019 response to East Whiteland and East Goshen Townships regarding the intersection of Sproul (S.R. 0352) and King Road (S.R. 2022).
In your first paragraph you cite an increase in traffic volumes as the justification for a solution requiring eminent domain taking. A solution that “must be advanced for eventual implementation within a reasonable timeframe.”
Given your solution will destroy homes, privacy, safety and home values (for which payment alone will not cure), are you basing your recommendation on the two traffic reports prepared by McMahon & Assoc in 2005 and 2016? Or, do you have some other traffic volume data that you can share?
It is my understanding that both McMahon studies were performed for just (2) one-hour periods during peak traffic periods in 2005 and 2016, respectively. Further, while I am not currently able to locate the 2005 report to confirm, I was informed by an EG township official that there was very little traffic volume increase measured at the intersection between 2005 and 2016. If this is true, then what “increase in traffic volumes” are your referring to? Is it based on only future predictions? Please quantify.
My wife and I have lived at the intersection for over 20 years. (I purchased the home on December 31, 1996.) Our home literally faces the center of the intersection. Based on my extensive experience, I vehemently disagree with the premise that there is a volume problem that must be resolved. You may consider my opinion biased because the widening and tree/brush removal will eliminate all of the privacy I have spent 10s of thousands of dollars (and a couple decades) to build up, it will dramatically reduce my safety (I can provide more details), and moving me closer to the intersection will destroy my property value.
That said, don’t take it from me. At the June 5, 2019 meeting at Immaculata, I surveyed an audience full of 100+ township residents by asking, “Who thinks delays are the primary problem at the intersection?” Exactly zero people raised their hands. (https://bit.ly/2oueoGQ: Time Stamp: 1:50:10)
So, while your recommendations may be suitable if there were a traffic delay problem at the intersection, the township residents do not agree with the premise under which you have proposed a solution.
So, if PennDOT will not support a permanent, signal-only solution to help address the left turn issues from 352, does PennDOT support a “do nothing” approach? It was not entirely clear whether you were recommending or requiring your “comprehensive” eminent domain taking solution. This is an important detail. Please clarify.
Here is the second letter:
From: Tom Stuart Sent: Thursday, October 3, 2019 3:37 PM To: ASHPATEL@pa.gov Cc: Sue Drummond <email@example.com>; Rich Orlow <firstname.lastname@example.org>; ‘email@example.com’ <firstname.lastname@example.org>; ‘email@example.com’ <firstname.lastname@example.org>; John Nagel <email@example.com> Subject: RE: Eminent Domain Taking @ King & 352 – *** Major Safety Concern ***
Dear Mr. Patel,
I have a critical safety concern regarding your suggestion to enable King Rd traffic to drive head on through the 352 intersection at the same time (“in exchange” for split phasing on 352.)
First, do you have a sketch or diagram of the revised intersection layout you are proposing?
I have driven up and down King Rd through the intersection a few times since I read your letter—including in the pitch dark last night. I wanted to get a feel for and imagine the shifted sight lines you are proposing (if the township proceeds with a 2-phased approach.) I imagined it with the westbound King Rd lane being re-located southward by about 1 lane width.
Given that the westbound approach rises slightly to the intersection and the eastbound approach rises significantly, you are inviting a full-speed, head on collision by letting that traffic flow at the same time and at full speed with such limited visibility.
Even if your plan includes destroying a half dozen or so properties by removing all of our privacy and safety providing trees and shrubs, safe sight lines simply do not exist with the current (or the slightly modified) geometry.
As you may or may not be aware, the left turns from 352 are not a major safety hazard now. They are more of an inefficiency and annoyance. The resulting accidents from those turns tend to be low speed fender benders… not head on and certainly not at full speed. The worst symptoms are frustrated drivers honking and cursing.
For this reason, I believe that switching the split phasing from King Rd to 352 as you propose (in part 1 of your 2-phased approach) will make the intersection considerably less safe.
Incidentally, there is a similarly shaped intersection geometry where Paoli Pike meets route 30 in Paoli. The sight lines are MUCH better there because it’s more level. However, in the mid to late 1980s (before the lights were changed to include a protected left turn phase from 30) there was a head on collision that occurred with so much force the driver’s heart detached from all of her arteries. So, unless you and the township want to be directly responsible for introducing fatalities to the intersection, I suggest you withdraw or amend that portion of your recommendation.
If you have any feedback defending what you proposed, I’d be interested to hear it—especially because the townships will likely heed your input more than mine.
I urge the townships to respond to this concern as well.
Best Regards, Tom Stuart
And here is the third letter:
Tom Stuart Thu, Oct 17, 8:21 PM (12 hours ago) to ASHPATEL@pa.gov, Sue, Rich, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, John, Christie, firstname.lastname@example.org, TINA, Timothy, Christine, Zeek747, me, Ted
Dear Mr. Patel,
I gather from your lack of response to my previous emails (and because the residents were not invited to recent closed-door meeting) that you do not intend to respond to me. The important part is that I have raised my safety concern, you saw it, the townships saw it and it’s now part of the public record.
I would like to draw your attention to a few more critical issues I have identified in your letter of Sept 23 to the townships:
Your suggestion (2e) indicates that signal upgrades could better detect traffic. Obviously, this means reducing delays without any negative impact on safety or otherwise. If PennDOT thinks traffic delays are a problem, why would this not be your recommended solution as a first and immediate phase? Why wasn’t this recommended and implemented years ago? You go on to state that this improvement would not be approved by PennDOT unless the township also agree to take land from local residents in “a reasonable timeframe”. This is outrageous and extremely upsetting. Is this how PennDOT operates– with a complete and total disregard for residents’ homes and properties not to mention a disregard for common sense and unnecessary expenditures? One of your suggestions is to clear the vegetation through the intersection along King Rd to improve visibility (2c). When it comes to the goal of improving safety, this applies not only to the drivers but also to pedestrians and residents, I assume. As Senior Manager of Traffic Engineering and Safety Division, you must be aware that trees and shrubs create a safety barrier between the traffic and the residents when they must co-exist in close proximity. Tearing them down, as you propose, reduces safety for residents (and pedestrians). You state that that safety is the department’s primary goal. Yet, you directly contradict this statement with your proposed solutions. If safety is the primary goal, a safety improvement like enhanced traffic detection and painted lines (as you suggest in 2f) could be implemented now. (Or, years ago.) In fact, if safety were the primary goal, a safety improvement such as signal phasing on 352 could be delivered even if it came at the expense of added delays. Your proposals not only fail to make safety the primary consideration, you go so far as to suggest that signal-only safety improvements to 352 traffic can only be delivered if the township agrees to reduce safety on King Rd by letting it drive head on, simultaneously. Local residents would likely agree with me that this could be a net reduction in safety. The reality is that the goal of your proposal appears to be: reduce delays and, if possible, improve safety and do so at the highest possible expense. I find it disappointing that neither you nor the townships ever acknowledge this glaring falsehood being perpetuated. This is not and has never been about improving safety. Each time I read your proposal and consider what has transpired to date, I become more and more disappointed by what appears to be a complete lack of competence, integrity, honesty, transparency and common sense by all parties carrying some sort of responsibility here. If you disagree with anything I have said and do not wish to have a dialogue with me directly, I understand. I hope you will communicate your feedback to the townships so they can pass it along to me. Or, if the townships care about the affected residents, they can prove it.
Until I see common sense prevail, I will not go away.
“….would not be approved by PennDOT unless the township also agree to take land from local residents in “a reasonable timeframe”.”
There you have it. EMINENT DOMAIN. They always try to make it sound pretty. How was it one of the East Whiteland Supervisors referred to it? As “slivers” of land or something equally preposterous?
It’s eminent domain. It’s stealing someone’s property and for what? So PennDOT can have their Roundabout Reign Of Terror?
I noticed in September PennDOT was doing the old soft shoe PR on their pet project to ruin where we live. All. Across. The. State.
Here, courtesy of Talk Erie News, is essentially PennDOT’s press release in September about this:
Richards was elected to the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors in 2007, and became chairwoman of the board in 2008.
Richards was elected to the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners in 2011. Her election, along with that of fellow Democrat Josh Shapiro, marked the first time in over a century that Democrats controlled the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. Richards served as Montgomery County’s representative on the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Richards also serves on the board of SEPTA.
Pennsylvania political operatives had mentioned Richards as a potential Congressional candidate in Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district. Richards declined to run for the seat after incumbent Congressman Jim Gerlach retired in 2014.
In 2015, following the election of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, Richards was nominated to serve as Secretary of Transportation of Pennsylvania. She was subsequently confirmed by the Pennsylvania State Senate in May 2015.
In 2017, Richards was appointed the first female chair of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission as well as the Public Private Partnership (P3) Board.
But what does she actually DO? I will note I contacted Ms. Richards when this whole Roundabout Reign of Terror began. Her response, even an acknowledgement, of the fact that I contacted her must have gotten lost in the mail.
So people always say when it comes to things like road projects to follow the money, right? So what happens when we follow the money to PennDOT with regard to things like Roundabout Reigns of Terror? Who is benefitting? Is it a long list? Is it a short list?
I sent an e-mail overnight to Senator Andy Dinniman since I feel the State Representatives have been quite invisible on this.
What is happening here is terrifying. He needs to act. He actually might have the power to help my neighbors and get the pause button pushed.
NO ONE HAS TRIED BASIC SIGNALIZATION CHANGES! Why the heavy PennDOT push for traffic circles or the more politically new speak term of “roundabouts” ? Whatever happened to trying something less expensive before taking people’s homes?
Again, if the money trail is followed all the way to Harrisburg where will it lead?
The basic intersection changes affected residents asked for would cost a whole lot LESS than a Circle. And it would not involve eminent domain.
But we, as residents and taxpayers, have been told that PennDOT doesn’t want that. Everything they want seems to involve eminent domain doesn’t it?
Money, money, money. It’s only money and OPM or Other People’s Money at that. Do you want your taxpayer dollars to go to stealing a neighbor’s home?
Why should my neighbors be forced to this? Why should they fear losing their homes? How would you feel if you were facing eminent domain?
None of us asked for this. And the origins of this current situation is somewhat mind boggling to me. That all came out when we did RTK requests a few months ago.
People have asked State Reps for help and to the best of my knowledge that has kind of gone nowhere.
My neighbors need and deserve help. This affects residents in East Whiteland and East Goshen. Truthfully it affects anyone who travels through this intersection. Have you watched people use roundabouts? And what about Immaculata and the buses that come through to them and the trucks, big trucks, which travel these roads?
Of course my personal thoughts include that wanton development is also a culprit here- another thing residents didn’t ask for.
I have seen what the threat of eminent domain does to communities as I have been to this movie before. I just didn’t expect it out here as a threat quite as often as I have seen it.
We have done rights to know. In the spring we learned a lot. Is that the only way we can ever get answers is to pay to be flooded with paper?
This summer I took photos while a passenger in a car. Of a roundabout no one knows how to drive on in Chester County. On Route 52. Where it is still kind of rural and no one lost their homes, although undoubtedly someone lost some land as in open space/farm land.
The topography where that circle was placed is radically different from where PennDOT seems hell bent for leather to get one at King and 352.
Putting a traffic circle, roundabout, whatever you wish to new speak it as on King and 352 is like the proverbial square peg in the round hole, or is it round peg in the square hole? (Sorry, traffic circle humor)
Remember this issue when election day rolls around.
Soon it will be Halloween. Then we will have Thanksgiving and Christmas and Channukah and so on, so what do these poor residents have to look forward to with the evil specter of eminent domain courtesy of PennDOT lurking around seemingly every corner?
Residents asking for traffic improvements on side streets somehow translated to a potential pork project and please stop the roundabout turntable, residents want to get off.
Can anyone help stop this? Does anyone give a crap about residents anymore? Or all we just expendable?
This is scary stuff and multiple fire companies have responded. My photos are from my readers. (Who are also reporting so many fire trucks that first responders are walking up the driveway.)
Below is from Chester County Working Fires. I think it is beyond 3 alarms. Thank God this building is unoccupied and please say prayers for all the first responders involved.
This last photo from another of my readers shows the long line of first responders. It makes you wonder about new construction doesn’t it?
Again, thank God this wasn’t occupied yet. Especially because it is for senior citizens I am told.
I will close with noting I have no idea what caused this fire. Some are speculating high winds, but I don’t know what the origin of the fire is. I will update the post if any of that is made known. I will update the post as additional media reports on it.
Many thanks to my readers for the photos and for Chester County Working Fires for covering it.
I do not know if the fire has been contained as I post this.
The other day I wrote on my last big post on Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, PA. I told you my faithful readers and local history buffs why I was giving up, and there is no need to re-hash that. Nothing has changed.
However, my friend and I came down Bacton Hill on our way back from Fricks Locks. As she was driving, I was able to snap a few photos. I think it is important to record it now, because as soon as those development houses go up next to Ebenezer and the Malvern Courts mobile home park, what is left of old Bacton Hill will cease to exist for sure.
It’s almost gone, now. This farmhouse I have photographed should be some sort of historic asset, but it is not. It has been rotting and will be demolished so the land can be cleared for part of this development that is coming.
Bacton Hill Road Farmhouse in Frazer August 26, 2018. This farmhouse was built in 1840, just a few years after Ebenezer AME was built. It was a four bedroom farmhouse and was undoubtedly purchased for it’s 2 acres of land. I think this may have been called the Benjamin Smith House but am not certain.
Bacton Hill has serious historic significance, but it doesn’t matter. Only progress and development seem to matter. The park East Whiteland is planning up the road towards where the road meets Swedesford will carry the name Bacton Hill, but give it 10 years more and no one will remember what Bacton Hill was.
Alice Gassaway’s grave August 25, 2018. The only grave you can now see at all through the brush and weeds. She is buried closest to the road.
Bacton Hill is a region in East Whiteland that was an early village (and one of the largest early settlements) in Chester County settled by and for African Americans. The Ebenezer AME Church and cemetery is a sacred space where at least three Civil War soldiers are buried.
Alice Gassaway’s grave in 2016
The AME Church grew out of the Free African Society in the late 1700s, but the church became it’s own entity founded in Philadelphia around 1816. So you can see given the age of Ebenezer AME in East Whiteland, Chester County, PA that it is truly part of the early days of a church and religion founded in Philadelphia. Bishop Richard Allen died in 1831, just months before Ebenezer came to be after Joseph Malin deeded the land.
Hiram Woodyard was a Township resident and former slave who served in the Union Army as a teamster. He was a leader in the African American community and is buried at the Ebenezer AME Church. His home still stands on Congestoga Road. Other homes he built still stand. He was an inhabitant of Bacton Hill.
Soon all that will be left of the area will be my blog posts including this one from 2017 which is an oral history complete with some really cool photos courtesy of Claude Bernadin, or this one from 2015, this one from 2016, this one from 2017, the ceremony November 2016, a post from October 2016, another one from October 2016, when for brief moment people stopped to visit the old souls now covered by weeds and brush once more, 2015 post which had links to earlier posts. Also will be the occasional newspaper article from every newspaper reporter who tried to raise awareness to this area and to Ebenezer.
Once upon a time people tried to get a Bacton Hill Historic District or something like that. It’s a shame it never happened. Because at least then there would have been a more organized history of the place.
We can’t keep developing away our history, or can we?
I will leave you with that for now.
Ebenezer AME August 25, 2018. Once again swallowed by weeds and brush.
Well I am back to tell you sadly, I think I am right. Ebenezer looks like hell. Again. I am done with trying to get people to pay attention and preserve and save this site. It is pointless.
I drove past Ebenezer today and the photo above is from 2016, but essentially that is exactly the way it looks now. Perhaps worse. I couldn’t stop and take a photo as there was traffic. Ebenezer has been swallowed by the green death of weeds. The old farmhouse across the street is pending the wrecking ball as the development which alarmed me due to it’s proximity to Ebenezer was apparently approved?
These houses are going to be right next to Ebenezer on one side. A concern I still have is a lot of us have always wondered if there were more graves on each side of the fences (See blue arrows). A new development right on top of this site of ANY size puts this historic site at risk, in my humble opinion. Which is why a lot of the conversations concerning any development anywhere has to also include protecting historic sites, right? And this site is fragile so what will the vibrations of earth moving construction equipment do? My guess is nothing good.
This is a historic site that East Whiteland has never seemingly wanted to deal with (except for the historic commission as they have wanted it better preserved only how do we get there?), and the AME Church always seemingly wants to pretend it never exists. (I mean remember that promise Bishop Ingram made the Inquirer reporter Kristen Holmes to check this all out quite a while ago, right? And what do you bet he never, ever did? (Sorry I don’t see slick city bishop walking through the mud at Ebenezer, do you?)
Anyway….I am repeating myself (sorry.)
But my post in February was noticed by a lady named Patricia J. Henry who was doing Quaker research on the Malin family (and it was James Malin who deeded the land in 1831 to the then fairly new AME Church.) She was researching East Whiteland Malins in connection with “some individuals connected withValley Meeting burial ground as well as Tredyffrin area residents.” (I have a couple of emails I am quoting from.)
To continue…this Patricia emailed Bertha Jackmon the historian at the uber historic Mt.Zion AME in Devon, PA. (I will digress for a moment and wonder aloud about Mt. Zion as it looked like it needed a lot of love when I drove by earlier this summer. I have heard like many other old historic churches they have an aging and dwindling congregation?)
Back to my topic at hand: Ebenezer.
This Patricia asked them if they were familiar with Ebenezer. Bertha replied yes. (I laughed to myself reading the e-mail chain because when I started my Ebenezer odyssey years ago I went to the Pastor of Mt. Zion April Martin. Pastor Martin was super interesting and inspiring to speak with, but nothing ever happened back then with Ebenezer via Pastor Martin.)
From this email I learned that as according to Bertha that Ebenezer was “originally known as Bethel AME Church as stated in the Deed. A/K/A Bethel Bacton Hill AMEC and names.”
Aha, I thought, quite the light bulb going off. Another link to the AME Church that seems more tangible, no? As in Mother Bethel in Philadelphia from whence the Mothership of the AME Church was born? As I have always suspected? (You see I have never been able to find definitive proof that the AME church ever divested itself of Ebenezer. It was more like over time, they just ignored it as they have ignored so many other sites across the country, right?)
Then there was discussion of me and this blog. That always amuses me when these things get forwarded. Mostly what was said was really flattering. This Patricia lady thanked Bertha and said that “this should give me plenty to follow up with.” ( I never heard from this Patricia, although not sure I was supposed to.)
Bertha next contacted Steve Brown at East Whiteland Township and eventually me as well. Apparently with Steve from East Whiteland they discussed East Whiteland and this Bacton Hill development site. Steve also gave Bertha the court reporter information for the zoning hearing on the Bacton Hill development plan I guess it was.
So then Bertha and Pastor April reached out to me again. We had a nice phone call back on February 20. I will admit being snippy at first because well, they were among the first I reached out to years ago when I started this odyssey. And back then they made me feel like the teenage girl dumped at the high school dance – they just evaporated at the time. Or at least that was my perception….
Amusingly enough, apparently East Whiteland really did not notify the AME church of this plan because well, the non-existent mailing address for Ebenezer was (as in decades ago, right?) RD1 Malvern Pa, and ummmm… hey now it’s been a long time since there were any RD rural delivery addresses around these parts due to all the freaking development, hmmm?
East Whiteland should know the address of the church was/is 97 Bacton Hill Road. East Whiteland should have maybe tried contacting the corporate offices of the AME Church or Mother Bethel in Philadelphia, right? But government is government and if something appears abandoned, how far do you go on the notification process? Especially when no one has really stepped forward to say Ebenezer is their responsibility, right?
So I did then have a conversation with Bertha and Pastor April back in February. At that time there was limited time for the AME Church to file a zoning appeal if they wanted to go that route. I do not know whatever happened, because I had no standing in the zoning matter and zero involvement because I knew I had no standing (I don’t live over there on Bacton Hill Road and I am not on the East Whiteland Historic Commission), even if I worry about the history of Ebenezer. You need standing in zoning matters.
The AME Church had they chosen to get involved with their history on Bacton Hill could have possibly sought an appeal based on ground vibrations or perhaps the impact to a historic site and also perhaps for the basic fact they did not receive good notice of a zoning hearing and should have if they are admitting the AME Church still owns the Ebenezer site, so is that what the AME Church was contemplating admitting here? Since I do not think an appeal was ever filed would that be part of why they didn’t appeal? Because then they would have to admit they let their own historic site rot and go to hell in a hand basket?
Anyway, to the best of my knowledge the development of those houses is going to happen and Ebenzer is SO overgrown that no construction crew is even going to notice what is there except a seemingly empty lot. But I am done. If the AME Church doesn’t care about preserving it’s early history, why should I care? It’s not my Church, after all. I did not expect this development plan to stop, but I was hoping that for once the AME Church would at least act to see Ebenezer’s ruins were stabilized and preserved.
Yes, I am really done.
I have ridden this pony as far as it can go. My last hope was the late Al Terrell. But he is dead more than a year and no one is stepping into his shoes to get the site cleaned up. And that is not anyone’s job truthfully other than the blasted AME Church. And they do not seem to care.
So why should I?
Some day, I predict, in the not too distant future the only records of what was Ebenezer AME will be what I have saved on this blog.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
I am tired of expecting different results. I will post news as I get it, but I am divorcing myself from this. It’s too aggravating to care about a place that no one else, let alone the church that apparently still owns it, cares about.
History is important, but time is fleeting. I am sorry to the old souls buried at Ebenezer. I tried.
A friend of mine took this photo less than five minutes ago in Tredyffrin. Lancaster Avenue and that is Old Covered Wagon Inn to your right I believe.
Friends and other readers are alerting me to flooding photos, so here is a slideshow. From Lower Merion where stormwater management in the township needs a makeover to flooded out Little Chicago in North Wayne, to out around West Vincent and beyond the flooding is crazy. Highways are closed like parts the Schuylkill Expressway, turnpike, etc.
But of course, global warming is an urban legend…and all of the development never, ever causes any storm water runoff problems, right?
Willow Avenue at Radnor Street Road in “Little Chicago” in North Wayne, PA. (Radnor Township) Neighborhood was built at turn of 20th century over the Wayne Natatorium…which at the time was largest outside pool thanks to Gulph Creek and all those springs and water sources underground. These people are flooded horribly today. Feel sorry for them. Photo from Twitter this morning.