remembering the soldiers at ebenezer at christmas 

My friend Cathy messaged me yesterday:

“Hey do the soldiers at Ebenezer have wreaths for Christmas?”

I said no, and look what she did yesterday? Isn’t that awesome?

I also thought I should mention we did have a licensed structural engineer have an initial look at the church ruin. No it was not paid for by the A.M.E. Church, but they do have the report. There are certain steps that need to be taken to stabilize the ruin, but they need to give permission before anything happens. They have had the report for weeks I am told, but have not responded to further contact by anyone which is disappointing.

Sadly,  I find the ignoring caring people sadly predictable behavior. It seems to be what they do and not just in the case of Ebenezer. 

But the church has never disavowed ownership of Ebenezer (well they can’t an be telling the truth can they?) and as per what I have been told that they  actually do bear responsibility here no matter what.

We now have volunteers who care and if we keep up a schedule we can keep the graves cleaned up.  We are hoping to get someone to use the equipment like was used at Duffy’s Cut to comprehensively map out the graveyard.

It is Christmas Eve and time for all of us to be with loved ones.  Remember the old souls at Ebenezer A.M.E. in your prayers and thoughts.

Stay dry on this very rainy Christmas Eve and thanks for stopping by!

ebenzer a.m.e. on bacton hill road is in the news!

Meet some of my grown-up Ebenezer saviors. The gentleman far left will forgive me as I do not remember his name. Second left is Doug, center is Al Terrell, and far right is my arborist Bob Phipps of Phipps Tree Care.

Meet some of my grown-up Ebenezer saviors. The gentleman far left will forgive me as I do not remember his name. Second from left is Doug, center is Al Terrell, and far right is my arborist Bob Phipps of Phipps Tree Care.

For over three years, I felt like a lone voice in the proverbial wilderness. It also felt crazy to me that no one really cared about the ruins of 184 years of history known as Ebenezer A.M.E. and her old souls buried on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, East Whiteland.

But it ends up, people do care, and day by day she is further released from her green prison of weeds, giant poison ivy vines, overgrowth. Every day we see a little more.

Meet Luke Phayre, our Eagle Scout

Meet Luke Phayre, our Eagle Scout

The tide turned shortly after Kristin Holmes wrote her first article on Ebenezer. This gentleman named Al Terrell told me he was going to get Ebenezer cleaned up.  He will tell you, and I will admit at that point my faith in this happening and being able to keep my promise to Ann Christie that we wouldn’t give up… was waning to say the least.

But Al came along with this remarkable teenager and Eagle Scout from Willistown 78, Luke Phayre.  And little by little, it’s happening.  It is actually happening.

Al is amazing.  He is one of the nicest men I have ever met, and he has this quiet and unassuming determination about him.  He has a deeply rooted faith in God and humankind that has kind of made me have faith again.

And Luke. Luke is an amazing boy, with an equally amazing mom, Kathy.  This boy is hard-working, smart, and articulate.  And yesterday, even as most of his buddies and fellow scouts were off on a camping trip, Luke was at Ebenezer, cleaning up debris.  I can’t tell you how impressed I was with Luke and happy to meet his mother who is also just one of those people you know from the first introduction are “good people”.

Meet Harriet, we discovered her yesterday. ~ Al Terrell photo

Meet Harriet, we discovered her yesterday. ~ Al Terrell photo

Yesterday at Ebenezer, I also met a man named Doug.  He grew up in East Whiteland and told me about how he and his friends played in the graveyard and church.  He said when they were kids (60’s and 70’s) there was still the roof and the floor. And even part of the old altar and a couple of pews.  That now gives us a better timeline as to when the roof caved in taking everything and the floor with it. My guesstimate on that is late 1970s or 1980s.

So today, Kristin Holmes has another article in the Inquirer.  I had contacted her after the clean up began and had sent her photos.  I connected her to Al Terrell for a follow-up article.  One of the most remarkable things in the article is a quote from an A.M.E. Bishop who would not respond to me when I contacted him:

Duffy’s son, Luke Phayre, 15, and Terrell researched the property and talked with township officials. They also sought permission for the cleanup from the First District of the A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia, and got it. Phayre said he talked to Bishop Gregory Ingram, who sent a letter approving the project and commending Phayre for his initiative.

“I think it’s so noble,” Bishop Ingram said in an interview Friday. “. . . I feel somewhat embarrassed that I haven’t been out there. But I will.

“For anyone to make themselves available to champion a cause like this,” he said, “it shows that in the midst of all the negativity in the world, wonderful things are happening.”

 

This also means to me that the A.M.E. Church is acknowledging Ebenezer’s existence and importance in history. It also gives me hope and the ability to start to forgive the A.M.E. Church  for not responding, not acknowledging.  A boy with a scout project helped them see what we see. That is what is important. Will I ever forget that men and women of the cloth like Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, senior pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia who had an earlier calling in West Chester could never take the time to speak to me when I reached out? Probably not, but that is past and it’s time to look forward.

Bishop Ingram makes a hopeful difference in my mind, so it’s time to forgive them and look forward.

Every time I am at Ebenezer now I get all filled up with tears.  Happy tears that people young and old and in between still care about things like this.  Now I am hopeful she will be preserved and along with her some of the history of the people of Bacton, which was once a very important black community around here.

Meet Luke's mom, Kathy Duffy Phayre. When you meet her you know instantly why she has such amazing children!

Meet Luke’s mom, Kathy Duffy Phayre. When you meet her you know instantly why she has such amazing children!

The people buried in this cemetery bore witness to so much  history.  And they lived it like ordinary people raising their families, working hard towards a better tomorrow.  We owe these people a great debt, I think.

This article which I am about to post is why I do what I do.  And some days it is hard. People love to criticize and castigate from behind their keyboards, semi-anonymous in their vitriol.

This is a strange world we live in where at times you are punished for not essentially being like everyone else, not thinking like everyone else, not being all the exact same homogeneous lump of humanity. And then after a lot of these people criticize they actually go out and mimic what you do, anyway. Imitation is after all, the sincerest form of flattery (or something like that.)

My journey through Chester County thus far has been an amazing one.  And it is home.  So I am happy, so truly happy about Ebenezer.  I have hope for her future and was able to keep my word to a new friend.

Enjoy the article and I will have new photos soon.

Thank you Kristin Holmes for getting it. She is the ONLY reporter from any paper who has taken the time to write about this.

Thank you Al and Luke for your hard work and unwavering faith.

Updated: OCTOBER 16, 2016 — 5:34 AM EDT

tomorrow begins the bicentennial of the a.m.e. church in philadelphia, but they still don’t honor their dead in chester county, pa

13533075_900144076760594_3309194531261614814_nRichard Allen (February 14, 1760  to March 26, 1831 was a minister, educator, writer and one of this country’s original, most active, and influential black leaders.  In 1794 he founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. This was the first black denomination and independent church in the US.  The first actual church opened in richardallenautobio_halfPhiladelphia in 1794.

Richard Allen was born into slavery on one of the properties of Benjamin Chew as another piece of property because he was a slave.  He bought his freedom around 1780 at the age of 20 from a subsequent master named Stokeley Sturgis.

In 1816 the AME church was founded more formally and Allen was elected the first Bishop. He had bee a minister for years prior to this and Mother Bethel in Philadelphia actually first opened her doors to worship around 1794.  Bishop Allen organized this religious denomination where freed blacks could worship without racial oppression and where slaves could find dignity and a welcoming place. He worked to literally lift up the black community, also organizing  schools to teach literacy arichard allen muralnd promoting national organizations to develop political strategies. Bishop Allen died the year Ebenezer A.M.E. at 97 Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, PA Chester County opened.

Tomorrow July 6, 2016, leaders and members of the A.M.E. Church descend on Philadelphia to celebrate their Bicentennial in the city where it all began.

Festivities over the past few days in advance include the unveiling of a beautiful bronze statue of Richard Allen and a mural too.  Some very kind people thought enough to send me photos.

They are all a twitter (literally) over this magnanimous and festive and historic occasion. They are tweeting, Facebooking and Instagramming. It’s all about the bicentennial. You can sign up to watch it stream, attend galas, pay $5 to have your photo taken in front of a special paparazzi walk banner.  ‪#‎IamAME‬‪#‎a200mecgc2016‬ are their hashtags of choice

They have ALL sorts of money to spruce up Mother Bethel, throw parties, rent a giant big city convention center and yet….wait for it…. those of us who have been contacting the A.M.E. Church nationally and regionally for YEARS still want to know when they will honor their dead on Bacton Hill Road.

The A.M.E. Church elders are veritable slum lords to their dead and I find that disgraceful. 

On June 25th their First District tweeted at me:

June 25

Let’s see how do I say this? Straight out? THEY HAVE DONE NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Their history, their dead, our country’s history – it is all in this ruin of a church and a cemetery of folks of a local A.M.E. Church founded only 30 some odd years AFTER the entire religious organization was founded and they opened their doors the year Bishop Richard Allen died.

EBeneWHY DON’T THEY CARE ABOUT THEIR HISTORY? Is it all about the money they make today saying they value their history at their bicentennial? If they can pay for the bicentennial in Philadelphia are you telling me that these religious hypocrites can’t pay to clean up Ebenezer’s ruins on Bacton Hill Road? People from Tredyffrin, Malvern, East Whiteland, West Chester, and West Vincent just to name a few local municipalities (and this doesn’t take into consideration the people from other areas of the east coast and country who probably do not even realize they have ancestors there.

Ebenenezer A.M.E. is so badly overgrown at this point that NO ONE can pay their respects to the dead. There are (again) freed slaves there and black civil war soldiers. Surely their lives mean SOMETHING to the A.M.E. Church? I am appalled that as of tomorrow they will be preaching the word of God and talking about their 200 years of history and an hour outside Philadelphia and about 20 minutes from Valley Forge, they have just blown off their responsibility on a land parcel the NATIONAL A.M.E. Church STILL OWNS!  

The A.M.E. Church elders are veritable slum lords to their dead and I find that disgraceful. 

Someone wrote to me recently:

I am afraid you will get NO cooperation or interest from anyone there. Shame is the only press they understand—maybe  a local news station could bring attention to it.
 
I feel bad for local families with graves in the cemetery who cannot pay their respects.
Yeah so media, how about it? How about a little field trip? This is what you will see:
ame frazer
If the A.M.E. took care of their history and honored their dead it could look like these photos from a clean up OTHER people did in 2011:
ebenezer 2011 1 ebenezer 2011
You can check the archives of this place, I have written about this for multiple years at this point if you are interested.  Here is the link to the boy scout report of many moons ago – if you look through it you will see names of the dead buried here that people know of:

 

And yes, there is now also a social media movement to save Ebenezer A.M.E. on Bacton Hill Road:

save ebe

Feel free to LIKE and SHARE.

#thisplacematters

A.M.E. Church can you hear us now? Do you care about your history and your dead? Or are you just all about the party and bicentennial media hype?

What would Bishop Richard Allen do?  What would Bishop Richard Allen say? I think he would be sorely disappointed in the stewards of the church and religious movement he founded.

bishop-richard-allen-stamp-1

The A.M.E. Church elders are veritable slum lords to their dead and I find that disgraceful. 

dear a.m.e. church, this is your history, your members’ ancestors, what is wrong with you people? honor your dead!


This is what the ruin of Ebenezer A.M.E. church and graveyard looks like THIS week as in right now. You see, some of the East Whiteland Public Works folks went by this week to see if there was anything they could do to help those of us interested in saving this piece of history before it is too late. They were so nice to even consider doing this.

They asked how to get permission from the A.M.E. Church (national) to do this.

Good freaking question since the A.M.E. church elders are not overly communicative is a substantive way when you contact them.

Oh the irony that here they are all ready to celebrate their bicentennial in Philadelphia right after July 4th and this is how they value their history and pay tribute to their dead. What a bunch of holy hypocrites.

A.M.E. Church can you hear me now?  People are willing to help and you still don’t seem to give a good god damn about these people buried here! Historically important yet everyday people.

What would Bishop Richard Allen who founded your church think? What would Bishop Richard Allen who founded your church do? Personally I think he would have come out himself to help clear the weeds. I also think he would be ashamed and disappointed in you for not being better stewards of history and of the departed.

Shame on you A.M.E. Church, shame on you .

it takes a village

The only photo I have ever seen from a book by Chester County Historian Catherine Quillman (History of the Conestoga Turkpike)

The only photo I have ever seen from a book by Chester County Historian Catherine Quillman (History of the Conestoga Turnpike)

I have been writing about the ruins of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church and Graveyard for a few years now. I wrote two posts in May of this year alone:

private joshua johnson and the other old souls at ebenezer a.me. on bacton hill road in east whiteland

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

Lately I have been really bummed out about the whole thing.

Why?

Because I do not get how the A.M.E. Church as a national organization about to celebrate themselves and their bicentennial in Philadelphia July 6 to July 13th as in right after  4th of July this year doesn’t seem to care about this historic and sacred place on land they still own!

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:

NewspaperClippings 2

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

 

NewspaperClippings 3

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.

DeedPage1 DeedPage2 DeedPage3

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.  James Malin. 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

Recorded Febry 18, 1832

 

 

NewspaperClippings 4

EBene

Troop 65 Research

Property Dimensions

Ok local history buffs, have I whetted your appetites yet? Come on, it took a village to get this far, what can the extended village do to save it?

And again, if anyone from the A.M.E. church is reading, please please step forward.  Don’t just talk the talk, actually HELP.

private joshua johnson and the other old souls at ebenezer a.me. on bacton hill road in east whiteland

8585210935_52918cdd7f_o

Someone asked me what it was that made me want to save the graves in the ruins of the Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill Road in East Whiteland or what old timers in East Whiteland like to call “that old black church”.  What first moved me was the grave you see above of Private Joshua Johnson(1846-1916) who was a member of Company K of the 45th of the United States Colored Troops in the Civil War.

How could he just be abandoned by his church? How could the others? These are people’s ancestors – you know like William Reason who died in 1892? joseph Thomas who was born in 1751? (list below at end of post along with very old article excerpts courtesy of a friend.)

The most history we have on Ebenezer AME was compiled by Eagle Scouts. Daniel Baker was one.  In 1989 he wrote History of the Ebenezer AME Church on Baction Hill Road. Another Eagle Scout,   Mathew Nehring also adopted this site in 2010 and documented graves and did a clean up. Nehring put his results on Find-A-Grave .

This summer is the bicentennial celebration of the A.M.E. Church A/K/A Host of the 50th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference, African Methodist Episcopal Church. It is being held in Philadelphia before the DNC.

Oh yeah, I have tried countless times contacting the AME Church regionally and nationally since we discovered they still own the ruins of Ebenezer A.M.E.  When I did a GIANT e-mail I got some responses last year, but never any follow up. Ministers and church officials asking me to send them information and I have…so many times. And NOTHING.

Ok so NONE of these souls moldering in this forgotten graveyard aren’t my people, don’t share my race or religion, but these people belong to some descendants somewhere, right? Surely the big A.M.E church must care about Ebenezer A.M.E. right?

No. Apparently not.  I have reporters who have expressed interest, but mostly it is just regular people like me and the late Chester County poet A.V. (Ann) Christie. Yes, A.V. Christie. That is how I met her. Because of a graveyard abandoned by time and man.  She died April 7, 2016.  Those of us in East Whiteland and elsewhere who are just regular folk would love to be able to honor Ann’s memory by getting this little graveyard taken care of. She had no tie to it either. Like me she happened upon it.  I believe she helped clean it up a few times a few years ago as well.  Ann once lived nearby to the graveyard.

So yes, #thisplacematters too. 1st District A.M.E. Church is on Twitter about the upcoming bicentennial.  @1stDistrictAMEC is their handle. Maybe they need to be tweeted at to remember the ancestors buried here. They have to be someone’s people, right? The most recent local A.M.E. Church elder I sent information to was a Reverend Lett.

He never replied. It makes me wonder why I care, but I do.  These forgotten people deserve to be remembered and some of the names in the graveyard are still the names of some descendants living in Malvern and Chester County today.

A.M.E. Church does still own Ebenezer A.M.E. Someone trying to assist with research wrote to a friend a few months ago “The county still lists the owners as the African Methodist “Episcapal” [sic] Church, with a mailing address as Malvern R.D. 1. You can see then it hasn’t been used in quite a long time!”

EBene

I also sent information to Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III Editor of the Christian Recorder. That is the official paper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. I have contacted innumerable local ministers of A.M.E. Churches.

Yet there the graveyard rots on the eve of their bicentennial.  Yep, that is some way to honor the past. To honor freed slaves and civil war soldiers.

The Daily Local was kind enough this week to pick up the tale of Linden Hall. Hopefully they or SOMEONE will decide that the dead of Ebenezer A.M.E. are worth a little bit of attention.

Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery is also known as Chester Valley African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, or Valley Hill Cemetery. You can also see tombstone photos on Pennsylvania US Gen Web Archives – someone named Fred Kelso popsted them in 2008. One of his photos shows that in 2008 someone still left a Christmas wreath on the ruins of the chuch.

If you know anything about this cemetery or people buried here, please leave a comment.

And also read this fascinating write up of another cemetery probably long gone in East Whiteland – The Flat Road Amish Mennoite Cemetery.

Here is an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1999:

A Lonely Battle For Black Cemeteries In This County Alone, At Least Six Are Abandoned Or In Serious Disrepair. Regulations Are Sparse, Records Mostly Nonexistent.

POSTED: August 10, 1999

Lee Carter pressed paper and pencil to the weather-ravaged tombstone inscriptions, laboring in vain to make out the faded names of the dead…..“It breaks your heart,” Carter said. “You devote your time to these things, and after a while it gets to you. You have to walk away.”

African American cemeteries are vanishing across Chester County, despite efforts of a small cadre determined to save them. At least six independent burial sites, and a seventh just outside the county, have been abandoned or are in serious disrepair, and no one knows how many may already be lost.

It is a phenomenon taking place across the country, black historians say, for reasons that include a lack of regulation, the remote locations of land granted to former slaves, and rural-urban migration…

A registry or listing of all cemeteries does not exist, Hardester said. While for-profit cemeteries are regulated by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission and state Health Department, no group or agency regulates older fraternal or church cemeteries – where the bulk of people living in the 1800s and early 1900s are buried.

Limited state legislation exists to protect unmarked cemeteries from development and to force municipalities or churches to care for neglected or abandoned cemeteries. But Hardester said such legislation, which dates to the 1930s, is rarely invoked because it is obscure and fragmented.

So it is often left to persistent individuals to save them – such as Roger Grigson, president of the Downingtown Historical Society…..

cultural traditions may also play a role, noting that maintaining an oral record traditionally was considered more important in black culture than marking graves with elaborate headstones.

“The people who do remember the oral histories are the older people,” she said. “When they die, they take the knowledge of who’s buried where with them. It’s happening all over the place, and nobody really seems to care.”…Grigson said he spent six months calling the A.M.E. Church’s District 1 headquarters in Philadelphia and was all but ignored.

“They didn’t want to cooperate,” he said. “I called the A.M.E. over and over with no response. When I did get somebody, I was told, `Keep your nose out of it.’ ”

Renee Carey, a South Coatesville resident who is trying to create a database of the people buried in forgotten cemeteries, said she also failed to get any information from the A.M.E. Church after sending repeated e-mails to the records office….The remnants of one A.M.E. church stand next to a trailer park on Bacton Hill Road in East Whiteland. A long-forgotten cemetery surrounds the church, hidden in a jungle-like mix of tall grass, trees, rocks and moss. A headstone has become embedded in a tree trunk.

Many graves there are crudely marked with rocks, which are rounded by rain and embedded like teeth in the ground. The clearest headstone belongs to Joshua Johnson, a Civil War soldier who lived from 1846 to 1916 and whose military unit is etched on his headstone.

Township records say the land belongs to the “AME church at RD 1” in Malvern. Asa McCollum, vice chairman of the trustees for St. Paul’s A.M.E. Church in Malvern, said that the church was not affiliated with his and that the ground belonged to A.M.E. District 1.

Graves identified by Matthew Nehring:

A., H. 54

Bently, James
b. 1819 d. Jun. 12, 1849

Brown, Ann
b. 1811 d. Feb. 5, 1901

Brown, John
b. 1837 d. Apr. 17, 1852

Cogins, Jane
b. 1849 d. 1887

Curtis, Walter
b. 1879 d. Mar., 1880

Davis, Hannah
b. unknown d. Apr. 5, 1898

Edwards, Harriet
b. 1809 d. Dec. 25, 1839

Gassaway, Alice
b. 1867 d. Aug. 28, 1911

H, A E
b. unknown d. unknown

Hooper, Anna E
b. 1821 d. Feb. 23, 1868

Hooper, John
b. unknown d. Apr. 23, 1847

Hooper, Mary Ann
b. 1812 d. Jun. 22, 1889

Johnson, Howard J.
b. unknown d. Oct. 8, 1921

Johnson, Joshua
b. 1846 d. 1916

Johnson, Winfield
b. 1861 d. Jun. 22, 1907

Jones, Clara Bertha
b. unknown d. Jul. 13, 1886

Jones, Sarah
b. unknown d. Jan. 18, 1875

Jones, Sarah J.
b. unknown d. Jan. 12, 1891

Laws, John
b. unknown d. Mar. 20, 1879

Poinsley, William
b. unknown d. Aug. 20, 1906

Reason, Mary
b. 1823 d. Jun. 30, 1888

Reason, William
b. 1817 d. Nov. 26, 1892

Smith, Viola
b. Nov. 30, 1899 d. Mar. 26, 1913

Thomas, Joseph
b. 1810 d. Sep. 10, 1849

Thomas, Joseph
b. 1751 d. Sep. 16, 1840
Trowery, Mabel Bell
b. May 1, 1906 d. Nov. 1, 1906

Trowery, Pauline
b. Apr. 1, 1894 d. Sep. 25, 1906

Williams, Amelia
b. Jul. 11, 1832 d. Feb. 3, 1911

Williams, Ellen
b. unknown d. Apr. 21, 1841

Woodyard, Hiram
b. 1824 d. Dec. 20, 1900

Woodyard, Sarah B.
b. unknown d. Aug., 1896

Collection: African American Newspapers

Publication: THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER

Date: December 18, 1873

Title: NEWS FROM THE CHURCHES.

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Rev. Wm. H. Davis writes from Phoenixville, December 8, 1873. MR. EDITOR:

Upon my arrival at my post I found one of my points at the Deep Valley, the church was in a bad condition, about to fall down. We tore it down and rebuilt it gain, and on last Sunday the 7th we had a good time in the Church. As my presiding elder could not be with me, I got the Rev. R. Norris of West Chester who dedicated the church anew on Sunday morning. I tried to preach, 1 Cor. XV, 57. WE took a collection and got the last dollar. In the afternoon having raised in the morning the last dollar owed on the church the Rev. W.R. Norris commenced the grand jubilee in the afternoon and selected for his text Joshua VI, 16, and the Lord blessed us. WE have a church worth two hundred dollars, today at the Deep Valley.
Collection: African American Newspapers

Publication: THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER

Date: June 7, 1883

Title: REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON MEMOIRS, —–

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON MEMOIRS, —–


PHILA., PA., May 14, 1883.

To the Bishop and Conference: DEAR FATHER IN GOD, AND BRETHREN, -We, your committee, to whom was assigned the sad and solemn duty of considering the life and demise of our brethren and co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord, whom death has claimed as his since last session of the Philadelphia Annual Conference, beg leave to submit the following as the result of our labors”

Rev. Shadrach Blackson was born in Christeen, Deleware, in the year 1809. His parents being in bondage, he was born a slave. His master sold him to a Presbyterian minister in East Whiteland, Chester County, Pa., in 1814. Here he received a common religion and joined the A.M.E. Church at Valley Hill, where he held his membership for over 60 years. 50 years of this time he labored as a local preacher and was a local member of the Philadelphia Annual Conference over 39 years. He departed this life on the 18th day of March, 1883, in the full triumph of faith. He leaves a wife and three children to mourn their loss, but their loss is his eternal gain.
Collection: African American Newspapers

Publication: THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER

Date: November 20, 1890

Title: —– —–

Author: REV. J.M. PALMER, P.E.

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Downingtown circuit under Bro. Reuben L. Patterson is showing signs of improvement worthy of one of far more experience. Membership and interest both increasing.

A genuine quarterly meeting was hat at Ebenezer (Valley Hill) recently began Saturday morning, with preaching by five of the brethren. The great spiritual feast on the Sabbath old fathers declared had not been equaled in many years. Downingtown will soon have a new church. We are confident the people have a mind to work.
Morning Republican, January 27, 1894
Revival meetings were started at the Ebenezer A.M.E Church, near Bacton, on Sunday evening. They are being conducted by the pastor, Rev. R. L. Patterson.
Morning Republican, May 31, 1899
The colored people of Bacton will give a strawberry and ice cream festival on Henry Tinson’s lawn, on mile west of Bacton, Saturday night, June 10th, for the benefit of Ebenezer A.M.E. Sunday School. Committe of arrangements: Henry Tinson, Annie Tinson, Lundon Asparagras, Mary Asparagras, Susan Thomas, Ameilia Johnson, Lydia Wilson. All are welcome.
Morning Republican, December 26, 1899
The Ebenezer A.M.E. Sunday School of Bacton will give their Christmas entertainment in Bacton Hall on Saturday night. There will be recitations, dialogues and singing by the school, and tree sharing and treats for the scholars, after which there will be a sale of refreshments and oysters for the benefit of the Sunday School treasury. The committee of arrangements consists of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Tinson, Mr. and Mrs. Louden Asparagus, Mrs. Amelia Johnson, Mrs. Susan Thomas, Miss Lydia Johnson, Miss Laura Jacson (sic), secretary.
Daily Local News, April 11, 1934
Visitors in the Chester Valley speak of the little building which was once well-known as the colored Baptist Church of Bacton. It has been unused for services for some time, but is yet in fair condition, with the old-fashioned box and pews and the coal oil lamps, and beneath the building the groundhogs have been sleeping in comfort during the past winter. Many old stories are told about that church and the enthusiastic meetings held in other days.

back to abandoned churches: ebenezer a.m.e. in frazer on bacton hill road

Well since Malvern Patch once again featured my favorite abandoned church (Malvern Historical Photo Location Revealed. Do you know this old Malvern building?) I figured it was time to share the above.

ebenezer ameA friend of mine and I met recently with another Chester County lady interested in preserving the ruins of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church on Bacton Hill Road.

reasonShe gave us this fascinating report written in 1989 by another Eagle Scout named Daniel P. Baker.  Eagle Scout Mathew Nehring also adopted this site in 2010 and documented graves and did a clean up. I find it interesting that even with clear interest in this site throughout the years, that no one from the A.M.E. Church to East Whiteland Township Historical Commission, to East Whiteland Township, or any other of the non-profits nationally and locally one would think would be interested in this site have done anything.

And isn’t it past time to preserve this site? (Check out photos I took a couple of years aliceago here) I wrote to Justin Heinze the latest Patch reporter to mention the church (Pete Kennedy had already done it in 2012), but never heard back.  He may not have cared for my corrections.  I suggested he clarify that the location is Frazer. On Bacton Hill Road in East Whiteland Township. (I would’ve hoped that the East Whiteland Historical Society would’ve pointed that out. )

We do have our own identity everything is not “Malvern” and to say Malvern should even have clarity because Malvern is not just a borough, it is a town in multiple municipalities in addition to the borough.

I asked if he knew at least one freed slave is buried there? Or an African American Civil War Soldier? I also asked if East Whiteland Historical Commission was doing anything about this.joshua

ann brownI got back nothing and I am sure my mentioning East Whiteland Historical Commission will elicit more comments on this blog from them but the truth is they have to be more than seat warmers (a friend describes them something akin to that).

Friends of mine and I have for the past couple of years try to get in touch with people that we think would be interested in saving this church – the structure is basically gone and needs to be secured as a ruin, but the graves represent extraordinary historical significance for the area. My research indicates that the AME national church still owns the land.  I tried writing them different times over the past two years about the site and they never even acknowledged that I contacted them. (Anymore than this latest Patch reporter.)

another graveSince I moved out here from the Main Line I have heard stories of Civil War soldiers and Revolutionary war soldiers  sort of just getting paved under with progress. (one of the supposed paved over locations of Revolutionary War Soldiers was around Bacton Hill and Swedesford Roads but I have no documentation.)

I think the site deserve some sort of recognition and preservation. Which was why a friend of mine and I were so thrilled to have coffee with another lady of a similar mind set. She brought with her the document above and another cool book that I knew of because I know  the author, Catherine Quillman.

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That photo of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church is one of the only ones I have ever seen of the church when it was whole. I tried looking for minutes and any reports by the East Whiteland Historical Commission. The last time they had anything posted on the East Whiteland website appears to have been 2009! Yes, 2009. What. A. Joke.

Here is an excerpt of the document at the opening of the post. History of The Ebenezer A.M.E. Church from 1989:

A stone building, dilapidated and crumbling from the outside in, still stands on Bacton Hill Road….The gravestones which surround the building clearly show that it was a church.  Nearly all the headstones have fallen downhill and lie, face up crumbling from the wind and rain.

Records show that this church, formerly named the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, was built in 1832 on what was originally known as the Yellow Springs Road.  A celebrated gospel church, it was regularly attended by Negroes who lived and worked on Bacton Hill. Very few of the lives of these people, who were once a great part of the history of East Whiteland, have ever been chronicled.

Early tax records for Chester County show a listing of “free men”. Actually these “free men” were colored slaves who had been given their freedom from bondage when they reached the age of 38.  Later on, the age of freedom was lowered to 23 years of age and finally a state law granted that any person born in the state of Pennsylvania was a guaranteed free man.

The farmers of Valley Hills would often give these free men, after their term of bondage was up, a small plot of land for their own upon the hills in Bacton.  On these, the former slaves built small log cabins or stone buildings.  Many ran small farms while still working during the day timbering the summit of Bacton Hill and carting lumber down to the Great Valley for the lime kilns.

In or around 1832 these free men who lived and worked around Bacton Hill built a church, and eventually a stone building was built. Gravestones date back to that era, I have seen them and photographed them. In 1989 when the paper was written, 80 graves were documented. When the next Eagle Scout documented graves, I believe he only documented 26. When I photographed the site a couple of years ago now, I did not even see that many. The graves are disappearing. Sinking into the murky and often swampy land (several springs underneath apparently), and it would not surprise me if other headstones had simply been removed. Yes, people steal from the dead and that includes headstones.

Anyway, riots and “disturbances” between 1848 and 1870 caused the church to not be used as much and it apparently fell to ruin the first time. But in 1872 the old church was brought back to life and reopened December 8th 1872.  “:Important” clergymen were reported as having been present, and in June of 1873 the church was re-dedicated as Ebenezer African American Methodist Church.

At this point the church remained in use until 1910.  Then the church may not have been used again until the 1940s. In the 1940s it was reported to have been some sort of a big the church to celebrate it’s history. It was said people from all over Chester County gathered with “prominent” members of the A.M.E. Church.  It is believed that is when the church was electrified.  After that, the church stopped being used, and the woods and swampy marsh grass grew up around it, and a mobile home ended up next to it.

Bacton Hill Road is a hodge podge today. Occasional houses, a couple down long, long driveways we can’t even see. It also has a mobile home/ trailer park, a couple corn fields, and industrial buildings. Where it meets Swedesford is an office park and part of the Chester County Trail System.

May 30th of this year was my most recent post on the church and graveyard. I love the history of this area, and to me, this site, the church, and the deceased buried so long ago are important pieces of history. So why is it in Chester Couty many remember the part this county played in the Underground Railroad, yet no one can preserve this site, let alone formerly remember it?

When all the schools speak of African American History Month every year, does anyone look to our local history? Or care? On the website for Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) I found a suggested theme for Black History Month 2016. Remarkably they say it may be “2016 – Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memory”. ASALH was founded in 1915 by Dr. Carter G.Woodson.

Anyway, if East Whiteland Historical Commission is going to continue essentially sitting on their collective hands while history like this rots, maybe the people of Chester County and beyond can help? Ebenezer A.M.E. is important.  How can we save it? It deserves to be saved and have a secure and recognized place in history.

Thanks for stopping by.