giving up on ebenezer

This photo is from 2016, but I drove past Ebenezer today and essentially, this is what it looks like..AGAIN.

In February, 2018 I wrote a post titled will 2018 mark the year of history at risk at the ruins of ebenezer on bacton hill road, frazer in east whiteland?

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 with Valley 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. 

But I am done.

 

 

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

 

 

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By ANGELIQUE WALKER-SMITH 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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