sometimes….it takes a really BIG and extended village

Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill Road has been my passion project the past few years as most of my friends and family  and readers know. 

 If my sweet man hadn’t stopped that winter’s day so I could take photos, I wouldn’t have found my USCT soldier Joshua.
I wrote about this  for three years straight  here until things started to click. I am grateful for the help of so many, especially Al Terrell and those amazing Willistown Troop 78 scouts.


We went from a crazy overgrown site that no one loved to today at Ebenezer in Frazer! 
Look at this and be happy – this is what it means to be an American. This is what it means to honor your history and the dead. This is what it means to honor some of our older veterans – as in from the Civil War.


A shout out to today’s guest star volunteers: WCU Student Veterans Group, WCU Men’s Rugby Club, and two WCU Fraternities, Sigma Epsilon (I don’t know if this should be Sigma Phi Epsilon?)  and FIJI. About 50 students total. Kelby Hershey is apparently the super hero at WCU who brought these folks together today for us—and a new grave was discovered!


It’s a shame that The Daily Local News hasn’t covered this yet. And once again, I have to say thanks to the Philadelphia Inquirer for giving us not one but two articles in 2016.


If any media out there can find it in their hearts to cover Ebenezer, kindly contact me. If there are those out there who want to volunteer, connect with Al Terrell. 

Thank you everyone for your interest. This is 184 years of history, amazing vibrant and important history, and we are all so thankful that so many are starting to realize it. 

Enjoy the photos!

I am closing with a quote that is a favorite of my friend Sara:

”Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Walk humbly with your God .”[Micah 6:8]

thieves destroy staircase at union league

A friend of mine just posted this photo.

A friend of mine just posted this photo taken today in Philadelphia at The Union League.

What is WRONG with people? Would they get so much money selling metal for scrap that they had to destroy the iconic sweeping outside staircase at Philadelphia’s Union League? I hope police release the video showing the theft soon.

Disgusted with humanity. This will be VERY expensive to replicate properly.

Metal thief topples staircase rail at the Union League

Updated: OCTOBER 24, 2016 — 2:39 PM EDT

by Mari A. Schaefer, Staff Writer @MariSchaefer

Police are looking for the thief who removed a brass handrail from a curved staircase at the iconic Union League of Philadelphia early Monday, toppling the its stone balustrade in the process.

A surveillance camera captured the deed as it unfolded at 3:02 a.m. on the north stairway to the leagues main entrance on Broad Street.

“As a result of ripping the brass railing, most of the stone staircase fell,” the league said in a statement. “We will work to restore the staircase to its original condition as soon as possible.”

 

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

truth will out? a curious case of sunshine continues to brew and other tales

tape-face-west-goshenWhen I wrote about West Goshen last week, I did not realize I had ignited some sort of political powder keg and why is that is local governments are supposed to be so open and find it impossible? These people are elected to represent all residents equally, correct?

Anyway, apparently there was a rather heated West Goshen Board of Supervisors meeting last night?  I hear among other things, the recording of meetings was discussed? So as of now West Goshen records/films zero meetings and their website catalog of meeting minutes and agendas are somewhat, shall we say, deplorable? So I do not know the actual agenda. But, apparently the supervisors, or maybe it was solicitor or maybe both had their knickers in a twist about this topic and so did certain residents that in other townships are often referred to somewhat indelicately, albeit accurately, as cheerleaders?

The whole thing of recording meetings by the public has always been a hot button topic, not just in West Goshen but all over.  The reason a lot of residents will choose to record meetings often has to do with the basic fact that not all municipalities record or film (videotape) meetings, and many are not exactly current  on posting meeting minutes or even agendas. And some townships the meeting minutes are shall we say, sanitized?  So people record them. (and for the record, I have tried to pull up agendas for the West Goshen Supervisors for both August and September of this year, and I got Planning Commission Agendas, which is incorrect as per their posted meeting date.)

Municipalities will say to the public they are worried about privacy in the recording of public meetings held in public spaces.  We’re not talking about Executive Sessions to which the public is not included, we are talking about regular meetings. What is that whole no expectation to privacy in a public space?  And not a public bathroom where there IS an expectation of privacy, but a public board room, where there is NOT, correct?

Ok so yes municipalities will play Captains of Semantics to split hairs in their favor. (Not a dig, human nature, totally understandable.)

So in July I found courtesy of a Google cache that West Goshen was contemplating adopting an ordinance similar to East Goshen’s having to do with members of the public recording of meetings.  The ALSO discussed the possibility of RECORDING meetings so the public could see them in their entirety later, and I would assume that also means they are possibly speaking with Comcast and Verizon regarding a municipal channel that every municipality is entitled to if they so choose?

See here:

west-goshen-july

Ok so got that?  They are discussing their OWN recording of meetings so how is THAT not an issue? It does not compute. Anyway, her is hoping they join modern times because the more open a local government is, the happier the residents and taxpayers, right? And nothing makes residents happier then to NOT HAVE TO go to a meeting to find out what is going on where they live and pay taxes, right? Isn’t it nice to be able to sit in the comfort of your own home and watch a meeting and only have to attend a meeting if you wish to speak at public privilege/public participation?

West Goshen is beginning to sound like Haveford Township in the bad old days  (or West Vincent before last election) and I hope for the residents’ sake that isn’t the case, don’t you?  I don’t really know.  What piqued my curiosity was the case just filed by the resident Tom Casey against the township.  It is about open records, or “sunshine”.

Yikes.

Here is all I can get right now.  These are all filed with the court, and to the best of my knowledge are OPEN and not sealed, unless someone has other pertinent information?  In an effort to be a good citizen, I redacted e-mail addresses and whatnot to the best of my ability with the exception of the West Goshen township e-mail addresses because those are already public.

I am a big believer in sunshine and open meetings and freedom of information where local governments are concerned. I participated in a Sunshine protest in Lower Merion Township in 2010 and photographed it.  I have friends who have taken such things to court in Radnor Township over Right to Know Requests not being honored by school district and won. The Radnor case of a lack of sunshine was a very big deal. As well it should have been.

The situation in West Goshen is also a smelly one and has to do with the sewer plant.  I don’t know all the players or the politics, but I do know quite well the politics of being miserable to residents and even non-residents for discussing topics that local municipalities and school districts/school boards do not want out in the open. Everyone always says when things happen they are “coincidences” but are they really?

I am a big believer in our inalienable rights.  Ultimately the Chester County Court system will decide, and I hope this resident gets a fair hearing in front of the Judge hearing the case. I hope West Goshen lets the resident have their day in court FAIRLY without any outside shenanigans, don’t you?

Here is what I have dug up:

casey-v-wgt-appeal-to-oor-decision-ap-2016-0868-in-chester-cty-court-of-common-pleas_redacted

casey-v-wgt-oor-ap2016-0868-rebuttal

ex-a-b-oor-2016-0868_redacted

ex-c-f-oor-2016-0868

ex-g-oor-2016-0868

ex-h-j-oor-2016-0868_redacted

ex-k-oor-2016-0868

ex-l1-oor-2016-0868_redacted

ex-l2-oor-2016-0868_redacted

I am guessing unless the court posts otherwise that this will get a hearing date in the near future, right? A public hearing that media and the public can attend? Anyway, West Goshen is uncharted waters.  Who knows what will happen? I will hope for the best that they do the right thing and get over medieval style politics, right? After all, they owe their residents (ALL of their residents) to be the best, right?

when articles appear that tell but half a story

6876843369_4fcfdf5e31_oSeptember 4th an article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer about East Whiteland.   Written by a reporter who actually interviewed me about growing roses in 1997, Alan J. Heavens.  I respect him a great deal and would love to know the impetus for this article.

The cynic in me thinks maybe it was placed as PR for the Great Valley Corporate Center or someone similar.

Now this article is well written, and the Inquirer sent one of their best photographers to capture some key shots of East Whiteland, including a very old farmhouse in a bucolic setting, ironically.

25960549603_96081cb1df_oBut the article neglects to mention the non-corporate residents of the township watching their way of life disappear one development at a time.  We live in Chester County because we choose not to live in a city or on the Main Line.  Yet development by development, what makes Chester County unique, even what makes East Whiteland special, is quickly disappearing.

27685291670_2d629ed33d_oJust the other day I wrote about the new fake General Warren Village over near the behemoth of ugliness called Atwater. In my post I mentioned a comment I had received on another blog post about East Whiteland:

The “Suburban Landscape” County planning category promotes infill and appropriate density. County buzzwords for “put all the crap in this part of the County so we can keep some parts of the County green.”  East Whiteland is already written off as far as controlling development….the more here, the better in the County’s eyes. The prior issue of County Plan had existing homes obliterated by corporate park….so their intent has been clear for a long time. All very sad.

 

Now this article.  This article had to have been placed by someone because people in regional newspapers don’t just arrive at the topic of East Whiteland just because.  East Whiteland is a place most people just drive through without even thinking about the non-corporate residents in the township. East Whiteland barely has it’s own identity and doesn’t have a town center so most people know nothing of East Whiteland. They have heard of Malvern, they have heard of Frazer, they have heard of Great Valley High School. But mention “East Whiteland” to most and you get a blank stare.

So this article paints this great picture of all those corporations everyone has  to thank for our way of life in Chester County, apparently. Something along the lines of on the 8th day God created Corporate America perhaps? Ok that’s great, these places are employing folks from all over. Some of whom live in East Whiteland, but a great deal more live elsewhere.

cornfieldEast Whiteland is not just a place people drive through or go to work.  It’s home to real people year ’round.  East Whiteland is also home to Immaculata University and Villa Maria which also deserves credit for employing so many folks. And truthfully, they are better neighbors than corporate America and they respect the local history, heritage, and keep open space.

22015047366_4dd7b6d264_zThe article quotes a Narberth realtor, John Duffy of Duffy Realty. Why quote a veritable Auslander? They also have a St. David’s office.  But they aren’t Chester County realtors, they are based in Narberth and may have branched out to St. David’s, but if you look at their listings, the ones for Chester County with the exception of some rental unit at Raintree in Malvern Borough are all listings that mention SUB-DIVISION, So they are moving west like the developers but are they really the voice of Chester County Realtors now?.

Snippets from their listings on their website include:

  • 1 listing on Flowing Springs Rd in Chester Springs – it’s lovely but oh yes, possibility of sub-division.
  • 2 Juicy sized properties on Willann Road in Phoenixville – 15 and 17 acre parcels and yes, sub-division is possible.
  • 1 10+ acre property on Hickory Grove Road in Owen J Roberts School District “Possibility of four prime building lots on 10.2 gently sloping and wooded acres. Take advantage of sweeping southeasterly views across the Kimberton Golf Club”

The article mentioned East Whiteland Historic assets Gunkle Spring Mill and Lapp Log House. It doesn’t mention some of my favorite places like Duffy’s Cut (site of the massacre of Irish rail workers in the early 19th century), Linden Hall which is still rotting while the townhouses rise,  Loch Aerie, and the ruins of Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill road which is nearly as old at 184 years as the AME Church itself which just turned 200. The article wouldn’t know how to find local landmarks like the Women’s Lib Barn. It certainly doesn’t mention the trailer parks and the itinerant worker housing seen on and off Route 30 near the Wawa and so on.

17047192442_1b07ce4e3d_oThe article touts the businesses as being responsible for a real estate boom, but neglects to add up all the living units currently in progress and being planned in East Whiteland and any potential/probable impact.  When all is said and done, East Whiteland will be compeletely overwhelmed by not hundreds, but thousands of  additional living units. The article states East Whiteland is 11 square miles, so think about it – a couple thousand new living units is a VERY big deal.  And no one wants to talk about how that will affect schools, municipal services, traffic, infrastructure, open space.  It’s not all happening in a vacuum and who is to say this zeal to build one cram plan after the other won’t affect residents detrimentally down the road? And who is to say economically East Whiteland can actually sustain so much development long term?

Oy vey. And it mentions two historic assets that I am sorry are darn lucky to be left standing in a township that doesn’t really do much with historic preservation even though the historical commission is headed now by a very knowledgeable and caring gentleman (and they posted minutes for August 2016!! ), legislatively the commission has no teeth because there is nothing in East Whiteland to give them teeth (much like Tredyffrin Township as well, yes?)

17045432081_e515193eb2_oThe realtor Duffy says he doesn’t recognize the names of the developers in East Whiteland.  

“Newly constructed homes are available, of course, but most of the builders are younger and their companies and developments smaller than the big names, Duffy says.

“In fact, when I’m asked by agents if I know anything about these builders, I have to call them,” he says.”

Funny, I find quite a lot of them familiar names as I first heard about them on the Main Line. The ones that actually develop, and others who get things approved but then sell their approved sites to other developers and even one or two who got approvals but thus far have done nothing and the names don’t ring a bell? And here I thought savvy realtors were always out and about?

You know O’Neill, Kahn, Pulte, Ryan Homes, Benson, Liberty Property? And if you don’t recognize their names there are others like Toll, JP Orleans, Bentley and more within spitting distance of East Whiteland because why? Oh yeah you can’t swing the proverbial dead cat in Chester County these days without hitting a developer, can you?

I realize you can’t fight city hall on everything, but this sundae with a cherry on top bubble view of East Whiteland doesn’t reflect the people who have lived here in some cases for decades who are terrified by the sheer volume of development and other things like gas pipelines which are coming at so many Chester County residents at a fast and furious pace.

16841236827_7e282e76de_oSo are there a lot of positives to this article? Yes but it still doesn’t mean East Whiteland needs to drown in development so it turns into Bensalem or King of Prussia, etc.  Open space is a real thing, and Chester County is losing it daily along with historic resources and equine and agricultural heritage.

The development which is occurring shows little architectural design aesthetic, aren’t exactly being built to withstand the test of time, and there is just too much of it.  Every square inch available is getting gobbled up. It’s insane, quite literally.

The Inquirer article neglects to mention all of this or the feelings of the existing residents and those in neighboring communities affected by all this development.

26774787724_76108f4124_oSo while the folks at places like the Great Valley Corporate Center are running around patting themselves on the back and realtors who aren’t truly representative of Chester County spout facts anyone with a computer can research on the Internet, there are the quiet voices of everyday people living in Chester County communities like in East Whiteland and elsewhere who are grateful for the commerce but don’t want to lose a way of life, open space, history, and so on.

What is this game we play? Bully for business and real estate developers and damn the existing residents, open space, agricultural heritage, and history?  Doesn’t seem like a very fun or fair game to me. Is moderation in growth really so goddamn difficult?

Here is the article:

Companies congregate here, drawing buyers

Updated: SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 — 3:00 AM EDT

by Alan J. Heavens, Real Estate Writer @alheavens

It’s high time we headed over to East Whiteland for a visit.

After all, without this 11-square-mile Chester County community, a good many folks in this region would be unemployed.

There are so many corporate headquarters in East Whiteland that every weekday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., the township’s population of 10,650 increases by more than 23,000.

Those companies include Cerner Corp. (formally Siemens Health Services), Vishay, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Ellucian Higher Education, Janssen Biotech (formerly Centocor), and Acme Markets.

Think Great Valley Corporate Center, five million square feet of office and research-and-development space on 700 acres – Liberty Property Trust’s largest domestic suburban project….

“It is a well-run township that cooperates with those around it, is convenient to everything, has a top school district and low taxes,” he says.

“Who can ask for more?”

 

The “more”  folks could ask for include slowing down the pace of development, open space and true historic preservation.  There are more than businesses living in East Whiteland Township.

The race for open space used to be just a tag line about saving it in Chester County. Now it describes every developer who gets their paws on a few acres.

moon over immaculataHappy Labor Day from the land of development, err Chester County. I really hope my feelings about this development are in the end proven wrong, but the reality is I have this sinking suspicion that when I am a very old lady I will be able to say I told you so and I won’t be happy doing it.

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reject the mariner 2 east pipeline

reject

Reject the Mariner East 2 pipeline! (click on hyperlink to go to Sierra Club initiative)

Normally I do not pass these things on. But I hate Sunoco (and am not enthralled by the other gas line companies either, but they are more polite to deal with if you have to call and ask questions like I did today). Out here we are on wells and they put us, our families, our pets, our neighbors, our wildlife, our environment, our drinking water and more at risk.

Sunoco thus far seems to bully, lie, and intimidate their way through Chester County and elsewhere, raping the landscape as they go.

21784458790_3b3b49f6a6_oNone of use should  want them stealing any more land belonging to anymore individuals thru their B.S. Eminent Domain practices because they are not doing any of this for us….ever. With big oil and big gas, it is always and always will be….about them.

They put toxic, highly flammable, and highly combustible products too close to homes, and they are NOT protecting water sources or wildlife, let alone people.

This is NOT about us and our energy supply. They are just stealing it for other people. They don’t even adequately compensate people for what they do if you want to make it solely about money and it is so much more than that. And thus far the majority of local officials just bend over and give it up without much of a fight.

In the past two days I have had conversations with people from East Goshen and West Goshen Townships who both do not know each other and their experiences as related to me were virtually identical.

They were threatened with eminent domain and they felt they had no choice but to give them an easement; and both hired attorneys that cost many thousands of dollars!

21349816844_28eba2ef09_oThey feel the worst is yet to come as they haven’t started the pipeline invasion yet. They have heard that townships may give them rights to work 24 hours a day, which if true is insane!

So much for East Goshen and West Goshen townships… These folks both tell tales of strange men and women with Texas and Louisiana car plates on their properties TRESPASSING before they even had legal easements.

It just isn’t right and the elected officials are of no help at all.

One said to me (and I quote):

What many don’t know is how in the end our property values will be affected and it is my belief that my property value ( and all on the pipeline path) will go down because of the easement… But the same monies will be needed to support the town budget so everyone else’s taxes will go up to provide the same tax base . We are all losers.

 

We are all losers.  Yup.  I received a pamphlet recently from Spectra Energy about pipeline sapipelinefety.  I have not previously received any pipeline info before where we currently live.  So I called.  I spoke with a very nice man named Don in Gas Control.  And wow, we do not have a gas line on our property or in our immediate neighborhood, but wow, pretty darn close.
Another election year issue on a national scale.  Please sign the above petition and add your voice.  And for those of you tired of trespassers, call Andy Dinniman’s office in West Chester .  There should be rules as to when they can access easements and they should provide advance notice.

Anyway, that’s it. I hate pipelines and I hate what they are doing to our area.  And for what?

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kathleen kane is guilty

NBC 10 Philadelphia has just broken the news that Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is guilty on all charges

kane_karthleen

ABC27.com photo

The Philadelphia Inquirer adds:

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane was convicted Monday of perjury, obstruction and other crimes after squandering her once bright political future on an illegal vendetta against an enemy.

Four years after Kane’s election in a landslide as the first Democrat and first woman elected attorney general, a jury of six men and six women found her guilty of all charges: two counts of perjury and 10 misdemeanor counts of abusing the powers of her office.

Sad day for that fight against the proverbial glass ceiling, eh?