a gift of chester county history from south dakota: learning about hiram woodyard

Above is the grave of Hiram Woodyard. He was a freed slave and Black Civil War Soldier who resided in the village of Bacton, “Bacton Hisotric District”, AKA “Bacton African American Community”.

In 1991, Jane Davidson, the then Chester County Historic Preservation Officer certified that one of the houses attributed to him on Conestoga Road as a “County Historic Resource”. She said “The events and activities that have occurred in and around the site form a chronological record of past knowledge that portrays a history of the area.”

The historical information listed in some of the paperwork states:

This resource is part of the Bacton Historic District which is a post-Civil War, Afro-American community. This resource is also connected with Hiram Woodyard who was a prominent member of this community….Due to previous development there is an eminent potential to widen Rte. 401,this threat would negatively impact the integrity of this resource.

In other paperwork, the same author continues:

Hiram Woodyard, one of two leaders in the Bacton African-American community, has become a local folk hero in recent years. While part of the timber industry as a fence maker, he also commanded a great deal of respect for his leadership ability, not only in the community, but also in the Union army.

 

This fascinating information would have been something my friend the late (and missed) Al Terrell, would have loved.  He and I shared another soldier (it’s how we both became interested in the site),  Joshua Johnson  (Pvt., Co. K, 45th Reg., United States Colored Troops (USCT) (Civil War). I find this to be incredibly historically significant as the army began to organize African Americans into regimental units known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1863.

Al was so excited this time last year when grave after grave was uncovered, including Hiram Woodyard, whom we knew had started out life as a slave.  As a freed slave he did so much, including by all accounts being a revered community leader, and he fought for a country which had originally enslaved him.

This new information (and I will embed everything shortly within this post), did not come to me via Chester County.  It came to me all the way from Winner, South Dakota, thousands of miles away!

This information started to arrive on September 12, 2017 from Eleanor Miller, who along with her sister, Grace English, once lived in East Whiteland at 416 Conestoga Road.

In the first packet of information was a letter and here is an excerpt:

Enclosed please find the papers in regards to my grandparents’ home. (Charles and Stella Rost, 418 Conestoga Road.)

I married and moved away from my home, 416 Conestoga Road, in 1967…In 2012, Malvern Patch identified the house on 414 Conestoga Road as Hiram Woodyard’s.  I believe they were incorrect….My sister and I try to visit Bacton Hill once a year.

To follow (embedded) is what Eleanor sent to me.  It is part of Hiram’s history she gained through personal research.  This is such a treasure to receive!

Ebenezer is hanging in there and one of Al’s sons still comes back and cuts the grass and weeds when he has time, but Ebenezer needs ALL of our love.  I put out the plea once again if anyone can interest the AME church in their own important history, please do.  These old souls belong to us and all of our history in Chester County as well as being crucially important historically to the AME Church and black history in general.

Say a prayer in remembrance for the old souls buried at the ruins of Ebenezer on Bacton Hill road in Frazer, and remember Al Terrell too.

Pax

 

 


 

 


 

 

 

Hiram Woodyard Chester County Paperwork

Hiram Woodyards House

The House That Hiram Built

 

media advisory: ceremony planned to honor soldiers at ebenezer on saturday, november 19th 1p.m.

dsc_8466

We get by with a little help from our friends.  And this coming Saturday, November 19 at 1 PM sharp, thanks to the kindness of Captain Howard A. Crawford, USAF, MSC (Ret) who is the Commander of the West Chester American Legion Post 134 (Bernard Schlegel Post) there will be a simple ceremony courtesy of the Captain and other members of the Chester County Veteran’s Council including  Kelby Hershey of the WCU Student Veteran’s Center.

Captain Crawford learned of Eagle Scout Luke Phayre’s project to clean up Ebenezer (Luke is part of Willistown Boy Scout Troop 78), and wanted to help those of us in the community who love Ebenezer to honor the USCT soldiers buried at Ebenezer.  This honor will also extend to the old souls buried there.  I am so thrilled this is happening as it was my black Civil War soldier, Joshua Johnson who first inspired me to write and care about the ruins of Ebenezer AME.

Captain Crawford can be reached at paamericanlegion134@gmail.com 

At 1 PM the following will happen:

A small honor guard, taps will be played, a small dedication prayer by an American Legion Chaplain.

This might very well be the very first time the USCT soldiers buried here have ever been honored like this.  We also expect some veterans of every branch of service throughout Chester County.

The address of Ebenezer was 97 Bacton Hill Road, Frazer, PA when it was an active church.  For those not quite sure where Ebenezer is, they are next door to the Malvern Courts Mobile Homes at 94 Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, and not far from where Bacton Hill Road meets 401 (Conestoga Road).

Please be advised that there is not really off-street parking available, so park along the side of the road with care and caution.

Media and members of the public are encouraged to attend. In a nation currently torn asunder by varying political factions and beliefs, those of us involved at Ebenezer are humbled by this kind gesture on the part of Chester County veterans who believe in our quest to save Ebenezer and honor those buried here.  So please, we most kindly request that people leave their politics at home if they choose to attend.

As a related aside, Ebenezer is in the news once again today:

Newsworks.org: NOVEMBER 15, 2016

For the most part, historic burial grounds do not get the same attention that is paid to birthplaces or battlegrounds. In Pennsylvania, some historic cemeteries have been relocated and the land redeveloped; other sites are neglected and overgrown; and some have been completely lost….

On the list of priorities for historic preservation, cemeteries tend to rank low. But there is some movement to protect the sacred grounds.

“These places deserve to be saved,” said Carla Zambelli, who is working to research and preserve a long-overlooked graveyard in East Whiteland Township, Chester County. “Those people meant something to someone.”

…While historic buildings and other sites have opportunities for government protection on local or national historic registers, cemeteries are rarely designated on such lists….Many of the older cemeteries have become wards of the state or their local towns because the original congregations or organizations that operated them have faded or moved on….Survival falls on the caretakers or institutions that may still run them and their “financial wherewithal,” explained Aaron Wunsch, an assistant professor in University of Pennsylvania’s historic preservation program….The Ebenezer AME cemetery is one of 42 burial grounds of black Civil War troops identified so far by the Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds Project, launched in 2009 to raise awareness of these cemeteries and establish ways to preserve them. The small volunteer group received a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to host annual gatherings of preservationists and caretakers who share strategies to meet the challenges of protecting the burial sites.

 

more forgotten a.m.e. churches and u.s.c.t. soldiers

shiloh-photo

Above you see a 1930 era photo of another A.M.E. Church of some historical import. Founded in 1807 (have seen 1817 as the founding date too)  in Westtown Township and eventually called Shiloh.  Even earlier than my beloved Ebenezer (1831-1832) on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer East Whiteland (that I have written about since 2013, and most recently on November 12. )

Shiloh the church no longer stands.  It also is true history lost because one of the early ministers with a calling to Shiloh was Jarena Lee.  She was the first black female preacher in America. She was born a free woman of color in Cape May, NJ originally.   Bishop Richard Allen granted her the ability to be a minister in 1819. Jarena’s memoir published in 1849 is eloquent and moving and you can read it online and on this blog:

religious-experience-and-journal-of-mrs-jarena-lee-1849 )

She’s a pretty cool historical figure.

But back to Shiloh. In a sense, although the church suffered the same fate as Ebenezer we actually know more about it.  It seems that the church had a congregation until the 1920s.  Then it disappeared over time, I suppose.

But Shiloh’s graveyard, like Ebenezer’s still exists. But unlike Ebenezer which is still church owned land (unless the A.M.E. church can dispute that in writing, given the recent Inquirer article the A.M.E. Church still owns Ebenezer ) , Shiloh’s graveyard now lies on private property. And on that property there are confirmed 7 and believed up to 14 U.S.C.T. veterans buried there.  All those black Civil War Soldiers.

I learned about the soldiers at Westtown Day this fall.  The historical society folks had a display inside Oakbourne Mansion which fascinated me. It interested me enough that I took the below photo.

29732587686_69e03e0d0b_o

So  I had  received an e-mail from Kelby Hershey from the WCU Student Veterans Center.  He is the gentleman who brought all those volunteers to Ebenezer this past Saturday.

Here is what he had to say:

I am Kelby Hershey, a recent History graduate here at WCU.  I am currently working with the WCU Student Veterans Group and may have uncovered something that may interest you.
 
West Chester University Student Veterans Group has taken on an initiative this semester to ensure that the final resting places for 14 local Civil War veterans are no longer neglected and will be properly maintained.  We are currently looking for local support.  Here is what we know:
 
On the corner of Shiloh and Little Shiloh road in Westtown there used to stand a historic African Methodist Episcopal Church founded in Westtown.  Founded in 1807 it was one of the first AME churches in the country.  Please read attached article titled “Echoes of Shiloh AME Church” for background.  After the congregation moved on in the early 1900’s the building was abandoned and eventually destroyed leaving a large plot of unmarked graves.  Within the cemetery continues to lie 7 verified Civil War veterans and at least 7 more probable.  We believe there are over 14 veteran’s graves on this property and possibly even a Revolutionary War veteran.  The names and units of some of the service members at rest here are attached titled “Shiloh AME Veterans.” I encourage you to look over the names, where they are from, and the units they served in.  The property also holds an unknown number of freed slaves’ graves.  The property containing the cemetery was acquired by private ownership at some time under uncertain circumstances and the current owner will not allow the public to enter to investigate the cemetery under threat of trespassing.  The owner has allowed the property to go overgrown with heavy brush and thorns, refuses to care for the graves, and roughly rebukes all of the township’s efforts to seek resolution.
 
It is the opinion of the WCU Student Veteran Group that we are currently failing our local heroes, American veterans who have been laid to rest in our back yard without receiving proper honors.  It is additionally concerning that the owner will not allow visitors and has not taken responsibility caring for the graves.
 
In 2014 several concerned citizens, veterans, and local politicians met to discuss our options.  The township has had over two years to act and due to lack of public awareness it appears that nothing has been done.  You can follow the link below to the 2014 Unionville Times article.
 
 
So what are our options?  There happens to be a Westtown Township Board of Supervisors meeting on the evening of Monday, November 7th that is open to the public, we would like to voice our support here on behalf of local veterans and this historic project.  Every hand raised will have an opportunity to voice their support.  All comments made will be officially printed in the public meeting’s minutes.
 
Please attend with us and contact myself with any questions,

Westtown Township Board of Supervisors Meeting
November 7, 7:30-9:00 pm

Westtown Township

1039 Wilmington Pike

West Chester, PA 19382
 
 
Thank you very much,
 
Respectfully,
 
Kelby Hershey
WCU Student Veterans Center
 
Wow.  That is the same place I heard about on Westtown Day.
shiloh-soldiers– list of soldiers buried there
shiloh-deed – deed of the property
echoes-of-shiloh – a paper about Shiloh
location
It seems the A.M.E. Church has a lot of these properties – more Ebenezers, more Shilohs, and so on and so forth.  Can all be saved? Sadly probably not.  But it does make a body wonder how the modern A.M.E. Church is run, doesn’t it? How is it they seemingly do not have as much of a handle of their history and property as the should? And aren’t their laws on the books in PA that should shall we say encourage the church to maintain what it still owns?

154-bethel-mount-calvaryOf course this summer, yet another article appeared about yet another A.M.E. graveyard. It was in the Chester County Press and the subject is the ruins of the graveyard in Lower Oxford on Mount Calvary on 154 Bethel Road.  It’s complicated but there actually is a church still attached.  Somehow over the years it changed it’s name and I guess moved – Allen A.M.E. Church in Oxford on Market Street.

However, Mount Calvary is a story similar to Ebenezer because it was not the A.M.E. Church that started the drive to clean up Mount Calvary.  The person responsible is a woman I have come to know recently named Kimberly Boddy.  She discovered it while helping a friend research where certain ancestors were buried.

And Kimberly has a really cool Chester County heritage as she is the granddaughter of the late Lee Carter, who was a self-taught Chester County artist who also had what I think was called the Road To Freedom Museum at one time (I am not sure it still exists).  The Daily Local wrote about an exhibit of Lee Carter’s paintings in Coatesville last year.

Kimberly is a quiet doer, and she carries on the traditions of community service that I believe she learned from her grandfather. (And no, she did not ask me to write or say anything, I chose to because there seem to be all sorts of people trying to save historic graveyards in Chester County.)

Anyway, the Mount Calvary story was one of the things discussed at the Pennylvania Hallowed Grounds Project meeting this fall.  Here is the article from this summer:

Chester County Press Volunteers seek to rescue the Mount Calvary Cemetery from poor conditions

07/05/2016 11:39AM, Published by Steven Hoffman

The Mount Calvary Cemetery stands at the intersection of Bethel and Calvary Roads in Lower Oxford and, until very recently, it was largely forgotten.

Kimberly Boddy, a resident of Kennett Square, was helping a friend research some information and learned about the Mount Calvary Cemetery’s existence almost by accident. When she saw that the cemetery was littered with trash, that the gravestones were in a sad state of disrepair, and that weeds had grown uncontrollably in some parts of the small cemetery, she was disheartened. She knew that the 100 or so people who were buried in the cemetery deserved better.

“It broke my heart,” Boddy explained. “This may be an historic piece of ground. This is not just African-American history here, it’s Lower Oxford history.”

The cemetery dates back to 1852. At one time, the Calvary Church stood next to the cemetery, but the church moved. The cemetery itself does not even have a known address, Boddy said. The people buried in the cemetery—with family names like Jones, Moore, or Webster—were most likely members of the Calvary Church before it changed its name to Allen A.M.E. and moved to a location in Oxford Borough. When Boddy learned about the cemetery, she also discovered that some of the people buried in it served their country—including volunteers who died in the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.

 

 

But back to Shiloh.  People went to the recent Westtown meeting to plead the case of soldiers who have no other voices at this point other than interested strangers.  Shiloh was in a local paper in 2014:

shiloh-map-1

Unionville Times : Solutions sought for black soldiers’ final resting place

saving heritage: the ruins of ebenezer ame on bacton hill road

ebenezer ame

Two years ago, I wrote three posts on an abandoned church I had stumbled upon:

ebenezer ame church – bacton hill road

it’s palm sunday, so why not post about an abandoned church?

on good friday, remember the churches abandoned by time and man e1

Well, interestingly enough there has been renewed interest in this church, formerly located on Bacton Hill Road in East Whiteland Township, Chester County. Yes, I am writing again about Ebenezer AME Church.

e3For me, this all began as a fascination of a ruined structure that I later received more information on.  Ebenezer AME in Frazer was built in 1835.

e9Apparently the oldest grave stones in the cemetery date back to the 1830s. An Eagle Scout named Matthew Nehring did a project a few years ago now  uncovering the gravestones. (Have no idea if his project is finished.) According to the photos it appears some of the dead buried here are soldiers and veterans.e8

One gravestone is for a Joshua Johnson  (Pvt., Co. K, 45th Reg., United States Colored Troops (USCT) (Civil War). I find this to be incredibly historically significant as the army began to organize African Americans into regimental units known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1863.

e4According to the East Whiteland Historical Society  this church used to serve as a “hub” of African American society in Frazer. Also according to East Whiteland Historical Society:

Members of this community have been documented as former slaves.  Their ability to construct this church demonstrates the e5prosperity and commitment of this community.

The trustees of the Ebenezer AME church purchased the land in 1831 from James Malin.  The oldest gravestones found in the cemetery date from the early 1830’s.  The congregation disbanded for a time between 1848 and 1871 during which time the building fell into disrepair.  By June 22, 1873 the church had been rebuilt and rededicated.  It continued to be used until 1970; then intermittently until the 1940’s.  Now it is abandoned.

I will note that when Patch covered this in 2012 they showed a lot more gravestones than I was able to locate in 2013.  It is now 2015. The Eagle Scout (Matthew Nehring) put what he found on Find A Grave. On that website it is listed as Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery (Also known as: Chester Valley African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, Valley Hill Cemetery).e6

On Memorial Day I thought of Joshua Johnson, the  Civil War soldier buried there. He is a valid part of our soldiering and military history in this country, yet who remembers him? Does the East Whiteland Historical Society remember him? Does anyone? Does he have any ancestors still living in Chester County who may not know his grave exists?

On Pennsylvania Gen Web I do not even find this church or cemetery mentioned. Its not listed on other websites on which you would go to look up information. I do not know how to look the property up on Chester County property records to attempt to track a deed, I have tried.

I would venture a guess that this church once upon a time was part of The First Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. But once again, locally some of us know this church existed, but it is very hard to find information.

This church is a definite candidate for a Pennsylvania Historical Marker but in addition wouldn’t it be great to get this site preserved in some way? The graveyard cleaned up and preserved? I think the land is still owned by the AME church, but how to find the records and get them to acknowledge this sacred place escapes me.

This place should MATTER. I have no idea if the National Trust for Historic Places would be interested but they should be.  #thisplacematters

East Whiteland has some fascinating history.  And if we are not careful, it will all fade away.  East Whiteland isn’t just home to business parks along 29 and 202. Between this crumbling church and places like Loch Aerie and Linden Hall, shouldn’t the historical commission  be reaching out to national and state wide preservationists?

If you have any information on Ebenezer AME Church please feel free to post it on a Facebook Page called Living in East Whiteland. Living in East Whiteland is a closed page, but you may request to join. You may also post information on Chester County Ramblings’ Facebook Page.

Together we can try to not only preserve the beauty that is Chester County, PA but the history as well.

Thanks for stopping by.

e7

can you help identify graves and families in this very old cemetery?

1468805883_df564a5cce_bYes a little far afield if you live in Chester County, but I love old graveyards and church yards and this one has its place in history and needs help because the buildings and church associated with what is actually two graveyards in one is going through a development plan/proposed development plan.

Truthfully if it is the right kind of plan, I have no issue with adaptive reuses of churches.  But I have a big problem with developers all across the country not respecting the dead and buried.  Abandoned and disregarded graveyards are so sad, and people are working feverishly to see that fate does not fall to these graves. I have long wondered if this land parcel was developed if some or all of the graves would be at risk, and I think they are.  And how do you do that knowing veterans of many wars who fought for our freedoms are buried there?  Are the graves of our ancestors and soldiers and others so disposable?

1468796263_ea168356cd_bI am talking about the Odd Fellows and United Methodist Church of Gladwyne cemetery on Righters Mill Road in Gladwyne, PA.  (Although I have blogged about the abandoned crumbling ruin that is Ebenezer AME in Frazer.) Many familiar area names are

buried there – even beloved Philadelphia

1468889573_04dc8ece1f_b

Phillie Richie Asburn is buried there.  This is where a childhood friend’s family is buried.  I photographed the cemetery a few years ago and it needs love. 1469783630_3d389c57e8_b

The long and short of it is some really wonderful people are trying to ensure this cemetery land is preserved along with the graves and family plots that are still viable (which I am sure is not many).

 

Here is the e-mail I was sent today and if you can help in ANY way, please contact the sender of the e-mail, not me:

From: “christine mcguire” <cmpointe@hotmail.com>
Sent: Friday, June 7, 2013 11:31:18 AM
Subject: Cemetery Info

1468847689_d85fc9a5e6_bHello All,

This is the most recent information regarding the Merion Square Cemetery and Gladwyne Methodist Church. Thank you for reading this long email, we really need your help.

The Church, cemetery and parsonage twin 1468852087_7bc386929b_bhouses (2) are all under an agreement of sale with a developer (Main line realty investors) who are Evelyn “Mac” Brand, Craig Brand, and Scott Brehman. The 1468854015_4bbbc8da64_bsale will not go through if they do not get all of their various zoning, HARB, Planning Commission and township approvals to change set backs, zoning, impervious surface areas, etc. The plan is to 1468879067_cb74ce44db_bconvert the church into 3 condos with garages and to put 2 new construction houses on either side of the Odd Fellows hall next door – which they already own. They will reconfigure the driveway that allows people to drive into the cemetery, and combine the church and odd fellows cemetery into 1 larger cemetery.1468879951_860c465331_b

The Church is not sold yet, and they will not go to closing if they do not get everything they want and need to make this project. If it is all approved, the condos will be 1468915657_da3d8828f9_b20 feet to the first grave, and on one end that is the grave of Richie Ashburn. Beyond the Ashburn grave is another sold plot, owned by a family now living in Ohio and they want their plot. It will have a driveway over it if this project goes forward.

The church cemetery has graves from the 1469717634_ae8cc3e84a_b1850s that are clearly marked with headstones. Running along the side of the church cemetery is a long strip of land approximately 20-30 feet wide and over 100 feet long. There are no headstones in this strip of land, and there is no clear separation of this land from the cemetery. We do not know if there are graves, 1469719386_e2690c3fc9_bvery very old graves, in this strip of land and perhaps that is why the church began burials in what is now the main cemetery part. There are 2 flags planted in this seemingly empty strip of land every 1469765244_278a8a6774_oMemorial Day, and this year we asked why. The response was that there are 2 Revolutionary Soldiers there, and I got their names from the SAR cemetery website, Miller and DeWees, and Drummer and a Fifer. Their names are also on the DAR Plaque 1469766090_ea388ceefb_bat the Baptist Church on Old Gulph Road, though that plaque says John DeWees and Unk Miller (Fifer).

So the questions we must answer are: 

  • Why are the flags placed in that open part of the cemetery every year? 
  • Does anyone know or can prove that the location of the soldiers is actually in that spot where the flags are? 
  • Does anyone have any paper record of why or how we got their names, and why we think they are in that cemetery? I have confirmed that there are NO OTHER revolutionary soldiers in that cemetery. 
  • Does anyone know anything about that long strip of land and why it was not used by the Methodist church for more burials post 1850? I know there was discussion about using it for more burials in the 2000’s, but that may have been by people who did not understand that there were bodies there already.

Please note that I have cross checked DeWees and Miller with the names of everyone who is in the church cemetery, with a headstone or not. To be clear,  I have the names of the person who owns the plots and the names of who is buried in the plots, and Miller and Dewees are not there.

So by default, if Dewees and Miller are there at Merion Square cemetery, then they have to be in the strip of land that appears empty, because the main cemetery is completely sold out, though there is room for more burials in different family plots, and the developers will have to allow these funerals and burials to continue.

The same for Off Fellows cemetery right next to Merion Square, though Odd Fellows has 361 plots that could be sold, the developer does not want more funerals and has stated that she will not sell those plots, but will allow people to be buried in the plots they currently own.

We know that the land was given to the Methodist Church in 1840 by Dr. John Anderson for the sum of $2.00
It is possible that this was because that land was already a cemetery and this made it the perfect place to put a church? Maybe this is why the church began its burials slightly apart from where the original cemetery was??

The developers have conducted their ground penetrating radar and found nothing anywhere. We have done ours and found anomalies in the ground, but nothing definitive. Shifts and changes in the dirt could be tree roots, pipes, old pieces of structures, etc.

Our radar man is coming back next week with a different machine to try again. He told us that without a coffin and with the bodies possibly being 230 years old, we may not ever find them using any type of radar. In fact we had him run a control and try to see a known 1857 grave, and it did not come up on the radar at all and we know that there was a body there. Our ground is full of clay, and this is the worst soil to use radar with. So clearly, we can now dispute the claim of the developer because it is unlikely that any radar company would find a 230 year old body buried without a coffin in clay soil. Add to that the information that many drummers and fifers were very young teens, in some cases children, and so the bodies would be smaller to begin with, and they were buried in sacks, not in coffins.

We just need any type of record to prove that Dewees and Miller are there. The Planning commission has stated that the developer must not find any bodies in that strip of land, or it will have to all be considered cemetery – and then their parking lot plan is finished. We should have as many groups as possible involved in this to prevent paving over the graves of these young heroes……

Please note that the church is not falling down or in disrepair. The John Neumann fellowship is currently renting it and wants to stay. The church has a ballroom and offices that could be rented out so to generate income to continue to maintain the cemetery, and there is also the possibility of another church group or community group buying the church, and allowing it to continue on as it was intended.

Thanks so very much.

Dr. Christine McGuire

 

 

To see more photos of graves of Odd Fellows and Gladwyne United Methodist Church please see this photo set HERE.

on good friday, remember the churches abandoned by time and man

DSC_0053Sounds a bit dramatic, but it got your attention, didn’t it? On Good friday, one of the holiest of holy days, I ask you to remember a small but historically significant church that is rotting in Frazer in East Whiteland Township, Chester County.  It is on Bacton Hill Road and it is Ebenezer AME Church.DSC_0006

It started as a fascination of a ruined structure that I later received more information on.  Ebenezer AME in Frazer was built in 1835.

Apparently the oldest grave stones in the cemetery date back to the 1830s. An Eagle Scout named Matthew Nehring had been working on uncovering the gravestones. (Have no idea if his project is finished.) DSC_0041According to the photos it appears some of the dead buried here are soldiers and veterans. One gravestone is for a Joshua Johnson  (Pvt., Co. K, 45th Reg., United States Colored Troops (USCT) (Civil War). I find this to be incredibly historically significant as the army began to organize African Americans into regimental units known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1863.

DSC_0022According to the East Whiteland Historical Society (which I am not sure what they do because all I see are historic structures rotting in East Whiteland) this church used to serve as a “hub” of African American society in Frazer.  So again on Good Friday I ask again why isn’t any of it being protected?

In any Christian religion, Easter is a very big deal.  Imagine Easters of the past in this little church.  Ladies and gents in their Sunday best, the ladies sporting spring hats.  The laughter and joyful sounds of children outside after services have concluded? The pastor standing outside wishing his congregation well and God speed?

DSC_0007A reader of my blog tells me County records indicate that the lot is owned by the “African Methodist Episcopal Church”.  This online directory shows the a church in Malvern – St. Paul’s.

The headquarters of the AMEC church are as follows:

500 8th Avenue South Nashville, TN 37203 Phone:(615)254-0911 Fax:(615)254-0912 Email:cio@ame-church.com

I am going to e-mail these posts to AMEC and see if they will care.  Certainly no one else I have e-mailed to date has appeared to care.

East Whiteland always seems to be Johnny on the Spot for historical data yet all thisDSC_0051 stuff just rots.  Peter H. Spengeman, a member of the East Whiteland Township Historical Commission wrote to me recently in part:

I appreciate the writer’s interest and concern about the considerable historical resources in the Township , and the ongoing need for protection of structures such as the Ebenezer AME Church, a recent focus of beginning conservation planning.   All of us shudder when we pass a formerly stately structure crying for help.

He continues with what East Whiteland has done in the past, and well, the past is the past.  What is going on today? I am going to not try to sound harsh, but what is it they do besides bemoan the fact that a heck of a lot of history in East Whiteland is rotting?  Loch Aerie, Linden House, and more?  For example (I do not know all the municipal boundaries so feel free to correct me) but isn’t part of Duffy’s Cut that Amtrak won’t allow any more archeological digs on in East Whiteland?  Is the mass grave important enough that maybe another marker closer to the actual site is in order?DSC_0093

I get that part of the problem is East Whiteland has probably more commercial zones than residential so why not get smart with zoning and planning?  Is it possible to write into ordinances and make conditions of approval that not only include  these developers to improve the roads and infrastructure, but to kick in towards the preservation?  I mean seriously they have developers with huge, deep pockets like DSC_0072Brian O’Neill and Eli Kahn, right? I mean Brian O’Neill is Catholic with a sense of religion, right?  Why couldn’t they ask someone like him to save a church?  Help get another historical marker closer to the actual location of Duffy’s Cut mass grave (Where AMTRAK halted archeological digging) ? Or help find a conservation minded buyer for say Linden Hall or Loch Aerie?

Both developers and their partners have made noises out here and elsewhere about how their developments add to the character of an area, so why not have them put their money where there mouths are on historic sites? Paoli Battlefield and Battle of the Clouds are important, but why is it I see neighboring municipalities succeeding with preservation efforts? Historic Sugartown, Historic Goshenville, and even though sometimes I think they need to do more, Historic Yellow Springs?

DSC_0095

And again, when you go to East Whiteland’s really poorly designed website and pull up the historical commission you get a big bowl of nothing.

This church meant something to residents of Chester County for generation upon generation.  I was also told (and I quote) “Some of the family names on the gravestones are the same as families still living in Malvern Borough.  I can’t blame the Township when the church and the families don’t seem to care.”

DSC_0029I will tell you what, if some of my people were buried in an abandoned churchyard I sure would care.

So here is wishing on Good Friday that apathy dies an untimely death and people remember this site before my photos are the only things left standing.

Again, I am happy to share the photos I have taken to date.  If the African Methodist Episcopal Church were to roll up with East Whiteland to save it, I would continue to offer my photographic skills as a donation as well as my PR talents.  But someone other than I has to care, first.

Blessed Easter all.

 DSC_0100

 

 

it’s palm sunday, so why not post about an abandoned church?

DSC_0049So yesterday, I went out and photographed an abandoned church that had historical importance to the area: Ebenezer AME Church.  I had taken a couple of photos a while back and then Pete Kennedy from Malvern Patch told me what I was looking at so I wrote the post ebenezer ame church – bacton hill road.

DSC_0042Ironically and as life might have it, as I was out yesterday taking photos, someone from the East Whiteland Historical Society popped by to leave a comment on my post.  His name is Peter H. Spengeman and this is what he had to say:

As a member of the East Whiteland Township Historical Commission, I appreciate the writer’s interest and concern about the considerable historical resources in the Township , and the ongoing need for protection of structures such as the Ebenezer AME Church, a recent focus of beginning conservation planning.   All of us shudder when we pass a formerly stately structure crying for help.   To mount preservation efforts , it does require committment, time and often public advocacy and substantive funds to ensure that bricks and mortar are added to create stability of these structures as well as interest in publicizing our rich history.  We are pleased that the Supervisors of the Township have supported the Historical Commission over the years, as well as past and recent efforts by the County of Chester and private societies to catalog all resources and provide new and excellent research into the Paoli Battlefield  and Battle of the Clouds.  The Township Historical Commission now has openings, and those in the community who feel strongly about historical preservation are welcome to come to a meeting, held the second Tuesday of each month, and see if they would be interested in contributing.  Thank you,

Peter H. Spengeman, Member, EWTHC

I am going to not try to sound harsh, but what is it they do besides bemoan the fact that a heck of a lot of history in East Whiteland is rotting?  Loch Aerie, Linden House, and more?  For example (I do not know all the municipal boundaries so feel free to correct me) but isn’t part of Duffy’s Cut that Amtrak won’t allow any more archeological digs on in East Whiteland?  Is the mass grave important enough that maybe another marker closer to the actual site is in order?

DSC_0037Or Linden Hall or Lock Aerie?  Have they sought commercial conservation minded buyers or donations from the developers getting rich off of East Whiteland?

I get that part of the problem is East Whiteland has probably more commercial zones than residential so why not get smart with zoning and planning?  Is it possible to write into ordinances and make conditions of approval that not only include  these developers to improve the roads and infrastructure, but to kick in towards the preservation?  I mean seriously they have developers with huge, deep pockets like Brian O’Neill and Eli Kahn, right?

Both developers and their partners have made noises out here and elsewhere about how their developments add to the character of an area, so why not have them put their money where there mouths are on historic sites?  I would even say welcome them making corporate offices out of a historic structure in a commercial zone – we all know it is not going to go back to residential so why not encourage a developer to preserve the facade and do an adaptive reuse of the interior?

Paoli Battlefield and Battle of the Clouds are important, but why is it I see neighboring municipalities succeeding with preservation efforts? Historic Sugartown, Historic Goshenville, and even though sometimes I think they need to do more, Historic Yellow Springs?

DSC_0023I note that East Whiteland’s Historic Commission has openings, but I am a writer, not a board person.  I have little patience for boards where not much has changed in decades and trust me, they would not like my impatience.  I am doing them a favor by raising awareness, what I do not get is how they seem unable to think outside the box here.  Why not go to their supervisors and ask for more public and private partnerships?  After all, Chester County has great wealth in it, and it is win-win for those who have those beautiful estates and properties to have what lies around them look nice too.  Preservation and adaptive reuse can do that.

Also to be commented upon is that I sent out my initial post to historical groups who keep records of the black soldiers who served in the Civil War and others interested in local history and preservation and not one acknowledged receipt of the e-mail or commented on the post.  I also sent to media outlets and did not hear anything.  But that part doesn’t surprise me because history, crumbling history, and historic preservation aren’t sexy to the masses that feed off local and regional media.  I will remind the print and t.v. media that you used to cover stuff like this.

DSC_0027So on Palm Sunday I offer you photos of Ebeneezer AME, or should I say her ruins in Frazer.  This church meant a lot to a lot of people for a lot of years, right?  Is this how we honor her dead buried in her church yard, or what was her church yard?  I wondered as I took my photos yesterday if descendants of the dead buried there even know they have people in this old abandoned churchyard?

DSC_0078I have no idea who owns this, maybe the state, but I know from paying attention to other cases involving abandoned churches and grave yards, local municipalities like East Whiteland can take them over.  And seriously what would it cost to put a little fence and marker up and to cut the weeds?  You could probably interest more boy scout troops  and archeological types to help right the graves.  All it would take would be a little effort on the part of say, East Whiteland Historical Society.

EWTHC I have started something here for you, am happy to share my photos.  Am happy to volunteer in as much as trying to raise awareness and take photos of preservation efforts should they actually occur.    But you have to actually want to care about this stuff and again, not trying to be mean, it is a little hard to decide what it is you care about – on East Whiteland’s website there are no current agendas or meeting minutes since 2009.