for the love of god and country: the ceremony at ebenezer

dsc_9202Today’s ceremony at the ruins of Ebenezer A.M.E. on Bacton Hill Road today literally made me cry.  I was so overcome with emotion that the ruin and cemetery are finally getting well-deserved recognition and attention.  #thisplacematters , all 184 years of it.

dsc_9253When I got to the graveyard, people were assembling. Media, neighbors, passers-by who decided to pull over and stop, descendants of those souls buried there, a representative from the East Whiteland Historical Commission, some of my “Ladies of Ebenezer”, the Willistown Troop 78 Scouts, Luke Phayre the Eagle Scout and his family (including his mom Kathy and grandfather) , many local veterans, three member of the East Whiteland Police Department,  WCU Student Veterans Group members, and  Al Terrell.

dsc_9082It was so overwhelming to me, it truly was such a beautiful sight. It was indeed something I was not sure I would ever see and among other things I so wished Ann Christie had lived long enough to see this happen – which is why some of the Ladies of Ebenezer were there today – we had made Ann a promise because she truly loved the site and had tried for years before my interest to get to this point.  We also felt today we were able to honor her, along with the black Civil War soldiers and other souls buried at Ebenezer. After so many decades of truly wanton neglect, these people were honored.

dsc_9300It was long overdue, but our very history is often such a cruel mistress.

dsc_9108Our ceremony was opened by Luke Phayre. He spoke about his project and thanked people who have been helping him.  He spoke very well and is truly a poised and wonderful young man.

dsc_9088Captain Howard A. Crawford, USAF, MSC (Ret) who is the Commander of the West Chester American Legion Post 134 (Bernard Schlegel Post) spoke simply and eloquently

“We’re here today to honor Civil War soldiers…African American soldiers that died…[who] weren’t given the honors of a true [military] burial.”

dsc_9273His son played taps for the soldiers on a bugle.  Veterans gave a military rifle salute, and if memory serves I think it is called a three volley salute.

dsc_9149And East Whiteland Police Department sent three representatives.  These fine gentlemen came in full uniform and participated.  I was so touched that they wanted to do this, especially today when they were on their way to bury a former brother officer who had served with them and passed away.  At a time in this country when people are so darn critical of our men in blue – like those Bryn Mawr College students this week for example – I think these are the quiet moments that most police critics tend to overlook that speak volumes as to the characters of those who serve. Bravo, East Whiteland Police Department. Such a generous gesture on your own day of loss.

dsc_9317In 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 and local police and others who believe in our quest to save Ebenezer and honor those buried here.

Today we saw people leave their politics at home and come together. It was such a poignant and beautiful thing to be part of the week before Thanksgiving. This is what it means to come together and be Americans. There was no race, creed, color, or political divide we were all just Americans coming together to honor our dead. It was so inspiring and true and good a thing. Days like this give us all hope.

Thanks for stopping by.  Read the Daily Local tomorrow too.

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

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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.