private joshua johnson and the other old souls at ebenezer a.me. on bacton hill road in east whiteland
Someone asked me what it was that made me want to save the graves in the ruins of the Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill Road in East Whiteland or what old timers in East Whiteland like to call “that old black church”. What first moved me was the grave you see above of Private Joshua Johnson(1846-1916) who was a member of Company K of the 45th of the United States Colored Troops in the Civil War.
How could he just be abandoned by his church? How could the others? These are people’s ancestors – you know like William Reason who died in 1892? joseph Thomas who was born in 1751? (list below at end of post along with very old article excerpts courtesy of a friend.)
The most history we have on Ebenezer AME was compiled by Eagle Scouts. Daniel Baker was one. In 1989 he wrote History of the Ebenezer AME Church on Baction Hill Road. Another Eagle Scout, Mathew Nehring also adopted this site in 2010 and documented graves and did a clean up. Nehring put his results on Find-A-Grave .
This summer is the bicentennial celebration of the A.M.E. Church A/K/A Host of the 50th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference, African Methodist Episcopal Church. It is being held in Philadelphia before the DNC.
Oh yeah, I have tried countless times contacting the AME Church regionally and nationally since we discovered they still own the ruins of Ebenezer A.M.E. When I did a GIANT e-mail I got some responses last year, but never any follow up. Ministers and church officials asking me to send them information and I have…so many times. And NOTHING.
Ok so NONE of these souls moldering in this forgotten graveyard aren’t my people, don’t share my race or religion, but these people belong to some descendants somewhere, right? Surely the big A.M.E church must care about Ebenezer A.M.E. right?
No. Apparently not. I have reporters who have expressed interest, but mostly it is just regular people like me and the late Chester County poet A.V. (Ann) Christie. Yes, A.V. Christie. That is how I met her. Because of a graveyard abandoned by time and man. She died April 7, 2016. Those of us in East Whiteland and elsewhere who are just regular folk would love to be able to honor Ann’s memory by getting this little graveyard taken care of. She had no tie to it either. Like me she happened upon it. I believe she helped clean it up a few times a few years ago as well. Ann once lived nearby to the graveyard.
So yes, #thisplacematters too. 1st District A.M.E. Church is on Twitter about the upcoming bicentennial. @1stDistrictAMEC is their handle. Maybe they need to be tweeted at to remember the ancestors buried here. They have to be someone’s people, right? The most recent local A.M.E. Church elder I sent information to was a Reverend Lett.
He never replied. It makes me wonder why I care, but I do. These forgotten people deserve to be remembered and some of the names in the graveyard are still the names of some descendants living in Malvern and Chester County today.
A.M.E. Church does still own Ebenezer A.M.E. Someone trying to assist with research wrote to a friend a few months ago “The county still lists the owners as the African Methodist “Episcapal” [sic] Church, with a mailing address as Malvern R.D. 1. You can see then it hasn’t been used in quite a long time!”
I also sent information to Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III Editor of the Christian Recorder. That is the official paper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. I have contacted innumerable local ministers of A.M.E. Churches.
Yet there the graveyard rots on the eve of their bicentennial. Yep, that is some way to honor the past. To honor freed slaves and civil war soldiers.
The Daily Local was kind enough this week to pick up the tale of Linden Hall. Hopefully they or SOMEONE will decide that the dead of Ebenezer A.M.E. are worth a little bit of attention.
Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery is also known as Chester Valley African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, or Valley Hill Cemetery. You can also see tombstone photos on Pennsylvania US Gen Web Archives – someone named Fred Kelso popsted them in 2008. One of his photos shows that in 2008 someone still left a Christmas wreath on the ruins of the chuch.
If you know anything about this cemetery or people buried here, please leave a comment.
And also read this fascinating write up of another cemetery probably long gone in East Whiteland – The Flat Road Amish Mennoite Cemetery.
Here is an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1999:A Lonely Battle For Black Cemeteries In This County Alone, At Least Six Are Abandoned Or In Serious Disrepair. Regulations Are Sparse, Records Mostly Nonexistent. By Michael Rothfeld and Brooks Barnes, INQUIRER SUBURBAN STAFF
POSTED: August 10, 1999
Lee Carter pressed paper and pencil to the weather-ravaged tombstone inscriptions, laboring in vain to make out the faded names of the dead…..“It breaks your heart,” Carter said. “You devote your time to these things, and after a while it gets to you. You have to walk away.”
African American cemeteries are vanishing across Chester County, despite efforts of a small cadre determined to save them. At least six independent burial sites, and a seventh just outside the county, have been abandoned or are in serious disrepair, and no one knows how many may already be lost.
It is a phenomenon taking place across the country, black historians say, for reasons that include a lack of regulation, the remote locations of land granted to former slaves, and rural-urban migration…
A registry or listing of all cemeteries does not exist, Hardester said. While for-profit cemeteries are regulated by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission and state Health Department, no group or agency regulates older fraternal or church cemeteries – where the bulk of people living in the 1800s and early 1900s are buried.
Limited state legislation exists to protect unmarked cemeteries from development and to force municipalities or churches to care for neglected or abandoned cemeteries. But Hardester said such legislation, which dates to the 1930s, is rarely invoked because it is obscure and fragmented.
So it is often left to persistent individuals to save them – such as Roger Grigson, president of the Downingtown Historical Society…..
cultural traditions may also play a role, noting that maintaining an oral record traditionally was considered more important in black culture than marking graves with elaborate headstones.
“The people who do remember the oral histories are the older people,” she said. “When they die, they take the knowledge of who’s buried where with them. It’s happening all over the place, and nobody really seems to care.”…Grigson said he spent six months calling the A.M.E. Church’s District 1 headquarters in Philadelphia and was all but ignored.
“They didn’t want to cooperate,” he said. “I called the A.M.E. over and over with no response. When I did get somebody, I was told, `Keep your nose out of it.’ ”
Renee Carey, a South Coatesville resident who is trying to create a database of the people buried in forgotten cemeteries, said she also failed to get any information from the A.M.E. Church after sending repeated e-mails to the records office….The remnants of one A.M.E. church stand next to a trailer park on Bacton Hill Road in East Whiteland. A long-forgotten cemetery surrounds the church, hidden in a jungle-like mix of tall grass, trees, rocks and moss. A headstone has become embedded in a tree trunk.
Many graves there are crudely marked with rocks, which are rounded by rain and embedded like teeth in the ground. The clearest headstone belongs to Joshua Johnson, a Civil War soldier who lived from 1846 to 1916 and whose military unit is etched on his headstone.
Township records say the land belongs to the “AME church at RD 1” in Malvern. Asa McCollum, vice chairman of the trustees for St. Paul’s A.M.E. Church in Malvern, said that the church was not affiliated with his and that the ground belonged to A.M.E. District 1.
Graves identified by Matthew Nehring:
A., H. 54
b. 1819 d. Jun. 12, 1849
b. 1811 d. Feb. 5, 1901
b. 1837 d. Apr. 17, 1852
b. 1849 d. 1887
b. 1879 d. Mar., 1880
b. unknown d. Apr. 5, 1898
b. 1809 d. Dec. 25, 1839
b. 1867 d. Aug. 28, 1911
H, A E
b. unknown d. unknown
Hooper, Anna E
b. 1821 d. Feb. 23, 1868
b. unknown d. Apr. 23, 1847
Hooper, Mary Ann
b. 1812 d. Jun. 22, 1889
Johnson, Howard J.
b. unknown d. Oct. 8, 1921
b. 1846 d. 1916
b. 1861 d. Jun. 22, 1907
Jones, Clara Bertha
b. unknown d. Jul. 13, 1886
b. unknown d. Jan. 18, 1875
Jones, Sarah J.
b. unknown d. Jan. 12, 1891
b. unknown d. Mar. 20, 1879
b. unknown d. Aug. 20, 1906
b. 1823 d. Jun. 30, 1888
b. 1817 d. Nov. 26, 1892
b. Nov. 30, 1899 d. Mar. 26, 1913
b. 1810 d. Sep. 10, 1849
b. 1751 d. Sep. 16, 1840
Trowery, Mabel Bell
b. May 1, 1906 d. Nov. 1, 1906
b. Apr. 1, 1894 d. Sep. 25, 1906
b. Jul. 11, 1832 d. Feb. 3, 1911
b. unknown d. Apr. 21, 1841
b. 1824 d. Dec. 20, 1900
Woodyard, Sarah B.
b. unknown d. Aug., 1896
Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER
Date: December 18, 1873
Title: NEWS FROM THE CHURCHES.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Rev. Wm. H. Davis writes from Phoenixville, December 8, 1873. MR. EDITOR:
Upon my arrival at my post I found one of my points at the Deep Valley, the church was in a bad condition, about to fall down. We tore it down and rebuilt it gain, and on last Sunday the 7th we had a good time in the Church. As my presiding elder could not be with me, I got the Rev. R. Norris of West Chester who dedicated the church anew on Sunday morning. I tried to preach, 1 Cor. XV, 57. WE took a collection and got the last dollar. In the afternoon having raised in the morning the last dollar owed on the church the Rev. W.R. Norris commenced the grand jubilee in the afternoon and selected for his text Joshua VI, 16, and the Lord blessed us. WE have a church worth two hundred dollars, today at the Deep Valley.
Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER
Date: June 7, 1883
Title: REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON MEMOIRS, —–
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON MEMOIRS, —–
PHILA., PA., May 14, 1883.
To the Bishop and Conference: DEAR FATHER IN GOD, AND BRETHREN, -We, your committee, to whom was assigned the sad and solemn duty of considering the life and demise of our brethren and co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord, whom death has claimed as his since last session of the Philadelphia Annual Conference, beg leave to submit the following as the result of our labors”
Rev. Shadrach Blackson was born in Christeen, Deleware, in the year 1809. His parents being in bondage, he was born a slave. His master sold him to a Presbyterian minister in East Whiteland, Chester County, Pa., in 1814. Here he received a common religion and joined the A.M.E. Church at Valley Hill, where he held his membership for over 60 years. 50 years of this time he labored as a local preacher and was a local member of the Philadelphia Annual Conference over 39 years. He departed this life on the 18th day of March, 1883, in the full triumph of faith. He leaves a wife and three children to mourn their loss, but their loss is his eternal gain.
Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER
Date: November 20, 1890
Title: —– —–
Author: REV. J.M. PALMER, P.E.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Downingtown circuit under Bro. Reuben L. Patterson is showing signs of improvement worthy of one of far more experience. Membership and interest both increasing.
A genuine quarterly meeting was hat at Ebenezer (Valley Hill) recently began Saturday morning, with preaching by five of the brethren. The great spiritual feast on the Sabbath old fathers declared had not been equaled in many years. Downingtown will soon have a new church. We are confident the people have a mind to work.
Morning Republican, January 27, 1894
Revival meetings were started at the Ebenezer A.M.E Church, near Bacton, on Sunday evening. They are being conducted by the pastor, Rev. R. L. Patterson.
Morning Republican, May 31, 1899
The colored people of Bacton will give a strawberry and ice cream festival on Henry Tinson’s lawn, on mile west of Bacton, Saturday night, June 10th, for the benefit of Ebenezer A.M.E. Sunday School. Committe of arrangements: Henry Tinson, Annie Tinson, Lundon Asparagras, Mary Asparagras, Susan Thomas, Ameilia Johnson, Lydia Wilson. All are welcome.
Morning Republican, December 26, 1899
The Ebenezer A.M.E. Sunday School of Bacton will give their Christmas entertainment in Bacton Hall on Saturday night. There will be recitations, dialogues and singing by the school, and tree sharing and treats for the scholars, after which there will be a sale of refreshments and oysters for the benefit of the Sunday School treasury. The committee of arrangements consists of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Tinson, Mr. and Mrs. Louden Asparagus, Mrs. Amelia Johnson, Mrs. Susan Thomas, Miss Lydia Johnson, Miss Laura Jacson (sic), secretary.
Daily Local News, April 11, 1934
Visitors in the Chester Valley speak of the little building which was once well-known as the colored Baptist Church of Bacton. It has been unused for services for some time, but is yet in fair condition, with the old-fashioned box and pews and the coal oil lamps, and beneath the building the groundhogs have been sleeping in comfort during the past winter. Many old stories are told about that church and the enthusiastic meetings held in other days.
Today for preservationists there was a very happy headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer.Haas estate in Villanova to be preserved as public garden
Updated: MAY 4, 2016 — 3:25 AM EDTby Michael Matza, Staff Writer Adding a final jewel to the philanthropic legacy of John and Chara Cooper Haas, their children are donating the family’s Stoneleigh Estate in Villanova to the conservation group Natural Lands Trust, which will manage it as a native-plants garden, open free to the public.
The 42 acres and Tudor Revival mansion on North Spring Mill Road are to be transferred to the trust at a ceremony and luncheon Wednesday on the Great Lawn behind the house….When it opens in about 18 months, the estate will be rechristened Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden……”We’ll build on what’s here and augment it with new materials and new science on the benefits of natives in terms of the bugs, butterflies, birds, and pollinators they attract,” said Natural Lands Trust president Molly Morrison.
Beautiful article, beautiful photography (including of the rabbit totem pole carving done by Chester County carver Marty Long.) But then there is this weird thing. An “embargoed” press release? So if I have this right, the Inquirer got the lead and local papers got well…nothing? Until today? Right before event?
How does that work exactly?
So I am guessing this is all just a silly coincidence of relationships? I mean why cut out the local media until a half hour before this event? Surely it is a gaffe? Because it just is not right, and let us not forget for a long time it was solely the local papers on the Main Line which carried this story and followed it and covered it and attended mind and rear end numbing meetings in Lower Merion Township.
And then there are the comments on social media including from members of Lower Merion Township Staff who should really know better. I saved the actual screen shot of the comment but won’t post so as to not embarrass the author of this particular comment:
The transformation of the Haas Estate was initiated by the Haas family but it took a lot of creativity, hard work and leadership by the local government to realize.
Respectfully, I disagree. Lower Merion got lucky and went on to create an ordinance around it that was given an unfortunate nickname. My former township sometimes shall we say likes to ummm, over improve and over complicate things and is that fair to say?
Local government can’t take all the credit on this one alone, sorry. It is mostly the doing of the family. And the Natural Lands Trust.
Suffice it to say, preservation doesn’t just happen, it has to be planned and supported. Too often it’s not. So I am very glad that one corner of where I used to call home will not be supersized for some sort of development. Because that is the unfortunate reality down there: no one seems to be able to say no to development. What used to be one of the loveliest places around is just one McMansion , Tyvec tacky townhouse development and condo apartment building after the other.
Stoneleigh is a preservation triumph. Many thanks to the generosity of the Haas family and the vision and hard work of The Natural Lands Trust. Our communities need more of this.
This year’s Natural Lands Trust Stardust celebration is being held at Stoneleigh. Stardust is an amazingly lovely party, so think about supporting it.
How do you write about a man that everyone described as amazing, kind , giving and generous just for starters?
Suffice it to say that it was really difficult and so wonderful all at the same time to dig into the life of the amazing Dick Yoder, former Mayor of West Chester and institution at West Chester University who passed away a few days ago.
To take this journey, I was guided not only by my editor Lance at Vista.Today but by many present and former West Chester notables like current Mayor Carolyn Comitta (and Tom Comitta!) and former Mayor Tom Chambers and Chairman of the Chester County GOP Val DiGiorgio,, Gneneral Manager Bill Mason of WCHE 1520 AM, and former West Chester Borough Manager Ernie McNeely.
What a guy Dick Yoder was! I wish I had met him. I hope my words do him justice. I am only featuring an excerpt of my article here – please visit Vista.Today to read it in its entirety.Former West Chester Mayor Dick Yoder Dies at 79 Posted By: Lance Knickerbocker Posted date: May 04, 2016
by Carla J. Zambelli
Richard “Dick” Yoder, a native West Chester son and two-term Mayor of West Chester, passed away last Sunday, May 1. He was 79 years old.
….Yoder ran for West Chester Mayor in 2001 and again in 2005. He was elected both times. After reaching the eight-year term limit, Yoder he was succeeded by Carolyn Comitta in 2010.
Mayor Comitta, who served on Borough Council during Yoder’s tenure as mayor, credited Yoder as her inspiration to seek higher public office.
“When I was thinking of running for mayor I met with him regularly at Gramm’s Kitchen. We would have lunch and I would ask what it was like to be mayor; what makes a good mayor. He was always generous with his time,” Comitta said. “After I was elected, I continued to have lunch with him regularly. I continued to learn.”
…..Former West Chester Mayor Tom Chambers issued a brief statement about the loss of his dear friend Dick Yoder:
“Dick and I were both born and raised in West Chester and I have known his family practically all my life. We were personal friends. We were also fellow former members of the U.S. Marine Corps……I have lost a good friend and comrade. My condolences and heartfelt sympathy go out to his wife, Jean, and his great family. It was my privilege to have known him and I am grateful that he counted me as one of his many good friends.”
Ernie McNeely, Borough Manager during most of Yoder’s tenure and current Township Manager of Lower Merion, described Yoder as a true gentleman.
“Dick Yoder was a dedicated public servant. He transcended any political label as Mayor of West Chester and had broad support from all parts of the community,” said Val DiGiorgio, chairman of the Republican Party of Chester County, echoing McNeely’s comments…..WCHE General Manager Bill Mason described Dick Yoder as Mr. West Chester. “It was literally god, country, family, and West Chester,” Mason said. “To meet him was to become a friend. He was beloved by everyone he came in contact with.”
Also check out this video tribute done in 2015 when he received Citizen of the Year from The Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce:
Why Republicans Lose In Pennsylvania- a house divided by two-faced, double-talking Political Profiteering self-serving lobbyists
Political Profiteers Long & Nyquist; Cancer on the Commonwealth; Why Republicans lose in Pennsylvania, a House divided against itself…self-serving crony consultants and lobbyists callously misdirect with half-truths. Two-Faced, Double-Talking lobbyists playing on both sides of the fence.
Long & Nyquist are undercutting the party by their disingenuousness.
The smearing of Joe Peters and the defeat of the Outsiders in Pennsylvania.
Republican Brian Fitzpatrick has won the Republican primary in Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional district with his claims to be a “corruption fighter” yet he hired two-faced, double-talking union lobbyists Long and Nyquist to run his campaign.
Two-faced, double talking Long & Nyquist pretend to be Republicans advancing goals of limited government, less regulation and lower taxes while representing unions including the very, very powerful Big Government, Big Spending Pennsylvania Teachers’ Union, the PSEA and the anti-free market Wendell Young’s United Food & Commercial Workers Union which opposed sale of liquor stores and defeated efforts to dismantle the liquor monopoly and beer cartel in Pennsylvania.
Brian Fitzpatrick endorsed by the Deon Poprick Crony Establishment was flown into the district by his brother, the incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick, a Boehner/Ryan Big Government Pro Union loyalist.
Long & Nyquist clients include Pennsylvania State Education Association and and United Food and Commercial Workers Commonwealth License Beverage Association Malt Beverage Distributors Association Comcast
But most troubling is the fact that Brian Fitzpatrick claims to fight unions and corruption but hired Long & Nyquist, the biggest corrupt factors of Harrisburg, to run campaign.
Brad Bumsted wrote an excellent piece but failed to mention that the smear of Joe Peters was engineered by two faced, double talking, deceiving lobbyists/consultants Long & Nyquist who get rich protecting the power their patrons; good for them, not so good for us.Brad Bumsted Tribune Review To what end? The smearing of good guy Joe Peters.
Let us see if journalists Dennis Owens and Jon Delano pick up this story.
The liberal, snarky and supercilious John Micek will not offer us any useful information. It is unlikely that the Philadelphia Inquirer and the southeastern media which are not only shallow, superficial and supercilious but seem to live in a clueless cave can or will report any of this. The Inquirer quoted Charlie Gerow in a recent news/analysis article; any reporter who cites Charlie GID Gerow, a loser who even lost being elected delegate to the RNC convention in Cleveland, opportunistic chameleon, whose last and biggest win, was for Harrisburg Democrat Linda Thompson demonstrates his or her cluelessness as anyone with any familiarity with Pennsylvania politics would know.
Long and Nyquist are pretend Republicans who play both sides of the lobbyist fence as journalist Dennis Owens has reported, lobbying for unions while pretending to advocate for what are presented as Republican Party values. Phonies, double talking, deceiving two faced frauds who smear good Republicans Long & Nyquist engineered this smear of a good man. Long and Nyquist are, also, consulting for Brian Fitzpatrick in Pa 8. Long and Nyquist are Political Profiteers who will make a lot of money losing the Attorney General election yet again. And, of course, Brian Fitzpatrick is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law of violating the Hatch Act.
With the exception of a State Supreme court candidate, nominally a Republican, but with bipartisan support, the Republicans have not won a statewide election since 2009 when Tom Corbett won by big margins before betraying those who voted for him with two tax increases and Pat Toomey walked away from those who supported him from 2004 through his squeaker election in 20009.
There is a reason why Republicans lose statewide;not a single Republican congressman, no matter how liberal or corrupt, has gone down in the April 26 2016 primary. Trump voters did not vote for the Outsider down ticket. In Pa-16 primary just past, the liberal, party loyalist Lloyd Smucker defeated real deal conservative Chet Beiler. The severely under-financed Art Halvorson came within 1 point of defeating crony insider Bill Shuster. Oddly, with stunning turnout driven by Donald Trump’s dramatic campaign, voters voting for outsider Donald Trump, nevertheless, voted for insiders down ticket!!!!
It is highly unlikely that bringing Long & Nyquist into the Attorney General’s office will restore integrity to the office.
This weekend was my 35th high school reunion from Shipley. And in a blink and a whir of activity it was over.
A lot of people do not go to their reunions for various reasons. I get it, but in the end I am always glad that I went.
I have a very diverse class and I think so many have become the most interesting people as we have gotten older. This year, we had several people who had never, ever attended a reunion decide to attend. I think that made it even more special.
My class was one of the last of the classes of the boarding department – Shipley as did many schools – used to be a boarding and a day school. So we have people coming from literally everywhere.
Our class always has a good time whenever we get together. We meld. We add refugees from other classes every time too, which makes the weekend even more fun! This time was no different. But it was all over so soon!
So today, my classmates are on my mind. I can still hear the sounds of laughter and conversation echoing in my head. It’s really nice being able to hit the pause button and catch up.
But now life returns to normal and all that is left are the pretty flowers and some really great memories of a wonderful weekend.
There are still some spots left for this lovely event!
Tea Party with Chester County Women of Historic Distinction this Sunday, May 1, 2-4 PM at Duportail House, Chesterbrook
The tea party will feature presentations from women of the past that either lived or passed through Chester County. The distinguished women of history will be portrayed by members of the Trust and Springton Manor Farm, both nonprofit historic preservation organizations. The historic characters include Rebecca Lukens, first woman CEO of Lukens Steel, Dr. Ann Preston, first woman dean of the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia; Hannah Marsh, who ran an Underground Railroad station and Marion Bartol, one of the last residents of Springton Manor. Tea party guests will also learn about Sarah Carmichael Blair, Indian Hannah Freeman and Ginevera Harrison Potts as well as the significance Mary Todd Lincoln had to Chester County.
Following the historic presentations, guests will enjoy assorted teas, sweets, fruit and savory sandwiches. And Spread Love is doing the catering, so this will be delicious and informative and fun!
This is a joint effort between the Trust and the Friends of Springton Manor Farm, a Chester County park. Several of the Springton Manor board members, including their current president Robin Spurlino, are participating as historic characters plus Judy DiFilippo (Trust Board member and former township supervisor) will play Mary Todd Lincoln.
Support historic preservation and do something very civilized this Sunday!