Archive for December 16th, 2020
VIDEO: Ceres Bethel AME Church, 1870 (Frederick County, Maryland) ** Lost History Associates field report **
Ceres Bethel AME Church field report; script by John H. Muller & Justin L. McNeil
Good morning; local and international preservationists, public educators and street historians.
Journalist and author John Muller here; reporting live from Burkittsville, Maryland within the old Petersville District of Frederick County with a special Lost History Associates report on Ceres Bethel A.M.E. Church.
We are gathered here, ladies and gentleman, as a service, and in response to several public preservation and historic organizations that exclusively exist due to the public treasury, as well as private organizations largely, or nearly entirely, supported by the public treasury. That means … you and I … are solely responsible for the existence of these organizations that have failed to interpret and convey our collective history and properly interpret this historic site.
More specifically, Preservation Maryland has recently announced their plans, backed with a $100,000 grant from the public treasury — from you and I — to “re-brand” the Battle of South Mountain, the ground on which we stand, and the overlaying Gathland State Park, the home of journalist and author George Alfred Townsend.
Within the administrative grid-lock of do-nothing administrators that have an interest in this historic site, owned by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, are Liz Shatto with the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, Elizabeth Hughes, director of the Maryland Historical Trust, Drew Gruber with Civil War Trails, as well as preservation organizations and Black American history and culture groups, such as the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture, specifically the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis and my good friend Reggie Turner, of the Western Maryland Community Development Corporation, who I have worked closely with on the lost history in Hagerstown, in nearby Washington County.
With no further delay, ladies and gentlemen, let’s talk about Ceres Bethel A.M.E. Church, a sacred site in local, regional and national history and folklore.
As master battlefield scholars can confirm, during the engagement of Union & Confederate troops at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam in September 1862, local African Methodist Episcopal churches where extant today; were extant then within the theatre of war.
Specifically, troops maneuvered around the wood-framed Ceres Bethel church as they took and changed positions during the Battle of South Mountain. Caught between rifle shot and shell, the original church building was a casualty of the American Civil War.
In Frederick City, Quinn Chapel AME Church on 3rd Street served as a makeshift hospital for soldiers wounded during the Battle of Antietam. The pastor of Quinn Chapel during the Civil War was Bishop Alexander Walker Wayman, born 1821 in Caroline County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
On April 3, 1870 that same Bishop Wayman, alongside Rev. Lloyd Benson, laid the cornerstone for the new Ceres Bethel AME Church right here in the Petersville District. In 2020, Lost History USA celebrates the sesquicentennial of Ceres Bethel and so should you.
Why is this church important, you may be asking?
Despite hundreds of thousands of public dollars devoted to uplifting local history in Western Maryland and Frederick County, and specifically local Black American history and heritage in Western Maryland and Frederick County, there is no existing representation with road markers or heritage markers, nor any contemporary published material that tells this lost history of Ceres Bethel .
Lost History USA has accumulated an extensive report on Ceres Bethel and will be unveiling our own historic markers on site in February 2021, of which local elected officials, media and the public will be invited and asked to speak.
On these markers, we will include information on Rev. Lloyd Benson, Bishop Wayman, Rev. Henry, as well as young men and women from Burkittsville, Maryland and the surrounding communities who attended the primary school on these grounds.
The schoolhouse at Ceres Bethel, initially affiliated and supported by members of the church, philanthropic networks and the Freedmen’s Bureau, led by General Oliver Otis Howard, must be properly contextualized.
While Tolson’s Chapel in Washington County’s Sharpsburg has been the focus of National Park Service grants, contracts and studies, Ceres Bethel has evanded attention – resulting in its current state of disrepair and abandonment.
For Preservation Maryland, and all the other local, regional, and state stakeholders, you have an obligation and responsibility to get your collective heads out of your ass.
Pupils from the Ceres Bethel Schoolhouse were socially and academically prepared here, on the ground we currently stand, to go forth to Howard University in Washington, D.C. with students from around the country and world.
Students from these descendant Mountain Maryland communities excelled within the ranks of the medical and theological departments of Howard University, as well as other nearby institutions of higher learning including Storer College in Harpers Ferry and Morgan State in Baltimore City.
Graduates of the Ceres Bethel Schoolhouse returned to this community and communities throughout Frederick County to fill leadership positions within local institutions to uplift and prepare the next generation to contribute to their families and their state.
Why has this history not been told and returned to where it belongs?
We look forward to seeing you soon.