The first AME church in Indianapolis, the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal
Church has played an important role in the city's black community for
over 160 years. Originally founded in 1836 by William Paul Quinn and Augustus
Turner, the church, then known as "Indianapolis Station," started
with a small congregation that met in Quinn's log cabin. In 1841 a small
house of worship was constructed, and by 1848 the church had 100 members
and became active in the antislavery movement, often harboring fugitive
slaves en route to Canada. Their promotion of the abolitionist movement
and their activities in the Underground Railroad were not well received
by some members of the local community. Supporters of slavery are believed
to be the cause of the fire that destroyed the church in 1862. Undaunted
by this tragedy, the congregation raised money to rebuild the church in
1867-- the same church that stands today. Known as the "mother church"
of the African Methodist faith in Indiana, Bethel also played an important
role in the community after the Civil War. Bethel opened schools for African
Americans throughout the city, and a kindergarten was at one time operated
in the church building. Numerous organizations were established at Bethel,
including the Indianapolis chapter of the NAACP and the Indiana State
Federation of Colored Woman's Clubs. Bethel AME has been a vanguard in
the advancement of the AME movement and occupies a unique place in the
history of the Underground Railroad.
Bethel AME Church|
Photograph by Suzanne Rollins. Courtesy of the
Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources.
Bethel AME Church is located in Indianapolis, Indiana at 414 West
Vermont Street. It is open to the public.
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