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Bethel AME Church, in Springtown, New Jersey
Photograph courtesy of Laura Aldrich
The small, concrete masonry church known as Bethel AME Church is as a rare, surviving African American institution associated with multiple participants in the Underground Railroad. Located in the heart of the black community of Springtown in Greenwich Township, the church and its congregation offered lodging to fugitive slaves travelling north after leaving Maryland's Eastern Shore and Delaware. Oral histories attest that Harriet Tubman used the Springton/Greenwich station from 1849-1853 during her passage north through Delaware to Wilmington - one of her most famous routes.

The original congregation of Bethel AME Church had previously been members of various Methodist Episcopal churches in southern New Jersey. Until the early 1800s, white and black Methodist Episcopals worshipped together at these churches, as the members were all vehemently opposed to slavery. But as membership grew, Methodist slaveholders joined these churches and pressured church leaders to soften their anti-slavery position. Eventually, black members found themselves unwelcome, and in Greenwich they formed the African Society of Methodists, which by 1810 had purchased a small parcel of land and a cabin or house. By 1817, the congregation joined the newly chartered African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was formed in Philadelphia. When their first church was destroyed by fire in the 1830s, the present Bethel AME Church was built one mile away form the original site in Greenwich Townshipand between 1838 and 1841. The new building was located next door to the home of Algy Stanford, a church member and Underground Railroad operator.

Greenwich was originally settled by Quakers in 1685. After the Manumission Act of 1786, which enabled Quakers to free their slaves without financial hardship, the village of Springtown gradually developed as Quakers starting selling small tracts of land to free blacks. By the time of the Civil War, Springtown had developed into a large group of free land-holding blacks which made the area ideal for abolitionist activity. For many fugitive slaves, Springtown was a temporary destination before moving on, for others it became the end of their running. Their presence swelled the size of Springtown and strengthened it as a force for abolition

The Bethel AME Church is located on Sheppards Mill Rd. in Greenwich Township, New Jersey. It is private property, and not open to the public.

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