— Short Street —
The second Bethel AME Church opened on Short Street on November 24, 1839. Bethel's first pastors-Reverend Levin Lee (ca. 1833-1843), Reverend T.M.D. Ward (1843-1845), and Reverend Abraham Cole (1846-ca.1854) —- each helped increase interest in the Bethel Church. The church operated a Sabbath school and, in the church basement, a library.
In August 1847, the men of Bethel helped inaugurate the Brotherly Love Lodge (Odd Fellows). Eleven years later, on September 29, 1858, the Brotherly Love Lodge became the first Odd Fellowship in the United States to apply for and receive a Ruth Degree Warrant, granting the colored women of the Miriam Household of Ruth, No. 1.
The church endured many difficult times at this location. In 1847, Bethel brethren protected Frederick Douglass while a vicious mob hurled stones at him after he spoke at the Dauphin County Courthouse with abolitionist William Lloyed Garrison. During the 1840s and 1850s, Bethel Church members formed a vigilance committee against kidnappers of runaway slaves.
On February 22, 1861, Bethel Church member Jacob T. Cumpton used his horse-drawn carriage to take President-elect Abraham Lincoln out of Harrisburg after news of an assassination plot became known.
The men and women of Bethel met at the church on January 15, 1863, to draft a public statement explaining the Black community's position on President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. "We would have preferred that the proclamation should have been general instead of partial," they proclaimed. However, the public statement expressed the colored community's endorsement of citizenship. "We are well aware that freedom and citizenship are attended with responsibilities, and that the success or failure of the proclamation depends entirely upon ourselves, as public sentiment will be influenced...by our correct deportment and moral standing in the community."
(Inscriptions under the images-from left to right, top to bottom) *This is a view of the Short Street Bethel AME after it was sold to the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company. The church is turned to separate it from the structures added later by the new owner. * Above, left: Location of the Bethel AME Church, Short Street, Harrisburg map, 1880. *Above right; same location, current map. *The article above was published in the Harrisburg Telegraph on January 14, 1863. *February 22, 1861 Bethel Church member Jacob T. Cumpton used his horse-drawn carriage to take President Abraham Lincoln out of Harrisburg after news of an assassination plot became known. *"To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker."-Frederick Douglass. *Harrisburg 1855: Arrow shows approximate location of the Bethel AME Short Street site.