Many early African American churches began as spiritual groups and developed into mutual aid societies that provided economic and educational resources to those in need.
After building houses of worship, the congregations grew into vital community institutions that helped insulate residents from economic discrimination and social segregation.
How did Bethel A.M.E begin?
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church grew from a small gathering into a thriving institution in The Hill Community.
In 1818, the African Methodist Episcopal Conference in Baltimore sent Reverent Shadrack Bassett to Easton to expand the A.M.E. mission to the Eastern Shore. From atop an oxcart, he preached to 100 people near here, forming the Bethel Society, the first A.M.E. group in the region.
The new congregation originally met in a blacksmith shop. In 1820, they purchased this property and later built the first church. The current building was built in 1877 and dedicated by Frederick Douglass in 1878.
The Bethel A.M.E. Church has served the spiritual and social needs of The Hill Community for two centuries.
Digging in Time
Archaeologists see layers in the soil as moments in time. They may discover evidence of postholes dug and filled within moments or garden beds
that were used for years. The artifacts found in these features help identify specific dates and reveal a time of events that transformed this landscape.
Archaeologists discovered a large "borrow" pit here where clay was once dug to make bricks.
Pottery found in this feature dates the clay removal to circa 1770-1815. Bricks made here may have been used in the house across the street, built by James Cockayne, a Quaker, between 1802 and 1813.
Civil War Soldier
Excavations also uncovered a foundation for a home where Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church ministers once lived. Pottery, bricks and a belt buckle found here helped date the house's construction to the 1860s.
The belt buckle was stamped with the Maryland State emblem worn by Civil War-era soldiers, prompting questions about the role of the congregation members in the war.
Reverend Bassett preaches from an oxcart at the corner of Hanson Street and South Lane.
Church trustees buy this property on Hanson Street, forming the Bethel Society, the first A.M.E. meeting in the region. By 1829, site includes building called Bethel Church.
1840 - 1860
Over 20 years, several houses are constructed on this property.
Present day Bethel A.M.E Church building is erected.
Frederick Douglass dedicates new A.M.E and Asbury M.E. church buildings on the same day.