Underground Railroad: Cultural Landscape
The African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) grew out of the Free African Society that was founded in 1787. Discouraged and upset by blatant racial discrimination against free African Americans within the American Methodist church, members created an African Congregation. Although some wanted to affiliate with Protestant Episcopal, Richard Allen – a founder of the Free African Society – led a small group who were committed to remaining Methodists. In order to assert religious autonomy, Allen sued for the rights of his congregation in 1807 and 1815 to prevent White members from interfering with his congregation. Prior to the Civil War, AME was located mainly in the Northeast and Midwest, although churches did appear in some slave states. For instance, Bishop William Paul Quinn helped establish churches along the Ohio River in both free and slave states. The AME churches, especially the Bethel Congregation in Pennsylvania, were known for aiding fugitive slaves on their journey to freedom as part of the Underground Railroad. Although there is no clear record, it seems likely that Quinn’s anti-slavery work and the AME churches he helped establish along the Ohio River played a role in those quests for freedom. AME churches in Indiana near today’s Hoosier National Forest most likely participated by providing shelter and aid to fugitives; community members also may have served as Underground Railroad “conductors.” The AME church served as the focal point of the Lick Creek settlement. In 1843, early Lick Creek pioneers Thomas and Matilda Roberts sold an acre of their land to five trustees to establish the church. The trustees were Elias Roberts, Mathew Thomas, Thomas Roberts, Isaac Scott, and Samuel Chandler. The deed stated that the trustees needed to build a place for worship for members of the AME. Lick Creek’s AME church operated until 1869. The AME church was built near the settlement’s Black Methodist Union Meeting House on land owned by resident Ishmael Roberts. Although it is unclear when, the Methodist House was eventually abandoned and likely replaced by another AME church. Sources: National Forest Service, “Lick Creek African American Settlement”, http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/hoosier/learning/history-culture/?cid=fsbdev3_017495 [http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/hoosier/learning/history-culture/?cid=fsbdev3_017495] National Park Services, “Aboard the Underground Railroad,” https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/underground/pa3.htm [https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/underground/pa3.htm] American Methodist Episcopal Church, “Our History,” http://ame-church.com/our-church/our-history/ [http://ame-church.com/our-church/our-history/] Lick Creek Trail: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hoosier/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=41572&actid=50 [http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hoosier/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=41572&actid=50] This information about the Underground Railroad is part of a geo-located multi-forest interpretive program. Please contact the U.S. Forest Service Washington Office Recreation, Heritage, and Volunteer Resources program leadership with any questions or to make changes. SGV – Recreation Data and Information Coordinator.