In 1866, Moses Dickson joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Louis, became an ordained minister and was the driving force for AME churches in Missouri, including Chillicothe in 1868. Chillicothe had the first AME Church north of the Missouri River. The Chillicothe church, located at 202 Henry Street, was active until 2010, when it closed due to declining membership. The church is now owned by a private individual who plans to donate it to the Grand River Historical Society Museum. The museum will relocate the building to property near the museum and preserve its history.
By RON WILDER Grand River Historical Society Museum
The Grand River Historical Museum held their quarterly meeting on Tuesday April 17th at the Elks Lodge in Chillicothe. Approximately 90 history enthusiasts dined on pork loin catered by Jeff Frampton and enjoyed the program on the Bethel AME Church presented by Rodney Mouton, a museum board member. Rodney did considerable research on the history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In l787, Reverend Richard Allen founded the Free African Society which later became the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. Rev. Allen and Absalam Jones were the primary figures who formed the new church where black people could worship without the segregation they had faced in existing churches and, in 1816, Richard Allen became the first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. The new church experienced rapid growth especially in the South where treatment of the slaves was much worse than in the North. In 1846 Moses Dickson, at only 22 years of age, who had grown up in the AME Church in Cincinnati and worked on riverboats up and down the Mississippi settled in St. Louis and with 11 other young men formed the Knights of Liberty. In 10 years the organization had over 47,000 members in almost every Southern state. Their plan was to strike for freedom of the slaves and march on Atlanta, Georgia, but the Civil War broke out and the uprising never occurred. Instead the Knights of Liberty became involved with Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad in helping thousands of escaped slaves immigrate to the North. In 1866, Moses Dickson joined the AME Church in St. Louis, became an ordained minister and was the driving force for AME churches in Missouri, including Chillicothe in 1868. Chillicothe was the first AME Church north of the Missouri River. The Chillicothe Church was active until 2010, when it closed due to dwindling membership. Following the program Curator Pam Clingerman thanked Beverly Childers for a quilt made by Beverly commemorating the Underground Railroad. The squares on the quilt represent directions for slaves to follow in order to escape to the North using the Underground Railroad. Beverly donated the quilt to the museum and it will be on display starting this Saturday, April 21 Marvin Holcer, President of the Grand River Historical Society board, announced that the Museum is working toward moving the Bethel AME Church from its location at 202 Henry to property which the museum has purchased just southwest of the main museum building. The building is owned by Brent Kline and he has agreed to donate the church to the museum if the museum will move it to the new location. Plans for the church are for the sanctuary to remain intact as a historic site and at a later date use the basement for additional exhibit and classroom space. The estimated cost to make the move is $l26,442, including lot preparation, basement, moving the church, new roof, gutters and downspouts, heating and cooling. The museum is donating $50,000 plus the cost of the lot and has received $21,000 from local foundations and private donors. The remaining total amount needed to complete the project is $55,442. Clingerman will also have a display by Saturday at the museum with more details on the project. Those who would like to make a donation to help move the church should make checks payable to the Grand River Historical Society and Museum and send it to the Museum at 1401 Forest Drive in Chillicothe. All donations are deductible.