Stop #5


Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest A.M.E. congregation on the Eastern Shore, was founded in 1818 when itinerant preacher Rev. Shadrack Bassett spoke from an ox cart nearby, inspiring believers to plant a church here. In 1820, the trustees of Bethel A.M.E. Church bought one acre of land, taking up most of the block. 

The current building is at least the third house of worship upon this site and was completed in 1877. It was dedicated the following year by abolitionist, orator, and statesman Frederick Douglass, who had once been enslaved in Talbot County. The style is Gothic Revival, adhering to the standards of Methodist architecture for that time period. 

During the 19th century, part of the property was sold and several houses were built here. One of those became the church parsonage for a time. By the turn of the 20th century, Bethel A.M.E. Church reacquired most of the northern half of their original lot, which they still own today.

Digging Deeper

Archaeology here is beginning to piece together the changing uses of the church property and reveal how the community’s needs changed over time. Excavations in 2014 and 2015 located several of the houses built on this lot while it was out of church hands in the middle of the 19th century, including one built in 1860 that later became the church parsonage.

Artifact discoveries also included toys from a church playground that leaders built for an early childhood education program held here in recent years. Remnants of earlier church buildings lie undiscovered somewhere on the property. See the INTERPRETIVE PANEL to the right of the church.