Historic Bensalem A.M.E. Church, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Underground Railroad Connections
The Bensalem African Methodist Episcopal Church, located on Bridgewater Road in Bensalem, Bucks County, was established as the Little Jerusalem Church in 1820 by several local freed slaves led by the Rev. James Miller, working under the authority and with the assistance of Philadelphia A.M.E. minister Richard Allen. It served the local free African American community of Bensalem and surrounding areas, including some of the original free African American families of the area: the Briggs, Bosley, Fraizer and Mount families.
A Sabbath school was established in the church in 1848 by the Rev. John Butler. The school did double duty by teaching local Blacks to read and write. Little Jerusalem Church remained the only Black church in the area for decades, and as a result functioned as a social and community hub for the local African American residents.
"VIEW WEST, SOUTHEAST AND NORTHEAST (FRONT) ELEVATIONS - Bensalem African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1200 Bridgewater Road (Bensalem), Bridgewater, Bucks County, PA." Photo from Survey HABS PA-1721. Abraham B. Eastwood, photographer. Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress), Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.
The church and congregants aided and sheltered freedom seekers -- persons who were fleeing enslavement via the Underground Railroad. Philadelphia abolitionist and anti-slavery activist Robert Purvis helped move fugitive slaves from Philadelphia to his home in nearby Byberry and from there to safety in the church at Bensalem. Purvis is believed to have helped more than a thousand freedom seekers, many of whom likely traced a path to freedom through this church.
A cemetery next to the church holds the graves of freed slaves and Black veterans of the Civil War.
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