Wednesday, February 20, 2013
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AME Church in Lincoln offered spiritual, social and political benefits to post-Civil War congregants

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[February 20, 2013]  The monthly meeting of the Logan County Genealogical & Historical Society was a road or walking trip. On Monday, members transported themselves four blocks east on Broadway Street to the Allen Chapel.

Once inside the doors, the history buffs were greeted by Allen Chapel's pastor, the Rev. Peggie Senor. She spoke about the history of the Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Also speaking for the evening was Bobbi Reddix. Reddix provided a short history of the African-American community in Lincoln beginning with the Civil War to the end of the second decade of the 20th century.

The AME was founded in the latter part of the 18th century in Philadelphia by a group of former slaves who withdrew from a local church because of discrimination. The AME founder was Richard Allen, who felt strongly that all people had a right to worship without the sting of discrimination in their house of worship.

The membership in the AME Church grew rapidly, recording 17,000 members in 1836.

The Lincoln AME Church began when five residents gathered to start the congregation in 1866.

Lincoln had a small African-American population following the Civil War, when white Union soldiers from the area around Lincoln brought former slaves with them upon their return home. In many cases the former slaves were brought into Lincoln under cover of darkness so that the white residents of the town would not protest their arrival.

By 1868, services were held in an old schoolhouse that was located on the site of the current AME Church.

The AME Church served more than the spiritual needs of the African-American community in Lincoln. Social services were handled out of the church. The church was also the center of social and political life in the African-American community and was a place of refuge in the community.

Ministers in the church were looked upon as people of great wisdom, and their guidance of parishioners was very important. They taught their members to be a giving part of the community and to become assets to Lincoln. The ministers stressed the need for education for black children and the importance of proper conduct in town.

Regardless of a family's economic circumstance, attendance at church on Sunday was a formal occasion requiring the best conduct and attire.

During this time, racism was a part of daily life in the community and required an open struggle for members of the AME Church. The local newspaper even had a separate section for news of the African-American community in town.

In 1880, the old schoolhouse was removed from the lot on Broadway, and the brick church erected was named after the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The members of the AME Church sacrificed to build a church they could be proud of, a sign of their dedication to one another and to the community.

The Allen Chapel building in Lincoln was first designated as a Lincoln Historical Landmark by the city of Lincoln in 2003. Then, in 2004, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is the only church building in Logan County on the National Register.

Pastor Senor spoke to the group attending on the rainy evening as if she was speaking to her congregation on Sunday morning. Her heart is full of caring for her parishioners, for everyone she meets and for the mission of the AME Church.

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Pastor Senor, who was called to the ministry in the 1980s, travels from Springfield to Lincoln and back home on Amtrak, so her time in Lincoln is dictated by the train schedule. She preaches every other week on Sunday at 11:15 a.m.

She points out that Peoria, Bloomington, Decatur and Springfield all have active AME churches. In fact, Springfield has two. The AME Church also has overseas connections. She pointedly stated that the AME Church has a long history of ordaining women as pastors. Rosa Parks was a member of the AME Church. The Christian Record, the AME newspaper, was started in the 1840s.

Following Pastor Senor's presentation, Bobbi Reddix gave a short history of some of the African-American families who lived in Lincoln from 1858 until the time of the World War I.

Ms. Reddix is known for her first-person living history portrayal of Elizabeth Keckley, a black woman who was Mary Todd Lincoln's closest confidante during the Lincolns' time in Washington, D.C.

Reddix has done extensive research into the lives of African-American families in Lincoln. One fascinating point she made was that many black families in Lincoln came from Bowling Green, Ky. Bowling Green is in Logan County, Ky. These families traveled from one Logan County to another.

Reddix's meticulous research even goes into the death records of the black community in Lincoln, so that she can know the names of the families who lived here. She mentioned that during the infamous race riot in Springfield in 1908, tension was high in Lincoln. The populace went out of its way to keep things calm in town.

The March meeting of the Logan County Genealogical & Historical Society will feature a presentation on Capt. Adam Bogardus of Elkhart. He was the 19th-century Elkhart resident who became a world champion marksman, celebrity and performer in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Check the society's website and Lincoln Daily News for further information.


Logan County Genealogical & Historical Society website:

Allen Chapel history:


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