Allen Chapel AME (Terre Haute)

Vigo County is a well-known site of early African American settlement, having close to 100 residents in 1820. ‘Lost Creek’ is identified as one of Terre Haute’s oldest Black settlements. A common identifier of Black settlement in Vigo County is the establishment of an AME church in Terre Haute. Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) serves as a bulwark of Terre Haute’s history, a reminder of the support which churches gave to early Black communities. Allen Chapel fits into the larger AME community of South-Western Indiana.

Terre Haute’s Allen Chapel of the AME Church has stood at Third and Crawford Streets since 1870. However, the Terre Haute Congregation goes back to 1837, being housed in a small white church. Founding congregants enlisted the help of Rev. William Paul Quinn to assist their congregation. Allen Chapel AME served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, placed near the Wabash River route. The Terre Haute congregation is recorded as having around 74 members between 1841 and ’45.

Hiram Rhoads Revels, the pioneer of Allen Chapel’s educational mission, went on to serve as the first Black U.S. senator and, later, the first president of Alcorn State University. Similarly, James Hinton, the first Black man to serve in the Indiana General Assembly, attended Allen Chapel School. Allen Chapel set out to design a new church in 1868, enlisting Frederick Douglass to raise money for the construction. When the church was dedicated in 1870, they were presented with the bell used in the first Vigo County Courthouse. Allen Chapel trustee Zachariah M. Anderson became Terre Haute’s first Black public school teacher. Even Jackie Robinson spoke to the congregation about his experience as a Major League Baseball player.

In 1913, a lightning strike engulfed the upper levels of Allen Chapel in flames. The unique tracker action pipe organ was saved, as well as some pews, but much of the original building was destroyed. The reconstructed Allen Church is yellow brick and stone, featuring a corner bell tower. Its prominent green roof curves into points and slopes, topping off the corner tower with a cross.
Urban redevelopments in the 1960s cut into Allen Chapel’s congregation and the building fell into minor disrepair. At a certain point demolition of the historic site became likely. Because of this threat, ‘Friends of Historic Allen Chapel AME’ formed to raise the necessary funds to preserve the building. Terre Haute’s congregation still operates to this day. Allen Chapel has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.



Private Property