Bethel AME (Lafayette)

Tippecanoe County was an early hub for African American settlers before the Civil War. Early sources mention a prevalence of Urban settlers and Black barbers throughout well-populated areas of the county. Lafayette African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church was heavily involved in Tippecanoe’s history with the Civil War and segregated education. Their congregation has historically stood for the advancement of African Americans, whether through emancipation, education, or civil rights. Bethel Lafayette stands as one of the few reminders of Indiana’s Black history before the Civil War. The intersection of AME and figures like Frederick Douglass demonstrate Indiana’s link to African Americans’ national struggle for freedom in the 19th century and beyond.

Lafayette AME Congregation was organized around the 1840s. Their trustees, including Daniel Brown, David Mitchell, Charles Sprangler, John Homes, Hazel Cummins, Robert Burt, and Jacob Skipworth purchased a half lot on Cincinnati Street. By the next spring, they built a framed church. From 1840-45 the Lafayette congregation is recorded as having around sixteen members. This original property was sold in the summer of 1866, replacing it was the parsonage and school buildings of St. James Lutheran Church on Ferry Street. By 1869, forty-nine students had enrolled in Lafayette AME’s school. In the 1880s the school moved to the north end of Lafayette. African Americans were not given access to state-funded public education until 1869. Around 1922, Lafayette AME sought funding for a significant remodeling, this remodeling had the most significant impact on the building’s appearance.

Lafayette AME hosted Frederick Douglass in 1867 and again in 1880. Frederick had initially come to Indiana in 1843 as part of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. While much ink has been spilled on the 1843 and 1880 campaigns, the 1867 visit is less recorded. The Lafayette Daily Courier reported his lecture on April 19th, 1867, noting that his visit had raised $200 for the AME Church. African American congregations would commonly utilize guest speakers to raise money for their spread-out communities. Lafayette’s Black population would not exceed two hundred until the 20th century.

AME Lafayette is a two-story property, with a square frame and sloped roof. Much of the interior and exterior dates from the 19th century, retaining its character through renovations. Bethel AME Lafayette has not been listed on the national registry of historic places.