Indiana: Historic AME Churches

We are not a museum; we are alive and well.” Rev. Deborah Lightfoot Oats addressed her Terre Haute African Methodist Episcopal (AME) congregation with these words in 2009. For many of Indiana’s AME churches, the balance between history and spirituality is tenuous. Many churches represent the collective history of African American settlers throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, symbols of unity through faith. Touring Indiana’s AME churches not only emphasizes the history of African American communities but demonstrates their resilience through discrimination and strife.

This tour explores the histories of many local AME churches, their congregations, and their buildings throughout Central and Southern Indiana.Many of Indiana’s earliest AME Churches are interlocked with William Paul Quinn, the fourth Bishop of the national church. Quinn’s ‘circuit’ connected much of Southern and Central Indiana’s Black communities. The oldest churches of this tour are inseparable from William Paul Quinn’s legacy in Indiana history.

Many of these locations are either private or inaccessible. Please be respectful of private property lines when visiting each of these sites. Please remember that this is by no means a comprehensive list of sites in Indiana.

Bethel AME Church (New Albany)

Believed to be the oldest African American church in New Albany, Bethel African American Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church has been a pillar of Black life and culture in southern Indiana for more than 150 years. Founded in 1848, the church became…

The Beech Church (Carthage)

The Blue River Congregation of Rush County goes back to 1832 when the early congregants resolved to adopt the AME Church as their denomination. Early leaders included Bishop Morris Brown and Rev. William Paul Quinn. The Blue River Church initially…

Bethel AME Church (Indianapolis)

Bethel AME is the city’s oldest and one of Indiana’s most recognized Black cultural sites. Augustus Turner, alongside future Bishop William Paul Quinn, organized central Indiana’s Methodists in 1836. Congregants initially gathered in Turner’s cabin…

Bethel AME Church (Crawfordsville)

The Bethel AME Church of Crawfordsville was built in 1847 and remodeled in 1892, located on West North Street. Like many other buildings in Crawfordsville, such as the Speed Cabin, Crawfordsville AME was a stop on the Underground Railroad. From…

Bethel AME (Richmond)

Founded in 1836 by traveling Bishop William Paul Quinn, Bethel Richmond’s Church has served the community for almost two centuries. Early church leaders include Cornelius Overman and George Black. After receiving a lot from Gardner Mendenhall, Quinn…

Bethel AME (Corydon)

St. Paul AME has stood at the corner of Maple and High Streets since 1975. Yet, the history of AME in Corydon goes back to 1843, when free Blacks and former slaves established the congregation. From 1840-45, Corydon was recorded as having around 12…

Bethel AME (Lafayette)

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…

Allen Chapel AME (Terre Haute)

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…

Bethel Jeff (Jeffersonville)

Jeffersonville AME was organized in Claysburg by 1842, where the Black ‘Claysburg settlement’ was founded around the same time. Bethel Jeffersonville is on the ‘Paul Quinn Circuit,’ named after Bishop William Paul Quinn one of Indiana’s AME founders.…

Bethel AME (Franklin)

Franklin AME was organized in 1867 by Pastor W.S. Lankford from the Indianapolis congregation. However, Franklin is also recorded as having around four congregants from 1840-45. Despite this, the majority of Franklin’s Black residents came after the…
This student research was funded through the Wabash College Restoring Hope, Restoring Trust (RHRT) project sponsored by the Lilly Endowment’s Chartering the Future for Indiana’s Colleges and Universities grant program. RHRT specifically focuses on building research support for the study of Black men in higher education and for the African American historical and cultural sites in the State of Indiana. In support of this goal, the Robert T. Ramsay, Jr. Archival Center at Wabash College supported this student research project, and the student used the Ramsay Archival Center's Dr. Timothy Lake’s Black Cultural Sites in Indiana Collection in their research.