TRACKING DOWN THE SITE OF THE ORIGINAL AME CHURCH ON SOURLAND MOUNTAIN
Archaeologist and Cultural Resource Management Specialist
On April 20th 2021 three members of the SSAAM board (Ian Burrow, Laurie Cleveland and Bruce Daniels) examined the probable original site of the AME church that was the predecessor to our current museum building. This original church was established some time before 1850. Through the good offices of Kim Galatro we were kindly given access to the location by the owners Zsuzi and Phil Raynor.
The approximate location of the church is known because it is depicted on two historic maps from the mid 1800’s. The first of these is the 1850 Otley and Keily map of Somerset County, which shows the “African Ch.” on the north side of Zion Road in Hillsborough Township, immediately east of the “Province Line” dividing Somerset and Hunterdon Counties. The church lies just east of a house belonging to A. Wyckoff, and across the street from a blacksmith shop (B.S.).
Matthew Hughes’ 1860 Farm Map of Hillsboro’, Somerset Co NJ., published in Philadelphia shows a building in the same location labeled “1C” or possibly “AC” (for African Church). It lies at the southern end of a small property assigned to I Trueheast or Frueheast (could this be a mistake for “Trueheart”?). At this date the A. Wyckoff property to the west is identified as a store. Spring Hill Road, which is not shown on the 1850 map, has now been laid out.
These two maps are neither highly detailed or necessarily precisely accurate, and so to find the exact location we needed to do some additional research. The modern tax maps came to our aid. The Trueheast/Frueheast lot is still an identified parcel today and is Block 69, Lot 57.01. On an earlier version of the tax map at Hillsborough Township Offices the lot is very helpfully called “Lot 57A A.K.A. Church Lot”. Eureka!
The following maps and photographs show the cartographic evidence for the location of the church, and the appearance of the site in 2021. Although there is no sign of the building today, it is possible that archaeological traces may remain beneath the ground.
Thanks to Kim Galatro for making this possible, and to Zsuzi and Phil Raynor for letting us inspect the property. The generously shared mapping skills of GIS analyst Kevin Burkman were essential for the success of this research.
Please click on imagery for descriptions.