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Museum Updates

The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum's mission is to educate the community about the unique culture, experiences, and contributions of the African American community living in the Sourland Mountain Region.

 

The museum site, located at 189 Hollow Road, Skillman, NJ, is still under development, and not yet opened to the public. When open, SSAAM will present exhibits, lectures, programming, and cultural activities. The museum will use its unique surroundings and valuable community partnerships to offer a glimpse into the past while simultaneously educating its visitors on the merit of preserving vital traditions that continue to be relevant and instrumental in securing a bright future.

The preservation of land adjacent to the historic Mt. Zion AME Church will allow SSAAM to tell stories of the people and places left out of the history books.

Learn how SSAAM worked with D&R Greenway and the Sourland Conservancy to acquire land for the museum.

Land Acknowledgement

The land upon which SSAAM stands is part of the traditional territory of the Lenni-Lenape, called “Lenapehoking.” The Lenape People lived in harmony with one another upon this territory for thousands of years. During the colonial era and early federal period, many were removed west and north, but some also remain among the three continuing historical tribal communities of the region: the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation; the Ramapough Lenape Nation; and the Powhatan Renape Nation. We acknowledge the Lenni-Lenape as the original people of this land and their continuing relationship with their territory.  - Rev. J.R. Norwood, PhD

Recent Developments

Restoration Work at Mt. Zion AME Church

Spring 2022

SSAAM is pleased to announce that the final phase of restoration work on the historic Mt. Zion AME Church has now begun! In addition to making much-needed renovations to the building, the work has already turned up new discoveries at the site. SSAAM's structural engineer recently reviewed the building from foundation to attic, joined by archaeologist and SSAAM Board member Ian Burrow. Monitoring excavation work at the rear of the church, Burrow discovered that the stone foundation extended 30 inches below grade, much deeper than expected!

As of June 2022, concrete foundations for the front porch and mechanical room have been poured; a large dead Ash tree was removed by Wells Tree & Landscape; and the old roof was replaced with a new cedar roof.

This project is funded by a generous grant administered by the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission. The work is being coordinated by SSAAM Board member Bruce Daniels, Vice President and Chair of the Buildings & Grounds Committee. We are also grateful to Mills + Schnoering Architects and contractor Al Whitman of Lewis Graham Inc. for helping make this important work happen.

Historic Purchase of True Family Farmstead

March 2022

SSAAM and Sourland Conservancy have partnered to purchase and save the historic True family farmstead. Located in Skillman, the property was originally owned by a Black Union army veteran who worked as a farmer after the Civil War. In 1891, after his death, his wife Corinda married Spencer True, a descendant of the former slave Friday Truehart; Truehart had gained his freedom in 1819 and became an early African American landowner in the Sourland Region.

Spencer and Corinda True made their home on the farmstead, which originally included the land on which the National Historic Register-listed Mt. Zion AME Church stands today. Spencer and Corinda donated the land for the church in 1899 after the original church, built around 1866 on the Sourland Mountain, burned down. Mt. Zion AME Church welcomed its African American congregants until 2005, and now serves as the home of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum.

Descendants of the True family sold the adjoining farmstead to the Normile family in 1994. With the recent purchase of the farmstead and recombining of the parcels, the True family story has come full circle. 

The historic True family farmstead in Skillman, New Jersey, located adjacent to Mt. Zion AME Church.

Archaeological Dig at the Mount Zion AME Church

December 12, 2020

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On Saturday December 12th 2020, seven professional archaeologists and 32 volunteers made history at the Mount Zion AME Church.  This was the very first archaeological investigation at the site, and was a joint project of SSAAM and Archaeological Society of New Jersey (ASNJ).

 

We recovered about 250 artifacts dating from the late 1800’s and 1900’s and include window glass, nails and bricks, plain white ceramics, coal and even an iron padlock. The artifacts will be cleaned up, identified and cataloged, and will become part of the SSAAM collection.  The technical details of the work will be presented in a written illustrated report, copies of which will be sent to local historical organizations, libraries, municipalities and to New Jersey Historic Preservation agencies.

 

Learn more.

Hopewell Council of Churches Sunday of Service

November 1, 2020

Volunteers came to Mt. Zion AME Church on Hollow Road and, under the guidance of SSAAM president John Buck, helped to move fencing and remove overgrowth along one of the tree lines.

 

We extend our gracious thanks to the Hopewell Council of Churches for helping to beautify our site!

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Somerset County Historic Preservation and History Award

October 28, 2020

SSAAM was awarded a 2020 Somerset County Historic Preservation and History Award, for our outstanding contributions to the enhancement of history education and leadership in Somerset County.

 

John Buck, president of SSAAM, accepted the award via a virtual presentation hosted by Somerset County.

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