Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church
Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church set as its mission to minister to the spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional and environmental needs of all people by spreading Christ’s liberating gospel through word and deed.
Imagine 150 years ago, with newfound freedom at the end of the Civil War, blacks experienced excitement, happiness, and thanksgiving but experienced frustration also. Thousands of newly freed people drifted north daily in search of a home and a chance to live. Some of these newly freed settled in Indianapolis, then a town with population of 75,000. There was freedom but in the black community there was no public education, no health care, nor decent amenities. However, there was a beacon of light in the community called Allen Chapel AME Church. Allen Chapel AME Church, named after its founding bishop, Bishop Richard Allen, started out as a little mission church in a frame building surrounded by mud, water, and cornfields. Few, if any, of the founders could read or write. All were eager to learn.
In 1865, out of great need, they formed a Sunday School with the aid of Mr. and Mrs. William Hadley, Quakers and Mr. and Mrs. Adams. It was many years before the Sunday School had a Black leader. The first Black teacher was Mrs. Carolyn Stewart and the first Black superintendent was Mr. Morris Riddex. Students were grateful for the efforts of Alfred Harrison, Levi Ceresty and the Rev. Whitten Lankford.
Valuing their opportunity to worship, they mounted their wagons or walked through the muddy or dusty byways to the broader unpaved roads to their “Beloved Mission”. The Little Mission members lived on roads now known as Carrollton, Park, St. Clair, and College. Many people talked of a “Woods” which began at Eleventh Street and spread toward the north. In 1867, a tiny church was erected on the site where the building called “Old Allen Chapel” now stands at Broadway and Pomeroy Streets. The move from slavery, and two years later becoming a mission (1866), and in 1867 a station with a church nearly paid for and a membership of over 200 was quite a fete for that period of time.
Prior to having a place of worship, Mrs. Tabott, who lived in a frame house on the southeast corner of East and St. Clair Streets gave the eager worshipers the privilege of using her downstairs rooms. Furnishings of meager-bare floors, improvised benches, and faltering candles never deterred their enthusiasm and zeal for worship.
A small church was built on the corner of Broadway and Pomeroy Streets and remained there as Allen Chapel AME Church until 1926 when our present church was built on Broadway and East 11th Street. Allen Chapel was also the first day school for Blacks in the eastern part of the city. Dr. S.A. Elbert, a physician, taught this pay school. Each student paid $1.25 a month tuition.
Allen Chapel has a proud history of being productive and attract members who are willing to work and serve the Lord. With a heart of sacrifice, they made an impressive mark on the city of Indianapolis and the Indiana Annual Conference. Many members owned businesses, were educators, preachers and quite a few were musicians. Esteemed persons such as Mr. Beckwith (an attorney blessed to work with renowned Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall), Mrs. Jacobs (first African American female elected to School Board), and Ms. Poindexter (among first African American female police officers) were members of Allen Chapel AME Church. Local family names associated with the church include: Beckwith, Chowning, Elbert, Gore, Hardrick, Jacobs, Poindexter, Revels, and Stewart.
Among the charter members were Mrs. Kate Stewart, Mrs. Mildred King, Mrs. Delia Wilson, Mrs. Susan Pierce, Mrs. Mary Jane Jackson, Mr. Harrison Brown, Mr. Hiram Parks, Mr. Alex Wilson, Sr., Mrs. Beverly Carey, Mr. John Catmeikel, Mrs. Eliza Wilson, Mr. Robert Carter, Mr. Wesley Lewis, Mr. Jacob Smith, Mother Nelson, Mr. Oliver Wright, Mr. and Mrs. Noah Payton, Mr. Tucker Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. Crutchfield, Mr. Harrison Hill, Mr. Frank Beckwith, Mr. Gus Hill, Mr. Parker Warfield, Dr. S.A. Elbert, Mr. Willis Brown, Mr. Henry Cline, Mr. H. Huggins, and Mr. Richard Pierce.
Because of their dedication to Allen Chapel, our gratitude is extended to these faithful people. Many of these individuals worked diligently in the church until time of their death. In recent years, we have had several individuals who grew up in the church and achieved outstanding leadership roles in the community . To name a few: Dr. Ronald Boyd, Superintendent of Schools in Cleveland, Ohio and Englewood, California; Colonel Fred Davidson, Under Secretary of Army; Robert Williams, Vice President of a Division of Gillette; Yvonne Perkins, Vice President of a division of Citizen Energy; Major Robert Fox, Vice President of Student Services of Fresno City College.
In the last few years, we have seen a tremendous change in our neighborhood and surrounding area. As we go through the process of gentrification, we see old structures re-purposed or torn down and new housing taking shape. The cost to live in the area is skyrocketing. We have observed the racial composition change along with the income level. With all of these changes, we acknowledge our role to spreading Christ’s liberating gospel through word and deed. We must also be aware that as we go through many changes, we remain a viable entity serving the needs of the community.
Allen Chapel has been a rock in a weary land and a shelter in times of life’s storms. God’s efficacy has brought Allen Chapel’s ministry through segregation, bigotry, racism, sexism, recessions, depressions, several military conflicts and oppositions within the ministry. Individuals have sought and received God’s grace, mercy, love, covering, and forgiveness as well as salvation. At Allen Chapel, families have adopted each other in a Christian bond. Marriages have been performed, loved ones have gone on to glory, children have been educated and raised. Individuals have been baptized and nurtured into the Christian faith. Community associations and community outreach ministries have been formed blessing those in need. At one time, Allen Chapel had a very active credit union where one could borrow money or maintain a savings account. We had a basketball team that played throughout the city as well as a bowling league and scouting. The Bible Bowl, an annual youth competition based on knowledge of bible verses, started at Allen Chapel under the leadership of Pastor Leonard N. Williams. At one time, our choir was so dynamic that they were recording albums. We also had a Head Start site in the church.