Jacob’s Chapel A.M.E. Church started as the Coleman Meeting House in what was then Evesham Township in Burlington County. The Church consists of the meeting house which can be traced back to 1813 and Jacob’s Chapel which was built in 1859. the Colemantown Meeting House and Jacob’s Chapel are located on Elbo Lane in Mt. laurel, New Jersey. In the early 19th century that was part of Evesham Township. Elbo lane was formerly known as Colemantown Road and was located in the village of Colemantown. Colemantown was named for John Coleman a well respected man of color.
Mr. Coleman was known to be a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Colemanown was very near the Quaker family population and many of he Black people worked on those farms. The Federal Census of 1830 shows that Evesham had the largest free black population in Burlington City and Mt. Holly, both which were major commerce areas.
The Colemantown Meeting House was also the first church in Burlington County to join Bishop Richard Allen’s newly formed African Methodist Episcopal Church. There is mention of the church in Bishop Daniel Paynes memoirs. He lists the church as a member of the conference in 1822 and it is credited with 42 members.
With such a large and growing settlement, the church elders knew they would need a larger place of worship. That effort was given large boost when a Quaker named Albhert Jacobs sold the church and land needed to built the church. That purchase took place in 1840. In gratitude the new church was named Jacob’s Chapel.
Jacob’s chapel was dedicated on September 26, 1859. Since this was well before the start of the Civil War and emancipation, the church contains a trap door in the vestibule which leads to a hiding space. This is not unusual for this area. Even though there was a large Quaker population here, there were many who would come into the area to kidnap families. Such a kidnapping occurred on the Gardiner Farm which was located on Mt. Laurel Road less that a mail from Jacob’s Chapel.
Less than a mile from Jacob’s Chapel. A free man named Johnson had his family kidnapped which he was working on the farm. Slave traders took his wife and three small children. When the kidnapping was discovered, friends of the family gathered the money needed to retrieve them. A young man named Haines posed as a slave dealer and caught up with the family at an action in Maryland. he was able to purchase the mother and baby first. He didn’t dare reveal to them he was a friend until they were headed across the Delaware Bay. He made another trip and bought one little girl, but was too late to save the third girl. She was sold at auction.
Jacob’s chapel also has a cemetery directly behind it. This was known for many years as the Colemantown Negro Cemetery. It is the final resting place for several veterans of the Civil War. It is also the final resting place for James Still, the renowned Black Doctor of the Pines. Accounts of Dr. Still’s remarkable healing powers are still told today. He was a long time member of Jacob’s Chapel and the older brother of Abolitionist William Still.
(SOURCE: HELENA E. ROBINSON, VP HISTORICAL COMMETTE, JACOB’S CHAPEL AME CHURCH, 2004)