— East State Street —
By 1873, Bethel AME Church served three elements of the city's Black population; those free before the Civil War, those emancipated and placed in Bethel's care by the Freedman's Bureau; and immigrants fleeing the South's Jim Crow laws.
To shelter the diverse community, a grand new church was constructed on East State Street, current site of the Capitol Fountain. The building committee included Ephraim Slaughter, an African American who fought in the Civil War.
On inauguration Sunday, folks gathered from across the Commonwealth to participate in honoring the achievement. Only the Sunday school building was completed in time. Four services were conducted to accommodate all who convened.
By evening, the collection plates held $500.00, a major achievement at a time when tradesmen and day laborers made $1.50-$3.00 a day. Small coins accomplished great things.
However, the building committee was $9,000 short. This was a daunting sum until members John Polston and Ephraim Slaughter borrowed the money from Dickinson College of Carlisle. Still, it took until 1893 to retire the debt.
From the pulpit and pews of the East State Street building flowed an outpouring of leadership, stewardship and fellowship, as well as fierce advocacy for civil rights and public education. The church was indeed a fountain of support for its congregation and the Old 8th Ward it served.
(Inscription below the images at the bottom, left to right, top to bottom) *Above and right. Bethel AME on State Street, Harrisburg. *Above Left: Location of the Bethel AME Church, State Street, Harrisburg map, 1800. Above Right: Same location, current map. *February 19, 1878 William Howard Day is elected to the Harrisburg School Board of Directors, the first African American to hold an elected position in the city. *Ephraim Slaughter (1846-1943) Ephraim Slaughter was born a slave in North Carolina where he lived until his escape in 1863. He joined Company B of the 3rd N.C. Colored Infantry, also known as the 37th United States Colored Troops regiment. Slaughter moved to Harrisburg after the Civil War and married his wife Carrie in 1880. A member of Bethel AME, he joined the African-American Grand Army of the Republic, David Stevens Post 834. Slaughter died on February 176, 1943 and is buried in Lincoln Cemetery in Pembrook, Pennsylvania.