The public is invited to attend the Third Annual Historic Camp Meeting Revival on September 29, 2018 at 11am-2pm in Skillman Park (across Route 601 from the Montgomery High Schoolin Skillman, NJ) featuring the Capital City Gospel Singers and special guest, Bertha Morgan. Popular speaker and East Amwell Historian, Jim Davidson, will also present a history of the African-American community in the Sourland region.
Bring friends, family, blanket or chair, beach umbrella and picnic lunch. Wear your Sunday best or come as you are – all are welcome!Tickets are on sale now: $25 Adult ($30 at the gate); $10 Children 7-12; Children under 7, free. Proceeds benefit the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM): the first African-American museum in central New Jersey. To purchase tickets, visit www.sourland.org/2018-camp-meeting-revival. Event proceeds will benefit The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM).
A delicious picnic lunch prepared by Chef Shaun Palms will be available for purchase while supplies last ($12 cash or check only): Bourbon BBQ Pulled Pork or Chicken Wings, Cole Slaw, Maple Vegetarian Baked Beans, Roll and Sweet Tea or Lemonade. For dessert ($5): Homemade Personal Sweet Potato Pie or Old-Fashioned Pound Cake slices.
The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum will be housed in the charming one-room Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church on Hollow Road – one of the most historic buildings in the Sourlands. Constructed sometime before 1850 on Zion Road near Province Line on Sourland Mountain, the AME Church served the black population of the East Mountain area. When the peach blight at the turn of the century took away their livelihoods, members of the church moved to Skillman at the base of the mountain. They brought their church with them, disassembling the structure and rebuilding it where it stands today. The congregation worshipped in that location for decades before it eventually stopped holding regular services. The church officially closed in 2005.
The building quickly fell into disrepair, so the Sourland Conservancy conducted a special fundraising drive to repair and paint the church and completed the work in March 2012. The Montgomery Township Landmarks Commission provided a grant to help pay for the materials needed for that project.
Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills, Stoutsburg Cemetery Association board members, have long dreamed of creating a museum to highlight the important untold story of African Americans in the Sourland region.Their book, “If these Stones Could Talk,” is scheduled for release this November. In it, they tell the whole story about New Jersey history and celebrate their ancestors and other African-Americans in New Jersey, previously missing from the historical record.
“The story of the African-American experience in the Sourlands and Hopewell Valley has been grossly under represented: the past contributions of the African American slaves and free people in this region including military service, beginning with the Revolutionary War up to the present. This was a community of people who thrived against startling odds and their history is rich with compelling stories,” said Mills.
The Stoutsburg Cemetery Association and the Sourland Conservancy have teamed up to make the museum dream a reality. The Sourland Conservancy’s mission is to protect, promote and preserve the unique character of the Sourland region.“We accomplish our mission through education and advocacy,” said Caroline Katmann, Sourland Conservancy’s Executive Director. “The museum has already begun to host programs.The board of trustees is planning events and demonstrations to highlight the important contributions of African Americans to the history and culture of this region. We are currently working with Hopewell Valley Regional School District to enhance the existing social studies curriculum by integrating many of the stories and facts uncovered by Elaine and Beverly’s research into African American history in the Sourlands and Hopewell Valley. School and community groups will have educational, cultural, and community-building experiences. The identity and special character of the Sourland region will be enriched and expanded to include the African-American story.”
Two exciting annual fundraising events – the Gospel Brunch in February and the Historic Camp Meeting Revival – help to fund the creation of the museum as well as provide participants with project updates, information and entertainment. Donations from members, contractors and volunteers have helped to lay the groundwork for the project.
Grant awards from the Somerset County Historic Preservation Office and the NJ Council for the Humanities fund curriculum writing, the development of educational and cultural programs, the creation of museum exhibits and historic preservation work on the historic AME Church. These funds also support the vision planning workshops that were held develop mission and vision statements for the museum as well as a plan of action for the museum exhibits and programs.
SSAAM’s mission is to tell the story of the unique culture, experiences and contributions of the African-American community in the Sourland Mountain region. The museum board is working now to oversee the careful renovation and conversion of the building. The board consists of members from various background who bring their expertise to the project: John Buck, Marylou Millard Ferrara, Jack Koeppel, Bruce Daniels, Kevin Burkman, Jonathan Lloyd, Edwin Lloyd, Catherine Fulmer-Hogan. Ms. Mills, Ms. Buck and Ms. Katmann serve as Museum advisory board members. “We see this project as more than an African-American History project – we see it as an American History Project,” said Museum Board President, John Buck.
For more information, follow the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum’s Facebook page, or visit www.ssaamuseum.org.