Whatcoat ME Church

This church is one of the buildings attributed to Black mason, Abel Gibbs (later Abraham), a trusted associate of Harriet Tubman in Camden. Oral tradition suggests that this church may have been more than a place of worship, possibly serving as a place of rest for freedom seekers.

Religion played a significant role in the functioning of the Underground Railroad, whether as a source of hope and faith, a network of refuge and financial support, or as a collective voice opposing oppressive laws and plans. In addition to Quakers, Methodists were the most vociferous religious advocates for abolition. The Whatcoat ME Church was built on land purchased from Quaker, Thomas Mifflin in 1856 and dedicated on July 26, 1857. It was expanded twice and in 1967 Whatcoat sold the building and moved to a new location nearby. Since 1986, the historic church has been the home of Morningstar Institutional Church of God in Christ. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In an interview with Wilbur Siebert in 1897, Harriet Tubman mentioned Abel Gibbs as a trusted contact in Camden.  She may have encountered the Gibbs family at Gibb’s brickyard and office, or at his home in town. Members of this extensive family were known to have been involved in the Underground Railroad. Abraham Gibbs, son of Abel/Abraham, served in the 41st Regiment of the U.S. Colored Infantry, organized at Camp William Penn in September 1864. He was a private and a musician, and his service included witnessing General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. After he mustered out of the army from Texas, he returned home. He is buried in the Zion AME Church cemetery in Camden.

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