West Camden & Zion AME Church

One important reason that the Camden area was such an influential Underground Railroad stop were the numerous free Black communities, including Star Hill to the east, Brinkley Hill to the north and an area west of Camden. The successor sanctuary of Zion AME Church survives here, as does the associated cemetery.

Zion AME Church  was the only independent African Methodist Church in the Camden area when it was organized in 1845. It was connected with the descendants of Absalom Gibbs, the patriarch of a large family and a mason who accumulated a substantial estate by his death ca. 1840.  His son, Abel Gibbs, also a mason by trade, changed his name to Abraham soon after the Civil War. This was the confidant referred to by Harriet Tubman in her 1897 interview with Professor Wilbur Siebert, where she recalled Gibbs as one of her helpers in Camden. 

Abraham’s son, also Abraham, was a musician and a private in the 41st Regiment of the United States Colored Infantry, organized at Camp William Penn in September 1864. This regiment was present at Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865. Private Gibbs mustered out in Texas following the war, and returned home. He is buried in a marked grave in Zion AME cemetery.  Another USCT veteran, Private Caleb Fisher, is buried here as well.

The present church sanctuary was built in 1889.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

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