Bethlehem and Frazier’s Neck
First Black Churches and Congregations in the Choptank River Heritage Area
Other Names: Bath and Fory’s Neck (from the journal of Mrs. Lee)
First Documented: 1824
Structure Exists? No
- 1875 Isler Map of Caroline County
- 1897 Saulsbury Map of Caroline County
- Denton Journal
- Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee
- Bishop A.W. Wayman, Cyclopædia of African Methodism
- Bishop A.W. Wayman, Recollections
Mrs. Jarena Lee, the A.M.E Church’s first black woman preacher, wrote in her journal:
June 10th, 1824. Left Eastern Shore [Easton] for a journey to Bath, and went around the circuit with brother J. B., the elder. In the Old Methodist Church at Fory’s Neck, I had the privilege of speaking to a large congregation, which was made the power of God unto salvation.
Like many 19th century diaries, Mrs. Lee’s journal contains many references to people and places which she spelled or named in unconventional ways. Where are the place she referred to as “Bath” and “Fory’s Neck”? Who was “J.B. the elder”.
A.M.E. Church records identify “J.B. the elder” (whom Mrs. Lee also refers to as “Brother Bailey”) as Rev. Jeremiah Beulah, who was assigned to “Easton Circuit” of the A.M.E. Church in the 1820s. Mrs. Lee was probably describing a trip of several days, led by Rev. Beulah, during which visited Black congregations on the Mid-Shore. They travelled from Easton about eight miles east, crossing the Choptank River at Dover Ferry, and continuing to Bethlehem (Mrs. Lee recalled it as “Bath”) in Caroline County. After visiting and preaching in this area east of the Choptank known as Frazier’s Neck (Mrs. Lee recalled it as “Fory’s Neck”), she continued east into Delaware to visit family and friends in Lewes.
During her travels as an itinerant preacher on the Eastern Shore in the spring and summer of 1824, Mrs. Lee received many invitations to preach to segregated white Methodist churches. She wrote of these churches in her journal as the “Old Methodist church” or “Old Methodist connexion”. The white Methodist church where she preached on the occasion was probably the same which appears at the main crossroads in Bethlehem in the 1875 map of Caroline County.
is probably Frazier’s Neck, which is mentioned often in historical sources as a stopover for white itinerant preachers, including the renowned Rev. Francis Asbury in the 17__s.
Frazier Neck part of the “Old Methodist connexion”
Capt. William Frazier came from Talbot, and was a militia officer of the Revolution. He figured largely in Caroline affairs after taking up his residence east of the Choptank; was a justice of the Caroline County Court for some years prior to 1790; long in the commission the peace, and died in 1808. He was a leader in organizing Methodist societies in lower Caroline, and the second house of Methodist worship in the county was “Frazier’s Chapel,” said by Capt. Charles W. Wright to have been located on the site of the town of Preston, and to be been the forerunner of Bethesda congregation, out of which grew Preston M. E. Church. The Bethesda records are continuous from 1707.
An intimate friend of Francis Asbury, the greatest of Methodist itinerants in his journeyings along the Atlantic seaboard was often the guest of Captain Frazier. “Dover Ferry,” across the Choptank, named from the old town of “Dover” on the Talbot side, joined the road from Easton with that leading from the eastern Choptank bank to lower Delaware, and this road ran across the front of the Frazier plantation, the house standing a mile from the entrance gate. Dover Bridge is some distance above the old ferry. Jesse Lee, traveling with Asbury in May, 1809, from Easton, over “Dover Ferry,” speaks of their spending the night at William Frazier’s:
“This place was once a home for me when I rode this circuit, almost fourteen years ago. I was truly thankful to the Lord for bringing me here once more.”
Asbury’s journal of the same date says “We held meeting in [Frazier’s] dwelling house,” and further records:
The area between Frazier Neck and Linchester Mill (before Preston) grew into strong network of Black churches and schools in the decades after Mrs. Lee’s mission. Free blacks and Quakers. Dover Road school, Marsh Creek School. Later AME and other black churches. (Map and point to all these.)