Our History

 

Byrd's African Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1894 to function as a convenient, spiritual dwelling for the increasing African American population, which had to walk several miles to Mt. Friendship AME Church. Mt. Friendship was considered the "home church." The African American community, mostly consisting of railroad workers, generally walked the Kenton Road to Mt. Friendship rather than through Smyrna to Bethel AME Church. According to a member, the late Lillian Ross Faust (born 1892), many of Byrd's first members have been buried in Mt. Friendship's cemetery. Originally, the church bore the name of Clayton AME Church. The church's name was changed to Byrd's AME Chapel to recognize Reverend Elijah Byrd, who was appointed to the church on May 27, 1895. Reverend Byrd paid the debt of $300 to prevent the church from being sold in two weeks. Many of the earlier records for Byrd's have been lost; however, the land upon which the church was built was purchased on July 13, 1894, from Willis C. Dickerson and wife, Maggie C. Dickerson of the town of Westover, Somerset County, MD. The trustees John H. Murray and others (unnamed) purchased the site for $100. 

 

On August 28, 1901, Byrd's AME Chapel, along with its sister church, Mt. Friendship, purchased five acres of land from John P. Hudson as a camp meeting site. With the meeting ground, the two churches were able to hold annual ten-day tent meetings that raised money for both churches, and also provided an inspiring retreat for members and friends. The campsite was later sold. On December 17, 1907, Byrd's AME Church bought the property which is now West Street, Clayton, DE for $110 for a parsonage.

 

On June 10, 1918, the church was incorporated and became Byrd's African Methodist Episcopal Church. In the late 1950's to early 1960's, the church expanded to include the section that now serves as the kitchen, dining hall, pastor's office, multipurpose office, and restrooms. Byrd's AME Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 19, 1982.

 

On December 17, 1992, Byrd's purchased the entire strip of land beside the church, from one end of the parking chain to the other. This land was purchased from Edith L. Brown, formerly known as Edith Loretta Tracy, for the sum of $3,000. Edith and her husband, Clarence Tracy, purchased that area from Real Estate Services, Inc., a Delaware Corporation of April 26, 1968.

 

In December 1998, the church experienced a fire. Although damage was done, the church withstood the fire. Presently, Byrd's AME Church continues to be a strong place of praise and worship, celebrating 123 years of providing spiritual guidance and inspiration to those in the Clayton community and beyond.

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