Visit Galesburg, Illinois
Allen Chapel AME Church
When Galesburg was settled in 1837, it was described as “a west-central Illinois town known for the Swedish immigrants and handful of Negro residents.” Galesburg was also a railroad town--important for two types of railroads--the steam locomotive industry and the under-ground railroad.
Less than fifteen years after Galesburg was settled, a Negro woman by the name of Susan Van Allen Richardson, learned of an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church Conference being held in Chicago. She had come to Galesburg a runaway slave in 1842, was welcomed and protected while collaborating with local abolitionists and Knox College faculty. She held prayer meetings in her home, and then expanded her vision to bringing an AME Church to Galesburg. She sold her only hog to raise the money for a train ticket to Chicago; then organized Allen Chapel AME Church in her home in May 1853. The church is named after the denomination’s founder and first AME Bishop, Richard Allen (1816, Philadelphia, PA).
While Knox College prepared for the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas Debate, the congregation of Allen Chapel purchased property for $400.00 to build the first church building. This wooden structure was destroyed by fire in the 1870s as was the replacement, but the faithfulness of Rev. Charles S. Jacobs rebuilt a church that stood until 1911. Under the leadership of Rev. Timothy Tyler, the church was then remodeled in brick.
Allen Chapel, one of Galesburg’s oldest churches, has a dynamic history, and we are blessed that detailed records covering over 160 years are being held in Seymour Library of Knox College, and the Galesburg Public Library. Allen Chapel’s established interactions with the wider Galesburg community--social welfare, education, politics--consistently follows our AME Mission: to minister to the social, spiritual, and physical development of all people.