Middletown Heritage Trail Site 13
Cross Street (by Freeman Athletic Center)
This church originated in 1823 in the home of Asa Jeffrey on this spot. A true church building was not erected until 1830 under the leadership of Jeheil Beman. Beman, the son of a Revolutionary War soldier and the son of slaves, led the congregation in the anti-slavery cause. The church became known as the Freedom Church for its abolitionist activity. Notably, Beman wrote to Frederick Douglas that the Underground Railroad was “in good repair” here and that they would continue helping slaves flee north to Canada “day or night.”
Women of the church, under the leadership of Clarissa Beman, created one of the first women’s abolitionist societies, known as the Colored Female Anti-Slavery Society of Middletown. Its goal was not only to bring an end to slavery, but also to improve the condition of free African Americans. The church was rebuilt in 1867, was moved about a quarter mile in the 1920s.
The church continued to be a community leader during the Civil Rights movement of the late 1950s and 60s. The congregation participated in protest marches and was witness to numerous visits and speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1965, to help black students go to college Reverend William Davage founded the Greater Middletown Negro Youth Scholarship Fund.
This is also part of the Underground Railroad Trail