By Cherri Gregg
MT. LAUREL, NJ (CBS)–Jacobs Chapel used to be a stop on the Underground Railroad and was at the center of a thriving Black community in South Jersey called “Colemantown” and now the church is opening its doors today to uncover nearly 200 years of history.
Tucked neatly on Elbo Lane in Mount Laurel, the one room Jacob’s Chapel sits just a few hundred feet away from the Colemantown Meeting House and the chapel cemetery.
The property was owned by the Still Family, prominent free African Americans who secretly helped slaves escape to freedom. In fact, Harriet Tubman was a conductor that worked with the Stills.
“This is one of the stops that would house the people when they got here. They’d clothe them, they would integrate into the community,” says Terrell Person, pastor at Jacob’s Chapel and also the great-great grandson of Dr. James Still.
He runs the Jacobs Chapel Colemantown Foundation and says the chapel and meeting house will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today for re-enactments, tours and a whole lot more.
“We’ll have African dancers, give a skit and then we’ll preach a sermon, ‘If These Stones Could Talk.’ They’ll be transferred back into the 1800s. They’ll get on the bus and see a live story of this great history.”
Person says time and termites have taken their toll on the meeting house, so they are working to raise money to restore the facility.
“We are looking to preserve the meeting house, but we also are looking forward to the future,” says Person, “We want to build a community center and then put these buildings into a museum so that we can preserve it for this congregation and the community.”
The Jacob’s Chapel Living History Family Fun Day is free, but there will be nominal fees for food and face painting. For more info, go to www.colemantownfoundation.org.