Originally known as Camptown, the village of LaMott lies in Cheltenham Township, right on the border of Philadelphia. The name Camptown came from Camp William Penn, the first federal camp to train African-American troops during the Civil War. The camp was on land owned by Edward M. Davis which he leased to the federal government. He was the son-in-law of Lucretia Mott, one of Montgomery County’s most famous residents. She was a Quaker minister, women’s rights advocate, and abolitionist who also lived in Camptown from 1857 until her death in 1880.
After the Civil War, Davis developed the land into the community Camptown, seilling land to both newly freed African-Americans and Irish immigrants. William Butcher, who worked for Davis as a farmer, was the first black man live in the area, on the street that was eventually known as Butcher Street.
George Henry was the first black man to purchase a home in what would become La Mott, buying land in 1868. The area’s name was changed to La Mott, in 1888 when the post office opened (there was already a Camptown, Pa.). Lucretia Mott had died in 1880, and the post office was named in her honor.
In our collection at the Historical Society, we have a 75th anniversary book of the LaMott A. M. E. Church (1963). According to the booklet the church goes back to a Sunday school started in the Butcher house, which was eventually associated with the Campbell AME Church in Frankford, Philadelphia. Six members of the Sunday school organized to build the first church for $1500 in 1888. The original six congregants were William and Hester Butcher, Emanuel and Jennie Johnson, and Abbie and George Washington. The first pastor was Rev. W. H. Hoxter.
Rev. H. D. Brown from the 75th anniversary book
Rev. H. D. Brown oversaw the building of the current church in 1911. Under his guidance the congregation grew and fundraising efforts were very successful.
The 1963 anniversary book shows off some of the church’s various ministries such as choirs, Sunday school, and missionary societies. Many of these ministries continue at the church today which remains a vibrant part of the village of LaMott.
By Michael Green
This cemetery in the King of Prussia area contains not only the burial remains of the Roberts family members but also some 190 departed souls from the Mount Zion AME Church in Norristown, Pennsylvania. The burial ground was established by Jonathan Roberts, a United States Senator early in the nineteenth century. He died in 1854 and was buried there. Senator Roberts made provision for the indigent to be buried in the area surrounding the central family plot. It is in this context that we embark on the journey of those of Mount Zion who were buried or reburied in this cemetery.
The journey those Mount Zion parishioners was a long one beginning in 1832 from the early days of the founding of the church. According to the “History of Mt. Zion Church Anniversary Booklet” the church was organized by Mr. and Mrs. John Lewis. The church parishioners were reportedly “runaway slaves” who liberated themselves from the South and migrated to the Norristown area by way of the Underground Railroad.
These early church pioneers established their first building at Airy and Walnut Streets in a dwelling house in 1832. This period of self-determination of reportedly interrupted by slave owners arriving to abduct escaped bondsman and use the legal system to force their return South. As the story goes, two escaped slaves were to be transported South after capture. However, the local black residents and two white citizens protested. The latter paid the enslavers $600 and $300 respectively and successfully procured the men’s freedom. According to the church record, it was during this disruptive time for the Norristown community that a number of the church members fled Norristown to Spring Mill, some even leaving for Canada. Members John and James Lewis held meetings and services in their residences in Spring Mill, near Conshohocken during this time.
In 1845, the church members regrouped in Norristown, purchased land, and built a one story church on Lafayette Street between Chain and Pearl. It was from this location 190 burials were reinterred at the Roberts Cemetery after the property was sold. The church moved in 1853 to Basin Street and again in 1915 to its current location on Willow Street. To this day this edifice exists at the same location.
Once the church congregation moved and with restrictions on where blacks could be buried, the bodies at Mount Zion Cemetery were removed and reinterred at the Roberts Burial Ground in the 1870’s. It should be noted that a number of black Civil War veterans were buried there as late as 1894. Moreover there were many Civil War veterans who were active members of Mount Zion.
In closing, the journey of those interred at Red Hill Cemetery is truly a remarkable one. The story of the Mount Zion Church is crowned by many achievers and achievements to advance voting rights in the 1870’s, Civil Rights in the 1880’s led by Pastor Amos Wilson, as well as improvements in education and the health and welfare of citizens. Not to be forgotten in this story is the commitment to humanity exhibited by the Roberts family whose leader years ago dedicated his land to the benefit of all.