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They had no church of their own and attended services at St. They were not permitted to sit in the pews and were segregated to the balcony seats in the rafters.
Some of them were free; even though Maryland was a slave state, many plantation owners freed their slaves long before the state outlawed slavery after the Civil War.More than 200 people packed into the sanctuary for the service. Many of the families who trace their roots to the founding of the church still attend services there, even though many no longer live in southern York County and have to drive half an hour or more to get to church.They are committed to their church, and to the history, the history of their families, that it represents.Many of the African-Americans settled in southern York County, working as tenant farmers or sharecroppers for the owners of the large farms in the area.It was a way of life, and work, that they knew, many coming from the tobacco, tomato and bean fields of Maryland's Eastern Shore. The one thing that helped them get through tough times was their faith.One of them, John Wilson, was among the African-American militiamen who burned down the Wrightsville-Columbia bridge to prevent the Confederates from crossing the Susquehanna.
Eighteen Civil War veterans are buried in the church cemetery. By the 1940s, the old church was showing some wear and the congregation had outgrown it.They met with Wiley and told him about their desire to establish their own church.Wiley was fairly progressive, and as a Christian, he felt obliged to help the men and women he considered neighbors and brothers and sisters in Christ worship as they saw fit.They were a talented group, having worked in farming and some having their own construction businesses. The congregation stayed together and worshipped at Small Memorial AME Zion in York. The water damage was extensive, and black mold had spread from the basement into the walls of the sanctuary. A year ago, Pastor Carter was assigned to the church.Carter, a Navy veteran who survived the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000, rallied the congregation around the motto, "Let's build something together." The church was rededicated in October.Pastor Marlon Carter walked through the cemetery at Fawn AME Zion Church, gazing at the markers. The small church cemetery has markers dating to the middle of the 19th century. There are stones marking the graves of the 18 Civil War veterans who belonged to the church.