Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

David B. Landon

Second Advisor

John M. Steinberg

Third Advisor

Stephen A. Mrozowski


The Mount Gilead AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church, perched on a mountain in Buckingham, Pennsylvania, has been a focal point of African American heritage in the area for over a hundred and seventy-five years. Though the second church building, dated to 1852, is still standing with its cemetery beside it, very little about its history has been thoroughly explored. Oral histories link the church with the Underground Railroad, a highly clandestine operation--yet the church itself was built of stone and advertised its location during the height of the movement of self-emancipated people out of the South. While it is said that this rural church community was made up of a hundred families who settled across the hillside, the cemetery itself only has 243 currently marked graves. The antebellum church hosted hundreds of people, black and white, at events held within walking distance of the rumored hideouts of those on the run from slavery. In order to determine the extent of this seemingly paradoxical relationship between secrecy and prominence, and to achieve a fuller understanding of the community during the 19th century, the church's history is approached from several angles simultaneously. The cemetery itself is identified as a critical location where much can be learned about the composition, achievements, and struggles of the community. Combining archival research (primarily in the US Census, newspapers, and farm account books) with geographic information systems (GIS) and ground-penetrating radar (GPR), a sense of the size, occupations, and personal histories of the community are achieved, yielding a composite view of the general church population and its history between the 1820s and 1900.