Chillicothe Rallies to Save a Historic Church

The Bethel AME Church in Chillicothe found its own salvation, thanks to members of the Chillicothe community.

Pam Clingerman, curator of the Grand River Historical Society Museum, says the 1868 church was due to be torn down. It was the first African Methodist Episcopal church built north of the Missouri River after the Civil War, she says. She spoke to the property owner, Brent Kline of Woody’s Automotive Group. He offered to donate the church to the museum if they could move it to a new location.

Pam says the historical society paid more than $100,000 to move the structure onto a new basement near their museum. On September 18, the two-mile, two-hour move went smoothly … for the most part.

Before the move, workers discovered a beehive in one of the walls. “We had a beekeeper come and get all the bees out with the queen,” Pam says. But the hive regenerated and one of the movers was stung twice. The mover stayed on the job, and the bees moved with the building. They’re dormant now. “We will rescue them in the spring,” Pam says.

The church yielded another surprise: a time capsule hidden in the cornerstone of a 1924 basement addition. Among its contents were two pennies and a note from the pastor that said, “To the reader who finds and opens this box, be it known this was by the divine guidance of God. Many opposed it but God was for it.”

The Grand River Historical Society Museum is now trying to raise the estimated $83,000 to repair the ceiling, restore a painted mural of Jesus, and prepare the building to house a black history museum about the congregation. To donate, visit