Mount Gilboa Chapel
Mount Gilboa African Methodist Episcopal Chapel
According to Baltimore County historian, Louis S. Diggs, Baltimore County has 31 historically African American churches, both active and inactive, of which Mount Gilboa African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest. The famous black historic church is located on the west side of Westchester Avenue, just north of Oella Avenue in Baltimore County, Maryland. According to the article “Mount Gilboa of Oella,” this area is known for historic segregation of its white and black residents: “This is the African American part of Oella…. We weren’t allowed in the section of Oella down the road where the white people mostly lived.” The church served as a place of gathering and worship for the African Americans in Oella. The children were not allowed to go to school in certain areas of Oella, but the residents close to the Mount Gilboa church found a safe place to gather and educate their children.
James Aquilla Scott founded the Mount Gilboa Chapel, which was designated on the old map as "The House of Worship for Colored People." Prior to the inception of Mount Gilboa Church in 1859, the land originally belonged to the Williams Estate. According to Steven X. Lee, Mary Williams gifted the parcel of land to enslaved members of the community as a place of worship in 1786, and a log church was built in 1799. The sanctuary has served the same community of black families ever since the 18th century. Lee believes Benjamin Banneker was among the church’s founding members. Located near Banneker’s farm, Mount Gilboa Chapel is likely located at the site where Banneker worshipped and attended school. Lorraine Mirabella, in her article, “Oella's Historic Mount Gilboa AME Church Celebrates Special Anniversary,” wrote that Banneker and his family worshipped in this log chapel originally called the African Meeting House or Slave Meeting House. Rev. Dr. Anita J. Gould describes the church as not just a museum but a place of stability and worship for the community.
After the log church burned down, the stone building of today was built by black people in 1859 to replace the earlier log building and was named after the black community of sixteen to seventeen African American families. According to Mirabella, during the bicentennial ceremony in 1977, a state monument of an obelisk was erected on the Church burial grounds near Banneker’s unmarked grave. According to Maryland's National Register Property, Mount Gilboa Chapel is the remarkable achievement of the free black people who built a sizable stone church of about the same size and quality as the houses of worship utilized by other small congregations in Baltimore County’s white community. Mount Gilboa AME Church serves as a beacon of togetherness and endurance to the locals of Catonsville, Maryland.