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Looking up Tanner's Alley from South Street. Crouched in the distance is a boy playing marbles. Before the Civil War, runaway slaves hid here using "stations" on the Underground Railroad. The church at left is the Wesley Union African Methodist Zion Episcopal Church. ( See also Photo #7, Photo #101, and Photo #104) .

Photo: Historical Society of Dauphin County

The Wesley Union African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

The Wesley Union AME Zion Church had the longest continuous history of any church within the Old 8th Ward. Although the church's history really began in 1816, this location at the corner of South Street and Tanners Alley dated to November 1839. The prominent abolitionists, Frederick Douglas and William Lloyd Garrison, spoke at the church before the Civil War, and black residents living in Tanners Alley assisted runaway slaves using the Underground Railroad during this time.

In 1862, a new church building was erected at the same location and was remodeled in 1886. In 1890, the Rev. Professor William Howard Day, the first black president of the Harrisburg School District, served as pastor to the church. The structure in the picture dated to 1894 and was erected under the direction of Rev. John F. Moreland.

(Summarized from an article written by J. Howard Wert for the Harrisburg Patriot newspaper on December 23, 1912, and reprinted in Harrisburg's Old Eighth Ward, edited by Michael Barton and Jessica Dorman, (Charleston: Arcadia, 2002), 36-39.)

 

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