The Beech Church (Carthage)

Carthage Indiana, and Rush County feature some of Indiana’s earliest and largest Black settlements. Black settlers of the Beech Settlement accompanied Quaker Friends, coming from North Carolina. The Mount Pleasant Beech Church has served as a parent for many of the AME churches of Indiana, while also promoting education in a state which barred Blacks from public education. The ‘Blue River’ Congregation remains one of the oldest African Methodist Episcopal (AME) congregations in Indiana, with some claiming that the actual founding date was closer to 1828.

The Blue River Congregation of Rush County goes back to 1832 when the early congregants resolved to adopt the AME Church as their denomination. Early leaders included Bishop Morris Brown and Rev. William Paul Quinn. The Blue River Church initially met in a log meeting house but replaced it with a frame building in 1838. From 1840-45, the Blue River Congregation is recorded as having around 102 members. The adjacent gravesite served as the resting place for Black residents of Rush County until the early 20th century.

Blue River was the site of ‘The Indiana Conference’ on October 2nd, 1840. The Indiana Conference organized the disparate congregations into one central body. Morris Brown presided over the meeting, placing William Paul Quinn in charge of the Indiana Circuit. The conference recorded forty-five AME congregations in Indiana. Indiana was the sixth AME conference founded and the fifth founded in the United States.

Blue River is a simple, single-room, gable-front, wood-frame building. The siding is meant to resemble a Greek-revival setting. The original 1838 building still stands. Since 1914, descendants of the Beech Settlement return to Blue River every August. Blue River remains one of the few sites associated with the rural African American community of Indiana. The site has also been referred to as ‘The Beech Church’ and ‘Point Pleasant’. The Beech Church has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 2018.