Group forms to save Oakley Chapel

Historic black church served Tebbetts area for 135 years

Oakley Chapel AME, a 135-year-old church north of Tebbetts, stands with serious damage to the roof, walls, foundation and other fixtures of the church and its grounds. Concerned “Friends of Oakley Chapel” have met to restore the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Oakley Chapel AME, a 135-year-old church north of Tebbetts, stands with serious damage to the roof, walls, foundation and other fixtures of the church and its grounds. Concerned “Friends of Oakley Chapel” have met to restore the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Dean Asher.

— More than a century of community history is crumbling, and a group of about 25 concerned community members met Saturday in the Tebbetts Community Hall to help repair it.

The Oakley Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historically black church located at County Roads 485 and 486, is in dire need of repair. Though congregations only stopped meeting regularly two years ago, the church served the community since its charter in 1878.

Efforts to rebuild the church were charged when two of the few remaining members, Doris Handy of Fulton and Nina Woodson-Falls of Independence, spoke to discuss ways to return attention to the church.

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Local architect George Hord said years of shingles piled atop one another were deteriorating, putting excess weight on the roof and posing a risk of leaks. The concrete foundation was also cracked in places and nonexistent in others — the back end of the building was supported on stones.

Additionally, window frames need replacing, gravestones in the church’s historic cemetery require repair and the cistern needs to be cleared of brush and filled.

“The first thing we need to get is the roof, but the foundation has got to be stabilized and jacked up,” Hord said.

He noted they hoped to find shingles and concrete at wholesale prices and have most of the labor donated, but when adding additional smaller repairs “it wouldn’t be too surprising if we got up to $10,000.”

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