Mt Zion AME Church on Hollow Rd.

Land & Heritage: History of African Americans Preserved

Posted on January 17, 2020

Last summer, the Sourland Conservancy and Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM) purchased 1.5 acres on Hollow Road to add to the existing, restored Mt. Zion AME Church and property. They plan to develop a museum highlighting the African American history of the Sourlands, as well as an education and cultural center with program space, and administrative offices. This is a proud history and these groups are doing good work to preserve the story of the African American presence in the region.  It is something to reflect upon, especially as we celebrate Martin Luther King Day this weekend and Black History Month in February.  Catalysts were Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills, authors of the book, “If These Stones Could Talk.” (See A Proud Heritage: Montgomery Presentation, March, 2019.)

The above purchase was part of a larger land deal in which Montgomery Township partnered with Sourland Conservancy, SSAAM, and D&R Greenway to purchase eight acres from Georgia Whidden along the Rock Brook on Hollow Road and Camp Meeting Avenue.  The Township acquired 6.5 of these acres to provide increased access within Bessie Grover Park to Rock Brook for fishing, bird watching, and hiking, and also as a potential expanded area for parking. (See Montgomery purchases land to expand park, August, 2019 )


Bessie Grover Park was named for Montgomery resident Bessie Grover. Bessie was born in 1900. Her grandfather, Aaron Trueheart was an enslaved African American. She raised five children on Camp Meeting Road in Montgomery and fostered many others. Due her loving kindness to so many, she was known as “Mom.” She was a member of Mount Zion AME Church of Hollow Rd. for about 50 years. She was commended for bravery after her home was struck by lightning (~1978), when she heroically groped thru fire and smoke to save two of her great grandchildren’s lives. She has many descendants and family still living in the area. It is fitting that the park was named for Bessie Grover and dedicated to her memory.

D&R Greenway created a video to showcase this preservation project. Watch YouTube embed below, also now running on Montgomery’s Comcast Cable Channel 29:


Source: D & R Greenway Land