Large areas of the northern and western parts of the state were unsettled or thinly populated in 1800. By the time of the Civil War, with the exception of the northern tier counties, population was scattered throughout the state. There was increased urbanization, although rural life remained strong and agriculture involved large numbers of people. The immigrant tide continued alter the Civil War and brought about a remarkable change in the composition of the population. While most of the state’s pre-1861 population was composed of ethnic groups from northern Europe such as the English, Irish, Scotch-Irish and Germans, the later period brought increased numbers of Slavic, Italian, Finn, Scandinavian, and Jewish immigrants.
Although not specific to Cheltenham Township a review of the official census records for Montgomery County http://www.montcopa.org/montco/map.htm reflect the presence and numbers of African Americans in the area.
The number of Colored males and females are not reflected in the data retrieved from the Census of 1860. The increase population growth of this group in Pennsylvania and in Montgomery County is seen in the post Civil War Census of 1870.
Prior to the Civil War, there were reportedly four schools serving the township – Milltown, Middle (at Shoemakertown), Upper or Cheltenham Valley, and the Williams School. The Williams School, although serving the township was actually located in Philadelphia. The next school addition in the township was built and maintained in La Mott by Edward M. Davis (Mrs. Mott’s son-in-law) as an “extra incentive” to encourage the purchasing of homes in this section of the township. When the population of this community, then known as Camptown, increased rapidly, the Cheltenham School District rented this two-room schoolhouse in 1868 on what is now School Lane for $7.50 a month. In 1870 the School District purchased the property. It was not long after that it was realized that this schoolhouse was inadequate and ground was purchased at Willow and Sycamore Avenues for a new school. The new school, The La Mott Grammar School was completed in November 1879. It was later enlarged to five rooms and an annex.
The school closed down in 1940 and a year later the building became the La Mott Community Center. The Center is open and operating on a full-time schedule at this time.
Cheltenham’s original settlers who came to this country, and this area, seeking religious freedom also associated education with that freedom, a tradition that has continued to this day when there are a number of religious affiliated schools in the township.
The early religious services were held by the Quakers at Richard Wall’s house from 1683 until 1702. In 1816 the Milltown Meeting, later called, First Cheltenham Episcopal Church, had its beginning, when the preaching service was held on the grounds of the Milltown School. The School after having been renamed in 1883, is now the home of the Cheltenham Art Center.
In 1861, the third religious group to build a church in the area did so on ground purchased by Philadelphia financier Jay Cooke. The Cooke family, were members of the St. Paul’s Church in Philadelphia and the 18-mile round trip from their Cheltenham farmhouse to the city every Sunday became difficult. Cooke and other landowners purchased farmland on Old York Road and began to lay plans to build a church there, called St. Paul’s after the mother church in Philadelphia. The new church was consecrated on May16, 1861.
The next church to be established in Cheltenham did not come into being until well after the Civil War in the year 1888.
On Sunday, March 5, 2000 an Interfaith Service was held to commemorate the centennial of Cheltenham as a First Class Township in Pennsylvania. The very first meeting of the Cheltenham Township Board of Commissioners was held exactly on that date in 1900. At that service thirty-three Congregations and Faiths, representing in chronological order their settlement in the township, participated in the program. The following is quoted from the history of the La Mott African Methodist Episcopal Church as published for the Interfaith Service.
“LaMott A.M.E. started as an outgrowth of efforts to bring Sunday School instructions to the area. The desire to worship was recognized by a good friend. The Sunday School became an A.M.E. Sunday School through the skillfulness of Emanuel Johnson, president of the town. The members desired something more spiritual so they began prayer meetings from house to house until the thought came to them to build a house of the Lord.
A gift of land was given to them by Lucretia Mott, the person for whom the town is named. In 1888 they built a beautiful frame structure for the service of God.
The congregation outgrew the building. On April 6, 1911, they began work on a new church and on April 30, 1911, they had their corner stone laying. During the twenty-five years since the dedication in 1936, the congregation has grown. The families supporting the church were cooperative and an energetic group. The sanctuary has a seating capacity of 250 people.
Mrs. Aileen Mallery granddaughter of Mr. Emanuel Johnson one of the founders of the church, continues her membership in LaMott A.M.E. Church. There have been a total of thirty-one pastors. Rev. Dr. Louis P. Attles is the present pastor. (www.lamottamec.org)
Many improvements have been completed. In Sept. 1979 a Children’s Nursery was started in the church under the direction of Mrs. Evelyn Slade. Mrs. Slade was there from 1983-1987. Mrs. Vermella Smalls continued on from 1983-1987.The Children’s Center is still moving under the direction of Mr. & Mrs. David Goodman. The Children’s Center is now located in its own building on School Lane. We are praising God for how far we have come in the service of the Lord.
There have been significant growth and development including donations in memory of loved ones, stained glass windows, pulpit and alter ware, chimes for the organ and chimes that play for the community. Under the pastoring of Rev. Banks the church has purchased five properties for continuing expansion. The exterior of the church is identified by a large cross. This is the house where the Lord resides.
The LaMott A.M.E. Church is located at 1505 W. Cheltenham Avenue. LaMott, PA 19027