Church Members Want to Know Who Stole Historical Marker at Bethel AME
Columbia Police Continue to Investigate
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO)- Church and community members are baffled after Columbia Police said an unknown suspect stole a historical marker in front of Bethel AME Church.
Reverend Dr. Caesar Richburg says the congregation does not know what to make of the situation. “We’re not quite sure what would lead an individual to remove such a historic piece that captures history. Bethel was founded back in 1866,” said Richburg.
Executive Director of the Renaissance Foundation Mary Skinner-Jones says initially, she thought someone may have moved the marker during ongoing renovations. “At first we thought, ‘maybe the city is doing some work and they had to take it down’ but they weren’t, so that’s when I filed the incident report and the police came down,” said Jones.
The state’s Historic Preservation Office says markers are rarely stolen. “The only other example that comes to mind is the marker for the lynching of Willie Earle which was erected in Greenville County in 2010. That was stolen pretty soon after it was put up. That is the only other marker that I can recall,” said Historical Marker Coordinator Dr. Ehren Foley.
Jones believes thieves may have targeted the church because of its history. “I think it was taken because of the significance of this church. When it was a church, it was a weigh station more or less. They had a lot of civil rights meetings here. Thurgood Marshall was here, you had students at Benedict and Allen. When they were protesting at that time, the members here would feed them,” said Jones.
If the marker is not recovered, The Historic Preservation Office says the marker would need to be repurchased. A CPD incident report list the value of the marker as $2,010.
Officers said they are working with local businesses in the area to find surveillance of the incident. If you have any information about the stolen marker, call Crimestoppers: 1-888- CRIME-SC.