Black History in Maryland, Washington County and Hagerstown
“From Slavery to Success”
Prepared by Brothers Who Care
1634 First blacks arrived in Maryland to work on a plantation that employed slave labor.
1660 African slavery was legalized in Maryland.
1755 about one third of Maryland’s population was derived from Africa. Deadly diseases, for which newly arrived Africans had little resistance, killed them at murderous rates. Violence, isolation, exhaustion and alienation led African slaves to profound depression and occasionally to self-destruction.
1740 African slaves adjusted into African American slave communities. Immunities built resistance to disease and slaves were allowed to start families and posses some material items. The slave communities create social connections, belief patterns and recognized leaders.
1768 The Antietam Furnace manufacturer of bar iron products. The furnace was built in 1768 and produced goods for the Revolutionary War. The furnace was a large slave owner during its tenure and also employed many free blacks. The furnace closed in 1858. It reopened after the Civil War but finally closed in 1886.
1807 the British Empire banned the importation of slaves passing the Slave Trade Act.
1808 the United States banned the importation of Slaves.
1812 War brought changes that led some blacks to return to Africa settling in a portion of the new colony of Liberia called “Maryland in Africa”.
1812 Ferry Hill Place, South of Sharpsburg, Maryland, According to the National Park Service, was sometimes an Underground Railroad stop. Built by John Blackford, this property included a ferry that crossed the Potomac into what was then Virginia. The ferry was operated by two enslaved men, who Blackford named “foremen of the ferry.” These two men, Jupe and Ned, ran the ferry with little oversight. They kept the records, purchased supplies and even hired free blacks for seasonal labor. The ferry remained in operation until 1851.
1818 Asbury United Methodist Church in Hagerstown is founded. Asbury UMC is the oldest church in Hagerstown built for a black congregation Location: 155 N. Jonathan Street. The church was rebuilt in 1879 after fire destroyed the building. Fire damaged the building again in the 1970’s
1819 Apprentice blacksmith Abraham King on Franklin Street in Hagerstown completes term of slavery.
1819 Richard and John Barnes were the largest slaveholders in Washington County with 89 enslaved people. Richard Barnes’s will of
1804 freed all of his enslaved people two years after his death. These included famous African Methodist Episcopal minister, Thomas Henry freed in 1821
1830 James Pembroke, enslaved blacksmith, escapes slavery from Frisby Tilghman near Hagerstown, changes name to Pennington, writes “The Fugitive Blacksmith”. Reverend Pennington became a minister and performed the marriage service for Frederick Douglas after Douglas escaped from slavery to Baltimore.
1833 Great Britain abolished slavery throughout the British Empire.
1839 Reverend Thomas Henry incorporates Ebenezer AME church in Hagerstown.
1841 Reverend Thomas Henry sells the property to build the Ebenezer AME church. Ebenezer is the second oldest church in Hagerstown built for a black congregation. Location: 26 W. Bethel Street.
1850 in Hagerstown, the constable noted, “that the town’s white residents were very much aggrieved from the great concourse of negroes that frequently infest the public square, especially on the Sabbath Day”.
1860 The land that is now Fort Frederick State Park was once owned by a free African American named Mr. Nathan Williams. During the Civil War, Williams used the farmland to produce food which he supplied to both the Union and the Confederate Armies. He helped escaping slaves get through Maryland. Fort Frederick was built in 1756 during the French and Indian War. The fort was also used during the Revolutionary War and during the Civil War. Carolyn Brooks is the great, great granddaughter of Nathan Williams. Brooks was raised in the Jonathan Street neighborhood.
1863 President Lincoln delivers Emancipation Proclamation freeing Southern slaves to fight for the North.
1864 Maryland (a Southern state) voted to abolish slavery. Washington County, Maryland voted 2,441 to 1,638 in support of abolishing slavery.
1865 Congress passes the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery
1870 Congress passed the 15th Amendment giving black men the right to vote. Baltimore Maryland held a big parade.
1888 The first North Street School was built and an addition was added in 1924. When its replacement was built in 1947, the old school was converted to a YMCA for use by the African-American community the site is now the Memorial Recreation Center. The ‘newer’ North Street School (131 W. North Avenue), provided the first secondary education of African-Americans in Washington County. The building the now the Martin Luther King Center, housing the Brothers United Who Dare To Care office, training center and black heritage library.
1890 Corporal William O. Wilson served in the 9th Cavalry US Army. He received the Medal of Honor on December 29, 1890for his service in the aftermath of the Battle of Wounded Knee. He lived at 108 West North Street, Hagerstown, Maryland. He died in 1928. His military achievement was not recognized locally until 1998.
Hagerstown experienced tremendous growth and prosperity in the 1870’s and 1880’s. Unfortunately, the black community did not share in the general prosperity of Hagerstown. While there were some successful and prosperous blacks, most members of the Jonathan Street Community had to be content with low-paying jobs as they were not permitted to work in the factories with white men and women (source: Jonathan Street Heritage Preservation Project –November 2002).
One successful black man was Walter Harmon who built the Harmon Hotel in the 200 block of Jonathan Street. Baseball Hall of Fame member Willie Mays stayed at the hotel during his baseball career in 1950 at Hagerstown, Maryland. Harmon owned a bowling alley, dance hall and 37 houses in the Jonathan Street community. Harmon was part of a growing trend of black business that prospered and flourished due to segregation trends.
Once communities experience desegregation, blacks went outside of their community to patronize white owned businesses and then black owned businesses suffered. Many black businesses and white owned businesses in the Jonathan Street neighborhood closed or relocated. (See listing of historic black owned businesses at end of document)
1928 North Street School’s high school students held their first graduation ceremony. North Street School served blacks students in Washington County as far as Hancock, before school integration.
1934 A tract of land was acquired for Wheaton Park located on Sumans Avenue.
Reverend Walter Campher was name Bishop of King’s Apostle Church of God.
1938 King’s Apostle Church of God was built on Bethel Street.
1935 Ms. June Wright is the first black baby born in the Washington County Hospital. Ms. Wright lived on W. North Avenue.
Charles Harden American Legion Post #74 was chartered by an all black board and functioned at the location 237 N. Jonathan Street (now home of Sportsman Club #73)
The Elks Roosevelt Lodge #278 for black members is still located at 326 N. Jonathan Street.
Several are several old log cabin homes located in the Jonathan Street neighborhood, including the house occupied by Mr. Richard Davis in the 400 block of Jonathan Street. Though covered by aluminum siding over the original frame, the deep set windows and deep set door jams are indicators of the log cabin framing. Greater Campher Temple purchase a property next to their church on Bethel Street and excavation of the property revealed a log cabin was built around the dwelling last owned by Thelma and Austin (Ding) Burnett.
Historic Black Owned Businesses
Mrs. Caleetice Stewart and Ms. Elsie Anderson ran a beauty parlor at the North Street entrance to 401 N. Jonathan Street. Mr. Joe Fowlkes, Mr. Roger Bell, Mr. Floyd Nicholson and several other barbers over the years operated from the Jonathan Street side of the building.
Ms. Marie Crew owned and managed LaRue Beauty Parlor and was later run by Mrs. Cecile (Crew) Sloane in the 400 block of Jonathan
Mrs. Jones, ran the store that later became Thelma’s Grocery Store run by Mr. Austin Burnett and Mrs. Thelma Burnett, on the corner of Jonathan Street & W. North Avenue.
A bar once located in 300 block of Jonathan Street, was owned by several black business owners including Mr. William Keyes Sr. and Mr. William Hester (who owned the establishment then known as Hester's Tavern). Even though the establishment is now torn down the sight will be forever referred to as Hester’s by the Jonathan Street community.
An important fact that should not escape us with information provided by Thomas A. Whitaker is that Hester's Tavern was originally owned by Arthur "Skip" Summers and his wife Beulah. They ran full service restaurant that served meals from breakfast thru dinner and late night fare. On Thanksgiving Day they opened their restaurant and served Thanksgiving dinner to anyone who was in need. Summers and his wife had no children and many recreational places were still segregated, so they would organize trips and pack huge lunches and take several car loads of children and their parents to the National Zoo in Washington. At a time when the white population of Hagerstown would not sell property to the black population outside of the Jonathan Street Area, Mr. Summers managed to buy a large piece of land east of town and sub-divided it. Several of more prosperous members of the Jonathan Street community purchased lots and built homes there that included Caesar Doleman, Vince Keyes and Frank Harmon. Summers Lane named for Mr. Summers the are located east of Dual Highway across the Interstate 70 overpass and off Beaver Creek Road heading west.
Next to old Hester’s Tavern sight is the location of once “Jimmy’s Grill” that housed several restaurants in its location, The last being know as the "Blue Goose Cafe" under ownership of "Goose" Lockley. The establishment has been closed for several years
Mr. Withers ran a candy store out the front of his house in the 400 block of Jonathan Street, and it was rumored he “bootlegged” out the back door.
Mr. John Henry Johnson worked at a gas station across from Medal of Honor triangle, at the site of the scattered housing units in the 400 block of Jonathan Street. Johnson was said to had set an engine block on a stand using his bare hands. Johnson was the local mechanic and fix-it man.
Mr. Walter Davis, 600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, was the neighborhood T.V. repairman.
Mr. Robert Kelsh, 600 block of Pennsylvania was known for his famous Steamer (loose meat) sandwiches sold from his store diner beside his house. The site is now occupied by a lovely spacious home built by his daughter Janice Kelsh.
The Brown’s Tavern and bowling alley was the site of entertainment in the 100 block of Jonathan Street. Years later, the site was the location of Mr. Silks owned by Mr. Richard Keates. The club was later named the Club Cordova where Mr. Tyrone Stanton (Super Duper Disco) got his big start. No longer housing a nightclub or social lounge, the building has since house several businesses including Bronka Construction Company.
Also located in the 100 block of Jonathan Street was boarding house run by Ms. Otta Mae and Ms. Ethel Bogason’s was torn down to make way for the expansion of the City Market and City parking lot. The large three acre lot was also the site of the Hagerstown Boys Club before they moved to their location on Pennsylvania Avenue in Hagerstown.
"Mr. Pam" was a tailor that lived next to the Asbury United Methodist Church in the 100 block of Jonathan Street. Pam was also a known bootlegger.
Up the Street in the 200 block was the Harmon Hotel which was torn down to increase access to the Three Minute Car Wash. Since the tragedy of the Hotel demolition that erased an important historical site, the car wash has closed and the property remains on the market since 2007. Across from the Harmon Hotel site is Jonathan Place that was once known as Dan’s Apartment Building. In the same block was Mosby’s Grocery Store which is now C&M Convenience Store.
(The following listings are from “We the Blacks of Washington County” by the late Peggy Doleman)
Kee’s Home Baking 665 Forest Drive; Harmon’s Lunch and Pool Room 140 N. Jonathan Street; Bank’s Café 134 N. Jonathan Street; New Jersey Grocery (owner J.J. Henry); Barnum’s Pharmacy, 322 N. Jonathan Street; Dr. Hoffler’s Pharmacy and Hospital, Jonathan Street; Tryman’s Barbershop, 206 N. Jonathan Street (later run by Mr. Jesse Cox); J.B. Johnson Funeral Home; Dr. A.B. Wilson, 243 N. Jonathan Street; Barnum’s Pharmacy, 322 N. Jonathan Street; Elite Rendezvous, 322 N. Jonathan Street owner Rev. Curlin; Dorothy’s Beauty Shop, 67 W. North Street owner Dorothy Curlin; Henry Kelsh Plastering Wall Scrapping & Painting, 636 Pennsylvania Avenue, Caldwell’s Furniture, 160 N. Jonathan Street; John R. Watson Funeral Home, Bethel Street. Foxworth Home Bakery, 664 Pennsylvania Avenue; Oscar Alton General Hauling, 119 Clarkson Ave.
Black owned and operated businesses & organizations now in the Jonathan Street community
Brothers United Who Dare To Care, 131 W. North Avenue, President Andy Smith
C&M Convenience Store, 249 N. Jonathan Street owners Michael and Carol Keates
Elk’s Lodge 278, 326 N. Jonathan Street, Manager Reginald Keyes
Just Us Barbershop, 206 N. Jonathan Street, operators Leonard Cooper and Joe Fowlkes Sr.
Kuumba Enterprises, Corner of Jonathan Street and Bethel Street, operators Ajamu, Mwamba and Basil.
Robert W. Johnson Community Center (formely the Memorial Recreation Center), 125 W. North Avenue, Director Karen Cook.
Progressive Men’s Club, 300 North Jonathan Street, President varies
Churches in the Jonathan Street Neighborhood
Asbury United Methodist Church, 155 N. Jonathan Street
Calvary Temple Apostolic Church, 340 N. Jonathan Street
Calvary Church in God World Ministries, 608 Pennsylvania Avenue
Christ Church in Hagerstown, 401 N. Jonathan Street
Ebenezer AME, 26 W. Bethel Street
Greater Campher Temple, 125 W. Bethel Street
Second Christian Church, 65 W. North Avenue
Supreme Council of the House of Jacob, , 600 block Pennsylvania Avenue
Zion Baptist Church, 61 W. Bethel Street.