The event we had last night on February 10, 2022 to publicly launch the research findings of our Ellicott City Black History RoundtableEllicott City Black History Roundtable on the accurate history and age of the “Thomas Isaac” log cabin and its intersection with the historic African American church (St. Luke’s A.M.E.) was a success! We had 77 virtual attendees, and 56 in-person attendees. Much was disclosed in two short hours. We originally formed in order to answer questions regarding the login cabin once called “Merryman Cabin” and the likely age of its construction. Along the way, we discovered some surprises that shocked just about everyone who attended!
Some of the highlights were:
- We found documentation of self-employed African Americans who worked in Ellicott’s Mills in the early 1840s. One was a Black male who purchased his freedom from Andrew Ellicott, Jr. for $200 in the early 1840s.
- We found documentation of African Americans who owned land in Ellicott’s Mills in the 1830s and beyond. One of them, a self-employed Black man who had been born Free, bought property in 1831. Another bought property there in 1834. One worked for a manufacturing company for 40 years, and was given company stock upon the death of the company president.
- A Mulatto male and his family owned the property where the log cabin was located (bought in 1851), and likely built it for his family. His name was Levi Gillis. They lived there for nearly a decade, and sold it to Thomas Isaac in 1860. Thomas Isaac never resided on the property, and we found no evidence that it existed in the 1700s. It is historically significant to the African American community.
- The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning named the cabin for Thomas Isaac.
- St. Luke A.M.E. church (as it is now called), a historical Black church is THE oldest church in Ellicott City. It is still operational, and should be recognized for its significance with its accurate history. There is possibly an earlier structure associated with their history, and DPZ files started by Alice Murdoh (HO-766) should be located by the county government and analyzed by researchers so that it can be completed. There is little to no African American representation in the county Historical Inventory, particularly for Ellicott City. That doesn’t have to continue to be so, as there is now research.
Our full report is 181 pages, complete with supporting images to show what our Truth Lab team examined when making our conclusions. We are having that publication protected by copyright. It will be released in 2 weeks or less. Our nonprofit has submitted an Intent To Apply document to seek grant funding to do community activities around the uncovered history in our report. We are aware that our findings on the cabin materially diverge from those found in the Public Spaces Commission’s report. County personnel declined to participate with our Roundtable, but did opt to contribute in the Commission’s writeup on the cabin. The community should decide what should happen to the name of the cabin. We are unaware of the existence of any deliberative process for naming or changing names on county buildings that involves the community. It might be time to create one.
Chains of Title that we created can be accessed here, and we already made contact with Maryland Historical Trust about having HO-64 for the lab cabin updated with accurate information. One document is for the original 1860 church property that served as their church home until it was sold to an African American woman named Mary Ridout.
This is the Chain of Title for the land involving Levi Gillis. It stops with Thomas Isaac. This is where the cabin was located. Neither Isaiah Mercer Sr nor Jr ever owned this land.
This is the Chain of Title for the Isaac descendants up to the Staton and Cross families, both African American. Fanny Stanton donated the cabin to Historic Ellicott City, Inc., who turned it over to the county.
A visual overlay our researcher created to help us keep everyone straight about who owned what, is here and we intend to ask the county to corroborate:
A 27 page intro with our conclusions and information regarding the original 1860 church trustees can be found by clicking this link:
This property, and the Merryman area, are subjects of inquiry for us because of the lynching of Nicholas Snowden that happened nearby. In addition, the Jacob Henson, Jr. family was associated with St. Luke’s A.M.E. And finally, additional lynching activity was found to be likely associated with the cabin, which you can read in the 27 page document.
If anyone is interested in helping us do this research (there’s lots of it) reach out to me. Our organization is a nonprofit organization, just like Howard County Historical Society, Inc. is.
“This is the work” (as one of our Board members often says.) Stay tuned for more! This is the beginning of our reconciliation work involving this history. We are happy that it has already reached one other descendant who is featured in our full report.
Marlena Jareaux, President