Black History Event Feb 9th

For our nonprofit’s first event of many in the year that commemorates the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation taking effect, an exciting presentation is being given about local Black history. The area that would eventually become Howard County was comprised of both free and enslaved Black and Mulatto people in the decades leading up to the Civil War. In this presentation, historian Marlena Jareaux will share some of her research that seeks to uplift the scholarship and collective understanding of free Black and Mulatto people who were living among white and enslaved people in the area. This event will be a hybrid one. Space in the Charles E. Miller branch of the Howard County Library has been reserved for Thursday, February 9th from 12:30 to 2pm, and masks are required to help protect the limited number of participants that will be permitted.

For more information and to register:

click HERE

County History Does Change, Maybe.

As 2022 drew to a close, it was a natural time to reflect upon the year behind and the one ahead. Many people aren’t of the belief that history is exciting, and I often confess to not having had an interest in it while in grade school. Maybe that’s what the reader will also relate to. While I ponder what it is about history that ended up pulling me in, I hope that those reading this page have been pulled in by the way that our nonprofit has become known for doing history. The county has 4 nonprofits and one govt division doing history. Rec and Parks (Heritage department) is the govt division, and the rest of us aren’t. We all share in doing history.

During a recent presentation that I was asked to give to the Quaker/Friends congregation, I articulated who the various local organizations are and some of the differences between us. It’s not a bad thing that there are 5 of us, along with other individuals doing great work to put out information that they’ve used their time and energy to research and package. A question I get frequently is “why is there not just one history organization in the county?” and the answer I give is “It’s complicated, yet it’s simply because we are all different in how we do history which the county benefits from.” The nonprofit Howard County Historical Society, Inc. has been around the longest, but has increasingly reported (recently to news reporters) their self-reflection that they were aware that they needed to do better with Black History. We (Howard County Lynching Truth & Reconciliation, Inc) are the new nonprofit kid on the block. The Howard County African American Cultural Center, Inc. is a nonprofit that grew out of Wylene Burch’s frustrations (I’ve been told), and their collection of Black memorabilia etc is unmatched in the county. The Columbia Association has an archive that hold records pertaining to everything related to Columbia, Rouse, etc. County Rec and Parks (the Heritage division) manages historic sites in the county, including the recent addition of the Harriett Tubman Cultural Center property. You can take classes there in cooking, painting, ballet, and many other things (for a fee), while viewing pieces of county Black history therein.

Those of us who are historians, the type who get lost researching in the stacks as we lose track of time immersing ourselves in old brittle records containing handwriting that’s barely used anymore, are the ones thinking about something very important. We think about the people who go home and share the history they learned at places, and the students writing papers about history that they get exposed to. We are the ones who get bothered by history being inaccurate, and work to change it so that it’s accurate. It’s because we are thinking about how history has always been used and still is.

I finally visited the Tubman center in order to take in the history that was curated and placed there for visitors. Though there is nothing to suggest that Harriet Tubman came to our county on her many trips to free her family members from enslavement (none of her family was in our county), the legend that she came here to help others escape enslavement is a feel-good story that has helped our county tap into the events in the state that celebrate a woman known throughout the world. That helps to put us on the map in that genre, so to speak, even though our county isn’t actually reflected on the state map (link is below). Fortunately for our county, there are many local people who tried to escape enslavement (some succeeded) and there is existing documentation to support it. You won’t see them at the Tubman Center except for Oliver Cromwell Gilbert who was extensively researched by Stefanie Gilbert (his great great granddaughter) and Jody Fernald and published in a 2014 journal, but it’s my hope that that will change in 2023.

Documentation is king with history, and people learn critical thinking skills when they are able to examine things in order to discern what is and isn’t proven by them. It’s a skill I believe to be in alarming decline, and I hope that changes since it affects other aspects of life also. Due to the responses I’ve received from some people I don’t choose to name, I believe some are unaware that history evolves when you discover and learn more, and change makes some uncomfortable. I suspect our programming will step on some peoples’ toes, which under the circumstances is unavoidable. 2022 saw altercations with people and organizations unhappy with the alteration of the local history narrative that our nonprofit has become synonymous with affecting. You wouldn’t think that was a bad thing, yet I’ve received messages that I can’t repeat here and have been told that I’m being called something by county personnel that I choose to not repeat. This is what happens when you try to change things that some are comfortable with and others don’t want to change because of how they are benefiting from it being how it is.

The history in the Tubman center concerning the county’s segregation era is compelling and well-done! I expected no less since the Tubman Foundation folks have been the primary holders and compilers of the materials for decades. I was glad to finally be able to see it, and those curators should be proud that their experiences are there for all of us to learn from. However… everyone who goes there should remember that our understanding of history isn’t static and therefore changes when we learn better. The log cabin/house on Main Street did NOT exist in the 1700s, is not the oldest structure in Ellicott City, and the predecessor congregation to St. Luke did not exist in it in the year 1877. The data in this image is wrong.

They had their own building and continuous land ownership in Ellicott City after they bought land and constructed their own first church building in 1860. They didn’t need to use the log cabin for anything, since they had their own. That church is the oldest Black congregation in Howard County (it is not First Baptist Church in Elkridge), and should be recognized as such. The church trustees later sold the land and building to a Black woman who lived in it for many years. Research/p and documentation uncovered all of that and more, and it’s been widely circulated since February 2022. It’s a great photograph by Donald of the newer church, but the display otherwise contains old inaccurate information from a time when a full investigative inquiry wasn’t performed to try to uncover the truth. It has been done, and no one need think for one day in 2023 that a white European settler built that cabin in the 1700s. Will the data be changed? Maybe not since one of the other nonprofits (HC Historical Society) is who did the display according to the exhibit. 

As I conveyed to the Quaker Friends, I only want history to be accurate for peoples’ consumption. The visitors, residents and students of the county should not be thinking that:

  1. slavery didn’t really happen in our county
  2. our county wasn’t also part of The South, and acted like it in many ways
  3. Blacks didn’t own land in Md before the Civil War in their own names
  4. we didn’t have significant and compelling examples of self-liberation from enslavement by local people who have descendants in the county
  5. our county wasn’t connected to the early civil rights effort
  6. we didn’t have our own housing segregation like it’s reflected in the Undesign the Redline exhibit at the library.

If you do think these things, it reflects that you just haven’t been told differently and you aren’t seeing it reflected anywhere in the county. Yet. The only constant is change, therefore change is the thing to value. See you in this new year (the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation) with programming and content based upon all of the research being done in the areas above and more! We’ll be freeing it in 2023!

Marlena,

Executive Director

Link to Tubman byway sites:

Byway Sites

Book Fundraiser

Hello friends…

As we all come to the end of another year, I am as usual reflecting upon the next year ahead. There is much to be excited about, and there is also much work to still do. Our nonprofit has only just begun (literally and figuratively) in our efforts to uncover and document the accurate local history of the county so that we can all better understand the climate and culture in which our county’s lynching (and near lynching) victims (and their descendants) lived. One of our biggest achievements in 2022 was our nonprofit’s sponsorship of the research effort that led to the discovery of a pre Civil War Black community in Ellicott City. A 200+ page book has been made with the findings, and those findings are the tip of the iceberg of additional material calculated to ensure that accurate local history is told and consumed by our visitors, residents and students.

It is my hope that those who enjoy our work will consider donating to our nonprofit by purchasing a book for themselves or others through our book fundraiser. The details of that fundraiser can be found be clicking the link below. It’s my hope that a new standard of research will be created in our county so that accurate history can be consumed by our visitors and residents. History evolves when new materials are discovered to augment it, but history also evolves when primary source documents are excavated to create products and presentations for consumption. Reconciliation for a community cannot happen until the truth is first known. Actually and to be honest, reconciliation can be done without the truth being known. It’s just not the way I wish to be involved in doing it for the place I love. Hopefully, a majority of the people feel the way I do. Marlena

https://secure.givelively.org/donate/howard-county-lynching-truth-reconciliation-inc/newly-discovered-ellicott-city-md-black-history-help-us-to-treasure-it

Our winter 2022 newsletter contains a lot more information about the project and where we are aiming to go in 2023. It can be accessed here Newsletter Winter 2022

Local Howard County Juneteenth Stories

Juneteenth National Freedom Day, designated as a county holiday by County Executive Ball in 2021, has come to be known as the symbolic end of slavery in this country. On June 17, 2021 it became a federal holiday. The Emancipation Proclamation had been signed in 1863 freeing those who were enslaved, but it did not apply to all of the states. It would take a new state constitution for Maryland to finally ban slavery in Maryland. Article 24 prohibiting slavery took effect with the new constitution on November 1, 1864. Juneteenth was initially equated with the day when federal troops arrived to Galveston Texas in order to alert those who didn’t know that slavery was no more. There’s plenty that can be found online about Juneteenth celebrations through the years. The end of chattel slavery wasn’t fully enacted until December 6, 1865, when the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified by the requisite number of states. It was then that slavery legally ended in the United States.

This post was created by a collaboration between a county historian/researcher and a recent county high school graduate. A few months ago, this nonprofit partnered with the Maryland State Archives in order to get the 1867 list of county enslavers transcribed so it could be searchable by historians, researchers, teachers and others. In 1867, a new state constitution went into effect, and a legion of men across the state were appointed to be a Commissioner of Slave Statistics in order to capture the information relative to whomever wished to be compensated for their pereceived losses due to slavery ending. Male and female enslavers in Howard County placed their names onto lists, along with names, ages, period of servitude the enslaver had intended to keep them enslaved, and any enlistment info for those in the United States Colored Troops. A total of two hundred and sixty people put their names down wishing compensation. The info was to be accurate as of 1864. In order to get the list transcribed, a collaboration was done with two high school teachers and their students to guide them through the ins and outs of 1800s handwriting. You can read about that HERE if you want to know more.

This post is designed to show how that information can be used to tell local history, and in this case, stories related to slavery’s end in the county.

We started by pulling out the names of everyone seventy years of age and up. We urge the reader to consider what life may have been like for these men and women who had been enslaved all of their lives, and had never been set free by their enslaver. What might finally having freedom have felt like for them? 


Some of the people we searched for were a little easier to find than others. The grandson of the last living signer of the Declaration of Independence had died during the Civil War, and his descendants put in a claim seeking compensation for 130 men, women and children that Charles Carroll had been enslaving. Two of them were aged 70 years old and up. 

William Joice, 70, enslaved by heirs of Charles Carroll and listed to be a “slave for life” was recorded to be “feeble.”

From the 1867 Commissioner of Slave Statistics record held by the Maryland State Archives.

We believe we located William on the 1870 census, living in Baltimore, recorded to be a blacksmith. Recorded to be 95 years old, we don’t know if the 1867 age was wrong, or the 1870 age was. We believe they are the same men because of the Mary Joice/Joyce record references on both records.
The 1870 US Census of Maryland, Baltimore District 3

 

Sophy Jones, 75, was also listed to be a “slave for life” by the Carroll heirs. At age 75, she was the oldest person listed on the1867 list, and we had hoped to find her in census records to be able to provide information about what she did after her emancipation. Unfortunately, we didn’t locate her which could mean a number of things. The enslaver could have had her name wrong; she could have gone by another name by 1870 or deliberately changed it; the census taker where she lived may have missed her; she may be in another record series not consulted in researching for this post; or her freedom may have been cut short by her death. Her enslaver had recorded her to be “weak”. The key to finding her may lie with Matilda Jones who was also recorded by the Carroll heirs.

Lucy Scroggins, 73, enslaved by the heirs of Charles Dorsey, was listed to be their “slave for life”. We believe we found Lucy. In 1880, she was living in District 2 of the county with her son Isaac and her grandchildren.
The 1880 US Census of Maryland, Howard County District 2

 

We turned our attention to the youngest people on the list who were emancipated. We found that there were a total of three children who were two weeks old and younger. They would have been too young to understand what was happening, but their parents would have likely felt ecstatic that their children wouldn’t have to experience enslavement and would have had stories to share with them.

1) Samuel, two weeks old, the child of Debora Gaither, enslaved by Martin Batson.

2) Howard Wilson, 7 days old, enslaved by William P. Ridgely (Jane Wilson, age 15 also enslaved by Ridgely)

Latisha Plummer, born to 35 year old Eliza Plummer, was only 2 weeks old when her enslaver Jonathan Miller placed her and her mom’s name on the list in the hopes of receiving financial compensation for them.

The transcription table generated by a county high school student showing Eliza, two of her children and two France children mentioned.

Latisha was found in the 1870 census in District 4, Howard County under the name “Letitia Plummir” living with her mother Eliza (still recorded as being 35), her father Lawson, and her siblings. Also in the household was James and Thomas France, both of whom had also been enslaved by Miller. In 1880, she was in the census in Lisbon, Howard County as “Lettie,” still living with her parents and noted to be attending school. While her mother and father could not read or write, Latisha could. An 1884 record shows a “Letitia Plummer” getting married to a “Basil Dorsey” in Carroll County, Maryland. She would remain in Carroll County for decades with her husband and children.

The 1870 US Census of Maryland, Howard County District 4

Thoughts by Lindsey Bloom, intern and recent graduate from Atholton High School: Latisha lived a life that her mother was largely robbed of. We were not able to find her father in the database which makes us suspect he had been free. She had access to an education that they hadn’t, and she was able to marry and have children as a free woman. The joy that her parents must have felt at her ability to live a successful life with a husband and children in a household of her own must have been immense. Latisha’s story is one of pain, hope, and progress, but it was by no means an end point. I have no doubt that Latisha suffered in life and faced racism as her parents did and as her children also would. Today, we still have a very long way to go, and the fact that stories like Latisha’s often go untold is proof of this. Seeing this piece of history unfold, however, and imagining the hope that Latisha’s family must have felt and that she herself undoubtedly came to understand when she was older is a reminder that change is possible. 

Thoughts by historian and researcher Marlena Jareaux: As historical records continue to be processed and made digital, the local stories relative to the county can be told. Only then can we know how the county we love actually processed emancipation and how/when people began to celebrate it here. Personally, I wonder what life was like on Doughoregan Manor (home of Charles Carroll of Carrollton) for those 130 people who finally got their freedom from the Carrolls. Was there a Juneteenth celebration on the grounds of the Manor? We researched some of the easier records to search through to do this post, but there are others to be consulted. Records that were created and captured by people like Black county historian Beulah Buckner, once processed, will also be able to help us to put together the county’s story. Assuming the reader has some interest in Juneteenth, this post will hopefully have you wonder about our own local history… which we continue to work on compiling and telling.

 

The Missing Historic Oakdale Story

I wasn’t going to say anything, but now I need to. A blog post was made about the Oakdale Decorator Show, which I’ll link to at the end of this post. It eludes to missing history and mentions our nonprofit, so it seemed wise to write a few things. I had a feeling something was coming.

HISTORY

Albert G. Warfield, was 21 years old when Oakdale was built. His father, Joshua Warfield, owned Cherry Grove (HO-1) and is thought to have been the one who built Oakdale in 1838 for Joshua. Let’s examine the possibility that Albert built Oakdale, since that is what is written in the showcase program.

First, he didn’t get married until 1842. In his father Joshua’s will of 1846, Albert was bequeathed 10 people his father had been enslaving that were already noted to be in Albert’s possession by then. I know this part of this family’s history very well, and have the names of almost everyone that Joshua had been enslaving at that point. There are more than 50 names, and there isn’t room to list them all here. Some of them:

His son Nicholas received 13 people, already in his possession.

His daughter Eveline (or Everline) received 11, already in her possession.

His son Albert received 10, already in his possession.

His daughter Kitty received 11, already in her possession.

His granddaughter Rachel Riggs was to receive Delilah’s youngest daughter.

His grandson Joshua Riggs was to receive Fanny’s youngest boy.

His granddaughter Everline Riggs was to receive Matilda’s daughter.

His grandson Joshua Warfield was to receive Let’s youngest son, Clagget. Clagget was 6 at the time, and I’ll tell you later how that’s known.

So, let’s go with the story that Albert, 21 in 1838, was responsible for building Oakdale. With what resources and labor? I ask that question because I read a lot of emphasis being placed upon this belief about Oakdale: “It’s subsequent evolution embodies the distinctive characteristics of a grand country estate of a man of business.. run on the profits of modern business rather than those of the farming..”

??? So, folks are skipping the ENTIRE slavery and plantation part then??? Not entirely unexpected in Howard County.

I asked a question last week of a fellow historian/presenter who I won’t name here. I asked him if it’s been his experience in the county that people do or do not know the county’s history involving slavery. I already knew my answer, but was curious as to what his would be. He responded that most don’t and are surprised when they do learn. We agree on that!

I received an anonymous email before the showcase began, and I’m including it here since it doesn’t identify anyone except me. It’s someone’s opinion, and they are entitled to it.

As a historian whose specialty is this time period in county history, I understood why I was being asked to say something about the event. A number of people also called me about it. My response was then and essentially remains “I respect the right of all county nonprofits to do as they wish to raise funds and in this case to help the owner of Gov. Warfield’s plantation home to sell it. Every history nonprofit has their choices, and we only have ONE government/public history entity in the county: Recreation and Parks.” I could see that scouts and students participated so far in this event, and while I wish that the focus was accurate inclusive history, I believe that to be a choice for all private nonprofits. One of the most recognizable history nonprofits, the Howard County Historical Society, Inc, contributed to the history writeup for the Ed Warfield History Room, mentioning the brick work and “master craftsman” of the 1838 structure. I’m glad that they did.

This history nonprofit (HCLTR) asks the question: Did Samuel or his dad assist in the building of Oakdale? How about Allen or his dad? Don’t know who they are? Let me tell you, because someone should in order to give them their humanity as these stories do. Allen Bowie was reported to have been born around the year 1824. That would have made him around 14 years old when Oakdale was being built in 1838. Samuel Hall was born around the year 1826, making him 12 when Oakdale was being built. Depending upon if the 1838 date was the start or finish would help determine if Samuel and Allen would have themselves been part of the construction crew. I’m sure you saw nothing about either of them if you’ve already gone to the decorator show, but historians who examine primary source documents would know about them.

Many readers are probably scratching their heads thinking, “..but NO.. it’s been said that Edwin’s father was against slavery.” Where does that come from? From the  decision to elevate the following words from his obituary (he died nearly 30 years after the Civil War in 1891):

Records show something different. “Slave for life” means just how it sounds with no ambiguity, and this information was placed on the 1867 list of county enslavers wishing to be financially compensated after slavery was abolished. If Albert had been intending to set anyone free at age 40, “life” wouldn’t have been written in the “slave for” column. Eliza was already 46. Understand that some enslavers put their names on this list, and some didn’t. Albert G. Warfield reported having received $100 in compensation for his loss of Samuel’s labor, who was part of the 39th regiment of the US Colored Troops.

Albert’s father had bequeathed “Allen” to him, as well as “Eliza” and others in 1846. I can see their names on the 1867 slave for life list. Samuel, who would have otherwise been enslaved for life by Albert G. Warfield, went into company E at the age of 39. Here is part of the record for Samuel’s military service:

Perhaps the reader will think of and try to imagine these people if you opt to visit Oakdale and peer out one of the many windows overlooking the grounds that were once plantation fields with the ancestors of the people shown above working them. And FYI, you can think about Jesse also, who ran away from Joshua’s daughter Everline. Everline was living in Montgomery County with her husband Elisha Riggs in 1846. Placing so much emphasis on buildings and museum objects, though they do tell stories, makes it so easy to disregard the history of the PEOPLE who lived throughout the county (building it and helping people to prosper with legacies we see at places like Oakdale). Governor Edwin Warfield wasn’t born when his grandfather was formalizing arrangements for the future homes for those he was enslaving, but it’s a good bet that from the year of his birth in 1848 and forward he was exposed to it. The picture of the Oakdale reunion that circulates shows many of the same people who Albert wanted compensation for:

Warner Cook

Remus Cook

Henny Bond

Laura Bond, Henny’s daughter

Susan Garner

George Garner

And another person was Clagett Bowie who, at the age of six, was given to Joshua N. Warfield (a one year old child himself). Joshua was a few years older than Edwin.

It looks like the show started with several elected officials in attendance lending their names to support. This photo shows the applicable building dates for all to see. I just wonder how many of them knew to ask about Samuel or any of the others I’ve mentioned, and if so, did they?

Marlena Jareaux

P.S. Today’s blog post that sparked this is found below. And you now know why she made the suggestion that she did about a choice in donating…

Click Here

*Added after the original post* This is from the inventory form completed about Joshua’s nearby property: info about his enslaved, including Sam.

And here is Clagett Bowie… and Joshua’s compensation attempt:

A picture of the interior of the Ed Warfield History Room. I get it… he is the focus. That’s the choice.

EVENT ALERT

On Tuesday, May 17, 2022, our organization will be hosting a hybrid event we are calling The Underground Railroad and a Log House in Ellicott’s Mills: The Findings. 

You can read more about it on Eventbrite, but here is a part of the writeup you will find there:

..it is the expanded talk about the history of the log house (including who likely built it), and the nearby community of Black and Mulatto citizens who lived among the Ellicotts during the time when slavery was close to everyone. We will also discuss the two year period of 1861-1863 (during Civil War) in which there were about 30 enslaved and free Black and Mulatto people jailed in the Ellicott’s Mills district for activities surrounding slavery, and briefly touch upon our nonprofit’s submission of an application to the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom program, anchored by this research. This announcement is timely, since it is National Preservation Month!

TO EVENT REGISTRATION

IT TAKES A HOWARD COUNTY VILLAGE

I’m betting (okay, hoping) that there are people like me who believe that we teach our children, but that they also teach us things. I’ve been taught things by my own child, as well as the children of others. Most of the reader of this spent time in high school, so you likely remember that adults weren’t always able to hold your attention during those years. Reaching a teen isn’t always easy when it comes to doing extra things, nor some adults for that matter. Let me tell you about some of the remarks made by the group of 30+ county high schoolers that I’ve engaged to transcribe a 1867 county historical document/list with the assistance of their two motivated teachers..

“..I was wondering if you could assign any more pages to me?”
“..I would like to do more.”
“I was wondering if I could have more to transcribe?”

Be still my heart!!
You…
Want…
More??

While we have another one of these county transcription projects in the works and coming soon, it’s not ready for these students but how I wish it was! I suggested they help me by helping their classmates with this phase of the work, so that we can all move to the next phase where I teach them about searching in records for a person’s name they’ve transcribed. Did I tell you that it’s handwritten? An important thing to note, because students today are not as fluent in the nuances of cursive handwriting as my peers and I had to be because we didn’t have ChromeBooks, etc. I’ll try to figure out later what age I was when I got my first PC. They’re certainly learning the nuances now! Check it out, when the letter C was fancy:

I must write “thank goodness for computers,” and here is why: having these records be in PDF format and on a screen with the ability to zoom in on the image helps tremendously! Case and point is this image that has a name that stumps us…do YOU know the spelling of the one in the middle?

The two social studies teachers as well as yours truly have been transformed into pseudo spelling teachers in this process!

And, while I’m asking you things, do you know of a student who draws/illustrates who may be interested in designing an image for the cover of our upcoming book/publication regarding the research and early Ellicott City Black History findings related to the log cabin in Ellicott’s City on Main Street? We wish to pay a student a $60 stipend for taking some images and finessing them into a collage type design for that cover. Here are three of a few images that contain elements that I want used to inspire that cover (images are from a recent trip to the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture). Of course the cabin will be in it too!


If you know someone, please have them email me at marlena (at) hocoltr.org with a sample of their work so I can get a sense of their style. The student will get acknowledged as being the creator of the final image, and they would have to be okay with granting us an unlimited and exclusive license to use the image for the publication and in our marketing of the image for purposes of selling the book. Feel free to share this post freely. To our recent donors, those funds are going towards this and the publication expenses (as well as our annual insurance bill being invoiced to us). Thanks again!

Comment on social media with your guess about the name in that image! The students will be surprised with whatever the truth ends up being.

And to the students and the reader of this post: the letter S is causing trouble by making everyone think that what should be “Moses” is “Mofes” and “Jesse” is “Jefse” which the result of something in history. It looks like this, though I assure you that the handwriting is dramatically different!


Medial S or Swash S is what it’s called, and there’s a short writeup on WHY for your consumption: HERE

Thanks, Marlena Jareaux

the original post done on the work with the students can be found by clicking County Students Making History

County Students Making History

On the last day of Volunteer Appreciation Month, I wanted to take the time to express my appreciation for a particular set of volunteers for our nonprofit: the 32 high school students who are working to transcribe an 1867 historical Howard County record that historians such as myself rely heavily upon to do the work we do in and for the county.

The students are spread out between two county high schools (Atholton and Howard), and I gave a virtual presentation to a group of students a few weeks ago to introduce them to what we do, what the record shows, how people like me use it, and how their help will help the county and researchers. One of the teachers wrote to send their appreciation for helping their students be part of local history, and another expressed that their students were excited (which excited ME to learn since students don’t always get excited about HISTORY).

This is a joint initiative between our nonprofit and the Maryland State Archives (which I thank for their assistance and resources), and while I could have had adults or colleagues do the work, it was my preference to engage the next generation in this local history. I wanted it to be HCC students, or HCPSS students. Transcribing helps to make them searchable, and EASILY findable for researchers both in and outside of the county. As many have heard me say, I want ALL of the info from the time period we focus on (slavery-pre 1930) to live freely online, so that it can be accessed with absolutely NO impediments, no needed registrations, and no restrictions whatsoever. Phase 1 is the transcription work, which will be followed by teaching them to how to trace a person of their choice from that record. This will help our nonprofit’s goal of attempting to trace the entire community of free and enslaved Blacks and Mulattos who lived in the county…to see where they went over time (stayed or moved away).

Just for today, I wanted to personally acknowledge these students as they persevere through the deciphering of 1867 HANDWRITING (which was probably a shock all its own!) When we finish, I’ll provide info to the community about the project along with feedback from the students. I can’t wait for you to see! The record represents the first time that enslaved county ancestors were named in a compiled government record/list. The work it takes to put together the sorts of stories that some of you have read from my local history posts, is made harder by the time it takes to sort through records in which the names of people weren’t used. I rely on many types of records, most are at the Maryland State Archives, but this one is particularly symbolic and it was time it be made searchable. Please join me in thanking the students for their service..

P.S. I found an opinion piece in Atholton’s student newspaper that I wanted to share. Written this past Black History Month by a student, it was great to see what some students had to say about history. Our local county history has many ordinary extraordinary people who helped to build and maintain many of the historic structures that we still see and some people glorify today. I can’t tell you if the students in this article are on the current transcription team or not (privacy), but I think their generation has an interest that warms my team’s heart to see! I’m sure Howard HS has thoughts, but I couldn’t find it easily in their newsletters. 

https://atholtonnews.com/2022/03/03/black-history-month-is-good-but-not-perfect/

Marlena

Does History Repeat Itself? A HoCo Police Facebook post response

On the Howard County Police Department’s Facebook page, a post was made the other day about the male who was being sought relative to the accusation that two 14-year old girls made about him. The original report by the police page included “..are alerting the public and releasing a photo of a man who approached two 14-year-old girls today around 9 a.m. near the Swansfield Pool in Columbia and offered them money for sex acts.” Noticeably missing was the word “allegedly.” Once caught, the language for the update changed to “.. the man who was reported to have offered two girls money for sex..” I suppose that’s fair, if you understand that the definition of “reported” is “described by people although there is no proof yet.” I don’t think most people know that though.

The public comments being made are surprising, particularly for someone like me who is the public face of the organization tasked with facilitating the discussions of historical lynchings in the county. One wonders if we’ve really come as far as we’d like to think we have as a society. It’s one thing to write things like the following about the girls “.. They may be saving others from a more torturous experience,” though that still presumes that the man did as was alleged and that whatever the encounter was, it was in fact torturous. Some of the comments with many “likes” crossed a line. I refuse to name names, because I don’t find that to be helpful, but some of the comments were:

“.. he needs to meet the business end of a baseball bat.”

“This how you end up in ICU”

Commenters called him a “scumbag,” a POS, and called for his “public castration” or featured an image of something being sliced. Then there was “Nothing a guillotine won’t fix” and suggestions to “beat senseless,” that he “looks like a bad guy.” One person used the opportunity to liken his image to a person in the public eye, while the majority of commenters gave kudos to the young girls and the police.

A lone voice with no likes commented: “Is there any proof that he said this to these girls other then a photo of him? False allegations are a thing..” I wish to give kudos to the person who wrote that, because it emphasizes something quite important.

When the General Assembly announced there would be public hearings across the state where lynchings happened, I made the announcement that a group had formed in order to examine the county’s lynching history. The public comments were surprising then also, largely because of WHO was saying them. I captured them with screenshots, because I knew it represented the thoughts of people who were willing to be publicly vocal about them. A few were from people with positions of perceived authority, and one in particular I want to share stands out because he is a retired county police officer. He essentially wrote that (I’m paraphrasing): Nicholas Snowden was hung by a mob who stormed the jail because he raped someone…for this we need a group? My response was “Yes. Because what you wrote above doesn’t include all of the facts, and there are inaccuracies.”

In our inquiry so far, we pushed out to the community that Nicholas Snowden had been lynched by a mob who stormed the jail in the middle of the night, but that his actual case docket revealed that he hadn’t had a trial nor had he been recorded to have an attorney. That’s hugely significant, but I fear that the prevailing thought in the county is one of act first and ask questions later. Still. And that makes me wonder on this Sunday afternoon about the work ahead of for our organization, and what kind of meaningful reconciliation we will really be able to do in the county. I wonder because of the comments I’m reading, but also with those I’m not seeing.

You don’t have to know who Edmund Burke is to be able to appreciate the phrase attributed to him: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I’m betting that in the situation of the man photographed whose image was shared more than 1000 times now on social media, there are people who think that the evil was quashed by good men (and females.) The public comments suggest that he has already been adjudged to be guilty, and publicly sentenced. That’s reminiscent of what happened to Nicholas Snowden, who entered his plea of Not Guilty in 1885. I attach the docket entry for his case for the reader’s consumption, and two others before his that show something important: their pleas of Not Guilty, and the outcome of the same. What is it in people that makes Nicholas Snowden not worthy of receiving the benefit of the doubt that he also could have received an outcome of Not Guilty, had a lynch mob not taken matters into their own hands and decided otherwise? It is the year 2022, and I ask the same about the man who has been arrested? Is it now Guilty, Until Proven Innocent? 

History provides an opportunity to evaluate how far we’ve come as a society and community, which is what makes our work to showcase the time period of county Black history we examine critically important. The facts about events are important to unearth, and they take TIME and patience to uncover. They also take a community willing to listen, and willing to learn. I feel compelled to showcase one other person’s comment/statement that they made when sharing the Facebook post, because it’s an important one that I knew would be lost in the hysteria:

“It’s a independent living for special needs men in grandbanks By the second steps.”

Grand Banks is a street name, FYI. That changes things for me, and I wonder if it at least changes things for some so that folks will at least see the value to waiting before rushing to judgment. What does that say about us when we don’t know the value of waiting?  I sure hope there are more people in the county willing to do that for our truth & reconciliation work, than there are that rush to judgment. I just can’t publicly see them, but maybe you’re out there privately. We’re going to need you…

Also, I’m aware that some are commenting about his status as having been in the court system recently and previously. A look there reveals a recent case where his competency was questioned and answered. “Defendant Found Incompetent to Stand Trial.” Again I write…that changes things for me. Does it for YOU?


P.S. those asking about supporting us…we welcome community volunteers and donations! You can donate by texting

HOCOBLKHISTORYRESEARCH to number 44-321

Newly-Discovered Ellicott City Black History

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.

Deeds12.5 perches.pdf

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.

Deeds cabin property p1.pdf

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.

Deeds cabin property pt2.pdf

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:

Early Ellicott City Black history

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

Marlena@hocoltr.org