Pictured above are black workers, in 1885,
at the C&O Canal's Cushwa Wharf in Williamsport.
There are many historic African
American sites in Washington County, Maryland. From the earliest
days of the 18th Century, the lives, the sacrifices, and the
contributions of African Americans have left an unmistakable
impression on Washington County. In 1820, 14% of the population was
enslaved; Maryland's average however was 26%. By 1860, there were
more free African Americans than slaves in Washington County. By
1864, slavery was abolished in Maryland.
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. 3 Miles South of Sharpsburg on the Harpers Ferry
The site of America’s bloodiest single day, with
more than 23,000 casualties. The turning point needed
for President Abraham Lincoln to rethink the opportunities
for peace and issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which
started the process for eventually freeing the slaves
from the entire United States. No African American Union
troops fought in the battle, but the effects on the lives
of African Americans are significant. Approximately 12
miles south of Hagerstown on Route 65. 301-432-5124
Founded under the supervision of St. Paul’s Methodist
Episcopal Church (now John Wesley United Methodist Church)
in 1818, the Asbury congregation is the oldest African-American
church in Hagerstown. The existing building was constructed
in 1879 as a replacement for the fire damaged 1864 building.
The second oldest African-American congregation in Hagerstown
is Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, which
was founded in 1840. The Ebenezer AME congregation was
housed in a number of church buildings on W. Bethel Street,
with their most recent church demolished in the late 1990’s
due to concerns over structural conditions. Two other
community churches from the 1800’s still stand,
including Second Christian and Zion Baptist. 155 N. Jonathan
St., Hagerstown, MD. 301-791-0495
Built in 1816, it was the home of Dr. Elias Chaney.
In 1859, six men and eight women were included as property
in Chaney’s will. The house is currently The Hudson
House Antiques Shop. 1 South High Street, Funkstown, MD.
According to the National Park Service, this was sometimes
an underground railroad stop built about 1812 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. South
of Sharpsburg on Rt. 34. Sat/Sun. 301-582-0813, open summer
weekends, C&O Canal, 301-739-4200
The land that is now Fort Frederick State Park was once
owned by a free African American named Nathan Williams.
Williams was considered the second wealthiest African-American
in Washington County. He bought the property and used
it as farmland. 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.
1 Mile off I-70, Exit 12 (Big Pool), 11100 Fort Frederick
Road, Big Pool, MD. 301-842-2155
The most well known African-American entrepreneur in
the early 1900’s in Hagerstown was Walter Harmon.
Prior to his death in his early 40’s in 1915, he
built the Harmon Hotel, a bowling alley and dance hall
for Hagerstown’s African-American community, and
37 houses in the Jonathan Street area of Hagerstown. The
Harmon family operated the Harmon Hotel for many years
into the 20th century. The hotel was important as the
only place for visiting African-Americans to stay in Hagerstown
during the segregation era. Willie Mays stayed at the
hotel during his professional debut. Marker on Jonathan
Street, Hagerstown, MD.
The planning ground for John Brown’s Raid. The
raid consisted of John Brown and 21 other men, in an attempt
to provoke a slave uprising. The raid took over the U.S.
Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry and seized a sizable amount
of ammunition. Some historians believe that the raid marked
the beginning of the end of chattel slavery, and helped
spark the Civil War. The site marked the actions of an
extreme abolitionist and the five African Americans who
took part in the raid. Samples Manor Rd., South of Sharpsburg,
MD. South Lynn 301-652-2857 or 301-977-3599.
Home of Richard and John Barnes. In 1800, they were the
largest slaveholders in the 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. 13448
Broadfording Road, Clear Spring, MD. Mr. & Mrs. Charles
The ‘old’ North Street School, now Memorial
Recreation Center, was built in 1888 with a 1924 addition.
When it’s replacement was built in 1947, the old
school was converted to a YMCA for use by the African-American
community. The ‘new’ North Street School,
now the Martin Luther King Center, provided the first
secondary education of African-Americans in Washington
County. Located on North Street, West of Jonathan Street.
During the Battle of Antietam, it was used as Longstreet’s
HQ, and also as a hospital. The home was built in 1836,
and included slave quarters on the farm. On Antietam National
Battlefield; viewed from Bloody Lane–private residence.
Country home of Frisby Tilghman, one of the largest slave
holders in Washington County. This was the home of James
W. C. Pennington (c.1807-1870), minister, abolitionist
and author. He escaped from here on October 28, 1827 and
made his way first to Littlestown, PA then to New York
14. Slave Auction Blocks, Hagerstown and Sharpsburg
Although the number of people enslaved in Washington
County was less than the counties farther to the east,
it was an active slave market. Slave catchers would hunt
runaway slaves and sell them at auction in Hagerstown.
The old jail on Jonathan Street housed escaped slaves.
On the Sharpsburg Square and on the Terrace in Hagerstown,
Founded in 1866, Tolson’s Chapel was a Methodist
Church buiilt on land donated by the Craig family. John
Tolson was the church’s first minister. A Freedman’s
Bureau school operated in the church from 1868 to 1870.
The cemetery has burials dating back to the 19th century.
Two blocks south of Sharpsburg Square, on Harpers Ferry
This park named in honor of Jacob Wheaton, was opened
in 1935 by the City of Hagerstown to serve the African
American Community. The gazebo was the original band shell
from the Hagerstown City Park. On Sumans Avenue off of
North Avenue, Hagerstown, MD.
Baseball’s great Willie Mays played his first professional
game in Hagerstown in 1950. He was the first African
American to play in Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium
in a minor league game. He went on to have a Hall of Fame
career playing with the New York and San Francisco Giants,
and The New York Mets.
Elizabeth Hager Center 16 Public
Square Hagerstown, MD 21740
Special thanks to the Washington County Free Library,
Washington County Historical Society, African-American
Historical Association, Ron Lytle, and the Washington County
Convention and Visitors Bureau for their help in collecting
information and pictures. Designed by