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African American Heritage

From the earliest days of the 18th century, the lives, the sacrifices and the contributions of African-Americans have left an indelible impression on Washington County, Maryland. 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. Slavery was abolished in Maryland in the fall of 1864.

There are many historic African-American sites in Washington County. Those described here represent some highlights that we hope will engage and encourage you to further exploration of this rich history.

1. Antietam Furnace
2. Antietam National Battlefield
3. Asbury United Methodist Church
4. Chaney House
5. Doleman Black History Museum
6. Ferry Hill Place, South of Sharpsburg
7. Fort Frederick
8. Harmon Hotel
9. John Brown Raid Headquarters
10. Montpelier
11. North Street School
12. Piper House
13. Rockland
14. Slave Auction Blocks
15. Tolson's Chapel
16. Wheaton Park
17. William O. Wilson
18. Willie Mays

Antietam Furnace, Sharpsburg

1. Antietam Furnace, Sharpsburg 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 Road, 301-739-4200.

Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg

2. Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg - www.nps.gov/anti

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

Asbury United Methodist Church, Hagerstown

3. Asbury United Methodist Church, Hagerstown

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

Chaney House, Funkstown

4. Chaney House, Funkstown - www.hudsonhousegalleries.com

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. 301-733-1632

Doleman Black History Museum, Hagerstown

5. Doleman Black History Museum, Hagerstown

33-35 W. Washington Street
(Entrance 33 W. Washington St.)
Second Floor
Hagerstown, MD 21740

Hours: Monday-Friday, 11 am – 4:30 pm
Second Saturday monthly Noon – 5 pm

Phone: 301.797.5019

This museum contains books, artifacts, and pictures of the rich African American History in Washington County.

Ferry Hill Place, South of Sharpsburg

6. Ferry Hill Place, South of Sharpsburg

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

Fort Frederick, Big Pool

7. Fort Frederick, Big Pool - www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/fortfrederick.html

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

Harmon Hotel, Hagerstown

8. Harmon Hotel, Hagerstown

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.

Visit Civil War Landmark Kennedy Farm near Hagerstown MD

9. Kennedy Farm, South of Sharpsburg - www.johnbrown.org

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.

Washington County Tourism - Montepelier near Hagerstown MD

10. Montpelier, Clear Spring

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 Downs, 301-842-2259

North Street School recreational center- Hagerstown MD

11. North Street School, Hagerstown

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.

Battle of Antietam - Piper House - battlefield tours near Hagerstown MD

12. Piper House, Sharpsburg

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.

Tourist attractions- Civil war history- Hagerstown MD

13. Rockland, South of Hagerstown on Rt. 65

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 City.

Free things to do in Hagerstown - See historic landmarks

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, MD.

Things to do and visit in Washington County

15. Tolson's Chapel, Sharpsburg

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 Road.

Wheaton Park and recreation in Hagerstown MD

16. Wheaton Park, Hagerstown

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.

Hagerstown tourism - Civil war history and attractions

17. William O. Wilson

Served in the 9th Cavalry US Army. He received the Medal of Honor for his service at the Battle of Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890. He lived at 108 West North Street, Hagerstown, MD.

Willie Mays- Hagerstown Municipal Stadium

18. Willie Mays

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.

Doleman Black Heritage Museum

33-35 W. Washington Street
Hagerstown, MD 21740
P: 301-797-5019
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The DBHM Board of Directors is committed to creating an outstanding regional resource center for historical information of African-American culture locally, nationally, and internationally. We’re striving to be a beacon…
Doleman Black Heritage Museum