The Hill: Amazing Tales and Discoveries

I had an amazing time today at the presentation about The Hill in Easton — I got to hear stories from current and former residents about the way African Americans developed this neighborhood from the late 18th-century to today. We took a walking tour and stopped into one of the churches that is at the neighborhood’s core. I also discovered that I had happened upon a real gem during a prior project that has value for the history of The Hill.

Below are some photos and tidbits from the day (click on the photos for larger versions):

Our tour started on Higgins Street, in front of these duplexes that pre-date indoor plumbing. A resident said that bathrooms eventually were built on to the back porches of houses.

Another view down Higgins Street, with the AME church steeple in the background.

The steeple of the church is topped with a pineapple, a Colonial symbol of welcome and hospitality.

The church dominates the view down South Lane.

The “Buffalo Soldier’s House.” Sgt. William Gardner never lived there, but his enlistment papers were found there. The house was owned by his brother.

View of the “Buffalo Soldier’s House” with one of The Hill’s AME church steeples in the background. Archaeologists from the University of Maryland will dig at this site this summer.

Barney Brooks, a descendant of one of the owners of the “Buffalo Solider’s House” is interviewed by a student from Morgan State University during today’s breakout session, where residents could tell their stories and have their documents scanned for posterity.

Habitat for Humanity will be renovating this house. Today, they were painting the boards over the windows and doors to make them look like real windows and doors in the interim, to keep the property from looking abandoned.

This is one of the oldest houses, especially brick structures, in The Hill neighborhood, dating to 1798.

The corner of Hanson and South Streets, with 3 c.-1870 brick homes. The neighborhood has traditionally been mixed-race. Columbia, Md., developer James Rouse (aka actor Edward Norton’s grandfather, for those outside of Maryland), grew up here. He got his ideas for creating a mixed-income, mixed-race community from his time spent in Easton.

Frederick Douglass once spoke at both AME churches in Easton. The rostrums at which he spoke survive to this day. Here is the rostrum at the Bethel AME Church on Hanson Street.

Now, for the coolest part of the day for me. In a talk about the “Buffalo Soldier’s House,” local historian Priscilla Morris mentioned two black women from The Hill, Ann Eliza Skinner Green Dodson and her sister, Temperance (whose son was the Buffalo Soldier, William Gardner). [4/2: Oops! I was a little confused during this presentation -- I was so excited when I realized I had the photo. Temperance's sister Ann was an early owner of the property known as the "Buffalo Soldier's House." The house passed to Temperance's son before it was sold to the Gardner family.] Morris mentioned that Temperance was a servant of the Hambleton family, who lived in the building that is now the Bartlett Pear Inn.

I realized I had a photo of Temperance.

When I did the history of the Bartlett Pear Inn, I came upon a stereograph image of the building (the top photo on the poster here) at the Historical Society of Talbot County. Pictured on the front porch are members of the Hambleton family. On the sidewalk, with two of the Hambleton children, is the Hambleton’s African American servant. Temperance.

No one at today’s meeting had seen the image before — I was able to show it to them on my phone. It was so exciting to share this rare piece of history with the group!

The Hill Project Presents: “A Stroll Down Memory Lane”

I hope those in the Easton area can attend this event on March 31 (click on the poster for a larger view):

I’m really looking forward to learning more about this area from the residents and to participate in the walking tour. I’ll post a follow-up blog post when the event is over!

Learn more about The Hill here and/or visit the Historic Easton web site.

History of Mulberry Point

Recently, I was hired to do a property history for a new property owner’s birthday present. The 18th-century home and land I researched were purchased last year for conversion into a vacation rental. Below is the land’s history and some photos of the property (click on the images for larger versions).

Waterside view of Mulberry Point. The two-story porch was added during a recent renovation.

The property today known as Mulberry Point can be traced back to the mid 1660s. It has seen many owners and names over the years. Residents and owners participated in the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War. Some residents were slave owners. Several residents died on the property and at least one was buried there.

View from down the dock on Broad Creek, originally known as Second Creek, near Bozman, Md., in Talbot County.

The ownership history of the waterfront property, located on Broad Creek near Bozman, Md., is quite complicated — pieces of the property were split up and reunited over the years, in different configurations.

The main home was built in 1752 and has undergone extensive renovations. The windows and the front door, with its transom, lead me to call this a Georgian-style home.

A view of the front of Mulberry Point. Tax records show the house was built in 1752.

One of the outbuildings may be even older. Check out the details on the doors of this shed below.

That's a neat old gas pump too!

The Harrison family held the land for the longest period of time. Margaret (Harrison) Benson and her husband George* sold the land to a different family in 1865 for the sum of $4,325. It has changed hands many times since.

Margaret Benson was the daughter of James Inloes Harrison. The Bensons took over the land from Harrison’s sister, Mrs. Ann Caulk, widow of William Caulk.

The Bensons were slave owners, as evidenced by an exchange of slaves between the Harrisons and the Bensons in the distribution of the estate of James Inloes Harrison. Ann Caulk’s will, which distributed slaves to her heirs, was disputed by heirs of her brother, James. In the resulting ruling, Margaret Benson was awarded the following slaves: Thomas who was 28 years old and valued at $800; a 10-year-old slave named Harriet, valued at $400; a 24-year-old woman named Molly, valued at $250; an infant also named Molly (6 months old), valued at $50; as well as another 10-year-old girl named Frances, valued at $350.

Since the Bensons sold the property in 1865, one can imagine that when they had to give up their slaves after the Civil War, they might not have been able to maintain the property anymore, forcing them to sell. It’s just a theory, but it fits the timeframe.

James Inloes Harrison died at Mulberry Point 30 October 1855 (he is buried in Bozman Cemetery). Arthur Harrison, the son of James Inloes Harrison, was buried at Mulberry Point and his tombstone was eventually found in the water on the north side of the house by the children of more recent owners.

Ann Caulk and James Inloes Harrison were the children of Thomas Harrison and Elizabeth Inloes. Ann Caulk died in 1854 and is buried at Mulberry Point. Her husband William was a major in the War of 1812 and was known as a prosperous farmer. William served under General Perry Benson in the 26th Talbot Regiment. William resided at a plantation by the name of Lostock near Mulberry Point. Ann Caulk presumably moved to Mulberry Point after the death of her husband.

Ann Caulk was left Mulberry Point by Samuel Harrison, her uncle. Samuel Harrison obtained the land from William Harrison in 1825 for $1,940.50, but it does not appear that he lived there. At that time, the pieces of land were called Harrison’s Security and Freeman’s Rest & Vacancy Added, totaling about 167 acres, as well as part of a tract called Harrison’s Partnership.

The Harrisons obtained these lands from Robert Haddaway in the late 1790s. Broad Creek at that time was known as Second Creek. It appears that tracts by the name of Haddaway’s Discovery and Hap Hazard were located to the south of what is now Mulberry Point.

Detail of circa-1900 map of Talbot County.

The lands were passed down to Haddaway by his parents, William Webb Haddaway and Frances (Harrison) Haddaway, who obtained them through the will of her father, John Harrison.

Robert Haddaway was a house carpenter according to land records (he also is listed as a farmer in a mortgage to Thomas Harrison). The main residence at Mulberry Point was built in 1752, according to tax records. The owners at that time were Robert Haddaway’s parents — might he have helped to build the structure?

William Webb Haddaway served in the Revolutionary War in the 38th Maryland Battalion, eventually achieving the rank of colonel. He was a slave owner, as the 1776 Maryland Colonial Census lists several blacks in his household.

John Harrison’s will of 17 July 1744 gave his lands to Frances Harrison (William Webb Haddaway’s wife). John appears to have been willed the land by his grandfather, Robert Harrison, in 1718.

Robert Harrison inherited lands called Prouses Point and Haphazard from his wife, Alice Oliver, when her mother, Mary Oliver, died. The portion containing Hap Hazard appears to have been given to John Harrison’s brother James and is to the south of what is now Mulberry Point. Prouses Point appears to have evolved into what is known today as Mulberry Point.

Mary Oliver had been married to James Oliver, who obtained Prouses Point from George Prouse in 1668. Prouse had the land surveyed in 1664 at 100 acres. It appears he was an immigrant to Maryland and the original owner of the land patent for the property.

*It’s possible that Margaret Benson’s husband George Benson was the great-grandson of Perry Benson, an officer in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. George Benson’s father was Robert F. Benson (born in 1807). Perry Benson’s son James had a son by the name of Robert, also born in 1807. It is possible he was the father of George Benson.

This aerial photo was taken in 1981:

(Image courtesy of the Historical Society of Talbot County)/HSTC Catalog No. 1981.019.019509

Sources:

Ancestry.com. “Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s.” Record for George Prouse. (http://ancestry.com : accessed 8 February 2012).

Ancestry.com. “Maryland Colonial Census, 1776.” Record for William Webb Haddaway. (http://ancestry.com : accessed 8 February 2012).

Covington, Antoinette H. Harrisons of Talbot County. Tilghman, Md.: 1971.

Leonard, R. Bernice. Talbot County Maryland Land Records 1740-1745. St. Michaels, Md.: 1987.

Maryland, Talbot County. Distributions 1858-81, Liber NR 5, 33, distribution of the estate of James I. Harrison 25 Oct 1858. Circuit Court of Talbot County, Easton. Maryland State Archives microfilm, CR 90,289.

Seymour, Helen. Caulk Family of Talbot County, Maryland. St. Michaels, Md.: 2002.

Seymour, Helen. Thomas Harrison Descendants. St. Michaels, Md.: 2003.

Stewart, Carole. Caulk Family Genealogy, 2007.

Talbot County, Maryland, Deed Records, Circuit Court of Talbot County, Easton. Digital images. MDLandRec.net. http://MDLandRec.Net

Talbot County Free Library. “Map of Talbot County, Maryland.” Maryland Room — The Starin Collection – Talbot County. (http://www.tcfl.org : accessed 12 January 2012).

Album Rescue Project: Album 1, Photos 100-105

This next set of photos confirms a connection to Maryland and features one of the best photos so far in the album.

Here we have the four gentlemen, still posing with their car:

Photo 100

And here’s a photo from another mystery location:

Photo 101

Next is one of the best photos so far. Yes, the guy on the left is blurry. It’s everything else that’s so excellent:

Photo 102

There are so many details in this photo! The Chevrolet ad in the upper left, the Coca-Cola ad down at the bottom, the wooden barrels. The African-American woman and the boy in waders and a big floppy hat greeting each other. The name of the business and the location information on the sign.

West Friendship is in Howard County, Maryland. I found Herbert H. Cross in the 1920 census, where he is listed as merchant. My guess is that these photos were taken as the guys in the previous photos drove to or from D.C. from Pennsylvania.

Here’s a photo of the album’s star posing on a bridge (note the variation in the code: 2B-1919):

Photo 103

And a photo of a baby, supposedly taken in 1919:

Photo 104

And here are the gentleman posing again in West Friendship in front of the car:

Photo 105

Those Places Thursday: Great-Grandpa Hill’s Grocery Store

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

For years, I’ve known that my paternal great-grandfather William Boyd Hill was a grocer in Philly. That and the fact that he was an Irish immigrant, but little else.

Earlier searches for him hadn’t turned up any city directory listings, which I thought was odd for a city like Philadelphia. I decided to do a more targeted search and finally found him.

The 1873 city directory listed his grocery store at 800 North Second Street. In subsequent years, the number changed slightly, but the street remained the same. Whether the shop actually moved or the addresses changed (I’ve seen this happen in other localities), I’m not sure yet.

I pulled up a Google Street View image of 800 North Second Street as it appears today. The shop on the corner sure looks like it may have once been a grocery store. It looks like it’s now a Rita’s Italian Ice. (Sure enough, I looked up their Philadelphia locations and there is one at that address). I think I might need to get myself an icy treat the next time I’m in Philly!

800 North Second Street in Philly.

The Ruins of St. John’s

The ruins of St. Johns along the Miles River. Photo taken from Unionville Road.

Drivers on the Eastern Shore of Maryland who take the Unionville Road bridge over the Miles River are treated to a view of Gothic church ruins. These are what is left of St. John’s Protestant Episcopal Church, which was finished in 1839. The money for the church was donated by Miles River Neck landowners who wanted a parish closer than the one in nearby St. Michaels, Md. It was one of the first Gothic Revival churches on the Eastern Shore.

The walls are made of granite. The church was deemed structurally unsound in 1900 and it continues to crumble. A photo of the ruins in “Where Land and Water Intertwine” (1984) shows a turret at the front of the church, but is has since fallen away.

Overhead view of St. Johns, courtesy of Google Maps

These ruins are not to be confused with Dundee Chapel, a circa 1720 church built further inland in Tunis Mills near what is now the intersection of Unionville Road and Todd’s Corner.

Information for this post came from “Where Land and Water Intertwine, An Archictectural History of Talbot County, Maryland” by Christopher Weeks (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), pages 105-106.

Album Rescue Project: Photos 33 & 34

Here, we’re getting into a part of the album where Scotch tape was used to attach the photos to the pages of the album in addition to the photo corners and in some cases, glue. Luckily, the tape came off easily. Unfortunately, it left yellow stains where it came into contact with the photos.

Photo 33

Note what’s hanging from his belt. It reminds me of the pin the girl is wearing in an earlier photo.

Photo 34

I love the little structure in this photo. I’m not convinced that it’s a full-blown house, as it appears to be on the property of a larger building in a subsequent photo. I wonder if those are panes of stained glass in the window of the second floor.

Help Preserve an Historic African American Neighborhood: The Hill in Easton, Md.

I’m posting the below on behalf of Historic Easton. If you could help spread the word by sharing the link to this blog post, we are in need of stories about The Hill neighborhood and also donations to support an archaeological dig this summer to help us better understand and preserve the area.

Donations can be sent to Historic Easton, PO Box 1071, Easton, MD 21601. We are a 501 (c) (3) corporation, so gifts are tax deductible. Stories about the area can be sent to HistoricEaston@gmail.com and will be used to help illustrate life in the neighborhood over the years.

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Morgan State University in partnership with Historic Easton, Inc. is embarking on a project to raise the awareness, appreciation and understanding of a currently undocumented and underrecognized aspect of the history of the African American experience in Maryland and in the Country as they seek to not only include the architectural and cultural significance of “The Hill,” located in the heart of the Town of Easton, Maryland, and within the boundaries of the Easton National Register Historic District, but to Re-Honor “The Hill”; through restoration, rebirth, renewal and regeneration.

We believe “The Hill” is the oldest African American neighborhood in the country, predating what is thought of as the oldest documented African American neighborhood: “Treme” located in New Orleans, LA.

“The Hill” was first settled prior to 1790 as a neighborhood comprising free blacks and slaves. It is documented that the first African American church congregation began on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and on “The Hill” officially in 1818 (Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 110 South Hanson Street, Easton, Maryland). Free blacks and slaves were already living there well before 1818 and arguably thriving and well-settled as “The Hill” was chosen by the African Methodist Episcopal Baltimore Conference of 1816 to found the first African American Church organization on the Eastern Shore of Maryland starting at “The Hill.”

Whereas, “Treme” is currently  documented as the oldest African American neighborhood in the country (1810 land purchased by the City of New Orleans and subdivided in 1816 to sell lots to blacks) and is nationally recognized as the birth of Jazz; the Morgan State research effort will document that “The Hill” is older, as it was settled by 1790; and it is also underrecognized as the birth of African American Methodism on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Dr. Moody’s Sanitarium, San Antonio, Texas

October 29 is the birthday of my great-grand aunt Josefa Wild (b. 1873). In searching for her in various records, I found her in a sanitarium in 1930 on the U.S. Census.

The name of the facility was Dr. Moody’s Sanitarium (I know, what a name!). I’ve always been kind of fascinated by older mental health facilities. Such facilities often developed quite a reputation over time. Check out the documentary “Cropsey” to see what I mean.

I wanted to find out more about the sanitarium where my relative stayed. I found several resources via Google. This Texas State Historical Society article described the sanitarium as a 75-bed facility founded by two brothers. I found this ad for the facility in an issue of the Texas State Journal of Medicine on Google Books.

This find on Google Images shows a treatment room at the sanitarium with lots of interesting looking paraphernalia.

I found another article that gave the address of the facility. When I looked up the address on Google Maps, Street View was available (see below). I wonder if those buildings are the old sanitarium? They kind of look like the buildings in the ad above…

The sanitarium even got a mention in this article on haunted sites in San Antonio.

I haven’t found out why Josefa was in the sanitarium or how long she stayed there, but it’s been neat to learn more about the facility.

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!