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Washington County African American Heritage Guide

Washington County African American Heritage Guide Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


Historic African American Sites in Washington County

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.

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

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.

4. Chaney House, Funkstown - 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.

5. Doleman Black History Museum, Hagerstown - Located at 540 Locust Street. This museum contains books, artifacts, and pictures of the rich African American History in Washington County. The museum is open by appointment only.

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.

7. Fort Frederick, Big Pool - 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.

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.

9. Kennedy Farm, South of Sharpsburg - 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.

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.

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.

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.

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. South of Hagerstown on Route 65. Click Here for Pennington's 1827 escape notice from area newspapers.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Courtesy of the Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The full guide can be found at Washington County African American Heritage Guide

Since Mrs. Doleman's death the Doleman museum is currently closed.

Collection Location:
Allegany County, Maryland

African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.

Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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