Beginnings of Salisbury’s St. Paul AME Zion Church

This is a photo of St. Paul AME Zion Church in 1908, when it was located on the north side of Church Street in Salisbury, exactly where Business Rt. 13 (Salisbury Boulevard) is now located. The church relocated to the west side of the city when the highway was constructed sometime in the 1940s.

It was located in the African American neighborhood of that time known as Georgetown, which included an adjacent enclave called Cuba. These areas were next to the then largely white neighborhood of Newtown. The origin of the church was on the west side, as described by a history prepared by the church:

“The first African Methodist Episcopal Zion church of Salisbury, MD was organized by Rev. A.J. Spencer around 1880 at North Salisbury [the NW part of Salisbury] called ‘Jersey.’ The first name for this church was ‘Willow Grove.'”

According to this history, after a few months, the congregation moved to the vicinity of the Georgetown area and in 1885 purchased a lot on Water Street. The next year they built a church, “20 ft. by 30 ft.” in size. It was then located near Humphreys Lake which dominated the landscape in downtown Salisbury up until 1909. In 1893, repairs were made as well as a 20-ft. addition to the building.

In 1899, the Church Street property was purchased; and the name of the church changed to St. Paul AME Zion Church. It took time to raise the funds and construct the new building; the cornerstone was laid on June 17, 1906. According to that church history, “In 1942, the church was moved to and renovated at 410 Delaware Avenue, Salisbury, MD.”

Above is the 1904 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the church when it was still on Water Street, at a time when there was to Rt. 13 or Rt. 50. Then it was near the ice plant and a block away from the elementary school. The John Wesley M.E. Church (now the Charles H. Chipman Cultural Center) is shown to the upper left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is the 1931 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the church at its Church Street location, east of the John Wesley M.E. Church.  The red dot is the location of where the Church Street Mural will soon be located. Again, the two highways did not exist at that time. Shown here is a 1929 church program.

St. Paul AME Zion was one of three churches in that neighborhood, up until the highways were constructed. St. Paul was the first to be relocated due to Rt. 13 construction. Then First Baptist, southeast of John Wesley, was relocated when Rt. 50 was constructed through the area. The neighborhood was worn away until not much of it was left. Finally  the congregation of the John Wesley church merged with White’s Temple and became Wesley Temple on the west side. The Chipman Cultural Center is the only surviving church structure in that once prominent neighborhood.  When John Wesley Church is honored, it is important to honor the others as well. They comprised a community and were a big part of that area’s history.

Below this program is another partial view of the church on Church Street, a rare view looking west, before there was ever a Rt. 13. On the left (south) side of Church Street is seen part of a porch to a house, then beyond it, two other buildings.  The first building, set back from the street, was the later residence of Dr. Sembly who will be one of the five represented on the mural. This building, which was for a long time at the corner of Church Street and Rt. 13 was torn down years ago after a truck hit it.  The building shown beyond that, situated closer to the street, was the Parker-King Store, an African American owned business. The building was taken by the construction of Rt. 13.

It is important to honor the history that literally disappeared; otherwise, no sense can be made of the historic places that survive and the history of the people becomes forgotten. This neighborhood was very much part of the story of Salisbury’s heritage.

 

Linda Duyer

 

 

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Posted in Churches, Maryland, People

The Real Problem with Diversity in (insert academic discipline)

 

 

Referenced here is a 2017 blog article critical of lack of diversity in academia, specifically in university political science departments. It was written by Dr. Lee Ann Fujii, who died in 2018. It delves deeper into a topic often touched on only generally.

As a friend and colleague, I never focused on this article in part because of the grief I was experiencing with this untimely loss. I wince a little when referring to myself as a colleague, but during the time when I worked for her as a research assistant with one of her projects locally on the Maryland Eastern Shore, she accepted nothing less than equality, though she had her Ph.D. and I was a practicing local historian with only a bachelors degree in Geography. If she were still here, she would be chastising me if I did not use that term, that’s just how she was.

But many of her academic colleagues have described how her article and the speech she gave about this was groundbreaking for her willingness to stick her neck out to discuss the elephant in the room, so to speak. Lee Ann’s gender, her complicated racial background, her discipline specialty in racial violence, and her legendary forthrightness alongside likeability made her immensely qualified to take on the topic, and people would listen. Given the year was 2016 when she first spoke on this, I think it boggled the minds of her colleagues that this had never been discussed in these ways before.  It must have been very generic, with little teeth to the arguments, and the avoidance of inserting the term “white privilege” into the academic conversation.

What struck me was her warning that the status quo was not unique to political science academia, but that in her field of political science, said Fujii, “We are the norm.” This is why I titled this piece the way I did.

Even since her passing, I am learning from her.  Recently I was discussing with one of her editors/friend about the creation of a book Lee Ann published in 2017 on the subject of interviewing. I also was one of the reviewers.  Lee Ann frequently used the words “her” or “she” when describing generally about non-specific researchers and what they should or shouldn’t do.  The editors and myself lost that battle, that Lee Ann should write it non-gender specific.  But now, re-reading her work, I laugh, realizing that must have been by design. She must have been thinking “Well why NOT use the feminine terms? Men writers do use the masculine terms all the time.” Lee Ann, or I should say SHE, was a rebel.

You can read her full comments by clicking on the link or the image.  I don’t know if her points are relevant, as I am not employed in academia, but I feel that she wrote some important food for thought.

 

Linda Duyer

Posted in Uncategorized

Rev. Pezavia O’Connell

Rev. Pezavia O’Connell lived in Salisbury, Maryland for a brief time, when he worked at Princess Anne Academy, now University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

I ran across his name long ago when compiling a kind of directory for my book on the history of the African American neighborhood in Salisbury known as Georgetown.  At the time, I knew nothing about him but found the name curious. I figured out where he had lived, at a residence which still exists on Poplar Hill Avenue. Street numbers changed in the 1950s, but before then, the residence was old 607 Poplar Hill Avenue; today it exists next to the property of the Charles H. Chipman Cultural Center and the adjacent playground.

According to the UMES website, “Pezavia O’Connell holds the distinction of being Princess Anne Academy’s first principal with an earned doctorate and the institution’s first instructional leader of the 20th century.” The UMES bio of O’Connell, written by Kimberly Conway Dumpson, indicates that O’Connell was born in Natchez, Mississippi in 1861, as Dumpson noted, “some two months following Mississippi’s secession from the Union prior to the start of the Civil War.”

His storied career is summarized by UMES. “Before serving at the Academy, O’Connell earned a bachelor of divinity degree in 1888 from Gammon Theological Seminary, a Methodist Episcopal School in Atlanta, and a doctorate of philosophy degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1898.” He was the successor to Portia E. Lovett Bird and reportedly served between 1900 and 1902.

“After his brief stint as leader of Princess Anne Academy, O’Connell moved on to teach at Howard University in Washington and then at his alma mater, Gammon, before becoming head of the history department at Morgan College in 1920. O’Connell Hall, a men’s dormitory, was named in his honor on the Morgan campus in Baltimore. O’Connell died November 26, 1930 at age 69.”

A local directory and the 1910 U.S. Census indicate that O’Connell was living on Poplar Hill Avenue at least between 1908 and 1910. Soon after this, he was at Howard University. There is indication that between his time at Howard University and Morgan State University, O’Connell was briefly a pastor in Cleveland, Ohio. There is also evidence of him as a prolific speaker.

O’Connell’s time on the Eastern Shore was brief. But now I understand more about the man with the curious name who once lived on Poplar Hill Avenue.

Below, Poplar Hill Avenue, Google Earth image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Duyer

 

Posted in Maryland, People, Schools, Uncategorized

Dr. Browne’s extraordinary view of the world

Arthur D. Browne’s life was bookended by two Salisbury’s; with the North Carolina of his youth and the Maryland community on the Eastern Shore as that of his adulthood.

In both places, he and/or his family experienced lynchings. While it is not known if Dr. Browne directly experienced the chaos surrounding the 1906 lynchings in Salisbury, North Carolina, certainly that history impacted his life.  And the 1931 lynching in Salisbury, Maryland definitely impacted his life. Those were not the only horrors he likely experienced, as he served as a physician in World War I.

I do not have a photo of Dr. Arthur Browne; certain family members who recently communicated with me did not have a photo nor knew much about him.

Some of his background is detailed in the 2016 book by W. Douglas Fisher and Joann H. Buckley, African American Doctors of World War I. Other background information was written in Salisbury, Maryland in 1935, a book of biographies, extraordinary in its own right for having a sizable African American section, considering the time period.

Conflicting information from those sources make it at this point difficult to determine for sure the names of his parents. Both sources and others indicate Browne was born in Salisbury, NC, in 1887. The book describes his grandmother as a washerwoman and his father worked in a chewing tobacco factory.

Browne would have been 19-years-old in 1906, when large mobs lynched Nease and John Gillespie and Jack Dillingham in Salisbury, NC. Browne was educated in the town’s public school system as well as at Livingstone College, a training school for African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church ministers, a school that then qualified students for teacher training. He graduated with an A.B. degree from Livingstone and enrolled at Leonard Medical School, in Raleigh, North Carolina, at Shaw University, and graduated in 1912. The timing of his schooling may well have placed him in his hometown at the time of the lynchings.

After getting his medical degree, he opened a medical practice in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1917, Dr. Browne volunteered for the war. He was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Medical Reserve Corps, trained at Fort Des Moines, after which he was sent to Camp Dix, New Jersey. He was assigned to the 350th Field Artillery Regiment of the 92nd Division and served with his unit in France. Following the war, he lived in Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore before moving to Salisbury, MD, in the early 1920s after marrying Ernestine W. Derritt of Staunton, Virginia; they married in Philadelphia. His wife was identified as a teacher.

Dr. Browne was intimately connected to the December 4, 1931 lynching of Matthew Williams, for Browne had been an attending physician when Williams was wounded during the confusing circumstances in which his employer Daniel J. Elliott was shot dead, for which Williams was implicated and lynched.

His presence at Williams’ side and reported accounts that he likely recognized mob members placed him and his family in jeopardy. It also did not help that he was among the African American community members summoned to attend an emergency meeting on Saturday morning following the Friday lynching.

Reported the Baltimore Afro-American about that meeting convened by the mayor, “it was noised about that the physician knew members of the mob and would expose them. All the white citizens continued to make overtures to him to hold his peace.” That Saturday night, Dr. Browne took precautions. The newspaper reported, “he sent his family to the home of others for fear of an attack upon his home. Without disclosing his destination,” reported Browne’s wife, “he packed his bag, gathered up his important papers and, carrying a sawed-off shot-gun and a revolver, left home in his car. It was at first believed that he had left town in fear of his life.” His actions indicate precautions to minimize the danger to his the members of his household that might have resulted if he remained with them.

As far as is known, Dr. Browne and his wife had no children. It is believed the two separated likely not too long after these incidents. The circumstances of their separation are not known, but she moved to Philadelphia and the two never officially divorced.

There is an indication that following the lynching of Matthew Williams, Dr. Browne may have been offered the town position of school physician, possibly as an incentive to silence him. He remained in Salisbury for the rest of his life.

Dr. Browne died May 23, 1974. Ernestine died days later, on May 27, 1974, at the age of 76. The timing of their deaths, days apart, remains inexplicable given they lived apart. They are buried alongside each other at the Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia.

There are accounts of controversial incidents during his later years while in Salisbury, even jail time, incidents as yet not fully understood. Remaining in Salisbury following what Dr. Browne had witnessed may have been quite a strain, always under the watchful eyes of white leaders in the town. It is difficult to fathom why he would have stayed. For me, he remains an enigma. Still, having been present for the three lynchings in North Carolina and witnessing the suffering and deaths during World War I, the horrific circumstances of his later years in Salisbury, Maryland, became just an extension of all that he endured. In Culpeper, Virginia, he is at peace.

 

Linda Duyer

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Van Hollen Honors Eastern Shore Hero with Legislation

Why advocate for bestowing the Medal of Honor to long-deceased veterans of World War I, even if those veterans earned medals but were denied the highest honor at the time of the war? That was a century ago, right?

On April 18, a gentleman, who was in the audience of the press conference held by U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in Cambridge regarding this topic, reminded me why. The man handed me a copy of papers detailing how his father had served in the segregated Army during that war. The man stood before me, saying that his father came back from the war bitter.

It occurred to me that this man, now in his later years, carried with him the memory of that bitterness even as he was so proud of his father. The man who served in the Army had not earned medals for fighting, but he was wounded, in more ways than one. Yet he was lucky, as others fared worse. This man who proudly handed me the papers reminded me why the task force with which I am affiliated is doing this.

Senator Van Hollen was on hand at the Empowerment Center in Cambridge to announce the WWI Valor Medals Review Act, bipartisan legislation also announced by U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

The legislation seeks to ensure that minority Veterans who served during the war get the deserved recognition. The Act would require the Department of Defense to undertake a review of valor medals awarded to minority Veterans during WWI to determine whether any should receive the Medal of Honor. This systematic review would be conducted in consultation with the WWI Centennial Commission’s Valor Medals Review Task Force of which I am a member.

Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are original cosponsors of the Senate bill, and Congressman French Hill (R-Ark.) has introduce the House companion legislation.

Multiple organizations have written letters of support for this legislation, including endorsements from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, American GI Forum, and Congressional Black Caucus Veteran’s Braintrust.

Senator Van Hollen took a strong interest upon learning that one of the WWI veterans considered for the Medal of Honor was a Marylander, Sergeant William A. Butler of Salisbury, Maryland.

The Valor Medals Review Task Force formed over a year ago, composed of a wide range of individuals committed to this effort. The task force became a collaboration of the WWI Centennial Commission, Park University, and others interested in organizing this systematic review.

The review will be directed by the George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War at Park University, led by the center’s director, Dr. Timothy Wescott. This is non-appropriation legislation, and funding for the work will be raised by the university.

This whole process began here in Maryland, and I am proud to have been involved in the beginning, collaborating with Dr. Jeffrey Sammons, a professor of history at New York University who published in 2014, Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War: The 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality, coauthored with John H. Morrow, Jr.

Dr. Sammons had long known about the heroism of Sergeant Butler and yearned for Butler to be honored with the Medal of Honor and together he and I tried to push for the recommendation. Road blocks ended that effort. Had it been only me involved, I would have given up, but Sammons did not, instead he formed an alliance with the WWI Centennial Commission and Park University.

After his book was published, Sammons located compelling documentation showing that not only were the deeds of Sergeant Butler heroic, he was recommended for the Medal of Honor at the time of the war, but of course, no African Americans received that honor at the end of the war.

Those who know me know my strong wish over the years that Butler be acknowledged and I have written about Butler deserving the Medal of Honor.

That interest began decades ago when I first saw the mention of Salisbury and Sergeant Butler in Scott’s Official History of the American Negro in the World War, written by Emmett J. Scott soon after the war.

In that book were quotes from newspapers of the time. The Baltimore Afro-American began their article with “Trenton Has Nothing on Salisbury,” saying, “New Jersey may have had Needham Roberts, but it takes Salisbury, Maryland, to produce a William Butler. Roberts had his comrade, Henry Johnson, to help him in repulsing a raiding party of Germans, but Butler took care of a German lieutenant and squad of Boches all by himself…”

But what most affected me was the quote, “The rest of the State of Maryland and the whole United States now has its hat off to Butler of Salisbury.”

On April 18, I was one of five who spoke before the Senator made his remarks about the legislation, and I relayed those quotes. Now a century later, it seems yet again hats are being tipped to Butler as well as to all the other veterans who have long been denied the same honors bestowed then to their peers.

Park University will soon be posting more information online as this work progresses at the website of the George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War at gsr.par.edu.

Here in Maryland, I ask for your show of support and those interested are welcome to contact me or the Robb Centre.

The work is only just starting and there are no guarantees of success. But listening to the Senator talking about this legislation and singing Butler’s praises, for the first time I felt real hope that success might happen.

The effort is certainly worth it. As I looked down at the papers handed to me and seeing the pride on the face of that WWI veteran’s son, oh yes, I knew with certainty it is worth it.

 

….Linda Duyer

Posted in Uncategorized

Curiosity of Cheltenham

Oh, I know, some will tell me, “Cheltenham is not on the Eastern Shore,” and/or, “Oh yes, it was a reform school for African American youth in Prince Georges County, changed names and ownership, and was fraught with controversy,” etc., etc.

Yes, I know it’s not on Delmarva, but for years its history has been a curiosity for me, ever since reading the article, “Stephen Long (1865-1921), The Man An Educator,” by Hammett Worthington-Smith, Class of 1939, Worcester High School, printed in 1994 by Salisbury University.

The story was about Stephen Long, supervisor for Colored Schools in Worcester County, who was murdered in 1921, in broad daylight, in Pocomoke, Maryland. It’s a fairly well-known tragic tale, but there were some nuances identified by Worthington-Smith. In his article, he wrote, “…Long had two orphans, from the Boys’ Village of Cheltenham, assigned to a [white] farm family removed from the farm family because the orphans were irregular in attendance in school.” The story goes that Long insisted that the black youth attend school as required, but the farmers were against wasting education on the youth who were needed in the fields, even though the youth were required to go to school.  Unhappy with Long’s insistence, the two farmers approached him as he walked by escorting his daughter from a near by fair. Long was stabbed to death in front of his daughter and neighbors.

Worthington-Smith admitted that this aspect of the story, of the two youth, was based on rumor, and that his attempts to verify this through the superintendent of Boys’ Village failed. Still, this story of two black youth having been brought to the Eastern Shore for exclusive use by two related white farmers was something I’ve not been able to get out of my mind, to the extent that every time I stumble over the Cheltenham name, I take notice.

I couldn’t verify Worthington-Smith’s assertion. But I did notice in the 1920 federal census for Worcester County, a few instances of youth, both black and white, listed as from some Baltimore House of Charity institution, in the households of white farmers with the same Pilchard surname accused of the murder of Stephen Long. Hmmm.

I’ve since read lots of articles written for decades about controversies related to Cheltenham, referred to as both a school and a prison. Plenty of articles about deplorable conditions, changes to administration, etc.  I even went so far as to take a peek at some old accounting documents of the institution found at the Maryland Historical Society. There were some suspicious entries that were vaguely referring to the loaning out of some of the youth, including some identified as orphans, but the information was not specific.

This was not exhaustive research, just sporadic interest.  I had also read from various sources about the beginnings of the facility.

What was long referred to as the Boys’ Village of Maryland began in the 1870s, established in 1870, according to the Maryland Historical Trust, as “one of the earliest and largest juvenile detention and reformation centers” when created as the “House of Reformation and Instruction for Colored Boys.”

The town of Cheltenham was named for the Bowie family’s plantation of the same name, according to the MHT. “In 1872, Enoch Pratt, a Baltimore business man and philanthropist, purchased a 1,200-acre tract in Cheltenham as a place to which delinquent African-American boys of Baltimore could be sent for rehabilitation.” The institution opened in January of 1873.

The MHT has an interesting bit of history, “The first superintendent, John Watts Horn, born 1834 in Dumfries, Scotland, was a Maryland veteran of the Civil War. Horn challenged the policy of placing African-American children in prison. He protested this policy fervently, and after retiring from the military with the rank of general, sought to seek the improvement of the condition of African-American youth.” My guess is he was unable to succeed substantially.

The MHT information is for the Boy’s Village of Maryland Cemetery, their Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties information can be found online.  The cemetery is small and identified as in two sections, with only three identifiable markers.  All three were teenagers who died in the late 1880s. I’ve not visited the location, but apparently this small cemetery is part of or associated with the large Cheltenham State Veterans Cemetery which can be seen from the highway.

Recently, as I have browsed historic newspapers online, I ran across a couple of news articles in the Salisbury Times in the early-to-mid- 20th century about a couple of African American teenage youth who were found convicted in Wicomico County on theft charges being sent to the Boys’ Village at Cheltenham. And in a 1939 report of the county treasurer, posted in the newspaper, expenditures included some funds directed to the Cheltenham facility as well as the Maryland Training School for Colored Girls.

What is the purpose of this post?  I am not entirely sure. It’s more a musing over the lesser-known aspects of misuse and abuse in our history.  The graphic shown here is from an editorial in the March 16, 2006, entitled, “Close Cheltenham.”  I felt compelled to include it.  Also shown, is one of the markers at the Boys’ Village of Maryland Cemetery from the 2009 MHT report.  There must be a point to my posting this; I just cannot wrap my brain around it yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

….Linda Duyer

 

Posted in Cemeteries, Maryland, People, Schools

Jopling’s Churches

If you are ever doing research on churches of Somerset County, Maryland, you might want to hunt down Churches of Somerset County, Maryland published in 2000. The book does not go into a lot of history detail of the churches — it is mostly an inventory and an architectural view of many of the buildings — but there is some history in it as well. The work was done by the late Carol Jopling, who died from a massive stroke just as the book was being published.

I met Jopling during the 1990s when she was researching the book. To look at her, I never would have believed she was in her 80s. She was staying at the Washington Hotel in Princess Anne while she traveled around researching her book. We only had one chat but it was memorable as I was struck by her insightfulness. I directed her to a few people who might help her in researching certain African American churches in the county. In chatting I told her some of the history of Princess Anne, particularly its racial history. She nodded, saying that explained the disturbing conversations she had been hearing when having meals in the hotel restaurant.

Jopling was a retired researcher, teacher, anthropologist, and librarian. The obituary said that she was a former Roland Park and Chestertown resident and had been chief librarian of Tropical Research Institute in Balboa, Panama at the time of her retirement in 1984. She had worked as a social science reference librarian at the University of Maryland in College Park, and later worked at the Library of Congress. But she also worked in other capacities including as a social science bibliographer at the University of Massachusetts Library at Amherst. She also taught primitive art, American Indian art, pre-Columbian art and anthropology at various universities.

She was born Carol Farrington in Louisville, the daughter of a railroader, as her obituary described it. She was raised in California, received her bachelor’s degree in art history from Vassar College, her dual master’s in library science and anthropology from Catholic University, and her doctorate in anthropology from Amherst. I don’t know about all her publications, but one of them was a 1992 book Puerto Rican Houses in Sociohistorical Perspective.

Why do I include her here? Well, at the time I met her, I was impressed with the extra effort she took to document the African American churches, to be inclusive of all the churches. She was a good listener as well as a good storyteller about her work. I wish I’d had the chance to know her better.  After the book was published, I would drive around to find the churches she listed and mapped. Her work kept me busy.

 

Linda Duyer

Posted in Churches, Maryland, People