African American Enclaves, a new exhibit created by the Northern Arundel Cultural Preservation Society Inc. opened at the Benson-Hammond House in Linthicum on June 3.
The permanent exhibit, located on the third floor of the Benson-Hammond House, premiered in partnership with the Anne Arrundell County Historical Society’s 27th Annual Strawberry Festival.
Features of the African American Enclaves exhibit include:
• Community Quilts relating the unique histories of Cedar Morris Hill, Freetown, Matthewstown, Pumphrey, Queenstown, and Sewell Town.
• Family Quilts representing the histories of two specific county families: The “Connecting Links” quilt, made in 2006 by Nancy Daniels, illustrates the family structure and connections she uncovered in over 15 years of genealogical research. The Daniels family is linked to the Burley, Matthews Hebron, Dorsey, and Brooks families of Anne Arundel County, as well as to the Clark family of Howard County, who came from England in the late 1600s.
The “James William Spencer Documentary Quilt,” created by Anthony and Vivian Spencer in 2013, in collaboration with family and friends, depicts forebear, James Spencer, founder of Freetown, as well as his 12 children and their descendants to the present day. The Spencer family is also linked to the Hall, Henson, Gaither, and Kess families, of Anne Arundel County, as well as to the Burleys, Matthews, and Brooks.
• Amelung Bowl: Created by Thomas Burley, a free black man, who used the money he made in the Amelung glass factory to buy his family’s freedom.
Manumission document from Thomas Burley stating: “Be it known that I, Thomas Burley of Anne Arundel County, have knowingly released from slavery, liberated, manumitted and set free…my wife Anne Burley and her daughter Ellen Smith and her seven children.”
• African American Truck Farmers and Pickers Checks: Northern Anne Arundel County was known for truck farming from the 1840s to the late 1940s. The term “truck” was synonymous with the word “produce,” not the motorized vehicle.
Truck farmers were people who would grow fruits and vegetables and sell them at commercial markets. Pickers checks were a form of currency, usually metal discs engraved with the farm owners’ initials, received by farm laborers for harvesting produce. These “checks” could be redeemed for standard U.S. currency or goods in community stores that accepted them. Noted truck farmers of the area included:
• George Williams (1822-1890) and his children were truck farmers in the Marley Neck area who had their own pickers checks. Williams’ pickers checks were marked with GW; his son Rudolphus Williams’ checks were marked with RW; and Richard Williams’ checks were marked with RTW.
• William Clarence Dotson (1841-1927), a truck farmer in the Furnace Branch area of Glen Burnie (near the intersection of Route 10 and Furnace Branch Road), marked his pickers checks with the letters “WD.” Dotson’s sons, Daniel C. Dotson and Richard James Dotson used pickers checks marked with “RR” on the reverse of their father’s checks.
• Urias Brooks, a truck farmer who had pickers checks marked with the letters UWB, owned 50 acres on Furnace Branch Road and 10 acres on Ritchie Highway. His father, Henry Brooks, also a truck farmer on Furnace Branch Road and Cedar Hill, marked his checks with the letters HB.
• Other African American farmers who used pickers’ checks were John Henry Robinson and Nicholas Simms on Race Road, Thomas and W.J. Simms on Dorsey Road, Summerfield Jackson in Stoney Run, and John Henry Carroll of Glen Burnie.
The Northern Arundel Cultural Preservation Society (NACPS) is an outgrowth of the St. Mark United Methodist Church History Ministry spearheaded by Irene Butler Hebron. In 2005, Hebron’s collection of documents and her passion for the history of African Americans in Northern Anne Arundel County provided the foundation for the creation of NACPS, a nonprofit organization committed to capturing, preserving and sharing the story of African Americans within the history and culture of northern Anne Arundel County.
Additional information and artifacts included in the exhibit showcase the significance of African American history and culture within Anne Arundel County.
For more information on the Northern Arundel Cultural Preservation Society, see: https://www.nacpsibh.com/.
For more information on the Anne Arrundell County Historical Society, see: http://www.aachs.org/.