Maryland's Abolition of Slavery
The Civil War and Prince Georgians
At the start of the Civil War there were no blacks in the army. However, there were volunteers. As the war dragged on
blacks moved from laborers toward the formation of regiments of black soldiers. Prince Georgians served with distinction
in this process. Congress gave the President
authority to raise African American troops but President Lincoln officially
held off until January 1 with the issuance of the
Emancipation Proclamation. Enlistment of blacks began in 1862, by May
of 1863 the War Department created the Bureau of Colored Troops.

Of the six distinctly Maryland regiments formed, Prince Georgians filled especially the 19th and 30th However using
Freedmen Bank and pension records Prince Georges was represented throughout the USCT. Many of the Prince
Georges soldiers enlisted in District of Columbia. Some had been servants, cooks, or laborers in other regiments before
the USCT was formed.

The advantage in joining the Federal troops was that its reward was freedom. The Emancipation Proclamation did not
free Maryland slaves, but because of the Proclamation, the recruiting efforts of the military, and the proximity to
Washington which had already abolished slavery, made slavery a dying institution in Prince George's County.

While there was extreme prejudice against the black soldier, in Maryland and Prince George's County the military was
viewed by the black population as an escape from slavery. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Perkins ordered the release of
prisoners from the Upper Marlboro jail on condition that they would enlist in the army. When he entered the jail he found
eight blacks chained to a staple. Each leg was encased by a manacle, rivetted into place with a hammer and anvil while
still hot. "The fifth and stench...utterly inhuman..." Some of the slaves had lived in the jail since the outbreak of the war
three years earlier. One woman had a child born there two years before. He let all the slaves escape. Edward W. Belt,
States Attorney of Prince Georges protested to Governor Bradford and the Governor to Abraham Lincoln. However,
General Orders No. 11 enlisted all Negroes in jails, slave-pens, or other places of confinement...if passed by the
surgeon..., willing to enlist, and not held under criminal process.

The Election of 1863
The Maryland election of 1863 was the critical election in the abolition of slavery in Maryland. This particular election
saw the defeat of the Conservative Unionists and the Democratic party by the Radical Unionists.

In the election of 1860 Abraham Lincoln received only one vote in Prince George's. The State of Maryland gave its
electorial votes to John C. Breckinridge of the southern Democratic. By the 1864 election the Republican party had
taken cover under the name of the National Unionists party. This allowed Democratic and other southerners who would
not join the Republican party, a party where union loyalists would feel comfortable.

The difference between the Conservative Unionists and the Radical Unionists was the degree over how fast slavery
should be abolished. The Conservatives were for a go slow approach. The Radical Unionists were for immediate

Due to the imbalance in voter strength (partly from the 3/5's ruling on slavery in apportionment), the southern counties
(heavily democratic) had a greater influence out of their voting population. Only 25% of the states white population and
84% of the slaves lived in the southern counties. What was needed to tip the balance was the presence of the Union

The election was conducted through the use of military troops. These troops were stationed at election locations to
prevent disorder. However, this translated into forcing loyalty oaths, arresting election judges, and promising to either
draft more blacks in place of poor whites or furloughing soldiers so they could participate in the elections. Fendall
Marbury of Prince George's County upon being told at the polls that he would have to take the oath responded "There
is nothing in your oath I object to...but I am opposed to taking any oaths. You have no right to come here and require
this oath.

Only 60% of Maryland voted as in the four previous elections. 47 of the 74 seats of the House of Delegates went to the
Radical Unionists in the Senate elections and Democrat & slavery in the House elections. The election for the
Comptroller which was the only state-wide election resulted in a victory for the Radical Unionists while Prince Georges
cast 1,039 votes for the Conservative Unionists with 140 to the Radical Goldsborough.

The Constitutional Convention
Slavery had been a dying institution in Maryland since the outbreak of the civil war. At the beginning of the war abolition
of slavery was not looked on as a real possibility by most men in government. Even Lincoln's early plan to free the
slaves would have resulted in the government paying for the slaves which would have been released by 1900.

The war accelerated the process of making the abolition of slavery a reality even if it was done so for the purpose of
breaking the power of the south's slaveocracy. Because the emancipation proclamation did not effect Maryland the only
way to change slavery was through a constitutional amendment to the federal constitution or though a change to the
state constitution. After the election of 1863 where the emancipationists won control of the assembly plans were set for a
constitutional convention to be held in June of 1864. In the election that followed as to whether a convention should be
called Prince George's voted 188 for, 1097 againsts.

One delegate Samuel H. Berry from Upper Marlboro, Prince George's County spoke in opposition to the emancipation of
slavery. He declared emancipation the destruction of "the productive industry and source of wealth of the agricultural
portion of the State." Emancipation was an outrage upon "our" rights and had "the promptings of a fanaticism which had
its origin in the north." It would result in the destruction of forty million dollars of property. However, slave holders could
see the writing on the wall in regards to their institution. Berry proposed a fall back position.

"I understand that the majority of this Convention proposed to free the slave without compensation. Now, I want it
distinctly understood beforehand that I shall opposed the abolition of slavery no matter under what phase it is presented
to this convention. But was there every heard such an outrage against the rights of the citizens of any State to propose
to take from them $40,000,000 worth of Property!"

Another delegate from Prince George's, Daniel Clarke, also delivered a speech at the Convention. His long speech
argued also against emancipation, but was really a plea for compensation. He based his argument on the United States
Constitution and contract law. His proposal suggested a special tax that would pay owners $300 a head. He established
a fall back position that included a provision that slaves would be freed if the United States government would agree to

Maryland's Abolition of Slavery
The new constitution was passed in the fall with Prince George's in the opposition. On November 1, 1864 the slaves
were freed. By the time of the
13th Amendment slavery was part of the historical past for Maryland.

Slaves in Maryland were not freed by the
Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln or by the 13th Amendment.
The emancipation date for Maryland slaves was 1 November 1864. This emancipation was accomplished by a new
constitution approved by voters in a narrow margin in September, 1864.

However, the Act of Emancipation did not guarantee freedom for the former slaves. The first assault on emancipation
came immediately after emancipation, resulting in the apprenticing of free black children. Maryland Assembly invited
Federal troops to take measures to protect freedmen until the January 1865 Assembly session to repeal the Black code.

The Aftermath
The following years were not necessary easily ones for the freedmen. Legal problems remained on the books that would
not be completely removed until 1888. There was an educational system to put in place. There were families to bind
together and Churches to build. All of this in spite of the overwhelming hostility of their former masters.

Some of the former slaves moved to better climate of Washington, D. C. or Baltimore. There the prejudice was less
overwhelming and there was a safety in numbers. Others chose to stay put and begin the struggle that would continue
over one hundred years later.

No where does a memorial stand to the thousands of slaves that built Prince George's County. Their heritage is the
roads, the government institutions, the schools of the community, and the defense of the freedom in which our system
exists. These were built with their unpaid labor. No government agency stood up for them at the end of slavery to
request the unpaid wages of 200 years. Yet the basic honor and dignity of these people torn from their ancient lands,
brought with untold suffering into a new world, stripped of their culture, language, and even their name, will brightly
shine. These were the people that built Prince George's.

The First Institution -- The Church
The beginnings of the Black Church lie hidden in the murky waters of slavery. The institution that offered the greatest
hope to the black community was a part of the black community probably at the earliest moments of slavery times. One
of the most important branches of that institution was the Methodist Church.

Beginnings - Many of the early blacks of Prince George's County went to church with their white masters. This served as
an easy method of control. Holy Trinity Parish and King George's Parish

In Upper Marlboro the Episcopal Church attempted to provide for a building for blacks. According to
The Planter's
of 30 March 1859:

"On Sunday last, Rev. Mr. Kershaw, of the Episcopal Church in this place, informed his congregation of his intention to
raise, if possible, funds enough to erect a church-building for the colored people. No proper accommodations are now
made for them, and the apathy hereto on the subject has been by no means, he urged, in keeping with the responsibility
resting on the whites to provide spiritual instruction for their slaves. Not a very large sum is required. The proposition
meets with warm approval of the congregation and its accomplishment will no doubt be soon guaranteed."

St. Paul United Methodist Church/Oxon Hill - One of the oldest Black congregations in the country and the oldest in
the Maryland area began before October 1791. One of the first records of this church is the journal of Ezekiel Cooper

"Thursday 10 (October 1791) I went over the Potomac and preached in Oxenhill in a small preaching house which has
been built by a number of religious black people. I had considerable satisfaction among them. I preached at 12 o'clock
again at night. The dear black people seem to be alive to God having their hearts placed on things above. I lodged at
Mr. Beans - none of the family, caught black people, are in the ways of religion, but they are a friendly, kind people. I
had much satisfaction with them. O that God may give them His grace."

Another minister preached there on January 23, 1794 and recorded in his journal:

"I preached to a congregation of black people, at Oxenhill on the Potomac opposite Alexandria from Matthew 5:5. Some
years ago a few of these black people obtained their freedom and embraced religion, loved our society and built us a
meeting house, began to exhort the people of their color to flee from the wrath, to come, and God has blessed the labor
in an extraordinary manner. Their society is very numerous and very orderly and to their great credit with pleasure I
assert that i never found a white class so regular in giving in their quarterage as these poor people are, and the greater
part are slaves, of whom never request anything. But they will inquire when the quarterly meetings are from time to time,
and by the last time a preacher comes round before the quarterly meeting, they will have $5 in silver tied up for him. As
they are so numerous, the circuit preacher cannot meet them all. There are two leading characters among them, that fill
their station with dignity. They not only have their class meetings but also their days of examination in order to find out
anything that may be amiss among them; and if they can settle it among themselves, they will; if not, as the elders of
Israel brought matters which they conceived were of too great importance for them to decide on before Moses, so would
these people bring matters of the greatest moment before the preacher."

The congregation moved in 1863 into an old brick building that stood behind the post office. The white community
objected and after a record search they had to give up the building.  They then met in the homes of Thomas Elwood,
Alfred Travers, Jeremiah Williams, Robert Green, Margaret Brown, and Sara Bailey.

The new Bureau school in 1868 became the site of St. Paul's Methodist church with the donation of land by Henry
Hatton an important member of the congregation. Reverend Langford became the first pastor of the new congregation
assigned in 1868.

Reverend Daniel Wheeler became the pastor in 1870. Still using the Bureau building the church had a membership of
107. By 1872 the church became part of the Woodville charge with Reverend Aukard. He was succeeded by Reverend
G. T. Pinkney. The following pastor was Reverend P.H. Matthews. The Reverend A.J. Weems (a former teacher for the
Bureau and the former minister at Horsehead) became minister in 1877 for one year. From 1878 to 1880 Rev Noble
Watkins was the pastor. The Church moved to its present Oxon Hill site in 1888.

Union United Methodist Church - Upper Marlboro - Before the Civil War, blacks in Upper Marlboro worshiped in the
white Methodist church off the Washington-Marlboro Pike. This was undoubtedly due to the small number of free blacks
in the Marlboro area - 91.

In October 1865 the newly freed community would purchase five acres of land from Frederick Sasscer on Valley Lane.
The trustees: Henson Greenleaf, Nicholas Greenleaf, and George Bowling were appointed by the Baltimore Conference.

The building was built by the Freedmen's Bureau for a school house and was allowed to be used as a church. The area
also includes a cemetary. The circuit of churches was Brooks, Jackson, St. Luke, Carol Chapel, and Croom. The first
pastor of this circuit was Rev. Julius Love.

St. Thomas Methodist Episcopal - Aquasco. The St. Thomas Methodist Episcopal church was formed in September,
1867 when George E. Orme shold an acre of land to use as a church and a school house (Freedmen's Bureau,
Horsehead school). The first pastor of this church was Aaron Weems who was also the first teacher of the school.

Brooks United Methodist Church - Nottingham. This name Brooks United Methodist Church is the current name of
the church. The property was part of the tract called the "Mansfield". For one hundred dollars Henry Butler, James
Mackall, Albert Scott, John Dockett, and Nathaniel Brooks bought an acre of land to serve as a church for the
Washington Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and a school-house from John H. Skinner.

Christ United Methodist Church - Aquasco. Henry Buxxton, Nace Brooks, John Docket, Albert Scott and James
Mackall were trustees appointed by the Methodist Episcopal Church, Colored to start a church at Aquasco. They
purchased the land and received $400 from the Freedmen's Bureau to use for the construction of a school house. The
church was originally called John Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church. The land was purchased in 1866 by James Gray
from George Morton.

Grace Methodist Episcopal - Accokeek. The land was purchased in 1867 for the construction of a church. Father
Jeremiah Brown was instrumental in building the congregation. The church is located on 11700 Old Fort Rd., in Chapel
Hill Maryland.

St. Luke's Church, Clinton. The Church was formerly called Niles Chapel after a white man who befriended the black
community after the Civil War. The Church was considered in Forestville (near Centrevill). It was established in June of
1877 on the Upper Marlboro Circuit.  The Westphalia United Methodist Church is where the current congregation

Asbury Methodist Church, Brandywine, Md. This congregation was established in 1876.

St. Philips Chapel, Aquasco. Established in 1878, this Church was one of the only 2 episcopal chapels built for blacks
in Prince George's County.

St. Paul's Baptist - Bladensburg. The founder of the St. Paul's Baptist Church was a former slave that had been sold
to a family in New Orleans. She developed her Baptist faith from the First African Baptist Church in New Orleans. Sara
M. Plummer Clark was born in Riverdale in 1842. The original church met in the Plummer home, but in 1869 moved into
a log cabin in Hyattsville.  In 1870 the Church was relocated to its current home in Bladensburg. By 1873 the
congregation had enough support to buy its building from the Presbyterians on 47th Street in Blandensburg. This
original building burned in 1907 and the current building was constructed in 1908. Sarah Plummer is the author of Out
of the Depths, an original book and diary of this era in Prince George's County history, and the Calvert family.

Macedonia Methodist Episcopal - Bladensburg. This Congregation was located on the site of the original
Freedmen's Bureau school in Bladensburg. The school was later named after the Macedonia church.

Dent Chapel African Methodist Episcopal - Bladensburg. By 1850 there were 60 black members out of 134 in what
is now the 1st United Methodist Church of Bladensburg. The Dent Chapel African Methodist Episcopal church was
formed out of this congregation. It is named after its first minster, Rev. Abraham Dent. The congregation has currently
moved to the District of Columbia.

Greater Mt. Nebo African Methodist Episcopal - Upper Marlboro. The Mt. Nebo Church was formed in June of
1877 by Richard Wood, George Larkins and Wilson Turner. They purchased a one acre parcel of land on Queen Anne
Road (known as Popular Ridge) for $134.55. The first pastor was a Rev. N. Gray who was pastor to the then Queen
Anne Circuit. The original church was a log cabin. The site with a church building built in 1925 is the oldest A.M.E.
Historical site in Prince George's County.

Queen's Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church - Rossville. Queen's Chapel was started in 1868 with the purchase
of a lot for $5 and the construction of a log church.  Charles Coffin loaned money for the rebuilding of the church which
was rebuilt twice.

Rossville itself was started by August Ross born in 1855. He was the slave of Benjamin Beall of Prince George's County.
He was a worker for Charles Coffin. In 1886 he bought one of the lots on Old Muirkirk road for $76.78 which was carved
out of the Mark Duvall estate.

The Law and the Freedmen
A Mr. Carslisle of Georgetown prepared a requested document for General C. H. Howard of the Freedmen's Bureau that
detailed the problems of the Maryland judicial system in regards to the newly freed slaves. He lists six problems
associated with the law: 1. Right to vote. 2. Distribution of estates by executors of wills to former slaves. 3. frauds where
whites are concerned with means of redress beyond the ability of blacks. 4. administration of local laws before Justices
of the Peace that were antigonistic to the rights of blacks. 5. Hardships and perversions of the administration of the law.
6. Laws discriminating against the testimony of blacks.

The Apprentice System
The apprentice system was designed to force young, black males into involuntary servitude because of the economic
condition of their parents. The former slave owners would go to Orphan's Court where they would receive custody of
young men promising to care for them because of the inability of their parents. The Orphan Court would hold an
examination where the children could be removed to an enviornment which would be better "for the habits and comfort
of such children as to bind them.".

The Bureau assigned Wm S VanDerlip, Bvt Maj. to look into the problem.  He would later play another role as supervisor
of the education department for DC, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia.He was a lawyer before the war so his legal
expertise was helpful in solving this particular problem.

Each case needed to be handled separately. A writ of Habeas Corpus was issued to bring the children to court and the
court could order their discharge.  However, because of the nature of the Judges of the Maryland lower courts; it was
thought wiser to bring the case to the U.S. District Court with Judge Hugh Bond presiding.

In October of 1865 the Bureau received a letter from a Mister Hile of Upper Marlboro noting the frequent applications
made to the Orphan's Court for black children. The letter reported that the Court had reject all the applications because
of the military taking jurisdiction over the apprentice matter.

In 1865 one particular case in Prince George's was that of Indian Diggs. This man's children were apprenticed in the
Orphans Court of Prince George's County. The U.S. District Attorney advised against an appeal through the State Court
of Appeals and advised the case to go to Judge Bond or Stockbridge of the U.S. Courts for technical reasons.

By December 27, 1866 another case for Prince George's County occurs when Alfred Triva (Travis), appealed to
General Charles Howard of the Freedmen's Bureau for assistance in obtaining the release of his son. Alfred and
Melvina were living on the farm of Dr. Banks in the Fort Washington, Piscataway area. Their son was held by Alexander
Cole for over a year.

On January 22, 1867, Major George Henry wrote Alexander Cole that a complaint had been lodged against him at the
Bureau's office in Bladensburg. By February 11, 1867, Major Henry wrote Mr. G.W. Brandt, Justice of the Peace at
Piscataway, requesting a warrant against Cole. Cole was sent a bill for $24.00 due for labor. Major Henry determined
this amount on the basis of $2 a month. Subsequently, Cole had threatened to kill the boy's mother and had finally
driven the boy from his place.

The case that finally reached the
U S Circuit Court Chief Justice of the United States Chase presiding was the request
for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the matter of Elizabeth Turner of Talbot County. The Bureau was sent a true test copy of
the U.S. Circuit Court which it reprinted into Circular No. 8 of the Headquarters of the Assistant-Commissioner, D.C.

VanDerlip suceeded in having a judge, Judge Magruder placed under indictment for violation of the Civil Rights bill.
Magruder opened the fall term of the Prince George's Circuit Court for 1867 by stating his version of the apprenticeship

There is another matter, gentlemen to which I refer with reluctance, from the fear of misconstruction, but, which my duty
to, and the enforcement of the laws compels me to notice. I allude to the offence of enticing and persuading apprentices
to abscond from their masters service. I do not know whether this offence prevails to any extent here, but I know that it
does elsewhere, to such a degree that, if not promptly suppressed by a strict enforcement of the law, it will almost
entirely destroy the beneficial and wholesome effects of the apprentice law--which was intended to save the community
from a heavy burden---and prevent a helpless class, from receiving proper support from acquiring habits of industry.
There is no valid reason why this should be represented as a case of conflict between the Government of the United
States and that of the State. As to all the power granted to the United States, every good citizen will yield a ready and
cheerful obedience, as to the highest laws of the land, but as to other powers, remaining in the States, the citizens and
authorities of the State owe a like obedience under the dictates of the Constitution of the United States, a strict
obedience to which requires that no unauthorized power shall be exercised under pretence of its mandate. It becomes
therefore, the duty of the authorities of the State to enforce every law not in conflict with the Constitution of the United
States; and it is the opinion of the Court that this law of the State is valid and operative and that it is your duty to aid in
its strict enforcement, not only for the good of the community, but for the purpose of having these unfortunate people
from the effects of their own improvidence and helplessness.

Chief Justice Chase in a decision concerning the laws that Judge Magruder declares "valid and operative," pronounced
them unconstitutional.

By this time Magruder was under two indictments for the Civil Rights law. In March of 1867 the Grand Jury met with Major
Vanderlip who reported to the bureau that the jury was not interested in increasing the number of indictments and after
the law had been repealed regarding the selling of blacks thought that no further action was necessary. However,
Vanderlip pursuaded the grand jury of the necessity of persueing the second indictment.

March of 1867 was also a bad month for news from the Maryland legislature.  A bill allowing blacks to testify passed the
House but failed in the Senate. The legislature passed a bill attempting to limit Federal Judge Bonds ability to issue writs
of Habeus Corpus. The legislature also passed a bill to defend judges and magistrates against the Civil Rights bill.
However, the legislature did not pass a bill legalizing the apprentices.

The enforcement of these had not been accomplished in a year's period and was a cause of concern for the Bureau.
The general feeling was that Judge Magruder was being strengthened by his repeated attacks against the government.
Major VanDerlip urged the Bureau to influence the District Attorney to serve the indictment against Judge Magruder and
that the subsequent vindication of the indictment would break Judge Magruder's power.
Abraham Lincoln
Augustus Williamson Bradford
Governor of Maryland (January 8, 1862 – January 10, 1866)
Salmon Chase
Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court
Custom Search
Table of Contents
Maryland Law
Relations with Other
U. S. Fugitive Slave Law
U. S. Fugitive Slave Law
Federal Laws Regarding
Slavery in Prince
George's County
Maryland Abolition of
Free People of Colour
Before the End of Slavery
Dred Scott Decision
Organizations against
Dr. Bronson Main Page
Assorted Documents of
Prince Georges County
Prince Georges 1861
Author's Introduction
Like us on