The Journey Through Hallowed Ground

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African American Heritage

  • Adams County Courthouse

    The Adams County Courthouse, at this site and its prior locations nearby, is known locally for its role in three stories about African American freedom during the time of enslavement.
    On October 3, 1831, Clem Johnson became free, manumitted by Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner. Both men were from Maryland, so it is unclear why Key filed the papers in Gettysburg.

  • Adams County Courthouse

    The Adams County Courthouse, at this site and its prior locations nearby, is known locally for its role in three stories about African American freedom during the time of enslavement.

  • Aldie Mill Historic District

    Charles Fenton Mercer, a congressman whose home overlooks Aldie Mill, owned slaves, yet called the institution of slavery “the blackest of blots, and foulest of all deformities.” With others in 1816, he founded the American Colonization Society, to establish a colony for free blacks and newly emancipated slaves on the west coast of Africa.

  • Antietam National Battlefield

    23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862. The Battle of Antietam ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North and led to Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

  • Ashville Historic District

    Ashville is a particularly well-preserved post-Emancipation African American settlement. It began when Catherine and Harriet Ash, sisters and former slaveholders, drew up identical wills in 1869 and left land to people who had served them in slavery. They willed fifty-five acres each to Frances Settle and Jacob Douglas.

  • Bartonsville

    Not long before the Civil War, Greensberry Barton, a man emancipated from slavery, bought a parcel of land in the New Market district. Others acquired land nearby and the Bartonsville community was born. Other early settlers included William Orange Brooks, also formerly enslaved, and John Thomas, who purchased several acres nearby.

  • Ben Venue

    Few slave quarters survive in Virginia, especially those built before 1800. Crudely constructed of wood—often including the chimney—and hidden away from the main house they provided poor shelter and didn’t last.  By 1810, however, slaveholders became more conscious of their responsibilities, the increasing value of their slave property, and outward appearances.

  • Blackwelltown

    As a widow, Elizabeth Fox Blackwell controlled an estate of 830 acres. When she died in 1859, she emancipated 87 people from slavery. She also stipulated that the land be sold to help them settle in a new state.

  • Blue Run Baptist Church

    Two black Baptists were among the founders of Blue Run Baptist Church in 1766. In its early years, the denomination denounced slavery and professed brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ.

  • Brandy Station

    For most of its history, inhabitants called this town Brandy, but the railroad played an important role in its economic development. While most known for the famous Civil War cavalry engagement fought there, it had its heyday in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

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