African American Community History Project
At the turn of the 20th century, the black population living in Sandy Spring far exceeded the white population. Both free and enslaved blacks have been living in Sandy Spring since the 1700s but there is little written history on the people and the self-sufficient, segregated black communities that were built.
In summer 2019 the Museum was awarded a grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority to document the homes and businesses of all free blacks living in the Sandy Spring area between the late 1700s and the mid-20th century. During this two-year research project, the goal is to identify everyone who lived in and/or owned the properties and to learn how the towns grew and changed over time.
The success of this project depends upon community participation. If you would like to learn more about getting involved, please contact us.
Virtual Tour of Historic Sandy Spring
Want to take a tour of Sandy Spring without getting in your car? Here is a virtual tour that you can enjoy from your computer. You can also drive to each location and listen to the audio on your smart phone.
This project was done by Megan Glixon.
Artist Milton Bancroft was inspired by Sandy Spring
In 1753, James Brooke — Sandy Spring’s first permanent settler– carved out a parcel of land from the 392 acres gifted to him by his father-in-law, Richard Snowden. Brooke conveyed several acres adjacent to his home and tobacco plantation to the Society of Friends for a place to worship and bury their dead. For the next 64 years, church members most likely met in a barn on the property or in private residences pending the construction of the Sandy Spring Meeting House.
Two of the oldest paintings of the Meeting House were created by American impressionist painter Milton H. Bancroft (1866-1947) in the 1890s. Educated in Massachusetts and Philadelphia, Bancroft exhibited in major U.S. cities at the turn of the 20th centuries. One of his major commissions was a set of 10 murals for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.
What was the artist’s connection to Sandy Spring?
Like James Brooke, Bancroft lived on land in the Sandy Spring area originally owned by Snowden and passed down through his father-in-law, Joseph Townsend Moore, a member of the Sandy Spring Meeting. In 1893, Bancroft married Margaret C. Moore at the Norwood family home in Sandy Spring owned by her father. The couple met at Swarthmore College, a small Quaker school outside of Philadelphia, where Bancroft was teaching while Moore was a student.
After they wed, the couple lived in Paris for several years. Moore returned to Norwood while her husband supported the family by painting in Europe and in New York. Too old to enlist, he served with the YMCA in France during World War I. He visited the Western Front where he documented wartime destruction in a series of drawings. He also created recruitment posters for the U.S. Armed Forces.
Moore inherited Norwood in 1920, where Bancroft retired after the war and continued to paint until his death in 1947. He is buried in the Sandy Spring Friends Meeting House Cemetery.
Bancroft’s trove of paintings housed at Norwood were sold with his estate in 1978 and donated to the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Two of his paintings of the Meeting House belong to the Sandy Spring Friends and will hang in their newly renovated Community House.
Contributed by Audrey Partington
Chronicles of Sandy Spring Meeting and Environs, Martha C. Nesbitt and Mary Reading Miller
Reading the Gravestones at Sandy Spring Friends Meeting Graveyard
CHILD DEATHS IN THE SANDY SPRING FRIENDS MEETING GRAVEYARD FROM 1755-2015
Research conducted by Anthony A. Taylor and Lorne K. Garrettson
If you walk through the Sandy Spring Friends Meeting Graveyard and read the stones, you will notice certain trends in the information. There aren’t many children buried there, but of those who are, most died in the 1800s, with far fewer child deaths in the 18 and 20th centuries. Why the sudden increase in child deaths in the 1800s, and why did they suddenly seem to stop? We set out to solve this small mystery.
We used the electronic records of the Sandy Spring Friends Meeting graveyard. In the cases of the children, cause of death isn’t recorded. There are 104 records in total and 70 (67.3%) died under the age of five. In the 1700s, only 6 (2.8%) children were buried here. In the 1800s, 72 (69.2%) children were buried here. In the 1900s, 21 (20%) died and 14 died before the year 1925. In the 2000s until now, only one child has been buried in this graveyeard. We do not have good population figures for this period of time, so death rates of the general population cannot be calculated for comparison. We assume that the population was increasing steadily throughout the period of study.
Child deaths were few and far between in the 1700s, but then instances of them spiked and became more frequent in the 1800s. This pattern continued into the early 1900s, but after 1925, they suddenly drop off. This child death rate decline in the mid-20th century strongly suggests that improvements in prevention and care were major contributors, as these improvements in medicine were occurring at a rapid rate during that time.
To further this analysis about the causes of these deaths, we pulled more detailed information to scrutinize the child mortalities occurring between 1900 and 2005. We searched the Maryland State Archives for death certificates to determine the listed cause of death, but to no avail. The use of death certificates did begin in Maryland in the late 19th century; but these records were not widely used in the early years after their introduction. However we did learn the causes of death for some of the children through these records. Most of the rest were learned from other sources such as the Annals of Sandy Spring. Of the 14 who died during this period, 9 have a known cause of death. Of the nine with known causes, three, or one-third, were due to diphtheria. One third of a sample is quite a large amount when put into context, and beings as the diphtheria vaccine was starting to be circulated in 19201, around the same time the child deaths sharply declined, we inferred that the vaccine along with other advances in medical science was the cause for the sudden and drastic decrease in child mortality.
So the next time you feel like a stroll, take one through the Sandy Spring Graveyard. The gravestones have stories to tell.
1 Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 15th Edition. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA p 113