Brighton (ssblackcommunities)

By the mid-19th century, a small agricultural center emerged along upper New Hampshire Avenue, south of its intersection with present-day Brighton Dam Road.  Primarily white before Emancipation, the community of Brighton was a hub of area commerce, with a blacksmith and wheelwright shop for wagon repairs, cattle scales to weigh livestock, a general store, a cannery, and a gathering of houses along one of the county’s major routes leading to Washington, DC.

Following Emancipation, a Black section of Brighton emerged at the southern end of the village.  Families gathered around the Brighton Store where white Quaker shop owners Edward Pierce and Isaac Hartshorne offered any manner of goods to the surrounding clientele.  The store became a stop on the stage line to Laurel and, in the 1860s, the official post office.  Pierce’s wife Sophie reportedly named the community Brighton.

By 1878 the Black community had grown to warrant the founding of a new Methodist Episcopal church, erected near the store.  A school for Black children would soon open on an adjacent lot.  Reportedly the original school burned in 1917 and was replaced by an old schoolhouse transported from another community.  Black educators at the time met the challenges of teaching a room full of students of every grade using cast-off books and materials. With diminishing enrollment, the school closed in 1931.

In 1902 the Centennial Methodist Episcopal Church of Brighton was incorporated.  Soon its Black congregation was holding services in a small wooden chapel built next to the community school.  Little is known about the fate of the earlier church.  By the early 1900s, the congregation was large enough to warrant its own minister, rather than sharing pastors with other area churches. In 1916 the Lincoln Chapel Lodge No. 9885 of the United Odd Fellows bought a lot beside the church and school, with the purpose of building a new meeting hall.  (A social hall of some type for the Black community had existed since the 1870s.)  Thomas Edwards, Franklin Murphy, John Pumphrey, David Thompson, Jeremiah Spriggs, George Askris, and William Hill served as trustees.  For entertainment, the community built a baseball field on the western side of New Hampshire Avenue, with the Brighton team hosting other Black baseball teams from communities around the area.

New houses appeared around the church and school in the early 20th century.  Gradually the center of commerce shifted southward, to the Ashton-Sandy Spring-Olney corridor, diminishing Brighton’s importance as an agricultural center.