Cincinnati (ssblackcommunities)

Centered around the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and Brooke Road, north of Ashton, was the community of Cincinnati, a mixed Free Black and white community that emerged in the first half of the 19th century.  Early white families including the Chandlees, Leas, Gilpins, and Stablers built spacious homes near the intersection, along “the road to Unity,” today’s New Hampshire Avenue.  The formerly enslaved, manumitted from area plantations, also settled in the area before 1840. However, those early Black residents were not landowners but mostly laborers and tenant farmers for local white families.

Henson Hill was reportedly among the Black founders of Cincinnati and, according to the Annals of Sandy Spring, was “one of the first of his race to own his own home.”  His brother Remus Q. Hill was another early Black resident and a master carpenter. “He was among the first to purchase land in Cincinnati,” the Annals noted, having purchased a small plot of land from white planter Bernard Gilpin in 1842.

Remus Q. Hill was born in 1816; his parents, Hazel and Margery Hill were manumitted by Quaker planter Richard Thomas at his death in 1806.  Remus Q. built his home in 1842, south of Brooke Road on the west side of New Hampshire Avenue, where he lived with his wife Ruthy for the next sixty years.  Warner Cook, another early Black resident of Cincinnati, left 108 descendants at his passing in 1899.

Reportedly Cincinnati was one of the stops along the Underground Railroad as it passed through the Sandy Spring area.  Local white Quaker families aided the escaping enslaved as they made their way north to freedom.  Mt. Airy, the Gilpin home that stood on the southern boundary of Cincinnati, was reportedly a well-known stop along the railroad.  The attribution is interesting since Bernard Gilpin, a hat-maker by trade who moved into Mt. Airy ca. 1800, was himself an enslaver, holding more than 15 men and women at one point, some inherited by his wife Sarah at the death of her father Richard Thomas in 1806.  Gilpin began manumitting his enslaved in 1809 including “Negro Rezin,” “Negro Caty,” “Negro Lucy” and others.

Emancipation swelled the community’s population after 1865.  Small parcels of land were sold to the formerly enslaved.  Because the plots were too small for farming, many of the men were hired out as seasonal or day laborers, while the women worked as domestics for area white families.  Some, like Remus Q. Hill, offered specialized skills such as carpentry and blacksmithing.  Early Black families expanding the community included the Squirrel, Budd, Cook, Bacon, and Awkard families (found spelled several ways: Awkard, Awkward, and Offord.)

By 1880 Cincinnati had become a place name on local maps; the U.S. Census for that year noted a number of residents, both Black and white, living in the designated community of Cincinnati.  Unlike other Black communities in the area, Cincinnati was not centered around a church; most residents attended Sharp Street Church in Sandy Spring.  By 1882 fifty-four Black men and women lived in Cincinnati, compared to 50 whites in the village of Sandy Spring proper.  Yet when it came time to establish a post office for the community, for some unknown reason it was named “Brinklow” and was housed in Lea and Stabler’s general store, opened around 1890 just north of the intersection of Brooke Road and New Hampshire Avenue. Eventually, Brinklow replaced Cincinnati as the community name.

Many other area Black communities saw declining populations in the early 20th century as younger generations left for greater opportunities elsewhere, yet Cincinnati remained a vibrant neighborhood well into the 1900s.