Enoch George Howard

(b. 1814 – d. 1895)

Enoch George Howard was born on October 11, 1814, likely to Jack and Polly who were enslaved on the Griffith farm near Unity, Maryland. After purchasing his own freedom on March 1, 1851 from Sarah Griffith, he then purchased his wife’s freedom from Samuel R. Gaither on September 5, 1853.

In 1860, Harriet Howard purchased her four oldest children from Samuel R. Gaither. The record specified that Harriet would legally own her sons until they reached thirty-five, and her daughters until they reached thirty. The transaction did not mention their youngest child, Maria, who was born free according to Maryland Law. The Howards had at least five children: John Henry in 1840; Mary Alice, nicknamed Mollie, in 1842; Martha Elizabeth in 1846; Greenbury W. in 1848; and Maria Gaither in 1854. The 1860 census showed Enoch George and Harriet Howard residing with their five remaining children in the Cracklin District of Montgomery County, and he appeared in that year’s census under the name George Howard, as he did in most government records throughout his life.

Relatives of the Howard family likely lived Montgomery County as well. In 1860, Basil Matthews, a free African American living in Sandy Spring, manumitted seven children. Although the children’s family relations are not definitively known at this time, two of these children shared the surname of Howard: Harriet (age fourteen) and Louis (age twelve). Matthews had likely purchased these children for their own protection.

By the summer of 1860, Enoch George Howard had amassed $3,500 in personal property, $3,000 of which he used to purchase the late Beal Gaither’s farm from Maria G. Griffith two years later. Situated next to William Belt’s farm on the western bank of the Patuxent River, the land included parts of the tracts “Gaither’s Forest,” “Green Spring Resurveyed,” and “Hard to Get and Dear Paid For.” The property’s stone manor house was called Locust Villa, which the Howard family also referred to as the “Home Mansion.” Howard purchased another 204 acres in 1869.

His farm produced mainly rye and oats, along with lesser quantities of corn, rice, and barley. Howard’s livestock included eight milk cows, fourteen pigs, four cattle, a pair of mules, a pair of horses, and two pairs of oxen. More common on Midwestern farms than in Maryland, the four oxen provided a powerful resource in plowing the farm’s large acreage. In 1870, the agricultural census listed nearly seventy percent of Howard’s land as improved, at a value of ten dollars per acre.

Howard continued buying and selling land in Montgomery and Howard counties through the 1880s. Land records showed him purchasing at least 650 acres of farmland during his lifetime, and selling over 420 acres. Howard invested portions of his wealth in stocks, owning $200 in private securities in 1867, and increasing his securities to $797 by 1869. Furthermore, in 1870, he owned thirty-seven dollars in gold or silver plate and twenty dollars in watches, valuable assets that the state assessed separately for each property owner.

Howard also used his funds to assist other African Americans in purchasing land. In 1870, for instance, he lent Wilson Lincoln and Thomas R. Bond the funds to buy 125 acres of land near Unity. Like Howard, Lincoln was probably a former slave of the Griffith family. Howard also left solid evidence of his involvement with the free black community that surrounded his property near the Patuxent River. In 1878, Howard (himself illiterate) sold a tenth of an acre of land for a school for African American students. The schoolhouse appeared as “Schl. Ho. No. 2” on Hopkins 1879 map of Montgomery County. His daughter, Maria, was already teaching school in 1870, manifesting the family’s concern for the education of the community’s black children. Howard also constructed the Howard Chapel near the school in 1889, with the chapel’s cemetery including the graves of several Howard family members and descendants.

In 1879, Howard appeared on G.M. Hopkins map of Montgomery County, which showed two residences under his ownership: Locust Villa and another property farther north. Different members of the Howard family lived in these houses at various times. For instance, in 1870, Enoch George Howard was living at Locust Villa, while his son, John, was living at the northern residence. In 1872, Howard’s son Greenbury listed his mailing address as the Roxbury Mills post office, just across the Patuxent River in Howard County. John and Enoch George Howard had switched locations by 1880, with John probably living in a wooden-frame house near Locust Villa, rather than at the Villa itself. In 1885, Howard sold approximately 100 acres to each of his sons, with John paying two dollars and Greenbury paying five.

By then, all five of the Howards’ children had married. In 1862, John Henry Howard married Harriet A. Gaither, remaining in Montgomery County as a farmer. In 1864, Mary Alice Howard married Benjamin F. Harding, a non-slaveholding white farmer in Barnesville, and was listed as white in the 1870 census. Martha Elizabeth Howard married the Civil War veteran John H. Murphy in 1868, later providing $200 to help her husband found Baltimore’s historic Afro American newspaper. Greenbury W. Howard and Rebecca Nettles married in 1876, and lived on the Howard family farm for the rest of their lives. In 1885, Maria Gaither Howard married an African American physician, Jacob B. Oliver, and had moved all the way to Indiana with her husband by 1900.

Even as their children grew up and left home, Enoch George and Harriet Howard’s house remained full, with various relatives and friends living with them throughout the years. As early as 1860, two adolescents named Flodorado and Gilbert Howard were living in the Howards’ household. James Howard, a forty-five-year-old African American farm laborer from Virginia, resided with the family in 1870, along with two children named Gustavus and Elijah Dorsey. Harriet Coxon, Frances Murphy, James Blair, and William Holland were among the names listed in the Howard residence in 1880.

Several sources even attribute Howard with providing lodging for the slave Dred Scott during the controversial Scott vs. Sanford case. Scott had sued for freedom after his owner, John Emerson, had taken Scott into the free state of Illinois and the free territory of Wisconsin. In 1857, the Supreme Court ruled that African Americans – whether slave or free – were ineligible for citizenship and therefore unable to legally petition their freedom in court. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, a pro-slavery Maryland native, also held that slaves who were taken into free territory still remained slaves. Unfortunately, no known documentation exists at the Archives in support of Scott’s reputed sojourn at Howard’s home. However, according to local legends and Howard family history, Howard assisted runaway slaves as well, with the family’s history also recounting two of Howard’s sons escaping to Canada through the Underground Railroad before Enoch George Howard had bought his family’s freedom.

Howard passed away on January 14, 1895. On January 25, 1985 the Montgomery County Sentinel reported that “George Howard, an old and highly respected colored man of this community, died at his home on Tuesday last.” In his will, Howard distributed his entire estate equally among his five children, giving each of his sons and daughters one-fifth of his property. He was buried at Howard family cemetery, along with his wife Harriet, who had died on December 22, 1882. The Patuxent River State Park encompasses much of Howard’s land today, although Locust Villa and the Howard Chapel are no longer standing.