Free Black Residents in the 1800s

In 1793 Allen Bowie, a prominent area planter and one of the founders of Montgomery County, sold to four of his “infirm former slaves” small plots of land to establish their own households. In so doing, the formerly enslaved Richard Bott, Josiah Beans, Henry Biggarly, and David Biggarly became among the first African Americans in the county to own property.

By 1810 more than 650 free blacks lived in Montgomery County; in contrast over 7,500 blacks were enslaved. The Sandy Spring area had by far the most free black residents in the county.

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They were tenant farmers, laborers, domestic workers, blacksmiths, carpenters, and more.  They made lasting contributions to the progress of their home communities, to the county and the state.

This map from 1865 pinpoints the home locations of just some of the area’s free black landowners in the 19th century.  They were the founders of the black communities that grew in the years after Emancipation.

 

Click on the icons below to learn more about free blacks in the mid-1800s.  This information was compiled from the files of the Maryland State Archives and the Maryland Historical Trust.

If you have family stories, histories, or photos related to this project that you would like to share, please send us an email.

The Martenet and Bond Map of 1865

Martenet and Bond’s map of Montgomery County, originally published on a sheet 35 by 30 inches and drawn to a scale of a mile to the inch, was first published in 1865, with a series of printings thereafter. Towns, villages, community buildings and individual residences are indicated by name and location, yet not every home and homeowner is noted.  Many of the homes of free blacks are excluded.  Roads such as Brooke Road, which ran through the black community of Cincinnati, are not indicated even though the road is known to have existed prior to 1865 and a number of free black landowning families had settled along the road.  Perhaps since it was a road leading to a black community, white mapmakers felt it unnecessary to record such non-white features.

Free African Americans who have been included on the map are indicated by race with the suffix “colored” or “cold.”  While incomplete, the map gives us a starting place for tracing the names and home locations of early black residents.  Additional names, known to be free landowners but who are unmarked on the map, are being added as discovered. Together they provide a small glimpse into the black communities of the Sandy Spring area in the 19th century.

Historically Black Communities of Sandy Spring has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

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