Get to Know Sugarland, MD, a Town Built, Ran, And Founded by Freed Slaves

Published On March 30, 2015 | By maria | Black to the future, The latest posts

Reported by Ryan Brennan

There are hundreds of towns located throughout America that are all-black communities. These towns were established by freed slaves after the Civil War and still stand today. One of them, Sugarland, Maryland, supposedly got its name because the founders believed the women there “were as sweet as sugar.”

Three elder people who grew up in Sugarland are beginning to tell its story.

Gwendora Reese, 73, and her two cousins Nettie Johnson La’Master, 74, and Suzanne Johnson, 65, are direct descendants of the founders of Sugarland. Nettie and Gwendora grew up in wood-framed houses that their fathers built. Their fathers were direct descendants of the freed slaves that originally created this town. It is located about an hour away from Washington.

They hold many memories within this town, from seeing their mothers can peaches to skipping down the dirt roads. They also enjoyed playing tag in the fruit orchards. With their own church, general store, and postmaster, residents of the town would go to church and sit on benches that were built by the freed slaves.

Growing up in the town, kids would often learn from the town’s elders simply by listening to them. The elders constantly spoke with pride in their community that was founded and is now completely run by blacks.

Reese stated, “It was a community born out of slavery. The church was one of the first community buildings they built. By them being in slavery, they learned trades. Some were blacksmiths. My great-grandfather made bricks. They took the skills they learned in slavery and helped each other build log cabins.”

The three freed slaves that originally founded the town were William Taylor, Patrick Hebron Jr., and John H. Diggs. It was founded on October 6, 1871 when the three men “purchased land for a church from George W. Dawson.” The cost was $25 and it was paid with a down payment, including various payments until the debt was gone. In the deed, the land was to be used for a church, a school, and as a burial site for people of African descent.

However, the old days of this town are coming to an end. Most of the town is horse country with million-dollar homes on hills. Most of the houses that were built by the slaves have been torn down, with forests taking up much of the town’s former residential area.

Reese, though, remembers a different place.

“It used to be you could stand on a hill and see all over Sugarland.”




Powered by Facebook Comments

About The Author



Powered by Facebook Comments