Jefferson Patterson Park and museum
Jefferson Patterson Park and museum

ST. LEONARD, Md. – The Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM) and the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT), two divisions of the Maryland Department of Planning, announced a $49,000 grant from the Department of Interior, National Park Service Civil Rights grant program, for a historical and archaeological study of Calvert County’s Wallville community.

The grant program funds a broad range of planning, development, and research projects for historic sites including survey, inventory, documentation, interpretation, education, preservation plans, and others.

Following the Civil War, newly emancipated Black Marylanders found themselves negotiating a new world, one filled with both opportunities and constraints, especially in southern Maryland, where freed families formed nearly half the population and yet struggled against  efforts to perpetuate systems of labor.

JPPM’s “Witnesses of Wallville: Documenting a Rural Southern Maryland Community” project will, with the help of descendants, articulate the history through a focus on Wallville, a small rural community in Calvert County, exploring how the community’s residents crafted new lives as they confronted racism and bigotry into the mid-twentieth century.Drawing on archaeological, documentary, and oral history sources, the project will give voice to both the ancestors and descendants of four prominent and interconnected Black families in the Wallville community. The project will examine the social and economic history of Wallville’s Black citizens, as well as the important roles of churches, schools, fraternal organizations, and extended family. The evidence and the stories it reveals will be used by JPPM to prepare a history of this community, including interpretive materials, and consultation with descendants of the Wallville community. 

Today, Wallville remains rural, containing numerous small residential properties and some larger farms. The former Peterson estate, developed as Point Farm by Jefferson Patterson beginning in the early 1930s, is now JPPM. Historic maps and census records, as well as oral history accounts of former residents and their family members, indicate that at least ten post-bellum Black-occupied sites are present on the grounds of the JPPM, with others located on a nearby privately-owned land parcel. These sites will be located and recorded using a combination of archaeological and historical research and the data recovered used to create a portrait of Wallville and the factors that influenced its changing demographics over eight decades following the Civil War.

Project products include publicly accessible interpretive content and a technical report of the documentary, oral history, and archaeological findings. 

The “Witnesses of Wallville” project is being supported in part by an African American Civil Rights grant from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Fifty-three projects in twenty states, totaling over $15 million in funding, were awarded funding this year. The National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Grant Program funding helps preserve sites and history related to the African American struggle for equality.

For more information on JPPM, go to https://jefpat.maryland.gov/.

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1 Comment

  1. An important area of study. The St. Mary’s City Commission has done (some) of this too in Historic St. Mary’s City.

    Much more work needs to be done though, I’m glad this is happening.

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