Friday, July 18, 2008

More on Washington Burch

Yesterday I wrote about Washington Burch, a long-time resident of Port Tobacco, county jailer, and one of a group of trustees who acquired land for an African American school.

While examining the land records, specifically the deed for the school lot, I was struck by the early date: December 11, 1868. It is an early date because the modern school system in Maryland began in 1865 with enabling legislation enacted after adoption of the new state constitution. A state superintendent position was created and annual state board of education reports published. But the system was created for the state's white children, not for those of color (African Americans, Native Americans).

With the exception of the City of Baltimore, whose African American population made great strides in creating and operating schools for its children, statewide education for this very large portion of the state's citizens did not begin until well into the 1870s. The trustees group that secured the land from William and Ann Matthews warrants special recognition for their efforts:

Washington Welles
Washington Burch
Dennis Bond
Horace Wallace
Henry Hawkins

On February 16, 1886, the surviving trustees (Horace Wallace was not among them) conveyed their interest in the land to the Board of School Commissioners for Charles County, "it being considered necessary for fully carrying out and performing the purposes for which said lot or parcel of land was granted" (Land Records BGS 8/538).

I do not know why this conveyance was deemed necessary, or by whom, and I do not know what benefits, if any, accrued. It is certainly a subject that deserves further study.


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