Saturday, July 19, 2008

Where was the African American School?

At this point we have no drawings or photographs of the school house built for African American children on the lot that the trustees acquired from William and Ann Matthews. In fact, we do not even know where the school was located. All we have to go on is the description in the original 1868 deed, to wit (I've modernized some spelling and punctuation):

This Deed Made the Eleventh day of December in the year Eighteen hundred and Sixty Eight by Maj. William B. Matthews and Mrs. Ann T. Matthews, witnesseth that in Consideration of the Sum of five dollars the Said William B. Matthews and Ann T. Matthews do grant unto Washington Willis, Washington Burch, Dennis Bond, Horace Wallace, and Henry Hawkins, all Colored, in trust for the purpose of Erecting or allowing to be Erected thereon a School house for the use, benefit and Education of the Colored people of Charles County, forever, all that Lot or parcel of ground Lying in Charles County which is described as follows: Beginning for the Same at a Stake at or near the Top of Mount Hill ("driven in the ground" struck in the original) at the left Side of the road leading from Port Tobacco to Salem, then running forty yards with the Said road in the direction of Salem to another Stake driven in the ground, then northerly fifty yards to another Stake driven in the ground, then westerly to another Stake driven in the ground and in a line parallel with the aforesaid road, then Southerly to the place of beginning, Making in all fifty yards Square, to have and to hold, they and their Successors in office for the purpose and use aforesaid, the understanding being that it Shall revert to the Said Wm B. Matthews and Ann T. Matthews or their heirs when ever it Shall Permanently cease to be used as a School.

The reversion clause is typical for parcels donated for school sites. The description suggests that the school lot was situated on the high ground east of Port Tobacco and measured 140 ft along the north side of the road and 150 ft deep. It was clearly located outside of the town.

Because the trustees conveyed the lot to the county's Board of School Commissioners in 1886 and the Commissioners probably divested themselves of the lot sometime afterward, it is possible that a deed exists for that subsequent conveyance and that it properly locates the parcel on the landscape today. I'll let you know.


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