Slavery on our Land

At our June 13, 2021 Service, Reverend Nancy Ladd led a worship service called “For Those Who Were Here in This Place.” In her sermon, she shared the recently uncovered history that the land where RRUUC now sits was once part of a large plantation/farm where enslaved Africans worked. Last month the Land Acknowledgement Task Force (LATF), working with RRUUC Communications Director, Natalie Schall, prepared a display on the history of slavery on our land. If you are able, the LATF encourages you to see the display in the Lounge, available through May. This blog post provides a brief overview of the history of slavery on our land. 

Display in Lounge

The first enslaved Africans were brought to Maryland in 1642 to enable the labor-intensive tobacco trade. Slavery was prevalent in Montgomery County, and River Road was a “rolling road” for transportation of tobacco casks to the port of Georgetown. In 1830, there were about 12,000 whites, 1,000 free blacks, and 6,000 enslaved blacks in Montgomery Country. As tobacco depleted the soil and farming shifted from tobacco to grain and vegetables, the population decreased in 1840 to about 9,000 whites, 1,000 free blacks, and 5,000 enslaved blacks. 

Many landowners around River Road were recorded as slave holders in the 1860 census, with most enslaving less than ten people. Allison Nailor Senior, who was the earliest recorded owner of our land, reported owning between 12 and 9 enslaved people in 1850 and 1860, respectively.  

People Enslaved by Nailor

Unfortunately, census records did not provide the names of these enslaved people, but we are able to identify the names of some of the people enslaved by Nailor from other records. 

  • Hannah Stewart – Filed Petition for Freedom from Nailor in 1839 but was not allowed to meet with Counsel.  The Jury was unable to provide a verdict. 
  • Sarah Newhouse, Nancy Newhouse, John Newhouse, James Newhouse, Bill Johnson, Charlotte Johnson, Rebecca Johnson, Anthony Sims – Named in Bill of Sale to Nailor in 1840
  • John Tasset – Nailor published a Runaway Ad for John Tasset in 1849
  • Lewis Ferguson– Escaped Nailor following Emancipation in 1862, enlisted in the US Colored Infantry and fought for the Union

Records show that Allison Nailor Senior (Born 1809, Died 1879) was named as “being conspicuous in the slave trade” by the Black Freemasonry in Washington DC. Nailor did business with the owner of the notorious Washington DC “Yellow House” slave prison and slave trader William H. Williams, made infamous by the book and movie “12 Years a Slave.”

A future display “Ownership of our Land” will trace the history of our land from Allison Nailor Senior through RRUUC’s purchase in 1961. Please reach out to if you have any questions or would like to become involved in the Land Acknowledgement Task Force. We are looking for individuals with expertise in genealogy to see if we can identify the names of individuals who may have been enslaved by Nailor.  

 Additional Information:

June 13, 2021 RRUUC Service: For Those Who Were Here In This Place

Emancipation in Montgomery County, Maryland, Eileen McGuckian, Montgomery History Association, 1995

Guide to the History of Slavery in Maryland, Maryland State Archives, 2020

Wikipedia page on History of Slavery in Maryland

Maryland State Archives website that provides search capability on people enslaved by named slave owners

Hour-long video on the history of emancipation in Montgomery County, November 2020