Guest Blog: The Montgomery County Emory Grove

By Morgan Miller-Scarborough, Independent Historian 

A photo of Emory Grove United Methodist Church taken in 1974 (courtesy of MHT)

A little over one year ago, the Maryland Historical Trust published a Facebook post about the Emory Grove Camp Meeting in Glyndon, Maryland. However, there was another Emory Grove Camp Meeting in Gaithersburg, Maryland. They were two completely different camp meetings that were not related to one another. Although much of Gaithersburg’s Emory Grove community has been lost, the site and its history still serve as an exceptional example of African American heritage in Montgomery County.

I came to know this difference in Emory Groves through my research on the town of Washington Grove; another Maryland Methodist camp meeting that ended up dissolving the Camp Meeting Association and becoming incorporated as a town in the 1930s. I learned that these two camp meetings were essentially next to each other. Today, you will see Washington Grove in a state of incredible preservation, but you will then not be able to really see where the Emory Grove camp was.

The Emory Grove United Methodist Church is the only building left standing from the Emory Grove Community and their camp meeting days. Despite being one of the oldest black communities in the county, the area has been largely replaced with apartment buildings and suburban development. The Emory Grove Camp Meeting and the Emory Grove Community were established between 1864 and 1870 when formerly enslaved people moved from Redland and Goshen and purchased land. The first church and school started in 1876 at the home of John Dorsey, a Civil War veteran who had begun working in the Lord’s service after he won his freedom. An African American public-school system was inaugurated in 1872 and the camp meetings were generally a place for people to gather for song and praise services.

Although it is cited as one of the more popular camp meetings in Maryland, in 1876 the people of Emory Grove had lost the right to use the campground that had been in use for two previous years. The newspapers of the time did not report why this happened, but the camp was able to resume in 1879. During the interim time the Christian Advocate, a popular Methodist newspaper, called on nearby Washington Grove to open their camp meeting to the people of Emory but not help them maintain their autonomy. This meant that the newspaper did not call for Emory Grove to have the management of the land returned. After this call to open their camp, Washington Grove then printed an invitation on July 25, 1877 in the Montgomery County Sentinel for the people from Emory Gove to worship there. Emory Grove and Washington Grove had more interactions over the years, but the relationship did not reach the same closeness as it did in 1877.

The camp meetings of Emory Grove ended in the 1960s and the land was largely rebuilt in the 1970s. The Emory Grove community is now spread out over the state but the congregation is still thriving to this day.

For more information on the Emory Grove United Methodist Church:

https://emorygrovechurch.org/

To see my walking tour of Washington Grove and Emory Grove:

https://www.theclio.com/tour/1169

Sources:

Martha M. Hamilton, “Emory Grove: ‘There weren’t a lot of people but they were close-knit,’” The Washington Post, May 26, 1977, accessed December 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1977/05/26/emory-grove-there-werent-a-lot-of-people-but-they-were-close-knit/6e080ac7-fb3d-4eec-90f4-f6eb8da01783/.

“History of Emory Grove United Methodist Church,” Vision/History, Emory Grove United Methodist Church, accessed March 5, 2020, https://emorygrovechurch.org/mission/.

Maude Taylor, Dedication Notes for Emory Grove Park Fall 1974, found in the Emory Grove Camp Meeting Grounds Maryland Historical Trust Inventory Form for State Historic Sites Survey, August 28, 1974, https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/Medusa/PDF/Montgomery/M;%2020-8.pdf.

“Camp,” Montgomery County Sentinel, July 25, 1877. Found at the Maryland State Archives (MSA SC 2813).

Philip K. Edwards, Washington Grove 1873-1937: A History of the Washington Grove Camp Meeting Association (Washington Grove: Philip K. Edwards, 1988).



MHAA Welcomes New Members to its Grant Review Panel

Last year, MHAA transformed its grant review process to feature a panel of exceptional reviewers from all backgrounds and areas of expertise. Including representatives of nonprofit organizations, cultural institutions, state employees, and members of the public, the panel is responsible for reading and ranking the over 200 applications MHAA receives each grant round.  

This past year, MHAA was happy to welcome nine new members to our grants panel, with expertise in fields ranging from education and preservation to communications and art. You can read short bios for the new panelists below. If you are interested in joining the grants review panel for FY 2023 round, you can learn more about the process here and submit this form for consideration by December 31, 2021. 

Garland A. Thomas, Department of Housing and Community Development 

Garland Thomas is a representative of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, where he serves as Assistant Director of the Statewide Team for the Neighborhood Revitalization Unit – Team 2. He has years of experience in state government, administering several state revitalization programs. Serving on the grants panel, he brings expertise in project management, economic development, and grants management.  

Charlotte Davis (Frederick County) 

Charlotte Davis is the Executive Director of the Rural Maryland Council and has more than twenty years of experience serving the state of Maryland. She currently oversees the Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund and the Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment fund. Her years of experience working with rural Maryland allows her to offer invaluable insights into potential projects across the state.  

Lenett Nef’fahtiti Partlow-Myrick (Pikesville, MD) 

Lenett Nef’fahtiti Partlow-Myrick is an artist, poet, writer, and instructor of English at Howard Community College. She is also a Ph.D. candidate in the Transdisciplinary Leadership doctoral program at the University of Vermont. She has worked with local, state, and national organizations and has over forty years of experience in fundraising, grant writing, and the proposal review process. Across all of her work, she has maintained a commitment to cultural preservation and sustainability. With her work being displayed at a number of prestigious institutions, Ms. Partlow-Myrick brings a wealth of expertise in the fields of art and culture to the grants review panel.  

Elinor Thompson, Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture  

Elinor Thompson is serving on the panel as a representative of the Maryland Commission on American History and Culture. For over thirty-five years, Elinor has worked in the non-profit sphere on historic preservation and genealogy. She is an expert in preserving and interpreting church and cemetery records and has used her expertise to examine family and community histories. She brings extensive experience with projects pertaining to cemeteries, community history, and cultural heritage.  

Heather Savino (Baltimore, MD) 

Heather Savino is the Director of Development and Marketing for Patterson Park Public Charter School, Inc. She has experience in social work, community action, and social policy. On the panel, she has provided insight into working with youth, representing the LGBTQ* community, and investigating the intersection of race and social services. 

Linda Moore-Garoute (Prince George’s County) 

Linda Moore-Garoute is the Vice President of the Cedar Haven Association on the Patuxent River and Vice Chair of the Town of Eagle Harbor Environmental Advisory Committee. She is an expert in climate change mitigation, being certified as a Climate Change Professional in the state of Maryland in 2020. She has experience working with Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the Chesapeake Bay Trust Foundation, and the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission. On the panel, she has focused on finding solutions to mitigate climate change impacts, creating sustainable heritage tourism projects, and highlighting African American cultural landscapes.   

Stephen DelSordo (Cambridge, MD) 

Stephen DelSordo has close ties to the Maryland Heritage Areas Program. He was a founding member of the Heart of the Chesapeake Heritage Area and sat as its first chair for ten years. Since then, he has worked closely with the Indian Tribes of Montana on heritage tourism programs. He brings a national perspective to the grants panel, having worked on heritage tourism projects around the county.  

Samia Rab Kirchner (Baltimore, MD) 

Samia Kirchner is an associate professor of Architecture and Planning at Morgan State University. She has years of experience working in historic preservation and is an expert in urban conservation and waterfront redevelopment. In the past several years, she has applied her expertise to the International Council on Monuments and Sites, serving as a member of their International Cultural Tourism Committee and a desk reviewer for their World Heritage Nomination Dossiers. Her expertise in historic preservation and her experience with the ICOMOS allow her to bring a global perspective to the grants review process, supported by extensive knowledge of the industry’s best practices.  

Jennifer Shea (Claiborne, MD and Chevy Chase, MD) 

Jennifer Shea is a communications strategist and filmmaker with experience in education, theatre, and the arts. Currently, she serves as the Writer and Strategist for the Herson Group, a well known communications consulting firm. Prior to this position, Jennifer worked at Cornell University both as a lecturer and administrator. Outside of these positions, Jennifer has worked in film, directing an oral history project for the Tilghman Watermen’s Museum that was screened on Maryland Public Television and PBS. She is also serving on the board of Maryland Humanities and has past board experience in education and the arts. Jennifer’s years of experience in these fields allows her to contribute a critical perspective when assessing projects through a cultural, educational, and artistic lens.  

We are excited to welcome these exceptional new members to our grants panel. To learn more about MHAA, visit https://mht.maryland.gov/heritageareas.shtml. If you would like to see the great projects that this panel helped fund, you can view a full list at https://mht.maryland.gov/documents/PDF/MHAA/MHAA_CurrentGrantAwards.pdf.    

Updated COVID-19 Survey Results: Maryland’s Cultural Heritage Organizations Continue to Struggle

One full year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Maryland’s cultural heritage organizations continue to suffer from the economic fallout of the crisis. The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) and the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) are eager to understand the situation and find ways to support our partner organizations across the state. To that end, MHAA and MHT conducted two surveys, one in April 2020 and one in March of 2021. Both sets of survey responses highlight the severe economic ramifications that organizations have suffered to date, as well as the respondents’ expectations that these ramifications will linger even after the public health crisis starts to subside.  

When compared to the data from last year’s survey, the March 2021 survey respondents reported  an increase in every metric. Organizations have lost more income, laid off more staff, and expect to need a longer recovery time. 

The clearest impact of the pandemic has been on organizations’ income. Many of Maryland’s museums, Main Street businesses, and other heritage sites rely on visitation and events for the majority of their revenue. With the pandemic starting in early spring, these sites were shut down during the fair weather months, when they typically see their highest visitor count. Even as the state begins to re-open, many organizations are seeing smaller than average crowds. Small museums, historic homes, and local historical societies are some of the hardest hit organizations.  

This trend is reflected in the data, with four out of five respondents reporting a loss of income due to COVID-19 and with over 75% of respondents stating that their “income had decreased substantially.” This loss represents an increase of over 25% from last year’s survey. To account for this loss, 38% of organizations surveyed have had to tap into their financial reserves and 73% have considered a temporary or permanent reduction in staff.   

When compared to last year, organizations now expect a longer recovery time. When asked how long they would need to return to  pre-pandemic levels of revenue, 70% of organizations said they would need 6 months or longer and 44% of organizations said they would need 1 year or longer. Some organizations commented that the prolonged economic strain of the virus had significantly reduced their capacity while others feared a loss of relevance and community connection as a result of the shift to digital programming. Even with vaccines rolling out and the end of the pandemic potentially approaching, it is clear that the effects of COVID-19 will continue to challenge Maryland’s cultural organizations for some time to come.   

MHAA and MHT are taking several actions to help our partner organizations  continue their important work in a post-pandemic world. For their current grant round, MHAA will allow grantees to use up to $20,000 of their awards for COVID-19 related operating costs, and MHAA has provided over $1,018,453 in direct aid to date. MHT and MHAA will also host a listening session on Friday, June 4th at 9:30am,where members from partner organizations will be invited to discuss their challenges and successes during the pandemic. The listening session will give MHAA and MHT a fuller picture of our partner organizations’ struggles and allow attendees to share their experiences – and perhaps tips for adapting to our new realities – with each other. For more information on the listening session, click the link here: https://bit.ly/3vlbm5l 

Before the pandemic, MHAA and our partners generated $2.4 billion in economic impact and supported  over 33,000 jobs annually . Even as the pandemic made indoor activities unsafe, visitors continued to seek out Maryland’s outdoor heritage tourism experiences. Maryland State Parks reported record numbers of visitation for 2020. As this data shows, the demand for heritage tourism experiences remains high and Maryland’s cultural heritage organizations will continue to be economic drivers after the pandemic. We recognize that it is more important than ever to support our  partner organizations during this difficult time, and we are committed to protecting Maryland’s history and culture and making it accessible to visitors into the future.  

To join our round-table discussion and share insights on the effects of the pandemic on the heritage tourism field, please be sure to sign up for our listening session here: https://bit.ly/3vlbm5l

Exploring Heritage Outdoors: Safe and Exciting Ways to Enjoy Maryland History

Image courtesy of Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area

As the weather cools down and the leaves start to change, turn to your local heritage area for exciting, educational, and socially distanced outdoor activities. From beautiful trails and exhilarating hikes to historic tours and scavenger hunts, Maryland’s heritage areas are sure to have something for you. All thirteen of Maryland’s heritage areas have resources that can bring their residents closer to the nature, history, and culture that makes our state unique.  

From the marshes and wetlands of the Southern Maryland Heritage Area to the cliffs and bluffs of Patapsco Heritage Greenway, each area offers an authentic and local experience in nature. Trails like Port Tobacco and Indian Head in Southern Maryland can bring hikers face-to-face with herons, turkey, and even bald eagles.  

Image courtesy of Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area

For the more adventurous, the Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area, Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway, and Patapsco Heritage Greenway all offer miles of trails open to hiking, biking, and horseback riding. State parks like Deep CreekSusquehanna, and Patapsco deliver breathtaking views and exhilarating journeys for hikers and bikers of all skill levels.   

Maryland’s heritage areas also offer a plethora of outdoor resources to get in touch with local culture and heritage. Residents on the Eastern Shore can enjoy self-guided tours through historic Cambridge in the Heart of Chesapeake County Heritage Area and Salisbury in the Beach to Bay Heritage Area. From the local families that built these towns to the role of waterways in developing local economies, these tours explore the trends of Maryland’s residents along the bay and coast.  Nearby residents can also enjoy the diverse cultural sites contained within the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area , including the well-know Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

Residents of central Maryland have easy access to just as many great outdoor resources. The Baltimore National Heritage Area contains dozens of historic neighborhoods, from the colonial streets of Fells Point to the 19th century remnants of Little Italy. Those looking for an outdoor escape in Baltimore City can enjoy a variety of spectacular green spaces, such as Patterson Park. Located on the sight of the Battle of Hampstead Hill, the park boasts ample outdoor amenities and colorful heritage resources like the Patterson Park Observatory and the Pulaski Memorial.  

Image Courtesy of Patapsco Heritage Greenway

For those closer to Washington, DC, Heritage Montgomery offers great outdoor cultural sites like Glen Echo Park. While many of the park’s indoor classes and exhibits are on hold, the site is still celebrating the unique heritage and art of Marylanders. Nearby, at Maryland Milestones, guests can enjoy a walking tour of downtown Hyattsville, visiting a number of sites included on the National Register of Historic Places.  

Maryland’s western heritage areas also offer outstanding resources. From Heart of the Civil War to Canal Place, these heritage areas boast sites that can help visitors experience the storied past of our state. South Mountain, Antietam, and Monocacy are all open to visitors and offer exceptional self-guided tours. Canal Place’s C&O Canal offers miles of beautiful hiking along the former water highway that connected our nation to the West. Both of these sites are great opportunities to walk in the footsteps of Marylanders past and learn about our shared history. 

Image courtesy of Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area

Of course Maryland’s capital offers equally great ties to the past. Guests to the Four Rivers Heritage Area can explore the early history of our state by taking walking tours of downtown. While many of Annapolis’s museums, restaurants, and stores may be closed, the culture of our state’s capital lives on in the city’s architecture and parks. Guests can explore historic streets that remain largely untouched since their creation. 

Some of our most popular museums may be closed, but so much of Maryland’s heritage exists outside of the museum. From our natural environment to the cityscapes around us, our state is full of unique and fulfilling opportunities. To learn more about what’s available near you, check out your local heritage area or visit: https://mht.maryland.gov/heritageareas.shtml For those looking for more outdoor walking activities, check out the Maryland Department of Transportation’s outdoor initiative, Walktober: http://www.mdot.maryland.gov/walktober