The Hidden History of Black Sykesville
A look inside Sykesville's recently renovated "Old Colored Schoolhouse." Pat Greenwald acquired these desks from a Catholic School in Pittsburgh that opened in 1904. You can read about Pat and the amazing coincidence surrounding the desks in Volume One of Sykesville Stories.
This will be an evolving section of the site. We will start with four broad topics.
There will be a separate starting point for each with much more information.
There were many slaves in the so-called "Freedom" district of Carroll County, but there's very little information about them. For instance, where did they live? Where are they buried? How did they live? How did they get here? Where did they come from? How much did it cost to buy one?
Consider the Patterson family. There was George. There was Prudence. They had a daughter named Florence and briefly a son named George, Jr. They had many acres of land and thrived from at least 1840 through 1870. They were far outnumbered by their slaves. Let's say, at one point, three Pattersons and 30 slaves. We know where the Pattersons lived. We know where they went to church. We know where they're buried.
But we know nothing at all about their slaves. Well hardly. We do have some numbers and names, but not much more than that. What can we learn?
Factory Row (the colored row)
Sometime after the Civil War, a small community of black people developed just outside the limits of what would become the town of Sykesville. Not much is known about these people.
In articles written after the Civil War in the latter years of the 19th century, the Democratic Advocate mentions this community several times, typically in condescending terms, sometimes in hostile terms, often with amusement. But never with much detail. The paper refers to it as both "factory row" and "the colored row."
Where was this exactly? Who were these people? Is it possible to find out?
It seems safe to say they were probably former slaves, but how many were they? Why did they gather in this one place? How did they live?
Who built the houses? Why was it called "factory row?"
And what became of them all?
We know a lot about this neighborhood, mainly because of Warren Dorsey, who was born there in 1920 and is now 101 years old and still healthy. This was a community up Oklahoma Avenue in Sykesville. There were about 14 houses up there and several families lived there over the years. There were the Johnsons, the Norrises, the Dorseys, and many others, who we'll meet.
These are the families whose children attended Sykesville's "Old Colored Schoolhouse." They attended St. Luke's Church. They shopped on Main Street and worked on area farms and stores. They were poor and barely got by for many years. They had a great baseball team. They went to Robert Moton High School in Westminster.
There was another small African American community congregated around White Rock Road in Gaither, just outside Sykesville. Some of them attended the same school as the children from Oklahoma Hill. They had their own church. They still have their own church.
They had names like Hudson, Dorsey, Shephard, Rheubottom, Lowman, and Gassaway. Many of them also went to Robert Moton High School. Some were born before the Civil War. Were they slaves?
Not far from where these people lived, there's an old barn set back off Gaither Road. The entire roof of the barn facing out toward the road is painted.
The paint is fading. It's a giant painting of the Confederate flag. (It's possible the barn is no longer there, but it was there up till very recent times and easy to see from Gaither in winter when the trees that obscured died to reveal the barn.)