This self-guided driving tour travels through important areas of African American history in Frederick County. Feel the heat of smelters at Catoctin Furnace, where expert African metalworkers helped build our nation by forging an array of ironworks, including cannonballs used to win American independence. Marvel at the skill, dedication and compassion of those slaves, free persons, and “contraband” who helped heal the thousands of Civil War wounded in Frederick after the conflicts at South Mountain, Monocacy, Antietam and Gettysburg.
During the latter part of the 19th-century, a number of villages founded by Blacks, including some who had been slaves, began to dot the countryside. A few have vanished, leaving behind perhaps only an overgrown burial ground or a row of house foundations—or no trace at all. In most of these little settlements, the residents endeavored to build a church and school as quickly as possible. The proliferation of such churches in Frederick County followed on the heels of a national religious revival and coincided with the dynamic growth of Black churches between 1865 and 1900. Most of the country churches are simple rectangular buildings, usually one or one-and-a-half stories with a gabled roof. This form is the most basic, although sometimes there will be a rear addition or side ell wing. Some of these buildings are raised up on stone or brick foundations with a front stair, depending on the specifics of the property. Many foundations include a marble cornerstone from a previous church or date from the original construction of the building.