Preserving their community’s stories

Submitted to Dorchester Banner
The choir at Faith Community Methodist Church keeps local traditions alive.

Editor’s note: The monthly Heritage Partner Spotlight focuses on our Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area partners and how they have supported heritage tourism in Dorchester County with a project funded by either an MHAA grant or a Heritage Area mini-grant. This month’s spotlight shines on the East New Market Heritage Committee, which has been keeping the community’s history alive and relevant for nearly 20 years.

EAST NEW MARKET — The East New Market Heritage Committee has long been telling its community’s stories – the stories of the blacksmiths, wheelwrights, businessmen, musicians and countless others who lived and worked in East New Market and whose legacy helped shape the town.

By continuing this tradition at the annual East New Market Heritage Day program, they hope to spark an interest in a new generation who will have the same passion to preserve and share the history and heritage of East New Market.

MHAA Grants & Heritage
Area Mini-Grants
Supporting the East New Market Heritage Committee with this commitment, the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area awarded them a mini-grant for their Returning to Our Roots program in 2018. The program was the latest in their annual series of events to show the community the value of recognizing the roots of the families in East New Market.

The guest speaker that year was Dale Green, an architecture professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore who specializes in historic preservation. A graduate of North Dorchester High School, Mr. Green is a descendant of the Rev. Samuel Green, a former slave who assisted freedom seekers and who was jailed after a sheriff’s deputy searching his home discovered a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Historians Form Committee
It was 18 years ago when Marva Sampson first shared her dream to start a heritage committee and invited Herschel Johnson to join. Marva was interested in sharing the stories of the Rev. Samuel Green and Sarah Young, as well as their descendants. Sarah’s owner freed her on his deathbed and gave her 42 acres of land, which she used for a school and church. Herschel can trace his family’s history to Sarah.

The committee has grown and now its board has six dedicated members, Marva, Herschel, Doretha Abraham, Lametha Elbert, Pat Lewis, Royce Sampson and William Jarmon. Countless others, including East New Market Mayor Caroline Cline, support their endeavors.

This year, they will hold their 18th East New Market Heritage Day at 11 a.m. on Oct. 5 at Faith Community United Methodist Church, 509 Railroad Ave., East New Market.

Keeping their stories alive
In addition to the local legends and history that are shared during the East New Market Heritage Day celebration, the event provides an opportunity for attendees to connect with their own roots or to learn about more recent notable residents, Herschel said.

“For instance, my uncle was born in East New Market, and he went on to sing professionally with the Del-Vikings,” Hershel said. “They were an integrated group in the Air Force. One of their songs was Come Go With Me and was sung by the Beach Boys. It is the people like him who were born in East New Market.”

Heritage Area Goals
Their work also speaks to the mission of the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area and its goals, said Julie Gilberto-Brady, heritage area manager.

“Each of Maryland’s 13 heritage areas is defined by unique themes,” Ms. Gilberto-Brady said. “For the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area, this includes Dorchester families and traditions, and what the East New Market group is doing exemplifies that theme.

“Our strategic plan also specifically calls on us to practice stewardship by identifying and advocating for the preservation of threatened and vanishing places, practices and stories,” Ms. Gilberto-Brady said. “With these storytelling programs, we see that practice in action.”

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