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Sharpsburg in Washington County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Tolson's Chapel

Worship and Learning

— 1866-1998 —

 
 
Tolson's Chapel Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By F. Robby, May 27, 2017
1. Tolson's Chapel Marker
Inscription.  In September 1862, in fields surrounding Sharpsburg, soldiers fought the deadliest battle the nation had seen. Four years later, African Americans here erected a simple log church - a building in which they would exercise their dearly-won freedoms.

In 1868, the chapel also housed the "American Union" school with help from the United States Freedmen's Bureau. Twelve of the students had been enslaved only four years earlier.

Tolson's Chapel survives as a tangible reminder of what the Civil War would ultimately mean to the millions of Americans enslaved on the eve of the war...freedom!

1862 - Battle of Antietam fought here September 17. President Lincoln issued the "Emancipation Proclamation," Freeing slaves in the states in rebellion.

1864 - In October, Maryland abolished slavery in its "Declaration of Rights," bringing freedom to 90,000 people.

1866 - Black citizens erected the chapel. The Sharpsburg Colored M.E. Church was later renamed for John L. Tolson, its first minister.

1868 - On April 6, a school for African American students opened here and operated for 31 years. Families
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paid tuition, and adults attended night school.

1998 - Tolson's Chapel closed its doors. The congregation's last member, Virginia Cook (pictured) had passed away in 1996.

2002 - The Save Historic Antietam Foundation took ownership to begin restoration which continued in 2008 with the transfer to the Friends of Tolson's Chapel.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansChurches & ReligionWar, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln series list. A significant historical date for this entry is April 6, 1862.
 
Location. 39° 27.371′ N, 77° 44.782′ W. Marker is in Sharpsburg, Maryland, in Washington County. Marker is on High Street, 0.1 miles east of Mechanic Street, on the left when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Sharpsburg MD 21782, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Sharpsburg's Big Spring (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Kretzer Homestead (approx. 0.2 miles away); General Edward Braddock (approx. 0.2 miles away); Sharpsburg Bluebirds (approx. 0.2 miles away); In Recognition of the Patriotism Shown by All Who Answered Our Country's Call in the World War (approx. 0.2 miles away); Viet Nam Era Memorial
Tolson's Chapel Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By F. Robby, May 27, 2017
2. Tolson's Chapel Marker
Closeup of center picture: More than a dozen students attended primary and intermediate school here beginning in 1868. "Liquid slate" chalkboards painted on the the walls were used for lessons. The chalkboards remain today, as well as pews the freedmen fashioned from pine boards.
(approx. 0.2 miles away); Korean Conflict Memorial (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Historic Grove House (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Sharpsburg.
 
Tolson's Chapel Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By F. Robby, May 27, 2017
3. Tolson's Chapel Marker
Closeup of picture on the left: The first teach, Ezra Johnson, a white man from Philadelphia, wrote in his April 1868 report that "sound moral and religious principles are endeavored to be imparted, in school and out of it."
Tolson's Chapel Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By F. Robby, May 27, 2017
4. Tolson's Chapel Marker
Closeup of images on the right: (top left) Emory Summers and his family were congregation members. Emory worked at the Henry Piper house about two blocks north of here. (top right) Jeremiah Summers (1849-1925) belonged to the congregation here. He was only 13 when the Battle of Antietam rages across the Piper Farm where he lived and worked. Born into slavery, Jerry was freed in 1864, but continued to work on the farm. Jerry is pictured in 1922 at his cottage along Bloody Lane, a home deeded to him for life at Mr. Piper's death. (bottom right) BEELER, CALLAMAN, COOK, CROSS, GRAY, JACKSON, JONES, KING, MIDDLETON, MONROE, NURSE, ROBINSON, SIMONS, SUMMERS, THOMAS, WATSON - Family names in the cemetery. The gravestones are the only records of the historic congregation. (bottom left) Congregation member Wilson Middleton served in Company F, United States Colored Infantry just after the Civil War.
Tolson's Chapel Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By F. Robby, May 27, 2017
5. Tolson's Chapel Marker
Closeup of images at bottom: Original log corner revealed during restoration work; Church member James F. Simons taught school here from 1879-1898; Virginia Cook had passed away in 1996.
Tolson's Chapel Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By F. Robby, May 27, 2017
6. Tolson's Chapel Marker
Marker and sign in front of the chapel.
Tolson's Chapel image. Click for full size.
Photographed By F. Robby, May 27, 2017
7. Tolson's Chapel
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 12, 2017. It was originally submitted on June 11, 2017, by F. Robby of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 563 times since then and 102 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on June 11, 2017, by F. Robby of Baltimore, Maryland.

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Jul. 18, 2024