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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Brightwood in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Aunt Betty's Story

Battleground to Community

 

— Brightwood Heritage Trail —

 
Aunt Betty's Story Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, September 18, 2020
1. Aunt Betty's Story Marker
Inscription.  
Elizabeth Proctor Thomas (1821-1917), a free Black woman whose image appears on each Brightwood Heritage Trail sign, once owned 11 acres in this area. Known, respectfully in her old age as "Aunt Betty," Thomas and her husband James farmed and kept cows here. When the Civil War came in 1861, her hilltop attracted Union soldiers defending Washington.

As Thomas later told a reporter, one day soldiers "began taking out my furniture and tearing down our house" to build Fort Stevens. Then a surprising visitor arrived. "I was sitting under that sycamore tree . . . with what furniture I had left around me. I was crying, as was my six months-old child, . . . when a tall, slender man dressed in black came up and said to me, 'It is hard, but you shall reap a great reward.' It was President Lincoln."

For years afterward, even though her land was returned, Thomas unsuccessfully pressed the federal government to pay for her destroyed house. "[H]ad [Lincoln] lived, I know the claim for my losses would have been paid," she often said. Thomas died at age 96 after a lifetime of community leadership and activism.

After the war,
Aunt Betty's Story Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, September 18, 2020
2. Aunt Betty's Story Marker
Fort Stevens fell into neglect. Brightwood civic leader William Van Zandt Cox (1852-1923) decided to rescue it from being used as a dump. In 1900 he personally bought a portion of the land and lobbied the War Department to restore it, but died before the government finally purchased the site. In 1938 the Roosevelt Administration's Civilian Conservation Corps rebuilt the portion of earthworks you see today.

The Church of the Nativity, to your left, has served the Brightwood community for more than 100 years. The building replaces a series of smaller churches built near the corner of Peabody Street and Georgia Avenue, which are still used by the congregation.
 
Erected 2008 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 17.)
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansChurches & ReligionWar, US CivilWomen. In addition, it is included in the Brightwood Heritage Trail, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Defenses of Washington, and the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln series lists.
 
Location. 38° 57.816′ N, 77° 1.777′ W. Marker is in Brightwood in Washington, District of Columbia. Marker is at the intersection of 13th Street Northwest
Aunt Betty's Story Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, September 18, 2020
3. Aunt Betty's Story Marker
and Quakenbos Street Northwest, on the right when traveling north on 13th Street Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 6040 13th Street Northwest, Washington DC 20011, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Fort Stevens (within shouting distance of this marker); “Get Down You Fool” (within shouting distance of this marker); Scale Model of Fort Stevens (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named Fort Stevens (about 400 feet away); Lincoln Under Fire at Fort Stevens (about 400 feet away); The Rock on Brightwood Avenue (about 500 feet away); A Streetcar Named Brightwood (about 600 feet away); School Days (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Brightwood.
 
More about this marker. On the upper right is a photo showing Church of the Nativity's original 1901 building still stands on Georgia Avenue and Peabody Street. First pastor, Rev. John O. Rosensteel is seen at left. Below it is a photo showing Mother Teresa, left, received 14 young women into her Missionaries of Charity at Church of the Nativity in 1987. Another photo shows Victoria TenEyck (right) reigned as Nativity School's May Queen in 1987. And at the bottom right is a photo of Nativity School's class of 1968. To the lower left is a photo of Elizabeth Thomas. Late in life, the celebrated "Aunt Betty," pictured at her property, appeared on a postcard.
 
Donise Stevens as Aunt Betty image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, September 22, 2012
4. Donise Stevens as Aunt Betty
Donise Stevens embodied Elizabeth Thomas at the 2012 celebration of Elizabeth Thomas day.
Church of the Nativity image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 13, 2013
5. Church of the Nativity
The 1901 Nativity Church Building image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 13, 2013
6. The 1901 Nativity Church Building
The 1901 church building now houses the "Don Bosco" Youth Center.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 19, 2020. It was originally submitted on March 17, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 14,516 times since then and 262 times this year. Last updated on April 6, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on September 19, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.   4, 5, 6. submitted on April 28, 2013, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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Sep. 25, 2020