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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“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 Richard E. Miller, March 15, 2009
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, 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
Close up of Elizabeth Proctor Thomas - "Aunt Betty" image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, March 15, 2009
2. Close up of Elizabeth Proctor Thomas - "Aunt Betty"
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.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Defenses of Washington marker series.
 
Location. 38° 57.812′ N, 77° 1.777′ W. Marker is in Brightwood, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 13th Steet, NW, just from Quakenbos, Street, NW, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20011, United States of America.
 
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 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also
Photo on reverse of Aunt Betty's Story Marker - 1/2 block south of Fort Stevens image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, March 15, 2009
3. Photo on reverse of Aunt Betty's Story Marker - 1/2 block south of Fort Stevens
"'Aunt Betty' Thomas posed in 1911 with William Van Zandt Cox, to her right, and Civil War veterans who funded the Lincoln memorial boulder, the first marker commemorating the events at Fort Stevens."
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.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Follow the
Aunt Betty's Story Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, March 15, 2009
4. Aunt Betty's Story Marker
Entrance to the Nativity Catholic Church at left, south of marker.
Brightwood Heritage Trail
 
Categories. African AmericansChurches, Etc.Man-Made FeaturesWar, US Civil
 
Church of the Nativity, 1901 Building image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 13, 2013
5. Church of the Nativity, 1901 Building
Church of the Nativity's original 1901 building still stands on Georgia Avenue and Peabody Street.
Close-up of photo on marker
The Reverend Charles O. Rosensteel image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 13, 2013
6. The Reverend Charles O. Rosensteel
First Pastor of the Church of the Nativity
Close-up of photo on marker
Mother Teresa image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 13, 2013
7. Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa, left, received 14 young women into her missionaries of Charity at Church of the Nativity in 1987.
Close-up of photo on marker
May Queen image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 13, 2013
8. May Queen
Victoria TenEyck reigned as Nativity School's May Queen in 1987.
Close-up of photo on marker
Class of '68 image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 13, 2013
9. Class of '68
Nativity School class of 1968
Close-up of photo on marker
Map<br>Brightwood Heritage Trail image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 13, 2013
10. Map
Brightwood Heritage Trail
You Are Here.
Close-up of map on reverse of marker
Elizabeth "Aunt Betty" Thomas image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 13, 2013
11. Elizabeth "Aunt Betty" Thomas
Detail Close-up of photo on reverse of marker
Donise Stevens as Aunt Betty image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, September 22, 2012
12. 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
13. Church of the Nativity
The 1901 Nativity Church Building image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, April 13, 2013
14. The 1901 Nativity Church Building
The 1901 church building now houses the "Don Bosco" Youth Center.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 17, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 13,413 times since then and 1,150 times this year. Last updated on April 6, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on March 17, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. 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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