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Pomonkey hopes to reclaim its history

pomonkey historic district

The community hopes to restore the Old Pomonkey High School.

Pomonkey, MD - Citizens from the town of Pomonkey in western Charles County know where they’ve been. Pomonkey’s archive may not be totally ancient history, but there are more than a few folks who don’t want it forgotten. The Pomonkey Historic District designation, and pending appeals to the National Register of Historic Places, may in fact assure that happens.

Approved by the Charles County Commissioners when Reuben Collins was on the board in the last decade, research on the historic district was presented to the current board Tuesday, Jan. 24 by county planner Beth Groth. And you can just about guarantee that there aren’t too many projects coming before the Charles County Commissioners, who, when asked, “What do you need from us?” are told, “Thank you, we’re good.”

The reclamation of Pomonkey is a community project, and that community, through grants and the sweat of their brows, want to protect and restore their heritage. And they’re doing it on their own. “We want to preserve our history,” Vera Walton Merritt asserted. “Young people today have absolutely no idea of Pomonkey’s history.”

The designation prompted a district survey and historical documentation by historic architect Debra McClane. What she found was while the region has a significant history, it’s what happened in recent years that has the most profound value.

It’s the story of an African-American community in post-Civil War Charles County, most of who were former slaves before that conflict, struggling through segregation to establish their own culture through hard work and faith.

old pomonkey high schoolA famous philanthropist, Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Company from 1908 to 1924, played a significant role in establishing African-American schools in the Pomonkey community.

Pomonkey also harbors The Bee Hive Lodge #66 F&AM-PHA, the oldest Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in Southern Maryland. This branch of Freemasonry was founded in the 18th century by Prince Hall, an African-American born in the 1730s.

The Bee Hive Lodge was temporarily used as a school in the community after the Rosenfeld-funded Pomonkey School was lost in a 1943 fire.

Groth told the commissioners there are 12 standing structures the community hopes to renovate and restore, including the Old Pomonkey High School, the Metropolitan United Methodist Church, Walton’s Market and the Bee Hive Masonic Lodge.pomonkey

“There are no known archaeological sites within the survey district, but 10 are located within a one-mile radius,” Groth noted.

Merritt and Philip A. Thomas are collecting items from the community in the hopes one day they may be displayed in a little museum inside the old Pomonkey High School. There is sports memorabilia from the Pomonkey Braves baseball team that played for years and the high school as well.

“I have a lot of items, jerseys and old yearbooks,” Thomas said. “I hope to be getting more.”

"I am really excited," Charles County Commissioner Vice-President Debra Davis said. 

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com

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