The legacy of slavery is an inextricable part of the story of St. John’s Parish, which was founded by Royal Charter in the Colony of Maryland in 1692. One curiosity is the absence of any written records pertaining to slavery in any of the parish’s archival material, either in Kingsville or at the Diocesan Archives.
The first years of St. John’s life in Joppa Towne certainly included the presence and labor of enslaved persons who were considered the legal property of members of the parish. Of them we have no records, due in part to the parish being temporarily closed during the years of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Vestry minutes and other records of the Civil War are silent on the subject of African Americans, the pages ripped out of books that remain in the Diocesan Archives to this day. Despite the absence of any primary sources relating to slavery, in 1967 the parish still recognized its legacy by referring to the gallery of the 1817 church as “the Slave Gallery.”
The life of the parish reached a turning point in 1816, when Edward Day offered to build a new church in Kingsville, several miles west of the dying Joppa Towne. Kingsville was an important stopping point on one of the few routes from north to south in Maryland, and a place where a hugely diverse population of white and black, slave and free traveled. Day owned four slaves. The census of 1830 shows that his son Ishmael owned two slaves. Whether these slaves helped to build the 1817 church or not, Edward Day’s profit from them means that enslaved peoples contributed directly or indirectly to the construction of the building, and to every facet of the parish’s life from 1692 through Emancipation in October of 1864.
The Trail of Souls Pilgrimage has given St. John’s the opportunity to reflect upon, grapple with and rediscover its heritage as a place in the crossroads of tremendous conflict and social change; and the challenges of being a community of reconciliation.
Learn more: www.stjohnskingsville.org
St. John’s Church
11901 Belair Road
Kingsville, Maryland 21087
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