SANDY SPRING, MD (WUSA9) - The Woodlawn Manor Culture Park sits on the former property of a Quaker who owned 13 slaves.
Dr. William Palmer bought the land in 1825 and when remarried, he inherited his father-in-law’s slaves. At the time, he was excommunicated from the church because the Quakers agreed to free their slaves.
But deep on his sprawling property are woods that the family believes were part of the Underground Railroad.
“These woods definitely tell a story,” Mark Thorne said. “The fact that we are only 40 miles from Pennsylvania, where the Mason-Dixon line is, and you look directly across the river there is Virginia, which is the northern most point of the confederacy.”
“If I had to get from point A to B, I’m coming through here,” he added.
Sandy Spring was also home to freed blacks who helped others escape to the north.
“There’s nothing like walking the trail and hearing the sounds that people would have had years ago and having the smells they would have had,” Thorne said. “But not necessarily the same amount of danger, but we do offer nighttime tours and when these woods are dark, you can get a sense of that fear.”
Marlon Moore is an assistant English professor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and brought her class studying African American literature to the trail.
“The ingenuity and the knowledge they had to bring to the experience, the farmers who knew the plants, the root workers who knew what plants could be poisonous or healing, it was an amazing experience,” she said. “Bringing the students here to touch the soil and see the trees and really get an understanding of the struggle.”
He hopes the opening and popularity of the National Museum of African American History and Culture will boost business and interest in their smaller museum.
“This is mother nature’s classroom,” Thorne said.
To learn more about the museum, click here.