Slavery in Rockville
In April 1862, Congress abolished slavery in Washington, D.C. District slaveholders were eligible for monetary compensation when they manumitted (freed) their slaves. Because the Beall sisters held several slaves who worked in the District, they qualified for compensation and received $9,400 for 17 people.
During the war, the congregation of the Rockville Methodist Episcopal Church split over the issue of slavery. The congregation included both whites and blacks. Whites sat downstairs, while slaves and freedmen worshiped upstairs in the gallery. Blacks served as local preachers and class leaders but took subservient roles to whites in the service. When white slaveholding members withdrew in 1863, they formed the Methodist Episcopal Church South and built what is now Rockville United Methodist Church (across the street). The black congregation kept the original church on Wood Lane, a block north of here, today known as Jerusalem Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church.
Some slaves took advantage of the chaos of war. Dora Higgins, a Rockville resident, noted that when Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry occupied the town on June 28, 1863, during the Gettysburg Campaign, several slaves, including her cook Maria, "cleared out."
(The first Rockvillian to enlist in the Union army may have been George Patterson, a free black man. In August 1862, Reuben Hill, a slave, was twice drafted, and his owner, Samuel Stonestreet, paid his commutation. Hill's home, a historic site, stands in nearby Lincoln Park. Maryland abolished slavery in November 1864.)