Was Davidson's Farm
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, February 1, 1908 [p. 8]
The three squares of ground east of the portion described in The Star of the 18th ultimo under the heading “Commodores’ Row” possess similar history and were in like condition. Included in Gen. John Davidson’s farming lands, much of the property remained in the family for years, some of his descendants holding for fifty years or more. Between K and L streets the hill on which Commodores’ Row was built, extended eastward to near 10th street and about 11th street it was near twenty feet higher than the present grade. This was of gravel, and by it the material was furnished for the crude footwalks in the early days of the corporation. When some sixty-five years ago 11th street was cut through, the quantity of gravel within the building lines not only sufficed for graveling that street, but for the improvement of others. It was not long before the “gravel bank” designated the locality, which was in 1840 dotted with a few houses.
The square, known as 317, platted for ten lots, was apparently country property till about the thirties, before that time only of service for taxation at 2 and 3 cents per foot. In 1796 the lots were vested in the United States, and before 1810 John Mickie, S. Turner, jr., William Thompson and Thomas Turner were interested in them. In 1811 John Cox bought three lots on the corner, and in 1817 S. Osgood the remaining corner. For ten years there were no transfers, but in 1827 John Eyre, William Jewell, John A. Wilson and J. M. Stoughton had lots in various parts, but little improvement had appeared. Three years later, however, there was listed in the name of the Bank of the United States $300 on lot 1, corner of 11th and I streets; J. A. Watson, $400 on lot 2; William Thompson, $400 on lot 3 on I street, and J. Pickrell, $250 on lot 10 on K street. In 1832 Walter Stewart had lot 5, on 12th street; W. McL. Cripps, lot 4, corner 12th and I streets; W. W. Billing, lot 11, the corner lot, K and 11th streets; James A. Kennedy, lot 8, 12th and K streets; Ann Thomas, on lot 1, 11th and I streets, and Bridget Rodgers, on lot 5, on 12th street. Two years after J. Pickrell was on lot 14, on 11th street, and Alexander Bolland owned lots 6 and 7, on 12th street.
For Asbury Methodist Church.
James Turton, a carpenter, settled on 11th street about this time and lived here many years, his sons James and George becoming well-known builders, the first a carpenter and the latter a master bricklayer, and they are residents of the square north. Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Rodgers were residents a long time, and the Chase family, of which the colored lawyer W. Calvin Chase is a scion, were on the property now occupied by him.
In October, 1836, lot 11, fifty feet on K street and seventy-five feet on 11th street, was bought for $300 for the site of a church for the colored people who belonged to and attended Foundry M. E. Church. Col. W. M. Billing conveyed the lot to George Crandell, Rezin Orme, John Scrivener, John Adams, James Williams, Thos. Sewall and H. C. Slade as trustees. The church building, a small brick, was erected at once and the colored contingent moved from the galleries of the Foundry. This congregation was under the care of the Foundry Church and for years there were two ministers annually appointed from the white membership of the Foundry. Till 1864, when the colored churches of the Baltimore conference were given a separate organization as the Washington conference, white pastors and class leaders ministered to the congregation, and that it has long been one of the strongest church organizations is well known.
That there were days of trial for the members of the congregation it is only necessary to say that there was deep-seated prejudice against the colored race with many whites; that the laws against negroes congregating or being on the streets at night grated harshly and when night meetings were held some whites were usually in attendance. As a rule, however, though the watch meetings sometimes were held through the last night of the year till sunrise, to be within the law, only when the community was excited by some radical language or suggestions of slaves rising and escaping were the laws rigidly enforced, and though the services closed at 10 o’clock those returning home in an orderly manner were not molested.
Popular in Military Circles.
In the late forties the boys of the neighborhood formed a junior fire company, and, securing the use of a stable, uniformed, procured apparatus and made ready to battle with fires. It, however, held together but a short time.
The alley of this square was the storage yard for barrels, boxes, etc., which the boys save up for making bonfires. They first commenced this for the Fourth of July bonfire, which was built north of the square and set off about midnight of the 3d amid all the din they could make. So much were the fires enjoyed that other occasions were so celebrated, sometimes February 22, Washington’s birthday, and September 12, Old Defenders’ day, being honored. In political campaigns, too, the storehouse was an object of concern to the boys who wanted to celebrate. There was little need then for storekeepers to have their debris hauled, for the boys needed only the knowledge as to the whereabouts of empty barrels, etc.