Posts Tagged George Alfred Townsend

VIDEO: Ceres Bethel AME Church, 1870 (Frederick County, Maryland) ** Lost History Associates field report **

Ceres Bethel AME Church field report; script by John H. Muller & Justin L. McNeil

Good morning; local and international preservationists, public educators and street historians. 

Journalist and author John Muller here; reporting live from Burkittsville, Maryland within the old Petersville District of Frederick County with a special Lost History Associates report on Ceres Bethel A.M.E. Church. 

We are gathered here, ladies and gentleman, as a service, and in response to several public preservation and historic organizations that exclusively exist due to the public treasury, as well as private organizations largely, or nearly entirely, supported by the public treasury. That means … you and I … are solely responsible for the existence of these organizations that have failed to interpret and convey our collective history and properly interpret this historic site.

More specifically, Preservation Maryland has recently announced their plans, backed with a $100,000 grant from the public treasury — from you and I —  to “re-brand” the Battle of South Mountain, the ground on which we stand, and the overlaying Gathland State Park, the home of journalist and author George Alfred Townsend. 

Within the administrative grid-lock of do-nothing administrators that have an interest in this historic site, owned by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, are Liz Shatto with the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, Elizabeth Hughes, director of the Maryland Historical Trust, Drew Gruber with Civil War Trails, as well as preservation organizations and Black American history and culture groups, such as the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture, specifically the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis and my good friend Reggie Turner, of the Western Maryland Community Development Corporation, who I have worked closely with on the lost history in Hagerstown, in nearby Washington County. 

With no further delay, ladies and gentlemen, let’s talk about Ceres Bethel A.M.E. Church, a sacred site in local, regional and national history and folklore. 

As master battlefield scholars can confirm, during the engagement of Union & Confederate troops at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam in September 1862, local African Methodist Episcopal churches where extant today; were extant then within the theatre of war. 

Specifically, troops maneuvered around the wood-framed Ceres Bethel church as they took and changed positions during the Battle of South Mountain. Caught between rifle shot and shell, the original church building was a casualty of the American Civil War. 

In Frederick City, Quinn Chapel AME Church on 3rd Street served as a makeshift hospital for soldiers wounded during the Battle of Antietam. The pastor of Quinn Chapel during the Civil War was Bishop Alexander Walker Wayman, born 1821 in Caroline County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. 

On April 3, 1870 that same Bishop Wayman, alongside Rev. Lloyd Benson, laid the cornerstone for the new Ceres Bethel AME Church right here in the Petersville District. In 2020, Lost History USA celebrates the sesquicentennial of Ceres Bethel and so should you. 

Why is this church important, you may be asking? 

Despite hundreds of thousands of public dollars devoted to uplifting local history in Western Maryland and Frederick County, and specifically local Black American history and heritage in Western Maryland and Frederick County, there is no existing representation with road markers or heritage markers, nor any contemporary published material that tells this lost history of Ceres Bethel . 

Lost History USA has accumulated an extensive report on Ceres Bethel and will be unveiling our own historic markers on site in February 2021, of which local elected officials, media and the public will be invited and asked to speak. 

On these markers, we will include information on Rev. Lloyd Benson, Bishop Wayman, Rev. Henry, as well as young men and women from Burkittsville, Maryland and the surrounding communities who attended the primary school on these grounds. 

The schoolhouse at Ceres Bethel, initially affiliated and supported by members of the church, philanthropic networks and the Freedmen’s Bureau, led by General Oliver Otis Howard, must be properly contextualized. 

While Tolson’s Chapel in Washington County’s Sharpsburg has been the focus of National Park Service grants, contracts and studies, Ceres Bethel has evanded attention – resulting in its current state of disrepair and abandonment. 

For Preservation Maryland, and all the other local, regional, and state stakeholders, you have an obligation and responsibility to get your collective heads out of your ass. 

Pupils from the Ceres Bethel Schoolhouse were socially and academically prepared here, on the ground we currently stand, to go forth to Howard University in Washington, D.C. with students from around the country and world. 

Students from these descendant Mountain Maryland communities excelled within the ranks of the medical and theological departments of Howard University, as well as other nearby institutions of higher learning including Storer College in Harpers Ferry and Morgan State in Baltimore City. 

Graduates of the Ceres Bethel Schoolhouse returned to this community and communities throughout Frederick County to fill leadership positions within local institutions to uplift and prepare the next generation to contribute to their families and their state.

Why has this history not been told and returned to where it belongs?

For more information visit, visit 

We look forward to seeing you soon.

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Directory of Army Correspondents Memorial includes two friends of Dr. Frederick Douglass — Governor Lloyd Lowndes and George Alfred Townsend

GATHLAND _ War Correspondent's Memorial Arch - Lloyd Lowndes

Photo by William Alston-El

Editor’s Note:

Dr. Douglass knew both George Alfred Townsend and Governor Lloyd Lowndes for more than twenty years.

While editor of the New National Era in Washington City Douglass and Townsend traveled in the same circles, sharing space in the press galleries of the Congress and Senate in the early 1870s. GATH often wrote about Douglass for publication and corresponded privately.

I have yet to share information which further details the friendship between GATH and Douglass and I am withholding information which details the friendship between Douglass and Lloyd Lowndes for disclosure at upcoming presentations.

The War Correspondent’s Memorial was unveiled in September 1896, more than a year and half after the death of Frederick Douglass.

Dr. Douglass name is not included. Why?

Could it be that Douglass was a “War Editor”? Could it be that Douglass was technically more of a recruiter than an editor during the Civil War?

I pose these questions not as indictment on GATH but simply in the journalistic tradition of getting in folk business.

Additionally, Thomas Morris Chester, who dined at Cedar Hill and is credited as being the lone (or one of the very select few) African-American war correspondent to write for a major daily newspaper, is not included among the names of correspondents.

Our research team will look into this.

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GATH on Dr. Frederick Douglass: “Fred. Douglass comes from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and has a good oystery nature about him. He opens up well.” (1872)

Townsend & Twain

Townsend on the left, Twain in the middle.

Street journalists stick together today as they have forever.

As the most radical journalist birthed in America Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass ran with fellow street journalists.

Although largely forgotten today, George Alfred Townsend was a fellow Eastern Shoreman who ran alongside Editor Douglass and within similar circles of radical Reconstruction Washington City journalists.

For decades GATH tracked and chronicled America’s Pharaoh. GATH shared a mutual affection for the naturalism of Chesapeake Country with Dr. Douglass.

They corresponded. GATH stepped through Cedar Hill.

As radical journalists and Eastern Shoremen Gath and Dr. Douglass were brothers in ink and tidewater.

In late 1872, following the re-election of Republican President Grant over challenger, radical newspaperman and Liberal Republican, Horace Greeley, GATH dropped some words that were circulated throughout the country.

Fred. Douglass and Langston are set down in the papers as not loving each other overmuch. This Langston is an unreliable, nearly-white fellow, with considerable ability at phrase making and not much sense. He is ever lasting in search of office, and Douglass, who is a well-ordered man, with a round head, is reported to have gone to President Grant and snubbed Langston’s aspirations.

Langston’s notion was that the colored race should have some Cabinet position, because it had voted for Grant, and he had constructed himself into the representative of the colored race as aforesaid.

Douglass had sense enough to know that color is a pretty mean qualification, except for matrimony, and that Langston would make a donkey of himself in whatever position he could get.

Fred. Douglass comes from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and has a good oystery nature about him. He opens up well.


Muller, John. The Lion of Anacostia (Blog), “GATH on Dr. Frederick Douglass: Fred. Douglass comes from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and has a good oystery nature about him. He opens up well.” 14 September, 2018

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People’s Book Review: David Blight – Frederick Douglass — pt 1 (video)

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“Douglass’ college ties extended far and wide,” Letter to the Editor of the Star Democrat, February 1, 2018 [Paper of Record of Maryland’s Eastern Shore]

Letter to the Editor, Star Democrat, Feb. 1, 2018. Copyright of fact strictly enforced by the power of the 1st Amendment.

I told Washington College it’s not a game out here.

As an adolescent I ran with great-great grandsons of runaway fugitive slave-scholars. As a young Douglassonian I studied the work of GATH and Dickson J. Preston, two classic role models in the advanced Classics of Douglassoniana Studies.

I thank old school journalists and the editors and staff of the Star Democrat for understanding that if we don’t have accuracy in our reporting we have nothing.

It’s about respecting Dr. Douglass.

He is a native son of your soil and your pork. The mental and physical muscles Douglass stretched to escape slavery were first flexed on the Eastern Shore.

You understand.

Washington College and speculative historian David Blight do not.

[WC press release and “belief” not factually corrected as of 12 noon, February 1, 2018.]


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George Alfred Townsend to Frederick Douglass, April 29, 1880

Townsend on the left, Twain in the middle.

Before embarking on this mission to uncover Frederick Douglass in D.C, George Alfred Townsend aka “Gath” was one of my favorite journalists of the 19th century. Come to find out that Douglass and Townsend corresponded… and Townsend wrote an 1875 profile of Washington for Harper’s that features Douglass. Small world, huh man?

Here’s the transcription of an 1880 letter Townsend sent to Douglass.

Mr. Douglass 

Dear sir, With this I send you a book I have recently published where you will find some sketches of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I have often read your book on your youth in the country with delight.

I wish you would send me your autograph letter, so I can put it in your book.

With very much esteem

Your friend

George Alfred Townsend

242 W. 23rd Street

New York City 

April 29, 1880 


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