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Restoration sought for Md. house owned by former slave

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GALESVILLE, Md. — His name was Henry Wilson. He was the first freed slave to own property in the Galesville area. He bought two acres for $250 and later acquired another 25 acres.

The house he built stands, but badly in need of repair, next to the ball field where the Galesville Hot Sox played.

His great-great-granddaughter, Rever Sellman, lives on West Benning Road, where most Galesville blacks have lived for more than 100 years. She keeps a close watch on the family history. She said Wilson was freed in 1865 (other reports have him freed sooner), soon purchased the property, then went about building that two-story house.

There is an effort under way to preserve the home. In the recent past, that goal was thwarted by a large family unable to decide on the future of the property. It’s a disagreement between getting a profit on the land and preservation.

“It’s a shame, but we are going try,” Sellman said. “We have been able to fix the roof a little, but something has to be done soon.”

Ball players would take the field next to the house to play for the Hot Sox, including John Makell, Charles Turner, Nathaniel Crowner, Lon Easton, Duck Williams and Ches Booze.

They played other black teams in Anne Arundel County’s South County area, including the Drewry Giants, or the Davidsonville Clowns. Once a year, they would play a Negro League team such as the Homestead Braves or the Washington Black Sox.

At age 8, Albert Makell Jr., a retired teacher, was the Hot Sox’ batboy. “Hot dogs were a dime, chicken legs 25 cents,” he said.

Black students in Galesville attended a Rosenwald school, one of many in the county for black children, from the first through seventh grades, then went to the segregated Bates High School in Annapolis.

But many did not finish school. Only five from the area graduated high school between 1936 and 1948, according to the Rev. Melvin Booze, a retired educator and pastor who was born and reared in Galesville.

He attended the Galesville Colored Elementary School. “It was a one-room school until 1940, then they added another room,” Booze said.

He graduated from Bates, and, wanting to become a teacher, went to Princess Anne College, now University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.

But after a semester away from Galesville, Booze wanted to come home. He worked as a substitute teacher before being drafted and sent to Korea, where he was wounded by shrapnel while running a squad out on reconnaissance.

After the war, Booze went back to college and taught in the county for 36 years, finishing at Crofton Woods Elementary. “I loved it,” he said.

An effort is also under way to save the old schoolhouse, too.

The Galesville Community Center Organization Inc. has been trying to get funding to repair the school and turn it into a community center — a gathering place for programs for youth and perhaps a repository for historic collections.

(Associated Press)