" On June 19, 1865, legend has it while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Union General Gordon Granger read the contents of “General Order No. 3”: The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."
From a close friendship with lifelong Howard County resident Leola Dorsey a few years ago I learned a great deal about the history of African Americans in Howard County and its segregated past. Today being Junetenth, the celebration of the end of slavery, I thought I would relate some of the stories I learned.
In the 1950's and 1960's Howard County reflected its southern heritage and remained segregated in many ways. Leola related how she and Bob Kittleman (father of present day Howard County Senator Allan Kittleman) traveled along Route 40 in the 1960's to test out the new Public Accommodation laws that were being passed. Leola was the first woman president of the Howard County chapter of the NAACP and Bob was the first white to serve as president of the Howard County NAACP. Some of the merchants still refused service to minorities. I always found it unusual that Leola, a civil rights champion in the County, was a lifelong Republican when it seemed as if the party had long since become a party of the conservative South. She often reminded me that she thought of the party as the party of Lincoln.
One of the stories that Leola told was about how Harriet Tubman was thought to have led runaway slaves through Simpsonville following the Patapsco and Patuxent rivers. The rivers were used because of their access to Baltimore and Ellicott City and the B&O railroad.
Simpsonville was a logical community for runaway slaves because the slaveholder Nicholas Worthington freed his 17 slaves and gave them each land in this community. It was called Freetown because of this act. Freetown Road in this community still exists. Another factor in the County being used by runaway slaves was the population of Quakers that lived in the County.