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From The Meadows To The Point documents the history of the historic African American community located in Turner Station, Dundalk, Maryland. It is located in the far southeast corner of Baltimore County, right on the waterfront with Interstate 695 and the Key Bridge in the background. It also resurrects the history of an African American community that existed on Sparrows Point, home of Bethlehem Steel Mills and Shipyard. This community was I and J Streets. The community of workers at Bethlehem Steel Mill and Shipyards had been in existence since the late 1800s with the beginning of the Pennsylvania Steel Company, later renamed the Maryland Steel Company, and eventually it became the Bethlehem Steel Company. The White workers resided on south side of Sparrows Point, and the African American workers resided on the north side of Sparrows Point.
This book takes an indepth look at how Turner Station became an African American community, how I and J Streets on Sparrows Point became an African American community, and why there has always been a very close relationship of the residents of both of these communities.
The title of my book, "From The Meadows To The Point," came about because of the relationships between the residents of Turner Station and Sparrows Point. When Sparrows Point began hiring workers around April 1888 after building the first blast furnace and the building of a town on Sparrows Point for their workers. The mill then began hiring workers and providing housing on the property for some of them. Research shows that the mill was hiring many different kinds of men to work in the mill, Russians, Hungarians, African Americans, etc. The African American workers who were crutical to the mill operations were provided housing in a community of wooden homes, neatly aligned on I and J Streets. By 1893, the African Americans built their first church on Sparrows Point, Union Baptist Church, this was followed not long after by the building of Ebernezer Methodist Church.
Obviously not all of the African American workers could secure living quarters on Sparrows Point, and residing in Baltimore City was a long way from Sparrows Point. Baltimore County records reflect that Turner Station, as a residence of African Americans did not begin until around 1921 with the building of the Steelton Plat. White workers on Sparrows Point were already securing their residents in Dundalk, where African Americans were not permitted to live. As I began to interview many of the senior African Americans who were born, resided, or had resided in Turner Station, the true history of the beginning of the community arose. When I interviewed a Mrs. Catherine Ann Neal Edwards Bullett, a truly beautiful woman who was born in Turner Station in 1910. I asked her how could she have been born in Turner Station when the community did not begin until around 1921. She replied that not only was she born there, but she had three olders siblings who were also born in Turner Station. She said that at the very entrance to Turner Station today, from Dundalk Avenue, where you would turn right on to Main Avenue, along a great length of Main Avenue on the left side was a wooded area that was called "The Meadows." Her father, Hillary Neal, had come to this area from Charles County, Maryland, not to work in the steel mill, but to build homes and to do carpentry work. He had built a log cabin for his family in the Meadows. Mrs. Bullett recalled that several African American families were residing in the Meadows. Mrs. Bullett's daughter, Carolyn Edwards Wade, tried to locate a copy of her mother's birth certificate without success; however, she discovered a copy of the Maryland Birth Certificate of an older sibling of her mother, Sarah Elizabeth Neal, who reflects that she was born in Turner Station on November 3, 1902 Since there were atleast two other siblings of Mrs. Bullett born before her sister, Sarah, then African Americans were residing in Turner Station probably as long as the steel mill and I and J Street on Sparrows Point has been in existence, which would date this historic African American community as 1888, or somewhere in that area.
There is something special about the African Americans who resided in Turner Station or Sparrows Point. The higher percentage of residents in both communities came from Virginia, North Carolina or South Carolina. Very few came from Baltimore City, but some did come from other counties within the State of Maryland. These residents, from both communities, were very strong on businesses, and it was reflected in the makeup of Turner Station. Since Bethlehem Steel Mills owned all buildings on Sparrows Point, very few residents of I and J Streets participated in business ventures; but this was the furthest from the truth for Turner Station. There were men like Anthony Thomas who came to Turner Station in the late 1800s to work in the steel mills. He opened a store in Turner Station, and started the Tuxedo Savings and Loans so that African American families could finance there homes in Turner Station. He also sold building lots. His son, Dr. Joseph Thomas, proved to be an even stronger businessman as he built the Edgewater Amusement Park with its swimming, amusement ride, lounges, and even their own semi-professional baseball team, the Baltimore Blues. Dr. Thomas built numerous homes on Sollers Point Road, and built the only air conditioned theater on Main Avenue that served all of the African Americans in the community, as well as numerous Whites from the area.
Many African American men and women from Turner Station opened their own businesses from gasoline stations, stores, taxi businesses, beauty shops, barber shops, even their own shopping area, a two story building called The Balnew Building. African Americans offered people from the community everything from the cradle to the graves with its many African American doctors to African American funeral homes. The dollar in this community circulated within the community many times over before it left the community.
The communities of Turner Station and Sparrows Point produced many professional and noted persons who were born, reared or resided in the communities, people like Dr. Joseph Thomas who came to Turner Station in 1887, just a few years after he was born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Dr. William C. Wade who came to Turner Station in 1944, Mrs. Henrietta Lacks, a classic World War II era from Turner Station, who died in 1951, and whose cells were taken from her body and used throughout the medical world as "HeLa" cells, and were instrumental in helping Dr. Jonas Salk develop a vacine to stop the spread of polio. Her family never knew that cells were taken from her body for medical use, and Kweisi Mfume, the current president of the NAACP, and former congressman, grew up in Turner Station, also Kevin Clash, the puppeteer of the world renown Elmo, and Calvin Hill, professional NFL football player and father of NBA start Grant Hill also grew up in Turner Station, and many other notable persons. On I and J Street, such notables as Dr. Theodore Patterson who was born and reared on Sparrows Point and still resides in the area as a very notable doctor, Melvin Pugh, Associate Professor at Morgan State University; Frederick Oliver, Director of Physics at Morgan State University; The Honorable Henry Johnson, Lawyer and Judge, Dr. Calvin Statum, renown Gospel Singer, Dr. Eugene Byrd, Dentist; Dr. Theodore Pfiffer; Dr. Daniel Robinson; Dr. Robert Carter; Dr. William Harris; Mr. Doward Patterson, Clinical Scientist, Edward Snowden, the Chief Lobbyist for Bethlehem Steel, and Carlton Douglas, Funeral Director, just to name a few.