“Our Struggles” is my eighth and final books which documents much of the history of the forty designated historic African American communities in Baltimore County.

“Our Struggles” documents much of the history of the following historic African American communities in the southeastern corridor of Baltimore County:

Overlea, Chase, Bengies, Back River Neck Road in Essex, Goodwood/Hyde Park in Essex, Hopewell Avenue in Essex, Norris Lane in Dundalk, and Edgemere.

“Our Struggles” also documents much of the history of Bare Hills, Campfield in Pikesville and Belltown in Owings Mills. With the publication of this book, there is now published histories of each of the forty designated historic African American communities in Baltimore County. The book contains 210 pages, 20 oral interviews of seniors from these communities, and lots of shared photographs. The book is indexed and cost $29.95.


Overlea is a small African American community located at the northeast edge of Baltimore City along Belair Road just inside the Baltimore Beltway (I-695). Overlea began its growth in 1904 when the United Railway streetcar line was extended from Baltimore City along Belair Road to Overlea.

The African American community in Overlea began not many years after the community was developed. The African American community was called “Cherry Heights” and was developed in 1909 as the first African American community in Overlea. It started with 156 lots, and by 1915, only six dwellings in Cherry Heights were standing. The streets that made up the African American community in Overlea included Hazel Avenue, Linden Avenue, Beach Avenue, Cherry Street, Apple Street, First Street, Second Street and Third Street. The only African American church in the community is Emmanuel Baptist Church on Linden Avenue. It was established in 1928. Located not far up on Belair Road in the Putty Hill area is a very old African American church called Dowden Chapel. This old church had its beginning in the slavery era, in 1849 and served the community not only as a church, but a school as well. It is currently inactive. There has never been a school for African American children in Overlea.

Chase is located in the Middle River area of Baltimore County. African Americans have resided in the Chase area since the slavery era. Most of the African American men from the Chase area worked for the railroad as laborers or trackmen, while the women worked as domestics in private homes. For many years, Sharp Street United Methodist Church served the community. The church was built in 1865. It was not until the late 1950s when a second church, Shining Star Baptist Church relocated to Chase.

There was a one-room schoolhouse that served the African American children in Chase. It was located very near the Sharp Street UM Church on the ground floor of the Masonic Lodge called “Moses Hall.” There were only two known African American businesses in Chase, one was “Scott’s Beer Garden” and the other was a taxicab business owned and operated by Mr. John Conner.

Bengies is known by many people in the Baltimore metropolitan area primarily because of the large outdoor movie that has been in Bengies for quite a few years. Located a couple of miles north of the Martin Airport, Bengies has been the home of African Americans since the slavery era. There has never been an African American church in Bengies because the community of Chase, with Sharp Street UM Church is located only about a mile north of Bengies. There was, however, a two room school house for African American children located in Bengies that was built around 1920. It was located on Eastern Avenue at Bowley’s Quarter Road. It has since been converted to a community building.

According to information provided by Mrs. Margaret Beasley who was born and reared in Bengies, and who still resides there, there has never been any serious African American businesses in Bengies, except perhaps for a small restaurant that was owned and operated by her family many years ago.

Back River Neck Road is spread along Back River Neck Road, Browns Road and Annetta Road in Essex. The church that serves this historic African American community is St. Stephens AME Church located on Old Eastern Avenue, not far from the community. This church had its beginning in the late 1800s, which leaves one to believe that African Americans were probably residing in the Back River Neck Road area most likely since the slavery era. The predominant occupation for African Americans from this area were farm laborers. Others included well diggers, shipyard laborers, log team drivers, foundry laborers, mill laborers, and railroad watchmen, and several others.

The school that served the African American children was called Walters Elementary School. It was initially located on Back River Neck Road for many years until it was relocated to the historic African American community of Hopewell Avenue, also located in Essex. Today the school has been converted to a nursery called Cherry Hill Nursery.

The Brown family is one of the most prominent African American families from the Back River Neck Road area. Several of the Brown descendants still reside in the area.

Goodwood/Hyde Park is located in the southeast corridor of Essex. It consists of Goodwood Avenue and Hyde Park. Today most of the older African Americans reside on Goodwood Avenue. There has been only one African American church in the area which is the First Apostolistic Faith Church located on Goodwood Avenue that dates to the 1950s. Goodwood Avenue dates to the 1950s and Hyde Park dates to the 1930s. Many of the residents of the area attend St. Stephens AME Church located not far from this community.

There has never been a school in this community for the African American children as they always attended Walters Elementary School.

Hopewell Avenue is a small dead-end street stretching two blocks to the northeast from Back River Neck Road in Essex. This historic African American community consists of some fifty-two lots on Hopewell Avenue in what is known as Midriver Park. The earliest structure along Hopewell Avenue dates to 1875. Many of the African American men who resided on Hopewell Avenue worked at Bethlehem Steel Mill on the Shipyard on Sparrows Point, while the women did domestic work.

The African American church on Hopewell Avenue began in 1905, called the First Baptist Church. This church is in the process of building a larger edifice on the opposite side of the street. The school that served the African American children from the area was Walters Elementary School.

Norris Lane is located off of North Point Road in Dundalk. It came about as an African American community in the early to mid 20th cewntiry. It is small, compact community that consists of the following streets: Norris Lane, Robinson Avenue, Saffa Road, North Point Road, Delk Court and King Avenue. Because of its close proximity to Sparrows Point, most of the African American men worked at Bethlehem Steel Mill. When Sparrows Point phased out its company town, four frame houses were brought from Sparrows Point and re-erected on Norris Lane.

The school that served the African American children was located in Cottage Grove, which was a two-room schoolhouse. The grades went up to the sixth grade. The building has since been demolished.

The Galilee Baptist Church that was organized in 1913 at Cottage Creek services the community. In 1917, the church was relocated to its present location on North Point Road, and served as a school at one time.

Edgemere’s historic African American community had its beginning most likely in the late 1800s as African American men, with their families, came into the area in search of housing when they worked at Bethlehem Steel Mill on Sparrows Point. This group of people are very similar to the African American men who settled in Turner Station when housing for African American workers on Sparrows Point became unavailable. Most of the families initially came from Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina seeking work on Sparrows Point. The Edgemere African American community encompasses all of Orth Road, Sycamore Avenue, Oak Avenue , Lodge Farm Road and a small portion of Sparrows Point Road.

Shiloh Baptist Church has been the focal point of the African American community for generations. The old church still stands in the shadows of the new church. Shiloh Baptist Church had its beginning in 1898 at 2515 Sycamore Avenue, and has been expanded several times.

The only other significant structure in the community was the one-room African American schoolhouse that stood on Sycamore Avenue for years. The classes only went to the third grade, then the children were bussed to Sparrows Point to complete their elementary education at Bragg Elementary School.

Bare Hills is located on Falls Road just north of the Baltimore City line. It had its beginning as an African American community in 1838, and is one of the older historic African American communities in Baltimore County. It was settled by an African American named James Aquilla Scott who purchased two acres of land in 1839. James Aquilla Scott was a minister who purchased land in Ruxton with four others and constructed the St. John’s AME Church which is now inactive, and on the National Register of Historic Places.

The church that serviced the Bare Hills community was a small church built by James Aquilla Scott in Bare Hills. That church is no longer there. The community never contained a school for the African American children. These children had to attend school in the Lutherville area, or within Baltimore City.

Campfield is a historic African American community located in Pikesville. At one time it was a large African American community that was entirely residential. Today the majority of the community is concentrated along Walnut Avenue. It is one of the older African American communities that has been in existence probably since the 1840s, if not earlier. It was initially located on Campfield Avenue. It was said that during the Civil War, Campfield was a campground for the Union Army.

Campfield AME Church is the focal point of the community. The church had its beginning in 1844 as a log cabin. It was originally located on the corner of Bedford and Campfield Roads until 191l, and included a cemetery. It was part of a three point charge called the Randallstown Charge. Around 1913, the church was relocated to a lot on the corner of Walnut Avenue and Bedford Road. No one knows what happened to the cemetery.

A school for African American children in the Campfield area did exist at one time, and it is believed that the school was established in Campfield AME Church, which is not unusual during those early times.

Belltown is a historic African American community that is located in Owings Mills, situated between the Northwest Expressway (I-795) and Reisterstown Road (MD Route 140). The community is difficult to discern with the mixture of modern housing and White residents. The community is made up of Featherbed Lane, Pleasant Hill Road, Tollgate Road and Ritters Lane. The focal point in the community is the Mt. Pleasant AME Church located on Tollgate Road.

It is believed that the community came about in the 1800s. The name Belltown came from an African American Circuit Rider by the name of Rev, Henry Bell, or the Bell family’s house and store.

Mt. Pleasant AME Church came into being around 1884, and was used as a school for the African American children in the area. At one time it was on a circuit connected to Union Bethel AME Church in Randallstown and Campfield AME Church in Pikesville.

There were several schoolhouses for African American children in the area. In 1873 the Baltimore County School Board authorized a school for African American children in Owings Mills which was believed to have been located in an area behind Mt. Pleasant AME Church, then a school was established in a Lodge that was once located on Featherbed Lane, and a third school that existed at one time in Mt. Pleasant AME Church.

BACK RIVER
The orginal St. Stephens AME Church in Esses in the 1800s.
335 Back River Neck Rd, home of Mrs. Ella Louisa Young Brown
Mr. Leroy Pullum, Sr. from Back River Neck Road.

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BARE HILLS

Baseball team from Bare Hills.

Carolyn Scott LeVere showing a headstone the Scott Cemetery in Bare Hills.

Louisa Scott from Bare Hills.
St. John's Methodist Church in Ruxton. The church was built by the Scott family fro Bare Hills and several others. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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BELLTOWN
Clarence Ghee from Belltown with his wife, Nora Ghee.
Elizabeth Payne from Belltown with Charles Seymore Diggs from Chattolance.
Mt. Pleasant AME Church on Tollgate Road Ownings Mill. It once served the African American community of Belltown.

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BENGIES
The Beasley family restaurant that was located on Eastern Avenue in Bengies.
The old two room African American school house that was in Bengies. It is now a community center.

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CAMPFIELD
Campfield AME Church on Walnut Avenue in Campfield.
Elmer Wright from Campfield sitting in front of his home, 7105 Walnut Avenue in Campfield.
Family of Mrs. Anna Butler (seated). On the left is Helen Jackson from Campfield, niece of Mrs. Butler.

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CHASE MATERIAL
Children at the old Moses School in Chase.
The old Sharp Street UM Church in Chase.
African American men from Chase working on the railroad tracks.

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EDGEMERE

The orginal Shiloh Baptist Church in the historic African American community of Edgemere.

The late Percy Porter the historic African American community in Edgemere.

The new Shiloh Baptist Church in the historic African American of Edgemere.
1948 wedding photograph of wedding of Edward Boyd from Edgemere and Sarah Singleton. They still reside in Edgemere.

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GOODWOOD HYDE
1st Apostolic Faith Church on Goodwood Road.
Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Lynch from Goodwood Avenue.
School children in front of the Walters Elementary School.

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HOPEWELL AVE
The Green family from Hopewell Avenue.
The old 1st Baptist Church on Hopewell Avenue.
Walters School in 1945 when it was located on Hopewell Avenue.

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NORRIS LANE

Galilee Baptist Church in the Norris Lane African American community.

John Bullock from Norris Lane

Patrick Ranson family. His family has resided in Norris Lane for many years.
Rev. and Mrs. Shirley Ranson from Norris Lane.

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OVERLEA
Emmanuel Baptist Church in Overlea.
The foreground is Evelyn Jarrett with siblings Aileen and William. They are in front of first structure built by their father before he had their home built.
Rev. William Jarrett from Overlea.

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