A sight rarely seen in Waterford these days, every pew in the John Wesley Community Church was filled on Saturday as area residents gathered to learn more about the village’s rich African-American history.
The Waterford Foundation sponsored the event, which included a walking tour of the village’s historic sites—starting at the one-room Second Street schoolhouse, which opened in 1867 to educate black children, and ending at the church, which was built in 1891, with the congregation doing most of the construction work themselves at night.
A formal ceremony at the church included a presentation by historian Bronwen Souders on the underground railroad, research on 200 newspaper ads that were published seeking the return of runaway slaves, and details of reports of those who were captured. Also, Souders and Waterford Foundation Executive Director Thomas Kuehhas unveiled a new memorial display that honors 31 of the village black war veterans who served in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and with the Buffalo Soldiers.
U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall, Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin), Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance and Leesburg Town Councilman Ron Campbell Vance were among the elected officials who participated in the program.
Kuehhas announced a new effort supporting the preservation of the sites and stories of Waterford’s African-American heritage. The Lantern Light Fund is named in honor the members of the John Wesley Church and their nighttime construction efforts.
“For more than 150 years, African-Americans made up a quarter of Waterford’s households. Prior to the Civil War, Waterford was home to the largest free black population in Loudoun County,” Kuehhas said. “With your help, the fund will preserve and share the sites, stories and artifacts of Waterford’s African-American community.”
To learn more about the fund or to make a contribution, go to waterfordfoundation.org.