Balch’s Black History Committee Offers Heritage Bus Tour

Last fall’s inaugural Heritage Bus Tour was so successful that the Black History Committee of Friends of the Thomas Balch is offering another one June 25.

The tour will start at 9 a.m. from the Thomas Balch Library in Leesburg and end there at about 4:30 p.m. Registration will close June 10.

The tour will explore historic routes through Leesburg and Purcellville and take in various black heritage sites in Waterford, such as the John Wesley Church and the Second Street School—one of the first schools for black children in the county. Participants also will visit sites at Gleedsville and Middleburg, as well as Oatlands Historic House and Gardens.

Organizer Alicia Cohen, a Journey Through Hallowed Ground cultural tourism ambassador, is a volunteer for the Black History Committee. Her goal is to share the history of Loudoun’s African-Americans communities and to preserve it in the face of the county’s growth and development.

The tour features volunteer interpreters—Mary Randolph, Phyllis Cook-Taylor, Luis Jett and Mattie Turner, all Loudoun natives who know their subject well.

The tour sites were selected based on three well-researched publications outlining the history of African-Americans, their communities and their contributions in Loudoun County.

One of the sites, Gleedsville, featured freed people from the Oatlands Plantation who established a small settlement on the nearby ridge known as Negro Mountain. The community got its name from their leader, John “Jack” Gleed. The small white frame Mount Olive Methodist Episcopal Church was built by African-American families from Gleedsville after the Civil War. Today, it is owned by the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Loudoun, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Another site of importance is the Loudoun County Courthouse, where slave auctions were held. The National Park Service has designated the courthouse as an Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site.

A box lunch will be included in the $75 tour fee. For tour information and to register, contact Cohen at 703-606-3275 or at

Leave a Reply