Sharing a Part of My Heritage – Lest We Forget

Posted on Updated on

San Diego School

The San Domingo School is historically significant for its association with the education of African-American youths in rural Wicomico County Maryland during the early-to-mid 20th century. The San Domingo school, also known as the Sharptown Colored School, was built in 1919 and was one of seven facilities in Wicomico County financed in part by the fund established by Sears, Roebuck & Co. president, Julius Rosenwald.The building remained in educational use until 1961.

How many people have ever heard of San Domingo, Maryland? Or, if they have heard of it, how many people know where it is located. Part of my rich heritage rests in the small community of San Domingo and so I would like to share some parts of that heritage with you.

According to the oral history that is recited annually at the Zion United Methodist Church Founders Day, San Domingo was founded in the early 1800s by James Brown, my paternal great-great-great grandfather, who was born about 1792. James Brown was a native of Jamaica and a free Black (I have a copy of his freedom papers in my file). Upon arriving to the Delmarva Peninsula he went to Cambridge Maryland to find a free woman to marry. Her name was Elizabeth Leatherbury. She was born in Delaware about 1794. James and Elizabeth had eight children: Harriet, Byard B. (through whom my direct paternal family line is traced), Leonard, Isabella, Ardilla, Eliza A., Emmeline, and Mary.

San Domingo soon became a destination for other free Blacks from the Carribean trading along the Atlantic Coast. In 1859 my great-great-great grandfather James Brown and his family established the local Church known as Zion United Methodist Church (many of my ancestors were laid to rest in the family cemetery there). The original church was lost to a fire and a new church was built and stands on the site of the original building. The church served as the center of the community, housing many cultural, civic, historical, and educational activities.

At the end of the Civil War, John Quinton, a Carribean seaman, is reported to have settled in San Domingo and married a granddaughter of James Brown. Her name was Sarah E. Brown. She was the daughter of my great-great-grandfather Byard B. Brown (22 October 1819 – 19 November 1906), James’ son, thus making her my great-grand aunt. John and Sarah had eight children: Danvis A., Bayard H., Leah J.P., Noah F., William H., Ernest U., Festus N., and George O. Quinton. John Quinton was literate and so consequently he preached and taught school in the community. John Quinton and his family were the anchor of education in San Domingo until state supported education came to San Domingo in 1919 when the Sharptown Colored Elementary School (a Rosenwald school) was built. Children were educated through grade 7. Full access to high school education for San Domingo residents did not occur until 1930.

As a historical side note, the grave sites of my paternal great-great-great grandparents, James Brown and Elizabeth Leatherbury, have been registered with the Eastern Shore Historical Society as being the oldest known marked free Negro graves in Wicomico County Maryland.

James Brown Freedom Papers

The Freedom Papers of my great-great-great grandfather, James Brown, dated 1832.