Earliest Documented: 1890
Latest Documented: 1928
Bethel School was active before 1890 when it discontinued, and the Smithville farm alliance used the (original) building. (Other white schools like Williston followed this pattern of in and out of service.)
Identification and location are based on Denton Journal info about Houston’s Branch School moved for Bethel School in 1927 and likely associated with Bethel Church (firmly identified).
DJ 1927 shows Bethel school was in/near Federalsburg; Houston’s Branch closed and building moved for use by Bethel in 1927. Categorized as Colored School in 1928.
How precise is the location?
Is the structure still standing?
Yes. It’s used as a community center by the adjacent Bethel Methodist Church.
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The school building is adjacent to Union AME Church, which has maintained and used it for church activities and storage. Union Colored School was listed in school board announcements at least between 1896 and 1928.
It might be too late to visit this sacred site. Aerial imagery (2017) indicates that the building described by the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT CAR-159) has been significantly modified or removed and replaced.
Jonestown School does not appear on the 1875 or 1897 maps of Caroline County. Black students from this area probably attended nearby Johns Colored School before the Jonestown School was built. The location of Jonestown School on Harmony Road (MD Route 16) is verified in oral history published by Coppin AME Church (formerly Jones Chapel).
We found this school by comparing the 1920 USGS topo map with Maryland state aerial imagery. It was listed in school board announcements between at least 1896 and 1928.
The “Denton Colored School” was later known as the Kennard Industrial School, named after Lucretia Kennard, who taught here during the early part of her career. This historic school is documented in MHT CAR-126.
Listed in 1896 school expenditures in Elect. Dist 5, Comparing 1875 and 1897 maps shows the new section by river of road that runs to Agner/Chestnut on 1897 map. Now Chipman’s Road. Geo coords are precise for existing building that is marked as church/school on 1906 USGS map. USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) lists this location as John Wesley School.
According to research in the files of the Caroline County Historical Society, the property on which the school stood was acquired by the church in 1881. It is conceivable that the first section of the structure was built after that date. The addition could have built as late as 1910.
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The History and Cartography Behind the Story
We used these map sources to identify the sites of historic schools:
- 1875 Map of Caroline County by John B. Isler
- 1897 Map of Caroline County by M.L. Saulsbury
- U.S. Geological Survey Historic Maps, 1920-1944
We verified locations and cross-checked school names and numbers by searching the Denton Journal online.
We explored many sites using satellite imagery and high-resolution Maryland State aerial imagery.
We continue to collaborate with Ms. Jean Kelly, Caroline County Historical Society Archivist Volunteer and author of the forthcoming Historic One-Room Schools of Caroline County, to validate historic school locations and identities and gather stories about school students, teachers, and activities.
We also collaborate with the Choptank River Heritage project and its Caroline Digital History Project. CCHS maintains archives of research on many of Caroline’s historic schools. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Above: Hillsboro School re-discovered using historic maps and high-resolution aerial imagery.