Rediscover the first Black Churches and Congregations in the Choptank River Heritage Area through the journal of Mr. Jarena Lee, first female preacher of the A.M.E. Church.
Other Names: Camp Todd’s Mill, Daniel Horsey’s Sawmill
First Documented: 1824
Last Documented: 1875
Structure Exists? No
The earliest mention of Stanton Mill is in Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee, first female preacher of the A.M.E. Church. She wrote:
I stopped next at Concord, and in the Old Methodist connexion tried to encourage the Lord’s people to persevere. God displayed His power by a general outpouring. of the Spirits – sinners cried for mercy, while others shouted for joy. Spoke also to a congregation of colored and white at Stanton Mills; I arrived again at Eastern Shore [Easton], where I spoke in Bethel Church during Quarterly Annual Meeting.
Stanton’s Mill on Robins Creek was mentioned in a deed of 1838 (Caroline County deeds, Liber JR 7:488). In the 1970s, Mrs. Paul Knotts of Denton also identified this mill on Robins Creek as separate from the Camp Todd Mill closer to Potter’s Landing (Williston). The Stanton family was apparently still actively milling in the area by the 1880s. An 1887 state directory listed A. Anderson as miller at nearby Potters Landing. Two years later, the Denton Journal, December 14, 1889, reported, “Potters Landing . . . Mr. Will Stanton has succeeded Mr. Thomas E. Evans as a miller in Mr. Anderson’s employ.” (John McGrain, Caroline County Molinography)
The site of Stanton’s Mill on Robins Branch is clearly indicated in the 1875 map of Caroline County by John B. Isler. Stanton’s was probably a grain mill when Mrs. Lee preached there in 1824. By 1875, however, it had been converted to a sawmill. (“SM” in the 1875 map.)
A short distance from the mill site on Robins Creek is a Black church, probably an early A.M.E. church building. This building did not exist when Mrs. Lee preached to a “congregation of colored and white”. Local white preachers almost certainly had to approve – and indeed invited – Mrs. Lee to preach publicly. They probably arranged for use of the mill yard or buildings to accommodate the crowd.
The Black Community that Grew Around Stanton’s Mill
The area near Stanton Mill and Potter’s Landing (Williston) grew into an important Black church and school community. A Black church (probably A.M.E.) was built nearby before 1875.
Cochrane in History of Caroline County stated that Williston became the site of the Freedman’s Bureau School by accident, when lumber shipped up the Choptank for the school was offloaded at Williston by mistake. But this was not the case. The school site was donated by Dr. William Boynton, a Congregationalist minister who served a local church. Boynton was reported to be a northerner from Cincinnati who was appointed local agent for the Freedman’s Bureau and oversaw construction of the school. (Denton Journal, 2 Oct 1905 page 5 and 29 Sep 1928 pg 5)
The Black community also grew 1.5 miles from Stanton Mill up Robin’s Creek at Pinetown (crossroads of modern Pinetown Road and Statum Road.) Pinetown is the site of the former Washington Colored School and the current Ross Chapel A.M.E. Church.
The 1824 Journal of Mr. Jarena Lee
The Eastern Shore mission of the A.M.E. Church’s first woman preacher is recounted in the Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee.
During the spring and summer of 1824, Mrs. Lee preached to both black and white congregations in Caroline, Talbot, Queen Anne’s, and Kent Counties. She also travelled and preached as far south as Snow Hill and east into Kent and Sussex Counties in Delaware. She covered over 200 miles in a horse-drawn “gig”, usually accompanied by Rev. Jeremiah Beulah, leader of the A.M.E.’s Easton Circuit.
(Read Jerena Lee’s Eastern Shore journal entries here.)
Like many 19th century diarists, Mrs. Lee’s wrote of people she met and places she visited using unconventional names and spellings. By comparing Mrs. Lee’s journal to historical maps and written records, we re-discovered the earliest Black Church communities at Stanton Mills. Beaver Dams, Harris’s Mill, Hole-in-the-Wall, “Ivorytown”, “Bath”, “Fory’s Neck”, “Mr. Peakey’s Island”, and other places.
Rediscover all the places where Jarena Lee preached in 1824.
Stand in the Place.
Tags: BlackChurches, Sawmills, JarenaLeePlaces