The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority has awarded the City of Rockville grant funding to study the Avery Road Colored Cemetery and Benjamin Franklin Smith Family Homestead, located within the footprint of today’s Croydon Creek Nature Center and John G. Hayes Forest Preserve.
The city was awarded $16,941 to hire a consultant to perform historical background research and use ground-penetrating radar to document what remains below ground connected to Benjamin Franklin Smith, his family and the sites’ development.
This nondestructive approach will seek to discover what lies beneath the areas, including burial sites, funerary objects, architectural relics, and stone tools, arrowheads or other artifacts. Survey findings will assist with a second phase of the project to provide overall site interpretation of the Smith homestead and cemetery sites.
The sites were once part of Bowie’s Glenview Estate. The Bowies used the labor of enslaved Black people, including Smith, to operate the plantation. Up to 31 enslaved people were used to clear forested areas, for farming, and in the family home’s upkeep and operation.
The plantation was comprised of the Bowie residence, farm fields, a chapel and cemetery slave quarters, a slave cemetery, and timberlands. In 1884, per Bowie’s final wishes, the lands were deeded to Smith, who developed a homestead and an adjacent family burial plot.
One-hundred grants were awarded to state nonprofits, local jurisdictions and other heritage tourism organizations, totaling $5 million.