Edmonston officials said it was fitting that the town’s first black history celebration honored the town’s original settler.
Edmonston’s Sunday celebration recognized Adam Francis Plummer, a freed slave officials say was the first settler of what would become Edmonston after native tribes left the area.
More than 20 officials and local residents attended the event, which featured town officials unveiling a portrait of Plummer that will be displayed at Town Hall.
Plummer’s diary is the only one known to have been written by a slave while still in slavery, said the Rev. Jerome Fowler, the great-great grandson of Plummer who was invited to speak at the event.
“I was really surprised of the history, of how broad it was and how it deep it ran,” said Edmonston resident Ronald Cotton, 58. “And who would think that such a quaint little town would have such as rich history?”
Adam Ortiz, former mayor of the town from 2005 to 2011, said the town only recently began recognizing the Plummer family’s significance to the town’s history.
“Today is a little bit of a culmination of an effort that is in some ways is several years in the making, but in other ways a century-and-a-half in the making,” Ortiz said.
Plummer’s diary, which he kept from 1841 to his death in 1905, was believed to have been lost for decades until it was found in the basement of a distant relative who donated it to the Smithsonian in 2003, Fowler said.
Plummer learned to read and write while a slave on the Riversdale plantation in what is today Riverdale Park, which was owned by George Calvert, a descendent of the Lords Baltimore, Fowler said.
Throughout his life, Plummer recorded names, deaths, births and kept an inventory of his belongings while writing about difficult situations in his life, such as when his wife was sold to another plantation, Fowler said. Plummer eventually was freed, but still worked as foreman of the Riversdale plantation, he said.
Eventually Plummer brought a 10-acres of land nearby in what is today Edmonston where he built a cabin for his family to live in, said Fowler, who he has traced back seven generations of the Plummer family history.
“Through it all, this is a family that came through and succeeded,” Fowler said. “And many other families did the same thing, but their descendents don’t know their stories today.”
Resident Orin Matthews, 72, said that in his 24 years living in the town, he had not known about the Plummer’s connection to Edmonston.
“I did not know [Edmonston] was so historical,” Matthews said. “They always say historical Riverdale, but I did know we had this type of thing … I learned a lot.”
Councilwoman Tracy Farrish Gant (Ward 2), said she was encouraged that residents turned out to learn about the town’s history. Gant, the town’s first black council member who has served since 1992, said she hopes to continue having more black history month celebrations in the years to come.
“It is something that we definitely need to do,” Gant said. “We have a diverse community, we have blacks, we have Hispanics, we have whites, so I think it is important.”