‘Share Your History,’ March 12, CSM Leonardtown Campus

The Southern Maryland Studies Center is hosting Share Your History: Religious Life in Southern Maryland on March 12 at CSM’s Leonardtown Campus to collect digital scans such as this photo of a mother-daughter dinner at an unidentified Episcopal Church in Southern Maryland. Courtesy

Religious Life In Southern Maryland Focus of SMSC Event

            The College of Southern Maryland’s Southern Maryland Studies Center (SMSC) in partnership with the St. Mary’s County Historical Society and St. Mary’s County Genealogical Society is hosting “Share Your History Day: Religious Life in Southern Maryland” March 12 at CSM’s Leonardtown Campus.

            “With this event we hope to gather information from organizations as well as individuals that will add to our collection and give us a better historical understanding of religious life in our community,” said SMSC Coordinator Amy Richmond. “Most people learned in school about Maryland as the birthplace of religious freedom in the New World. We want to show what that means through personal and church documents.”

            Representatives from Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties’ places of worship are invited to bring historical documents and artifacts, including photos, letters, programs, directories and recordings for public display and for scanning to build a collection depicting religious tradition in Southern Maryland. Information on church history, church suppers, choirs, women’s groups, pastors and clergy, special projects, retreats and other events will be scanned into digital files by SMSC staff at no cost. All items will be returned.

            SMSC’s current collection of oral histories includes several with remembrances of religious life, such as a 1984 conversation with Kathryn Ryon of White Plains, in which she reflected on church life and recalled attending church in Washington, D.C. until her first child was 2 years old. “I began to think about church affiliation in this area [Southern Maryland], because I knew that I couldn’t continue to go back and forth to Washington to take him to Sunday school.”

After placing her child in Sunday school in the Methodist church in Waldorf, she said she began to think, “Here I am raised in the Baptist Church, Louis [her husband] is an Episcopalian, why should I start a third denomination in this family?” There was no Sunday school at the Episcopal Church at the time, so the rector encouraged the Ryons to start a Sunday school at the old church hall in Waldorf next to the “Five and Dime” and Camilo’s Restaurant. Ryon played piano for Sunday school and one day was asked to play the organ at church. She agreed thinking that it was a temporary thing.

“Well, it ended up that I did it every Sunday,” she said. “The first organ that I played there was an Estey Reed organ. Later on the church purchased a Hammond electric organ and gave the Estey to another church which has since burned down and the organ was destroyed. It is too bad, because it would have been a valuable thing to hold on to; it was made of solid mahogany,” she said in her interview.

Oral history interviews conducted in the mid-1980s with Rev. Andrew L. Gunn of Hagerstown and Rev. Harold Milstead of Indian Head described their involvement in the opposition to legalized slot machines in Charles County in the late 1940s.

Gunn recalled that slot machines were illegally in the back rooms of many restaurants and liquor stores at locations throughout Charles and St. Mary’s counties for years and it wasn’t until the Potomac River Bridge was completed that efforts to legalize them were initiated. “That was to be a major attraction for the new tourist trade,” Gunn said, “Particularly the people coming from the north down to Florida in the wintertime.”

Milstead was a circuit rider among a parsonage of four churches in 1945; one was Calvery Church in Waldorf. When a state bill was introduced to legalize slot machines, as the leader of a Charles County ministerial organization Milstead spoke out against the bill although he recalled that some churches used slot machines to raise funds.

SMSC’s Richmond said, “Southern Maryland has a rich and diverse history, and church life is a big part of that. We know that there are so many details captured in photos and documents that may seem insignificant on their own, but together they tell our community’s history.”

            The SMSC is located in the Library Resources Building (LR) on CSM’s La Plata Campus. The “Share Your History Day: Religious Life in Southern Maryland” event on March 12 will be held in Building A at the Leonardtown Campus.

            Visitors will be required to sign a release form to authorize scanning. To pre-register or to reserve a display table, contact SMSC at 301-934-7606 or smsc@csmd.edu.

            For information on the SMSC, visit http://www.csmd.edu/Library/SMSC/.

            This event is made possible by the Southern Maryland Heritage Area

Consortium and the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.


Media Contact: Dorothy Hill, Media Relations Coordinator, 301-934-7745, dmhill@csmd.edu