What’s in a place name? Exploring the history of Piscataway Park and Accokeek Creek Site

Before European settlers invaded their lands in the seventeenth century, Indigenous communities of different sizes, languages, and cultures existed throughout present-day Maryland. Algonquian peoples, including the Piscataway, Conoy, and Mattaponi tribes, lived and traveled along the Potomac River, from the Chesapeake Bay to present-day Washington, D.C., including in nearby Accokeek, Maryland. Early travel accounts of white colonizers, like the journals and maps of Captain John Smith, identify geographic names that designated the Native peoples, cultures, and languages of those places. Many of these Indigenous words, such as Chesapeake, Patapsco, and Wicomico, still mark the landscape today. Accokeek, for example, derives its name from the Algonquian word for “at the edge of the hill,” and the neighboring Potomac River is named for the Patawomeck tribe that lived along the waterway’s southern bank.

Black and white photo of entrance sign: "Moyaone Reserve." A forest of trees is behind the sign and an unpaved road lays before it.
Entrance to Moyaone Reserve, circa 1957

Just as Native place names endure, so do Native communities and sites of their local cultural heritage and historical significance. Accokeek, Maryland is home to Piscataway Park, named after the local Piscataway tribe and divided into seven areas, including the Moyaone Reserve, a present-day residential community. In 1922, husband and wife Henry and Alice Ferguson purchased the land upon which Moyaone Reserve rests as a rural getaway from their daily lives in Washington, D.C. Interested in the history of the land, the Fergusons initiated archaeological digs beginning in the 1930s. These digs unearthed evidence of Indigenous presence in the area extending back thousands of years and gave the area its name. Moyaone (pronounced Moy-own) translates to “home place” and was an important village of the local Piscataway tribe, which John Smith visited in 1608 and is believed to have been situated near the present-day Moyaone Reserve.

Black and white aerial photo of the Moyaone Reserve mid-excavation, circa 1936. The land is mostly untouched except for a crescent strip that appears to have been stripped and excavated.
Aerial view of Moyaone excavation site, 1936
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“Get Out the Vote” Digitization Spotlight- A Relation of Maryland, 1635

Early voting laws in American varied throughout the colonies and territories, with authority to create and enact new laws limited to an appointed few. Published in 1635, A Relation of Maryland describes the geography, peoples, and other practical information Maryland to those making the journey to the province. It includes the Charter of Maryland, in which King Charles I of England granted to George Calvert proprietary rights to a region east of the Potomac River.

The early Maryland historical text is featured in Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America, a Special Collections & University Archives exhibit exploring the history of voting rights in America.

Each month, we shine the spotlight on items from the exhibit that have been fully digitized and made accessible online.

For October, we choose the oldest item in the exhibit, pulled from the Rare Books collection in Hornbake Library: A Relation of Maryland; Together, with a Map of the Countrey, the Conditions of Plantation, His Majesties Charter to the Lord Baltimore, published in London, 1635.

In section VII of the Charter of Maryland, Lord Baltimore is authority to enact laws “in agreement” with the freemen of the province, although mechanisms of obtaining consensus are not outlined and left entirely up to Lord Baltimore’s discretion:

“Know Ye therefore further, that We, forges, our Heirs and Successors, do grant unto the said now Baron, (in whose Fidelity, Prudence, Justice, and provident Circumspection of Mind, We repose the greatest Confidence) and to his Heirs, for the good and happy Government of the said Province, free, full, and absolute Power, by the Tenor of these Presents, to Ordain, Make, and Enact Laws, of what Kind soever, according to their sound Discretions whether relating to the Public State of the said Province, or the private Utility of Individuals, of and with the Advice, Assent, and Approbation of the Free-Men of the same Province, or the greater Part of them, or of their Delegates or Deputies, whom We will shall be called together for the framing of Laws, when, and as often as Need shall require, by the aforesaid now Baron of Baltimore, and his Heirs, and in the Form which shall seem best to him or them.”

Visit the Maryland Room Exhibit Gallery in Hornbake Library to view the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America or explore the exhibit online.

“Get Out the Vote” Spotlight – Margaret Brent

Margaret Brent was an early advocate for expanding voting rights law, challenging the Maryland General Assembly to grant her voting rights in 1648. 

Margaret Brent, born circa 1600 in Gloucestershire, England, was a prominent attorney, “founding mother” of Maryland, and the first female in the colonies to demand the right to vote in court. She first arrived in St. Marys City, Maryland with three of her siblings in 1638. She subsequently became involved in various business ventures and became the first woman landowner in Maryland. She was renowned for her business savvy and knowledge of the law. In 1647, then-Governor of Maryland Leonard Calvert appointed her executor of his estate shortly before he died. As Calvert’s executor, she played an instrumental role in stabilizing Maryland at a time of political crisis for the colony. 

In 1648, Brent argued before the provincial assembly for a voice in the council and two votes, one as Lord Baltimore’s representative and one as a landowner in her own right. As an unmarried, property-owning gentlewoman, Brent’s argument was consistent with English law, but she was ultimately denied the vote. After falling out of favor with the Calvert family, Brent moved to Virginia, where she died circa 1671.

You can view the transcript of request for the right to vote to the Maryland General Assembly in 1648 in volume 1 of the Archives of Maryland, on page 215. The volume is available in Special Collections & University Archives and online through the Internet Archive:

At the heart of the Special Collections & University Archives exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America are advocates, like Brent, and grassroots organizations who have fought for expanding the right to vote. Their individual and collective voices have driven major changes to American voting rights, moving the nation closer to the ideal of “one person, one vote.”

Visit the Maryland Room Exhibit Gallery in Hornbake Library to view the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America or explore the exhibit online.

MDHC Reaches Milestone of 100 Transcriptions!

Recently the staff and volunteers in the Maryland and Historical Collections collecting area completed transcribing 100 of its primary source documents in the Maryland Manuscripts collection. This collection of nearly six thousand individually cataloged items bears witness to a wide breadth of Maryland history, primarily from 1750 to 1900. 

This phase of the project focuses on the series “Slavery-related Documents, 1752-1877 and undated.” The documents describe such topics as escape, manumissions, sale, military service, and abolition. Hundreds of these documents are already digitized and available online in our Digital Collections, making transcription the next priority.

While these transcriptions are not yet available online, researchers can reach out to Special Collections and University Archives at AskHornbake@umd.edu for individual access to select transcripts from this series.

Thanks to the small-but-mighty staff, MDHC is fulfilling UMD Libraries’ commitment of increasing access and use to the collections we steward.


Joni Floyd is Curator, (State of) Maryland and Historical Collections in Special Collections and University Archives, UM Libraries.

Spooky Celebrations

Evening capital and Maryland gazette. (Annapolis, Md.), 31 Oct. 1921. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88065726/1921-10-31/ed-1/seq-1/>

All Hallow’s Eve, All Hallow Eve, Hallow Eve, Hallow Even, Hallow E’en, Hallowe’en, Halloween, Eve of All Saints’ Day–whatever you want to call it or however you’d like to spell it–is a day with origins dating all the way back to the Celts, and it came to the American East Coast in the 1600s (“Halloween 2020”). More common in Maryland and southern states, Halloween wasn’t celebrated nationally until the Third Wave of Immigration (“Halloween 2020”). Today, many people in the US have come to observe Halloween as a commercial and secular holiday, but the way that people celebrate it may differ by individual or family. We can recognize these differences throughout the years, across the state of Maryland.

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17 million pages in Chronicling America!

This month, Chronicling America reached 17 million newspaper pages! Historic newspaper pages are contributed to the Chronicling America newspaper database by National Digital Newspaper Program partner organizations from all across the country. The Historic Maryland Newspapers Project at University of Maryland Libraries is the Maryland state awardee of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), which is a partnership between National Endowment for the Humanities and Library of Congress.

Image courtesy of National Endowment for the Humanities.
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#MarylandWomenVote: Celebrating the Centennial of the 19th Amendment

The Historic Maryland Newspapers Project (HMNP) here at UMD Libraries teamed up with the Maryland State Archives (MSA) and other cultural heritage institutions across the state to carry out a social media campaign on the Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook platforms to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. We at HMNP wanted our posts to showcase elements of women’s suffrage in Maryland and/or aspects from the broader suffrage movement that were featured in the Chronicling America Maryland newspaper titles. MSA wanted their posts to examine specific stories from the movement in Maryland. By utilizing the same hashtags, our content would trend together on each platform, and we invited others to use the same hashtags during a week long campaign to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment in Maryland earlier this month.

First HMNP tweet to kick off the #MarylandWomenVote and #MDSuffrage campaign on Twitter. Image utilized in post from: Maryland suffrage news. (Baltimore, Md.), 13 June 1914. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89060379/1914-06-13/ed-1/seq-1/>.
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The Knapp Papers: Citizen Involvement in the Giles-Johnson Case

Racial injustice in the state of Maryland has a long, painful history. This semester, while working as a student assistant for Special Collections, I processed the Harold A. and Barbara B. Knapp papers. This archival collection sheds light on an example of this difficult history and demonstrates that everyday citizens can play a role in challenging racially-motivated law enforcement and legal decisions.

The Harold A. and Barbara B. Knapp papers document a white couple’s involvement with the Giles-Johnson Defense Committee. This volunteer group of about sixty Montgomery County citizens worked for the defense of James and John Giles and Joseph Johnson, three African-American men accused of raping a white, teenaged girl in 1961. The Knapp papers were donated by Barbara Knapp in May 2018, and complement an existing collection at UMD, the Giles-Johnson Defense Committee records. The Knapp papers collection is useful for researchers studying race relations in Maryland, sexual assault cases, and capital punishment.  The collection also provides important documentation on civil rights, citizen action, and community activism.

giles image

John Giles (left) and James Giles (right) at the Maryland Penitentiary in December 1963. Harold A. and Barbara B. Knapp papers.

The collection includes correspondence, reports, notes, legal documents, clippings, a scrapbook, and audio recordings related to the Knapps’ involvement with the Giles-Johnson case.  I rehoused the materials in acid-free folders, removed metal fasteners, and separated newspaper clippings from other papers with acid-free paper. After establishing physical control over the collection, I arranged the materials into four series: working files, Giles-Johnson legal documents, related cases, and audio recordings. I then creating a finding aid for the collection with a Historical Note, Scope and Contents Note, and series descriptions. The finding aid for the Knapp papers will eventually be available online.

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UMD’s Untold History

Have you ever heard of the College of Special and Continual Studies, or CSCS? Chances are, you haven’t. But it has a fascinating history. It was a significant part of the University of Maryland, beginning with its founding in 1947. Originally, CSCS was created to “coordinate the expanding off-campus” courses offered to officers at the Pentagon.

In 1949, CSCS became the first university to send faculty members, dubbed “the Original Seven,” overseas to Europe in order to provide education for the United States’ active-duty military personnel amidst the rubble of war-torn Germany, following World War II.

UMUC Van with hand lettering on the side - "University of Maryland Wants You, Army Education Center"In the 1950s, CSCS expanded its offerings, including providing more locations stateside, as well as opening the Atlantic Division and the Asia Division, where faculty taught soldiers in Japan and South Korea.

At the request of its Dean, Ray Ehrensberger, in 1959 the College of Special and Continual Studies was renamed University College (can you see where this is going yet?).

Fun fact: University College is a term borrowed from British usage; it describes an institution that offers courses to all students, regardless of gender, social class, or religion.

Now for the really exciting stuff: in 1963 “the first classes are held in Saigon as the university extends into a war zone in Vietnam. By the 1969-1970 academic year, enrollments in Vietnam reach 11,000….[and] every new professor has to agree to teach in Vietnam.” Can you imagine getting a new job and being told that your first position would be in a war zone? There was even a professor still in Saigon when it fell on April 30, 1975!

Photo of the Center of Adult Education on the UMUC campusFinally, in 1970, University College was, once again, renamed, becoming the University of Maryland University College, an independent and accredited institution, separate from the University of Maryland at College Park. That’s right, UMUC was originally part of the University of Maryland! In fact, the Center for Adult Education was built in October of 1964 to be used as the UMUC headquarters in College Park.

You can explore a more detailed history of the University of Maryland University College here: https://www.umuc.edu/about/mission-and-history/timeline.cfm

And for something even more interesting, you can watch our fascinating documentary “Over There: The Adventures of Maryland’s Traveling Faculty”: https://video.mpt.tv/video/over-there-the-adventures-of-marylands-traveling-faculty-qwxacw/

Map entitled "University of Maryland, University College, Global Campus, 1949-1964" indicating locations of overseas programs

All images are from the UMUC Archives


Post by Meaghan Wilson
Assistant Archivist, University Archives, University of Maryland University College

Processing the Papers of a Maryland Environmentalist, Merilyn B. Reeves

In June 2016, Merilyn B. Reeves donated a collection of personal papers and publications to the University of Maryland’s Special Collections.  Reeves was a prominent member of the environmental movement in Maryland through her involvement in the League of Women Voters. She was Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Maryland and a member of the national board, where she was in charge of the Natural Resources Portfolio. Additionally, she was President of the American? Lung Association of Maryland and on the national-level board of the American Lung Association.  She tackled environmental issues such as the clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay and the Patuxent River and the defense of the Clean Air and Safe Water Acts before Congress, where she testified on several occasions. More locally, Reeves was a member of the West Laurel Civic Association and she acted as a tour guide for the Piscataway Wastewater Treatment and Patuxent River Water Filtration plants.

Reeves photo

Merilyn B. Reeves asking a question to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance at the League of Women Voters National Convention, May 1978

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