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An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Ardwick and the Wormley Family: African-American History in Prince George's County

               Sooner or later Prince George's County will run out of land and will be forced in to enter the 21st century. Until then the time honored and traditional business model is to "develop" land by making promises pocketing the money and leaving the county and its residents to find ways on their own to build and maintain neighborhood infrastructure such as roads, water, and schools. African-Americans have dealt with development challenges and created many notable communities within Prince George's County, Maryland.

               For example, the area known as Ardwick was farmland and what is now euphemistically called open-space.. Farming was the business of the day. From the coming of the Europeans to the beginning to the 20th century. agriculture was the primary business enterprise of the county. Ardwick was first platted in 1889 by Thomas Mitchell, a Washington, D.C., real estate broker. [1]   The community was one of the growing number of railroad suburb that were platted between the end of the Civil War and the end of World War II. . In a research paper by Susan Pearl Susan Pearl the "original plat was abandoned soon after platting, and the area remained rural, despite the location near the Ardwick railroad station."[2]

               However along Ardwick-Ardmore Road, between Routes 450 and 410 an African-American community began to coalesce when William Stanton Wormley, educator and artist,  bought a house  in 1902/1903  built a few years earlier, 1897, by Hugh Browne.[3] Wormley was the "grandson of businessman James Wormley. And, James Wormley was the far-sighted, cutting-edge, black nineteenth-century businessman and owner of the Wormley Hotel in Washington, D.C.  The Wormley Hotel was the first integrated hotel in the national capital.[4]   

               The historically African-American portion of the larger Ardwick community developed around William Wormley's five acre country retreat.  The house and grounds became a residence and a retreat for the Wormley family. The grounds once included a tennis court and Trap Shooting Club. The shooting club on the slopping ground south of the dwelling now covered in mature trees was known as Wortay Carbro,[5]
              The legacy and memory of the hard work in both the private and public sectors of the Wormley family surely  rates our attention today. When Carter G. Woodson established Negro History week in 1926, he realized the importance of providing a theme to focus the attention of the public.  The intention has never been to dictate or limit the exploration of the Black experience, but to bring to the public's attention important  developments that merit emphasis. Today, Black History Month continues the focus on the contributions and lives of African-Americans who gave so much towards the creation of this county and this county.

[1] Prince George’s County Land Records, Circuit Court, Plat Book BB 5: 96; “For Sale or Exchange,” The Washington Post, 13 June 1884.

[2] Susan G. Pearl, Prince George’s County African-American Heritage Survey, 1996 (Upper Marlboro, MD: Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, 1996), 40.- 41

[3] Maryland Historical Trust Maryland Inventory of Inventory No. PG: 69-023-17

"The Wormley House was constructed c. 1898 for Hugh Browne. In 1902, Browne sold the 5-acre property and modest frame dwelling to his brother-in-law, Furman Shadd, an early graduate and Administrative Offices of the Howard University Medical School.  Shadd sold the property one year later to his nephew, William Stanton Wormley."

[4] Wormley, James (1819–1884) - Entrepreneur, Chronology, Opens Elegant Hotel - Washington, Business, Wormley’s, and Black - JRank Articles

"In 1868, Maryland senator Reverdy Johnson was appointed minister to England. He had heard of Wormley’s reputation as a caterer and decided to offer him a position as his personal caterer. Even though he had a wife and four children, he accepted the offer. It is said that his culinary skills contributed to Johnson’s diplomatic success and Wormley’s reputation as a caterer was that much improved. While abroad he visited the cuisine kitchens in Paris. Excited about the additional culinary skills learned in Paris, in 1871, he moved to a more spacious location on the corner of Fifteenth and H Streets near the White House. At this location, with the aid of U.S. Representative Samuel J. Hooper, the silent partner and nominal owner, Wormley opened an elegant hotel which became known as the Wormley Hotel. The older property on I Street was used as an annex to the hotel. The five-story building boasted 150 rooms, including a bar, a barbershop, and a world-renowned dining room noted for its cuisine (turtle soup and Chesapeake Bay seafood). It was also renowned for its well-managed rooms and became the first hotel in Washington, D.C. to have an elevator and a telephone connected to the city’s first switchboard. For more than two decades the hotel was the meeting place for black and white elites as well as distinguished foreigners.

               Another milestone for Wormley on July 21, 1871, according to the Agribusiness Council in Washington, D.C., was a resolution he authored with the aid of Senator Charles Sumner. He and Sumner, a Massachusetts Republican and an abolitionist, persuaded Congress to provide legislation for funding the first public schools in Washington, D.C. for black Americans. As a result of his efforts, in 1885, a school known as the Wormley Elementary School for the Colored was built in Georgetown at Thirty-fourth and Prospect Streets. The school, the last physical monument attesting to Wormley’s life and time, remained an all black school until 1952. Subsequently, it was used as a vocational training center for special needs students. The building was condemned in 1994 and was purchased in 1997 by Georgetown University with the intent of housing its graduate policy program. Unfortunately, the university later decided to sell the property.

The hotel was the site of the Wormley Conference of 1877, where representatives of the future president Rutherford B. Hayes and opponent Samuel Tilden resolved the disputed election of 1876. A “secret deal” later known as the “Compromise of 1877, or the Wormley Agreement,” ended the dispute of the twenty electoral votes. Nineteen of the votes were from Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, and one from Oregon. The result of the agreement on February 26, 1877, was that Hayes received all twenty votes. There is no evidence that Wormley participated in this agreement, which signaled the end of the Reconstruction era and the fate of black Americans left to the southern state governments."  

[5] Susan G. Pearl, “Wormley House,” (PG: 69-17) Maryland Historical Trust State Historic Sites Inventory Form (1989), 8:1.

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