Friday, July 3, 2009

Beall-Dawson House (2)

By: Alex Williams
HS 129, Summer 1 2009

The historic site that I visited was the Beall-Dawson House. The picture attached is of the Beall-Dawson mansion which was built in 1815 in Rockville, Maryland. As I learned upon my visit, this was the first mansion built in Montgomery County, Maryland. I visited the Beall-Dawson House on June 6th 2009.
For many years I have driven past this house but I never thought that it had this type of history in its past. When I looked up historic sites to visit in Montgomery County and I saw that this location on the list, I became very interested in visiting it and uncovering its past. Knowing that so much history about this country happened so close to where I live really sparked my interest, thus, I went to visit this site. What I found the most fascinating about the Beall-Dawson House was that it allowed me to experience the different lifestyles that slaves, white servants, and slave owners gave me a great appreciation of the hierarchy of the time period.

The Beall-Dawson House depicts a transformation of Montgomery County, Maryland both time-wise and through the expansion of the area. Montgomery County historian and author Maureen Altobello, describes the change as “a time when the affluence of the colonial era met with the resolve of the new federal era; when the rural, agricultural society of Montgomery County began to see the growth of newer and larger settlements” (Altobello, M., 2000). As I toured the house, the tour-guides were very helpful in highlighting the differences between the quality of living amongst the Beall family, white servants and slaves.
Upon my visit to the Beall-Dawson House, I learned that white people who were seen as lower class lived in the same home as the slaves. There were different entrances and exits for both the working class whites as well as the slaves. This was shown when the museum curator informed me that slaves used a ladder to climb through a trap door that leads to their living quarters while the white servants used a small stairway to get to theirs. The Beall’s obviously used the master stairwell. Slaves also had a separate doorway to enter and exit the house. The slave quarters as well as the white servant’s quarters were very small, with little to no furniture, and overall the Bealls owned about 25 slaves.

For those who look to visit the Beall-Dawson House in the future, this building can be used to display the changing attitudes towards slavery as an institution during the Civil War era. The Beall family who once owned about 25 slaves during the early 1800’s until the Civil War, adapted to the Civil War time period by freeing their slaves and appropriating land plots at the northern edge of the Beall property. The acquisition of property allowed blacks in the area to form a small community within the Rockville area located on Martin’s Lane.

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