Historical Spotlight: The Bare Hills Community was One of the Oldest Free African-American Communities in Baltimore County

The Bare Hills community has undergone extensive change throughout the last century: what was once rural countryside, quarries and mines has evolved into a growing district complete with a major thoroughfare, shopping centers and restaurants. As this community continues to change and evolve into a premier Baltimore County destination, we at Bluestem think it is important to reflect on the area’s history. The Bare Hills community was one of the oldest free African-American communities in Baltimore County, and the remains of the homes, buildings and churches from this period have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Here, we detail some of the history of this unique facet of the Bare Hills community.

The “Scott Settlement” was Established Around 1830

Aquila Scott, the ancestor of a freed slave from St. Mary’s County, was a blacksmith and Methodist preacher who arrived in the Bare Hills area around 1830. In 1833, he and several others were named trustees of the congregation of Bethel Episcopal Methodist Religious Society in a deed from Mary and Elijah Fishpaw. The land given to them in the deed was used to build St. John’s Church, a church that served as the religious and social hub for the area’s primarily black congregation.

Aquila Scott also purchased a parcel of land abutting the Falls Turnpike, where he settled with his family and constructed a blacksmithery. As his family grew, his children settled with their own families on the property, which came to be known as the “Scott Settlement.” Aquila Scott died in 1858 and is buried on his Bare Hills property. 

The Remains of the Scott Settlement are Still Visible Today

While the original log cabin church where Aquila Scott preached burned down in 1876, the St. John’s Church still stands today, and is a beautiful example of African-American church construction in the late 19th century. The remains of several 19th-century frame houses that Scott and his descendants built still stand on the former Scott Settlement property. The descendants of Aquila Scott continue to live in the Bare Hills community, and four of Scott’s ancestors continue to live in original homes on the settlement property. The remains can be seen on the west side of Falls Road, south of Clarkview Road.

There are Other Historically Freed African-American Communities in Baltimore County

While one of the oldest, the Scott Settlement is not the only freed African-American community in Baltimore County. East Towson was settled in the mid-1800s by freed slaves a plantation known as the Hampton Mansion, which is now a historical site and originally owned by Captain Charles Ridgely. After his death, his slaves were freed, as per his wishes in his will, and created their own community in East Towson. Of note is the Jacob House, where some of the founding freed families lived. While the home burned in 1999, the original log cabin built on the property survived, and it was saved from demolition and reconstructed on a new property in 2010. The Jacob House now serves as a museum that provides a glimpse into the life of freed slaves in East Towson.

Respecting the Past While Looking Towards the Future

While the Bare Hills community has undergone many changes since the days of Aquila Scott, the entrepreneurial and community-oriented mindset of the people living in Bare Hills remains the same. It is the goal of the team at Bluestem to honor this mindset by developing a mixed-use space that is thoughtfully planned and populated with locally-owned boutiques and restaurants. It is our hope to develop a diverse space that integrates with the surrounding community, instead of pushing against its original fabric and character. To learn more about Bluestem and the steps our development team has taken to successfully integrate within the Bare Hills community, click here.