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Martin Van Buren

The writing is very light or has faded and the name is difficult to read.  The first name appears to be Martin and the first initial of the last name appears to be a “B.”  It is possible that the name is Martin VanBuren Buchanan.  If so, it would be one of the earliest signatures on the walls.  Martin was born circa 1844 to a free black woman, Mahala Jackson, and her husband who was enslaved by Elizabeth and George Carter at Oatlands, Robert Buchanan.  The laws were such that the child took the status of the mother, even if the father was enslaved.  Thus, Martin was born a free man.  After African Americans were allowed to serve during the Civil War, he enlisted in Company G, 2nd Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops, and he served until the end of the war in 1865.

Martin returned to Loudoun County and worked in the gardens at Oatlands.  He bought property and lived in the community of Gleedsville to the northeast of Oatlands.  The community is named for Jack Gleed who had been enslaved at Oatlands and, after the Civil War, bought land nearby.  Gleedsville was one of several predominantly African American communities that were established after 1865.

Jack Gleed, widowed, married Martin’s sister, Virginia Buchanan, in 1875.  In the 1890s Martin married Amelia Gleed, Jack’s sister.  They raised a family, were active in their community, and helped build Mt. Olive Methodist Episcopal Church.  The church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Martin’s daughter, Deborah, was employed as a personal maid to Mrs. Eustis. 

Valentine B. Johnson was the great-nephew of Martin.  Valentine served in World War I and was one of the first African Americans from Loudoun County to lose his life during the war. 

Sources:  Kevin Dulany Grigsby.  Leslie Wright.  The Essence of a People, Portraits of African Americans Who Made a Difference in Loudoun County, Virginia; compiled and published by The Black History Committee of the Friends of The Thomas Balch Library, May 2001, p. 15.  Honoring Their Paths, African American Contributions Along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground; Deborah A. Lee, Ph.D., The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, Waterford, Virginia, 2009.  National Register of Historic Places, Mt. Olive Methodist Episcopal Church, DHR# 053-0994.

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