People of Note in the Brandywine area

If you know of any notable people from the Brandywine area, please email the information for possible inclusion on this page or add it to the history bulletin board. Also see Runaway Slave Ads located in or near Brandywine 1851-1859.

People of note in this area include the following.:

Jack Ransom
Francis Scott Key
John Wilkes Booth
Richard Douglas, James Gray, & Walter Thomas
Henry Newman, Clarence Hawkins, Thomas Proctor, Robert Holland, and John Briscoe
William Hollyday Early, William W. Early & Peter Moore
Charity Graham
William Voelz
Anne Pinkey Prince
Shirley & Russell Watson
Captain James A. Graham

Jack Ransom led a slave rebellion at Poplar Neck near today’s Frank Tippett Rd. in 1739 (document).

Frances Scott Key was admitted to the bar of Prince George’s County in 1805 and practiced law here for many years. He likely had clients and friends in this area, but he also traveled through this area after the Battle of Bladensburg on his way to gain the release of Dr. Beanes of Upper Marlboro from the British who held him aboard their ship. This is when he was placed aboard the Minden when Key witnessed the attack on Baltimore and thus wrote “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Richard Douglas, James Gray, & Walter Thomas: “James Gray was the former slave of Elizabeth L. Garner of Aquasco. On Feb. 22, 1866, Gray purchased two acres of land from George Morton, a local planter, for $66. Prior to emancipation, Morton owned one of the largest slave holdings in the county: 60 men, women and children. Many of those slaves were members of the Douglas and Gray families. Four months later, on April 21, 1866, Gray and his wife Matilda, sold the land to the trustees of what would become John Wesley Methodist Church and the Woodville Colored School…. When the Prince George’s County Board of School Commissioners took over the administration of Black schools in 1872, the building known as the John Wesley School became Woodville Colored School No. 1, in the Election District 8. Richard Douglas, James Gray and Walter Thomas were appointed by the Board as trustees of the county-run ‘colored’ school. On May 11, 1877, the Board of School Commisssioners instructed its treasurer to ‘take the necessary steps’… for construction of the new ‘colored’ school at Woodville would serve its Black residents continuously for the next 57 years…. A new school was constructed in 1934 on two-and-one-half acres purchased by the Board. It remained in operation until 1955. The following year, the building was sold to St. John’s Commander #373 as a meeting place for Black Catholics in the Aquasco area.”1


Henry Newman, Clarence Hawkins, Thomas Proctor, Robert Holland, and John Briscoe: “In October 1898, the Republican County Convention was held at St. Mary’s Beneficial Society Hall in Upper Marlboro. Sixty-nine delegates attended, representing 14 counties. There were 35 Black men attending the convention as delegates. Significantly, Brandywine, the 11th election district sent five Black men to the convention while no White men attended the convention as delegates from that district. In 1898, Black voters in Brandywine numbered 168 while their White counterparts numbered 162. The delegates from Brandywine were Henry Newman, Clarence Hawkins, Thomas Proctor, Robert Holland, and John Briscoe.”

William W. Early (see photos of his wife and children) was the railroad manager in the early part of the twentieth century and built a prominent house in 1907 near the tracks. His grandfather, William Hollyday Early (his photo), who died in 1890 held a great deal of real estate in Brandywine, which he named “Brandywine City” and later was divided among his children (see photos here) and grandchildren. Another Early, along with a cousin by the name of Bean, owned the store near the tracks on Brandywine Road which is now

Peter Moore, whose property was just to the north of William W. Early, was in World War I, a member of the Human Relations Commission, and the first black deputy sheriff in Prince George’s County.

Charity Graham: “For many years, Charity [born in 1915] hosted elderly people in the Baden-Aquasco area in her small home for a Thanksgiving dinner one week prior to the official feast day…. Charity knew her guests had less than she. Charity also visited elderly people who were homebound because of infirmity. Others followed her example, and a shut-in program was initiated in the community.”2

William Voelz, who was known by the nickname, “Mr. Willie”, by some of his employees, moved to Brandywine from the surrounding countryside around 1918 with his wife, the former Emma Giese whom he married in 1913. He bought the Brandywine Ice Plant around the same time (1918) and owned it until his death in 1941. He and Emma had two daughters, Margaret, born in 1914, and Irma, born in 1917. Emma died of tuberculosis when Margaret and Irma were 5 and 2 respectively. Margaret also died of tuberculosis when she was only 19. Irma, who passed away October 4, 2000, married Edmund Tiedtke from Bowdon, North Dakota, and they moved to Lancaster. A couple of families that Irma mentioned as neighbors during those years are the Sam Townshend Family and the “Tabby” Early Family. See photos here.3

Anne Pinkey Prince: “Anne Pinkey Prince, educator, 1932- , was the first black woman to be named associate school superintendent. In 1984, Anne received the Outstanding Educator award from the Prince George’s County public school system. Her family’s roots can be traced to the late 18th centruy, when as landowners and farmers they cultivated land in the Brandywine area.”2

Shirley & Russell Watson: “Shirley Watson, community volunteer, 1936- ,…. It is impossible to talk about Shirley’s contributions without mentioning her husband, Russell. The Watson’s livelihood, and their numerous contributions to the community, have revolved around Robin Hill Farm Nursery, their family-owned business in Brandywine, Maryland. Through many years of hard work and dedication, they converted their tobacco and hog farm into a thriving landscape and nursery business. Every October, they have opened the farm to the public for a taste of “country living”…busloads of children visit the farm…. Of all the Watsons’ contributions, none is more significant and symbolic of their generosity than their support for the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Fund. The Watsons’ third child, Robert, was born with cerebral palsy in 1962. In his honor, Shirley and Russell have raised thousands of dollars for UCP by hosting an annual “Farm Dance” fundraiser at Robin Hill Nursery since 1982. Shirley and Russell were honored as Prince Georgians of the Year i 1991 by County Executive Parris Glendening. That same year Governor William Donald Schaefer presented them with the Salute to Excellence, the highest honor bestowed by the State of Maryland.”2

Captain James Albert Graham, who was “born at Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, August 25, 1940; he attended high school in Brandywine, Maryland”, received the Medal of Honor, the Purple Heart, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Star and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. He served as a Marine in Vietnam and died in 1967. His name appears on the Vietnam Memorial at Panel 21E — Row 046. “If a man ever deserved the Metal of Honor, Capt. Graham did. If not for this man and his actions on June 2, 1967 all of us would surely have died. The fire was so heavy, time seemed to stand still. I think of him often, God bless him forever.” –Thomas Searfoss, January 2000 4

1Records & Recollections – Early Black History in Prince George’s County, Maryland by Bianca P. Floyd, M-NCPPC © ;1989
2Women of Achievement in Prince George’s County History by Therese C. Yewell © ;1994 M-NCPPC
3 Contributed by Peggy Rupe Sept., 2000
4 After an inquiry for a ceremony, it was found on this web site.