Yesterday afternoon I stopped by a quiet small town cemetery in Woodstown, NJ to visit the grave of a freedom seeker and a member of the United States Colored Troops from Cecilton, MD. His story first circulated when Today’s Sunbeam published a piece about Susan Richardson-Sanabria, his great-granddaughter, honoring the Civil War sergeant with a proper headstone at his final resting place, the Spencer UA.M.E. Church on Bailey Street.
Richardson-Sanabria, who lives in New York, told the newspaper she used to listen to account of Richardson’s life. He had been born on a plantation in Cecilton, MD on October 15, 1841. Escaping on the Underground Railroad, he made his way to Woodstown, where the freedom-seeker eventually prospered. But the Civil War interrupted life and the young-man went off to fight for freedom. A soldier in Co. A., 22nd USCT, he mustered out as a sergeant and the recipient of the Butler Medal.
Richardson-Sanabria, told the reporter: “I am humbled by the faith and perseverance that my great-grandfather demonstrated in orchestrating an escape from a Maryland plantation where he had been born to make his way in unfamiliar territory as a fugitive, find work, become a soldier and return to marry, support and raise a family. According to oral history he was a very hard worker and somewhat of an entrepreneur who managed to purchase a thrasher so that he could make extra money using the machine to thrash other farmer’s crops as well he his own.”
Last Christmas we were on a holiday house tour in Woodstown and while the host showed us through one of the fine properties I noticed this old piece of framed school board correspondence on a wall. A closer examination showed that it was signed by Edward Richardson.
Earlier this summer, Salem County launched a new interactive cell phone tour of the county, and Edward Richardson is one of the stops on a tour called 7 Steps to Freedom. Check out the blog post from the Salem County Cultural & Heritage Commission and the newspaper article for additional details.
So after hearing the story of this Cecil County freedom seeker I decided I would visit his grave the next time I was in Woodstown, NJ. Spencer U.A.M.E. Church was erected in 1842 and remodeled in 1907, and 1923, according to the cornerstone.
For additional information on the USCT in Cecil County check out Eric Mease’s University of Delaware graduate thesis on that subject.