Mary H. Gross (left) and Edith Weedon stand in front of the doors at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church. The church has served many purposes over the years in the small, country town of Pleasant Valley, Md.
Pleasant Valley, Md.
Mary H. Gross and her daughter, Edith Weedon, live in Pleasant Valley, a small, rural town in the southern part of Washington County, Md. Weedon returned to her childhood hometown after moving around the area, but her mother has lived in Pleasant Valley for more than a century.
Gross was born in her grandmother's house in Pleasant Valley, and at 101 years old, she still remembers going to church in a horse and buggy. Gross is the oldest congregation member at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, which she said her husband's grandfather built.
Pleasant Valley is located between two mountain ridges: South Mountain and Elk Ridge, and is part of Knoxville, Md. Weedon said the small town used to be an agricultural community, where most people made their living farming or working on the railroad, but over time most of the large farms have been sold.
Weedon said people moved to Pleasant Valley from the city and now commute back-and-forth to their jobs in Washington or Frederick. "There's a lot of homes that you can't see that's further up the road up in the mountains, and they love it in the mountains," Weedon said. "It's just the solitude I guess they like."
"It has changed greatly, because it's built-up more around here," Gross said. "It's really nothing like the same place to me."
However a few things have stayed the same, such as Himes Store, a family-owned general store that was the first store built in Pleasant Valley. "That store is the same as it was when I was a child," Weedon said.
Gross attended school in the basement at Mt. Moriah Church, and recalled how townspeople would entertain themselves during summer-time festivals. "They had lights all around outside and everything, and we'd have a dance they'd call 'promenade at Mt. Moriah Church,' and that was fun," Gross said.
Gross raised seven daughters, one foster daughter, one son, and one foster son in Pleasant Valley. She called Pleasant Valley a "nice, quiet place to live," with no crime to speak of.
Weedon said she enjoys the nature and calm atmosphere in Pleasant Valley. "It's a solitude and it's a quietness," Weedon said. "You don't have a whole lot of people."
However Weedon described the few who do live in Pleasant Valley as kind and neighborly. "We treat each other with respect, and that's a really important thing, you know, to live in peace."
Springland Farm is a community carved from its history. Chuck Ludlam, a resident and historian of the neighborhood explains, "we have used our history to organize ourselves as a community because without our history, there is no sense of who we are."
Springland Farm is located in what is considered North Cleveland Park. The neighborhood consists of about three city blocks and over 100 homes. According to Ludlam, the community itself is indistinguishable from any other part of Northwest, though "it's just hilly and is perfect for a vineyard," he says.
The homes that comprise the neighborhood are believed to have been built by the heirs of the John Adlum's family. Adlum, an American viticulturist, named his estate Springland Farm. He is believed to be the first commercial producer of wine in the United States, beginning to plant grape-bearing vines at the end of the 18th century.
"The hillside now, where you have 25 embassies, that was the vineyard; it faces south and has good drainage," explains Ludlum. Today the manor house and springhouse have survived, in part, through neighborhood advocacy for historic designation of the property.
The tiny community works on other issues as well. "We've constructed a traffic island, seeking to make a rain garden to slow run-off," says Ludlum. "As soon as somebody moves in, they get a welcoming packet from us . . . we tell them the history of Springland Farm. They're very surprised to be welcomed so quickly... we immediately give them a list of every neighbor on three contiguous blocks."
As Ludlum sees it, it's history that binds the neighborhood together. And without a sense of the past, there would be little sense of this distinct community.
[Music: "No, Girl" by John Davis from Title Tracks / "The Power of Love (Karaoke Version)" by Stingray Music (Karaoke) from Karaoke - In The Style of Huey Lewis & The News - Vol. 1"]
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