News & Events


The Sugarland Ethno-History Project is delighted to be one of only 95 organizations in the entire state to receive a Marilyn Hatza SHINE Memorial Grant, which provides funds for smaller or mid-sized nonprofits that might easily get overlooked or may not have a large grant-writing or fundraising staff. What a wonderful Christmas present!

We thank Maryland Humanities or recognizing us...and we wish all of you—family, friends, neighbors, volunteers, visitors, and supporters far and near—merry Christmas, happy holidays, and an inspiring new year.



We always say we have excellent neighbors—but we were especially touched when Rocklands Farm Winery, just three miles of east of the Sugarland church, invited us to be their partner in "Common Good on the Farm," a concert that brings great music to the Poolesville area, benefits Sugarland, and gives us all an exciting way to end a busy summer.

On Sunday, September 3, 2023, over Labor Day weekend, Rocklands will host a concert featuring Virginia-born singer-songwriter Justin Trawick and the Common Good, with local opening act Dear Someone. Both play a fun mix of American-style folk and rock—and 20 percent of ticket sales will benefit the Sugarland Ethno-History Project.

If you've seen the pricey work we've done recently to remove potentially dangerous overhanging trees, you'll understand why this is such a generous and truly welcome gesture by Rocklands.

So come on out to Rocklands on Sunday, September 3rd! Bring picnic blankets and folding chairs, enjoy Rocklands wine, dance to the music, and partake of the food trucks that will be on site. You can help us thank Rocklands for being such a thoughtful neighbor and a much-appreciated destination here in the MoCo Agricultural Reserve.

For tickets and more information, check out the event website here.

JUNE 2023

Montgomery County Heritage Days are coming!

The Sugarland Ethno-History Project is happy to welcome all visitors on Saturday, June 24, 2023, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Come see the results of the incredible preservation efforts to the exterior of the church, explore the Basil and Nancy Dorsey archaeology site near the church, learn more about the history of the community, and talk to descendants and board members about future plans.

We're also asking descendants, if you haven't done so, to please share your family trees with us! We receive many requests from descendants all over the country, and we're eager to respond to their inquiries with leads about their relatives and insights into their family history.

Heritage Montgomery offers a guide to the more than 30 free Heritage Days events at historic sites across the county, many of which aren't regularly open to the public. Plan a great day out—and come see us!

MAY 2023

If you drove past the Sugarland church this month, you may have noticed quite a bit of restoration work going on.

Our friends at Klappenberger and Son power-washed the entire church, and then they removed areas with flaking and rotten siding and replaced them with new wood milled especially to match the existing siding.

The workers uncovered a surprise: the original 1893 exterior woodwork was underneath the current siding.

Replacement millwork and a fresh coat of paint have the exterior of the church looking renewed and beautiful.

Much restoration, renovation, and stabilization work is to come. Please follow us on social media and stay in touch. We'll soon be asking family, friends, neighbors, descendants and long-distance supporters to help us keep this important church standing for another 130 years and beyond.


It's been a busy year at Sugarland. With help from the county government, Heritage Montgomery, Maryland Historic Trust, and individual supporters, we put much-needed gutters and a new roof on the church, we installed an HVAC system to keep visitors warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and we installed benches and interpretative signs. We celebrated a two-acre land donation from a profoundly generous neighbor, and the ongoing archaeology project at the Dorsey homestead was honored with a historic preservation award. To all descendants, neighbors, and friends who helped: thank you!

As an all-volunteer organization, we'd be so grateful if you remembered us in your end-of-year giving. In 2023 we hope to start restoring the historic windows on the church, landscaping more of the grounds, and holding more tours for students and the general public. With your help, we can do all this and more.


Copies of our award-winning book I HAVE STARTED FOR CANAAN are still available! Demand has been so high that we have a third printing planned for 2023. Order the book directly through the SEHP website, or visit Locals or the Calleva Store in Poolesville to pick up your copy.


Merry Christmas from the Sugarland Project board and volunteers! We sincerely appreciate your interest, encouragement, and support.


JUNE 2022

Montgomery County Heritage Days are back for the first time since 2019!

The Sugarland Ethno-History Project is happy to welcome all visitors on Saturday, June 25, 2022, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Come have a look inside the historic Sugarland church, talk to descendants of the community about future renovation and preservation projects, and learn more about fascinating archaeological research currently in progress.

Heritage Montgomery offers a guide to the more than 30 free Heritage Days events at historic sites across the county, many of which aren't regularly open to the public. Plan a great day out—and come see us!

MARCH 2022

On the morning of Monday, March 14, after a weekend of snow, workers began replacing the roof on the historic Sugarland church.

Within hours, the crew had pulled off most of the old corrugated metal panels, exposing the original wooden roof beams from 1894. Amazingly, most of the beams were still in excellent condition. Sugarland records show that white carpenter Scott Beall began the church construction but George Dorsey, an African American carpenter from nearby Jerusalem, helped the community complete it. The endurance of those beams is a testament to a generation that built things to last.

In the days that followed, the workers from PJ’s Roofing installed a new standing-seam metal roof, with guards to prevent ice and snow from sliding off in dangerous sheets. They insulated the ceiling, and they also restored the gutters, which the church had been missing for as long as anyone could remember. They replaced decaying millwork on the belfry with perfectly matched wooden siding that retained the church’s historic look—and while they were up there fitting the new roof sections on the belfry, they kindly painted the cross on the steeple.

On Wednesday morning, the workers welcomed the sunrise with music: Santo Dios, todos somos iguales: "Holy God, we are all the same."

The renovation turned up a few of the church’s original hand-cut cedar shingles, reminders of the hard work that once went into every detail—but this week-long project also points us toward the future. The Sugarland descendants and SEHP leadership thank you for your prayers and encouragement! We hope you’ll support us as we plan the next maintenance and repair projects. Six generations have met, prayed, and learned in this beautiful church, and we’re making sure it’s here for six more.



During the first week of February, you may have noticed scaffolding rising alongside the Sugarland church for two days—the first signs of long-awaited repair work. Masons shored up the two original chimneys from 1893, and bigger repairs will occur between February and June.

If you bought a book or made a donation in the past couple years, you've helped make this work possible, and we thank you!



In July 2021, Sugarland Ethno-History Project founder and president Gwen Reese passed away, leaving friends and family devastated by her loss but greatly inspired by her life and work.

Several Sugarland descendants and friends of the community immediately stepped forward to form a new board of directors and roster of volunteers. In just three months, they oversaw the upgrading of security and fire detection systems and lined up contractors to begin repairs to the historic church. They installed lights and landscaping, refurbished the Sugarland website, and developed plans to continue Gwen’s work of making Sugarland a site of reflection, education, and inspiration for descendants and the general public alike.

The future at Sugarland is as bright as the past. Check back here or keep an eye on the SEHP Facebook page or Instagram page for updates, and please consider donating to support our efforts if you are able to do so.