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!
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!
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.