July 31, 2017

The Historic African American Community of Gibson Grove, Cabin John, MD

The Historic African American Community of Gibson Grove, Cabin John, MD

[Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission Sign located on site]

Moses Hall and Cemetery
Morningstar Tabernacle Number 88
Ancient Union Order of Sons and Daughters. Brothers and Sisters of Moses

"The African American community in the Cabin John and Potomac area needed a place where they could gather. Records show that Moses Hall was then built on land conveyed to Morningstar Tabernacle Number 88, on December 28, 1887, by George and Surilla Scot. An adjacent parcel of land was conveyed by John D.W. Moore on September 7, 1901. A cemetery grew up around the hall and was referred to as Morningstar Cemetery. While the hall has collapsed, we are told that it was a single, two story structure, painted brown with a cement floor. Each floor consisted of a single large room where dances, parties and meetings were held.

The hall served as a center for freed slaves to meet, socialize, celebrate and conduct business. All faiths were welcome and members included families from the church at the Pines, the Scotland church and surrounding area in Potomac. Dues went to help those in need and aided families when wage earners passed away or became sick. Moses Hall provided the African American community with an identity and an infrastructure of support. It also served to broaden the network of other lodges and halls already established by freed slaves in the metropolitan area. "

Gibson Grove A.M.E Zion Church
Founded 1898
Church, School and Cemetery

"Gibson Grove AME Zion Church was founded in 1898 by a group of freed slaves. The congregation was named Gibson Grove as a tribute to Mrs. Sarah Gibson who donated part of her families land to build a church, school and cemetery.

In 1861, Sarah, her husband Louis, and their two sons were freed by Union soldiers during the battle of Bull Run. In the ensuing chaos, Sarah and her sons became separated from Louis. She managed to cross Bull Run by balancing her sons, one on each side, and walking across a log placed over the stream. She found her way to Washington D.C[.] and later was reunited with Louis at the Shiloh Baptist t church, a known meeting place for freed slaves.

As slaves Sarah had worked as a seamstress and Louis had been a driver and field hand. After reuniting, they went to work on a Potomac farm owned by Frank Dallon. They worked there for 16 years, eventually saving enough to buy, in 1877, 4-1/2 acres on what is now Seven Locks Road.

In 1898, the Gibson's donated part of their land for a church. The original church, located just south of the current building, was built from logs harvested on the property. Baptisms took place in a damned portion of Cabin John Creek.

In 1923, a new church was built on the current site. A damaging fire occurred on Ash Wednesday in 2004, yet the historic white clapboard was spared for the most part and still stands today.

The original Gibson Grove Church was used as a schoolhouse until Sarah had a new one-room schoolhouse built nearby. Records show that the school was then rented to the County and it was named Cabin John Elementary School. References cite that the school was closed permanently in 1922 due to high cost and low attendance leaving twenty-four African American students without a school for five years. In May of 1926, the school board rented Moses Hall, and reopened the school."

Gibson Grove Cemetery

"Sarah Gibson wanted a place where African Americans could be buried with dignity, so a graveyard was established next to the original church. The last burial took place there in 1912. We know that there were at least three graves at the site of the current church. Eventually, a cemetery for the African American community was established around Moses Hall where Sarah Gibson was buried in 1929."


  1. Great post. I work right down the street. Thank you for sharing a glimpse into the rich history.

  2. Are you still doing research in the area?

  3. Church records indicate that worship services were held on Sarah Gibson's land as early as 1880. The Gibson Grove Church was the meeting place and the center of the community.

  4. AnonymousJuly 17, 2021

    Time is everything, I pray none of us miss it's blessing, it's enveloping us in It's phenomena. The history of theses people, our people is awesome.

  5. AnonymousJuly 17, 2021

    The history of these people is indeed phenomenal.