After the Civil War ended in 1865, eighteen black soldiers returned to Talbot County and settled a few miles outside of the town of Easton.
The formation of The Village of Unionville is credited to Ezekiel Cowgill and his son James, Quakers who owned nearby Lombardy Plantation. The Cowgills offered each veteran a plot of land for the rate of one dollar a year for thirty years.
Prior to 1870, leases referred to the land as Cowgilltown, but from 1870 onward it was known as “The Village of Unionville” in honor of the Union Army that the inhabitants credit with winning their freedom.
As reported by The Baltimore Sun, Bernard Demczuk, who is working on a doctorate in African-American studies at George Washington University, is writing a book about the community. He says his research shows that Unionville might be the only community in the nation built by former slaves who also fought in the Civil War.
“This is one of the great untold stories of social history,” Demczuk says. “These men could have sat out the war, just waiting to see how it came out. If the South wins, they remain slaves; if the North wins, they are free. Instead, they volunteered to fight for their freedom. I believe it was that inner strength, that elevated confidence, that they were able to bring home after the war.”
The eighteen founders are interred in the St. Stephens African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church cemetery, and the descendants of all but a handful of the original 49 families that settled there have moved on.