Biographical / Historical
The Jones-Hall-Sims House, also referred to as the "Freedom House," is featured prominently within the permanent exhibition, Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). NMAAHC acquired the House in 2009. After disassembling the house at its original site in Maryland, it was reconstructed in the museum and became a focal aspect of the main History gallery. The House was named for three of the families that owned and occupied it for several generations starting in 1874. The home was originally located in Jonesville, Maryland, near what is now classified as Poolesville, Maryland. The Jones-Hall-Sims House was located at 6 Jonesville Terrace.
The city of Jonesville was named after brothers Richard (1810-1880) and Erasmus (1823-1880) Jones. Jonesville was one of the earliest free African American communities in Montgomery County, Maryland. Most of the inhabitants of Jonesville were descendants of the town's founders. With ratification of 13th amendment effectively banning the practice of American slavery, many former plantation owners were forced to sell their land to the formerly enslaved people who wanted to create and sustain their own communities. Research indicates that Richard and Erasmus were likely enslaved by the Bruner family on their Aix la Chapelle plantation. It is believed that the Bruner family enslaved up to 5,400 African American men, women, and children before the Civil War. This included Henrietta Jones, (1778-1870) that research suggests was the mother of Richard and Erasmus. In 1874, Richard Jones purchased 9 acres of land on the former Aix la Chapelle plantation from the Bruner family for $135.00. The sale was not formalized until the death of the landowner and head of the Bruner family, Joseph in 1874.
It is believed that the Jones-Hall-Sims House was built in approximately 1875. Research suggests that Richard Jones likely built the home with the help of his sons and neighbors. The original house was a wooden structure with two stories, three bays, and a side gabled roof covered in tin. Although Richard owned the house, it is unclear if he ever lived there. He transferred ownership of the house and land to his sons, John Henry (1853-1920) and Dennis (b. 1855) in 1876. John Henry and his wife Maria Jones are the first recorded occupants of the Jones-Hall-Sims House. Maria was the daughter of John Peters (b. 1825) a free-born blacksmith and an unidentified enslaved woman. John Peters also hailed from a longtime Jonesville family. Marrying John Henry in 1878, Maria was the first of her family who lived with her husband and children in the same home. In 1896, John Henry Jones sold the land the Jones-Hall-Sims House was located on to his brother Frank Jones and a friend, Levin Hall. The house was on Hall's property; therefore, the ownership was transferred to him.
In 1915, Elmer Jones, Richard's grandson, built a house nearby Jones-Hall-Sims House and made a home with his wife, Elnora Hall, Levin Hall's daughter. Elmer, a carpenter, known during that time as a "house wright," was responsible for rebuilding Elijah Methodist Church after it was damaged in a fire. Elmer's grandfather Richard was responsible for building the church, an integral part of the Jonesville community. After Elnora's death, Elmer married Hannah Jones; she would subsequently remain in that home until after Elmer's death in 1969.
In 1946, Annie E. Hall, Elnora's sister and Levin's daughter, transferred the land surrounding the Jones-Hall-Sims House to her daughter, Marion Hall. Marion married John Sims and they raised their son, Paul, in the historic home. In 1964, returning home from his service in Air Force, Paul married Barbara (b. 1944) and returned home where they lived with his father, John. In 1989, John passed away and transferred the property to his son. Like his father, Paul raised his children and grandchildren in the home. The families in the home were always self-sufficient, hunting and farming for their food, growing orchards and gardens, and making their own wine. Featured frequently in the collection are images of hog butchering, a main source of income throughout the home's history. Hog butchering was a joyous occasion, celebrated with food and drink by the whole community.
From 1978-9, Dr. George McDaniel conducted a historical survey of African American communities in upper western Montgomery County, Maryland. McDaniel worked with the preservation organization, Sugarloaf Regional Trails and the Maryland Historical Trust to conduct the survey. The purpose was to document important African American historical communities and homes in the area as they were rapidly disappearing. The survey was also used to obtain historical designation from the Maryland Historical Trust for the home in applications date for 1979 and 1985. Unfortunately, the house did not successfully receive the designation. At the time of the survey, McDaniel was a Ph.D. student at Duke University studying traditional African American home and customs. The study included research on the homes, churches, and schools through artifacts, photographs, and oral histories. At the time of the survey, Paul Sims owned and lived in the home. From his findings, McDaniel published Black Historical Resources in Upper Western Montgomery County and A Living Black Heritage focused on 11 African American communities including Jonesville and Sugarland.
In 2000, the family lost ownership of the home and it was purchased by Maryland resident, Brad Rhoderick with the intent to demolish the property to build a new home for his family. The Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission was not able to designate the Jones-Hall-Sims House for historical preservation because of the many changes done by later generations who lived in the home, so they turned to NMAAHC for help. They worked together to acquire the house as quickly as possible to ensure the rich history presented by the home was preserved.
Henrietta Jones was born. Research suggests she was the mother of Richard and Erasmus Jones.
Richard Jones married Evelyn (b. 1820).
Levin Hall was born. Frank Jones is born to Richard and Evelyn Jones (b. 1820).
John Henry Jones was born to Richard and Evelyn Jones.
Dennis Jones was born to Richard and Evelyn Jones.
Maria E. Peters was born to John Peters and unidentified enslaved woman.
Maryland ratified the Emancipation Proclamation.
Henrietta Jones passed away.
Richard Jones purchased 9 acres of land from the Aix la Chapelle plantation. Richard purchased the land that became Jonesville, named after founders Richard and Erasmus Jones.
Jones-Hall-Sims House was built.
John Henry married Maria E. Peters.
Richard Jones bequeathed the House and land to his sons, John Henry (m. Marie E.) and Dennis Jones (m. Mary V.)
Frank Jones, son of Richard and Rachael Jones, married Ruth (1858-1931).
Dennis Jones married Mary (b. 1862). Richard Jones passed away.
Elmer Jones was born to John Henry Jones and an unknown woman.
Elnora Hall was born to Levin and Ruth Hall.
John Henry Jones sold the House to his brother Frank Jones and friend Levin Hall splitting the property in half. The Jones-Hall-Sims House was located on Hall's land.
Marian Hall was born to Annie E. Hall and unknown man.
Elmer Jones built his own home in Jonesville near the Jones-Hall-Sims House and lived with his wife Elnora Hall Jones (daughter of Levin Hall).
Marian Hall married John Sims. Elnora Hall Jones and John Henry Jones passed away.
Annie E. Hall inherits the land from her father, Levin Hall.
Paul Sims was born and raised by Elmer Jones, husband to Elnora Hall.
Marion Hall Sims (daughter of Annie E. Hall) inherited the land and passed it on to her husband John Sims.
Elmer Jones passed away, leaving his own house to his widow Hannah Jones (1902-1984).
Dr. George McDaniel conducted a historical survey of the black communities in Montgomery County, Maryland.
John Sims passed away. Paul Sims inherits the home from his father, John Sims.
Paul and Barbara Sims lived with their children and grandchildren. John Sims lived with his family until he passed away in 1989.
The family sold the land.
Jones-Hall-Sims House was purchased by Brad Rhoderick with the intention to demolish the house and rebuild a new one.
Jones-Hall-Sims House was acquired by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.