Reunion puts Potato Hill’s rich legacy in the spotlight

More than 300 neighbors, friends and others reunited last fall to celebrate the valuable legacy that is Potato Hill. The gala was a heartfelt trip down memory lane attended by multiple generations of families eager to participate in the homecoming.

Potato Hill is the western entrance to historic Charles Town. After it became legal to get an education following the Civil War, three of the four public grammar schools established in Charles Town for freed people were built on Potato Hill.

In the late 1800s, perhaps because of access to public schools, freed people and free people began buying property on Potato Hill and establishing homes for their families. A number of descendants still live on Potato Hill.

Back in October, the second annual Potato Hill Reunion was held from noon to 6 p.m. at the Ranson Civic Center. The day included a full-course, home-cooked buffet-style banquet, an Olympic-style opening ceremony with the national anthem sung by Chanta Layton Harris and a standing salute to our flag.

The Eagle Avenue School students play during May Day celebration.

The Eagle Avenue School students play during May Day celebration.

The day’s music included D.J. Vincent Hosby, a gospel selection from Devyn Hosby and Jocelyn Hargrove.

There also was a 50-yard dash for those 50 and older as well as a 50-and-older jacks competition, with Joan Smith Washington walking away with the title.

Children were entertained by Mr. B, the clown and balloon artist. Local vendors selected by the Potato Hill Committee shared their wares in an effort to give something back to the community.

Lifetime residents Delores Scott Murray, Mary Turner Hart and Shirley Carr Curry shared their joy about the reunion. Elizabeth Bailey Green again returned from California to attend.

Reunion committee members, all of whom spent their childhoods on Potato Hill, included Harla Berry, Becky Harris Dawson, Ernest Hester Sr., Jacqueline Jones, JoAnn Underwood Jones, Patricia Winston Jones, Deborah Johnson Layton, Cornell Lindsey, Gloria Downing Lindsey, Charlotte Berry Pressley, plus Ballard and myself.

The committee extends great appreciation to Maurice Ballard, who composed the ancestral video shown throughout the occasion, emcee Jeffrey Berry and Glenda Johnson Grantham for her help with door prizes.

We’re also grateful to all the volunteers and donors of food and door prizes as well as to all who attended and to all who contributed in any way to make the second-annual Potato Hill Reunion a success.

– Ann Reeler is a member of the Potato Hill Reunion Planning Committee. Reach her at

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