Yorktown, Va. – Shiloh Baptist Church and Colonial National Historical Park will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the contraband community known as Slabtown and founding of Shiloh Baptist church. The homecoming event begins at Shiloh Baptist Church on July 21, 2013 with a worship service at 10:00 a.m., followed by lunch. At 2:00 p.m. near the Yorktown National Cemetery, a wreath laying ceremony will take place at the 19th century site of Shiloh Baptist Church. A roll call will be conducted of United States Colored Troops from the Civil War buried in the National Cemetery and those who served from York County. Flowers and wreaths will be placed on graves in memory of those troops.
In July 1863, General Isaac Jones Wistar took command of the Union garrison at Yorktown and according to his account, found 12,000 contraband (slaves who were seeking freedom behind the Union lines) at the fort being cared for by the Union army. Attempting to provide them with shelter and tools for self-sufficiency, he ordered his troops to erect cabins about a half-mile south of Yorktown. Community streets were surveyed and cabins made of wood slabs were quickly constructed. As the community took shape, teachers and other volunteers came from the North to establish schools and stores and provide job training. Shiloh Baptist Church also began in Slabtown under the guidance of an African American lay minister, John Cary, and the African American chaplain of the 6th United States Colored Troops, Reverend Jeremiah Asher.
Slabtown existed until the 1970s, when the National Park Service purchased the properties to restore more of the 1781 battlefield connected with the Revolutionary War siege at Yorktown. Shiloh Baptist Church relocated adjacent to the battlefield and continues as a living legacy to those who struggled for freedom during the Civil War.
Shiloh Baptist Church is located at 105 Goosley Road, Yorktown, Virginia. For those attending both the morning and afternoon events, the congregation plans to walk the ½ mile from their current church to their historic location on the battlefield. Transportation will be provided for those who cannot make the walk. For those attending only the afternoon program, there is limited parking at the Yorktown National Cemetery. The cemetery is also a short walk from the Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center.
Events are free. For further information, call 757-898-2410.