Open Forum: Seeking Research Volunteers to Help Rewrite John Mann’s History | Winchester Star
Sandra Bosley, Executive Director, Preservation of Historic Winchester (PHW), is seeking help finding a chain of title at 415-419 South Loudoun Street that could prove John Mann or his family once owned the South Loudoun Street plot. It could be the site of the first African-American Methodist Episcopal Church log cabin in Winchester and possibly the oldest in the Shenandoah Valley.
William Greenway Russell published his recollections, “What I know about Winchester”, in the Winchester News in 1876. The 1953 publication of the “Russell Notes” in book form by Garland Quarles and Lewis Barton included relevant footnotes . Russell quotes that on South Loudoun Street stood the shell of a log building about 25 square feet, used by African Americans in the city as a meeting place and chaired by old John Mann (p.50).
The first mention of a Methodist place of worship for African Americans is noted by Thomas Cartmell in his book, “Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants”. It refers to 75 years of involvement of the African American Church in the Winchester area. This would date the predecessors of the John Mann Methodist Episcopal Church to 1833 as a “separate organization” from the Market Street congregation (p.521). Could this be the 25 square foot structure that Russell identified and claimed to have been headed by John Mann? Mann was most likely mixed race and licensed to preach to an unsupervised black congregation.
Very little is known about this man who was so supportive of the Methodist congregation. Winchester resident Barbara Cooper’s research reveals that Mann may be listed in the 1810 census records, which reflect a John Mann – a free black person living in Winchester or Frederick County. The 1820 census reveals that Mann and his wife or sister, aged 45 and over, also live here. Mann is also listed in the 1830 census as a free black man aged 55 or over. Mann is not listed in the death register, or even in the registers of Market Street Church (the mother church of the John Mann congregation before Emancipation).
Cooper has identified many of the Mann family buried in Orrick Cemetery, but not John Mann. Mann probably ran the South Loudoun Street Log Cabin Church from 1833 until the late 1840s. He may have lived from 1775 to around 1850. Perhaps Mann was exhumed from an undocumented and buried cemetery by his former congregation of South Loudoun Street Church in the basement in front of the current church, as cited in Mary Katherine Kern’s book, “The Market Street UMC: Methodism in Winchester, Virginia, 1772 to 1953 ”, (p.40).
PHW’s searches of newspapers, court records, and deed records found information regarding John Mann’s business and real estate, but many of these records were not added to the Chancery files online. .
We are looking for volunteers / students to further explore these Chancellery files and deeds in search of objects of interest. Knowledge of public history or genealogy, patience, and experience reading older handwritten (cursive) scriptures are helpful. The evidence begins to reflect the need to rewrite John Mann’s place in Winchester history. If you are interested in doing research, please contact Mark Gunderman at [email protected]
Mark Gunderman is a resident of Stephens City.