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  • 2002. FS: Elizabeth Thomas

    You are now standing on the driveway between the fort and the church. Before walking into the parade ground of Fort Stevens, stop for a moment and look around the surrounding area. Prior to the construction of this portion of the fort, this land belonged to a free black woman named Elizabeth Thomas. 

    As was the case for the church, Ms. Thomas, affectionately called “Aunt Betty”, was forced from her home for the fort’s construction. With just a matter of moments, she had barely enough time to gather her six-month old child and a few belongings before her home was destroyed. 

    Years later, Ms. Thomas recounted that fateful day: "The soldiers camped here at this time were mostly German. I could not understand them, not even the officers, but when they began taking out my furniture and tearing down our house, I understood. In the evening I was sitting under that sycamore tree- my only house- with what furniture I had left around me. I was crying, as was my six-months old child, which I had in my arms, when a tall, slender man, dressed in black, came up to me and said to me, "It is hard, but you shall reap a great reward." It was President Lincoln.

    Elizabeth Thomas lived next to Fort Stevens until her death in 1917. She was 87 years old. It is thought that her home was located across from the fort in the community garden that lines 13th Street, NW. Walk to the flagpole inside the Fort's parade grounds. Hit NEXT when you arrive.