Alexander Walker Wayman, the seventh Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, was born free in Tuckahoe Neck, Caroline County, Maryland in 1824. This Eastern Shore connection turned out to be significant to Bishop Wayman and Frederick Douglass becoming friends.
Anna Murray, Mr. Douglass' first wife, was also born free in the Tuckahoe Neck area on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Bishop Wayman’s mother entrusted Anna Murray with her children, including young Alexander Wayman.
At the age of 19, the then Reverend Alexander left home for Baltimore. By that time Anna Murray was also working in Baltimore. She had established herself as a laundress and housekeeper. Her laundry work took her to the docks of Fells Point, where she met Frederick Douglass, who was working as a ship caulker.
From there, it was a matter of time before these three Eastern Shore residents met and a tight friendship was formed. Of course, Mr. Douglass and Ms. Murray married after Mr. Douglass escaped slavery and established himself in Massachusetts. But the bond among these three friends endured. It was that tight family friendship that led Charles Remond Douglass to name a street after Bishop Wayman when Highland Beach was founded in 1893.
Fast forward to today, it was a chance encounter with museum docent Janice Lloyd that brought the Wayman family to Highland Beach. Ms. Lloyd picks up the story from here.
It was a beautiful warm sunny day with a calm breeze coming off the Chesapeake Bay as the Wayman family gathered in Highland Beach. You could see and feel their excitement. Family members ages 10 to 74 were very proud to stand under the street sign bearing their family name. As we began a walking tour, I pointed out historic homes that remain part of the community and began talking about family histories as well as those currently still residing in Highland Beach.
As we walked along Walnut Avenue and then to Douglass Avenue, many residents warmly greeted the family. Our new town commissioner Linda Holmes Newton shared the history of the Holmes cottage and her grandfather’s contribution to the American Tennis Association.
The family saw the Ware’s Hotel and Bowen Cottage. Both were greeted with a WOW! And then we made our way to the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center.
Docent Charles Newton shared the story of Major Charles Douglass and how Highland Beach came to be.
There were questions answered by Museum Director and longtime resident Dena Sewell.
Once inside Twin Oaks, the family was told of Frederick Douglass's life and journey. The family saw a picture and the information about their famed relative Bishop Wayman featured in the book Highland Beach on the Chesapeake Bay.
They left excited about returning and telling others about this wonderful place called Highland Beach.
Even though a main street within the community is named after their famous relative, the family did not know much about Highland Beach.
As Michelle Wayman said, “I had heard of Highland Beach, but I had absolutely no idea of its rich, rich history. I love that it functions as its own
community with its own mayor and commissioners; and it is 90%+ African- American. I love the calm and caring atmosphere and the fact that every community member we met shared a story of their personal connection to Highland Beach. Our visit was truly awesome!”
Her daughter, Dawn Wayman told me, “Though I only have limited memories of my great-grandfather (through pictures and stories), I am fascinated by his connection to the greatness that he, in turn, instilled in our Wayman family. His grandfather, Charles, was Bishop Alexander Wayman's brother. It was important to me that my nephews were a part of this experience so they would understand our family's small beginnings on Maryland's Eastern Shore have had a lasting impact on Black America.”
It was truly my pleasure to show the Wayman family this gem we call Highland Beach.
- Janice Lloyd
Indeed, Bishop Wayman does have a legacy in the freedom for African Americans. In many ways Wayman and Douglass were two sides of the same coin. They were liberators; Wayman worked toward the spiritual freedom for African Americans while Douglass dedicated his life to their physical and economic freedom.