Honoring Black History Month this day and every day, the Buffalo Soldier Committee has announced plans to establish a living history site and interactive walking trail in Delmarva. The project seeks to commemorate African American history and heritage, particularly the “Buffalo Soldiers” role in the US Army. The effort results from a collaboration between the Buffalo Soldier Committee, the Preservation Trust of Wicomico, and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, which awarded a recent grant to the group to bring its vision to life.
Buffalo Soldiers were African American soldiers who served in cavalry and infantry units created by the Army Organization Act of 1866. They primarily served on the Western frontier, escorting settlers moving westward after the Civil War. While there are several memorials to these soldiers in the American West, their history has not been as frequently included in the school curriculum and heritage sites on the East Coast.
Deborah Scott, the manager for the Buffalo Soldier Living History Site’s Eastern Shore project, seeks to correct this course. Scott’s vision pays homage to her grandfather, Thomas E. Polk, Sr., who served as a Buffalo Soldier after the U.S. Civil War. Polk started purchasing parcels of land in Allen in 1892, and now the Committee intends to transform some of the 22 acres that her family has continuously owned since then. They will establish an educational center to include “Hattie’s Trail,” a walking path named for Polk’s wife and Scott’s grandmother.
Scott says, “This site is going to exhume the history of the Buffalo Soldier that has been buried for far too long. It will be the first of its kind east of the Mississippi River. Our goal is that visitors will come here to see historical displays and exhibits, participate in workshops and presentations, and experience reenactments.” She adds, “Our goal is to attract and welcome tourists from near and far to the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland.”
The Committee anticipates opening the entire site to the public in 2025. The Committee comprises descendants of Buffalo Soldiers and has partnerships with the Greater Washington, D.C. Chapter of the 9th and 10th Buffalo Soldier Horse Calvary Association, Salisbury University, the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, and the Allen Historical Society. The Preservation Trust of Wicomico County sponsors it. Additionally, the project has benefited from in-kind services provided by a technical advisor, an archaeologist, and other local fraternal organizations. Together, they all strive to bring the story of these soldiers to Delmarva.
EPA Chesapeake Bay Program director Kandis Boyd notes, “The Buffalo Soldiers are not just an iconic part of African American History, but also an important aspect of American History. The Buffalo Soldiers were some of the nation’s first caretakers of the national parks. So, this is truly a full circle moment to watch history in the making as our early environmentalists, especially those of African descent, are honored with their living history museum on the Eastern Shore.”
The Buffalo Soldier, Living History Site, was a 2022 recipient of the Trust’s Veterans’ Engagement Mini-Grant Program, designed to support veterans’ groups and organizations that engage veterans with healing and therapeutic services, outdoor recreation, and community engagement. “The members of the Buffalo Soldiers Committee are celebrating and bringing to life the history of this important group of veterans and their descendants. We are honored to partner with them through our veterans grant initiatives,” says Chesapeake Bay Trust president Jana Davis.