Negro Mountain History

Source: Western Maryland Regional Library -

Western Maryland’s Historical Library: Negro Mountain

The most commonly accepted historical account as to how Negro Mountain received its name can be traced to the 1750s. Colonel Thomas Cresap and his black body-servant, “Nemesis,” were tracking a group of American Indians who some say had attacked a settlement near present-day Oldtown in Allegany County. It was said a family had been murdered and horses stolen. Others write Nemesis was requested to accompany a ranging party that regularly scouted the frontier in order to protect homes from attack. Either way, Nemesis had a premonition he would not return.

One evening while cleaning his weapon, Nemesis told Cresap that he would not be coming back. Cresap thought Nemesis was afraid, or going to runaway. He “jestingly” offered Nemesis the opportunity to remain behind with the if he was afraid. Nemesis replied he was not scared, but simply stating a fact. Cresap’s party pursued the Indians over present-day Savage and Meadow Mountains, to the next mountain where a fierce battle ensured. Nemesis fought bravely, was killed, and buried on the site.

Cresap named the mountain in honor of Nemesis’ race and it has ever since been known as “Negro Mountain.” Nemesis was said to have been a large and powerfully built man. “Negro Mountain” remains a memorial and historic tribute to the presence of this black frontiersman.

Based upon research undertaken by historian Francis Zumbrun, a letter sent to the Maryland Gazette in 1756 by Thomas Cresap explains the naming of the mountain. It states that it was a free black man who had accompanied his volunteer rangers during the French and Indian War and who had died heroically in the battle while saving Cresap’s life. Zumbrun, a retired forester for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and local historian, also notes that the mountain is named in honor of one of the earliest “free” black frontiersman on record in American colonial history.

Continue reading “Negro Mountain” at Western Maryland’s Historical Library.

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Photo by By J. J. Prats, August 11, 2006

Negro Mountain: The Highest Point on the National Road

“…The Naming of Negro Mountain. Nemesis, a black frontiersman, was killed here while Indians with Maryland frontiersman Thomas Cresap in the 1750s. Legend tells us that he had a premonition of his death. In his honor, they named this mountain after him.”

Continue reading “Negro Mountain: The Highest Point on the National Road” at The Historical Marker Database.

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View west from Negro Mountain highpoint. (Photo credit: Negro Mountain


In July 2007, Pennsylvania State Representative Rosita C. Youngblood (Democrat of Philadelphia’s 198th District) called for the renaming of Negro Mountain. In a news release, she said, “Through a school project, my son and granddaughter first informed me of the name of this range and I found it to be disparaging that we have one of our great works of nature named as such… I find it disheartening for tourists who visit this range to see the plaque with the name Negro Mountain displayed on the mountainside.” However, Professor Christopher Bracey, a law professor and associate professor of African and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis has said, “I must confess I have a slightly different take on it than [Youngblood]… Here we have a mountain, whose name was intended to be a testament to Negro bravery. It seems rather crass and unsophisticated to name it Negro Mountain, but the intentions were strong.”[5][6] On 1 August 2007, Youngblood and other lawmakers introduced House Resolution No. 378 [7] resolving that the governor “form a commission …to study the naming of Negro Mountain and Mount Davis …[to] adopt names that accurately reflect the history of the region and the heroism displayed by the African American in the Negro Mountain conflict of 1756” and accordingly to alter “brochures, plaques and signs [to] accurately reflect the facts of this heroic historical event”.

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