Category Archives: Local History

Sanctified Sisters of Colesville: The Hidden History of Commonwealth Farm

"A Sanctified Sisterhood," The Washington Times, April 6, 1902, section three, pp. 1, 4.
“A Sanctified Sisterhood,” The Washington Times, April 6, 1902, section three, pp. 1, 4.

Watch the video: “Sanctifed Sisters of Colesville: The Hidden History of Commonwealth Farm” (YouTube)

Commonwealth Farm was a 119-acre property in Colesville that was owned by a women’s commune formed in the 1870s in Belton, Texas. They were called the Sanctified Sisters or Sanctificationists at first, but eventually became known as the Woman’s Commonwealth. Their beliefs were based on divine revelations received by their leader which espoused sanctification, non-sectarianism, and celibacy. They were economically self-sustaining, pooling their financial resources and living communally. In 1898, the commune moved from Texas to Washington, D.C. In 1903, they purchased the Colesville farm, where they raised dairy cattle, chickens, and pigs, and grew vegetables, fruit trees, corn, and wheat. For over four decades, the commune ran the Commonwealth Farm Inn and restaurant on the property, which became a popular spot for members of high-society and influential Washingtonians.
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Commonwealth Farm, Colesville, Maryland

Stone retaining wall visible from New Hampshire Avenue. (J. Mangin, January 24, 2021)
Stone retaining wall visible from New Hampshire Avenue. (J. Mangin, January 24, 2021)
Watch: “Sanctifed Sisters of Colesville: The Hidden History of Commonwealth Farm” (YouTube)

Introduction

Late last year, stuck at home, my activities hampered by the pandemic, I found myself intrigued by a posting in a Facebook group.  Someone asked if anyone knew the history behind a stone retaining wall he’d seen on the east side New Hampshire Avenue, while heading north toward Good Hope Road. I didn’t know, but having nothing better to do, I set about to find the answer. I knew I had the research skills; for the past few years, I have scoured photograph archives, land records, digital newspapers, and maps to write the history of the Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery. Even so, when it comes to historical research there are times when, no matter how hard one looks, there’s nothing to go on. But this time, I was in luck. Continue reading Commonwealth Farm, Colesville, Maryland