Maryville and Frederick Deming Jr. Industrial School

1030 5th Ave, Charleston, SC 29407


The historic Town of Maryville, now part of the City of Charleston, was originally chartered in 1886 and officially incorporated in 1888 by the South Carolina General Assembly. Founded as an African American suburb of Charleston, the community stretches from the west banks of Old Town Creek across Magnolia Road (formerly River Road), to Diana Street (formerly Boundary Street).[1] Maryville was a model of Black self-government for the half-century it operated as an independent town, and today remains an important part of the legacy of African American culture, education, and social impact in Charleston.

The land upon which Maryville was developed was occupied by some of Charleston’s earliest European settlers. Known as the Lord’s Proprietors Plantation in the late 1600s, it became known as the Hillsborough Plantation (also spelled Hillsboro) by 1715.[2] On February 10, 1880, the property was purchased at auction by Mary Richardson Moses Bowen Taft Geddings (1862-1927), who was part of a prominent, politically active, White Jewish family.[3] Her father, Franklin J. Moses, Jr., served as the Governor of South Carolina from 1872 to 1874. Although he fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy, his political views evolved and he became a Republican, breaking cultural and social norms by advocating for compulsory education for all, the integration of the University of South Carolina, and land for free people of color.[4]

Continuing this legacy, in 1885 Mary Bowen Taft subdivided 220 acres of the former 550-acre Hillsborough Plantation property into lots measuring 50×100 feet and sold them for $25 (with a down payment of $5 and four annual installments of $5) to primarily African American people.[5] The new residents of Maryville began to develop a community of their own, founding new businesses, places of worship, a post office, police station, recreational center, and perhaps most importantly, a school.

Although the town was largely African American, there were also some White residents who purchased land to farm, to reside, as well as for investment properties – such as the Wigger family, of German descent, who opened the Wigger Grocery Store on Magnolia Road.[6] A Chinese immigrant named Chu Homm, who anglicized his name to Robert Miller, also settled in Maryville, opening a White-only restaurant called The Oriental Gardens on Magnolia Road and operating a farm nearby.[7]

Below, see sites of significance in historic Maryville denoted on this map:

Graphic by Laurel M. Fay

Graphic by Laurel M. Fay

Several key figures emerged during Maryville’s developmental period, who laid the town’s educational, governmental, and social foundation. One of the most influential early leaders was Mary Matthews Just (c. 1858-1901), an African American business owner and educator. Just owned property in Maryville and in downtown Charleston at 99 and 101 Calhoun Street, where she operated a business selling milk, cream, butter, and other dairy items.[8] She was also unanimously elected as Post Mistress for the Town of Maryville’s Post Office in 1892, and was integral in the founding of the Town’s first school.[9] Her son, Dr. Ernest Everett Just went on to become an internationally known biologist, and during his studies at Howard Univiersity, co-founded Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, the first international fraternal organization founded on the campus of a historically Black college.[10]


Education was a core value for the budding Maryville community, with talks of establishing a school documented in historical records starting as early as 1889, a year after the town was officially incorporated.[11] In 1892, three trustees – Mary Matthews Just, Reverend George Clinton Rowe, and Joseph C. Berry – purchased land from Mary Bowen Taft to construct the Town’s first school.

The Frederick Deming Jr. Industrial School (“Deming School”) was built later that year on 5th Avenue near modern-day Fiall Street as one of the first industrial schools in the state of South Carolina for African Americans. It was named for Frederick Deming Jr., a northern philanthropist. The Deming School operated with the financial support of The American Missionary Association (AMA), a charitable, abolitionist organization founded in 1846 to provide educational opportunities to Black children in the South. The AMA, whose members and leaders were Black and White, founded more than 500 schools and colleges in the decades following the Civil War. These schools were open to all students, and often were operated as integrated institutions during the Reconstruction Era.[12]

The original two-story wood-frame Deming School building had classrooms on the first level, and a dormitory on the second level for teachers who resided on site.[13] Mary Matthews Just served as the first principal of the school, taught classes, and conducted religious sessions on Sundays.[14] She had the foresight to purchase fire insurance for the building when it was constructed, which allowed the school to be reconstructed after a fire damaged the original building just five years later in 1897.[15]

The new school was a smaller, one-story wood-frame structure with a cross-gable roof. Whenever the school needed extra space, St. Paul AME Church and The St. Andrews Mutual Improvement Society’s Hall at the intersection of 5th and Battery Avenues opened their doors to students and educators.[16]

The Charleston County School District acquired the Deming School in 1945 and closed its doors permanently in 1953 when the Wallace Consolidated School opened as a segregated, “equalization school” to provide a “separate but equal” educational facility for local Black students in lieu of integration.[17] Located near the intersection of Ashley River Road and Sam Rittenberg Boulevard, Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School now occupies the site of the former Wallace Consolidated School.

The Deming School structure was demolished in the late 1950s, and in 1960-1961, the property was turned into Deming Playground, primarily used for programs by St. Andrews Parks & Playgrounds, who acquired the property in 1985.[18] In 1996, the City of Charleston took ownership of the site.[19]


The Deming School was integral to community life in the Town of Maryville for more than 60 years. Former students recalled enjoying sporting events, movie nights, and annual activities like Field Day. Parents and neighbors often provided food for school lunches and teachers, who were predominantly residents of Maryville themselves, taught several generations of students over decades of service.[20]

The Town of Maryville was a successful model of Black self-government for several decades, but by the 1930s, some of the few White citizens in the town objected to African American police authority, paying taxes to a Black-controlled government, and integrated public spaces, like the town’s Invincible Park recreation center.[21] Due to racial tensions, the South Carolina General Assembly revoked the Town’s charter on May 21, 1936 without proper notification or consideration of community input.[22] Almost sixty years later, Maryville was officially annexed into the City of Charleston in 1993 and 1994.[23]

Today, the community is often referred to as Maryville/Ashleyville, and many descendants of the Town’s founders still own property and reside in the community as a testament to its resilience. While the Deming School no longer physically stands, its generational impact is still palpable today in the community’s enduring value of education and empowerment.

The Preservation Society of Charleston extends its heartfelt thanks to Diane Hamilton, Donna Jacobs, Charlie Smith, Ina Bootle, Kenneth Marolda, and the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston for their contributions, research, and photographs.

[1] Hamilton, Diane. Maryville, the Audacity of a People. BookBaby, 2021.

[2] Hamilton, Diane. Maryville, the Audacity of a People.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jacobs, Donna. “West Ashley Flashback – There’s Something About Mary.” West Of, July 11, 2022.

[5] Charleston News and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), September 2, 1891:6; Charleston News and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), January 20, 1889:4.

[6] Hamilton, Diane. Maryville, the Audacity of a People.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] The News and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), June 18, 1892:8.


[11] Charleston News and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), December 27, 1889:8.

[12] Education for Liberation: The American Missionary Association and African Americans, 1890 to the Civil Rights Movement, p. 1

[13] Hamilton, Diane. Maryville, the Audacity of a People.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Charleston News and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), November 11, 1897:8.

[16] Hamilton, Diane. Maryville, the Audacity of a People.

[17] Evening Post (Charleston, South Carolina), August 12, 1953:5.

[18] Charleston News and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), September 2, 1985.

[19] Hamilton, Diane. Maryville, the Audacity of a People.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Charleston News and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), June 2, 1936.

[23] Hamilton, Diane. Maryville, the Audacity of a People.