Situated in the midst of an agricultural reserve in rural Maryland, surrounded by thousands of acres of farms and woodlands, equestrian fields, trails, fields of hay and soybeans, grapes, hunting grounds not only for the local Hunt Club but for a thriving population of coyotes, foxes, hawks and bald eagles, sits a little white farmhouse that, at least for this moment in its long, colorful history, has landed in our hands.
The original house dates back to the late 18th century, and was once the summer home of George Washington’s step grandaughter, Martha Parke Custis and her husband, Thomas Peter, both of whom are buried in the historic Montevideo family cemetery nearby.
Their son, John Parke Custis Peter, was the owner of the Seneca Mill, which is the source of the distinctive rose colored sandstone used in building our very own kitchen hearth, as well as the exterior of the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
The current dwelling goes back to 1820, and in the years before Emancipation, a crawl space under one of the rooms, accessible only by a tiny hatch door in the floor, is said to have been a hiding place for travelers along the Underground Railroad.
During the Civil War, the house was in a critical spot for two key events. It is situated in between where Lee invaded Maryland at White’s Ferry in 1862, culminating in The Battle of Antietam and where J.E.B.Stuart crossed the Potomac at Rowser’s Ford on his famous Ride to Gettysburg in 1863. Because of the shallowness of the Potomac at White’s Ford and Rowser’s Ford, and the strategic importance of the C&O Canal, there were 20,000 Union Troops stationed and at least 7 skirmishes between confederate and union troops in and around the area.
Literally generations of families have inhabited these very walls, walked these creaky pine floors, lived their day by day joys and sadness, births, deaths, illness, celebrations, the years rolling on one by one. The people come and go as they pass through this world (though we hear stories of some lingering unseen and in between …more on our ghost later) but the house remains to greet each sunrise and sunset long past them all. It’s our time to be here, it seems, and during our stay we intend to fill it with as many joy filled days as possible, with gatherings of family, friends, pets, wonderful food, holidays, seasons of light and bounty and days of creative work and rest. It has already welcomed us all so generously, and we are in awe that our journey has led us here, to this old farmhouse–a place of such warmth, history and spirit.