Kef-Poff Farm - Early 1800s farmhouse served as a hospital after Antietam

September 05, 1997|By PAT SCHOOLEY

Editor's note: This is the 95th in a series of articles on the historic and architectural treasures of Washington County, an area with more listed sites than any other in Maryland.

arrow Mansfield Monument Road winds east between Sharpsburg and Keedysville past quiet fields, often shaded by old trees. Sections of stone fence still stand, and black board fences bound pastures. A small sign announces Kef-Poff Farm; a narrow lane plunges down a small hill and then leads to a tranquil farmstead.

The stone house faces south and is built into a knoll. Just to the west is a stone smokehouse and, beyond that, a stone barn and assorted outbuildings. The original entrance to the farm came from Smoketown Road past the barn to the house. It long since has been obscured in favor of this lane from the newer road.

John Miller owned this property late in the 18th century. When his will was probated, his holdings were left to his many children. In 1821, one of his sons, Abraham, bought full interest in this farm. The house is said to have been built between 1802 and 1804. It is a handsome house with quoined corners and five bays. It stands two-and-a-half stories tall and has a story-and-a-half wing to the north. This wing is built over a spring and, on its first floor, contains the original kitchen with a massive service fireplace. The exterior stone wall shows no seam between the main block of the house and the wing, but there is a stone wall between the two sections. In the wall is a cupboard built into a cavity that was once a window.


The springhouse wing opens at ground level on the north. The door is surrounded by a massive, square relieving arch that supports the cooking fireplace in the original kitchen above. There also is an interior stairway entering the cellar and another outside door a few steps below grade on the west side of the wing. This door is a double Dutch door hung on long, handmade strap hinges.

About 1950, Millard Kefauver repaired the original door by cutting off its rotted lower half and building a new half- door using the original hinges and another pair from a collection of old ones that he had. The framing is massive, and the sill is stone. Under the main block of the house, there are three rooms in the cellar and another large service fireplace. The ceiling of the cellar exposes the supports of the first floor - close-set logs, flattened on top and bottom, with the spaces between them filled with small stones and plaster.

Jacob Poffenberger purchased the farm in 1854 and sold it the next year to Henry Poffenberger. Catherine Doub and Samuel Poffenberger, Jacob's son, got a marriage license Jan. 22, 1861, and married two days later.

On April 1, 1862, Samuel Doub purchased the farm for his daughter Catherine and her husband for $11,101.29.

The Poffenbergers were about to harvest their first crop when, on Sept. 17, the tranquility of their lives was shattered by the Battle of Antietam.

The East Woods lay just to the southwest, and cannons roared. Dr. J.L. Dunn, a surgeon at the battle, reported in an Oct. 1, 1862, letter to his wife: "To be in a place where no less than 150,000 muskets are being discharged continuously then add to that 300 cannon whose roar - equal to the loudest clap of thunder - is a fearful thing, no person can have any conception of it."

C.M. Welles, a missionary who worked with Clara Barton to deliver medical supplies to the field, wrote, "Not for a moment through the day had there been any cessation of the terrible sound ..."

Reports of the battle describe the movement of forces and the awful carnage. Buildings were appropriated, food and animals were taken, crops trampled. Sheets were shredded for bandages. But the owners of the property seldom are mentioned.

Where was she?

Where was Catherine Poffenberger during that overwhelming, ceaseless din when her home was taken over as the "Stone House" hospital? How did she feel when her personal possessions were taken and used?

Samuel Poffenberger's 1916 obituary reported, "During the battle of Antietam, Mr. Poffenberger was compelled to leave his home which was used as a hospital for nineteen days. Unionists and Confederates were cared for there and Gen. Payne, a Confederate officer, died in the parlor. His home was the death scene of about 140 men. The spring on the farm furnished water for the wounded and dying soldiers."

How do you care for crops and animals when you are gone for 19 days?

After the Battle of Antietam, Catherine and Samuel continued to live on the farm. Samuel filed a claim for a cornfield that was destroyed, but it was not granted. In 1868 they paid $12,442 to Samuel Doub and received title to their property.

At some point, they added the brick wing on the east. But, according to family members, they never spoke to anyone about the battle for the rest of their lives.

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