Historic property being preserved

December 25, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - Three decades before there was a United States, the Harlan family moved into West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle. Now Spring Hill, the original farmhouse, and more than 70 surrounding acres will be preserved in perpetuity from development.

On Tuesday, Nancy A. McMurray announced that a deed of conservation easement on the land was being handed over to the Land Trust of the Eastern Panhandle Inc., the first acquisition for the private, nonprofit group established about two years ago.

"I am the seventh generation of my family to live here," McMurray said Wednesday. The graphic designer said the original Harlans were Quakers, who came to this country with William Penn in 1687.


It was sometime in the early 1740s that the Harlans established Spring Hill, McMurray said. The donation includes the original farmhouse, added onto in stages from a log room built around 1744, a two-story log home built in 1853 and two contemporary homes.

Bob and Ruth Ann Dean have a life deed to the newer homes on the property, which were built as retirement homes by McMurray's late cousin, Tom Beale. That land will eventually revert to the McMurray-Harlan family.

McMurray said her aunt Douglass Harlan ("She's always gone by her middle name") and cousin Margaret Taylor live in the Homewood retirement community in Williamsport. The aunt was the last person with the surname Harlan to be born there.

In addition to the buildings, the land includes seven acres used to grow watercress, which McMurray said can only be grown in spring water and limestone soil.

The land, she said, is the ancestral home of two U.S. Supreme Court Justices, John Marshall Harlan I and II. McMurray said the grandfather was known as "The Great Dissenter" during the late 19th century. His grandson served on the Warren Court.

They were members of the Harlan family that moved into Kentucky and there are thousands more around the country. During next year's Memorial Day Weekend, McMurray said more than 200 have indicated they will attend a Harlan family reunion here, marking more than 250 years of the family's presence in Berkeley County.

While her family retains ownership of the land, McMurray explained that the deed of easement will preserve the land from being developed, no matter who might be the owner.

Susan Nash, executive director of the land trust, said that while this is the first acquisition for the trust, "we have one more that's nearly complete and another that's in the late negotiations stages. Every landowner's needs are unique."

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