Spring Meadow Farm

June 24, 1999|By PAT SCHOOLEY

Editor's note: This is the 116th in a series of articles about the historical and architectural treasures of Washington County.

South of Clear Spring, Big Pool Road curls through the countryside, narrows as it crosses a one-lane bridge, and approaches the imposing 44-foot tall gable end of a stone house looming on the left side of the road.

[cont. from lifestyle]

The house faces northwest and sits close to the road on land that drops steeply down to a small stream that emerges from under it. Beside this meander is a small stone springhouse, and in back of it, on tall metal posts, is a large yellow tank. A pump motor drones periodically, filling the tank from an intake pipe that has been plunged into the small opening at the base of the house. Water trucks pull in randomly to fill their tanks on the honor system.

This is the Big Spring, really a hydraulic well, an underground river, emerging from a cave beneath the house at a steady 1,300 gallons each minute and a chilly 49 degrees. Regardless of the weather, rain, drought, heat, or cold, these numbers almost never vary.


Doug and Mary Frances Black call their 80 acres Spring Meadow Farm now, but its dominant feature always has been the big spring.

In 1739, Evan Shelby acquired a warrant for 150 acres to be named The Big Spring. It called for the metes and bounds to begin at the head of this spring. Almost three years later, Shelby was issued a patent for this land. He then sold it to Hugh Gilliland, farmer, in 1742 for 75 pounds.

In 1750, Hugh sold this same land to James Gilliland for 56 pounds, along with a second parcel, Bealls Fort, that also originated near the mouth of the spring. This 50 acres cost 80.3 pounds, and it also had been patented by Evan Shelby.

In 1754, James Gilliland and other inhabitants of Frederick County petitioned the court. "Several of your petitioners labour under great hardships for want of a road being laid out to said Gilliland's Mill and therefore humbly pray Your Worships to be pleased to grant them a road to be laid out at the west line of a place called Flaggy Meadows and at a road already cleared by the inhabitants of Pensilvania for to come to said mill, their mill being generally frozen up in the winter."

James Gilliland apparently operated a mill along the run flowing south from the forceful springhead, which never freezes in winter months.

It isn't known if the road was built, but, on Nov. 24, 1755, James Gilliland sold a parcel of 150 acres called the Big Spring to Adam Easter for 130 pounds Maryland currency. A year later, Fort Frederick, with a garrison of about 200 men, was completed, creating a ready source of customers for the mill.

In 1781, possession of Big Spring was transferred to Simon Bowman. It is unclear whether Bowman owned the property as an heir through his wife or as executor of his father-in-law's estate.

In 1768, Simon Bowman had purchased Lot 23 in Elizabeth Town from Jonathan Hager, so the Bowmans probably lived there, not at Big Spring.

In 1782, a land commission was requested to arbitrate a dispute over the boundary lines of The Big Spring. Several of the depositions state that the point of beginning for the land tract was a white oak tree near Adam Easter's house about 20 perches (330 feet) below the big spring. These depositions would indicate that as of 1782 no house existed at the spring.

A 1791 advertisement placed by Simon Bowman reads, "The subscriber offers for Sale, on easy and moderate Terms, That well known Tract of 360 Acres of Land, called Big Spring ... on the premises are two dwelling houses, orchard, and other improvements, and is very suitable for any kind of public business, being 13 miles from Hagerstown, and directly on the road to Fort Cumberland, there being now a tavern kept thereat."

Here, then, were two houses, one probably used as the tavern.

In 1792, Bowman resurveyed all his holdings, including the Big Spring parcel into one tract of 366 3/4 acres called Lads & Lassies. The following year Bowman sold this to Roland Chambers for 1,800 pounds. The deed described Chambers as living on the property at the time. A 1794 map of Washington County shows a tavern at the head of the spring, so Chambers must have remained in that business.

In 1803, Chambers sold 350 acres for 3,300 pounds to Peter Harbine of Bucks County, Pa., who then passed it to Daniel Harbine of Washington County for 1,000 pounds.

An 1809 ad in the Maryland Herald mentions a public sale at Daniel Harbine's Tavern at the Big Spring.

The following year, this notice appeared in the newspaper: "BIG SPRING TAVERN JAMES KIRKPATRICK, RESPECTFULLY informs his friends and the public in general that he has taken that commodious house formerly occupied by Mr. Rowland Chambers, and lately by Mr. Daniel Harbine as a Tavern, at the Big Spring, about 14 miles from Hagerstown, and 16 from Hancock-town on the road leading to Cumberland; where he is prepared in every respect to entertain and accommodate travellers & others in the best manner. He assures the public that nothing in his power shall be wanting to render entire satisfaction to all those who may please to call on him. And as he is a new beginner in the public sphere of life, he hopes for the support of an indulgent and generous public so long as he merits their countenance."

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