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Small touches make Melwood farmstead special

April 07, 2003|by PAT SCHOOLEY

Southwest of Hagerstown, not far from a great horseshoe bend of the Potomac River, Shaffer Road runs due east between Dam No. 4 and Bakersville roads, past farmsteads, through quiet countryside. On the south side of the road, just west of Muddy Creek, stands a handsome stone house. Set into the hill rising from the stream, its three stories face the stream behind double porches that span the width of the home. Close to the road, below the house, a small, stone springhouse snugs into the ground. A close look at the side of this building reveals an inscription, "May 1797 H. L. Roher," in one of the stones.

The driveway turns into the farmstead across the stream to a parking area below the house. A small stone structure with a shed roof stands on the left. This appears to be an early building that had its gables removed when it was rebuilt for a new use. Beyond this stands an early frame bank barn on tall stone foundations. The forebay is closed with single and Dutch doors opening into stalls and the feed room. Stone foundation walls separate these doors. The barn is furnished, as most early barns are, with hand-planed boards and wrought iron strap hinges. The stalls, however, have an unusual touch. The wide planks that separate the stalls are curved at the outside top edge and end in a post that is topped with a chunky finial.

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This land was part of the 1736 patent called Chew's Farm. A charming tale, related in T.J.C. Williams' "History of Washington County, Maryland," tells of the proprietary governor exploring the valley. When night fell, he and his party were near the home of Samuel Chew and asked for hospitality. The host apologized for his home being in disarray and asked that allowances be made but opened his home to the group. During the night, he became the father of twins who were later named Samuel and Bennett Chew. Shortly after the governor arrived back in Annapolis, he sent a patent deed for 5,000 acres of land in the name of Samuel Chew Jr., one of the twins.

Land records, however, tell a different story. In 1721, Philemon Lloyd laid out 5,000 acres in what would become southwestern Washington County. When the patent was ready for issue in 1736, Philemon was dead, and his only child, Henrietta Lloyd Chew, wife of Samuel Chew, directed that the patent be issued in the names of two of her sons, Samuel and Bennett Chew, who would have been younger than 10 years old at the time.

Bennett had no children and, upon his death in 1793, left his portion of Chew's Farm to Samuel's daughters, Henrietta, wife of Benjamin Galloway, and Elizabeth, who married Peregrine Fitzhugh and moved to New York. Each received about 1,300 acres from their uncle to add to the 800 acres they had earlier received from their father.

T.J.C. Williams reports in his "History" that the Galloways "removed from Anne Arundel to reside on Chew's Farm near the Potomac, six miles below Williamsport In 1800 he had removed to Hagerstown." Other records indicate that the Galloways came to Washington County in 1793. Benjamin Galloway lived until 1831, and his wife survived another sixteen years. Perhaps they were the ones who built the elegant stone house on Shaffer Road.

Henrietta Chew Galloway had no children, and her will leaves the land she held in Washington County to her nephews, Peregrine, John and Benjamin Fitzhugh. In 1850, a 130-acre, 3-rood, 28-perch parcel of land containing this farmstead was sold by Daniel Fitzhugh of Livingston County, N.Y., to Joseph Beeler. Daniel Fitzhugh must have been a descendant of one of these brothers. We have no way to know who H.L. Roher was or how he came to build the springhouse at the property. Architectural historian Paula Reed says she believes that the house was built around 1800 with stone foundations and logs. Early in the 19th century, someone, obviously well-to-do and tasteful, removed the logs and built the stone house on Shaffer Road.

In 1974, James R. Stoner, a Washington, D.C., attorney, purchased the farm and did a lovely and sensitive restoration of the house. After Stoner's death, Madge and Tom Yewell found it and fell in love. They had sold their beach house and were looking for a home in the mountains. This was perfect, close to the history of Antietam and serene in its country setting. Once purchased, they christened the farm Melwood, in honor of the Prince George's County home of Madge's family.

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