Contents of historic Berkeley Co. home on auction block

June 23, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

FALLING WATERS, W.Va. - No. 1, the first item listed for sale, is a milk glass covered dish featuring Uncle Sam on a steamship. The last item, No. 1302, is a mid-18th century softwood kas/shrank wardrobe.

All of the items were taken from a historic home, Maidstone on the Potomac, in Falling Waters near the U.S. 11 bridge, and will be auctioned in Pennsylvania starting Friday.

Roy V. Mish, 74, said his parents, Frank W. Mish Jr. and Mary W. Vernon Mish, collected most of the items, including furniture, artwork, mechanical banks, pipsqueak toys, wallpaper boxes, wall hangings, quilts, antique kitchenware, Christmas-themed pieces and others.


All of the items can be viewed online on eBay, but nothing will be sold until the auction itself. The first portion of items will be sold starting at 2 p.m. Friday, and the remaining items will be sold starting at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Previews will be held from noon to 8 p.m. today, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Saturday. The auction is being conducted by Hassinger & Courtney Auctioneering at the Freeburg Community Building in Freeburg, Pa.

A gregarious man, Roy Mish's conversations are filled with boisterous laughter. He received a degree in English from Princeton University, and worked as a salesman.

Mish said he and his wife decided to sell the collection because they wanted to downsize. Last month, the couple moved from Maidstone on the Potomac to a smaller home in Spring Mills.

The historic home along the banks of the Potomac River, the first section of which was built in the 1730s, and its surrounding 210 acres have been sold, but Mish said he is not sure of the new owner's intent.

Mish's grandfather bought the home in 1916, but his family had owned nearby land since 1867.

Throughout the years, the house's occupants have played important roles in local history.

Mish's grandfather lived in Hagerstown, where he worked as an attorney and served as a mayor and state senator. Maidstone on the Potomac was purchased as a convenient, central location for his livestock sales in the spring and fall.

Mish's maternal grandfather worked as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for the Chicago Daily News from 1900 to 1933.

Mish's mother was instrumental in helping create the Hager House in Hagerstown and the Adam Stephen House in Martinsburg, W.Va. She also worked with Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Mish said.

Mish grew up in the historic home after his parents married in 1927. He remembers fishing and hunting in the area, and swimming in the Potomac River, where he would spend time on Duck Island.

The oldest portion of the home, made of logs, served as a tavern and a ferry crossing spot, starting in 1744. The ferry operator, Evan Watkins, was required by Virginia law to have the capability to house people overnight.

The brick portion of the home was built in the 1840s.

Although the home is old, Mish said without prompting that he has no tales of the supernatural to share.

"I never saw a ghost and one never spoke to me and one never grabbed me by the shoulder," he said, laughing.

His senses could be rattled, however, when the heat came on, which he said sounded as if someone was shooting a .22-caliber rifle.

Mish cannot say with certainty that George Washington slept there, although he said Washington did wait at the spot for Gen. Edward Braddock to enter Virginia during the French and Indian War.

History differs on whether the site, or whether another area near Berkeley Springs, W.Va., was the place where Washington built Fort Maidstone. A register kept by Washington lists his members as being from Falling Waters, but a map by Washington shows the fort as being near the mouth of the Great Cacapon river in what is now Morgan County.

Gen. Robert E. Lee crossed the river from the house site on his way to Gettysburg, Pa., and Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson stayed there in the early days of the Civil War, Mish said.

At the end of World War II, Mish dug Civil War bullets out of the barn's walls, and a cannon ball fell out of the home's chimney more than a century after it was lodged there.

Neil Courtney, with the auction firm handling the sale, said he spent 10 days in West Virginia organizing and cataloging items.

Additional auctions of Mish's items will be held in the fall. Items to be sold then will include Civil War items, toys and dolls, books, paper goods, political items and decoys.

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