Plumb Grove a home to local history

July 18, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

CLEAR SPRING - The spirits of Sunday's visitors to Plumb Grove offered no threat to the witch ball hanging above the front door.

Jake Rose, 10, and his brother, Cody, 7, seemed at home in the 19th-century Clear Spring house.

The boys and their mother, Ann Rose, and her boyfriend, Kevin Shirley, all of Clear Spring, looked at old furniture and wooden toys as they enjoyed one of the Clear Spring District Historical Association's free tours of the site. The association celebrates its 25th year this year.

"Did they have cookies in 1805?" Cody asked.

Excited by all manner of historical minutiae, his brother responded.

"They had crackers," Jake replied.

According to association president David Wiles, who leads most tours through the home, about 1,000 people visit Plumb Grove a year.


Wiles described some common 19th-century superstitions as he shared trivia about the house with Shirley and the Roses.

According to Wiles, the red brick Greek-revival and Federal-style home was owned by the family and descendants of Jonathan and Ann Nesbitt until 1892, when it was purchased by the Warner family.

The house was empty for more than 20 years until the historical association acquired it, Wiles said.

Drop-in tours are offered in the afternoons during the third Sunday of every month through October.

"Twenty-five years ago, a lot of people said no way could this house become a museum, and here it is today," Wiles said after Shirley and the Roses had gone.

The association has filled the house with furniture it culled from other sites. Many pieces were built in Clear Spring, while others were made in wood shops throughout Maryland, Wiles said.

An elegant glass ornament hangs above the door. It's no left-over Christmas decoration, Wiles said.

An artifact of 19th-century superstition, the witch ball still wards against bad spirits at Plumb Grove.

"Any evil or bad thing that comes in the front door, it just sucks them up into it. It predates security systems," Wiles said.

While it was good luck to end meal-time by crossing a fork and knife, Wiles warned the Rose boys not to set two knives across their plates after they eat. That was considered bad luck, Wiles said.

So was hanging clothes from door knobs, Wiles said as the group looked around the house's master bedroom.

"And, if you ever wake up, and there's a broom against your bed, that's really bad luck. You're going to die that day," Wiles said.

Every room seemed to grab the attention of Jake and Cody.

"I read all the history books," Jake said after the tour.

Jake, soon to be a sixth-grader, said he especially likes learning about Pearl Harbor and World War II.

Almost 200 years after its construction, broom handles and criss-crossed silverware at Plumb Grove no longer spook modern audiences.

Cody was more bothered by what he learned standing in front of a wooden cabinet outside the children's room.

The Nesbitts, who were wealthy and owned slaves, could well afford toys for their children - pieces of tiny wooden dollhouse furniture fill the shelves of the cabinet - but most people did without.

"So they didn't have Santa Claus back then?" Cody wondered.

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