The mystery of Garron's Loss

March 12, 2006|By PAT SCHOOLEY

Black Rock Road wanders east from Md. 66 into gently rolling farmland between Interstate 70 and U.S. 40. Garron's Loss stands on the north side of the road, a stately stone house of early vintage with a stone-end bank barn on one side and a plastered stone smokehouse on the other.

Garron's Loss was surveyed for James Beresford on June 8, 1739, and 150 acres were patented under that name on Nov. 13 of that year. Beresford had received an assignment of the special warrant for this land from Henry Deall. The original deed describes the parcel as "Beginning at a banded Gum standing at the head of a Spring being a Draft of Beaver Creek and a Draft of Antietam Creek," and included eight acres of cleared ground, "a good logg Dwelling house, and a mill house."

No one named Garron is listed in the deed books of that time, and it is always tantalizing to wonder who Garron was and what he lost. Did Beresford get his survey for this property to the Land Office before Garron could finish his?


Sandy Izer, who has researched many of Washington County's early patents and deeds, thinks it all has something to do with the Conjacular War, or, as it is more commonly known, Cresap's War, named after frontiersman Thomas Cresap. This was the war between the Calverts of Maryland and the Penns of Pennsylvania to establish the border between their two colonies. She suspects but cannot prove that the Calverts hired mercenaries to fight this war. Under the guise of being landholders protecting their property, these mercenaries waged an unofficial war on behalf of Maryland against Pennsylvania for all the land up to the 40th parallel, which included the city of Philadelphia.

In August of 1737, the King of England ordered a halt to all land patents in the disputed territory. But the disagreement continued until a British court declared in 1750 that the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland should lie 15 miles south of Philadelphia.

Population boom

The area that is now Washington County had only four land patents granted prior to 1739. That year, more than 70 were granted, most to men who moved to Washington County from the Susquehanna River area in Pennsylvania - the area where the border war battles took place. Most of these patents were issued for surveys that were done for special warrants (as opposed to common warrants, which were the instruments that usually began the land acquisition process). Izer says she suspects that these special warrants were payments for services rendered during this war.

The special warrants permitted the holders to select any property west of South Mountain not otherwise held. Often squatters already had settled these parcels and improved them. Garron could have been such a squatter, who had cleared the eight acres and built the log house and mill. Deall might have been the soldier who chose not to settle the land but who quickly sold his warrant to Beresford.

Around the end of the 18th century, the "good logg Dwelling house" was replaced by a two-story, three-bay, stone structure, its date indicated by the gently arched stone lintels above windows and doors. This house is laid out with a side hall on the left and two rectangular rooms on the right, all standing above an 11-foot-deep cellar. An outside door accesses this space.

At one time, steps under the main staircase in the hall led into a long, narrow section of the cellar under that hall that is separated from the main area of the cellar by a stone wall without a door. This might have been used as a safe harbor in case of attack when the house was first built. With the stairs removed, this area can no longer be entered.

The main floor of the house has high ceilings, wide woodwork and a chair rail. The second floor has the same side-hall plan with two bedrooms on the east and an attic above.

New owners

In 1971, Bill and Ginn Plummer both worked in Washington, D.C., and lived five minutes from their jobs. Then they decided to move to the country so Bill Plummer could be closer to his quarter horse. Plummer was a skilled horseman, and he and his horse, Ben, had won top state awards together. Plummer wanted a house where he could stable his horse so he could easily ride and care for him.

The Plummers chose Garron's Loss because it was within their 50-mile radius of Washington and close to Interstate 70, making the trip to the city as short as possible.

The house was not livable. Fireplaces had been removed. Systems had failed. A fire in the 1930s had destroyed much of the interior of the house and led to a cursory renovation. Little had been done since. The Plummers bought a trailer and parked it in the yard. They lived in the trailer while work was being done during the next year.

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