Peter Burr Farm artisan bread provides a taste of the 1700s

June 18, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

BARDANE, W.Va. - It's like no bread stocked on the average grocery store's shelves.

Using live yeast cultures and natural grain flour, omitting additives, and mixing and kneading it by hand, the artisan bread baked at the Peter Burr Farm is truly a taste of the 1700s.

On Saturday, volunteers at the farm opened the historic home of Peter Burr to visitors, while other businesses in the Burr Industrial Park in Bardane off W.Va. 9 held open houses.

The bread, baked in an outdoor wood-fired oven, attracted many. Several anxiously were awaiting the arrival of a raisin bread, the spices of which wafted through the air before it was finished.


"There is nothing like artisan bread," said Bill Theriault, 60, of Hagerstown, who is in charge of the oven. "My opinion is you can't find this kind of bread anywhere in the Eastern Panhandle except here."

The oven was built as those in the 18th century would have been. Given that bread then was treated like a meal and that Burr had 13 children plus farmhands - not slaves; Burr did not own any - to feed, it's likely a lot of bread was baked at the farm more than two centuries ago, Theriault said.

Owned by the county's Historic Landmarks Commission, the Peter Burr house was built by Connecticut transplant Peter Burr in 1751.

While other log and stone structures predate it, the house is believed to be the oldest constructed using the frame method in West Virginia.

Every year, all of the fourth-graders in Jefferson County visit the farm, learning how life was lived long ago, said Maggie Keeler of Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Although the home no longer housed anyone after the 1930s, Burr's descendants always kept a roof over it, which helped to preserve the home. Restoration continues, with furnishing just beginning.

Walton Danforth "Kip" Stowell, portraying Peter Burr during Saturday's event, said he has heard there is a woman still alive who was born in the house decades ago. It's said she once was the wife of a past Hagerstown mayor; Stowell said he hopes to find her.

Mainly using chestnut wood, Burr built and expanded the home over the years as his family grew. The western section initially might have been a barn that later was enclosed.

Because Burr was Presbyterian and not a member of the Church of England, he was prohibited from being elected to public office in what then was the state of Virginia, Stowell said.

Burr founded a Presbyterian church in Duffields, an unincorporated community outside of Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Members of The Friends of the Peter Burr Farm Inc. bake bread once a month from April to October, with pre-orders accepted by e-mail.

On July 15, in additional to bread-baking, a re-enactment of the fatal duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr will be held at the farm. Aaron Burr, a former vice president, was a cousin of Peter Burr.

A market fair with vegetables also is planned next month, as are 19th-century musical performances and Appalachian clogging.

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