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Donated 27 acres always will be used for farmland

July 23, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - In 1971, Scott Hilleary's mother made sure she was prepared if nuclear war ever threatened her Baltimore-area home.

Motivated by the talk of disaster by ladies in her Daughters of American Revolution chapter, Eleanor "Polly" Trapnell Hilleary Dorsey Dosh purchased a small apple orchard estate in rural Berkeley County for a rural escape.

"My mother took it seriously," Hilleary said Friday. "She did something about it."

The threat never materialized before she died two years ago at age 91, and the 44.5-acre refuge in Back Creek Valley off Hampshire Grade Road ultimately became a weekend getaway.

The farmhouse she once enjoyed there was destroyed by an electrical fire in 1992, several years after remarriage helped steer her interests elsewhere.

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The property's 27 acres of fruit trees and barns and outbuildings also are gone.

But it forever will be used for agriculture.

In 2004, the property was protected from development through a conservation easement granted by the Berkeley County Farmland Protection Board, and soon, the property deed will list the county's Historic Landmarks Commission as the owner.

"It all belongs to the taxpayers of Berkeley County," commission Chairman Don C. Wood said Friday.

"I just think its wonderful. (Scott and his brother, John Hilleary) have been extremely generous," Wood said.

The Hillearys still reside in Catonsville, Md., but now are members of the Berkeley County Historical Society.

The land donation actually is the second the commission has received from the Hilleary brothers.

In 2004, they announced plans to deed 105 acres in south Berkeley County, including the 18th-century two-story limestone home of Zackquill Morgan, the founder of Morgantown, W.Va., to the commission.

Known as Cool Spring Farm, the property also was protected from development through a conservation easement, and both parcels now are being used for a beef cattle farming operation. Hilleary described the Back Creek Valley farm as an "appendage" to the other, noting it is being used to make hay for the bovines.

"It just seemed to us to be a natural fit," Hilleary said.

Aside from the land donations, the Hillearys gave the historical society a circa-1790s mahogany grandfather clock now on display at the organization's museum in the historic Belle Boyd House off East Race Street.

They also donated a marble, 19th-century octagon table and three Empire side chairs.

"You're blessed to have someone like Don Wood," Scott Hilleary said. "He inspired us."

Though not in the business of accepting land donations, Wood did not rule out possibly accepting other property if the circumstances were right and county leaders approve.

Members of the Landmarks Commission are appointed by the Berkeley County Commission, which ultimately must agree to accept land donations.

Aside from the farm land, the Landmarks Commission also has been deeded the Quaker Cemetery off Tuscarora Road, west of Interstate 81, and the historic Morgan Cabin property across Runnymeade Road from the Zackquill Morgan estate.

Morgan was the fifth son of Col. Morgan Morgan, who is believed to be Berkeley County's first permanent white settler.

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