Saturday, February 13, 2010


Cold blue rebirth
remains at sprawling winter rest
while frends shadow joy-dancing
blend hot brilliant breath
with wet ears and sharp teeth.
Missing eyebrows
gift of time
one slow termite stroke
now surely would show surprise
as this true sentinel
centuries trapped in withered paint
witness of growth and loss
remains momentarily

While wondering what a house filled with snow looks like, Teke pauses his play to scrutinize the framing.  Took three hours of shoveling to clear the interior of snow, and of course Teke helped......make a mess while I shovelled.

Looking mighty fine, must admit, all windows in, front stairs replaced, new roof on porch and half story side.  This picture was taken a month after the top one, and reflects almost two years of work. 


Original Land Grant and Land Survey

Hello again!

OK, my big questions are:

Why so many men in such a large partnership on one parcel of land?

Why the name the hopefull Unitie -what were they trying to unite?

Where did the navigable waterway go?

Where was the original road?

Why such a substantial structure way out there?

Why next to one of the earliest Quaker settlements?

Can you imagine a snowfall in the late 1600's like the ones we just had? I can't imagine the discomfort, the loss of limb and life, and the fear of survival the settlers experienced. We have so much now to ease our lives now, and every day something new to make discomfort almost imperceptible in a quick moment. One of my great joys about this project is an appreciation for an earlier life as I imagine it must have been, and a true gratitude to have some creature comforts our snow is melting slightly now, and I'm still a bit housebound. I've let my dogs out to run a bit this morning, and Hope (blue merle Amish Aussie rescue) took her time on her return. I could tell she was ignoring my whistles, just for a few more moments of frozen freedom. Teke (tricolor Treestarr Aussie), on the other hand, is like velcro, the fluffy type, and immediately returns when I need him too.

Alrighty, for those of you that enjoy the details of the history of our great nation, I had to include the original paper trail. For the rest of you, I apologize in advance, this next part may put you to sleep.

The words themselves in a blob on the page mean little to many, but each man in this colonial partnership contributed to the founding of our country, some in big ways, some in small. It took several months of searching for me to find these documents, which are kept in the state archive due to fragility. I think it's sad that they're hidden from view on a musty shelf somewhere, so I place them here for all to enjoy. The documents reflect a style of thinking and writing, as well as the religious and political structures of that time period. Before I head out to run some errands I thought I'd record here the exact words from the land grant, as I'm translating them from an old handwriting and use of English off the copy sent to me directly from the archives (spelling and punctuation original):

"Charles Absolute Lord and Prop. of the Province of Maryland and (unknown blurred word caught in margin) Baron of Baltemore To all psouls to whom these presents shall come greeting in our Lord God Everlasting Knows yee that Whereas Charles James James Frisby John Howell George Wardner Joseph Hopkins William Peerce Richard Pullen Ebenezer Blackeston Benjamin Gunry Edward Blay Robert Sanders and John James of Cecil County our said Province of Maryland had due unto them one hundred and fifty acres of Land within our said Province one hundred acres thereof by afsignment from William Hemsly Jun. the Afsignee of Cor.Uencent Lowe part of a warrant for twelve hundred and fifty acres granted the said Lowe the sixth day of march one thouseand six hundred eighty one and the other fifty by afsignment from John James part of a warrant for four hundred acres granted the said John James the sixth day of march one thousand Six hundred Eighty one as appeares Upon Record and had surveyed and laid out for them a tract of Land for one hundred and fifty acres called the hopefull Unitie Lying in the County aforesaid all whose Right title and Interest of in and to the same the said James frisby hath afsigned and sell over unto William Hemsly Jun. of the same County as appeares upon Record and Upon such Coudilious (?)and Learmes (?) as are Exprefsed in the Coudilious (?) of (unknown word lost in margin) hours of our late father Caecilius (?) of noble memory according to his Declarations bearing date the two and twentyeth day of September one thousand six hundred fifty eight with such alteration as in them are made by his Instructions to us bearing date the Eight and twentyeth day of July one thousand six hundred sixty nine and the one and twentyeth day of march next following all being and Remain (then the "ing" was written squeezed in the last bit of page, and on the top of the next page continued: ) Remaining upon Record in our said Province of Maryland Wee Doe hereby grant unto them the said Charles James John Howell George Wardner Joseph Hopkins William Peerce Richard Pullen Ebenezer Blakeston Benjamin Gunry Edward Blay Robert Sanders John James and William Hensly Jun. all that tract or parcell of Land called the hopefull Unitie Lying in Cecill County aforesaid Beginning att a marked Red Oake standing on the west side of the maine branch of Steelpond Creeke and Running from the said tree west and by South one hundred and fifty perches to a marked White Oak. Standing on the north side of the maine Road and Running from thence with a line drawne from the aforesiad White Oake with a line drawne Sourth and by East one hundred and sixty perches and from thence with a ine drawne East and by North one hundred and fifty perches and from thence with a line drawne to the first bound tree following and laid out according to the Certificate of Survey therof taken and Returned into the Land Office att the Citty of St Maryes bearing date the twelfth day of may one thousand Six hundred Eighty two and there Remaining upon Recrd for one hundred and fifty acres more or lefse. Togeather with all Rights profitts benefitts and Privileges thereunto Belonging (Royall issues Excepted) To have and to hold the same to them the said Charles James John Howell George Wardner Joseph Hopkins William Peerce Richard Pullen Ebenezer Blakeston Benjamin Gunry Edward Blay Robert Sanders John James and William Hemsely Jun. their and Every of their heires and afsigned for Ever To be holden of Us and our heires as of our mannor of Baltemore in free and Common Soccage by fealty only for all manner of Services yeilding and paying therefore yearly Unto Us and our heires att our Receipt att our fifty of St Maryes att the two most Usuall feasts in the yeare (Gris!) (this last word being written and enclosed by a drawn circle on the page) the feasts of the Annunciation of the Blefsed Virgin Mary and St Michael the Archangel by Ever and Equal portion the Rent of Six shillings Sterling in Silver or gold and for a fine upon Every alienation of the said Land or any part or parcell thereof one whole yeares Rent in Silver or gold or the full vallue therof in such comodified as wee and our heires or such officer ofr officers as shall be appointed by Us and our heires from time to time to collect and Recive the same shall accept in discharge thereof att the choice of Us and our heires or such officer or officers as aforesaid Provided that if the said sume for a fyne for alienation shall not be paid unto us and our heires or such officer or officers as aforesaid before such alienation and the said aliention Entred Upon Record Either in the Provinciall Court or in the Comely (sp) Court where the said Parcell of Lan Lyeth within one month nex after such alienation the said alienaction shall be void and of noe effect Given att our Citty of St Mares Under the great seale of our said Province of Maryland this fifth day of October in the Eight yeare of our Dominion sc Lunog Domi one thousand Six hundred Eighty three Wittnefse our Selfe _ _ _ _ _ _ _ "

And the original Land Survey:

"To the Right Honble The Lord Propry. These in humble maner thereweth that by vertue of ____ of twelve hundred fifty acres of land granted to Col Vincent Lowe being due to him by Afsd from Christopher Browning and from the said Lowe due William Hemsley Jun. and lastly by afsd of one hundred and fifty ("and fifty" was lined through) acres of this forementioned Charles James, James Frisby, John Howell, George Wardner, Joseph Hopking,s Wm Peerce, Richard Pullin Ebenezer Blackistone Benj. Gunry, Edward Blay and Robert Sanders and bearing date the Sevth day of March last past and by vertue of past of a wart. for four hundred acres of land granted unto John James being due by reneal of a wart. of the same quantity and bearing date with the aforementioned wart. which part being fifty acres William Hemsley Jun Dly Swrn under the Honble Col Vincent Lowe Ws Gen of the province of Maryland have laid out for the afd Charles James, James Frisby, John Howell, George Wardner, Joseph Hopkins, William Peerce, Richard Pullewn, Ebenezr Blackestone Benj Gunry Edward Blay, Robert Sanders and John James all of Cecil County a parcell or Tract of Land lying in Cecile County and Called by the name of the hopefull Unity. Beginning at a Marked Red Oak Standing on the West Side of the Maine branch of Steele Poole Creek and runing from the Said Tree West and by South one hundred and fifty perches to a markt white Oak Standing on the North Side of the main Road and runing from thence with a line drawn from the aft white oak with a line drawn South and by East One hundred and sixty perches and from thence with a line drawn East and by North one hundred and fifty percehes and from thence with a line drawn to the first bounded Tree (?Bulaining?) and now laid out for one hundred and fifty acres of land more or lefs to be holdn of the mannor of Baltemore May the 12th 1682 ___ Wm Hemsley Jun. Dly Swn. On the back side fo the foregoing Certificate was Endorfed this following Afs Vezt Maryland is Know afment by these presents that I James Frisby of Cecille County Do give Grant Bargain Sele (InfeoFF?) and Confirr unto Wm Hemsley Jun ale my rights title and interest of the within mentioned Certificate to have and to hold to him the said William Hemsley Junior his exec, admits or Afsignes from me my heirs Exec Admi. or Afsigne, , or any other perfon or perfons whatsoever. In withnefs whereof here unto I set my hand and Seal this 16th day of October 1682."

Next time, we'll start to explore the lives of the families who lived in the house....


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Some background and progress.......

Hours of digging out the dirt floor bucket by bucket.
Both the kitchen and dining room floors had joists sitting on dirt, and of course the termites are not going to pass up an opportunity for a feast. Most of the wood structure in both sides of the house had to be replaced due to termite damage that spread up from the kitchen and dining room. Below the wood floor in the dining room was a layer of dirt (several inches) on top of a brick floor (see photo below). Below that was another several inches of dirt, and then brick rubble. It's really not clear, even after an archeologist came out to take a look, which room is the original room. My money is on the kitchen, which is where my daughter is sitting, scraping away at the dirt, looking for artifacts.
After we removed the dirt, we noted what appeared to be a stone foundation extending from the eastern gable wall, and the width was consistent with a fireplace foundation. We also noted paint traces in a pattern reflecting an old chimney ghost on the eastern gable kitchen interior wall. There is still a fireplace chimney interior to the end gable wall structure, but not operational at this time. It has a nice unusual cap on it.

We carefully removed the dirt down to about three feet, poured a partial floor, and then created an interior cement block foundation to set new joists on. This way we have space for the plumbing, electricity, and HVAC systems, as well as a barrier to the termites....and no damage to the existing foundation. The interior brick you see crumbling has all been repaired by a mason with approximate mortar mixture to the period of construction. Of course, this wasn't an expense we planned for in the original budget.....ouch!

We saved all the dirt removed from the structre. We spent a large part of 2008 and some of 2009 screening the soil for artifacts. Haven't been through all of the soil yet, but have found marbles, children's toys, pottery shards, a coin, bones, shells, and other fragments of glass and cloth. I'm estimating we have over 1,000 pieces collected, to include the head of a broadaxe (found under the dining room dirt floor) and the intact clay bowl from a pipe.

These two rooms, as well as the rest of the house, are now are fully framed, new windows in place, new subfloor, getting ready for all the systems to be installed over the next few weeks. We replaced the roof on this side of the house and the windows upstairs as well. We have a new well and septic system; HU has never had any plumbing. We are installing a gas fired HVAC system with the option to convert to geothermal in the future. Our plans call to stand up a windmill at some point in the near future. The site is incredible windy, and the energy consultant that came out to estimate wind speed deemed the site very healthy.

The remainder of the structure had a roof replaced before I purchased HU, but will have to be redone as I can afford it as the cedar shingles were placed directly on plywood.....that won't last long! Insulation as been added in the attic and half story roof space.

We've been lucky to still have the original staircase, fireplace mantels, wainscoting, and doors. The previous owner, who was a contractor made minimal structural repairs, removed the interior walls between the living room and parlor rooms, and the upstairs bedrooms, and created a larger living space that will be retained downstairs. Upstairs will be converted to a master suite. Much of the original floor plan is retained. It's a roomy house with roomy dimensions and lots of light and air. Very unusual construction for a rural home in this area, but makes sense when you learn more about the man who supposedly built the main house, Charles Groome.

Well, that's all for now. Next time, some history of the colorful past of this house......



The snow is higher than I can wade and most of our world as we know it has come to a frozen halt. Even my dogs hestitate to play for too long in the cold wet stuff. Blocks of snow buildings, houses, and cars create an bluish sparkling lump outside, and the sun blinds me. No work at HU today. The only movement outside is the snow sliding off the roof.

Almost two years after purchasing this abandoned treasure, our work continues in fits and starts. My business partnership with my GC Jeff has morphed into a dance of friendship, work, dedication to the rescue of HU, and a sharing of our separate lives. The bank funding this project has with good humor and generosity shaped and chiselled our progress. Even the city, the county, and the state has played a role in this project. All the community members, friends and family involved have contributed, if not elbow grease, certainly enthusiasm and encouragement to our progress. Even our sunset yoga class, led by my friend Jenn, along with my rowing team celebrated our progress in late summer evenings as the blankets of fall descended while we hurried to close the house up for winter. We move forward, we are held back, we plan, we unplan, we beg for funds, we scrape both resources and windowsills, and laugh with joy as we watch our work nearing the final points of the first phase completion.

This farm was established as a "partnership" on 12 May 1682, and further documented on 16 october 1682 as a land grant of 150 acres named "Hopefull Unitie" to an unusual group of men at the time, all pioneers, hoping for a bright future for the land they purchased at the headwaters of then named Steel Poole Creek: Charles James, John Howell, George Wardner, Joseph Hopkins, William Peerce, Richard Pullen, Ebenezer Blakeston, Benjamin Gunry (sp?), Edward Blay, Robert Saunders, John James, and William Hensly (Liber 21, folio 454, Charles James, et al and Liber CB3, folio 517-518, Charles James et al). In my research to establish HU as an historic site for the State of Maryland, I've sifted through wills, deeds, books, and articles.

I'm hoping to share some of the results of the both the joy of the project, my experiences navigating this great adventure, and the history attached to the house as well. This is the first blog I've ever written, and appreciate any feedback you provide....

Stay warm!