10 – The Willows, circa 1800-1825, near Chewsville, MD
The great red brick barn stands sentinel along Route 66 south of Cavetown, its ends pierced with diamond patterns in the brickwork–a lovely solution to the mundane problem of ventilating a barn and a testament to the taste and station of its builder. Beyond the barn an array of well-kept outbuildings surround a cream-colored brick dwelling. A tributary of Beaver Creek twists among the buildings and shade trees and splashes over a small waterfall near a footbridge in the front yard. This lovely spot is The Willows, home of Merrick Parker and his wife, who are the fifth generation of his family to live on this land.
In 1769, Ludwick Huyett purchased two tracts of land, Whiskey Alley and a part of Scared From Home, from Jonathan Hager, who held a defaulted mortgage on the properties. Five years later, Huyett purchased two other properties, patented as Millers Quarry and Stones and Timber, which he had combined into a single tract that was then called Alltogether. It was not until 1798 that Huyett was able, by a decree of the Court of Chancery, to gain clear title to the original lands. He then sought to have his properties combined and patented under the name Huyett’s Meadows, which contained 430 and 1/2 acres. In 1812, he divided his holdings and sold half to each of his two younger sons for $2,232 …current currancy of the United States. (Huyett also owned a farm in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, which he sold to his oldest son John in 1809.) Daniel Huyett purchased the northern half of his father’s property, now The Willows, and probably built most of the buildings there.
The driveway to The Willows curls past a small stone building on the left. Now used for storage, this once was the blacksmith’s shop, and the bellows were still there into the 20th century. A small log building with white roughcast casing lies to the right. It holds three rooms, with a large fireplace at one end and a loft above. The massive exterior chimney, seemingly supporting a gable end, is a distinguishing feature. In the family it was known as “the old house,” indicating that it was the first family dwelling. Ludwick Huyett no doubt lived there, at least part of the time, while the land was being cleared for farming. There is evidence that there was another dwelling upstream on his property, and he may also have lived there at one time. The “old house” is one of several log structures Ludwick Huyett built in the late 18th century. There was also “the old stable,” which was a barn with stables below and a hayloft above. It was removed in the 1940s because it was dangerously close to Route 66 after the road was realigned. There were several log hog houses, one of which remains on the property, and the former tenant house, now known as Spur Road Cottage, which is half log and half stone.
Paralleling the driveway is another small plastered building, this one of stone, with chimneys enclosed within the gables at either end. One half is the wash house with a huge fireplace where two large iron kettles once hung from trammels. Water was dipped from the creek just a few steps away and carried to this house to do laundry. The other half was divided into two sections with two outside doors. One contains the flue for the chimney and once was the drying house, where fruits were dried for winter preservation. The other section is a smokehouse, which was entered through a door in the gable end of the building. In the corner is the hogshead once used for brine cure, and overhead are poles and hooks for hanging the meat and sausages for smoking.
The dwelling house is ample and gracious. The front section is the older and is believed to have been built by Daniel Huyett in the early 1800s. The woodwork in the living room is deeply molded with bull’s eye corner blocks. In the room adjoining, known as the hall room, the door casings are mitered at the corners and planed with a shallower pattern. The stairway is in the center of this section and has a newel post over six feet tall. The handrail is straight and ends in a volute that sits atop the newel post. The stair then turns with wedge-shaped treads and descends another five steps around the post to the first floor. Fortunately the newel post is firmly fastened, for Merrick Parker can remember seeing his mother, then past 80, slowly sliding down it, like an old fireman, after losing her footing on the steps.
On the second floor of this section, are three bedrooms that are interconnected as well as having hall entrances. Two more bedrooms are in the attic. None of the bedrooms has closets, so they are furnished with antique clothes presses and chests.
The back half of the house was built in the 1860s and probably replaces an earlier wing, for a large archway between the two sections is finished in what appears to be original woodwork. There are fireplaces in all but two rooms of the house. The one in the kitchen is built of salmon brick and has an opening almost five feet square with an iron lintel. The dining room and pantry adjoin the kitchen, and back stairs lead to two more bedrooms and an enclosed porch. Above is a long garret. The sections of the house are connected on each floor, but each could be a self-sufficient unit. The basement has a gravel floor with bins for potatoes and apples, and a large, wooden, zinc-lined ice chest. Old houses were not waterproof, so gravel floors permitted any flooding to dissipate quickly.
The compound also includes a stone dairy beside the well. Here milk products were kept cool by pumping water from the well into the trough around their containers. Close by was the icehouse, which was filled each year with ice from the pond in Pondsville; and was still in use in the 1930s. The roof part of the icehouse was recently moved to another location behind the barn and the excavation filled in to facilitate mowing. A red brick privy with diamond-shaped ventilation holes worked in its sides matches the barn. About a half mile southeast of the compound is a lime kiln. In the Illustrated Atlas of Washington County, Maryland 1877, D. Gaither Huyett advertised, …Lime, Lime, Lime, for Whitewashing, Building and Agricultural purposes, for sale at the “Marble Lime Kilns” 7 1/2 miles south of Cavetown, D. G. Huyett, Proprietor.
The house is furnished in keeping with its age and includes memorabilia of five generations. Daniel Huyett’s tall case clock stands in one corner and lovely paintings that once were his grace the walls. The Parkers’ children and grandchildren have a special love for this home and will live here in turn. The family and this land have grown together over more than 200 years, each changing and enhancing the other. The Huyetts have built this farmstead, used it and changed it to meet the needs of a new time, but always with reverence for the past and for those who have gone before. There are no willows any more. They were lost to age and weather decades ago. Merrick Parker takes the long view. He doesn’t want to replace trees that can’t endure. “Perhaps I’ll change the name to Holly Hall,” he says as he points to the young trees he has planted along the creek.
Epilogue: Merrick, 97, and his wife Virginia, 89, died in 2000, and the property passed to their descendants. The Parker’s grandson John Clagett moved to the Willows in 1998, the seventh generation of his family to live in the house. He cherishes the farm and is working to restore the blacksmith shop. When that is finished, he will move on to “the old house.” He has already planted young willow trees near the road.