28 – George Adam Geeting House, circa 1780, Keedysville, MD
On the fringe of Keedysville, tucked close in a sharp bend of Dogstreet Road at the terminus of Geeting Road, sits a house long neglected and lately abandoned. The windows were boarded, the roof was bent and an old piano sat on the porch. The southern section of this building is built of log, was covered with asphalt shingles and was two stories high. The northern wing is a story-and-a-half stone structure. This home evolved during the life of George Adam Geeting. The north wall of the stone section reveals the distinct outline of the large interior fireplace and chimney, indicating that this unit once served an earlier structure; and there is the ghost of a roof, which suggests that the front room once was only one story high.
Douglass and Paula Reed did an extensive investigation of the puzzling development of this building, and they decided that the southeastern section of the log wing was built first, around 1780, over a full limestone basement with a dirt floor. This log crib was originally one-and-a-half stories high. Shortly after, a detached frame kitchen was added with the substantial stone fireplace and chimney, which are now incorporated in the north wall.
About 1800, the southwestern section, a three-sided log wing one-and-a-half stories high, was built without a stone foundation. This extended the original log crib. This addition had a plastered brick fireplace and mantel, which still remain. A few years later, the wooden detached kitchen was removed, except for the stone fireplace; and a one-story stone addition was added to the original log crib. Around 1810, an ell-shaped stone wall was added, connecting the northwest corners of the log and stone wings. This aligned the western sides of the log and stone sections into a straight wall. The stone gable was raised and the peak re-centered further west. An unusual stone corner fireplace and chimney were added in the outer corner of this new room, and its original shallow shelf and mantel still exist. When these changes were made, original rafters were salvaged and reused, pieces were added to extend their length and they were re-notched and reset over the plates.
The last significant change to the house occurred 50 years later, about the middle of the 19th century, when the roof of the log wing was raised, and a full second story and attic were added. Here again the original rafters were reused.
George Adam Guding was born in Prussia in 1741 and immigrated to the Keedysville area in 1759. He had been a miner in Germany but was educated. In this country, he quarried stone, dug wells in the summer and taught school in the winter. Because of the difficulty of pronouncing the German name, Guding variously became Gitting, Guething, Geeting and Keedy. George Adam Guding became George Adam Geeting.
Raised in the German Reformed Church, Geeting was an active but humble participant in the religious life of his community and became a close friend of Reverend Phillip Otterbein. Clergymen rode the circuit then, traveling from congregation to congregation to preach, and thus were able to be with the same group only every few weeks. Tradition says that when Otterbein was not present for services, Geeting would read sermons to the congregation from a book given him by Otterbein. At Otterbein’s suggestion, Jacob Hess removed the book during one of the services; and Geeting preached without it, never needing to read a sermon again. Geeting was ordained to the ministry in 1783, was the third bishop of the United Brethren Church, and is considered one of its founding fathers.
Geeting and his wife raised five sons and five daughters in the house on Dogstreet Road. Upon his death in 1812, Geeting’s will states, …Principally and first of all I give and recommend my sole into the hands of Almighty God that gave it, and my body I recommend to the earth. First I give and bequeath to Elizabeth my dear beloved wife the two rooms and kitchen and cellar and Garden wish we now occupy and firewood and stable and Cow wich we have now in possession and summer pasture and food in the winter and she shall have yearly six bushel wheat and four bushels Rye and four bushels Corn during her live or widowship and my beloved wife by marriage brought with her to the value of fifty pounds wich shall be paid to her out of my estate. The will goes on to give ..all my plantation… to his beloved son Jacob at fifteen pounds per acre… and six-acre plots to two other sons at the same price. This would suggest that Geeting shared the house on Dogstreet Road with his son Jacob’s family and that relationship was to continue for his wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s will makes no mention of the house.
This house, listed in the National Register of Historic Places because of its association with Geeting and its vernacular architecture, deteriorated for years. It was purchased by a church group that wanted to preserve it, but they were unable to finance the effort and eventually sold the house to George Maharay and his brother Arthur. Determined to do it right, the Maharays did extensive research on the building and applied their own aesthetic yardstick to the project. They decided to return the log section of the house to its story-and-a-half height, both because that was the way it was when Geeting lived and because it fits better into the landscape. Many of the logs were termite riddled and had to be replaced; a log house was purchased to supply replacements. A foundation had to be built under the western section and a crawl space created. Old window sashes were bought to replace the missing ones; old six-panel doors were acquired and refinished to close interior spaces. Ray Willard and his crew removed the roof, leveled the floors, pointed the stone and installed modern plumbing, heating, wiring and air conditioning so that it does not intrude on the 18th century presence of the house. Evidence suggested that the log section had been covered with clapboard, so new clapboard was made—random width with a beaded edge.
It is almost done now. There are mounds of dirt and debris in the yard; a massive stone and brick fireplace stands in the back, yet another vestige of an earlier structure, left for the new owner to determine its fate. But the clapboard is being painted a subtle blued gray, and the interior is nearly finished. The view is magnificent—rolling hills and fields rising to South Mountain. George Adam Geeting would be proud.
Epilogue: Donal Rivera and Margaret Swinston-Rivera bought Geeting’s house in 1996 and have been working on it ever since. They have treated the stone walls and chimneys with waterproofing because they leaked, and added a berm in front of the house to keep storm water from washing down the roads into the basement. A paneled computer room has been added in the basement and a two-car garage in back. Window sills have been repaired with epoxy, 19th century variety fruit trees have been planted, and the stone wall along the walkway has been rebuilt. And now, an open-sided structure with a wooden shingle roof is being built around the exterior fireplace that was left standing after the wash house burned many years ago.
This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, October 6, 1991 as the 28th in the series.