104 – Widmyer House, circa 1880, west of Clear Spring, MD

One of the Washington County houses available for curatorship under the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is located near Fort Frederick, on a gravel lane that passes Mount Carmel Church Cemetery off Big Pool Road. It sits on fairly flat land surrounded by woods and faces east. It was built on stone foundations between 1880 and 1890, and has German lap siding covered with imitation brick asphalt shingles. The house has five bays, a center entrance and a porch across the front with chamfered posts and scroll-cut brackets. The windows are two-over-two with original beaded side trim and peaked headers.

The main door opens into a center hall with a stairway that still has the original turned newel and balusters. This hall opens to rooms on the right and left and leads into the kitchen at the rear. The second level has four bedrooms and a closed stairway to the unfinished attic. The framing of the roof is solid, and the tin roof appears to be intact.

A cinderblock room has been added to the back of the house off the kitchen, and there is a partial basement under the south side of the building. A now missing wood stove provided heat. The hot water heater is partially submerged, but an iron-rich well and a septic system are in place. Several of the rooms have been paneled with four foot by eight foot sheet goods. Most of the interior woodwork is original, and the basic structure is sound.

In 1866, Jackson Murray purchased a two acre parcel of land from George Cook and his wife for $73. Two years later, Murray bought two-and-one-half adjacent acres for $62. It isn’t known what buildings were there, if any; but Sarah, Samuel and John Murray, heirs of Jackson Murray, sold their interests in the property in 1883 for $300 to Thomas Widmyer and his wife, also an heir of Jackson Murray’s. It was probably the Widmyers who built the house. The Widmyers sold it 1918 to Charles and Zeta Kaylor for $1,300; and it was Zeta Kaylor who deeded the property to the Department of Natural Resources in 1974 while retaining a life estate. Here is a house that needs very little to be habitable, but more effort will be required if its original charm is to be restored.

Epilogue: The curatorship for the Widmyer House went to Gil Dyer and his wife Michele, who is a descendant of the Widmyer family. Gil, an electrician, has replaced the electrical service in the house and bartered with a plumber to replace the plumbing. Ductwork for HVAC is completed and the stairway to the kitchen has been restored. After repairing the plaster and decorating, they will move in by the end of the year 2001. Michele has found the graves of her great-great-grandparents David and Anna Roof in the Mount Carmel Church graveyard and salvaged an account book of his that had been thrown away. She rejoices in finding the threads of her family history.

This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, June 28, 1998 as part of  the 104th in the series by Patricia Schooley about the historical homes of Washington County.