105 – Dogstreet Farm, circa 1790 and 1820, Keedysville, MD
The little farm at the edge of Keedysville on Dogstreet Road had been neglected for a number of years. Its fields grew tall with weeds and its vast barn sagged, then slowly collapsed. The three metal cupolas disappeared. Windows in the house were broken and stuffed with clothing. Trash accumulated in the yard and in all the dilapidated outbuildings. At the end of 1996, Lawrence and Karen Matson purchased this sad property. Both Matsons work for the National Park Service, and they felt they could improve the property and make a profit. It has proved to be a tremendous job.
Evenings, weekends and vacations have been spent clearing tons of trash from the buildings and the yard. Many of the outbuildings were so compromised that they had to be removed. The acres of fields were mowed, taking out broad patches of scrub trees, thistles and nettles. Hidden rocks and trash took a toll on tires, but the job was done. Piles of stones were accumulated, the barn foundation was cleaned and the stone fence behind it was rebuilt.
The house is built close to the road with the ground sloping steeply away to a gully. Outcrops cover the slope behind the house, and one of these supports the stone fence behind the barn foundation. A central set of stone stairs divides the retaining wall close to the house. For years ashes were thrown over this wall, hiding the last two steps, and these too had to be excavated. A dry, hand-dug well was filled in for safety reasons, a cistern next to the house was removed and the silo taken down.
The house was built in two sections. The front part is logs, clad in beaded siding and later covered with asbestos shingles. Where originals still exist, the windows have nine-over-six sashes on the first story with six-over-six sashes on the second. This section of the house has a one-room cellar with puncheon insulation under its rear half. Behind this section is a large stone wing, also two stories, with a galleried porch on the south side. Many of the stones are quite large, and the corners are quoined. Because of the slope of the hill, this wing’s first floor level connects with the basement of the original section. No basement exists under the stone section.
The two wings of the house comprise two separate sections because of the way they are joined. The log wing has three rooms on both levels, but the floor plans are not the same. The elegant six-panel front door opens into a large living room or meeting room. Wide beaded boards cover the ten-foot ceiling and form wainscoting. A chimney featuring a simple mantelpiece was added in the early 19th century to serve a heating stove. On the right side is a smaller room with a shallow fireplace in a deep chimney column. The mantel is a charming folk piece with applied vines and swags. The single entry into the stone wing is off a hall at the back of the living room, and it leads to the bedrooms of the stone section.
A boxed staircase at the back of the living room leads to the second floor of the original log house. Upstairs, two of the bedroom doors have hand-wrought strap hinges with rattail pintles. Wide beaded boards form partition walls and cover the ceiling.
The first floor of the stone section has two rooms. The smaller is about twelve feet wide and has doors on either side. The south door enters off the porch. The opposite door opens on the north and two stone steps rise to ground level. A massive service fireplace with a huge hand-hewn lintel stands at the gable end. To its left, steep winder stairs lead to the second floor and to its right is an original cupboard. The larger room is entered from this room and has windows on either side of the room, with a door onto the lower porch. A chimney with a thimble for a stove rises in the north wall. In the northeast corner, another flight of steep winder stairs leads to two rooms upstairs. In the attic, the gable end of the log house can be seen with a few pieces of original clapboard still in place.
This stone and log house stands on the tract Satisfied, part of a larger land grant Hills, Dales, and the Vineyard. About 1790, Reverend George Adam Geeting, Sr., (1741-1812) or one of his sons built the log section. Geeting’s son Simon Geeting or Keedy (1788-1875) occupied this property before he inherited it in 1812. Reverend Geeting’s sons Simon and George Adam Jr. both became ministers. Because of its unusual ten-foot ceiling height, separate entrance and lack of heating, it is believed that the large main room of the log house was used by the Geetings as a meeting room for religious or educational purposes. The nearby Geeting Meeting House was also unheated until 1812, since Brethren doctrine held that …stoves in churches were considered as pertaining to the devil.
The stone wing was built either by Simon Keedy in the 1810s or by Samuel Cost after his purchase of the property in 1820. Here, Cost operated the largest shoemaking shop in the county and raised ten children with his wife Barbara Keedy. The Cost farm was used as a Union hospital after the Battle of Antietam in September 1862.
Not all the property’s problems are the result of neglect. When the tract transferred to the Matsons, the grandfathered right to graze stock on the rolling pastures ceased. The citizens of Keedysville have expressed opposition to other developments in their community, yet here is a piece of land, still configured as a farm, which cannot be used as such. Who can afford to mow eleven acres? Wouldn’t it be more environmentally friendly to run stock on these fields? This prohibition of livestock within city limits virtually assures that the property will be subdivided and developed.
Note: This article includes historical information researched by Merry Stinson for the McGuigan’s successful nomination of Hills, Dales, and the Vineyard to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
Epilogue: Chris McGuigan and his wife Margaret purchased the property with three-and-a-half acres in 1999 and worked on it for a year before moving in. They have retained the floor plan and kept everything that was salvageable—woodwork trim, plaster and floors. The modern siding has been discarded and the original clapboard removed so that it can be scraped and replaced. New siding will be made, duplicating the old, to fill in the missing pieces.
This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, July 19, 1998 as the 105th in the series.