34 – Fiery’s Inheritance, circa 1790, east of Clear Spring, MD
North of the church, along St. Paul’s Church Road, is a stone house set at right angles to the road, far down a lane. It is four bays wide with flat arches over the windows and coursed ashlar stonework. The corners of the house are quoined and there is a water table. The roof is raised-seam metal with interior chimneys at either gable end of the main block. The house is set into a low hill so that the cellar exits at ground level in the rear. A spring rises in this cellar and is contained in a more recent concrete pool that once was used to cool milk cans. The spring waters emerge from the house and fill a stone-edged catch basin at the rear of the building then flow through the remains of what once was a two-story springhouse just a few feet from the main structure.
At the back of the main house is a wing with double porches overlooking the catch basin. At the end of these porches, on the ground level, are a masonry wood box and what appears to be the remnants of a drying house. Above, on the first floor level, in this same masonry column, is a beehive bake oven. An 1874 deed refers to this 150 acre farm as part of Fiery’s Inheritance, described in land records as having a …Special Warrent of Resurvey April 22, 1789, granted to Joseph Fiery and containing 205 acres.
The main entrance to the house is in the left center bay and is sheltered by a replacement porch. Under a four-light transom, the front door has six raised panels facing the outside and is batten within. Long strap hinges span the width of the door, turn dramatically then terminate, split and tapered. The door is caught by a large iron box lock and closes over a stone sill. Inside the door is a room the length of the original building section. There is a fireplace on the left with a narrow mantel board raised well above the opening of the firebox and its molded surround. To the right, an elegant doorway leads to the first of two rooms in the other half of this section. The molding around the doors is mitered and joined to create narrow, rectangular “ears” or crossettes on either side. The stairs to the second floor ascend in the middle of the house, between the main room and the room to the side, and appear to have been enclosed at one time.
What was once the back door, opposite the front entrance, now leads into the ell and retains its stone sill. The window beside it has been turned into a cupboard accessed from the newer room. This door is also a six-panel batten door with simple strap hinges finished with round button ends. This room has a door to the side porch, on the second level at the back of the house, and also a door to the last room of the wing, the kitchen. The kitchen has a large cooking fireplace in its end wall and a steep stairway to its right. It too has a door to the porch. The interior doors have thumb latches and strap hinges.
Upstairs above the main section, a chair rail circles the perimeter wall. Vertical, beaded plank walls intersect this chair rail and divide the space into three rooms. The hardware on the doors is unusual. A twisted iron bracket that descends from the pivot, turns to the wall and is secured with a screw, this supports the pintles for one pair of strap hinges. The catch for one of the thumb latches has a similar bracket support. The hinges are secured with large, hand wrought nails driven through the frame and clinched. Broad stairs with a comfortable rise reach the attic above this section. At one side of this space, a room has been created by hand split laths fastened horizontally on support members to create side walls and ceiling, then plastered. On the outside of this wall, in large, flowing script, is written, W. A. Newcomer and other, smaller signatures and dates from the recent past.
The attic above the ell holds two rooms. The one closer to the original block of the house has two narrow dormers and an unusual cupboard in the union wall, probably filling a second-floor window opening in the original block. The top corners of the cupboard are clipped to accommodate the slope of the roof. Two narrow, vertical plank doors slide in front of a fixed central panel, and are braced with beaded battens and moved with large, vertical wooden handles.
Below the ell, three rooms have been excavated from the hill. The room closest to the original section of the house has a lower earthen floor than the other two and is entered only from the outside. The two end rooms have a single entrance, a window on the opposite wall and a door between the rooms. The basement under the first section of the house appears to have been one room originally. The timbers supporting the first floor span the entire width of the section from front to back. Too small for this length, they sagged over time. A wood column was placed under a corner of the hearth to give support and was later sawed off so that a stone wall could be built across the width of the building to support the beams. Original mud and straw insulation can be seen between the beams.
This is an 18th century house in an amazing state of preservation with most of the original fabric intact. Part of the Harold Snyder estate, this home has recently been purchased by Leroy Myers, Jr., who is beginning restoration.
The only will for a Joseph Fiery was written December 11, 1832, and probated the following August. It gives his …daughters Mary Catharine Fiery and Mary Eve Fiery the stone end of the house where I now live, the garden in the hollow, fire wood sufficient for their use provided for them so long as they remain single. The will goes on to distribute his lands to his son John and two sons-in-law, then, in difficult to read script, says, …Whereas my son Daniel Fiery hath highly offended and displeased me by his conduct in life…I give and bequeath the sum of One thousand dollars to be placed in the hands of my executors…to receive the interest…provided nevertheless that if my son Daniel Fiery should hereafter marry some woman of good character and in no wise marry Catharine Myers…to receive said thousand dollars in three annul payments thereafter marriage. If, indeed, Catharine’s indistinct surname was Myers, could the new owner of the farm be related to her?
Epilogue: The Myers covered the floors with plywood and carpeting. Walls were dry walled and all new systems were added. Much of the original fabric of the house remains and is stable. The stone slave quarters/springhouse is being rebuilt and a new roof structure will be added.
This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, May 3, 1992 as the 34th in the series.