39 – Cloverly, circa 1795-1800, Smithsburg, MD
Cloverly Farm Lane lies on the left, just as Route 77 starts to ascend South Mountain. At the end of the road, past a few recent homes, nestles Cloverly, a farmstead dating from the end of the 18th century. Containing parts of original land grants called Mount Pleasant, The Three Springs and Locust Spring, this tract was assembled by Charles Ridenour in 1806. Ridenour had patented Locust Spring in 1795, and he included 25 acres of that property in the 155 acres which was then sold to Abraham Carver in 1813 for $4,805. In 1819, 66 and 1/2 acres were sold by Abraham Gerber or Garber, all three spellings being used on documents, to Christopher Flory for $2,660. It was sold again six years later to Christian Stevig for $2,000, demonstrating the wide price fluctuations that could take place in a frontier economy.
Arthur L. Towson and his wife Julia purchased Cloverly in 1898. Mr. Towson’s father had come to Smithsburg in 1864 or 1865 from Williamsport, driven from that area by repeated raids by both Union and Confederate foragers. His father Jacob Towley Towson had come from Towson-Town (present day Towson) and was affiliated with two banks in Williamsport. Once, when there was a run on the bank, Towson had all the gold from the vault piled on a table to demonstrate the solvency of his bank and so was able to calm the panic.
The main house at Cloverly sits shaded in a grove of old trees and faces west, tucked among a collection of outbuildings, broad lawns and fields surrounded by split rail fences. Probably built in the second quarter of the 19th century, it is brick, set on a stone foundation, laid in Flemish bond on the front façade and American bond on the rest of the structure. At the cornice, under the edge of the roof, the bricks are stepped out in a decorative motif–a sophisticated ornamentation. A columned, one-story porch spans the front façade, replacing the original one-bay entry porch. The main entrance is in the middle of the west façade, with two bays on the left and one on the right. Originally, the first-story windows had nine-over-six sashes, and the second had six-over-six. Many years ago, these were replaced with modern sashes.
Beneath a four-light transom the original six-paneled entrance door with its huge iron box lock opens into a hall room with a stairway on the left. The dining room which was once the kitchen is beyond this hall room. It still has the large cooking fireplace, although it has been somewhat altered by the addition of a new brick surround and a raised hearth. On the other side of the hall room, the living room extends the length of this original block of the house and has a fireplace with an elegant mantel centered in the gable wall of the house. When the Towsons purchased the farm, this long space had been made into two rooms, divided along the right side of the fireplace. After having this added wall removed, Julia Towson had the side of the mantel remade so that it would match its existing left side. The joinery is not noticeable.
The Towsons added a wing to the original block of the house. This wing extends to the rear and is centered so that the floor plan has a T footprint. This added a kitchen and workspace on the first floor and an inside bath and bedrooms above. On the wing’s south side is a double porch.
Many original features remain in this home. The door leading into the older section of the house from the wing is dramatically grained. Iron box locks with lever handles are fitted on most doors, and much of the ovolo trimmed woodwork is original. The floors are random-width pine, and the fireplace in the bedroom off the stairs has its original mantel with a large, ceiling-to-floor cupboard at its side. This cupboard once was fitted with shelves, but has had some of them removed and now serves as a closet. Each of its doors has three raised panels and pegged joinery.
The small stone house east of the main house belonged to Dr. Bishop when the Towsons moved to Smithsburg. Bad blood developed between the families, and when the Bishop family sold the property, they sold it to the Diffendalls. In 1948, the Towsons were able to purchase that parcel as well. When the Towsons had grown old, their son Lee renovated the little house, installed heat and electricity “so that decent people could live there to take care of my parents” and rented it to individuals who would look after the older couple. It has served as a rental house since.
This small stone house was built toward the end of the 18th century, and it settles snugly into the hill that slopes west toward the stream that cuts through Cloverly. It originally had two rooms on the first floor, one on either side of the small center hall. These rooms have now been divided so that a bedroom and a study are on the right and a kitchen, bath and living room on the left. The hall wall by the living room has been removed to enlarge the room. The house has interior chimneys in the gable walls and chair rails all around. Both fireplaces on this main floor have been covered over to provide more wall space, but a large cooking fireplace with a brick hearth remains in the cellar.
To the left of the tiny hall, with its beaded board ceiling, are narrow, enclosed stairs to the loft. This was once just one large sleeping space. Now it has two bedrooms with exposed beams, a stone chimney and two original dormers. Two new dormers have also been added at the back to create cross-ventilation.
A wraparound porch curls around the little house and is accessed from the living room as well as from steps at the right of the main entrance. This porch has a pent roof, and its floor was originally built on floor beams that extended through the stone wall. At a later time, stone columns were added to support it; and they remain today, carrying the newly constructed porch. The cellar opens at ground level on the west side under the wraparound porch. A wide, batten door, hung on strap hinges, leads into its main room, and another wide, low door leads into the other room. Original, heavy, pegged frames surround the windows that ventilate the basement from three sides.
A stream flows between the two houses, and an old road, called Bishop’s Lane, ran near it. Once known as Eleven Springs, Cloverly still has water from springs in the springhouse. These springs still provide Cloverly with its drinking water.
Lee Towson lives in the brick house now. He and his wife returned in 1979 after his retirement to make their home there, and, in time, their son Arthur will do the same. Cloverly is a part of the Towson family.
Epilogue: Lee’s son Art Towson and his wife Naomi acquired the brick house in 1974. After Lee’s death, his three children inherited the property and now maintain it. Both houses are rented.
This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, October 4, 1992 as the 39th in the series.