59 – Doub Farms, circa 1780 and 1851, Keedysville, MD
North of Route 34 near Keedysville, a long, unmarked lane, bordered by stone fences, recedes into the fields. This was once a public road from Keedysville to Coffman Farm Road known as Pig Path Lane. Abandoned by the county in 1936, it now leads to two farmhouses and several dependent buildings set on either side of the old lane, far back from the main road. On the north side is a two-story, four-bay stone home with a later four-bay stone wing behind a recessed double porch. This house is built into a gentle slope and faces east. A porch shelters the first story of the main block, and on the side and front of this wing of the house is a stone water table. The southern gable has a date stone with its markings worn away by time; a former owner said it read in the 1780s. A bit to the north of this house is a large frame bank barn.
This early house has heavy, pegged window frames with twelve-over-twelve pane sashes on the first level and nine-over-six sashes on the second. The main door, in the east side of the older section, enters the original kitchen, which has a corner fireplace with plain woodwork. The two rooms to the south have fireplaces set against the south gable wall and are trimmed with plain woodwork. Doors and windows are finished with double-fielded moldings finished with ovolo moldings. Upstairs, the floor plan is similar, but the woodwork is much more elegant with dentil molding, decorative panels and a corner cupboard with butterfly shelves and an arched top built into the wall beside the upper corner fireplace.
To the south, across the old lane, is a two-story, seven-bay brick home set on low fieldstone foundations. A double porch, resting under the main roof span, covers the southern four bays of this house, supported on square tapered posts and enclosed by plain balustrades. Painted on the south gable, about two-thirds of the distance to the roof, is the date, 1851. Six-over-six windows are held in narrow frames beneath wide wooden lintels. The main entrance, in the second bay from the south, beneath a multi-paned transom, has a door with seven pyramidal panels. The doorjamb is also finished with these panels. The interior floors have random width boards. Three different styles of woodwork moldings can be found in the house. One closet, built into an upstairs bedroom, has a seven-and-one-half foot tall door concealing shelves. Two enclosed stairways lead to the second floor, with the kitchen steps being quite steep. Most original features of the house remain.
To the south of the brick house is a stone-end bank barn with wooden gables. It has large quoins, narrow ventilation slits and the date 1819 carved into a corner stone. North of the house sits a small brick smokehouse with patterned brick ventilators and to the east, a small board and batten building. Further to the east, set into a bank near a small spring-fed stream, is a brick-lined fieldstone lime kiln in a remarkable state of preservation. Lime kilns were more common on farmsteads in the 19th century since lime was needed to make whitewash, mortar and to sweeten the soil. Limestone rock was burned in these kilns to produce lime.
In 1971, Richard Nixon appointed William O. Doub to the Atomic Energy Commission. Also serving on this body was Dr. Clarence E. Larsen, a chemist and Civil War buff who had bought a ten acre tract of land on Antietam Creek. In searching the title of his property, he found the name Doub and reported it to his compatriot. “Of course,” responded William Doub with little interest, “the family has always lived in Washington County.” Larsen persisted, and finally, armed with General McClellan’s book, McClellan’s Own Story, and its map with Doub Farm marked on it, the two families set out to search for a part of Doub’s history. Amazingly, they found the brick house, long abandoned and in need of major restoration, down the long lane outside of Keedysville. The stone house across the lane was occupied at that time but was in essentially unlivable condition.
In searching the records, William Doub discovered that the farm had been purchased in 1838 by his great-great-grandfather John Doub who also owned the mill at Beaver Creek. John Doub bought farms for each of his seven sons, and it was Samuel who built the brick house in 1851. The last Doub owner Frisby Doub was a bit of an eccentric. He moved out of the main house, which he then rented, and lived in the small board and batten shed which still stands near the house. Frisby, a former Washington County Commissioner, died in 1915; and the farm was sold.
After learning that the farm was owned by the United States Steel Corporation (USS), William Doub contacted a USS vice-president named William White, their top lobbyist in Washington. When told that Doub wanted to purchase the farm because of his family connection to it, White responded that it would be next to impossible. Doub countered that they should try to do the impossible. White inquired about the farm within the company and discovered that the house was slated to be bulldozed within a month. Doub asked that a stop order be issued while negotiations continued. Eventually, a deal was made, and the Doubs rented the home for a year as things were worked out. Needing to start renovations on the house but with the paperwork not yet completed, USS agreed to sell the house and outbuildings for $1 with the stipulation that they be removed from the land if Doub could not complete the sale in three months. (The Doubs still have the canceled $1 check framed in their house.) The company would not divide the land, but agreed to take back a second mortgage on the 150 acre tract so that the Doubs could afford to make the purchase. In 1977, a year-and-a-half after negotiations began, the sale was completed.
In 1985, USS decided to sell all their properties in Washington County and offered them to the farmers who worked them. The farmer who tilled the land across the lane was not interested in the purchase, but mentioned it to the Doubs, who bought the other farm. They intended to protect land visible from their brick home with easements and to sell the stone house after restoring it. It wasn’t to be. Charmed by the old stone house, the Doubs made it their home, and they rent the brick house to their son Peyton.
Both homes are restored now, beautiful examples of 18th and 19th century farmsteads in Washington County. Both have been placed in the National Register of Historic Places and have had easements placed on them to protect them in the future. The old houses came close to destruction, but they are now safe.
Epilogue: Both the Doub and Baker Farms continue to be owned by the Doub Family. Mr. and Mrs. William Doub continue to use the stone house as a second residence. Mr. Doub’s son Peyton still lives in the brick house. In 1997, the Doubs constructed a new stucco and glass addition to the rear of the stone house. The addition, which was approved by the Maryland Historical Trust, was designed to complement the older structure without compromising its historic integrity. The exterior stonework where the addition adjoins the older structure was left exposed rather than covered by plaster or wallboard. The former kitchen was converted to a sitting room highlighting the large fireplace and hearth that were used for cooking in the 19th century.
The Doubs have also planted numerous new trees and established several new gardens around both houses since 1994. The entrance lane is now lined with white pines and flowering Japanese cherry trees, and the houses are now graced by several rapidly growing oak, tulip poplar and redbud trees. The expansive lawns surrounding the houses feature numerous small gardens planted with a diversity of colorful flowering perennials.
In 1995, Mr. and Mrs. Doub established a Doub Family Partnership to aid in the transfer of the property to their children, Peyton and Albert. The Doubs hope to avoid inheritance taxes that might force their children to sell the property to developers. Peyton and Albert both wish to keep the property in the family and ultimately pass it to the Doub grandchildren, Elizabeth and William.
The Doubs are proud that their property helps preserve the agricultural history of Washington County and remains an island of rural scenery within a rapidly growing suburban landscape.
This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday August 7, 1994 as the 59th in the series.