86 – A Place Apart, circa 1840, north of Boonsboro, MD
A charming farmstead is nestled near a pond on the east side of Mapleville Road close to its intersection with Benevola Church Road. Stone pillars supporting globe lights flank the driveway that rises gently toward a four-bay stone house. To its right stands a great frame bank barn, painted buff with gray doors trimmed in black. A stone springhouse sits near the pond, down a steep slope from the north end of the house. Old trees shade the yard, and a fringe of pines shelters the pond.
In 1803, John Funck [sic] purchased this farmstead and paid £1,300 for 145 acres of land that included parts of tracts called The Resurvey on Well Done, The Resurvey of Hidlebargh, Township, Crocket Hook, and The Resurvey on St. Patrick’s Lot. Funck’s will, written the same year, bequeaths …unto my beloved wife Barbara the whole of my plantation whareon I now live…during her natural life… indicating improvements on the property at that time.
In 1814, Jacob Hedrick, Funck’s son-in-law, bought the land, now shown as being 145 and 1/2 acres, for $10,185. Nine years later, John Wolf, Sr., and Jr. bought 142 acres from Hedrick for $7,000, then sold it to John and Catherine Newcomer Funk in 1842. Either of these families could have built the stone house, for it appears to have been constructed during the second quarter of the 19th century. A visitor to the farm, whose family had once lived there, told of an elderly aunt who remembered watching the house being built. This story would place construction in the 1840s during the Funks’ ownership.
The house sits on a rise that slopes down to the left (north) and toward the road (west). There is a one-story porch, probably an early 20th century addition that extends across the front façade and wraps around the left side. The porch columns are simple with Ionic capitals. Stonework in the house is roughly coursed with quoined corners. The main entrance is in the second bay from the north, and the threshold of this door is a massive block of stone. Interior brick chimneys rise at either gable end of the house.
The springhouse has two doors opening into what is now a single room. A service fireplace stands at the western end of the building. The spring enters at the southeast corner and is channeled in a recently added concrete sluice around two sides of the floor, then out under the wall into the pond. There is evidence that a thin wall once divided the interior space of the 16 foot by 26 foot building into two rooms. The loft is accessed with wooden stairs leading to the door in the east gable. The roof is raised-seam metal. Original plaster and raised German pointing remain in some places. Roman numerals on the rafters, used to assemble the framework after it had been cut and fitted on the ground, can still be seen.
The great bank barn was built in 1929. The forebay faces the road while the threshing floor is reached from the ramp at the rear. The barn is timber framed and held together with trunnels. Its north section is a wagon shed, open at either end, with a narrow corncrib forming the outer wall nearest the house. Suspended from the joists over the dirt floor are cylindrical timbers shaped like huge rolling pins. The handles are held in wrought iron staples that are bolted to joists. Holes are staggered in the fat parts of these timbers. These ingenious contraptions, called windlasses, were used to raise the beds of wagons from their running gears. Two ropes were slung under the wagon bed, one at the front and one at the back. Both ends of each of these ropes were then attached to one of the windlasses, and the rollers were turned by sticking a long handle in one of the holes and rotating it. When it had turned as far as possible, a second handle was placed in the next hole, the first handle removed, and the process repeated on both rollers until the wagon bed had been lifted. There were two sets of windlasses, one for the hay ladder and one for the grain box. Since the hay ladder was longer, the windlasses for it were placed further apart.
In the spring, the hay ladder would be attached to the running gear, which was lengthened by extending the coupling pole. The hay ladder, about eighteen feet long, had open sides and a bottom that sloped in toward the center. The front rack consisted of two stakes, joined with cross pieces, that sloped inward like an apple ladder and pivoted at the floor so that it could fold down when not in use. The rear rack was a pair of stakes that kept the load from sliding off. While harvesting, men on the ground would pitch hay or sheaves of wheat or barley onto the wagon, where a man standing in the wagon arranged them along the tilted sides. The center was then filled, and the sides were again layered. This method allowed the wagon to be piled to the top of the hay ladder, about seven feet, without having the load fall off.
In the fall, the hay ladder would be pulled up with the windlasses, hung in the top of the wagon shed, and the grain box lowered onto the running gear which had the coupling pole shortened. Somewhat smaller, about three-and-a-half feet by ten feet, with square, solid sides and bottom, the grain box was designed to carry shelled corn, threshed wheat or barley to the mill for processing as well as for general transportation purposes. By using the windlasses, the running gear could be used for two different kinds of wagons, saving both the cost and the storage of extra equipment.
In 1978, Charles and Sandra McClure purchased the property, now reduced to 32 acres. They did massive renovations to the house, removing most of the woodwork, replacing window sashes and moving walls. The front door opens into an entry hall with a formal dining room on the left and a parlor to the right. This parlor has a fireplace with a simple mantel, probably the only remaining piece of original woodwork. A new staircase ascends on the left side of the hall. The rear of the house has been opened into a single large space used as a kitchen/family room. In this room is a modern fireplace that replaces the one originally there. Upstairs are four bedrooms and two baths.
A living room wing, full of windows, has been added on the north side of the house overlooking the pond and the springhouse. A two-car garage was added on the south. The front wall of this garage has been faced with stone to match the house. A small, new, gable-end cottage covered with bead-edged siding stand between the garage and the barn. This serves as an office. The McClures also excavated the pond in a marshy area just beyond the springhouse and added a swimming pool at the rear of the house. Next to the pool is a latticed gazebo built where the smokehouse once stood. A three-board fence surrounds the backyard, and a grape arbor stands at one side.
In 1985, Nick and Anne Bedessem wandered Mapleville Road as they passed through the area on their way home to Hyattsville. They saw a For Sale sign in front of the farm, one of only a few days that a sign was in place. They called; it was too expensive. But the farm kept recurring in their thoughts. A year or so later, they negotiated a contract. Although renovated and not restored, it is a lovely house; and the farm was the perfect place for the life they wanted to lead. The front parlor, with its three windows flooding light, has become Anne’s craft room. Sheep graze the pasture and an adopted dog stands watch. Annually their parish is invited to celebrate a pre-Christmas Mass in the barn. The sheep, the manger and the cold make it very appropriate. Life is peaceful and serene at A Place Apart.
Epilogue: In July 2000, John and Lucille Jardinier, friends of Nick and Anne Bedessem, and long time admirers of A Place Apart, became the new owners of this historic property which now totals about six acres. The Jardiniers have taken special care to maintain the character and charm of this 160 year old stone home in their redecorating. The barn, which recently underwent some refurbishment and a fresh coat of paint, will continue to host the annual pre-Christmas Mass, which is a tradition begun by the former owners many years ago. This year an adopted donkey will also share the barn with the sheep, as members of St. Ann Parish join together to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth.
This article appeared in the Herald Mail Sunday, December 15, 1996 as the 86th in the series.