87 – Burtner Farm, circa 1790, east of Keedysville, MD
Mount Hebron Road runs south from Keedysville. Some maps show it ending at Dogstreet Road, and an unpaved section of road does still turn southwest, ford a small stream and follow a stone fence into the woods. The county doesn’t maintain this dirt road any more, and nature has reclaimed much of it. Instead, the macadam pushes straight into a farmyard, past the house, and turns toward the barns, leaving a visitor wondering where the road went.
This is the Burtner Farm, held by the family since 1927, lived in by several generations. The house is stone, its six bays facing the road/driveway. A small stream, a tributary of Little Antietam Creek, winds before the house and through the barnyard. An escarpment rises behind the house and curls around, edging the farmyard. Large rocks pierce the soil, rounded by time and weather. Two barns, a garage and other small outbuildings dot the area. Across the road from the house lie a garden and a fenced pasture field.
The house sits on ground slightly higher than the road and faces west. Two doors, sheltered beneath a new one-story porch that extends the width of the structure, face it. The door in the second bay from the south has a transom and sidelights. The roof is hipped, covered with raised-seam metal and pierced by two interior brick chimneys. Just beneath the roof is a wide cornice decorated with elegant modillions. These modillions are closely spaced along the north and west public faces of the house; the east and the south sides have just a few. Most windows have six-over-six sashes and are shuttered. The stonework is continuous over doors and windows, with neither lintels nor arches defined.
Close behind the main house, a small stone cabin nestles into the cliff, with bedrock forming part of its foundation on the east. The loft of this wash house can be entered from the top of the rock formation. A single door with a window faces the main house. A central window lights the gable, and a loophole is in the south wall. The interior has been divided into two rooms with a brick wall; but this appears to be a later addition, for this wall cuts into the mantel of the service fireplace. The remains of an original cupboard stand beside this fireplace, which still has its cranes in place. Woodwork around the door and window is also original, and leaning on the wall is a door with raised panels on one side and beaded boards on the other, probably the original door to the cabin.
Older family members know this building as the wash house, others call it the smokehouse. For many years, Mr. Byrd of the Red Byrd Restaurant smoked meats here. Perhaps this little building’s first use was as a dwelling with an all-purpose room on the first level and a sleeping loft above. Recently, the back porch of the main house had its roof widened and the floor of the second level extended across to the cabin and the cliff beyond to accommodate access for elderly grandparents.
In 1790, Yost Deener purchased three acres and twenty perches of land from John Shaw for fifteen pounds. Eight years later, he bought another 150 acres from Mr. Shaw for the considerable sum of £1,800. This parcel contains parts of land patents called Collodon, Confusion, Fellfoot Enlarged and Gordons Purchase. Oral tradition credits Yost Deener with building the northern three bays of the house on Burtner’s Farm.
In 1864, Samuel Deaner left to his wife, …all the Household and kitchen furniture of Such as … blankets, coverlets, Quilts, carpetings, tables, chairs, rocking chairs, Stoves and pipes, curio cupboard and all the dishes, looking glasses, bureaus, cheasts, kettles, pot racks, tubs, crocks, Books, clocks, bacon, lard, Sope, potatoes, and bucky and Harness, one cow and all that she wants. My wife Dinah is to have the Same privaledge in the House and have the Same room as She now hath up Stair and down Stair, Spring House, Smoke House, garden and Stable… He continued, …And my farm I give to my son Jonas S. Deaner as follows. He is to have the land at Sixty-five Dollars per Acre and The Mountain Land at Twenty Dollars per Acre and my Children is to have Equal Shairs that is to say Jonas S. Deaner, Sophia E Rohrer and Mary E Thomas and my son Jonas S. Deaner is to pay one third of the money down one year after my death and the ballance in two equal annual payments without interest. It was probably Jonas who added the other three bays to the house, the hip roof and the cornice with the modillions. He also added ornate cast-iron porch posts which were recently removed to enlarge the porch. They have been saved and will one day be used in a gazebo.
In 1904, Eugenia Deaner Neikirk inherited a third of the farm, now 123 and 1/2 acres and 19 perches, from her father, Jonas, and bought the other two-thirds from her brother and sister for $5,054.85. Eugenia’s executor sold the farm to Howard W. and R. Louise Burtner in 1927. The Deaner family had lived on the land for 137 years.
The Burtner family thus began what is now a 70 year tenancy. The old farm has served them well. At one time, four generations lived in the ample home. Howard and Louise lived in two upstairs rooms of the original section of the house with their son Roger and his wife Sylvia occupying the lower level. Roger built the elaborate ramp from the cliff behind the house to an expanded second-story porch to give his parents access to their quarters. Roger’s son John and his wife Cindy lived with their children in the newer, south section of the house. A new kitchen was built in the rear room of the first floor of this section to give the families separate facilities.
The original three-bay section of the house built by Yost Deener was constructed over a cellar with a large cooking fireplace at the base of the central chimney. Behind this chimney column is a broad arch, about the same size as the opening in the fireplace, that appears to be a relieving arch. However, there is no longer any structure on the first floor that would have been supported by this arch. What might it have been? Much has been changed inside the house to accommodate the lives of the families living there. There are still two 18th century raised panel doors on the second floor of this section and an original mantel in the dining room. The later wing has elegant paneled jambs at the front door and at the door leading into the older section. These are decorated with oval and circular moldings. A black marble mantel with an arched firebox stands in the living room. The front door, transom and sidelights have been replaced. This newer section of the house is deeper than the original, and the double porch was added to the back of the original section and included under the new hip roof.
John Burtner’s family are now the only occupants of the house. There are still two kitchens because Cindy finds it convenient when she is canning or preparing meals for farm hands. The farm continues as it has for over 200 years, sheltering and sustaining its owners with beauty and serenity.
Epilogue: John and Cindy have added a fish pond with a surrounding patio behind the house. The iron sections from the old porch still have not become a garden house.
This article appeared in the Herald-Mail Sunday, January 5, 1997 as the 87th in the series.