9 – The Maples, circa 1800, near Chewsville, MD
The drive from Interstate 70 toward Smithsburg along Route 66 is serene and beautiful. Open spaces and well-tended fields gather along the road, and orchards climb the side of South Mountain. Well-kept farms appear at regular intervals, and clusters of new homes rise now and then. South of Cavetown, at the corner of Chewsville Road, is the Maples, a late 18th century farm, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1769, Ludwick Huyett purchased a 115 acre tract called Whiskey Alley and a 213 acre tract called Scared From Home from Jonathan Hager, who was the holder of a defaulted mortgage on these lands. Huyett occupied this property and bought surrounding parcels called Millers Quarry and Stones and Timber which were resurveyed into a tract called Alltogether. After finally clearing title to the original 328 acres in 1798, Huyett applied for a resurvey of all the lands in order to consolidate his holdings. On July 25, 1800, the resurvey describing a 430.75 acre tract was returned to the land office. Five years later a patent was issued to Huyett, which described this land as Huyett’s Meadows.
In 1812, Ludwick Huyett divided his property equally between his sons Daniel and Jacob who each paid $2,232 in …current money of the United States… for his share. Jacob purchased the Maples, with Ludwick …reserving nevertheless to himself and to _____ his present wife the entire priviledge and use of the new dwelling house and kitchen adjoining the well on the first mentioned part of the aforesaid land and one half of the garden adjoining to the said dwelling house and also the free use of the said well of water together with the priviledge of taking firewood for the use of himself and his said wife from any part of the said first mentioned part of the aforesaid land which said priviledges and uses are hereby reserved and excepted from the sale hereby made to the said Jacob Huyett…during the term of their natural lives respectively. Whoever prepared this deed was redundant but not too careful. The spaces to name Ludwick’s wife were twice left blank in this paragraph. Neither was any great care taken to spell names consistently during this era. Documents variously spell Huyett’s name: Lodowick, Ludwich, Huett, Hewitt and Hughitt.
The house must date from the early 19th century, but it is not clear if this …new dwelling house… is the log wing, which appears to be the older of the two sections of the building, or the house as it now stands, a two-story six-bay stone and log structure. The log section underwent extensive change at the time the stone wing was added in order to unify the two segments of the house. The exterior of this section was covered with stucco and beaded clapboard. The interior woodwork is original to this period and has faux bois graining on the doors and marbling on the baseboards. The chair rails have narrow bands of carved pattern, and there are lovely curved stairs with delicate square balusters. The newel post is inset with a piece of ivory, which is said to indicate that the home is paid for.
This farm has an extraordinary collection of early outbuildings in reasonably good repair. There is a brick and stone bake house that was heated by burning logs in a cavity under the baking surface. This oven floor is brick and about waist high. The fill hole for the firebox is at the back of the structure, and the chimney is at the front of the oven, with a narrow wooden section of the building in front of the oven to protect the baker from inclement weather while baking. Two flues rise on either side of the arched oven door and join in the single chimney with an opening at the base of the juncture above the oven door. A brick vent shaft seems designed to carry air from the back of the oven to an opening above the door, as do two more vents below the door, one at ground level and the other in the top of the fire box. The oven itself is rounded at the back and appears large enough to have held at least 30 loaves of bread at a time. The fill door could be closed to dampen the air circulation and keep the heat steady. It seems likely that arrangements were made to close the oven door as well so that the interior temperature would remain steady.
The smokehouse is quite large and contains a central rotating rack made of several opposing arms mortised through a perpendicular center post. These arms are fitted with hooks for hanging meats to cure. A shelf surrounding the room at the roofline also has nails for hanging meat. Butchering was done in the fall when the weather was cool so that the meat would not spoil while it was being cured. The cure, either a sugar- or salt-based mix, was applied to the meat, which was placed on boards laid across trestles. When the meat took the cure, the meat juices would run down onto the floor. The meat was then hung on hooks, and a small fire of green hickory wood was burned. Green hickory burns slowly and produces a lot of smoke with which to complete the curing process. There is no chimney in a smokehouse because all the smoke is kept inside.
Toward the front of the property near the stream is a plastered stone building one room deep that is divided into two sections with a loft above. One half of this building holds the remains of the forge with an elevated hearth, bellows vent and a huge chimney. The other side has three exterior doors and, in one corner, a large fireplace with trammels. There is evidence of a dividing wall across the room between two doors in the west wall. The third door would suggest that one of these small spaces was divided yet again. In the floor is a curve of masonry that has been filled in with dirt. This might have been a cistern or a well at one time. Tradition calls this building slave quarters.
Beside and to the back of the house is a small brick building roughly five-and-a-half feet by seven feet. At one end is a chimney, at the other a ground level opening and on the side a window with a plank door. This is the remains of a drying house. The top of the firebox and part of the chimney are missing as are the three racks used to hold the drying trays–wooden frames with fine mesh bottoms to let the air circulate. Before canning and refrigeration, foods were dried to preserve them through the winter. Apples were sliced and dried into schnitz; sweet corn and most fruits were dried either in the sun or with very low heat in an oven or a drying house. Local historian Hilda Cushwa remembers fruit leathers with particular relish. These were made by taking soft fruits, peaches or pears, and cooking them into thick mush, then spreading this thinly on a large flat pan. After slowly drying this into a leathery sheet, it was covered with powdered sugar on both sides, rolled, sliced and stored in jars as a special treat for the winter.
Near the drying house is the dairy or milk house. Inside this building all along one wall is an elevated trough almost a foot deep. Water was pumped into this receptacle from the well outside to cool the jars of milk and crocks of cheese placed there. A large frame bank barn with a slate roof and cupolas stands on the other side of the house and completes this farm complex.
Epilogue: The Bruckschs family purchased the home in 1990. That year they restored the drying house roof and later replaced the front porch.
This article appeared in the Herald Mail Sunday, January 7, 1990 as the 9th in the series.