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Clairvaux & its Occupants

Eddie Lee Mary Elder Comeau

It was erroneously reported by this researcher in the very early stages of my research that the stately Clairvaux Mansion, near Emmitsburg, MD, was the second home of William Elder and Jacoba Clementina Livers, William's second wife.

William Elder's second home was built on land known as Ogle's Good Will and the name of the home was known as Pleasant Level. This was located on a parcel of land directly across a field from Clairvaux Mansion. I deeply regret rushing into publishing the information I was given on this home. It was not until a year later when I came across numerous deeds on the Clairvaux property I realized what gross error I had made. The first information was published from stories of some old timers. This taught me one lesson I will never forget. Always check and find authentic documentation before writing any history.

The only known Elder to live in the Clairvaux house was Ann Rosetta Elder, daughter of Aloysius Elder and Josephine Green. Ann Rosetta married James Cretin on the 17th October, 1842, son of Andrew Cretin. This couple had one daughter, Mary William Anna Cretin. The brothers and sisters of James Cretin were: Dennis, John, Joseph, Phillip, and Elizabeth who married John Keepers. Ann Rosetta Cretin died 25th September, 1854, at age 37. She and husband are both buried at the Mountain Cemetery. This information was obtained from the Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland, and was found in the notes of Dr. Richard Mudd. Other information on the house was found in deeds, and another was an article that appeared in the Emmitsburg Chronicle.

After the death of Ann Rosetta, James Cretin married secondly Mary Ann Livers, daughter of Susannah Harris and Thomas Livers and a descendant of Arnold Livers.

The Clairvaux Mansion was located on US 15, bypass intersection with Motter Station Rd, one-half mile south of Mt. Saint Mary's College. After a fire [early 1970s] the only thing left standing was the stately brick walls. When the firemen arrived on the scene they found the house to be completely engulfed with flames they decided to let it burn itself out. It is believed the fire was started in the kitchen area on the west side of the house. The fire was discovered by persons residing near the dwelling. This was the third fire at the estate. One of the fires destroyed a summer house, the other a barn.

For several years Clairvaux was owned by Daniel F. Roddy family who sold it to the Rial family. Mrs. Rial owned the property from 1941 until she entered a nursing home. At this time she sold the property to her son-in-law, Col. G. E. Borst of Washington, D.C. Sometime after the fire, Col. Borst sold the remaining property back to Mt. St. Mary's College.

During the early years of Clairvaux House, it served as a refined boarding house, later as an Inn. Due to the home's historic importance Fire Chief Guy McLauglin said when questioned that he would not venture an estimate as to a monetary extent of loss prior to contacting the owner of the property. The home at the time of the fire was one hundred years old. It was built by Dr. James A. Shorb who named the estate "Clairvaux."

The fire was said to be of a suspicious origin. It was also thought that vandals may have set it. Just prior to the one hundred seventy-eighth celebration of the College's anniversary of existence they felt that the walls of Clairvaux should be demolished. At the present time the land is being cultivated and has raised soy beans as well at wheat thereon. One historian of that area I met on the grounds stated he did not understand why the college had not left the gardens at Clairvaux in tact as it was a wonderful tourist attraction.

William Elder was the original owner of the Clairvaux property, however, it was not known as Clairvaux at that time nor did William at any time build on this property. In his will he deeded this piece of ground to his son Aloysius. At a later date Aloysius gave the property to the College reserving the burial ground which was near his father's home, Pleasant Level, for his family and himself to be buried there. When Aloysius made his will he gave the cemetery to the College and at present time they are still the owner of the cemetery. The college sold the property to Dr. James A. Shorb the builder and owner of Clairvaux. The house and land passed through many hands before the College was able to buy it back.

Information and history of this property came from deeds, wills, and from an article that appeared in the Emmitsburg Chronicle, from the Maryland Hall of Records, and from a book "We Discover the Old Dominion."

The happy ending is, the College now has the land in its possession.

This article originally appeared in the Elder Family Newsletter, Vol. 1 #3, July, August, September 1993.  To learn more about the Elder family, go to http://www.familytrail.com/elder

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