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The History Of Stony Branch Valley
The Whitmore and Close Farms

Michael Hillman

The 19th century in Stony Branch Valley is in many ways a history of dichotomies. Early in the century, Frederick County held the title as the most productive wheat growing county in the nation, as a result, the population, as well as land values in steadily increased. By the end of the century however, the rich soil of the plain states had earned that area the title 'The Bread Basket of the Nation', and bankruptcies sales of the much less productive farms in this valley were sadly, much too frequent.

At the opening of the century, it was not possible to walk down the path of what became Sixes Bridge Road without seeing slaves toiling in the fields. By the midpoint of the century, Abolitionists were gaining the upper hand and manumission of slaves was becoming increasingly acceptable. David Morrison, who owned at least three farms in the valley, even when to far as not only grant his slaves freedom, but also ownership of the land, near to Tom Creek Methodist Church, upon which they had toiled so long, thereby giving them the means to build their own future.

Like many boarder states, Maryland saw many divided loyalties during the civil war, and Stony Branch Valley was not immune. The Maxell saw two of its son's dawn the uniform of the Union, one of which would gave his life for the union cause. Against them rode their neighbor James Welty, who served as a Confederate Scout for Lee during the Gettysburg's Campaign

With the explosion in the population, and the frequent turn over in the ownership of the land, telling the story of the valley becomes rather complex. Even I often found myself confused trying to follow the intertwining land exchanges and family relationships. I found that in order to make any headway at all, I was forced to concentrate on small discrete sections of the valley at a time, and only when I understood each of them, did I understand Stony Branch Valley. For the next few articles, I will follow this same logic, and well tell the history of specific farms and their owners in the 1800's.

For most of the 1800's, the history of the northern eastern end of the valley, from Tom's Creek Bridge to Tom's Creek Methodist Church is intertwined with the Troxel family. To the south, the century opened with the Biggs as the predominate landholders, and closed with the Valentine family in the their place. The west and the heart of the Valley belonged to the Zacharias family, and to the east, the Whitmore's and Close's. The following is what I know of these latter two families.

  Whitmore Family Farms (green)  in 1790   More Detailed Map

Following the death of Benjamin Whitmore in 1771, his sons continued to live on the individual farms their father had willed to them jointly. As the sons approached old age, the joint ownership of the many family farms began to become a concern to the brothers, as they began to arrange their affairs for the future benefit of their families, it became necessary to formally divided the farms. In order to obtain an equitable distribution of the jointly-held property, in 1798, the brothers sold their holdings for cash, to Peter Troxel, a friend and neighbor. Peter equally distributed the cash to each son, who immediately bought back lands they want.

Benjamin Jr., the oldest son, purchased the largest amount of land (254 acres). The rational of why Benjamin shape his farm the way he did, has long been lost to history, however, it many ways it impacted how the valley developed. As time passed and more and more of the virgin timber was cleared and farmed, the needed for tenant farmers, as well as labors increased. The long 'ladle' like appendage that stretched to the west from the main body of Benjamin's farm proved too distant to be farmed, as a result, for a long time it remained un-cleared. Because of it's central location in the valley however, it provided an ideal site for tenant housing, and by the close of the 19th century, no less then 4 houses, as well as the public school, were clustered on this little strip.

       Close farm (orange) in 1800     More Detailed Map

Benjamin however did not hold his land long. In 1799 he sold his land to Samuel and Henry Close. Unfortunately for us today, the Close family may have been many things, but documenters or writers they were not, so very little is know about them. In 1805 Samuel and Henry sold their combined holdings to Christian Close, who history records as being a soldier of the revolution. In 1807 Christian sold the southern half of the farm, 118 acres, back to Samuel, who in turn, in 1811, sold it to a John Shorb, whose father Jacob, had a decade before purchased the old Wilson Family farm just to the immediate south.

In 1831, the Close family once again obtained ownership of the southern half of the farm when Eligh Close purchase of it from John Shorb, but not before John Shorb had sold the 'Western Ladle' to a John Picking, who was amassing a large farm to the west of Tom's creek. Upon Eligh's death in 1884, the farm became the property of his wife Adelaide, and upon her death, passed into the hands James Grimes, in who's family it still remains.

The ownership, and to many events, the boundaries of the northern half of the farm, 135 acres in total, are shrouded in mystery. All that is certain is that in 1828 Eligh Close sold the farm to Jefse close.

Top:  Carrie Baumgardner, Nora Stambaugh
Bottom: John & Mary Close

When Eligh obtained the land from Christian, and what the relationship was between these three men has defied my best efforts to discover. In 1869, Jefse passed the farm onto his son John, who upon his death in 1893, willed it to his 'adapted' daughter, Carrie Baumgardner. Upon her marriage to Harry Durn, the farm became known as the 'Durn' Farm.

Carrie Belle Baumgadner -~ 16 years old

In noting the relationship of Carrie to the Closes, I used quotes around the adopted because upon her death in 1967, questions were raised about whether Carrie had ever been formally adopted.

Even more interesting however, was the realization that the boundaries of her farm had not been officially surveyed since the division of the original farm in 1807. In spite of this 151 year lapse, the court ordered 1967 survey was almost an exact duplicate of the 1807 survey. Which goes to show how mature the science of surviving really is. Upon Carrie Baumgartner Close Durn's death, her farm was broken into parts, with Joe Wivell obtaining everything west of Tom's Creek, while the eastern half was broken into 4 lots.

Benjamin Whitmore used the proceeds from the sale of his farm to purchase a new farm located on the South East corner of Sixes and Keysville road. What happened to him and his family from this point on will be covered in later stores.

Henry, Benjamin Whitmore's Sr. third oldest son, took formal title to a 122 acre track called Whiskey Bottle, now owned by Joe Wivell Sr. The following year, Henry expanded his land holding in the valley with the purchase of an additional 61 areas. [Bill's Kuhn 'His Place' sit in the center of this track.] In 1809, Henry sold Whiskey Bottle to John Picking, a newcomer to the valley, and soon after, sold the 61 acres lot to Jacob Schealy, the Patriarch of the Schealy family in the valley. 100 years later, Jacob's Grandson, James would become a key player in shaping the valley for the 21 century.

Abraham, Benjamin Whitmore's youngest son, acquired the 161 acre farm that his father had purchased with him in mind. Unlike his other brothers Abraham did not have the compulsion to acquire lands. Having only two sons to provide for, he made a decision to keep his farm profits in cash for use as dowries for his daughters. In 1808, Abraham retired from farming and sold his farm to his son Christian. Christian, the fourth generation Whitmore in America, was born on March 20, 1776, just three months before the birth of the nation. In 1801, Christian married Elizabeth Schealy, with whom he had children. In 1833, at the age of 57, Christian purchased a second farm, on the eastern side of the Monocacy, just below the mouth of Stony Branch, for his sons, Joseph and Simon Peter. Christian's other sons, Frederick and David, remained at the home farm, working for shares.

In 1862, Christian Whitmore died, and the mansion farm, as Christian 161 acre homestead had became to be known, passed into the hands of his second oldest son David. Christians other sons, Simon Peter and Joseph, worked the RICH LEVEL farm until 1858. The partnership came to an end when their brother Frederick, who had remained at the Mansion Farm, died unexpectedly at the age of 45. Simon Peter returned to his fathers house to take Frederick's place. He retained part ownership of Rich Level until 1876, at which time he sold out to his brother Joseph for $3000.

Christian son David farmed the Mansion farm until his death. David's eldest daughter, Mary Ellen, married her neighbor, George Thomas Martin, the Grandson of Mathias Martin, the last of the original Homesteaders in the valley. Upon David's death in 1889, the Whitmore Manor farm passed into the hands of Mary, and thus the Martin family, in which it would remain for the next 95 years. In 1889, Joseph's Whitmore's son, Emmanuel, sold the 182 acre RICH LEVEL farm, the last Whitmore land in the valley, to Hezekiah Fox for $4,913. Soon after that, Emanuel, the last Whitmore male in the valley, left, 126 years after the first Whitmore had first set eyes on pastoral valley.

Read Part 5

Index of articles on the History Stony Branch Valley

Read more articles by Michael Hillman

Deed List:

Whitmore Farm 

{Out of Diggs Lot and Benjamin's Good Luck}
5/23/1763 William Diggs -> Benjamin Whitmore 120a 50#
*10/30/1765 Benjamin Biggs -> Benjamin Whitmore 200a
? <1778 Benjamin Biggs -> Benjamin Whitmore 96a ->{bf}
11/9/1764 John Darnel -> Benjamin Whitmore 94a
4/11/1885 Wilfred Neal -> Whitmore Brothers 111a 10# 5ss
4/5/1798 Whitmore Brothers 632a
 - 4/18/1798 Whitmore Brothers -> Benjamin Whitmore 254a -> {cl}
 - 4/18/1798 Whitmore Brothers -> Henry Whitmore 93a->{wb}
 - 4/18/1798 Whitmore Brothers -> Abraham Whitmore 161a{below}
4/18/1798 Whitmore Brothers -> Abraham Whitmore 161a
2/4/1808 Abraham Whitmore -> Christian Whitmore 80#
 - 4/7/1821 Christian Whitmore -> Samuel Singer 33a $600->{bp}
*6/14/1858 Christian Whitmore -> David Whitmore
10/16/1889 David Whitmore -> Mary E. Whitmore Martin
4/5/1912 Mary Whitmore Martin -> David Martin $6,456
9/26/1956 Martin est. -> George Martin
? George Martin -> Jim Keilholtz

Close Farm

{Out of the Whitmore Farm}
4/18/1798 Whitmore Brothers -> Benjamin Whitmore 254a
9/25/1799 Benjamin Whitmore -> Samuel & Henry Close 1,700#
3/10/1805 Samuel & Henry Close -> Christian Close 1,900#
 - 8/3/1807 Christian Close -> Samuel Close 118a 758# -> {below}
 + ?1825 Close est. -> Eligh Close 136a?
4/1/1828 Eligh Close -> Jefse Close $3,000
 + 5/1/1827 John Hoover -> Jefse Close 9a $150
 + 11/4/1840 Eligh Close -> Jefse Close 12.5a $325
 +?-> Jefse Close 49a
10/26/1866 Elisabeth Sherm -> John Close 25a
 + 6/8/1869 Jefse Close -> John Close
7/?/1893 John Close est. -> Carie Dern 231a
 - 9/19/1967 Dern est. -> Joseph Wivell 82a -> {sb}
 - 10/31/1967 Dern est. -> Snowden Dorsey 149a
 - 5/26/1971 Snowden Dorsey -> James Whitworth 25a {present}
 - 5/26/1971 Snowden Dorsey -> John Meininger 27a {present}
 - 5/26/1971 Snowden Dorsey -> Lynda Aiken 75a
1/29/1973 Linda Aiken -> James and Georgiana Carlson 45a
 - 5/26/1971 Snowden Dorsey -> Mary Robeson 21.3a
1/5/1972 Mary Robeson -> Edward Yost
{Jacob Shorb track}
5/33/1811 John Picking > Samuel Close .25a
5/3/1814 Samuel Close -> John Shorb 118a $2,226
 - 10/7/1822 John Shorb -> John Picking 14a -> {sb}
 +?-> John Shorb 50a
5/9/1829 John Shorb -> Joseph Baugher 154a $3,000
7/6/1831 Joseph Baugher -> Eligh Close 154a $2,464
 - 11/4/1840 Eligh Close -> Jefse Close 12.5a $325
 + <1847 David Morrison -> Eligh Close 1.75a $35
5/21/1884 Close est. -> Adelaide Close 135a $6,000
4/4/1918 Adelaide Close -> James Grimes 132a $5,679
10/20/1947 Grimes est. -> Robert Grimes
12/18/1967 Robert Grimes -> Charles Grimes