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The History Of Stony Branch Valley

(Part 6)

The Zacharias' Family Farms
Single Delight, Groff Content, and Black Flint

Michael Hillman


Preamble:

Its been more than six years since the first in the series of articles on the History of Stony Branch Valley was written. Over the passing years, as we learned more about the valley, we’ve gone back and updated the original articles and maps. So if your memory is a little foggy on their contents, or if you’ve never read them to begin with, I suggest you do so before reading this or subsequent articles in the series. Trust me, having those articles fresh in your mind will make this article more informative and easier to follow.

For those who are unfamiliar with the location of Stony Branch Valley, it’s approximately 3 miles southeast of Emmitsburg. Stony Branch, like its better know northern neighbor, Tom’s Creek, is a tributary to the Monocacy River.

West of where Stony Branch crosses Bollinger School Road, near that road’s intersection with Sixes Bridge Road, Stony Branch divides.  Both branches parallel Motter Station Road, one just to the south, the other, ˝ mile to the north.

The southern branch, the shorter of the two, ends near the intersection of Motter Station and Old Frederick Roads.  The northern branch runs clear to the mountains were it is fed by the spring that feeds the reflecting pool at the Grotto of Lourdes.


As noted in the second article in this series: The First Settlers, Mathias and Anna Zacharias were one of the first families to call the Stony Branch Valley home  there in 1759. Their homestead, which their son, Mathias II christened Single Delight, in 1773, stretched from Stony Branch’s confluence with the Monocacy, up to its division into northern and southern branches.

Of Single Delight's 210 acres, less then 1/3 of it was tillable. The rest, due to steepness of the hills, rockiness, or the once active Stony Branch flood plain, was useless for farming purposes.

Mathias Zacharias II, was the first of the long Zacharias family line to be born in the new world. In 1776, Mathias II joined with many of his neighbors in the area’s revolutionary war militia under the leadership of Captain W. Blair and Lieutenant Henry Williams.

According to family folklore, Mathias II served in the continental Army; was present at the siege of Yorktown; and, acted as one of the guards that escorted Hessians captured at Yorktown to the prison camps in York.

Mathias II was a successful farmer and businessman, and over the years, aggressively added to his fathers holdings, eventually becoming the largest landholder in the Stony Branch Valley in the 19th century.

In 1811 Mathias II acquired the adjoining 120 acres 'Black Flint' farm, from Henry Ableman. In acquiring Black Flint, Mathias II gained control of the lower part of Stony Branch.

At the time, roads were few and far between. The principal road in the Stony Branch area for trade and travel  north and west, began at a ford in the Monocacy just east of where Stony Branch empties into the Monocacy, on land now owned by Lisa and Earl Bell. The road then followed present day Sixes Bridge Road for ˝ mile, at which time it made a sharp 90 degrees turn west, along the northern half of Black Flint.

Still visible even today, this old dirt path proceeded west toward its crossing of Stony Branch, passing the homestead of Henry Bayer. Once across Stony Branch, the road followed the stream bed cut in the surrounding hills. At Stony Branch’s divide, the road followed the southern half, eventually connecting with the main road from Frederick, just south of intersection of Old Frederick and Motter Station Roads.

In 1824 Mathias II bought a third of an acre of Long Field, just east and south of the intersection of Sixes Bridge and Bollinger School Roads, from his neighbor George Flack.  It was on this lot, that the first recorded one-room school house in the area was built.  Christened the: Franklin School, it served for many years. When the school was taken over by the new Frederick County Public School System, it was renamed the Stony Branch School House.

In 1883, a new one-room school, named the 'New Stony Branch School House', was built just a few hundred yards east of the old school.  Like its predecessor, the new Stony Branch School held classes for 1st to 6th graders - in one room.

The original school was eventually razed, and a monument was placed to mark its location.  Unfortunately, the monument itself was razed several years ago because "It interfered with plowing."

In 1825, Mathias Zacharias II died, and was buried on the family farm next to his parrents. Mathias and his wife Anna had six children, three of which reached adulthood: John, born in April 1788, Mathias III, born in September 1789, and Christian, born in March, 1802.

Following the tradition of the time, the  Zacharias land was divided evenly among his three sons. The only condition placed on the inheritance to the sons was to care for their mother until her death.

In 1826, John the oldest son, acquired, the Henry Bayer's homestead, a five-acre enclave sandwiched between the Zacharias farms of Single Delight and Black Flint. John purchased the Bayer homestead from Frederic Crabbs, the local miller, who had acquired it by his marriage to a daughter of Christian Whitmore. This was John’s only acquisition, and he died six years later in 1832.

In 1836, Mathias III, took title to Black Flint, while Christian, the youngest son, took title to the Beyer homestead. Mary Zacharias, Mathias II wife, remained on Single Delight, which was still jointly held by the family.

In 1838, Mary Zacharias and her late son John’s wife, Anna, acquired Groff's Content, a 120-acre track of land just south of Single Delight. (Groff’s Content lies just to the west, and adjoining Bollinger School Road.) In doing so, they reunited Groff’s Content to Single Delight, from which it had been divided in 1765 by its sale to Christian Keen by the Zacharias patriarch, Mathias I.

In April 1840 Mary Zacharias died. Following her death, her youngest son Christian acquired title to Single Delight. Anna acquired title to 'Groff's Content.'

Christian Zacharias married Sarah Picking. Sara was the daughter of neighbor John Picking, whose farm, called Delight, lay just to the north and east of Single Delight. [If one stands at the intersection of Sixes Bridge and Dern Road’s, one is standing near the center of John Picking’s Delight.]

Christian and Sarah raised seven children. Christian, like his father, uncles, and brothers, was a highly successful farmer and business man.  Likehis father and brothers, he expanded his land holdings. In 1842, Christian obtained the mortgage of John and Sarah Singer's 130 acre farm called 'Stony Hill', which lay just south of Single Delight.

Following the death of their father, John Piking in 1853, Sarah's sister’s, Charlotte and Ester sold Delight to Christian Zacharias and Nicholas Stansbury. [The latter of which you'll read more about in the next installment of this series.]

In 1859 Christian Zacharias and Nicholas Stansbury sold 55 acres of Delight to a blacksmith named Thomas Barton. Thomas lost no time in building a house and blacksmith shop, a shop which quickly became the focal point of community activity.

[During the great blizzard of 1995, neighbors sadly witnessed the historic Barton house burn to the ground, a victim of snow drifts so high, that snow moving equipment was unable to clear the road for fire equipment. The Barton blacksmith building is still standing, albeit in a condition of severe disrepair.]

Upon his death in 1875, Christian Zacharias divided his property among his four surviving children, with the stipulation that his wife Sarah, would have a room of her own choice in the family house, and be supported equally by the children. The death of Christian marked the zenith of the Zacharias family in the valley.

Following the death of Mathias Zacharias III in 1883, his brother, Christian II, purchased his Ester and Sarah's share in Single Delight.  Almost immediately, Christian II began selling off lots to fund new purchases for his dairy operation, his ice-cream and dry goods business in Emmitsburg, and his stately new house in the center of town.

Always looking for a way to improve way things were done, Christian installed the first electric milking parlor in the Emmitsburg area. Run on 32-Volts, the new system was the forerunner of today modern milking system.

A suburb organizer and what today would be called a community activists, he successfully lobbied the county for a bridge over Tom's Creek, next to the old Maxwell’s Mill. When the first bridge, a wooden one, fell less then two years after its construction in the great flood of 1884, Christian again successfully lobbied the county for a more modern bridge - a wrought iron bridge.  That bridge is still in use today, 115 years after it was constructed. [Thought it's continued use was touch and go after falling during the flood of 1996 while under repair.]

Christian II also oversaw the building of the modern day Four Points and Sixes Bridge Road to replace the old dirt roads that ran along side Stony Branch and the dirt road from Maxell Mill’s to Motter’s Station on the Emmitsburg Railroad, roads which were often impassable due to flooding during heavy rains. [It was along the later road that Felix Munshour traveled after killing his cousin James Wetzel in Aug, 1879.]

The road improvements allowed Christian II to selllots along the new roads for a handsome profit and allowed him end public movement along roads that heretofore had bisected his land.

Christian II and his wife, Margaret Stokes, had four children: Helen, John, Ralph, and Richard,. All of these children up until 1970 resided in Emmitsburg. In October 1916, Christian Zacharias sold Single Delight to his oldest son John and his wife Carrie. John would be the last Zacharias to farm Single Delight. Richard, his son, was the last Zacharias to be born on the farm, Eugene another son, was the last of the family to  attend the Stony Branch one-room school house.

In 1922, a great drought took hold of the area, causing crop yield and profits to shrivel to nothing. In desperation farmers began to withdraw savings held in the local bank managed by two of Emmitsburg’s oldest and most and prestigious families: the Annan and Horners.

Unfortunately for the farmer the banking house of Annan and Horner was a house of cards just waiting to fall.

Having planned on future deposits to cover their expenses, the Annans and Horners depleted the bank’s holding to finance their lavish personal life styles. With what seemed an endless supply of cash, they propelled a speculative land bubble, purchasing at greater then market rates numerous tracks of land surrounding Emmitsburg.

As drought weary farmers sought to withdraw savings to help make ends meet, the bank, with no reserve to draw upon, was forced to call in mortgages, such as those held by John Zacharias.

With no rain in sight, and no way to pay his loan, John's mortgage was declared in default, and in 1923, Single Delight, which had been in the hands of the Zacharias family for more than 170 years, was sold at auction to Charles Dorcus, a local "Carpet-bagger."

The Zacharias family was just one of many old families that lost their land as a result of the drought of ‘23 and the subsequent failure of the Annan and Horner bank. Soon after the bank’s failure, both the Annan and Horner families left Emmitsburg for the Midwest under a cloud of disgrace. The bank’s mortgages where picked upon for pennies on the dollar by affluent, out of state families like the Glasses and Nesters, and opened the door for what is considered the third wave of families to call the Emmitsburg area home.

In 1930, Charles Dorcus sold Single Delight to Charles Bollinger, who successfully farmed it the next 30 years. An industrous, hard working family man, Charles once again made Single Delight a profitable farm, and the envy of the valley.

In 1963, Charles quit farming and sold Single Delight to George Bassler. Charles moved just across the narrow valley to Single Delight old tenant house. There, for the next seven years, he began a labor love, turning the once dilapidate home into the valley’s showcase.

Single Delight remained an active farm under George Bassler for the next 20 year. With the area increasingly becoming a bedroom community, and the one farm's fertile soil now all but exhausted, Single Delight's value as residential property far exceeded its value as farm land. So upon ending his farming career, Bassler chose to break up Single Delight into its residential lots.  And with it, Single Delight's unique boundaries disappeared for all time.

Unlike Single Delight however, the Zacharias’s other two land holdings, Groft’s Content and Blank Flint, still exist today with boundaries that a Zacharias family member of 100 years ago would recognize. 

In 1857, 'Black Flint' was sold by the descendents of Mathis Zacharias II. Over the next 50 years, it changed hands four times.  In 1913, Black Flint was acquired by Martin Elmer Valentine, who made his fortune blacktopping the roads in Northern Frederick County. In the years to follow, Martin Valentine lost most of his money as a result of a fast life and Florida land speculation, but not before purchasing several farms in the area for his children, only one of which, Black Flint, is still in family hands today.

As noted above, Groff's Content was sold by Christian Zacharias II in 1883 to Cornelius Dubel.  In 1904, Martin Elmer Valentine purchased it for his son, Harvey Valentine, in whose family it stayed until 1955.  Until 2000, 'Groff's Content' was farmed by Vernor Hines, and only last year, was it sold again, and again, sold intact. 

Epilog:

Of the many lots sold by Christian Zacharias, the one of most interest to this writer is a two acre lot on the northeast tip of Single Delight, next to the new Stony Branch School House.  It was upon this lot that a Mary A.M. Welty built a home.

Charles Bollinger moved to Mary Welty's house when he ended his farming career, and as noted above, he spent the last years of his life rebuilding it to become the valley showplace in the 1960's. After Mr. Bollinger died, the farm passed through several hands, and by the later 1980's the Charles Bollinger's showplace had once again begun to show it age. In 1988 my wife Audrey and I purchased the Bollinger farm house and in an age old tradition, rechristened it Window Meadow, for the wind that never seams to cease blowing across the farm's meadow.

It was the search for the origins of the house, that Mary Welty Built and Mr. Bollinger saved, that led me to research and then now document the history of Stony Branch Valley, and soon, the History of the Greater Emmitsburg area.

Index of the History Stony Branch Valley

Read more articles by Michael Hillman

Like all our stories, we consider this story 'work in progress,' so if you have anything to add to it, or have other stories about families that once called Emmitsburg home, please send them to us at History@emmitsburg.net


Deed List

In preparing this article, we first conducted extensive land research to ascertain the trail of ownership for Single Delight, Groft's Content, and Black Flint. 

Single Delight (Read the History of Single Delight)

*5/30/1759 Mathias Zacharias MON DOLLER Survey 125a
9/29/1762 Mathias Zacharias MON DOLLER Resurvey 310a
 - 6/19/1765 Mathias Zacharias -> Christian Keen 100a #50 -> [gc]
10/6/1773 Zacharias est. -> Mathias Zacharias 2nd 210a
 - 6/15/1782 Mathias Zacharias -> Henry Boyer 5a [below]
 + 4/27/1784 Mathias Zacharias -> STONY RIDGE addition 20a
9/30/1785 Mathias Zacharias 2nd -> SINGLE DELIGHT 254a
 + ? Henry Groff -> Mathias Zacharias 5a $?
 + 3/28/1825 George Flack [lf] -> Mathias Zacharias .1a 10$
 + 5/14/1836 J. Zacharias est. -> Christian Zacharias 1st 5a
? Zacharias est. -> Anna, Ester, Christian, Mathias 3rd
5/19/1840 Anna & Mathias -> Christian Zacharias 1st $952
4/14/1875 Zacharias est. -> 4 Zacharias children
9/18/1882 C. Zacharias 2nd sells 1/4 share est. -> Mathias $1.750
4/21/1884 Anna, Ester, Mathias est. -> C. Zacharias $6,919
 - 5/13/1884 C. Zacharias -> Cornelius Dubel 4a $189->[gc]
 - 12/30/1889 C. Zacharias -> Mary A.M. Welty 2a->[sb]
 - 3/31/1890 C. Zacharias -> Mary L. Welty 2a->[sb]
 - 2/8/1896 C. Zacharias -> Levi Dubel 16a $480->[lf]
 - 5/5/1899 C. Zacharias -> Noah Stansbury 10a $377 ->[sb]
*10/24/1916 Christian Zacharias -> John Zacharias 220a
5/12/1923 John Zacharias -> receiver
*5/12/1923 receiver -> Charles Dorcus $9,550
6/12/1930 Charles Dorcus -> Charles Bollinger
3/17/1964 Charles Bollinger -> George Bassler
- ? George Bassler -> Regina Yinger 94a 
- ? George Bassler -> Martin Gallagher 62a 
 
Boyer lot [Above]

6/15/1782 Mathias Zacharias -> Henry Boyer 5a #15
4/28/1989 Henry Boyer -> Henry Whitmore #60
5/10/1793 Henry Whitmore -> Jacob Rudecil #50
9/27/1797 Jacob Rudecil -> Henry Whitmore & Christian Thomas
3/12/1810 Henry Whitmore et al -> Abraham Whitmore
? Whitmore est. -> Christian Whitmore Crabb
5/15/1826 Christian & Frederick Crabb -> John Zacharias $300
5/14/1836 John Zacharias -> Christian Zacharias

Groff's Content  

[out of Single Delight]
6/19/1765 Mathias Zacharias -> Christian Koon 100a #50
5/1/1780 Christian Koon -> Henry Groff #50 GROFF'S CONTENT
 - 3/6/1797 Henry Groff -> Henry Kuhn 16a #5
 + ? ? -> Henry Groff 36a
 
 ? around 1824 ?-> John Kephart 120a
5/18/1838 John Kephart -> Mary & Anna Zacharias 120a $1,931
5/19/1840 M. Zacharias est. -> Anna Zacharias $1,920
8/10/1877 A. Zacharias est. -> Christian Zacharias $4,000
 - 4/21/1879 Christian Zacharias -> James Whitmore 5a $120
3/1/1884 Christian Zacharias -> Cornelius Dubel 115a $5,000
 + 4/25/1884 Christian Zacharias -> Cornelius Dubel 4a $189
 - ? Cornelius Dubel -> 15a
8/27/1904 Cornelius Dubel -> Harvey Valentine 104a $3,400
3/31/138 Harvey Valentine -> Roy Valentine
1/15/1955 Roy Valentine -> Marshall Sanders
4/20/1959 Marshall Sanders -> Vernor Hines
1/1/2000 Vernon Hines -> Julie &
[present] 

Black Flint

[Out of Benjamin's Good Luck]
8/23/1773 William Biggs -> Benjamin Whitmore 96a 130#
8/20/1778 Benjamin Whitmore -> Jacob Thomas 96a #220
[below]
 
[Out of Benjamin's Good Luck]
8/23/1787 John Adams Forney [dl] -> Lawrence Olar 58a 100#
? Lawrence Olar -> Elizabeth Thomas
8/20/1794 Elizabeth Thomas -> Christian Thomas 58a 110#
 + <1798 Jacob Thomas -> Christian Thomas 96a
 + 4/9/1785 Casper Rice -> Christian Thomas 13a 20#
4/24/1802 Christian Thomas -> Henry Ableman 162a 325#
2/11/1807 BLACK FLINT resurvey - 162a
3/28/1811 Henry Ableman -> Mathias Zacharias 2nd 1,215#
4/28/1836 M. Zacharias est. -> Mathias Zacharias 3rd $1,701
3/24/1857 M. Zacharias est. -> Joseph Dotter $1,944
4/18/1861 Joseph Dotter -> Hanson Ecker $3,150
11/16/1862 Hanson Ecker -> default on mortgage
3/21/1863 receiver > Joseph & Henry Fink $2,500
5/30/1881 Joseph & Henry Fink -> John Hoover $2,000
 - ? John Hoover -> Elias Valentine 22a-> [rl]
11/19/1906 Hoover est. -> Michael Lingg - 140a $2,550
1/20/1913 Lingg est. -> Martin Elmer Valentine $2,030 
+ 9/6/1916 James Schealy [sf] -> M. Elmer Valentine 13a $421  
5/13/1938 Martin Elmer Valentine -> Emory E. Valentine - 140a
 ?Emory E. Valentine -> J. Richard Valentine
[present]