“Best Cultivated Farm”
'"Best Cultivated Farm": The Backstory of Hayfields, Nicholas Merryman Bosley, and the Lafayette Premium of 1824'
(Excerpted from History Trails 43, no. 1 & 2)
By: Teri Rising
Hayfields Farm, located in the National Register Historic District of Western Run-Belfast in northern Baltimore County, is designated an official Baltimore County Landmark. Built by Nicholas Merryman Bosley, c. 1811, Hayfields was awarded the "Best Cultivated Farm" premium by the Maryland Agricultural Society in 1824, with Revolutionary War hero General Lafayette in attendance. Having no children of his own, Nicholas Bosley willed the farm to his nephew, John Merryman, in 1847, who thereafter expanded it and gained fame for breeding Hereford cattle. John Merryman is perhaps best known for the burning of the Northern Central Railroad (NCRR) bridges at the outset of the Civil War, which resulted in the famed Ex Parte Merryman opinion by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney. Nevertheless, Hayfields remained a farm into the twentieth century, until it was sold to Hayfields, Inc. in 1978, then to the Mangione family in 1986, who turned it into a country club by 1999. Its mansion and farm buildings are preserved and form the core of the Hayfields Country Club in Baltimore County.
Nicholas Merryman Bosley established Hayfields on over 400 acres carved out of several larger land tracts in Baltimore County, including Nicholson’s Manor and Taylor’s Discovery. Land patents like Nicholson's and Taylor's were issued in areas around the coastal region, between the Patapsco and Middle Rivers, so harvests could be easily shipped using water routes in lieu of usable roads. Nicholson’s Manor was once a sprawling parcel comprising 4,200 acres. Originally patented by William Nicholson in 1719, it ran along the western run of the Gunpowder, between Waterspout Branch and the Shawan Cabin Branch (now the Oregon Branch).[i] In 1754, the land was sold at public auction in equal 1,050 acre plots to Roger Boyce, Corbin Lee, Brian Philpot, and Thinsey Johns….