By Ann Royston Blouse and Andy Clemens
If you have read the two-part History Trails about the Dulany-Fitzhugh families (Spring and Fall of 2023), you might be curious about how we discovered a location that no longer exists physically. It is not listed in the Maryland Historical Trust database of architectural sites, nor is it recorded as a certificate or patent in Maryland Land Records. The truth is, we couldn’t have found it without the help of Mike Pierce, who mapped the deeds we found, overlayed the plots on a current map of the Dulany Valley area, and then mapped most of the tracts formerly owned by Dulany and sold by the state of Maryland after the Revolutionary War (see Windsor, Home Of The Dulany-Fitzhugh Family, Part I, History Trails, Spring 2023).
It was pandemic boredom that started us on this road. Andy Clemens emailed me in May of 2020 to ask if I had ever heard of a house named “Windsor” in Dulany Valley. He had found a photo in the lovely book Some Old Houses of Maryland, a collection of photographs taken by William H. Fisher (1859-1938) in Baltimore and surrounding counties together with his handwritten notes/descriptions (but unfortunately, no dates). On page 56 there were several photos identified as Windsor with the following note
“Windsor, on the Jarrettsville Pike, overlooking Lock [sic] Raven, is a 15-acre tract, the old house being over 100 years old. This property is adjoining “Marshmont,” owned by J. Marsh Matthews, and was originally embraced in that tract. Windsor was sold to Tilghman G. Pitts in Oct. 1925.”
Andy and I believed the house pictured was Marshmont/Eagles Nest (BA-107). Andy has been researching, hiking, and photographing the Loch Raven Reservoir area for more than 40 years, and I have a fair amount of knowledge from the research done for my book, What Lies Beneath. The farms, mills and towns under our reservoirs. Neither of us had ever come across Windsor, so where was it, and was the house still standing? At this point in the lockdown, we had only online resources and our own libraries to help us solve this mystery.
The first thing I did was find the deed for Tilghman Pitts’ purchase to confirm that the house pictured was indeed not Eagle’s Nest. The deed told me that the tract was part of Windsor and of the Valley of Jehosophat; that Pitts had purchased it from J. Marsh Matthews, who had bought it from the Mayor and City Council (MdLandRec.net 625:200, 1925). I also tracked the title for Eagles Nest to absolutely confirm that these were two separate properties, which they were.
Maryland Historical Trust (www.mht.org) is my first stop when looking for a house, but there was no listing for Windsor and a search using Dulany also returned no results. Next, there was the always-reliable land records (www.mdlandrec.net). A search of the land records index 1798-1851 yielded a list of 25 deed and mortgage transactions for Windsor (also spelled Winsor), and gave us a name—Fitzhugh (https://mdlandrec.net/land records index 1798-1851). A search of Mike Pierce’s invaluable resource www.map-maker.org showed entries for George Fitzhugh but none named Windsor.
We asked Teri Rising if she had ever heard of the tract, and she sent us a long, gossipy article from the Baltimore County Union entitled “Notes on Dulany’s Valley, Md., No. IV” (Dec. 28, 1878). The article told us that George Fitzhugh had married Mary Dulany, named her 500-acre tract “Windsor,” and that a family cemetery was on the property. The family name Dulany, and its association with the Valley of Jehosophat, provided a wider research scope. And, if we could find the cemetery, we would find the house.
We knew that there had been a Fitzhugh mill, on Fitzhugh Run, but McGrain’s Molinography entry doesn’t mention Windsor—was this the same Fitzhugh? When the Mayor and City Council bought land in the area to build the high dam at Loch Raven, the mill was on the property of Sovena (also seen as Lavena) Smith, most of which is now underwater. The mill’s ruins survive in the wooded area where Jarrettsville Turnpike and Dulany Valley Road split. There are foundations here, but one is of poured concrete, so it certainly wasn’t a house from the 1700s. But it could have replaced an earlier house, so was this the location of the cemetery (usually, family cemeteries are close to the house). Andy started looking for a cemetery on his hikes, an almost impossible task given the vast area to search and the heavy undergrowth.
When HSBC reopened, we found two items that cemented our research: a 1980 Baltimore Sun article about the house Bryn Awel on Jarrettsville Pike, which stated that there was an old burying ground behind the house and a memoir written in 1895 by a Fitzhugh granddaughter.
The owners of Bryn Awel very graciously allowed us access to their property in order to find the Fitzhugh family burying ground on reservoir property. They also shared with us the original blueprints for the house which showed the footprint of a previous house on the site. We had found Windsor.
Our research was twisty and windy and full of detours. We spent hundreds of hours deciphering handwritten land records and searching historical newspapers online, as well as visiting the Maryland Center for History and Culture. It took us three years to find and document the story of Windsor and the Dulany-Fitzhugh families, but to me, it was worth every second.
Ann Royston Blouse and Andy Clemens