History of Holly Hill
The ACLT purchased the 400-acre Holly Hill property from the Turner family in 2017. It includes about 335 acres of woodland punctuated by ravines, 60 acres of cultivated farmland, and 5 acres with a house, yard, garden, barn, and lane.
The red boundary marks Holly Hill under ACLT ownership, 2021.
Indigenous people--Native Americans--made use of this land for centuries, as described in Interpretation: Indigenous People in the Vicinity of Parkers Creek. Beginning in the mid-1600s, colonizers arrived from England and elsewhere in the British Isles. Some were granted land patents by Cecil Calvert, the Second Baron Baltimore and proprietor of the Maryland colony. A half dozen patents were surveyed on or near the land called Holly Hill today. Additional information on the patents is provided in Cecil Calvert's Land Patents in the Parkers Creek Area (forthcoming). The land in the neighborhood was sold, subdivided, and resold in the decades that followed, and Holly Hill emerged from that process.
Different instances of 19th- and 20th-century documentation of Holly Hill's operation and ownership report different tract sizes, ranging from 180 to 340 acres. In part, this variation reflects the levels of precision and care found in different land surveys. We believe that the variation also reflects decisions by the long-term owners, Dares in the 19th century and Turners in the 20th. Both families also owned adjacent properties and, when holdings were passed on the next generation, lines of division may have been redrawn, shifting land from one property to another.
Holly Hill was stitched together from parts of multiple colonial-era land patents. The surveys at hand are inexact and subject to interpretation. Our best guess is that the property was assembled from segments of The Agreement, patented in 1664 by James Shacklady and Nicolas Hammond (Hamond); Darby, including a resurvey, patented in 1681 and 1688 by Francis Buxton; and from a trio of seemingly overlapping patents.
The earliest of the confusing set of overlapping patents was Ball (or Balles), patented in 1675 to Nicholas Furnasse (or Furnas and other spellings). Either because Furnasse died without heirs or failed to pay Calvert's assessed fees, this patent escheated, meaning that ownership reverted to Lord Baltimore. In 1728, some or all of this land was patented to Kensey Johns with the name Parkers Clifts Resurvey or Parkers Clifts Addition. (The 1658 patent of the nearby and larger Parker's Clifts to William Parker, subdivided and resold to others by 1728, was unaffected by Johns's acquisition.) Finally, in 1740, Gideon Dare obtained a patent to Bite the Biter, which includes some or all of the escheated land from Ball. There are at least two men named Gideon Dare who figure in the early chapters of Holly Hill's history.
Preliminary map with a red dashed line showing the approximate location of Holly Hill (2021 boundaries) relative to colonial-era land patents.
The first generations of the Dare family in Maryland were descendants of James Dare, who arrived from England in 1670. Tax assessments from the mid- to late-18th century indicate that members of the Dare family assembled extensive land holdings in the neighborhood, not just Holly Hill but also tracts to east and perhaps other adjacent properties.
Tax records from colonial Maryland in 1733 and the state of Maryland in 1782 and 1783 list property owners named Nathaniel Dare, Gideon Dare, and Clevely Dare, presumably descendants of James. Based on one genealogical source, we believe that this trio may be father Nathaniel Dare (probably 1678-1742, married to Mary Clevely, 1675-1748) and sons Gideon Dare (1727-1781), and Clevely Dare (possibly Thomas Clevely Dare, 1741-died after 1783). The name Clevely is often written as Cleverly.
In the 1782 and 1783 Maryland tax assessments, Thomas Clevely Dare is listed as owning all or parts of the patents The Agreement, Parker's Clifts (probably Parker's Clifts Addition), Bite the Biter, The Neglect, Sampson's Dividend, Warring, Device (Devise), and Darby, for a total of 630 (one source) or 530 (second source) acres. We believe that this is the Thomas Clevely Dare born 1741 and died after 1783.
The next set of land records we have found bring us to the extended family of a later Gideon Dare. Census records and a will indicate that he was born before 1766 and died in about 1820, thus possibly the son of Thomas Clevely Dare (1741-died after 1783). This later Gideon Dare was a Quaker and the father of ten children, whose births are recorded in Quaker records. Three children who figure in the history of Holly Hill and adjoining land are Thomas Clevely Dare (1779-ca 1838), Henry Dare (1781-prob. 1833), and Richard Dare (1792-after 1833), as well as the two sons of Thomas Clevely Dare (1779-ca 1838): Richard S. Dare (1805-1868) and John G. Dare (1823-1890).
Here's a recap for readers in need of a scorecard:
Calvert County land records are scarce for the years prior to 1882, when the courthouse burned. In a work published in 1982, however, the historian Ailene Williams Hutchins summarized some early records held by the Maryland State Archives that shed light on some of Gideon Dare's transfers of land to his son Thomas Clevely Dare. The acreage and named patents make the following item a good fit for Holly Hill:
March 2, 1809: Gideon Dare--for love for Thomas C. Dare, son of Gideon Dare, and for 30 pounds--lands "Darby", "Ball" and "Agreement", beginning at a locust post and running to a red oak then to a stone where formerly stood, a white oak boundary between William Allnutt and James Wilson and Gideon Dare, then to the boundary between Wilson and Dare, then to the branch and with the branch to the boundary between Elias Woolf and Dare and with Woolf to the boundary between Woolf and Benjamin Harris and with Harris to the beginning--290 and one-fourth a.
The patents named in the following item suggest that it is a small tract more or less east of the preceding.
April 10, 1815: Gideon Dare--for love for Thomas C. Dare--and for $800.--lands called "Device" [Devise] and "Parkers Clifts". Begin for "Device" at the northwest comer of a tract late in possession of James Sewell at the main stream of the north branch of "Parkers Clifts" and run with said land late in possession of James Sewell to land formerly in possession of Thomas Cleverly Dare and to the branch and down the branch to the beginning--72 a. Begin for "Parkers Clifts" at the beginning of "Bite the Bite" formerly in possession of Thomas C. Dare and run to a bounded white oak on land formerly of Thomas C. Dare and with the head lines on the bay side lands to "Neglect", then to the intersection of "Bite the Bite" and to the beginning--21 a.
A chancery court case launched in 1850, with written records that extend to 1854, offer helpful information about this cast of characters and their relationships to each other and to the land. The records include depositions from three individuals that contradict each other in minor ways but present key facts reinforced by information in the census. Incidentally, the court records indicate the family owned more than the 311 acres documented in the 1809 and 1815 transfers quoted above. The chancery records also include the earliest use of the name Holly Hill (or Holly Hills) that we found thus far.
We used the chancery record, Hutchins's land records, and census data to develop the following chronology:
1809 and 1815: Gideon Dare transferred land to Thomas Clevely Dare
Gideon Dare transferred land to his son Thomas Clevely Dare. Meanwhile, the 1851 chancery court depositions identify other early-1800 Dare family holdings on the cliffs to the east: Bayside Farm and land referenced by colonial-era patent names: Sampson's Dividend and Devise. The depositions state that Gideon lived on a bayside property before his death in 1820.
1812: Henry Dare occupied Holly Hill
One of the chancery court depositions states that Henry Dare's initial occupation of Holly Hill began in this year, land then still owned by his father Gideon Dare. (Other errors in this testimony lead us to consider this date-statement as semi-reliable.)
1820: Death of Gideon Dare
Death of Gideon Dare. His will carried three land bequests:
"To my dear and beloved wife and son Richard my land I have any right or title unto [their] life, and after their decease I give my son Thos C. Dare the plantation whereon I know [now] live." We interpret this to refer to Bayside Farm; elsewhere in the depositions, the acreage is stated to be 175.
To "my son Henry all the remainder of my land to him & his heirs forever." We interpret this to mean Holly Hill; elsewhere in the depositions, the acreage is stated to be 150.
To "my son Gideon I have given I have given a plantation whereon he lives." This Gideon does not turn up in the later records we have seen and we have not identified his plantation's location.
Three Dare households are shown on this map, surveyed in 1824 and published in 1857. We believe that Dare household to the east is Bayside Farm, occupied by the elder Gideon Dare prior to his death in 1820. Meanwhile, the Dare household south of the main east-west road is Holly Hill, occupied by Henry Dare until his death in 1833. It is possible that the household north of the main road was the younger Gideon Dare's property. The abbreviation M.H. marks the site of a Quaker Meeting House; the abbreviation W.H. marks the site of a warehouse serving transport at Allnut's Landing (sometimes spelled Allnutts; later Dares Wharf and today, Dares Beach). Detail from U.S. Engineer Dept., Maj. J.J. Abert and Maj. J. Kearney, Map of the Patuxent & St. Mary's Rivers; survey 1824, pub 1857. The full map is linked from the Calvert County historic maps page.
1822: Henry Dare failed to pay a debt
Henry Dare failed to pay a debt to Joseph G. Waters and, following a writ of execution on a judgement against Dare, Holly Hill was seized and put up for sale by the sheriff. However, the property did not sell as planned.
1825: Holly Hill sold to Nathan Levering
Belated sheriff's sale of Holly Hill to Nathan Levering of Baltimore.
1832: Holly Hill sold to Thomas Clevely Dare
Nathan Levering sold the land to Thomas C. Dare (1779-ca 1838, Henry Dare's brother).
1833: death of Henry Dare
Henry Dare died.
1838: death of Thomas Clevely Dare
Thomas Clevely Dare died; his will included the following bequests:
Holly Hill to his son Richard S. Dare.
Bayside plantation to his son Thomas Clevely Dare Jr., "where on he now lives."
Personal property to his wife Elizabeth S. Dare and, after her death, to his son John G. Dare. Thomas Clevely Dare's will also instructs Elizabeth and son Richard S. Dare to serve as guardians to his 15-year-old son John.
During these decades, most of what we know is derived from census records, including the Agricultural Schedule of the U.S. Census, often referred to as the Agricultural Census, and available for 1850-1880. Information was also provided by a Chancery Court case, see the 1850-1854 entry below. As reported below, the census enumerations for Richard Dare and Thomas Dare in 1840 and for Richard Dare and John Dare in 1860 name a number of Free Blacks (the usual term for free persons of African descent), several of whom were laborers on the Dare farms. Knowing of the Dare family's Quaker background, we wondered if this presence aligned with their faith's support for abolition. There is, however, a counter-indicator in 1850, when the U.S. Census Slave Schedule lists a Richard Dare as owner of 8 enslaved individuals. At this writing, we are uncertain as to how to interpret these findings.
1840: three Dare households, including Holly Hill
Comment: in the main enumeration of the 1840 census, people's ages are given as ranges; our more exact age information is primarily derived from later census records and gravestone markings.
Richard S. Dare (1805-1868); information in the chancery court record indicates that this household occupied Holly Hill.
Census data reports that this household included Richard S. Dare, his wife Priscilla Allnutt Dare (prob b 1809-d 1858), two Free Black males, two Free Black females, and one enslaved female child. Richard and Priscilla Dare had a daughter Sarah E. Dare; according to the Find-a-Grave entry, Sarah died at age 2 in 1842.
Elizabeth Snowden Dare (1784/5-1859, widow of Thomas Clevely Dare, 1779-1838): information in the chancery court record suggests this was the Bayside Farm.
Census data reports that this household included Elizabeth Snowden Dare and a white male aged 20-29, almost certainly Elizabeth and Thomas's teenage son John G. Dare (1823-1890). The household also included two male Free Blacks and two female Free Blacks.
Thomas Clevely Dare [Junior], 1808-1843 [dates sometimes given as 1810-1845]; location not identified.
Census data indicates that this household included Thomas Clevely Dare [Jr], and one male Free Black and one female Free Black.
1850: two Dare households, including Holly Hill
Richard S. Dare (1805-1868): information in the chancery court record indicates that this included Holly Hill; the extent of acreage suggest that this also included additional land.
Census data reports this household included Richard S. Dare, listing him as farmer and planter, and his wife Priscilla Dare [she would die in 1858]. The 1850 U.S. Census Slave Schedule lists a Richard Dare as owning 8 enslaved individuals. We believe that this is the same Richard Dare; however, no other reports that we have seen for 1840-1860 state that he owned more than one enslaved person. The 1850 Agricultural Census indicates that the farm's main cash crop was tobacco (5,000 lbs), although the listing suggests that livestock, wheat, and butter may also have been sold. The decennial census reports real estate valued at $4,000, no acreage stated; the Agricultural Census reports a value of $7,000 and 555 acres.
John G. Dare (1823-1890): information in the chancery court record suggests this was the Bayside Farm.
Census data reports this household included John G. Dare, listing him as farmer and planter, and his mother Elizabeth Dare [she would die in 1859]; the Agricultural Census indicates that the farm's main cash crop was tobacco (5,000 lbs), although the listing suggests that livestock, wheat, and butter may also have been sold. The decennial census reports real estate valued at $3,000, no acreage stated; the Agricultural census reports a value of $1,800 [difficult to read] and 180 acres.
1850-1854: Chancery Court case, Catherine Dare v. Richard S. Dare
Catherine Dare was the widow of Henry Dare. Her claim was for the dower portion of Holly Hill, which her husband had inherited from his father Gideon Dare in 1820. Holly Hill had been sold at a sheriff’s sale in 1825 and later sold to Thomas C. Dare in 1832 and left to his son Richard S. Dare in 1838. A court decision is not included in the case file, but we presume that Catherine Dare’s dower rights were lost when Henry Dare defaulted on his debt and the farm was seized by the sheriff, and the case was decided in favor of the defendant, Richard S. Dare. (Maryland State Archives, Chancery Court Cases, 1850/11/09; Catherine Dare vs. Richard S. Dare. CV. Estate of Henry Dare - Holly Hill. Accession No.: 17,898-7387 MSA S512-9-7364 Location:1/37/4/.)
1860: two Dare households, including Holly Hill
Four separate rows in the 1860 Agricultural Census associate Richard S. Dare with two farms and John G. Dare with two farms. In both pairs, the two tracts are listed with 337 and 175 acres. We believe that this may indicate that the brothers shared the management of Holly Hill and the Bayside Farm; the total acreage of 512 for the two properties is consistent with earlier reports. The cash crop of tobacco appears in three of the four listings, with yields of 14,000, 11,000 and 7,000 lbs. The farm data also lists horses, oxen, milk cows, hogs, and sheep, and the sale of potatoes and butter.
Richard S. Dare (1805-1868)
Census data indicates that this household includes Richard S. Dare, a 7-year old white girl named Rachel Ramsey, and two Free Black men, Dennis Blake and Horace Gross. Richard S. Dare's wife Priscilla had died in 1858.
John G. Dare (1823-1890)
Census data indicates that this household included John G. Dare and six Free Blacks: Jacob Boots (male age 65), Roaney [Ronny?] Boots (female age 40), Eliza Boots (female, age 19), [Julia?] Boots (female, age 14), Tom Boots (male, age 10), and Baby Boots (male infant). John Dare's mother, Elizabeth, who had been living with John, died in 1859. In the 1860 census enumeration, the next household listed after John Dare is an eight-person Free Black family, headed by Samuel Boots. John Dare's name also turns up an 1863 Civil War military registration record although there is no indication that he was drafted.
1870: one household, Holly Hill
Richard S. Dare died in 1868. The Agricultural Census associates 285 acres with John G. Dare; we have not determined how to account for the reduction from the 1860 total of 512 acres. It is likely that the Bayside Farm and other land to the east was sold at some point prior to 1870.
John G. Dare (1823-1890)
Census data indicates that this household included John G. Dare and eight African Americans. Six are listed as farm laborers: Samuel Boots, George Hicks, William Smith, George Boots, Jeremiah Boots. The list also includes Barbara Beckett, domestic servant, with her son William, age 6. The 1870 Agricultural Census listing for John Dare states that the farm acreage is 285 with a value of $3,500. It also reports that Dare paid $930 in wages (including board), harvested 1,600 lbs of tobacco (far fewer than in previous years); the total value of all farm products is stated as $1,686. If the $930 labor cost is deducted, net earnings would be $756.
1880: one household, Holly Hill
John G. Dare (1823-1890)
Census data indicates that this household included John G. Dare and five African Americans: Wesley Whillington (Whittington?, servant), Charles Freeland (servant), Barbara Flint (keeping house). W. Henry Flint (hand), and James Parish (servant). Virginia E. Freeland (1832-1900), who joined John Dare as his life companion at some point in this general period, is listed as residing with her brother George Freeland, "two households over" on the same census page.
1890: death of John G. Dare
John Dare (1823-1890). Buried in St. Paul's Episcopal Church extension cemetery, Dares Beach Road. This a former Freeland-family graveyard.
John G. Dare's will
" … I give and devise unto the said Virginia E. Freeland the Farm or Plantation whereon I now reside containing Three hundred acres more or less, to her and her heirs and assigns in fee simple…." Calvert County Wills VCC1:110
During these decades, some of what we know is derived from deeds and census records, supplemented by personal recollections from Thomas B. Turner MD (1902-2002) and his daughter Anne Pope.
1900: death of Virginia E. Freeland
Virginia E. "Jennie" Freeland (1831-1900). Buried in St. Paul's Episcopal Church extension cemetery next to John G Dare. This a former Freeland-family graveyard.
One member of the John Dare (Holly Hill) household during the 1890s and perhaps even earlier was Virginia "Jennie" Freeland Lyles (1878-1970), Virginia E. "Jennie" Freeland's niece. In 1902, Lyles (by then married to George Turner) gave birth to Thomas B. Turner; years later, thinking of her and the family association with John Dare, Turner commented, "I know one Dare who never married. Uncle John we called him, Uncle John Dare." (From a recorded interview, 22 September 1995, identifier aclt-sca-cf_C014A.)
1900-1901: Acquisition of Holly Hill by Jennie Lyles (1878-1970), soon to marry George Turner (1868-1948)
Regarding her grandparents George Dorsey Turner (1868-1948) and Jennie Lyles Turner (1878-1970), Anne Pope described the circumstances in a 2017 email.
"Jennie [Lyles] grew up there with her Aunt Jennie [Freeland] (for whom she was named) after her mother died. I have a diary kept by my grandmother while she was living there that talks with great excitement about Mr Turner coming to visit. When the farm was put up for sale, in quite a romantic gesture, Granddaddy bought it for her although it was not actually in her name until he died and left it to her in its entirety. . . . My Grandfather Turner loved buying land and bought hundreds of acres around Prince Frederick and of course Holly Hill. He loved to own it and he loved to walk it."
The legal details in some of the deeds related to the acquisition add some complications as, apparently, various Lyles and Dare relatives sorted out claims to parts of the property in December 1900 and April 1901. In these deeds, Jennie is identified as Virginia F. Lyles. The matter seems to have been brought to conclusion in another "sorting out" deed dated 19 November 1901, that names the parties as George D. Turner and Virginia F. Turner and describes the outcome obtained by trustee J. Frank Parran:
" . . . the said Trustee, after complying with all the previous requisites of the decree, did on the 24th day of June in the year one thousand nine hundred and one sell unto the said George D. Turner and Virginia F. Turner at and for the sum of eight hundred dollars, current money, the aforesaid leasehold property situate in Calvert County . . . containing three hundred acres more or less."
1917: Thomas B. Turner (1902-2002) worked at the farm
Thomas "Tommy" B. Turner, George and Jennie Turner's son and later a physician and Dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, recalls working on Holly Hill as a teen-ager:
"Eventually at about age 15, I became my father’s 'foreman' during the summer, working along with the hired men--about a half dozen blacks and whites--planting, cultivating, and harvesting corn and tobacco. My immunity to farming was thus acquired early!" (From Part of Medicine, Part of Me, privately published 1981)
In an reminiscence, Thomas Turner also recalls his father passing along tales learned from an African American storyteller:
"My father had a good sense of humor and was somewhat of a raconteur. He began early telling me 'Uncle Remus' stories which had been told him as a child by an old black man on his grandfather [Thomas Bourne] Turner’s farm. [This farm was across the county to the west, near a place called Chitron Neck.] Since my father was born in 1868, these stories were being told well before Joel Chandler Harris put them in a book first published in 1880. Moreover, many of the tales told to me about Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox differed substantially from those recorded by Harris, so presumably they were a part of the early black culture in America. These were wondrous stories which have now delighted four generations of my family; in most of them Mr. Rabbit was the lazy fellow always devising ways to get something for nothing by outwitting some hardworking fellow, usually Mr. Fox or Mr. Dog.
1938: Aerial photograph includes barns
Detail from a 1938 U.S. Soil Conservation Service aerial photograph showing the tilled fields at Holly Hill. The red oval shows the log and frame barn (the latter destroyed by storm in 2012). The green oval shows an additional large barn (destroyed at unknown date after 1957). The main house is in the cluster of buildings at center. Some of the additional structures visible in the fields may also be barns or tenant houses (destroyed prior to 2017).
1945: Anne Pope visited Holly Hill when young
"The first visit to Holly Hill that I can remember was probably around 1945 before [her aunt and uncle] Dot and Abe [Bowen] lived on the farm. I only remember seeing barns and a very large persimmon tree near them. That was when Dad [Thomas B. Turner] taught me that you didn't eat a persimmon even though it looked beautiful until after it had been touched by frost!" (From a 2017 email)
1946: the main house at Holly Hill destroyed by fire
2 December 1946: "Separate fires, fanned by high winds, destroyed two houses and burned out the upper two stories of separate structure today, Calvert county volunteer fire company officials reported . . . A short time later a large house on the Holly Hill farm estate of George B. Turner at Prince Frederick caught fire and also was destroyed. The owner estimated damage at about $20,000. . . . Firemen said all three fires started from sparks dropping onto the roofs." (Baltimore Sun)
1952: Holly Hill ownership transferred to Dorothy Bowen (1909-1968)
Dorothy "Dot" Bowen was George D. Turner and Virginia "Jennie" F. Turner's daughter, married to Abram "Abe" Bowen (1910-1967). George Turner died in 1948 and, four years later, his widow passed the land on to Dot. In his autobiography, Thomas B. Turner states, "My younger sister, Dorothy, became a teacher and later was seriously crippled by poliomyelitis."
Anne Pope described the ownership transfer in a 2017 email.
Jennie subsequently gave [Holly Hill] to her youngest daughter Dorothy and her husband Abe Bowen who farmed it until his death . . . . I have a picture of two of our sons probably in 1963 or 64 looking at cattle so there were animals [at Holly Hill] then, but I think tobacco was also grown at some point as well. Shortly after my grandfather died, Dot and Abe built the house that stands there now and Dot lived in it until she died. . . .
The transfer deed echoes Anne Pope's recollection; from Virginia F. Turner, widow to Dorothy T. Bowen:
"…in consideration of the sum of Ten Dollars ($10.00) and other good and valuable considerations the said party of the first part does grant and convey unto the said party of the second part, her heirs and assigns, in fee simple, all that tract or parcel of ground…containing three hundred (300) acres, more or less, being all and the same land that the said Virginia F. Turner and her deceased husband, George D. Turner, obtained from J. Frank Parran, Trustee…." Calvert County Land Records, AWR 31/422
1957: Aerial photograph includes barns
Detail from a 1957 U.S. Soil Conservation Service aerial photograph showing the tilled fields at Holly Hill. The red oval shows the log and frame barn (destroyed by storm in 2012). The green oval shows additional large barn (destroyed at unknown date after 1957). The main house is in the cluster of buildings at center. Some of the additional structures visible in the fields may also be barns and tenant houses for farm workers (destroyed prior to 2017).
1968: death of Dorothy Bowen
Dorothy and Abram Bowen had no children and upon Dot's death in 1968 the property came to her sister Virginia "Ginny" Turner Somervell. Ginny helped set up the Somervell Limited Partnership which then held title to the land.
2000 and 2002: deaths of Virginia T. Somervell and Thomas B. Turner
Ginny Turner Somervell died in 2000, followed by her brother Thomas B. Turner in 2002. Holly Hill remained in the possession of the Somervell partnership, now overseen by two of Tommy's daughters (and Ginny's nieces), Anne Pope and Pattie Walker.
2017: Holly Hill purchased by the American Chestnut Land Trust
The Somervell Limited Partnership, represented by Anne Pope and Pattie Walker, sold the land to the ACLT in 2017.
Tommy Turner's good earth
We'll give Tommy Turner the last word, from his 1981 autobiography, when his family still owned the property:
"It gives me great satisfaction that, through my father, I still own a small piece of the good earth of Calvert County, where aged oaks and tulip poplars shade a verdant softness and a deep, life-sustaining loam." (Part of Medicine, Part of Me, privately published 1981)