Karen & Kurt 
Edgewood in St. Denis

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Sampson and the Meadows: The Clark family farm

A Maryland farmhouse in a similar size and
construction to the home the Clark family most likely lived in.
The Clark family, 1870-1911

Harman’s Woods was once the home of Noah Clark and his first and second wives, Lavinia Ann Boyer and Julia Ann Turner. The Clark family established a farm on properties bought from the Ray family; Widow Ray’s husband had acquired about 600 acres of land in the area that is currently Severn, at the intersection of Maryland 174 (Reese Road) and the current Amtrack railroad. This land was later surveyed by her son, Benjamin Ray in 1864. Noah purchased the first 59 acres of his and Lavinia’s farm from Benjamin’s son, William, in 1876, and built their home somewhere between the present location of Siden Drive and Kidwell Court.

 My research on the Clark family continues; I ask you to forgive any errors or lapses as I continue to work out their family history.

Noah Augustavis Clark and Lavinia Ann Boyer married Nov. 15, 1866. Both of them were members of the extended Boyer family (Noah’s mother was a Boyer), members of whom continue to farm the last truck farm in Severn and the surrounding area. Following their wedding, the young couple, along with Noah’s relative George, lived in Woodwardsville, near Odenton, Maryland. Noah was about 27 and Lavinia was about 24 at the time; the census from 1870 tells us Noah was already farming while Lavinia “kept house.”

In 1868, their first child, a daughter names Rosa, was born. Their oldest son, James, followed in 1870. Camstadel was born in 1872 and Harry in 1874. During this time, it appears Noah continued farming and saving their money to purchase a farm in Severn where their families resided.

In February of 1876, Noah and Lavinia purchased 59 1/2 acres of land, half of a property known as Sampson and the Meadows, from William and Achsah Ray. The property had been surveyed in 1864 by William’s father, Benjamin Ray, who had become responsible for his mother’s widow’s dower. I believe Widow Ray had inherited from her husband about 200 acres of land – which means Benjamin’s father owned, at some point, about 600 acres in Anne Arundel County and most likely raised tobacco. The property Noah and Lavinia purchased was the “addition” to Sampson and the Meadows that was on the other side of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad tracks from the Ray home. It adjoined the Boyer family farm where Lavinia had grown up.

During 1876, while in their new home, Lavinia gave birth to Estelle. The family set about creating a farm that was one of the many, and growing, truck farms in the county that depended on travel – by horse cart and train – to Baltimore and Washington City to deliver produce. (Truck farming takes its name from the French word “troquer” with means small items or produced carried in from elsewhere for market.) Noah most likely planted strawberries, peas, beans, cucumbers and squashes for sale in the two local cities and may have also planted corn, wheat and tobacco as “cash” crops. Lavinia would have tended the vegetable garden for her growing family and engaged in the daily work of “keeping house.” Most of this revolved around growing, preparing and storing food, along with cooking for her family and Noah’s hired men and tending to the house. She would have taught her children from a young age how to sew, collect berries, weave straw and clean.

What does not seem likely is their children attending school nearby. Public education had become law as recently as 1864. My research does not show any school houses in the area and the only high school in the county, located in Annapolis, would not open until 1896. Lavinia and Noah may have taught their children their letters and simple math at the kitchen table, between chores or while working on ledgers; at the same time, looking closely at the handwritten deeds and the affirmations by the county clerks writing them, I am not sure Noah and Lavinia could read and write, at least not more than needed by a farming family at that time.

It is some time following Estelle’s birth that first of many heartbreaks for the Clark family arrived. Lavinia died on Nov. 23, 1876, having lived for less than a year on her own farm. I haven’t discovered her cause of death, though it was common for women to die from complications following childbirth and she may have died from those complications after having given birth to Estelle. I believe she was buried in a small family graveyard within sight of the family home; this graveyard is marked on maps related to court proceedings that would come much later and recorded in property deeds. Mysteriously, and sadly, this graveyard "disappears" from the legal documents after 1958. Unless the graveyard and burials were moved after 1958, her grave is now unmarked and unknown within  the Harmans Woods development.

Noah was a single father with a baby and four young children in the winter of 1876-77, in a house that had just been finished and planning his spring planting. It is possible he had a family member, perhaps one of his younger sisters, Juliet, Achsah or Rachel, come to live with him during this time. As he had just purchased the farm and his first harvest was in, his resources may have been low, so I can imagine him spending a lonely winter, the only man on the farm, daily doing his chores, supporting his children and missing his wife.

The spring came and Noah, with the possible help of one of his sisters, would have become an established member of his community. The family were Methodists, and these are the only churches in both Severn Station and just past Harmans. His sister-in-law, Alice Boyer, was a board member of the Wesley Grove Camp Meeting Association, which drew thousands of people to the Methodist camp every summer. She might have impressed on him the need for his children to be churched and he just as likely would have agreed. I do not know where or when he met Julia Ann Tucker, but many romantic matches were made at the camp meeting and Julia may have been among the thousands who came to hear the rival preachers. Noah would have felt it necessary to have a helpmate to raise his children, care for the home and help him to grow his farm. He would have been looking for a wife, and Julia, at 25, would have been ready for a husband and a home of her own.

Sometime during 1877 or 1878 Noah and Julia wed, he bringing her home to Sampson and the Meadows. The following year, Julia gave birth to Delbert. The farm was doing well  and the family growing.

Of an interesting historical note, the former president Rutherford B. Hayes was traveling home with his wife and family from the presidential inauguration of President James A. Garfield on March 5, 1881, when his train collided with an opposite-bound engine. The collision occurred less than three miles from the Clark home, just as the train rounded the corner at about 1:15 p.m. There were severe injured to train personnel and the baggage master of one of the trains died in the accident. Mr. Hayes and his sons assisted to the recovery and rescue that followed. The accident was loud enough to be heard throughout the area, including at the Clark home. It is likely Noah and Hill were among the community men and local doctors who also responded to help; Julia may have been among the women who treated the injured. The accident, which derailed both trains, was caused because the Washington-bound train had been ordered to stay on the siding at Severn Railroad Station but the engineer disobeyed. Former president Hayes and his party were not injured and were later taken back to a Washington, DC, to stay with a friend.

My records are thin at this point. Mary Elizabeth was born in 1881, Lamptha was born in 1883 and Lulu in 1885. Gertrude was born in 1887 and Verena, the youngest of the Clark children, in 1891. The family was involved in the local Methodist church, then called Prospect Methodist Episcopal (today it is the Severn United Methodist). Some of Lavinia's children were baptized there, along with all of Julia's. Most of the children formally joined the Methodist church, with James, Delbert, Della and Gertrude all marrying there or being married by the pastor.Noah would become a trustee of Prospect Church.

Severn Station was growing as a small community based on the railroad station and then a one-room school and church. The farm seems to have prospered during these years, leading Noah and Julia to purchase the remainder of the property in 1884, 100 acres from William Ray, which was the complete parcel of Sampson and the Meadows. Noah and Julia bought the property for $1,500, offer three promissory notes of $500 each. A local business man and farmer, John T. Jeffery, held the mortgage. John Jeffrey was more than a neighbor; he and Noah were brothers-in-law through their wives, Margaret and Lavinia.

These good fortunes did not last, however. Rosa, a young woman of 24, died at their home in Severn Station in 1892. She had not married nor left home, perhaps having remained to help her stepmother with the younger children. Noah followed her in death a year later, in 1893. Both, I believe, were buried beside Lavinia in the now-lost graveyard. Julia was now the single parent, a farmer with 159 acres, teenagers and young children to care for, and a mortgage obligation to fulfill. Her oldest stepson, James, became the administrator of his father's estate.

Of the estate's obligations, it was the mortgage that went by the wayside. Not quiet 18 months  after Noah’s death,  John T. Jeffery and George E. Shipley (who held a second mortgage) forced the foreclosure of the mortgages on the farm; it was sold at auction in two lots. Julia was unable to keep Sampson and the Meadows and left her farm for a home in Baltimore. The farm property would be owned by several people from the Severn area, including John T. Jeffrey and his daughter, M. Ella Clark, George Shipley, and the I.L. Shipley Brothers, and mined for clay by Washington Hydraulic Press Brick, creating the pit that became Misty Lake. Both John T. Jeffrey and George E. Shipley were trustees of Washington Hydraulic Press Brick. Later, the 1405 Parker Road Corporation would buy up the various parcels of the Clark land, possible with an eye towards future development. It is during the ownership of the 1405 Parker Road Corporation that the family graveyard disappears.

Julia lived with her children and is listed as the head of the house in the 1900 census. Mary wed Walter Lowman in Baltimore. Delbert and Verna are with her in Baltimore, where she died in 1905 of whooping cough.  The older children, including her step-sons who seem to have remained in Harmans or Severn Station, brought her body home. She is buried in the Boyer family cemetery, located in the Quail Run development, two or three miles from her home with Noah. She is the only Turner or Clark buried there. Buried nearby, in the same cemetery, is John T. Jeffery and his wife, Margaret; perhaps they were friends who tried to help and perhaps they were antagonists who demanded the foreclosure after Noah’s death. My truest hope is she buried among friends.

Of the Clark children: Verena remained in Baltimore with her sister Mary Elizabeth and her husband, Walter Lowman, family for six years, also dying young like her sister Rosa, at the age of 19 in 1911 of tuberculosis. Della and her husband, Reason Stinchcomb, remained in the Severn area, having several children who were also raised at Prospect Church. Gertrude married James Close in 1909 and had eight children. Her descendants remain today and some live in Glen Burnie, Maryland. She died in 1931 in Baltimore.

Of the brothers, James became a carpenter for the railroad company, and later a floor layer in Baltimore, and married a local woman, May, and they had two daughters. James died in 1925 from heart failure and May much later, in 1952. They are buried together in Friendship Cemetery, on the grounds of BWI airport. I don’t know what has become of Harry, though I believe he also lived his life in the Severn Station or Harmans communities. Of the Clark children and grandchildren, several are buried in the Friendship Cemetery; I continue to research their lives to understand what happened following Noah's death.

Their story has captivated me and I continue to research this family. They are not among the famous names and their family members no longer have a farm in Severn Station or Harmans. The story of Noah, Lavinia and Julia, though, is the story of ordinary people and the story of the people who helped to build a way of life that is fading into history but helped to define us.  They lived, and loved and gave birth and built and died and were buried, where Kurt and I now live. Our backyard garden is a tiny part of the farm they attempted to build and the road we drive down to reach our townhouse once led to their home. In these ways, our lives have become intertwined, at least for now.