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Historic Plantation House c.1850 For Sale

May 17th, 2007 by Gary Gestson

Black Walnut Thicket. Built in 1850, this beautifully restored Ante Bellum plantation house enjoys a private ten-acre setting graced with mature boxwoods and a vintage tobacco barn. Listed on the county registry of historic places, the home presents a unique blend of modern amenities and historic detailing. A three-story staircase, a grand entry, a two-story porch, and original wood flooring recall another era, while the four spacious bedrooms, Jennaire fixtures, three custom baths, and updated infastructure introduce modern liveability. A home of historic significance, this estate is well-suited for the equestrian or for one seeking a vintage residence with modern comforts. PG County Historic Registery #86B-010. Mins. to DC.

History - 

Black Walnut Thicket is nearly as old as the European experience in the New W orld. Prior to European settlement, these rolling hills, woods and “freshets” of the Patuxent would have been settled by the Piscataway Native Americans.
The dates of the present structures are unknown. Black Walnut Thicket is the amalgamation of two residences. The large front structure is a neo-classical mid 19th century home, with a side entry and double parlor. A hyphen connects this to the older, smaller structure, which is a late 18th/early 19th century Tidewater farm house. A hand-forged nail of a type manufactured around 1815 shows that
construction or repair may have occurred at this time. No formal age analysis has been done, to the knowledge of the present owners. 

The age of the Tobacco barn is also unknown by the present owners.
The first record of “Black Walnut Thicket” is a record of a tract laid out by Richard Marsham, in 1670. Marsham surveyed and applied for this property, His Lordship’s Favour, Content, Marsham’s Rest and St. Katherine’s. His patent for Black W alnut Thicket was granted in 1680, as well as for the other four properties. Black Walnut Thicket consisted of approximately 350 acres.
The daughter of Richard Marsham and Katherine Brent married Baker Brooke II in 1685, and the property ownership is listed under Brooke’s name, as Richard Marsham was Brooke’s stepfather. Brooke was the grandson of Governor Leonard Calvert and the great grandson of George Calvert (1st Lord Baltimore). Katherine Marsham retained a life ownership until her death, when the property passed to their son, Leonard. Leonard’s wife was Anne Darnell, of another prominent local family. Leonard Brooke is listing as dieing at the property in 1736.

Leonard Brooke II, who obtained the rank of Captain in the English Army, was born at Black Walnut Thicket in 1728. He married Elizabeth Maxwell, in London, in 1750.
Mid 18th Century records are sketchy, but evidence points to the property reverting to the Calvert cousins. The property was listed as being owned by Elizabeth Calvert, the sister-in-law of John Parke Custis (stepson of George Washington). The dearth of records may represent the abandonment of any family living structure, and the fact that there is more clarity in 1780 may represent an early, possible date for the Tidewater Farm House which is still standing.

In a coincidental side note, the second husband of Elizabeth Calvert was named Joseph Nicklin. Joseph is of the same family as the present owner, Marcia Nicklin, though any family or even regional connection of the Nicklins to Southern Maryland were unknown at the time of purchase.

In the late 18th Century, the owner is listed as Dr. Oswald Brooke. The property, as well as the contiguous property known as Content, was then purchased by Michael Carroll around 1842.
In 1853, Black Walnut Thicket became embroiled in a US Supreme Court dispute. The case is interesting in that it unveils a personal family feud of a prominent Maryland family. The dispute was whether the property was to revert to Carroll’s wife or to the children of Carroll’s first marriage.

The full case description is available on line, but the court sided with the children of the first marriage.
A poignant side note from this time is an ad from the Planter’s Advocate of a young female slave named Chaney who ran away and escaped to Black Walnut Thicket in order to be with her mother and father, who were both enslaved here. She was captured on or around November 20, 1853 and a reward of $20 was paid to whoever turned her in.

The children chose to put the house up for auction, where it was purchased by another prominent member of Southern Maryland, Dr. R.W.G. Baden. The house became known as “The Baden House”, and remained in the Baden family for over 100 years. One son of Dr. Baden, William A. K. Baden, took a head wound at the battle of Bristol Station. He hung on for years, but died of his wounds in the house, at age 31, on May 21, 1872. The present owners retain the text of the obituary, which contain evocative lines such as “Physically his spirit swooned away with the mellow autumn when he was wounded, but, mentally he lingered over the smouldering funeral pyre, until it, too, mingled in its ashes”.
The property was owned, in succession, by Margaret Baden, Elizabeth (Baden) Turner, Alexander Grayson Baden, and back to Elizabeth Turner.

Members of the Baden family have visited in recent years, and have noted that the present renovations have returned the home back to the elegant feel of the Baden years.
In 1954, the house was sold outside of the Baden family to Frederick H and Ursula Theobald. By this time, the large farm had been divided down to 35 acres.
In the 1980s, the house was owned by a builder named Robin Butler. Some maintenance to prevent the house from ruin occurred at this time. In 1990, the house was purchase by Andy Wallace. Mr. Wallace performed extensive and award winning renovations, based on historical research. The dormers on the third floor were replace as per the original configuration and the plantation- style two story porch brought the house to it’s former glory. Numerous articles document the progress of the renovations. Mr. Wallace sold the house to the present owners and 1997, and is currently renovating the grand Prince Georges house, Mt. Lubentia.
The present owners, David Stern and Marcia Nicklin, have continued extensive and sympathetic renovations, and the interior of the house retains an air of opulence. Major projects have included landscaping, finish of the second floor of the old wing, complete renovation of all bathrooms in period manner and period kitchen installations. Numerous details, including period door hardware and lighting have been added.
The following information is unconfirmed, but based on conversation with remaining Baden family members:
Somewhere on the property is a family plot. The present owner has been unable to locate it, but the location is probably known some remaining Baden family members.

Dr. Baden passed away in 1882, and the house was divided among the children. Elizabeth Baden Turnerlived in the house for many years. In the early, 1930’s, the chimneys and double pent were removed, the third storey was rebuilt, a wrap-around porch was added and the dormers removed. A breakfast room was
also added to the hyphen. This was reported by Elizabeth Baden Turner’s grandson.
There was a large wing extending to the west side of the main block. It was only accessible from the second floor and was used as a school house for both the owners and slave children. It burned down in the 19th century.

When the staircase was created in the mid 1800’s, the fact the Walnut newel post was imported from France was a source of envy.

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