Lombardy’s Historic Past
As you may know, our family is fortunate to call a couple of spots here on the east coast “home”. We have our primary home in Potomac, a suburb of Washington DC, and we own a second home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore called Lombardy. Joe bought our “first second home” on the beautiful waters of the Chesapeake Bay in 1990, the year the two of us met. Twelve years, three children, and a rapidly growing extended family later, that little house was busting at the seams. It became clear that it was time to move on. In 2003, Lombardy became ours and marked the beginning of a six-year renovation. More on that later! This post is all about Lombardy’s long and historic past – we’re going back to the beginning.
We have met many wonderful friends and neighbors in Talbot County who know and love Lombardy. And they have generously shared fascinating stories about the property with us over the years. In addition, some of the following facts are excerpts from articles which have appeared in various publications and the Maryland State Archives.
1679 – The Thumb Stamp
The land that Lombardy rests upon was first patented in 1679 to Francis Morling, Sr. Over the years the property has ranged in size from 100 to 400 acres. (Currently, Lombardy is 262 acres.) Known through the years as Bachelor’s Branch, Bennett’s Neglect, Triangle, Thief Keep Out, Springfield Partnership and Hall’s Range, the name “Lombardy” first appears on the bill of sale to Colonel Horace Richardson in the 1840s. Unfortunately, the one thing that no one seems to know is why the property is named “Lombardy”.
The original house was likely built by a Frenchman in the first year of the American Revolution. Part of that home remains and is now adjoined to the main house by a breezeway, and it is our guest house. From 1795 to 1817, the property was owned by Colonel John Hughes. Colonel Hughes was in charge of Major Andre’ before the Major was hung for treason for conspiring with Benedict Arnold and accompanied Major Andre’ as he walked to the scaffold. At the time of Colonel Hughes death, Lombardy was 400 acres.
The Poker Game
In 1850, the large brick house burned to the ground. At the time, it was the home of Horace Edmondson and his wife Elizabeth Lloyd Lowndes, daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Lloyd Lowndes. The story goes that while the Colonel and his guests were playing cards, the house caught on fire. They had the servants move the tables onto the lawn and finished the game while the house burned down.
John Rowins is the next owner of record. He started a silkworm industry on the property. No house is known to exist at that time, only a part of the original brick house. He sold Lombardy to Ezekiel Cowgill in 1856.
Ezekiel Cowgill was a Quaker and a politically active abolitionist. In Cowgill’s memoirs, he wrote that he was drawn to Miles River Neck by the landscape but expressed surprise to find himself living as a neighbor to slaveholders. He wrote, “…that I have fallen haphazard into Miles River Neck, the great hotbed and stronghold of American slavery and among the Goliath, Nebuchadnezzars, and Pharaohs of the peculiar institution – can I desire to fraternize with such and to partake of their abominations? I have thought much on the subject of slavery since I have been in the “sink of in” (iniquity) and have had occasion to say that I belonged to a society of professing Christians.”
It appears that he paid wages to those who worked at Lombardy, rendering the farm unprofitable. Correspondence from Cowgill to other members of the Camden Monthly Meeting suggests that he was at least complicit in the operation of the Underground Railroad, if not an active accomplice. Cowgill voted for Abraham Lincoln and was possibly the only voter in the county to do so. After the Civil War, he carved out a parcel of his land for the 18 soldiers of the Colored Troops upon their return to the nearby plantations. The former slaves, now free, leased the land for $1 per plot of land from Cowgill. The one condition? They had to build a church and school. The church and town of Unionville, originally called Cowgillville, are still thriving today. Ezekiel Cowgill and his family are buried in a small cemetery at Lombardy.
Ezekiel and Sarah Cowgill’s son, James, bought the title from the combined heirs and conveyed it to J. Kemp Bartlett in 1925. Bartlett tore down the dilapidated mid-19th-century house, but not the brick portion of the original 18th-century building. From 1928-1930, the Bartlett family built the current two-and-one-half story, five bay Colonial Revival house with a two-story porch. The historic little brick house connects to the main house by a breezeway.
The 21st Century
Since then, Lombardy has been home to several families and we feel so fortunate to get to know a handful of these wonderful folks. Tom Lane, the great-grandson of J.Kemp Bartlett, generously gave us an album containing these historic photos. Tom recorded a wonderful YouTube video about 5 years ago on the property – it is fun to watch! (Also, we renovated the boat house in 2014!).
Next up? Restoring Lombardy – 2003 to the present.