Big House, Best Farm

Monocacy Battlefield – The Farms – Best Farm

The Best farm is the largest remaining property on the battlefield at Monocacy. The original property was 750 acres, today it retains 270-some. The property was owned by a white family who immigrated from Santo Domingo (now Haiti) at the beginning of the 19th century, fleeing political and social unrest after the slave rebellion on the island. They re-established their plantation outside Frederick, Maryland, which they named L’Hermitage. The landowners who established the farm had 90 slaves, an unusually large number for a property of its size, and they were the second-largest holding of slaves in the county. According to the Park Service website, one theory has it that they were trying to replicate the slave-labor system they were used to in Haiti, and had that many slaves as part of a rental scheme where they would rent them out to neighboring farmers. On my tour, it was mentioned several times that recent evidence has come to light that the farm operation included the breeding of slaves like racehorses for sale.

The main house is quite large, bigger even than the Thomas farm house. Like the Thomas and Worthington homes, it is not open for tours. The interior is in quite rough shape, but stable. Perhaps one day they will be able to restore it and re-open the home for interpretive tours. The farm was privately operated until 1993 when the park service acquired it. The house was not occupied during the later years of farm operation, though, judging from the condition visible through the windows. If I recall correctly the last occupant of the home was a relative of former Senator Mac Mathias. I wonder if she knew the full history of her property – I don’t know how comfortable I would feel living in a house, no matter how lovely, that was built on the profits from the sale of human beings.

Big House, Best Farm
Big House, Best Farm

I originally thought this structure was the summer kitchen. In fact, it was a secondary home on the property. It was furnished with plaster walls with decorative motifs, much to the same standard as the main house. It is thought that the structure was built to support other French refugees from Haiti and the French Revolution who were relatives or friends of the family. There would have been a porch with stairs on this side facing the house to provide access. The row of slave cabins would have been between this structure and the main road. If they were still standing, they would be visible in the background of this scene.

Secondary House, Best Farm
Secondary House, Best Farm
Secondary House, Best Farm
Secondary House, Best Farm

Here is a view of the stone barn as seen from inside the corn crib. I remember seeing this barn from the interstate highway as we would drive past every weekend when I was a child, and wanting to go see it up close. I had no idea then of the history of the property. The roof of the barn is of course not original, but the stone walls themselves date to 1798 when they were mentioned in the tax assessment. It is an unusual structure in its design, and looks and feels more like a French or English country barn from the 18th century than an American barn structure.

Stone Barn, Best Farm
Stone Barn, Best Farm

A view of the corn crib.

Best Farm Corn Crib End
Best Farm Corn Crib End

The reason the farm is called the Best farm is that it was leased for operation by the Best family from 1864 until 1993. It was owned, however, by the Trail family, which has provoked a friendly dispute between Ed Bearss and the Park Service staff because he still wants them to call it the Trail farm, not the Best farm.

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