Brice Stump: The estate where history lives

A centuries-old, rare surviving example of a conical-shaped ice house remains at Kingston Hall. (Brice Stump Photo)

The gleaming white country lane of crushed clam shells skirts a field and passes under a canopy of tree boughs that dance in the spring breeze.

Ahead, the salmon-colored bricks of an 18th century house contrast with young green leaves of spring. It looks and feels like home. The lane sweeps by the front steps and ends at the doorway to Eastern Shore history.

This is Kingston Hall, a Somerset County estate where history lives.

It has been home to generations of families since it was constructed in the latter part of the 1700s.

Kingston Hall was home to Gov. Thomas King Carroll.

Though Carroll was a wealthy and colorful Somerset County politician and personality, and served as Maryland 21st governor 1830-31, he lives in the shadow of his now-famous daughter, Anna Ella Carroll.

Historical lore noted that Anna established a school for girls about 1838, though documentation had eluded researchers.

Decades ago, Richard Crumbacker, former editor of the Somerset Herald in Princess Anne, discovered an ad placed in 1838 in the predecessor of the paper, The Herald.

“The Annual Examination in Kingston Hall School” was being held June 28-29 at the Carroll home.

The ad also ran in the Easton Gazette and Cambridge Chronicle.

The appeal of a school was enhanced, the ad noted, as the curriculum was being overseen by “Miss Carroll as Principal and under the supervision of her father Thomas King Carroll.”

Subjects covered in addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, included “Book Keeping, Intellectual Philosophy, Paley’s Natural Theology, and Evidences of Christianity,” “Conchology, Mythology, Botany, Geology, Trigonometry, Plane and Spherical, and Algebra.”

“Board and Tuition in the English department, with bedding and washing per quarter, $30. Day Scholars, $5.”

There were “extra charges” for music on “piano, guitar, French, Italian, Latin, Landscape drawing and painting, Theorem and Mezzotinto,” the ad read.

Even in the early 1800s it seems catering was an up and coming business. The ad noted that “Captain Dashiell, proprietor of the Somerset Hotel” would be providing refreshments, yet a correction appeared in the same June 5th issue of the paper, informing readers that “…refreshments will be furnished at Dr. King’s by Jonathan W. B. Parsons.”

Daughter was abolitionist

Gov. Carroll left Kingston in 1840 and found a new home in Dorchester County near Church Creek. Anna is said to have set up another school at the new home.

Eventually the school closed and Anna became an abolitionist and immersed in politics. She became friends with President Abraham Lincoln, and is said to have been the “secret member” of his Cabinet.

Her modern-day supporters insist she was instrumental in shaping Civil War strategy and policy with Lincoln.

For 24 years — and 20 years of congressional hearings — she tried to get Congress to pay her $5,000 she felt was owed for her “wartime publications.” She never received the money.

A Maryland Historical Society monument notes that she was “Maryland’s Most Distinguished Lady. A great humanitarian and close friend of Abraham Lincoln. She conceived the successful Tennessee Campaign and guided the President on his constitutional war powers.”

Anna, who died in 1894 in Washington, D.C., “poor and paralyzed,” author Hulbert Footner wrote, is buried in Old Trinity Churchyard near her father and brother, Dr. Thomas King Carroll.

Her original tombstone’s epitaph read, “A woman rarely gifted; an able and accomplished writer.”

It was a long way from rural Somerset County to Lincoln’s White House.

Easter Shore showplace

In the mid-18th century, Kingston Hall was considered a grand home. Today it is valued as a showplace among the few surviving examples of period houses on the Eastern Shore for its original paneling.

The so-called “library” of Kingston Hall where Anna Ella Carroll is said to have been taught law by her father, Gov. Thomas King Carroll. (Brice Stump Photo.)

The past is so alive, so real that you can literally touch it with when you slide your fingers over paneling and walk over 18th century heart pine floors with your bare feet.

This is the paneling and floor that the residents that once were also touch and walked.

The 12-room almost 7,000-square-foot historic home — with seven fireplaces — is now for sale by owners Jim and Simonne Theiss.

It is the solitude, the softness of a spring afternoon, the endearing call of blue jays and mocking birds that sets the stage of life here centuries ago.

Kingston Hall was a plantation of almost 2,000 acres. The present 25-acre-estate was taken from the remaining 275 acres of recent years.

“My wife, Simonne and I have always been interested in history,” Theiss said, “and we were recent owners of the historic Littleton Long House in Princess Anne.

“We found out Kingston Hall was for sale, came out and had a look and were impressed with how great it looked. This is the last period home in Somerset County to have its original floor to ceiling paneling.”

During restoration of the house the owners discovered the original ivory colored paint on paneling that was used in the rooms. The heart pine floors are original to the structure, the very floors that the governor and members of his famous family walked so many times.

The house layout is in the well-known Eastern Shore manner, with a colonnade of brick connecting the two-story main house and kitchen.

There a guest house, an imposing 18th-style house built largely with recycled 18th century wood and timbers with functional fireplaces.

There’s also the well preserved ice house, a conical-shaped structure on river shore that once held tons of ice. Each winter for more than a century the house was filled with ice blocks cut from the river.

Architectural historians consider it among the rarest forms of its kind in the state.

Even though the two have owned Kingston Hall since 2015, and spent considerable time and money restoring it, they have to move because of Simonne’s professional obligations in Florida. “When we moved here we thought this would be our ‘forever home,’ but we have to leave.”

“We hope a family can move here to enjoy this wonderful setting, the wildlife, kayaking on the headwaters of the Big Annemessex, rural beauty, this is place is absolutely beautiful.”

And an Eastern Shore landmark.

A subject of stories

Even 145 years after Gov. Carroll’s death, the glorious past of Kingston Hall was being talked about by rural folks of the area.

Footner visited Kingston Hall in the 1940s and wrote about it in his book Rivers of the Eastern Shore, in which he noted that, when Carroll married Juliana Stevenson when he was 20, he and his bride were greeted by 150 male servants “in the green and gold livery of the house.”

“Thomas King Carroll,” wrote author Elias Jones, in his book History of Dorchester County was a “gifted and cultured man of unimpeachable integrity and lofty character.”

According to writer Frank F. White, Jr., the “…family had retained at Kingston Hall many of the old English customs, including the wearing of livery by the servants, as well as the family custom of traveling with a coach and four with outriders.”

Author C. Kay Larson, in her book, Lincoln’s Loyal Lady: Anna Ella Carroll — a Brief, wrote “…Marjorie and Sydney Greenbie learned in 1940 that Kingston Hall was ‘thronged with folks that was real quality’.”

The Carrolls were society, and took it with them when they moved to Dorchester County.

According to Footner, Gov. Carroll had a “summer home,” near LeCompete’s Creek, in Dorchester County, a house that was so grand, the author said, “It was offered to President Herbert Hoover for a summer White House, but he declined.”

Going first class for Carroll was not without its financial perils.

Carroll had to relocate to Dorchester County by 1840 because the Somerset County sheriff sold Kingston Hall to John Dennis to satisfy “accumulated debts.”

Paneling in the hall of Kingston Hall is believed to be the only original remaining floor-to-ceiling period woodwork in Somerset County. (Brice Stump Photo.)

Kingston Hall is listed with Long and Foster. The asking price is $649,999. Contact agent Brandon Brittingham at 410-546-3211.

“Kingston Hall is one of the most unique and historically significant properties I have ever listed. The current owners took it to a step further by adding antique furniture which is being included in the sale of the property,” Brittingham said.

“You feel like you are going back in time when you enter this property, but they also updated it with modern comforts. It’s truly a significant piece of this area’s history, and with almost all of the property dating back to the 1700’s, it is rare in our industry to find a property with this much history in such pristine shape.

“Qualify of construction and craftsmanship you see in this house, is something you just don’t see any more — it is truly a breathtaking property,” he said.

Kingston Hall, at 77526 Old Westover Marion Road, is located about four miles west of Westover.

Kingston Hall, built the the late 1700s, was home to Maryland Gov. Thomas King Carroll and his daughter, Anna Ella Carroll, a “secret Cabinet member” to President Lincoln. (Brice Stump Photo.)

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