Final closing of old roads brings two brothers home Farm of their youth now owned by BGE

September 24, 1995|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,SUN STAFF

William and Henry Boyer hadn't walked down Boyer Road in years.

Their old family homes are long gone, even the barns and other outbuildings. The picnic area along Boyer Beach is gone, too. Almost every sign of the once-proud Boyer Farm has vanished, or been destroyed by vandals.

But when William, 74, and Henry, 69, tromped through the old farm last week they could still see it all: the fine old brick home their grandfather, Henry Boyer, built in 1905 for $15,000; the barns, and outbuildings and tenant houses.

Even with the view of the Bush River now obscured by trees and shrubs, they could see the river of their youth, black with acres of ducks.

"My grandfather used to say, 'This is the closest to heaven on Earth that there is,' " William said. "In all the years we knew him, he never spent a night away from the river."

The Boyer boys, grown a few decades older now, took a walk over the old family grounds last week, after the Harford County Council voted Tuesday night to close two public roads that lead to the property.

It might be their last opportunity to survey the old place, 175 acres of woodland, cropland and sandy beachfront that their great-grandfather, William H. Boyer, purchased in the 1860s.

The land's current owner, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., purchased the Boyer Farm and several other tracts in 1966 with plans to build a nuclear power plant there -- plans that fell through.

BGE built two small power plants there over the years. The land is on the Bush River between and Aberdeen Proving Ground and an Amtrak rail line. Perryman is just across the train tracks.

No one lives back here anymore. Where many homes once were, there are only weeds and trees. The sole remaining home, a stone mansion built by a Baltimore car dealer in the 1930s, is almost in ruins, ravaged by vandals.

That's the reason BGE wanted Bush River and Boyer roads closed for good -- to keep out people who have turned a beautiful spot into a haven for drug and alcohol parties, and an illegal dumping ground.

Little resistance

The County Council heard little resistance to closing the roads.

A Harford farmer complained that he would be blocked from his land if all of Bush River Road was closed, so the council agreed to close only the portion intersecting the BGE property.

Giving up their "heaven on Earth" never crossed the minds of the Boyers when they were growing up in the 1920s and 1930s.

As they walked along the land, William and Henry Boyer recalled their father and their father's father, and their childhood days there with their brother, Oliver Jr., now 67 and living in Bel Air. Those three boys had a world of delights available to them.

Besides swimming, fishing and duck hunting on the river, the boys could hunt in the woods.

In those days, there was even a passenger train station where the Amtrak line now meets the Bush River. A ride to Aberdeen cost a nickel, Henry Boyer said.

"This may sound strange," said Henry Boyer, who lives in Bel Air, "but I remember when roller skating on the paved road in Perryman was a big deal."

It was a community alive with characters, and their father, Oliver P. Boyer, and their grandfather, Henry Boyer, fit right in.

"My father told me one day, he said, 'Henry, I sold the horses,' " Henry Boyer said. "He said, 'I want to be the only one in the field to do any thinking.' "

"Our father didn't like horses," William Boyer said. "He said, 'I don't like either end of the horse. One end bites and the other end kicks.' "

Both their grandfather Henry and their father were outdoorsmen who loved to hunt and fish.

"Our father was a gun collector, and a sniper with the Marines in World War I," said Henry Boyer. "We were always around guns. We handled one as soon as we could hold one. We had to have guns, like when dogs would go after the sheep." How else to protect the flock?

Grandfather Henry loved to hunt, especially ducks, but he hated a local rough character named Payhill who hunted illegally at night with a gun that had a 10-foot muzzle and was so powerful it would kill and wound scores of ducks at a time, William Boyer said.

Some of the injured and dying ducks would float ashore in the mornings, he said.

Despite efforts by federal game wardens in Baltimore to catch Payhill in the act, they never could, William Boyer said. Whenever they stopped him in his boat, he didn't have the illegal gun with him, he said.

But Grandfather Henry, walking through the woods one night in 1904 on his way home from the train, stumbled across the big gun, carefully hidden by a log, William Boyer said. Federal game wardens came and took it.

"They had it on display in Baltimore, but it burned up in the Baltimore fire" of 1904, said William Boyer.

His brother, Henry, said he remembers his grandfather Henry hunting ducks even in old age -- so frail he had to place his gun across a box to aim it.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.