One by one, people continue to settle into the quiet country acreage of Millers, a sleepy hamlet in northeastern Carroll County.
In the town of Millers, and the surrounding area where roads are sometimes gravel, and acres of alfalfa or woodland keep the population scattered, 18 residences have sold in the past two years, including two farms. Just about any new listing includes four bedrooms and two baths on three acres, the minimum lot size for keeping a horse.
"What attracts? The beauty of the place, the feel of being out in the country, yet not far off the main road," said the Rev. Ira Barr, pastor of Millers United Methodist Church.
In his 10 years as pastor, he's watched his congregation become "active, growing. We have a lot of young parents assuming leadership positions, and a tremendous number of children."
In the tiny 111-year-old Millers United Methodist Church on Warehime Road, Barr has seen Sunday attendance increase. Two years ago it averaged at 81; it's now about 120, covering two services. The church began in 1881 as a Christian choir. In 1885 a weatherboard church was built on land donated by Maron Miller. (Millers seems to have been named for the number of residents named Miller, as evidenced by the church cemetery.) Additional space was added to both ends of the church and it received a stone facade in 1969.
For more than 100 years, Millers Picnic Grove has been the community hub, with picnic woods and small buildings in use for reunions, flea markets, twice-a-year church-sponsored crab cake and oyster dinners, and vacation Bible school. It's home to Boy Scout Troop 466 and Cub Scout Pack 466.
Judy Tyree, office manager of Long & Foster in Hampstead, calls Millers "a quiet community halfway between nowhere. You'll find older people in the older homes, and young professionals seeking land. A half-acre lot is unusual."
Paul and Linda Shipley built a two-story Colonial on seven acres on Millers Station Road eight years ago, choosing the country over downtown Manchester.
"We like that Millers is a small town," Linda Shipley says. "We wanted to move where we could have horses, yet have a 10-minute drive to Manchester Elementary School where our daughter would be out in the country. She could ride and feel safe and secure."
Her husband commutes 40 minutes to his job in Hunt Valley. Their neighbors include a Carroll Community College professor, a self-employed handyman, and an employee of Maryland Cup Corp.
It's believed that Pennsylvania Dutch farmers in the 1700s tended fields along the north-south dirt road known as Water Tank Road and Young Road. Young Road meets the railway where Millers Station Road crosses through the heart of Millers.
"The railroad is what put this place on the map," Barr says. "We were just a little town on the railroad called Millers Station, where passengers and farmers with milk would meet the train."
In its Victorian heyday, downtown Millers was a water station for steam engines, and bustled with a general store, cannery, creamery, butcher, hotel, cigar factory -- up to 42 businesses at one time.
Post office a home
"People used to ride the train into town," relates Linda Shipley, who enjoys nuggets of town history. "One of my neighbors remembers she'd walk down to the train station, go to Hampstead, get groceries, and take the train back in the afternoon."
Today, even the former post office is a residence; the train lends but four blasts of the whistle as it rumbles through.
Eileen and Kevin Levee's 3 1/2 -year-old son, Ian, has become a train buff, turning from his preschool trains to watch the CSX freighters chug past the kitchen and living room windows of their Young Road home, one door up from the railway crossing.
Eileen Levee, from Upperco, and her husband, from Schalk Road in Millers, moved to their 75-year-old Young Road home as
newlyweds some five years ago.
"It was a fixer-upper," she says. "We expected to find [vintage] woodwork, but that had disappeared in the 1950s, we think. The house needed new walls, new ceilings, new floors."
She has photographs of five years of new electric wires, torn-out wallboard and decorated paneling that had to go. Last month, they decided to sell. Her husband, a computer programmer, commutes to the P. H. Glatfelter paper company in Spring Grove, Pa., and "we have only a half-acre here, and with two kids, we want more land. But if we can't sell, we'll stay," she says.
From their dining room, 2-year-old Noelle Levee watches Poppa John, a retired racehorse that lives on a neighbor's green acres. But all homeowners keep their horses within calling distance.
Roxann Baldwin and husband Dennis, a native of Millers, moved to Roller Road in 1981, where they now board horses. With an indoor arena added in September, they call their horse farm Sweet Rock Stables.
She gives riding lessons "to all ages, even to mothers who couldn't have a horse when they were little," she says, and welcomes the public to monthly open-class horse shows.