Quietness is Silver Run's treasure Town draws families seeking rural home

Neighborhood Profile

July 07, 1996|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Legend has it there's a secret silver mine still hidden in Silver Run. When Ralph Schuchart came to this northern Carroll County community 68 years ago, farmers in the valley still searched for the mine, anxious to be the first to discover hidden riches.

"There was a big rock on my neighbor's farm and in that rock you could see a hole that led down into a cave," Schuchart recalled. "Some folks thought that rock led to the mine."

Still others thought the mine was hidden under Rattlesnake Hill, a local landmark that's since overgrown with briars and weeds. Newspaper accounts written into the 1970s tell of past sightings of the German settler -- armed with lantern and gun -- who haunts the hill each night, guarding the mine that once was his.

No one else has ever found that secret store of silver, which is believed to have been owned first by the Native Americans who lived in the valley before Maryland statesman Charles Carroll bought 100 acres here in 1743. According to the legend, no one will see the mine again until three lives have been sacrificed at its entrance.

Today, people come to Silver Run to find a treasure of a different sort: a quiet lifestyle in a still-rural area that's not too far removed from the conveniences of suburban civilization.

About 10 miles north of the county seat of Westminster and just a short jaunt from the small community of Littlestown, Pa., Silver Run offers homebuyers a chance to own some of the prettiest scenery in Carroll County. On a lazy summer afternoon, horses frolic in some roadside pastures while toffee-colored Jersey cattle graze in others. American flags wave gaily in the breeze at many houses and the impatiens and geraniums flourishing in the flower boxes below bloom in corresponding colors.

Once strictly a farming community that supported numerous vegetable canneries and flour mills along with a large part of Maryland's dairy industry, Silver Run woke up to residential growth more than two decades ago when developer John Hannon purchased more than 1,700 acres in the area.

According to news accounts of the 1973 project, Hannon bought land owned by the defunct canning factories hoping to capitalize on "outward migration from the cities and the suburbs by people seeking less noise, less crime, lower property taxes, more open space, more privacy" and a general desire to get back to their agrarian roots.

The Ten Farm Association that Hannon planned was supposed to encourage small-scale agriculture and include a central farming operation that would cultivate the fertile valley ground. The central agricultural operation never materialized, however.

Today's legacy of the Ten Farm development is homes more grand than the 19th-century clapboard farmhouses that still dot the valley. Covenants still govern the community, though they have been amended over time to reflect the residential -- rather than agricultural -- nature of the neighborhood.

K? Jan Hagedorn, assistant manager of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn's

Westminster office, says Silver Run's appeal lies in the diverse mixture of home styles the community offers. Besides the upscale homes tucked away on private lanes deep within the woods, there are historic homes that have anchored the area for a century or more. New construction ranges in price from $130,000 to $250,000 and up.

Hagedorn -- who lived on a historic Silver Run farm for six years until her family recently moved down Route 97 to nearby Union Mills -- said she saw seven homes built in a half-mile stretch on her quiet country road last year.

Most of the newcomers are couples with children, Hagedorn said, who want to bring their family back "to the kind of living our parents or grandparents had."

Hagedorn said there is always a "nice inventory" in Silver Run, but the community doesn't have nearly the turnover of subdivisions and developments located closer to Westminster. "People build a home here and that's where they want to stay," she said.

To retired farmer Ralph Schuchart, the Ten Farm proposal was the dismal failure area agriculture leaders predicted it would be. Farming on 10- to 20-acre plots isn't always monetarily productive. "Most of those big lots just became people's yards," Schuchart said with a derisive sniff.

Growth has come slowly to Schuchart's farm and others on Humbert Schoolhouse Road north of the heart of Silver Run, but it has come just the same. At Cackle Berry Hill -- an old-time reference to eggs and the egg route Schuchart operated for many years -- the neighborhood is filling up.

"It used to be -- when we moved here -- if a car would go up the road, we knew who it was," Schuchart said.

Now he and his wife, Pauline, don't sit out on the front porch very often. Their view -- once dominated by rolling fields of hay and corn -- sports houses "sticking around like so many flies in the woods," Ralph Schuchart said. It's difficult for him to begrudge the newcomers their love for Silver Run, however, since he shares the feeling.

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