A chapter of family history will close with sale of farm 172-acre property in My Lady's Manor will be auctioned

November 20, 1998|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

When the Hanlon farm goes on the auction block tomorrow, there's likely to be plenty of interested buyers -- and even more tears.

The 172-acre former dairy farm in Monkton is prime real estate, nestled in the rolling hills of My Lady's Manor, a portion of Baltimore and Harford counties famed for its horse farms, riding clubs and fox hunts.

For the Hanlon family, the auction means losing a piece of their heritage dating to World War II, a place tied to childhood memories of farm life and legends of Civil War-era treasure buried in the fields.

"I'm very sorry to see it leave the family," said Betty Weiderhold, 60, whose grandfather, John D. Hanlon, purchased the farm in 1942. "We all gathered there on that farm, and that's what is going to make it hard to let it go."

Reluctant as they are to sell, members of the Hanlon family see the auction as the most equitable way to settle the estate left by the January death of John Emory Hanlon, who was guaranteed a place on the farm for life under his father's will.

The property, which is no longer a working farm, is zoned for residential use and agriculture and could be subdivided into 17 parcels in an area where the homesites are all 2 acres or more.

"Very seldom in the past few decades has a farm of this size gone up for sale in the My Lady's Manor area," said David Shrodes, a partner in Charles & David Shrodes Auctioneers, which is overseeing the sale. "We have a tremendous outpouring of interest in this farm."

Although no minimum bid will be set until the day of the sale, Shrodes said some in the area predict the land will sell for at least $1 million.

Auction of agricultural land has become more and more common in this scenic area, where the cost of running a working farm has led many families to sell to developers, local officials say.

"There are issues of people getting out of farming and issues of the settlement of estates," said Arden Holdredge, director of planning and zoning in Harford County. "These types of auctions are not rare."

The Hanlon property's value is enhanced by its location in My Lady's Manor, an area listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

According to Christopher Weeks, author of "An Architectural History of Harford County Maryland," Charles Calvert, the third Lord Baltimore, purchased 10,000 acres in the early part of the 18th century as part of the settlement of Maryland.

"He was discouraged by the slow growth in Baltimore, so he started a system of manors and began giving land away to his friends," Weeks said. "He gave that area to his wife as a wedding present in 1713, and that is why it is called My Lady's Manor."

Over the years, much of the land was divided into farms. And by the time John D. Hanlon purchased his parcel in 1942, the land had an even richer history.

"The owners told my grandparents that the story was that money had been buried on the farm," said Hanlon granddaughter, Mary Schmelzer, 54. "They said the previous owners hid the money to keep it from the Confederate soldiers, but it has never been found."

Hanlon was the former manager of nearby Warfield Estates, owned by Sol Davis Warfield, an uncle of Wallis Warfield Simpson, the duchess of Windsor. Hanlon and his wife, the former Martha Ellen Lancaster, raised their five children on the Warfield Estates during his 25 years working there.

After buying their own farm, the Hanlons rented out the property for four years. By the time the couple settled into their four-bedroom farmhouse with their son, John Emory, in 1946, they were grandparents whose home provid- ed small adventures for their grandchildren.

There was the stream across the field, which the cousins dammed up. There was an old still out back that was said to have blown up and burned down a previous owner's house.

There were cows to milk, hay to pitch, and impromptu egg hunts when the hens wandered about. In the front yard, a huge tree was a gathering place for the entire family looking for shade on humid summer days.

And at holiday time, "Uncle Emory" would fill the kitchen with decorated Christmas trees cut from the wooded area of the property.

"My grandparents were very proud of the farm," Weiderhold said. "My grandmother cooked on a wood stove, and she would wake up at the crack of dawn to make delicious fresh bread. She never quite got used to having modern conveniences, and I remember that at night, after all the lights were turned out, she would still go around and light the little kerosene lamps."

The Hanlons ceased their dairy business in the early 1950s, though they continued raising other crops for a time. John D. Hanlon died in 1960, his wife in 1972, and family members say their will included a clause stating that the farm could not be divided as long as the younger Mr. Hanlon was alive.

What remains is fertile farmland that contains only a weathered, six-room, two-story farmhouse and a barn as a reminder of the old days. But Schmelzer said dozens of relatives plan to be there when the gavel comes down tomorrow. The auction is to begin at 10 a.m. in the 3900 block of Old York Road.

"There are a lot of mixed feelings," she said. "The farm is a huge part of our family history."

TC Pub Date: 11/20/98

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