Grahamtown & Wright's Crossing


(Click on photos for enlargments)

Grahamtown was named after Curtin Graham. The southern end of Grahamtown is called Wright's Crossing, where Welsh Hill crosses MD Route 36. Wright's Crossing was probably there before Grahamtown existed.

This area known as Grahamtown is located at the southeast edge of Frostburg, Maryland in Allegany County. It begins with the northern entrance to Frostburg Memorial Park and extends south for about 5 miles, just past Welsh Hill.

Sometime in the 1880's Curtin Graham owned most of this land, having acquired it from the Wright Family. Curtin Graham was married to Susannah Wright who, with her sister, Sarah "Sally" Wright, inherited this land from their father, William Wright, after his death in 1857.  John Ross of Anne Arundel County held the original patent to the land called "Walnut Level" from the British Crown, granted on the 10th day of August, 1753. How did this land pass on to the Bruce family?

"Walnut Level" The Clues:

Original Patent: John Ross 1753
Tax Assessment: John Key 1783
Sale to Henry Wright: heirs of Susannah Gardner Bruce March 1810

The Answer - It's all in the family, and what a family!!!

John Key is actually John Ross Key (1754-1821), son of Francis Key (1722-1770) and Ann Arnold Ross (1727-1811) and grandson of John Ross, holder of the original Patent. John Ross Key was a Revolutionary War Veteran who settled in Frederick County, where he served as an Associate Justice, beginning in 1791. His son was THE Francis Scott Key of "Star Spangled Banner" fame. His daughter Ann married Chief Justice Roger B Taney, the 5th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, appointed by Andrew Jackson. The only question yet to be resolved is how did "Walnut Level" come into the possession of the Bruce family. It turns out that Susannah Gardner Bruce is actually Susannah Gardner Key, sister of Francis Key and aunt of John Ross Key. At some time between 1783 and 1810, it appears that John Ross Key transferred "Walnut Level" to Norman and/or Susannah Bruce. The Keys and the Bruces were both residents of Frederick County, MD.

On the 8th day of March in the year of our Lord, 1810,  Upton Bruce, Elizabeth Key Scott  and John Scott, her husband, of Frederick County, Maryland conveyed the land comprising about 390 acres to Henry Wright for the sum of $1,600. The original patent covered the Welsh Hill and Hoffman Hollow areas which were later sold to a coal mining company.

Allegany County, MD land record Liber F-Folio 77 & 78 -
Upton Bruce sells land to Henry WRIGHT

The following deed was recorded the 30th day of August 1810.
THIS DEED made this 8th day of March in the year of our Lord, 1810, between Upton Bruce, Elizabeth Key Scott and John Scott, her husband, now all of Frederick County, in the State of Maryland of the one part, and HENRY WRIGHT of Allegany County and state aforesaid, of the other part.
WITNESSETH whereas Susanna Gardner Bruce, deceased, late of Frederick County, mother of the aforesaid Upton Bruce and Elizabeth Key Scott was seized and possessed of and held and owned a tract or parcel of land lying in Allegany County and state aforesaid (except one acre which she, the said Susanna had heretofore conveyed to a society for religious uses) called Walnut Level containing 390 acres originally, and patented to John Ross of Anne Arundel County, on the 10th day of August, 1753 Allegany County being then a part of Frederick County and whereas the said Susanna G. Bruce died intestate, leaving as heirs the aforesaid two children, Upton and Elizabeth, who inherit her property and on _____ of cause the right to aforesaid tract or parcel of land called WALNUT LEVEL decends and devolves (?). Now therefore, they the said Upton Bruce and Elizabeth Key Scott, by virtue of the power and the right so derived and John Scott the husband of the said Elizabeth, and for and in consideration of the sum of $1600.00 current money of the United States to them in hand paid by the said Henry Wright, before the sealing and delivery of these presents, the receipt whereof they the said Upton Bruce, Elizabeth Key Scott and John Scott, doth hereby acknowledge and from every part and parcel thereof doth hereby acquit, exonerate and discharge the said Henry Wright, his heirs, executors and administrators, they the said Upton Bruce, Elizabeth Key Scott and John Scott, have granted bargained, sold, aliened, enfeoffed and confirmed and by these presents doth give grant bargain, sell, alien, enfeoff and confirm unto the said Henry Wright his heirs and assigns forever, all that tract or parcel of land called WALNUT LEVEL, except the one acre as before excepted, now lying in Allegany County and patented as aforesaid to John Ross on the 10th day of August 1753 for three hundred and ninety acres, and all the estate, right, title and interest whatsoever of them the said Upton Bruce, Elizabeth Key Scott and John Scott her husband, both at law and in equity, of in to and out of the said tract or parcel of land and premises hereby bargained and sold, and every part and parcel thereof so as aforesaid, devised to them the said Upton, Elizabeth and John her husband, and acquired as heirs to the aforementioned Susanna G. Bruce, and such and the same as she the said Susanna that and was possessd? of reference being had to the _____ conveying the same to her will more fully appear. TO HAVE AND TO HOLD the aforesaid tract or parcel of land and premises unto him the said Henry Wright, his heirs and assigns forever and to and for no other use intent or purpose whatsoever, and the said Upton Bruce, Elizabeth Key Scott, and John Scott for themselves and their heirs do hereby convenant, grant, promise and agree to and with the said Henry Wright his heirs and assigns to warrant and defend to him and them the aforesaid tract or parcel of land and premises, except as before excepted, as well against the said Upton, Elizabeth and John and their heirs as against all persons claiming or to claim and or them.
IN WITNESSETH whereof the said Upton Bruce, Elizabeth Key Scott and John Scott have hereinto subscribed their names and affix their seals the (day?) and year first herein before written.
Signed, sealed and delivered by U. Bruce, EK Scott, John Scott - seals attached - in the presence of Thomas Jones, Joseph Little

State of Maryland, Frederick County
Be it remembered that on this 8th day of March 1810 personally appears Upton Bruce and John Scott, two of the party grantors within named, before us the subscribers two justices of the peace for the County aforesaid, and acknowledged the within deed or instrument of writing to be their act and deed, and the land and premises therein mentioned and thereto bargained and sold, to be the right and estate of the within named Henry Wright, party grantee also therein named, his heirs and assigns forever, according to the true intent and meaning of the said deed or instrument of writing, and the acts of assembly in such case made and provided, And now at the same time personally appears Elizabeth Key Scott, wife of the said John Scott, before us, the two Justices aforesaid, and acknowledges the said deed or instrument of writing to be her act and deed and the land and premises therein mentioned to be the rights and estate of the within named Henry Wright, his Heirs and assigns forever, and the said Elizabeth Key Scott being examined by us privately and apart from and out of hearing of her husband, whether she doth make her acknowledgement of the same willingly and freely, declared she did the same willingly and freely and without being induced thereto through threats or ill usage of or through fear of incurring the displeasure of her said husband - at the same time came also Sarah, Wife to the said Upton Bruce, and being by us examined separate and apart from and out of the hearing of her said husband, relinguished her right of dower in and to the within land and premises unto Henry Wright his heirs and assigns and acknowledged and declared she did the same voluntarily and freely and willingly and not through threats or ill usage of or fear of incurring the displeasure of her said husband. Taken and Certified the day and year above written. Thos. Jones and Joseph Little
State of Maryland Frederick County - I hereby certify that Thomas Jones and Joseph Little, Gentlemen, before _____ the acknowledgements of the foregoing deed or instrument of writing appear to have been made and who have thereto subscribed their names were at the time thereof Justices of the Peace in and for the County aforesaid duly commissioned and sworn.
In Testimony whereof I have hereto subscribed my name and affixed the seal of Frederick County Court the 12th day of March in the year 1810. Signed by William Ritchie, Clerk, Frederick County Court.
Transcribed by Connie Beachy

More land records of the Grahams, Wrights & Neffs

This large tract of land was called "Walnut Level" although most of it sits on the side of Dan's Mountain and is anything but level. Both the Frostburg Cemetery and the Maplehurst Country Club and Golf Course occupy part of this acreage.

Curtin Graham, his wife, Susannah, and sister-in-law, Sally, lived in the original Wright home but made major additions to it. The picture below is what the homeplace looked like in 1990 at the time I really just walked right in with nothing to hinder me. No one was living in it at the that time and evidence of vandalism and misuse were evident in every room.

Appearing in this picture are my aunt, Mildred Dando VanHorn, and my husband, Carl Beachy. Just one picture of the distruction of the home's interior is shown in the next picture. This was once a beautiful stairway according to Durst family members I talked to later.

This home burned in a fire about 1995. Only the interior seems to have been destroyed because the exterior of the home looks much the same as seen in the above pictures. From the front of this home you can see all of Frostburg.

Other buildings around the home of Curtin Graham were a carpenter shop, a carriage house, a wagon house, a chicken coop, ice house, paint house, coal house, smoke house, harness house, tool house, drying house and others. A dairy was also added at some time.

The barn Curtin Graham built in 1876 is now the Maplehurst Country Club. Also on the Graham farm was located the Neff Meeting House, the first religious meeting place in Frostburg, being built ca. 1800. It has been torn down and reassembled near Klondike, Md..

Curtin Graham died 19 Sep 1885 and is buried in Frostburg Memorial Park with his wife and sister in law. Their large memorial marker is very near that of my grandmother's, Rachel Hamilton Dando, who was raised on the Graham Farm.

At the time Graham died, he willed his entire estate to his sister in law, Sarah "Sally" Wright and her mother, Mrs. William Wright. They continued to live on the farm whre Mrs. Wright died in 1886 at the age of 96 years.

Sally Wright then went on to live at the farm until her death in 1900. Her executors, John B. Wright and Thomas W. Frost, sold Walnut Level farm. It was reported that the section containing over 200 acres on which sat the mansion was sold to Andrew J. Willison of Frostburg and that Willison also bought a section which is where the Maplehurst Country Club is now located. The third section was reportedly sold to Allegany Cemetery Company and is now Frostburg Memorial Park. Andrew J. Willison is buried there. Allegany County Courthouse land records actually show that John N. Layman, a worker on the farm, bought the entire farm from the estate of Sarah Wright in 1901.

Layman first went to work for Curtin Graham in 1869. From that time on his life evolved around the farm where he became assistant manager in 1879.

Layman sold part of the farm to Wesley Lohr in 1907. Lohr later sold this land to the Arnold Family in 1920. This is that part of the land where the country club is now located and was actually called "the Arnold Farm" when I was growing up in Frostburg.

John Nelson Layman and Anna K. or Mary L. Fazenbaker had the following children: Clara "Ted" Layman (1881-1920); Sallie Wright Layman married Jonas J. DURST in 1892, son of Jeremiah Durst and Elizabeth Beachy, of the Bittinger area of Garrett County; John Horace Layman (1883-1962); Marvin Layman (1879-1932); Susanne G. Layman (1877-1961); Eugene Layman (1876-1958); and Mary M. Layman (1872-1965).

Lillian Dando Hamilton, my mother, labeled the picture "Laymen Children." The widow of Joe Durst II did not know the names of the children. {Best guess: Marvin, Clara & Horace, the three youngest.}

[From the biography of John M Layman, History of Allegany County Maryland; Thomas & Williams, 1924, p 939.

"In 1870 Mr. Layman was married to Miss Anna R. Facenbaker, of Allegany county, daughter of George Facenbaker, and four children were born to them: Sallie, who is now the wife of Jonas Durst, of Frostburg, Maryland, a furniture dealer and undertaker; Mary, unmarried, who lives at home; Eugene, a mine foreman at Shaft, Maryland; and Susan, living at home. The mother died in 1877, and Mr. Layman subsequently marrried (second) her sister, Miss Mary L. Facenbaker, by which union there are three children; Marvin, who is a farmer and conducts a large dairy, married Sophia Youngerman, of Frostburg, and they have one child John; Horace is associated with his brother Marvin in the management of the home farm; Clara is unmarried and living at home."]

Homes of the farm's workers were once located around the edges of the farm but have been torn down. My Great Grandmother, Martha A. Coons Hamilton, lived in one of those small houses and worked at the main house as a cook, among other things. After the death of her husband in 1875, Martha was left with 5 children under the age of 6. With her sister's help she acquired a position at the farm. Curtin Graham was the owner at first but Martha stayed at that farm until her death in 1913. Her son, Horace Resley Hamilton, also worked on the farm when he was old enough.

My grandmother grew up with Sarah "Sally" Layman on the old farm. When Rachel Hamilton married William Dando in 1889, they were married at the mansion. Sally Layman and husband, Jonas Durst, founded the Frostburg establishments of the Durst Funeral Home and Furniture Store. Their son, Joseph Durst I, was a lifetime friend of our family. His father had made our kitchen table as a wedding gift for Rachel Hamilton and William Dando. Joe's son, Joseph II, died early in an accident. Currently Joseph III, is running the Durst Funeral Home.


Front Row - Howard Humbertson, John Nelson Layman, Germanus Wright, George Sires
Back Row -
Luther Crow, Horace Resley Hamilton, William Dando, Charles Wright

John Nelson Layman died in 1918, at the age of 72. His sons, Horace and Marvin, continued working the farm. John Nelson's second wife, Mary Fazenbaker Layman, his daughters, Clara "Ted" and Susannah continued living on the farm. Susanna operated the Layman Dairy. She sterilized the milk bottles, filled them and sold them from the farm.

The farm was sold in 1962. At one time in the 1990's a Layman descendant tried to buy the farm and turn it into a Bed and Breakfast. It is our loss that he didn't succeed.

Thanks to LaVerne Pittman (Journal of the Alleghenies-Vol xxx, 1994) and Betty K. Beachy ("Strong" John Beachy and his Descendants) for much of this information. Much additional information can be found in both the reference materials noted above.

Copyright 1999, Connie Beachy