Steven Appler and Deborah Callahan of Goodier Builders were intrigued when they discovered an old stone boundary marker dated 1773 between two house lots in Columbia's Hobbits Glen community, where Goodier is building single-family luxury homes.
Some builders might have ignored the marker, which resembles a weathered gravestone, and plowed it under, but the Ellicott City-based building company decided to preserve it and research the history of the land.
The marker is between two home sites on Rushlight Path, near Route 108 and Harpers Farm Road.
Goodier is building single-family homes in Hobbits Glen ranging in size from 2,675 to 3,657 square feet. There are five models, with prices ranging from $310,000 for the Snowden model up to a base price $358,000 for the Ipswich model.
tTC Mr. Appler, vice president of Goodier Builders, and Ms. Callahan, director of operations, are writing a historical record of the land so the new residents will have an appreciation of its history.
Both Mr. Appler and Ms. Callahan spent weekends over the last five months doing research. They started at the Howard County Historical Society and ended up at the State Archives in Annapolis.
"It was neat going through dusty books. . . . The people who live there have something historic. They should have a sense of what it used to be," Mr. Appler said.
"The old script is difficult to read," Ms. Callahan commented. She also noted that the historical search was often complicated by different spellings of the same name in old documents.
Goodier's Ipswich model features a 17-foot-high stone fireplace surrounded by windows in the family room. In the dining room there is a butler's pantry, and the first level has a library on the first floor with an adjoining full bath so that it could be converted into an extra bedroom.
The second level has wide hallways to the four bedrooms and three baths, as well as a balcony that overlooks the front entryway.
The stone was placed in 1773, two years before the Revolutionary War began, when three neighbors did what good neighbors often still do today: agreed on a boundary line. The deeply buried stone reads, ". . . the beginning of Doorhegan, Pushpin and The Girls Portion." It marks the southwest corner of Michael Dorsey II's 200-acre Pushpin tract, the northwest corner of Ely Dorsey's 100-acre Girls Portion tract and a point along the eastern boundary of Charles Carroll's 10,000-acre Doughoregan property.
It is not known how many boundary markers remain scattered through Howard County, but they are not uncommon, said Alice Ann Wetzel, Howard County's historic preservation planner. "Markers and cemeteries are important because [they] show us how people lived."
The only other known land marker in Columbia is in Clemens Crossing, said Pam Mack, vice president of community relations for the Columbia Association. Called the Athol Marker, that stone is located in an undeveloped wooded area, Ms. Mack said.
Goodier Builders landscaped the area around the Hobbits Glen stone and placed a decorative fence around it. The marker will be between two houses on plot of open land 42 feet by 200 feet that was given to the Columbia Association by Howard Research and Development Corp., developers of the site and a subsidiary of the Rouse Co. in Columbia.
Land in Maryland was originally granted to Lord Baltimore by the English Parliament under the original Charter of Maryland.
The land was then divided and subdivided many times, so often the same tracts can have several land grant names.
The first settlers of the Howard County area almost exclusively planted tobacco and sent their crops to Elkridge Landing to be shipped to England. By the time of the American Revolution, land quality had declined dramatically because tobacco used so much of the soil's nutrients. It was the Ellicott brothers -- Andrew, John and Joseph, who came to the area from Bucks County, Pa. -- who had the inspiration to try growing wheat and hay.
Just before the American Revolution, the brothers bought the water rights and land on both sides of the Patapsco at the falls.
In 1774, they established their first mill, warehouse and cabins for workers.