Prehistory: The first people known to have lived in
the Fair Hill area were the Susquehannocks, who belonged to
the confederacy of five Iroquois nations. They had left the
Seneca nation to the north, looking for a peaceful home.
They lived in long houses in "palisaded towns", hunting and
fishing the abundance of the northern Chesapeake area
between the Susquehanna River and the Big Elk Creek. The
other native Americans, east of the Big Elk Creek, were the
Lenne Lenape, also known as the Delawares.
1608: Captain John Smith led an expedition from
Jamestown to explore and chart the Chesapeake Bay, the
Susquehanna, North East, Elk, and Sassafras (Toghwogh)
Rivers. He and his crew were greeted by the Susquehannas who
had many goods they were ready to trade.
1600's to 1900's: After his Majesty, Charles the
First of England gave the charter for Maryland to Cecil
Calvert, Lord Baltimore, in 1632, and began exploration in
1634, settlers began to arrive in Maryland and set up
homesteads and farms mostly in the traditions of the English
1926: William du Pont, Jr., a great, great grandson
of Pierre Samuel du Pont, bought the first farm that would
later become his Fair Hill estate. It was the Cann farm. He
hired a huntsman and brought his hounds from Montpelier,
Virginia to begin his kennels, Foxcatcher Hounds.
1929?: He purchased the house and property which
later became known as the "Club House", where his guests
stayed when fox hunting.
1930: The Depression began and William bought more
farms, including land in Pennsylvania.
1930's: The black horse bridges were built over roads
Mid 1930's: The race track, fashioned after the
Ainsley track in England, was built. A bridge over the Big
Elk Creek, later to become Route 273, was built.
1940's: The war began. The cattle pens were built.
They were made of railroad ties to contain bulls. He
imported cattle from Texas to set up a cattle farm. Corn and
hay were the main crops.
1944-1945: His work crew put in over 40 miles of wire
fences around the fields. Italian stone masons built the
hunting lodge which now houses the nature center. They used
stones from an older house on the site, plus they brought
from other old houses on the property. They brought the mill
stone that is part of the sidewalk from an old mill site
north of the house, on Big Elk Creek. The bell came from a
nearby farm. Mr. du Pont designed the house and corrals
himself. He secured a housekeeper to care for the house, and
she lived there until 1965. The pump house on the side of
the covered bridge pumped water from the Big Elk Creek up a
hill to a concrete reservoir. It was then sent down to the
cattle barns by gravity flow. The tall silos at the cattle
barn were difficult to operate, so trench silos were dug to
replace it. Cattle were shipped weekly by truck to
Baltimore. The largest number of cattle there at one time
was probably about six hundred.
1949: Mr. du Pont hunted an average of three days a
week. He went hunting before breakfast, and then went to
work in Wilmington.
1950's: Mr. du Pont continued to buy and trade land
in order to consolidate into one large contiguous property.
He bought the land on the east side of Appleton Road. It
eventually became one of the largest private land holdings
in the East.
1960: His daughter began hunting at Fair Hill. She
preferred the British style of hunting. She had the Club
House renovated. Mr. du Pont ordered the construction of the
"super fence", but it was never completed because of his
1965: Mr. du Pont died. He left behind five children.
The house and cattle farm were rented for about nine
1974: Mr. du Pont's heirs sold the 5700 acre Fair
Hill property to the state of Maryland's Department of
Natural Resources. Around 2000 additional acres were sold to
a neighbor in Pennsylvania.
April 15, 1989: The idea of a nature center conceived by Ralph Young and Linda Bystrak during a Save Our Streams workshop on the Big Elk Creek.
Earth Day 1990: Fair Hill
Nature Center opens in the former hunting lodge.