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Fair Hill Environmental Foundation, Inc.



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Fair Hill History


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 countryside.


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 and creeks.


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 death.


1965: Mr. du Pont died. He left behind five children. The house and cattle farm were rented for about nine years.


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.

630 Tawes Drive
Elkton, MD 21921
(410) 398-4909

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