A century later, just after a battle nearby, Civil War armies did rush past on the same road, barely 12 paces away from the front door of the property’s new log farmhouse.
Today, the new battle threatening the old log house, barn and outbuildings at 20725 Reno Monument Road is the nation’s ongoing economic struggle. With its owner in bankruptcy, the property has deteriorated.
And now, the bank involved in the situation is talking about demolishing the barn as a way of addressing concerns about its dilapidated condition.
“This (property) is a modern-day casualty of the economic recession, not unlike the hundreds of Confederate casualties that passed it, retreating to Sharpsburg,” area historian Dennis Frye said.
“This house witnessed American history and witnessed Civil War history that changed Washington County and the nation,” Frye said. “And, it’s not just some old house. And, it deserves much better treatment.
“I mean, it is the equal to the sycamore witness tree at the Burnside Bridge (on Antietam Battlefield). There’s a tree there at the Burnside Bridge that actually witnessed the battle.”
The Reno Monument Road property is on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Places. Its architecture was of “significant integrity” that is typical of area properties in the mid-1800s, according to Elizabeth Hughes, deputy director of the Maryland Historical Trust.
Though the property was never nominated, it has been declared eligible to be placed on the National Registry of Historic Places, Hughes said.
Even so, Hughes and others said, there are no regulations protecting the historical nature of the property or restrictions on what happens to it.
“There really isn’t anything that we can do if it’s privately owned,” said Paula Reed, a consultant whose 1978 report first led to public recognition of the property.
Historic designations “don’t intrude on private-property rights. Even if it were nationally listed, that would not prevent the property owner from demolishing it or changing it,” Reed said.
A path for armies
The 8.63-acre property is all that remains of the 204-acre dairy farm that Charles and Nancy Stiles, now deceased, owned and worked for many years.
“I grew up there,” said Henry Stiles, 50, who lives in a more modern house a few hundred yards uphill off Reno Monument Road.
“My parents moved to the farm in ’63. Dairy-farmed there until Dad passed away. My brother took over. We milked about 90 cows, so I helped my brother farm it. About 16 years later, he moved the operation to Tennessee,” Stiles said.
Growing up, he said, he always knew the house was old.
“If you would take the old clapboard off, it’s all log in there. If you were to go into the basement, you’d see it has one of the old big, thick stone foundations that they put logs on,” Stiles said.
He said he thought the house was built in the 1700s.