- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Nancy Wolfe remembers the land when her father and grandfather bought it more than half a century ago, and little has changed on the farm along the Wicomico River.
She wants it to stay that way, on the 560 acres near Chaptico and on other farmland that she and her brother later bought in St. Mary’s and Charles counties. She also wants the land to benefit good causes in the area, as it hosts a variety of events, prompting her to create the Wicomico Valley Foundation of Southern Maryland.
A fireworks show on one of her properties, in Charles County, is set for Saturday night to benefit local charities, including a volunteer rescue squad and fire department.
“I was only 5 at the time,” Wolfe, 62, said as she sat near the river’s edge at the Chaptico area farm in St. Mary’s, recalling when the farmhouse was adjoined by a smokehouse and a dairy cooled by a trough of flowing artesian well water, all on the Lower Brambly tract her family purchased in 1955, along with a portion of the Notley Hall property next door.
“There were also what we assumed had been slave houses,” she said. “The two large[er] tobacco barns that were here have since gone.”
Augustus Wolfe and Harold Wolfe, her grandfather and father, lived with other family members in Brandywine, she said, but her grandfather would come down to St. Mary’s for six to eight months at a time and stay in the farmhouse, outfitted with electricity and a kerosene stove. Her father would make daily visits to tend to the farm’s cattle, and later hogs, while her mother worked at Andrews Air Force Base.
“It’s been used more like a summer home for us. We’ve had many friends come spend weekends,” Nancy Wolfe said, tallying 165 “overnights” by various guests in a single summer, requiring the use of more than the two beds in each of the house’s three bedrooms. “We had several cots, and two or three couches,” she said, but visitors now bring their accommodations to the property. “People are staying in their own campers.”
In 2006, Nancy Wolfe and her brother, Larry Wolfe, sold farm property their mother owned in Clinton and used the proceeds to buy the 800-acre Westwood farm at Allens Fresh, farther up the river, the 127-acre Little Hackley farm on Colton’s Point Road, and the adjoining 139 acres called Wicomico Fields. She and an aunt bought 46 more acres near the Chaptico area farms.
Larry Wolfe suddenly died in March of last year, as he was walking on the Chaptico area farm property looking for firewood to cut, according to his sister. She said she thinks he would be supportive of her plans to create the foundation geared toward preserving the land he farmed, and renewing the recreational use they shared with others.
“I think he would be OK with what I’m doing, because he loved the farm, too,” she said. “It’s not going to be developed. I want to know what’s going to happen. The only way I can do that is with this foundation.”
In addition to conservation and agriculture, she said, “I want people to be able to enjoy it, like my friends have.”
The upcoming fireworks show is being co-hosted by another organization that Wolfe also serves, the family-oriented River View Grange that focuses on agriculture-based community service. Its members will provide the manpower to handle parking at the event, Wolfe said, while her foundation provides the location.
The foundation was incorporated in October of last year, she said, and while the various farms are not yet part of the nonprofit, “I will be donating property over time.”
In the meantime, more fundraising events for community organizations are in the works, along with ideas for hosting camping activities, weddings, retreats and guided hunting.
“It’s been happening” before, Wolfe said. “This is just a way that it’s going to continue.”
Tim Jameson, president of the Northern Lights Pyrotechnics Club, said this week that the fireworks fundraising began in 2009 at his father’s farm in Hughesville, and that a cousin with the Grange introduced him to Wolfe, and a bigger venue for the event.
“We were running out of room for parking,” Jameson said. “Nancy had a much bigger place, and we were outgrowing my dad’s place. We got hooked up with Nancy, and decided to make it a fundraising event for the charities.”