For a number of years my parents wintered with us in Port Tobacco. Dad loved the rural nature of Southern Maryland, especially surviving barns. In his nineties, when he could no longer work around our home during his visits, he and I would go for drives. We tried to find roads we had not driven on before, but we also took special care to revisit the many places we truly liked. I knew most of my father’s stories but retelling them always offered a pathway for other conversations that helped me a light into his soul and a light for him into mine. What a blessing.
Farming was in dad’s DNA and I listened to a lot of his stories about growing up on a farm in southeastern Indiana during the Great Depression. Both of my parents were raised on farms They knew the value of taking care of their land, their tools, and their barns. Both my mother and father’s families immigrated from lands that would later become Germany. They mostly fled the hard times in the independent state of Prussia in the north and the more southerly Saarland region on the border with France. After ocean voyages and journeys from Baltimore, across Pennsylvania and down the Ohio River, they settled in Indiana. Between the 1840-1870s, they, and hundreds of other immigrants from lands now part of Germany, settled on farms along the rail line from Cincinnati to Indianapolis. There they rediscovered family and former neighbors who had immigrated before them, bought land, established churches, and founded communities. Barns were the center of their lives and dad always took note of the details of every barn we saw. Over the thirty-two years he visited, he sadly noted the gradual deterioration and loss of most of the barns we had come to love here. We passed this barn many times on Chapel Point Road. Dad was fascinated by its unusual shape and always commented on it. Dad did not live to see this barn fall, and I was surprised at the sadness I felt when I discovered it was gone. I guess I inherited my dad’s love of these sentinels of earlier times. I hope in some way that this painting pays tribute to barns like this one; barns that were so integral to another way of life years before they were simply no longer needed or too expensive to maintain. The connection to the Port Tobacco River story you ask. Well, as close as I can tell, this old barn sat about where St Thomas Manor, Causine Manor and a third property known as Whitehall met. I still have more research to do, but the painting could not wait. Oil on canvas 24x48 inches