My paintings are of subjects or scenes that have both a place in the history of the Port Tobacco River and a special significance for me. Rose Hill is a fine example. I drive by Rose Hill at least twice every day and have for 40 years. Rose Hill is also the home of the legend of the Blue Dog whose story is told with my painting. But, I have yet another bond with this beautiful home overlooking Port Tobacco. When our son moved to Edinburgh Scotland in 2004 to complete his master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh, I began to take notice of the role the Scottish immigrants and their descendants have played in Port Tobacco’s history.
Gustavus Richard Brown is a notable example. He was born here in Charles County at his father’s estate, Rich Hill. His father Gustavus Brown, was a Scottish surgeon on an English man-of-war who was left behind when his ship weighed anchor ahead of schedule because of an impending severe storm. By the time Gustavus Richard Brown and his sister, Margaret (who married Thomas Stone) were born to Gustavus Brown and his second wife, Margaret Black, Gustavus Brown was a wealthy man with inherited property in Scotland in addition to his lands here in Southern Maryland.
Gustavus Richard Brown graduated from the University of Edinburgh medical school in 1768, and married Margaret Graham in 1769. Dr. Brown purchased 275 acres consisting of Corker’s Hoghole, part of Chandler’s Hills, part of Betty’s Delight, a water mill on Hoghole Run, and lots in town of Port Tobacco in 1773. He made additional purchases of pieces of adjacent properties and in 1778, and combined them into Rose Hill. Sometime after 1783, he built the Georgian style home we see today (perhaps influenced by James Craik’s home, La Grange) and laid out the boxwood gardens.
Dr. Brown was one of the attending physicians called to George Washington’s bedside at Mount Vernon shortly before our new nation’s first President died. He was fond of botany and cultivated an extensive garden of rare flowers for both their beauty and medicinal purposes. It was said his garden, situated on ten terraced acres in front of his home was among the most beautiful in Maryland. It was Dr. Brown’s collection of roses that gave the home its name, Rose Hill. Dr Brown died in 1804. His will directed that his properties be sold which is how Rose Hill ultimately passed through the Semmes family and onto the three children of David Floyd: Mary Floyd Piet, Robert Semmes Floyd, and Miss Olivia Floyd who well known for her espionage efforts on behalf of the Confederate States during the Civil War.
One final note: If the Blue Dog incident happened following the Revolutionary War as is commonly believed, then it happened while Dr Brown owned the property. I wonder if he knew? Oil on canvas 24x36 inches