Wednesday, June 01. 2011 - The Enterprise, Lexington Park, MD
Life at The Plains
Union soldiers occupied home during Civil War
By JASON BABCOCK Staff writer.
The Golden Beach neighborhood in northern St. Mary's County began in 1955 with 185 building lots. Today, it is a massive neighborhood along the Patuxent River.
But for hundreds of years before it was a neighborhood, it was a large working farm. Cynthia `Cindy' Curtis Tucker was one of the last people to live there when it still was called The Plains.
The Plains was a farm of about 1,700 acres where the Curtis family and sharecroppers grew tobacco, wheat and soybeans. Cindy's sister, Katie, went by boat to Benedict to catch the school bus. Cindy was driven up the long and narrow road from the farm to attend Mechanicsville Elementary School.
“It was a dirt road that only one car could travel on at a time, winding and tuming sharply for miles,” she wrote in an unpublished memoir. "A wise driver would blow their horn with every coming sharp turn to warn any possible coming vehicle."
Coming down from Chesley's Hill, the road split the farm fields and ran all the way to the house right on the Patuxent shoreline.
“When you looked from Chesley's Hill, you only saw fields, barns, fencing, the river and the road led straight to the river where the manor house sat on the edge of the water,” Tucker said. "The Patuxent River as far as you could see and creeks on both sides made four miles of waterfront surrounding the plantation. Trees lined the banks of the creeks on both sides of the plantation.”
Now the view is obscured by trees and the houses in the neighborhood.
“It is hard sometimes to think of The Plains," she said. "I loved the farm, and it was the only time my sister, parents and I lived together. My mother died when I was 10 years old.
Tucker recalled the lemon meringue pies the housekeeper, Nora Holly, used to make using mashed potatoes as a filler. Hotly, who died in 1983, lived at the house five days a week from the time she was 13 years old.
“She fixed meals, pies, made butler, kept house and was good to Katie and me," Tucker said.
“Our father enjoyed fishing, boating and hunting on the farm," Tucker said. "I loved a wild-duck dinner. We had a large garden and asparagus grew wild. We all enjoyed horseback riding. My mother would tie my horse to my sisters horse while we rode until I was about 8 years old.”
Their father was Lloyd William Curtis. 'He was a very interesting man to talk to,” said Cindy Tucker's husband, Allan Tucker.
“He had boxes and boxes of arrowheads and he would give them to people,” Cindy said during an interview. He also found some tomahawk heads on the land.
The house itself was thought to have been built before 1720. It was bulldozed down in 1958, according to the Maryland Historical Trust. The house was shot at by the British during the War of 1812 as they frequently took shots at homes along the rivers.
During the Civil War, the entire farm and the home were confiscated by the Union after a lieutenant was shot and killed there.
There are two different accounts of what happened.
On Oct. 20, 1863, a Union detachment from Benedict of four men arrived at The Plains to recruit slaves into the army. Col. John H. Sothoron, a Confederate sympathizer, and his son, Webster, met the unit with armed resistance.
According to testimony from Pvt. John W. Bantum of the Union Army, Col. Sothoron confirmed he had some slaves tied up to prevent them from leaving.
Second Lt. Eben White persisted on recruiting men from the plantation when the two Sothorons confronted the group with guns and insults.
Lt. White was reported to have advised to the Sothorons if they started shooting, “you might get yourself into trouble by it.” Those were his last words before he was shot in the head and chest.
Cindy Curtis said that, according to family lore, "in fury Lt. White turned his musket on the colonel's son, Webster. The pieces misfired. A shot then fired from Sothoron, stopping the out-of-control lieutenant as he tried to rush with fixed bayonet at his son, Webster.”
Bantum said, “As I ran I looked back, and saw Lt. White lying on the ground and the young man beating him over the head with the butt of his gun."
Cindy Tucker said, "The slaves were angry with the Union soldiers and started pulling on Lt. White's body and beating him. They were stopped by Col. Sothoron.”
Sothoron and his son fled into the Confederacy, leaving the rest of the family at the plantation, and it was soon confiscated for use as a Union farm for the duration of the war. Eventually the land was returned to the Sothoron family.
As a child, Cindy Tucker said she saw the hoof marks on the floor of the dining room where soldiers allegedly rode in the house during the occupation. She said they also shot holes into the walls.
By the 1950s, Curtis was getting older and hiring help on the farm was getting more expensive. He made the decision to sell the farm to a developer. “I think he thought he was too old to maintain it, which is a real shame," Cindy Tucker said. She was 9 years old when they moved and she eventually ended up in Hollywood.
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The following map is from a newspaper article, sent to me by Linda Reno*. Its original source is unknown.
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Click here to view photos & notes from Kate Lansdale Sothoron Sandidge.Smith, daughter of Kate Lansdale Sothoron Curtis.