Cool Spring is a compact 80 acres full of diversity and rich with history
The earliest inhabitants
We know American Indians would have prized this spot because it is elevated and has many springs and a permanent stream called Bullskin Run. It is said that he origin of that stream name came from Indians who were observed drying buffalo hides along the stream. Indian spear heads have been found close to the creek.
Cool Spring Farm’s documented history dates to April 23, 1734, when Robert Brooke surveyed a larger 1,122-acre tract which was inhabited by a squatter named Andrew Hamilton.
About 1748, 18-year-old George Washington came to this area to survey for Lord Fairfax. He was an astute business person, even at such an early age. He invested his earnings as surveyor in 550 acres of farmland on Bullskin Run, two miles southwest of Charles Town.
Washington lived at Rock Hall adjacent to the rear of Cool Spring Farm. Between 1747 and 1799, he surveyed more than 200 tracts of land. In 1752, he made his first land purchase - 1459 acres along Bullskin Creek in Frederick County, Virginia (later to become West Virginia). He would eventually own some 2,000 acres, including the property that comprises Cool Spring Farm today.
Washington leased his land in 200-acre parcels. His leases were very precise. Each tenant should build a 20’ dwelling and a good 40’ barn, plant and care for specific crops, install certain “creatures,” erect and maintain fences, plant an orchard and vineyard and preserve the woodlots without overcutting. We don’t know what the first house at Cool Spring might have looked like.
The Patent House
The oldest house still in existence is a simple stone house, built in the late 1700s. "Patent House" is said to be a term used to describe a house built as a requirement to secure and maintain a patent on a parcel of land.
Wealthy landowners like Lord Fairfax and Washington did not want to grant tracks of land to speculators (like themselves). They wanted people who planned to live and farm the land. So, they required all sorts of things: sometimes that an orchard be planted, for example. The most typical requirement was for the patent holder to build a house of a certain size. In Northern Virginia, Fairfax (and those who got their land from him) often required the house be built of stone to demonstrate that the patent holder was serious about the endeavor.
When the building was restored in 2000, it became evident that the building never had indoor water. As rotted old flooring was removed, a wealth of archeological artifacts were found – comprising 20 boxloads. Study of the artifacts showed a family of modest means living in this house and showed 3 key themes:
*Food preparation: with numerous pottery shards and animal bones including duck bills and pig tusks.
*Sewing: with an unusually large number of buttons found (spanning the years 1760 to 1930), several thimbles, part of a spinning wheel, a straight pin and many small fabric pieces.
*Leather: with an interesting collection of leather pieces including manyshoe related items (buttons, buckle fragments) as well as much evidence of harness repair.
The Patent House stopped being used for cooking purposes around 1900, then was used for agricultural storage and about 1970 fell into major disrepair.
The Griggs Farmhouse
In 1830, 146 acres including Cool Spring Farm was sold to Thomas Griggs Jr. for $4,407.50. He built a dignified clapboard farmhouse that same year with the new house clearly entered on the tax rolls. China shards from this time, found in the Patent House dig, show that Griggs had more wealth than the previous owners. Griggs was described in the 1850 census as a 70-year-old farmer with four in his household and real estate worth $11,000. He had over ten slaves.
It is probable that the Patent House became the kitchen during this time and probably housed slaves who might have slept on bedding rolled up during the day.
The Old Stone Barn
Not much is known of the barn’s history. When the property was purchased in 1998, only the three stone walls remained along with the milking parlor floor. Originally it had been a bank barn and there had been a corn crib down near the stream which did not survive. As part of the overall property renovation, the barn was rebuilt as one story. Craft classes and events will soon be held in the barn and eventually it will house more studios for CraftWorks. It would be the perfect meeting spot for nature walks.
Mrs. Thornton’s Cottage
The neighboring property to the east was owned by the Haines, a Quaker family. Edward Haines and his two sisters, Alvinia S. Haines and Mary Haines had inherited the land from their father, Nathan Haines. On Feb. 5, 1869, they sold one acre of land for $1 to Susan B. Thornton, a freed slave, and her husband Robert, so that they could build a house. The lot was to be the their property during their lifetimes and was to revert back to Haines after their deaths.
In Alvinia's will, dated December 9, 1889, she states that the Thorntons could move the house after Susan's death if they desired to do so. The 1883 S. Howell Brown Map clearly shows S.B. Thornton on that parcel with a dot for the house. Lucky for us, they did not move the house and it now comprises the first building to be used for CraftWorks.
But back to history …It starts with serious decline
The fate of all three buildings declined. Ultimately the Patent House and Griggs Farmhouse went to seed until they were so decrepit, they were used only for transient farm workers who came to pick peaches in the surrounding orchard. But even the peach crop failed. And so the houses – apparently near the end of their lives – were put up for sale.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Thornton’s Cottage was sporadically used as a tenant house or rental through the years. A one story kitchen addition was added in the 1930’s and then a second story porch/bedroom added over the kitchen.
Then comes renewal, rejuvenation, a rebirth
In 1998, Linda Case and John Rayburn looking for a “low maintenance” second home stumbled upon Cool Spring Farm (which then did not include Mrs. Thornton’s Cottage) and undertook a three year renovation to renew the life of the three main buildings. By the time the renovation was complete, John Rayburn had died and Linda Case decided to make the property her full time home.
One of Case’s primary goals was to reunite the Cool Spring Marsh by adding the adjoining property which contained more of Bullskin Run and approximately half the marsh. She envisioned a non-profit use for the property that would protect its sensitive environment yet make it a lively center for creative learning that would enhance the community.
CraftWorks at Cool Spring is born
In 2008, she was able to purchase the adjoining 12 acres including the marsh and Mrs. Thornton’s Cottage. The Cottage was renovated to include two studios and an office. As one works in and on the house, it is impossible not to help speculate on the generosity of the Haines, on what the home meant to the Thornton’s and on the feeling that they would smile at its happy use for creative learning.