J. Richard Rivoire
Pomfret Road (MD 227), Bryans Road, Charles County
McPherson's Purchase is a working farm encompassing 120 acres, 75% of which is cleared and under cultivation. Centrally located on the farm is a complex of 18 domestic and agricultural support structures, 11 of which date prior to c. 1870. Seven of these were built and continue to function solely for agricultural purposes and include two tobacco barns, two wagon or equipment sheds, a corncrib, and a granary, all dating from about 1840-1860, and a former tobacco house built in the late 18th century which was extensively enlarged in the 19th and early 20th centuries and converted to a hay and livestock barn. Included also are several early domestic dependencies, including a kitchen-service structure, a small garden or storage shed, and a plank-constructed meathouse, the last with dovetailed corners and overhanging roof. Another early-19th century building of interest is a duplex slave quarter with a central chimney. With the exception of the meathouse these buildings are of mortised and tenoned post and beam construction, many with hewn sills supported by ground-set wood piers; several of the sheds, however, were constructed around ground-set cedar posts mortised and tenoned into the wall plates. There are seven early-20th century buildings, consisting of two small service sheds, a three-bay wood or wagon shed, a workshop, and a garage, a small, L-shaped wagon shed attached to the end of the hay barn, and a c. 1910 double-pile frame house of simple architectural styling. All are believed to have been built between c. 1890 and c. 1920.
Encompassing the largest historically and physically cohesive collection of early domestic and agricultural support structures in Charles County, McPherson's Purchase is significant as a uniquely instructive representative of a regionally typical 19th century farmstead. Despite the fact that this region has traditionally had an agrarian economy based largely on the production of tobacco and corn, very few farms of similar historical value retaining more than a few ancillary support structures survive. This is the direct result of a steady decline in farming activity in this area over the past several decades and the dissolution of an ever-increasing number of farms for residential and commercial development. Of the 18 buildings standing on the property, all of which were constructed during the ownership of the property by a single family, 11 date between c. 1830 and c. 1870, a period of significant development in the recorded history of the farm. All 11 buildings are important examples of regional architecture, but several are among the last surviving examples of their architecture and function in this area. Of particular value to the study of the socioeconomic history and architectural traditions of this region is the three-room kitchen-service building, a locally unique example in both plan and interior detail of this once essential domestic dependency, and the meathouse, one of the last surviving buildings of plank construction in Charles County. Of similar significance is the slave quarter, once represented in various forms on a great number of farms throughout lower Southern Maryland but now rarely seen. While tobacco curing barns have always been an integral part of the Southern Maryland landscape, fewer than half of those now standing date earlier than the latter half of the 19th century. Although typical of early-19th century tobacco barns, the excellent structural condition, unusual construction features, and historically appropriate context of the two barns at McPherson's Purchase give them a special degree of interest and value. Despite alterations the original structure around which the existing hay barn evolved is also significant as one of only two or three "tobacco houses" in Charles County datable to the 18th century. Although now quite different in appearance and function, the framing of the original structure nevertheless remains basically intact and its early form and physical features easily documentable. Also of significance is the corncrib and granary, both of which are unusually well preserved examples of their type. In addition, the surrounding fields retain clear evidence of ditch lines and field divisions which were established in the mid 19th century.