You might think of Harford County, Md., as an area you pass through on I-95. If you’re historically minded, you might think of Founding Fathers following the same general route toward Philadelphia or New York. Or, you might know about local lighthouse keeper John O’Neil’s heroics during the War of 1812.
Chances are that you don’t know about Confederate Maj. Harry Gilmore’s raid into Harford County on July 11, 1864, or that the family home of John Wilkes Booth is in Bel Air.
As Gen. Jubal Early advanced into Maryland with the objective of threatening Washington in July 1864, his troops drove Union cavalry from Westminster and pursued Union forces to the Hunt Valley area north of Baltimore. From there, a force from the 1st and 2nd Maryland Cavalry under Gilmore headed into Harford County to disrupt Union railroads.
On July 11, Gilmore and his men raided the general store at Jerusalem Mill, where they captured supplies and horses. Later, they captured two trains and took one of the passengers, Union Gen. William Franklin, prisoner. Gilmore’s cavalry rejoined Early’s main force and returned to Virginia.
You can see the action come to life again June 4–5 at Jerusalem Mill Village as reenactors stage a Federal Dress Parade, raid the Jerusalem store, attack Magnolia Station, and re-create the incident at the Ishmael Day house during which a Confederate sergeant was shot and killed by Day, the only casualty of the raid. Saturday visitors can meet Gen. Jubal Early, who ordered the raid, and visit camps and the village’s historic buildings both days. A traveling magician will also provide entertainment and there will be demonstrations of hand cranking ice cream, blacksmithing, and baking in a beehive oven.
Today, Jerusalem Mill Village, which began with a mill in 1772 and expanded into a small Quaker village, is the best preserved Colonial mill village in Maryland. It offers year-round living history on weekends and an outdoor concert series, June through August.
On Sunday afternoons, interpreters demonstrate woodworking, hearth and open-fire cooking, gardening, and other daily activities from the past.
The Booth connection
Tudor Hall offers tours of the property of the famous acting family that included President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. The 45-minute tours, on two Sundays each month from April through November, often have special guests who talk about specific aspects of the family.
Tudor Hall is a Gothic revival cottage built as a country retreat by Junius Brutus Booth, an English stage actor and the father of John Wilkes Booth and Edwin Booth, who were also Shakespearean actors. Junius Booth died before the home was completed and Edwin lived there briefly, but John Wilkes Booth, his mother, another brother, and two sisters lived at Tudor Hall from 1852–1856.
Music and more
Steppingstone Museum, which preserves the rural and farm life of Harford County’s roots, also presents a summer Brews and Blues Festival on July 23, 1:00–8:00pm. The festival features live music, food trucks, and local beer and wine. Presale tickets are $25.
Providing the entertainment are Blue Jay Slim & the Tone Blasters (1:00–3:00pm), Markey Blue (3:30–5:30pm), and Zydeco-a-Go-Go (6:00–8:00pm).
Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton also hosts outdoor concerts on Sunday evenings, June 19 through Aug. 7. Held 6:00–8:00pm in the Great Bowl of the 22-acre gardens, tickets are available at the door. Bands range from classic rock to Cajun to blues to steel drums.
The world-famous garden attraction celebrates its 45th anniversary with an exhibition of nature-themed sculptures by Matthew Harris in the Wildflower Meadow.
In addition to the topiary gardens, the manor house is a treasure, renovated and expanded by Harvey Ladew. To accommodate an antique partners’ desk, he built the Oval Library, which is considered one of the most beautiful rooms in America.
For more information
Harford Co. Tourism: visitharford.com