History Of Combsberry Inn located on Marylands Eastern Shore
Often times I walk around Combsberry Inn and wonder what these walls would say if they could talk. The home is nearly 300 years old - it was erected during the early settlement of our country, it had been a place to sleep for General Lee during the Civil War, it was standing during the rise and fall of slavery. Combsberry is drenched in history and indeed would have a great deal to say...
On that note, I would like to share with you all a history of Combsberry that is neatly kept in a scrapbook in our library. I am not sure who actually put together this in depth piece of work, but have a suspicion it is Jeanne - Ann's sister. I by no means will take credit for this impressive account of Comsberry, I simply read it from my comfy abode late at night. The history gathered is quite inclusive, and a bit lengthy as it spans 300 years, so I will share it a little bit at a time.
"A short sail up the Great Choptank River from Oxford, Maryland is an inlet called Island Creek. As you turn in, directly ahead stands an impressive old plantation home - The Historic Combsberry Inn Bed and Breakfast. It is steeped in history. The last owner of the original families lived here until death claimed her in 1859.
In 1649 Josias Cooper was awarded a grant of 100 acres "Combsbury", for transporting he and a woman to Maryland. The grant was later reassigned to William Riche in 1664, a planter who owned the adjacent property. Riche was living on the neighboring land, and used the plot deemed "Combsbury" for production purposes. In 1685, his will read that his eldest son William shall inherit "all that parcel of land by the name Combsbury whereon I now live." William continued caring of the land which included 150 acres plus more that he purchased, houses and other various outbuildings. When William Jr. passed, his will stipulated that the house and all land be sold.
In 1718, John and Mary Oldham, purchased "Combsbury" for the price of 21,000 pounds of good, marketable tobacco and fifty pounds silver of the Province. What Mr. Oldham must have purchased had been acreage and some worn down houses since the land had been paid for with mainly tobacco. Usually the more expensive plots were purchased with only silver and gold. Mr. Oldham immediately set about building an imposing brick house for himself and his family. This house has survived the years and is one of the finest examples of early architecture in Talbot County, Maryland.
There were no architects in the colonies at this time and a builder had to depend on pattern books brought over from England. John Oldham built with an exquisite sense of proportion and a restrained use of curvilinear for embellishment. He started with a deep cellar, a "Great Room", a dining room with a stair tower above it. The two rooms have fireplaces with huge oval openings, the windows also have arched brick openings and the wide pine floors that you still see today, are original. Two bedrooms grace the second floor, and two more on the third story.
This house is similar to "Troth's Fortune" further up the Choptank, as they are the only two houses in Talbot County with a stair tower. The exterior of the home is laid in header bond on the water side and English bond elsewhere. Many of the headers are glazed. This is a house that lets the sunlight in, the breezes through and seems planned for gracious living and hospitality. Beyond the dining room was the original kitchen with its big cooking fireplace and loft above for the cook. This was still standing until the late 1970's but is gone now. This was one of the earliest two and a half story houses to be built in the county."
This shall be continued as I have a garden to finish planting! Thank you again to whomever put together this fine piece of history. I imagine it was loads of work. And thank you, Combsberry, for still standing beautifully and gracefully in the waterfront spot you were placed nearly 300 years ago. Take a walk back through history and come visit this little slice of heaven on the Eastern Shore.