Compton Bassett Mansion - Clement Hill House, Upper Marlboro Maryland
Compton Bassett is a product of the tobacco growing plantation system on which Prince George's early economy and growth were based. Until the Civil War, tobacco, grown on large plantations using slave labor, was by far the single greatest product of this agricultural county. Tobacco was so important to colonial Maryland that it was used as a medium of exchange. Because Prince George's became the largest tobacco-producing county in Maryland, plantations such as Compton Bassett formed the backbone of the county's economy and shaped the lifestyles of its inhabitants (both white and black).
Compton Bassett is located just outside the town of Upper Marlboro, the heart of the tobacco growing region and the site of one of seven original tobacco warehouses and inspection stations. It is located near the Patuxent River which formed the corridor of initial inhabitation for settlers migrating from Maryland's first settlements to the south. Thus, the region in which Compton Bassett is located is among the county's first settlements. In fact, Clement Hill, Jr.'s initial land grant came before the founding of Upper Marlboro in 1721. It was a thriving county seat by the time that Clement Hill IV erected the current residence.
Compton Bassett is among the finest late 18th-century Georgian homes constructed in Prince George's County. Residential structures of this size and refined styling were built by the county's elite society of wealthy planters. While most county residents were living in simple frame dwellings during this period, the few tobacco-planting families which held most of the land were erecting mansion houses. Thus, Compton Bassett represents a number of such plantation dwelling houses built during this period. In fact, it resembles, among others, His Lordship's Kindness. The builder of His Lordshipfs Kindness, Henry Darnall, was a nephew of Ann Darnall Hill, wife of Clement Hill, Jr. who first acquired the property, so that it undoubtedly influenced the design of Compton Bassett. Also of similar styling in Prince George's County are Mt. Lubentia and Pleasant Prospect.
Compton Bassett is unusual in that the property has been in the same family for nearly three centuries. It has been the homeplace of Clement Hill, Jr., and his descendants since 1699. Its inhabitants have been socially prominent citizens of the county, serving the church, state and the community, wh ile engaged in agriculture. Clement Hill, Jr. arrived in Maryland in 1693. He was the nephew of Clement Hill, Sr., of St. Mary's County, a prominent government official who had come to Maryland in 1662 with Lord Baltimore. In 1696 he married Anne Darnall, daughter of Col. Henry Darnall of "The Woodyard," and in 1699 received an appointment as Surveyor General of the Western Shore. The same year he received the 748 acre Compton Bassett estate. He then began construction of his home.
Clement Hill, Jr., died in 1743 leaving Compton Bassett to his wife, during her lifetime, to be passed on to their son, Clement Hill III. He married Mary Digges, daughter of Charles Digges of Warburton Manor. It was during his ownership that the original house evidently burned, in 1771. It was not rebuilt until about 1783, by Clement Hill IV, the heir and only son of Clement III and Mary Digges Hill. Clement IV was appointed Commissioner of Tax in 1792 and again in 1803. The will following his death in 1807 left Compton Bassett to his wife, Eleanor Brent Hill, niece of Daniel Carroll, signer of the Federal Constitution, and of John Carroll, first American Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church.
After her death the property passed to their son, William Hill, as specified in Clement III's will. William Hill was a physician and one of the organizers of the Planter's Bank in Upper Marlboro. He acquired additional land holdings here so that by 1813 the property was resurveyed as "Woodland" with 2,182 acres. Compton Bassett underwent improvement in 1822, during the ownership of William Hill. These improvements, including the application of stucco to the exterior, were done under the direction of James Hoban, architect of the White House.
After the death of William in 182 3, the Compton Bassett plantation was divided into five lots to be dispersed among the heirs. The house and 157 acres passed to his wife, Anne Smith Hill, and upon her death, to their son, William Beanes Hill. William Beanes Hill was a Judge of the Orphan's Court for twenty-five years, as well as being Secretary of the state of Maryland in 1862 and a State Senator in 1877. His other ventures, in addition to planting, included stockholder for the formation of the Maryland Agricultural College (the University of Maryland) and founder of the Woodland Bridge Company. He died in 1890.
In 1890 Compton Bassett passed to Esther G. Hill, eldest daughter of William Beanes and Catherine Beall Hill, according to her father's will. She in turn conveyed the property to her niece, Mary Dixon Beall, upon her death in 1900. Mary married Dr. Reverdy Sasscer. Reverdy Sasscer practiced medicine here—converting the northwest room into an office, as well as operating a tobacco farm (partially tenanted). The two sons of Reverdy and Mary Sasscer, Henry S. and Robert B. Sasscer, later acquired title to Compton Bassett. Robert Sasscer, like his father, had a medical practice here.