Historic Structures

Bowieville - Robert Bowie House, Leeland Maryland

Date added: May 3, 2022 Categories: Maryland House Plantations & Farms

Mary Mackall Bowie Wooton Bowie (daughter of Robert Bowie, widow of Turner Wooton and Thomas Contee Bowie) had Bowieville (or "Bowie's Villa" as it is referred to in the appraisal upon her death) constructed in the early 1820s. The 1826 appraisal conducted by John Contee states, "I hereby certify that we have valued the real estate above mentioned and estimate the annual value thereof at $1,200 current money. There is on the land, a large new brick dwelling house, rough cast (stuccoed), finished in the best manner, two stories high, besides the basement, with all the necessary outbuildings..."

The property on which it was constructed she received upon the death of her father in 1818. Her father, Robert Bowie, was twice governor of Maryland (1803-06 and 1811-12). His home, "Cedars" and later, "Mattaponi," resemble Bowieville and perhaps provided Mary Bowie the inspiration for Bowieville. (Mattaponi, built ca. 1745, was altered and wings added ca. 1820. It too is of brick construction covered with stucco). Bowieville, an elegant Federal-style mansion, thus reflects the wealth and social standing of the county's elite. The property itself was a tobacco plantation, as the 1826 appraisal also lists six new and three old tobacco houses. The inventory of her personal property also indicated that she owned at least two dozen slaves (mixed ages and sex).

Mary Mackall Bowie married Turner Wooton in 1794. He died just two years later, leaving her a widow with one son, William Turner Wooton. She married again to her third cousin, Thomas Contee Bowie in 18 01, and together they had nine children. He died suddenly in 1813 at their home Essington. After his death, Mary began the construction of Bowieville. She too, however, died on August 3, 1825, at the age of 55. Her son Robert Bowie served as executor of her estate. He evidently attempted to maintain a home here, perhaps for the benefit of his under-aged brothers and sisters.

The property remained in the Bowie family until the 1840s. Due to legal problems, or perhaps the desire to divide the estate amongst the many heirs, Bowieville was sold to William J. Berry. Bowieville remained in the Berry family until 1935.

William J. Berry was a prominent citizen and had extensive land holdings in Prince Georges County. He purchased this farm with the assistance of his father- in-law, Thomas Clagett. As stated in a later deed, William Berry paid 2/3 and Thomas Clagett 1/3 "... for the use and benefit of his daughter, the said Sarah Eliza Berry". At the time of William Berry's death in 1858, however, he was residing elsewhere, but still farming Bowieville. According to his will, he devised onto his wife, Sarah, a home "at my dwelling plantation known as "Chelsea", which was to be inherited by his son, William Berry. To his son, Jeremiah Berry, "my plantation known as Bowieville upon which he now resides..."

Jeremiah married Katherine Stewart Boggs of Georgetown (daughter of Commodore Brenton Boggs) in 1866. They conveyed Bowieville to Ellen M. Boggs of Georgetown, in December of 1876. However, they evidently continued to reside there, as the Hopkins Atlas of 1879 reads, "Jerry Berry, Res(idence) 'Bowieville 1780 a(cres)".

Ellen M. Boggs, according to her will, maintained a primary residence in Georgetown. Upon her death in 1926 she conveyed Bowieville to her daughter, Katherine S. Berry, who did reside here. The inventory of the personal property of Katherine S. Berry following her death in 1927 gives the value of the furnishings in each room. A list of the rooms indicates their use. They are follows: library, front parlor, back parlor, hall (front), back hal1, pantry, dining room, kitchen, upstairs hall, bedrooms 1, 2, and 3, maid' s room. Katherine Berry's farm "known as Bowieville... where I am now residing. . ." was passed by her will to her daughter, Mary Lawrence Berry.

Mary passed away soon after, in 1935 leaving Bowieville to Frances Fairfax Roberts who sold it the same year, thus ending nearly one hundred years of Berry family ownership. Mary's personal inventory lists the furnishings room by room, indicating a grand home lavishly filled with antiques, fine china, etc. The administration papers accompanying her will also mentioned Gustav A. Buchheister, to be paid for managing the Bowieville farm, and her inventory lists 10,000 pounds of tobacco. This indicates that Bowieville was still, after over one hundred years, a tobacco farm.

Bowieville was purchased in 1935 by Harold Owen Knapp and his wife, Mary Page Knapp. They continued to farm the property, living out their lives here. Mary died, predeceased by her husband, in 1968. Having had no children, Bowieville was conveyed into Mary's family. According to the appraisal, "The topography is somewhat superior... Property is improved by a large dwelling, tenant houses, barns and other outbuildings. However, in our opinion, the highest and best use is modern development, and the improvements add no value to the property." Thus, Bowieville was sold to Maryland Community Developer, Inc.