History of Epsom
IntroductionIn the mid-18th century, the land that would become Epsom was part of the land holdings of the Ridgely family. This land was known as Northampton, a vast estate in Baltimore County just north of Towsontown. In 1772, Col. Charles Ridgely bequeathed part of Northampton to his grandson, John Robert Holliday, who built a mansion and farm on that land and named it Epsom. In 1807, Holliday's heirs sold Epsom back to the Ridgely Family of Hampton.
In 1829, Epsom was inherited by Harriet Ridgely who married Henry Banning Chew. The Chews lived and raised a family on Epsom throughout the 19th century. When Harriet Ridgely inherited the land in 1829, she also inherited approximately 30 enslaved workers from Hampton. Both Hampton and Epsom were built and worked by enslaved and free laborers and skilled craftsmen.
In 1894, the Epsom mansion burned to the ground. The land was occupied by various tenants until 1921, when Goucher College purchased the land from the Chew Family. View the deed in the Goucher College Digital Library.
Ownership and Development of Epsom Farm
In 1772 Col. Charles Ridgely bequeathed the southernmost part of Northampton together with another tract of land known as Ridgely’s Conclusion, about 475 acres, to his grandson, John Robert Holliday. The Ridgely home, a Georgian mansion known as Hampton, is a national historic site located just a few minutes north of Goucher. Both Hampton and Epsom farm were built and operated with enslaved and free workers.
John Robert Holliday did much of the farm building on the Epsom property. Documentary and artifactual evidence points to the fact that Holliday constructed the Epsom Mansion in the early 1780s. When the mansion burned down in 1894, an iron fireback with the date 1784 and Holliday’s initials was found. Holliday, an avid breeder of racehorses, most likely named the farm after Epsom Downs, the famous racecourse in Surrey, England.
John Robert Holliday died in 1800. His heirs sold Epsom back to the master of Hampton, who was now Charles Carnan Ridgely, in 1807. Ridgely’s son, Charles Ridgely, Jr., lived at Epsom from about 1811 until 1819, when he was struck by lightning and killed. Afterwards, Epsom was occupied by Charles Carnan Ridgely’s daughter, Sophia, and her husband, James Howard.
When Charles Carnan Ridgely died in 1829, Epsom passed to his youngest daughter, Harriet and her husband, Henry Banning Chew, a Philadelphia merchant and grandson of the distinguished Revolutionary leader, Benjamin Chew. Harriet inherited the original Epsom together with parts of Stansbury’s Disappointment, Cross’ Chance, Ridgely’s Inspection, Ridgely’s Conclusion, and Stone’s Adventure, around 600 acres altogether.
This was the farm where Harriet Ridgely Chew and Henry Banning Chew lived and raised a family from 1829 until 1835. Married in 1822, Harriet gave birth to eight children, only three of whom survived until adulthood, Charles Ridgely Chew, Benjamin Chew, and Samuel Chew. Harriet died in childbirth in 1835. She left Epsom to her sons, and her husband retained a lifetime interest in the farm.
In 1839, Henry Chew married Elizabeth Ann Ralston, daughter of Robert Ralston, a prominent Philadelphia merchant. Sometime between 1839 and 1843, Henry and Elizabeth made important changes to the mansion. In order to make it more fashionable, they added a Doric portico to the west wing of the house and two glass conservatories to the front of the house in order to cultivate the flowers of which they were so fond.
By the late 1880s, the Chew family moved to a house in Towson built by H.B. Chew, in an area known as "Chewville." The family then leased Epsom to tenant farmers. In 1894 the Epsom mansion burnt to the ground. The land continued to be farmed throughout the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. In 1921 the Chew family sold the land to Goucher College. It was not until 1941, however, that Goucher College laid the cornerstone for the first building, Mary Fisher Hall, on campus.