Bloomingdale, as pictured on the cover, is located in Queenstown, MD on Bloomingdale Road, which connects Routes 50 and 301. It was originally patented as “Mount Mill” in 1665 by Captain Robert Morris, who sold it nineteen years later to Jacob Seth. It passed down through his family until it was sold in 1820 to Edward Harris, who willed it to his daughters, Sallie and Mary. It was these women who changed its name to “Bloomingdale.” Lively and flirtatious, the sisters were considered the reigning belles of their time, but neither married. They instead retreated into the old wing of the house, a more austere and simple structure.
They in turn left the estate to their cousin, Severn Teackle Wallis, who was a member of the General Assembly imprisoned at Fort McHenry in 1861 to prevent the vote for Maryland to secede from the Union. Refusing to take an oath of allegiance, he was held for months until being unconditionally released.
There are several buildings on the property, each representing a different part of Bloomingdale’s past. A rustic cabin, an “old wing,” and a “new wing,” allow you to visualize the development of the plantation, which eventually expanded to include over two thousand acres. The building referred to as the “new wing” was built in 1792.
An impressive and graceful tribute to Georgian architecture, Bloomingdale was rented as a wedding location in recent years until its current owners developed health issues which prohibited its continued use. They were gracious and kind enough to allow me to use pictures of their home for the cover of my novel, and to write my story as if it were being lived out on their property. They have my sincerest gratitude for their generosity.
As a writer of Historical Fiction, I have the liberty of adding other members into the Harris family tree, and to bring to life the recorded facts and details as I imagine them. In this story, Abigail Sterret is presented at the great-niece of Sallie and Mary Harris.
The inspiration for her family connection was a ghost story. There is an account of a supernatural visitor coming to the door in 1879 who appeared to be William Sterret, the nephew of the Harris Sisters who had drowned in a race at the old mill. I conjectured that in order for Sallie and Mary to have a nephew, they must have had a sister who married a gentleman with the last name of Sterret. And so I chose to connect Abigail to the family by making her William’s granddaughter.
By giving her father the position of manager for the estate, Abigail was able to reside at the plantation and discover the injured rebel soldier, Charlie Turner, whom she nurses back to health and ultimately falls in love with.