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The Hays House

By John T. Marck

The Hays House, built in 1788, today sits quietly on Kenmore Avenue in Bel Air, (Harford County) Maryland. Getting the house to this location, however; was not an easy task. Thomas Archer Hays, Sr. (1780-1861), was the Bel Air lawyer who owned the house from 1813 to 1861. Although there were other owners of the property and house, Mr. Hays owned the house for the longest period of time, thus its name.

The original Hays House property was part of two tracts of land known as "Scotts Improvement Enlarged" and "Burr." Both of these tracts were acquired by Daniel Scott in the early eighteenth century. On July 30, 1731, a patent was issued to Daniel Scott for 390 acres of "Scotts Improvement Enlarged." This tract of land was a resurvey of two former tracts patented to Scott. These were known as "Scotts Friendship" acquired in 1705, and "Scotts Improvement" in 1728. The tract of land known as "Burr," was originally patented to James Carroll, who gave this property to Michael Taylor through his will. Taylor, deeded one hundred acres of this land to Daniel Scott in 1730. Daniel Scott in his will, bequeathed the tracts of land known as "Scotts Improvement Enlarged" and "Burr" to his son, also named Daniel, in March 1744. Daniel, the second, deeded this land to his son, James, on November 5, 1745. James owned this land until his death. In his will, in 1762, he bequeathed to his son, Aquila, "the Plantation whereon I now live, being the remaining parts of Scotts Improvement Enlarged and also part of a tract called Burr adjoining the same." There was another section of "Scotts Improvement Enlarged" that James left another son, Benjamin. This land, acquired by Aquila Scott in 1762 and later called Scotts Old Fields, would eventually become Bel Air, in 1780.

During the years from 1788 to 1813, it is not exactly clear as to who may have occupied the house, known today as the Hays House. It is possible that the house was occupied by persons other than the owner. It is known that the house was occupied by a Josias Smith in 1798.

The exact date that the house was built is unknown, but records indicate that it was c.1788. Aquila Scott sold one acre of land to John Bull on April 3, 1788, lot numbers 39 and 41, where the house originally stood.

From this time there were various owners of the Hays House property. Deed records indicate that John Bull sold the property to Frederick Yeiser on September 23, 1789. The succession of ownership that follows is: Thomas Gibson, November 27, 1794; Elizabeth Gibson, wife of Thomas, September 6, 1796; John Churchman Bond, January 3, 1809; Arnold Richardson, June 5, 1810; and Thomas Archer Hays, Sr., on April 12, 1813.

Thomas A. Hays was the single largest land owner in Bel Air. Thomas Hays married Betsy Jones, who was the granddaughter of William Jones, and the daughter of Gilbert Jones, a well-known tavern keeper in Bel Air, located at Main Street and Baltimore Pike, on the northwest corner. Thomas and Betsy had seven children: Sally Galloway, Mary Giles, Frances Fulford, Elizabeth Jacobs, Harriet Whaland, Pamelia Hays, and Thomas A. Hays, Jr. Records indicate that Thomas Sr., lived in the house and also that he lived there with his daughter Pamelia at the time of his death in 1861.In his will, probated August 5, 1861, Thomas A. Hays Sr., bequeathed the house, property, furniture and inventory to his daughter, Pamelia H. Hays. Pamelia Hays never married, and continued to live in the house until her death on January 14, 1875. As she had no direct heirs, she left the house, property, and inventory to her sister, Elizabeth A. Jacobs. This was a provision of her father's will. Elizabeth owned the property from 1875 to August 20, 1893. From this time, the house stayed in the Jacobs family until September 11, 1957, when Joseph S. Jacobs and his wife Sarah M. Jacobs sold the property to Anna Irene McCleary. Anna held the property until May 20, 1960, when it was sold to Safeway Stores, Inc., for the purposes of building a Safeway grocery store. In April 1959, Anna McCleary advised the Historical Society of her intentions to sell the property, and offered the house to the Historical Society. Upon Safeway Stores, Inc., purchasing the property, they had no use for the Hays House, and offered to give it to the Historical Society, providing it was moved. A course of events followed, which included the tireless efforts of many people, including Mrs. Sharpless Ewing, Miss Alice Wilson, Mrs. William Howard, Mrs. Paul Beatty Harlan, Mrs. Richard Wysong, Mrs. Benjamin H. Adams, Mrs. J. Glasgow Archer, Jr., Mr. Sydney Peverley and Mrs. C. Holden Rogers. It was Mrs. Adams who suggested moving the house to the Bel Air High School grounds; Mr. Peverley who contacted the then superintendent of schools, Dr. Charles W. Willis; and Mr. John Baumgardner, who actually moved the house.

On July 22, 1960, the house was raised and moved to its present location on Kenmore Avenue. At this time there still was no final agreement with the School Board. Through the efforts of Senator William S. James, he persuaded the School Board to finally sell the property on which the house stood. In August 1961, the Society paid $845.60, for the lot. Under the terms of the contact, the lot was deeded to the Board of County Commissioners, which in turn gave the Historical Society a twenty-five-year lease at $1.00 per year. In May of 1966, this lease was canceled and a new one executed for seventy-five years.

The Hays House is a frame, two-story house with a gambrel roof. Originally, the house was built in two stages, having a stone section, two story's high, built by Thomas Hays between 1825-1840. This section was demolished in 1960, when the house was moved to its present location.

The Hays House today is an interesting place to visit. Containing period furniture, it reflects the nineteenth century lifestyle of its namesake. In the parlor, the fireplace mantel is in the design of a side view of a table, modeled after another Hays-Heighe House. A fire back added in the last fifty years contains information on the Jones, Hays and Jacobs families.

Thomas Archer Hays, Sr. is buried in the Hays-Jacobs lot in Rock Spring Cemetery. Also buried in this lot is Elizabeth Hays, wife of Thomas Sr., as well as Pamelia and Thomas Hays, Jr.

Further information may be obtained through The Historical Society of Harford County.


Copyright 1993-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.


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