The Steele Family Homestead
A grand plantation home is destroyed and rebuilt.
1768-The Indian Reservation at Chicone was dissolved by the Maryland Colony. 484 acres of HANDSELL went to Ann Billings and her husband, Henry Steele. According to oral history the Steeles built a "large pretentious home", now believed to be HANDSELL.
1776-The 1776 Census lists Henry Steele living in Vienna area with this family and 91 slaves.
1779- The British attack the Vienna area several times between 1779-1781. Considerable damage was done to local homes including Weston, home of the John Henry family nearby. One slave was stolen from Henry Steele. It is possible HANDSELL was destroyed during that time.
1782-Henry Steele died in February, just 6 months after his dear friend and business partner Colonel John Henry passed away. He left 8000 acres of land and several dozen slaves.
1783-The 1783 Tax Assessment lists HANDSELL as containing one frame dwelling house, 5 "logged" home, 2 barns and one orchard. Ann Steele died in 1788. HANDSELL willed to her second son, Isaac.
1800-1800 Census lists Isaac Steele living at HANDSELL with 14 slaves. In 1803 he purchased property in Cambridge and began to build a large brick house at HAMBROOKS, but died in 1806 at age 39. Brother James inherited the entire Steele fortune. HANDSELL continued to be farmed by the Steele family until 1837.
History after 1837
1837-John Steele of Dorchester County purchased and built the present structure from the 18th century brick ruins.
1844-Mileah Ann Steele and her husband Robert Rook lived here until the property was sold to Jacob C. Wilson in 1849.
1859-John Thompson purchased HANDSELL from Jacob C. Wilson. Thompson died in 1862 and willed HANDSELL to his son Samuel E. An extant 1877 Map indicates HANDSELL, known then as the Thompson Farm was occupied by Samuel E. Thompson.
1916-The old brick house was rented by Harry E. and Della Bradshaw Hughes. Della gave birth to her first child, Blanche, on Feb. 9, 1916 while living at HANDSELL. The Hughes family left HANDSELL shortly after her birth.
1920's-Glen and Mary Wilson lived "in the old brick home at Chicone", and later told the story of the barn burning one night.
1930's-No one lived at Handsell after this time.
2005-The NHPA is formed to purchase and restore HANDSELL. It is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.
2011-Restoration begins at Handsell
(Inscription beside the left side of the Handsell drawing)
Although no original plans exist, and there is no record of an architect, the original Handsell is believed to have been a 5-bay, two-story-with-garret brick home built in the Georgian style popular at the time, as pictured at right in the in the Conceptual Sketch of Handsell.
(Inscription with the house photos)
Sometime between 1770's and 1803, the original plantation house experienced a devastation and partial collapse. Research and archaeolgogy is ongoing, but it is clear the house was left in ruins with three walls of the house still standing. Was it destroyed by the British during the War or by a house fire?