What was there before –- the SoccerPlex?
Learn about the people who worked the land before it was what we now know as the SoccerPlex.
Where the SoccerPlex in Germantown is today there once was a thriving farm of almost 400 acres associated with the locally prominent King and Schaeffer families, local farming innovation, and the Bethesda Farm Women's Market.
The first owners of the farm were Charles and Ida Lyddane who bought the land from Americas Dawson and put up the first buildings in 1893. Twenty years later they sold it to James King and his new wife Macie Schaeffer King. James father Elias Dorsey King and his wife Hattie co-signed the mortgage and deeded the farm over to their son in 1922. They owned the 250-acre Brink farm near Cedar Grove where James grew up. Macie’s father, Allen Schaeffer purchased the farm across the road from his daughter and son-in-law. The road on which both farms sit is named for him.
James and Macie raised dairy cows, wheat and oats. The milk from the cows was put into 10 gallon milk cans and taken to the train station at Germantown, about two miles away. The wheat and oats were turned into flour at the Liberty Mill, next to the train station.
I name both the husband and wife because in those days, and still on small farms today, farming is a family business and everyone, even the children when they are old enough, contribute to the farming operation in their own ways: the men plowing, planting, harvesting, reaping, and milking; and the women canning, butchering and cooking; and everyone contributing to the endless jobs around the farm such as repairing fences, collecting eggs, feeding the livestock, and tending to the kitchen garden. Macie and James had three children: James, Helen Gertrude, and Macie Irene.
1926 was a terrible year for the King family. In August of that year the entire farm, including the house, barn, and all of the outbuildings burned to the ground. The community came together to help the local family and soon held a barn-raising to house the dairy herd. Harrison Mort was in charge of the work and a house was built soon after. In one year the farm was up and running again with three tenant houses as well as outbuildings.
James was a progressive farmer, believing in modern farming methods and ways of improving the output of the land. He served as president of the County Farm Bureau for 11 years, and was one of the founders of the County Agricultural Center. Marcie was one of a group of resourceful and feisty women who formed the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market in Bethesda to save their family farms during the depression in the 1930s. It is still there and thriving!
Three African American families also lived with their families on the farm in tenant houses. They were Jack Taylor, Mike Noland and Mr. Wood. The mutual respect between these farm workers and the farmer is demonstrated by the fact that James King drove them all to the polls to vote, even though he knew they would probably vote for the party opposing the one he supported.
Another interesting fact about this farm is that the big Percheron horses used for farm work were used by the B & O Railroad to haul the steel beams needed to build the new train trestle over Little Seneca Creek in 1928.
The main product of the farm was milk, so when the new Health Department regulations came out that required all cows to be milked in a cement block building used only for that purpose with no other livestock allowed, the Kings built a new 75-stall state-of-the-art barn with pipes to direct the milk to the dairy house to be pasteurized. This barn was completed in 1930 and is the only structure still standing from the original farm.
James king died in 1958 and Macie sold the farm in 1962 and was purchased by Montgomery County in the late 1960s and rented to Clarence Flook. The County planned to use the land for sewage trenching, but the local citizens objected and the sewage operation was moved elsewhere.
In 1998 a proposal was made to the county by the Maryland Soccer Foundation to create a large number of soccer fields and an indoor arena on the farm, part of which had been made into the South Germantown Recreational Park.
An effort was mounted by a dedicated group of individuals led by Barbara McGraw, a granddaughter of James and Macie King to save the farmhouse and barns on three acres of land. This group began under the umbrella of the Germantown Historical Society. During the spring and summer of 1999 both of these groups, supported by other preservation groups around the county, lobbied to save these buildings. The county had set aside $550,000 for the renovation of the buildings and estimates came in way below that amount.
The County Council, however, voted to raze all of the buildings of the farm and entered into a contract to form the SoccerPlex in September 1999. With a concerted and united effort the local preservation groups were able to have the Council rescind their vote on the 1930 dairy barn. This barn with its two tall cement silos standing like sentries on the landscape has been transformed into the King Barn Dairy Mooseum, telling the story of dairy farming which once was the mainstay of this county.
The Mooseum will be open to the public as a part of Montgomery County Heritage Days on Saturday and Sunday, June 23 and 24 from noon to 4pm. Other historic sites in the Germantown area will be open on Saturday, June 23 only. They include the Button Farm Living History Center, the DC/RC Radio Control Club, and the Boyds Negro School. You can find more information at www.heritagemontgomery.org