Story by Barbara H. Heck
This story originally appeared in the Chestertown Spy.
The Mount Harmon-Wicomico Point-to-Point on April 10 is set on the beautiful 200-acre Mount Harmon Plantation preserve where four centuries of history and nature intertwine.
The inaugural running of the point-to-point races will include spectacular views of the Sassafras River on three sides of the property along a three-mile timber course that features 21 new jumps, with tailgating along the green and homestretch.
Mount Harmon Plantation is replete with rich Tidewater history and waterfront vistas, and the Mount Harmon-Wicomico Hunt Club Point-to-Point is the latest chapter in a storied history of horse racing on the Sassafras.
In the late 1700s, Sydney George, Jr., owner of Mount Harmon, maintained a stable of 60 racing horses and a private racecourse on the property.
In 1830 when the Maryland Jockey Club reorganized and received a new charter from Congress, owner of neighboring Rose Hill, George Thomas Marsh Forman, was elected its first president.
Originated as a land grant of 350 acres in 1651 to Godfrey Harmon from the second Lord Baltimore, Mount Harmon thrived as a tobacco plantation in the 17th and 18th centuries.
IN 1963, Marguerite du Pont de Villiers Boden purchased the property and set about to restore it to the time when her ancestors lived there during the golden age of tobacco.
Beginning with the Tockwogh Indians and Captain John Smith’s exploration of the Chesapeake Bay and the Sassafras in 1607, exhibits on the property explore the history of the waves of European settlers who came to the Chesapeake region to seek their fortune in the new cash crop, tobacco, the evolution of agriculture on the Eastern Shore in the 18th and 19th centuries and present-day preservation efforts to showcase and share this rich history.
In 1997, the Friends of Mount Harmon purchased the property with the mission of preserving and interpreting the plantation for the education and enjoyment of visitors.
Today, Mount Harmon features a restored 18th century manor house, a formal boxwood garden, and nature trails on 200 acres of pristine open space in a waterfront setting.
The Point-to-Point will be run over a new course designed by Jay Meister and Brooke Boyer and will honor influential horse people on the Eastern Shore.
The Allaire du Pont Bowl commemorates the late breeder of the great gelding Kelso and owner of Woodstock Farm, the Hamilton Fox Memorial Race honors Wicomico Hunt Club founder and Salisbury attorney Hamilton Fox, the H. Brooks Durkee Memorial Trophy remembers the late Maryland Steeplechase Association jockey and trainer, and the Marguerite du Pont Villers Boden Ladies Race pays tribute to the work Mrs. Boden did to restore Mount Harmon to its present state.
“The focus of our Mount Harmon-Wicomico Hunt Point-to-Point is on the races and outside site features, so the manor house will not be open for tours on April 10th,” Howard said. “Our visitor center exhibit featuring four centuries of history at Mount Harmon will be open, as well as our plantation outbuildings including hearth cooking in our colonial kitchen so visitors can get a flavor of the living history that will be showcased at our National Revolutionary War Reenactment Festival May 21 and 22, when the manor house will be open for tours.
“The Mount Harmon-Wicomico Hunt Point-to-Point connects us to our colonial and equestrian roots and showcases Mount Harmon’s pristine natural surroundings and open spaces,” Mount Harmon Plantation Executive Director Paige Howard said. “Our partnership with Wicomico is exciting on two fronts – both organizations are dedicated to preserving open spaces and nature
while fostering historic connections between equestrian sports and land preservation.”
Proceeds from the Mount Harmon-Wicomico Hunt Point-to-Point Races will benefit preservation efforts of both organizations.
Spectators at the point-to-point are encouraged to return to visit the manor house and enjoy learning more about the history of the plantation.
The day includes 10 races with six timber races and one flat race,beginning at 10:30 a.m. with three pony races.
Tailgate, sponsorship and advertising opportunities are still available and are sold on a first-come, first-served basis.
For tailgating, vendors and sponsorships, visit mountharmon.org.