The Claggett Center is rich in history dating back to prehistoric times. The Archeology Society of Maryland conducted field sessions at Claggett in 2007 and 2008. Those excavations unearthed thousands of artifacts left by a native American people that inhabited the Monocacy River banks between 1300 and 1500 AD.
The earliest recorded history dates to 1730 when the land was patented as Buckingham House and granted to Edward Spriggs, a colonel in the British Army and a well known pre-Revolutionary War land speculator. Later names on the deed include families of German and English descent such as Tanneyhill, Cunningham, Schnertzell, Hasselback, and Baker.
John Hasselbach purchased this 300-acre farm with its stately mansion in 1811. At his death in 1840, the plantation was supported by the labor of 34 enslaved house servants and farm laborers. Few details of their lives remain. Some, like Jim and Charles Rix, resisted bondage and ran away. For others, the sparse evidence of their lives are sometimes reduced to just a first name. Buried in a tiny cemetery cradled in the valley at the Claggett Center are the remains of members of the Hasselbach family along with at least two people of African descent who were enslaved. To learn more about the gravesite, visit On the Trail of Souls.
The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is aware of how much it has benefited materially and financially from slavery, and we repent of our complicity in the sins of slavery and racism. Archival knowledge of some of the enslaved people who lived and worked on this plantation puts a human face on a practice that robbed both slaves and masters of dignity and humanity.
-The Right Reverend Eugene Taylor Sutton, Bishop of Maryland, 2013
Its location near the Potomac River and in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain placed Claggett land in the heart of Civil War activity. The Battle of the Monocacy, just five miles up the river from Claggett, was fought to keep the Confederate troops from overrunning the almost totally undefended Washington, D.C. General Lew Wallace (who went on to write the immortal novel "Ben Hur") and a small band of Union soldiers held the much larger Confederate army at bay for more than a day while Washington defenses were reinforced.
Daniel, Joseph, and William Baker, founded the Buckingham Industrial School for Boys in 1898. The Baker family endowed the school as an institution where poor boys might have a home and received a good education. The enrollment averaged 50 Buckingham Boys between the ages of 6 and 18. In addition to their industrial education the boys took care of gardening, milking, canning, and tending the orchards. They attended the Buckeystown United Methodist Church. The school closed in 1943 because of growing state and federal regulations; however the few remaining Buckingham Boys gather at Claggett each August for a reunion.
In 1950 the school was given to the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland along with a cash stipend to be used for renovations and conversion of the school to a retreat facility. On May 17, 1952 the center was officially dedicated and named the Claggett Diocesan Center after Thomas John Claggett, the first Bishop of the Diocese of Maryland and the first Episcopal bishop ordained on American soil.
Today the Center continues in the spirit imparted by the Baker family by serving children and youth from throughout the Diocese. Claggett offers outreach camping programs for children of incarcerated parents and children from an HIV positive environment and Special Challenge Camp for high functioning developmentally delayed adults. The Center also hosts a multitude of secular and religious non-profit groups, including educational institutions and social justice organizations.