NPS Adventures: Thomas Stone National Historic Site

The Roarbots’ series of NPS Adventures takes a big-picture view of one location within the National Park Service and highlights some of the best activities that site has to offer. This is usually done through a kid-friendly lens and almost always includes activities and suggestions we can recommend from personal experience. And pictures. There are lots and lots of pictures. Glad to have you aboard!

Welcome to Thomas Stone National Historic Site!

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I know what you’re thinking. Who?

I’ve passed signs for Thomas Stone National Historic Site (located near Port Tobacco, MD) many times whenever I found myself in or passing through southern Maryland, but we only recently made the effort to visit the site.

Thomas Stone was one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was a farmer and lawyer, and he served as a Maryland delegate to the Continental Congress. It was in that capacity that he voted for and signed the Declaration in 1776.

The centerpiece of the Thomas Stone National Historic Site is Stone’s plantation home, known as Haberdeventure. The house and property remained in the Stone family until relatively recently. Although the property was declared a national historic site in 1978, it didn’t open to the public until 1997.

The site has relatively short hours, at least with respect to other NPS locations. It’s only open from Thursday-Sunday and from March-December. Check here for exact operating hours.

(Click on all pictures to embiggen.)

House Tour

I’m not sure if every day is like this, but on the Saturday we were there, only one ranger was on duty. And he had to pull double duty working at the visitor’s center and running house tours. Obviously, he couldn’t be in both places at the same time, so only one was open at any one time. And there didn’t seem to be a set schedule. He just went up to the house when people showed up.

The tour covers three or four rooms of the ground floor; the upstairs bedrooms aren’t open to the public. Most of the house is decorated to reflect the late 18th century time when Thomas Stone lived there.

The house remained in the Stone family until 1936 and was privately owned up until it unfortunately suffered a fire in 1977. The National Park Service bought it the following year. Most of the furnishings inside the house did not belong to Thomas Stone, but his original copy of the Declaration of Independence is there and on display. It was a definite highlight.

The tour took about 30 minutes and was highly informative. The ranger was incredibly knowledgeable about Thomas Stone, his role in the Revolutionary War, the Stone family, and the property.

Grounds and Trails

The house – Haberdeventure – is located on 322 acres of parkland. Much of that land is wooded, but a considerable amount is still used as farmland. Dotted around the house are some original 1840s outbuildings, including a horse barn, corn crib, tobacco barn, and tenant house. Only the tobacco barn was open on the day we visited, and there wasn’t anything inside.

The Stone family cemetery is also on the property, which is the final resting place of Thomas Stone, his wife Margaret, other family members, and slaves and servants.

There’s also a 1.5-mile loop trail that begins and ends at the visitor center. The trail winds its way over farmland, through the woods, and past all of the remaining structures on the property. If you have the time, it’s a great ramble that shows you everything the site has to offer. Just be sure to keep an eye open for the trail markers; some of them are hiding in overgrown foliage.

Junior Ranger

Thomas Stone offers a park-centric Junior Ranger program, along with a whole host of other booklets. During our visit, they had at least five or six other Junior Ranger programs available (including Archaeology, the Underground Railroad, Night Sky Explorer, and Eclipse Explorer).

As always, the Junior Ranger program is one of the highlights of any NPS visit for the little Roarbots. It wouldn’t be a visit without a passport stamp and a Junior Ranger badge/pin!

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