In 1753, James Brooke — Sandy Spring’s first permanent settler– carved out a parcel of land from the 392 acres gifted to him by his father-in-law, Richard Snowden. Brooke conveyed several acres adjacent to his home and tobacco plantation to the Society of Friends for a place to worship and bury their dead. For the next 64 years, church members most likely met in a barn on the property or in private residences pending the construction of the Sandy Spring Meeting House.
Two of the oldest paintings of the Meeting House were created by American impressionist painter Milton H. Bancroft (1866-1947) in the 1890s. Educated in Massachusetts and Philadelphia, Bancroft exhibited in major U.S. cities at the turn of the 20th centuries. One of his major commissions was a set of 10 murals for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.
What was the artist’s connection to Sandy Spring?
Like James Brooke, Bancroft lived on land in the Sandy Spring area originally owned by Snowden and passed down through his father-in-law, Joseph Townsend Moore, a member of the Sandy Spring Meeting. In 1893, Bancroft married Margaret C. Moore at the Norwood family home in Sandy Spring owned by her father. The couple met at Swarthmore College, a small Quaker school outside of Philadelphia, where Bancroft was teaching while Moore was a student.
After they wed, the couple lived in Paris for several years. Moore returned to Norwood while her husband supported the family by painting in Europe and in New York. Too old to enlist, he served with the YMCA in France during World War I. He visited the Western Front where he documented wartime destruction in a series of drawings. He also created recruitment posters for the U.S. Armed Forces.
Moore inherited Norwood in 1920, where Bancroft retired after the war and continued to paint until his death in 1947. He is buried in the Sandy Spring Friends Meeting House Cemetery.
Bancroft’s trove of paintings housed at Norwood were sold with his estate in 1978 and donated to the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Two of his paintings of the Meeting House belong to the Sandy Spring Friends and will hang in their newly renovated Community House.
Contributed by Audrey Partington
Chronicles of Sandy Spring Meeting and Environs, Martha C. Nesbitt and Mary Reading Miller