At a Board of Public Works Meeting in the Governor’s Reception Room in the State House in Annapolis, Maryland, under a portrait of George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, current Governor Martin O’Malley signed an actual sheepskin Land Patent, granting 19.014 acres of previously state-owned land to the Baltimore Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.
“Lord Calvert, eat your heart out!” joked Governor O’Malley, as he signed not only the presentational huge patent but also two smaller vellum ones, which turned over to the scouts a parcel that is critical to the functioning of the Broad Creek Scout Camp in Harford County.
In 1632 King Charles I of Great Britain granted to Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore (son of the first Lord Baltimore, George Calvert, who had tried to found a colony in Virginia), a charter to the land that is now the State of Maryland. Thereafter, the Calvert family, beginning in 1634 with Cecil’s younger brother Leonard, the first Governor of Maryland, could and did grant land “from this charter” to private individuals through land patents. This process was the only way a private individual could acquire land in Maryland, and every property owner today, in order to have “clear title” to a piece of real estate, must be able to trace its title back to a land patent granted by the first Lord Baltimore or one of his successors and assigns.
The Boy Scouts discovered (with the help of Frank S. Richardson, a land surveyor) that a 19-acre parcel in the midst of the Broad Creek Scout Camp in Harford County could not be traced back to any such land patent, even though the Scouts had used the land for well over two decades and had assumed it was theirs. The parcel in particular, although only 19 acres out of the 1,700 acre camp, provides access to the camp for scouts who are physically challenged.
Since this particular 19 acres had never been granted to a private individual by the Calverts, it was therefore was the property of the State of Maryland, which had confiscated all the remaining property of the last member of the Calvert family, Henry Harford, in 1781. Harford (for whom our county is named) attempted to recover his property or receive compensation for its loss, but was unsuccessful, even though he was represented before the Maryland General Assembly by Charles Carroll of Carrolton.
In order to acquire ownership of the 19 acres, the Boy Scouts had to apply to the Maryland Land Patent Office for a land patent, by which the State of Maryland would convey the 19 acres to the Boy Scouts for the fair market value of the land.
To provide legal representation and advocacy in this process, the Bel Air law firm of Brown, Brown & Young was retained by the Baltimore Area Council Boy Scouts of America: Eric Chase, Executive Director; Ethan Draddy, Scout Executive and CEO.
Attorney Philip J. Kotschenreuther of Brown, Brown & Young, PA, thereafter coordinated the legal efforts to discover the necessary facts and documents needed to sustain the burden of proof that the Boy Scouts would have to meet, to convince the Commissioner of Land Patents that no patent had ever been issued for this 19 acres. These legal efforts included work done by Phil Kilby, a title attorney in Bel Air who performed the needed title examinations, and Frank S. Richardson, the surveyor who performed the necessary surveys.
Kotschenreuther filed all of the necessary documents needed to satisfy the statutory requirements of the land patent application process, including filing the specific Land Patent Application on April 5, 2011. He also coordinated the collection of photos and lay witnesses from the Boy Scouts, met with and prepared the lay witnesses, and met with and prepared expert witnesses Kilby and Richardson.
At a hearing on March 28, 2012, Kotschenreuther, through the testimony of expert and lay witnesses, used numerous land patents, deeds, land surveys, and court documents to place the necessary facts before Maryland Land Commissioner and Head Archivist Dr. Edward Papenfuse, asking him to make an official finding that there had never been a land patent issued for the 19 acres, and that the actual size of the parcel was 19.014 acres.
In a 10-page opinion issued on May 9, 2012, Papenfuse found in favor of the Scouts, stating that “the land embraced by the application is vacant land . . . and that a patent may properly issue. The purchase price is $36,811.09, all in accordance with Title 13 of the Real Property Article, Annotated Code of Maryland.”
Papenfuse then accepted payment of $36,811.09, the fair market value of the land, and placed the formal acceptance and presentation of the Land Patent on the Board of Public Works Agenda for June 20, 2012. Before the Governor, the Comptroller, the Treasurer and assembled dignitaries and guests, Commissioner Papenfuse introduced the measure, saying that “Private property is at the heart of the American dream …people have the right and the opportunity to acquire private property… the idea is that you have to clarify title and make sure that the property is truly vacant.”
Papenfuse described the process, and noted that “The proceeds from this particular land patent will be put towards further education, internship programs and such, so that people can continue to understand the value and wealth of Maryland’s history!”
Governor O’Malley then moved that the Land Patent be issued, and it was approved unanimously by the Board of Public Works. “Take care of this property for all times!” the Governor bade the Scouts, as he handed over the signed giant Land Patent.
“Smiling with Big Patent” (the actual Giant Land Patent signing): Seated, left to right: State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, Governor Martin O’Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot; standing, left to right: Tim Baker (Deputy State Archivist of the Land Patent Office), Philip Kotschenreuther, Esq. (attorney representing the Boy Scouts), Rob Farris (Scout Leader, holding his son), Joe Spellman (Baltimore Area Council Field Director), Jenna Welle (District Executive of Baltimore Area Council), Barry Gossett (Immediate Past Board Chairman of Baltimore Area Council, Boy Scouts of America), Emmanuel Grogan (decorated scout), Gerald Stansbury (Executive Board Member of Baltimore Area Council; also President of Baltimore Chapter of NAACP), Leo Healey (cub scout), Ian Ferris (scout), Eric Chase (Executive Director of the Baltimore Area Council), Michael Baker (scout; son of Tim Baker), Dr. Edward Papenfuse (Maryland Land Commissioner and Head Archivist, State of Maryland). On wall above: George Calvert, Lord Baltimore; on wall, left: Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore; on wall, right: Leonard Calvert, first Governor of Maryland. PHOTO CREDIT: GOVERNOR’S PRESS OFFICE OF MARYLAND.
Presentation of the giant sheepskin Land Patent, after signing. Governor O’Malley is standing behind the patent, to the right. The cub scout is Leo Healey. PHOTO CREDIT: GOVERNOR’S PRESS OFFICE OF MARYLAND.