Legh Masters

Legh Masters Grave, Westminster Maryland

Legh Masters Grave

In Westminster, off of Route 31, sits a golf course community called Furnace Hills. With the community’s clean cut look and friendly neighbors, one would never imagine this land once was part of a well known furnace business, Legh Furnace. The history behind the land and it’s owner is one of Carroll County’s most shocking ghost stories.

British Man 
Legh Master was born in London, on May 26, 1717. He was born to a wealthy educated family that owned properties in England. When his father died in 1730, Legh inherited his father’s estate. He spent most of his adult life running an iron business in England on one of the inherited properties.

An Opportunity

Avondale, Westminster Maryland

Avondale

It was not until 1770 that Legh Masters moved to Frederick County (part of which is now Carroll County today), leaving behind his family and his business to seek fortune in America. Legend has it that he brought with him the yellow daisy. It is believed he also owed a high debt in England which is why he may have run off to Maryland. He purchased over thousands of acres and created his own iron business, Legh Furnace.

Misunderstood or a Monster? 
Legh was not liked by his new neighbors from the beginning. Due to the Revolutionary War against Britain brewing, most people viewed him as an enemy. Most of his neighbors were also poor working class and did not have the fine education he possessed. He once tried to run for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates but could not get anyone’s vote. Stories of him being crazy also spread through the neighborhood. Neighbors claimed he would run around the woods wearing a white sheet and would jump out at people yelling “stick stuck.”

Like most wealthy land owners in the 1700’s, Master used slaves to run his furnace. He had over fifty slaves and was rumored to be very cruel to them. One legend in particular is of a slave named Sam. The story of Sam varies depending on who you ask. One story goes that Master was in love with Sam’s wife and she rejected him. Another is that Master beat Sam’s wife which upset Sam to the point he tried to kill Legh with a shovel. In a fit of fury Master threw Sam into the furnace, burning him alive. Sam’s wife and child disappeared shortly after.

The Revolutionary War 

Furnace Hills, Westminster Maryland

The Furnace

When the war began in 1776, Master feared losing his land based on which side of the war he took so he fled to the Bahamas, leaving James Smith in charge of Legh Furnace. Due to the war and the fear America had with British immigrants, he was not allowed to return to Legh Furnace until 1782. When he returned, Legh found it in poor condition. He also had no money and was very ill. During the last years of his life, he worked on building back up his business and attempting to pay back his debt he owed on all of his property. He also tried to bring his wife and family to America but with no success.

The Fate of Legh Furnace and Legh Master

Legh Masters Grave, Westminster Maryland

Legh Masters Grave

Legh Master died on March 22, 1796 and was buried at Legh Furnace. In 1802 Isaac Van Bibber bought the property and renamed it Avondale. Some stories say that Legh’s body would not stay buried and that it kept rising back up from the ground, but in 1876 Bibber admitted to having the bones of Legh Master due to many years of bad weather destroying his tomb. On April 19, 1877 Legh Master was buried in the graveyard at the Church of the Ascension in Westminster.

Avondale and the Ghost of Furnace Hills
Many stories circulated after Master died that Avondale was haunted. One man claimed that right after Master passed away, he went by Avondale at night and all the lights were turned on in the empty house. Another story is that an upstairs door refused to stay shut, even after it was nailed closed. People have also reported hearing a child cry. In 1930, Avondale was renovated due to a kitchen fire. Behind the fireplace an iron gate was found and when it was opened a shocking discovery was made. Hidden deep in the wall were two human bodies. It is believed to be the bodies of Sam’s wife and child. The house today is owned by author George Riley’s daughter, who also claims to have had paranormal experiences in the house.

As for the furnace and Furnace Hills, people believe Sam haunts the old furnace. Legh Master has also been seen riding on a horse, with flames coming out of its nose, begging for forgiveness. People have also claimed to have seen him hanging around his cracked grave in the church graveyard.

Furnace Update

Furnace, Westminster Maryland

Winter of 2014-2015 had significant snow fall which unfortunately led to the collapse of the furnace on Tahoma Farm Rd. There is no news of what will be done with the remains.

Resources
Gallagher, T. (1988)Ghosts & Haunted Houses of MarylandTidewater Publishers.

Glass Jr, J. (1982) Ghosts and Legends of Carroll County Maryland. Westminster, MD: Carroll County Public Library.

Riley Jr, G. (2009)The Ghost of Legh Furnace: Legh Master 1717-1796 The Man Behind the Legend Westminster, MD: The Historical Society of Carroll County.