The History of Freeman Fields
The OBGC Community Park is located on a 118-acre sod farm originally named “Belleville”, then Falling Green. In 1998, the Board of Directors purchased the property from a local sod farmer named Ken Warfield to build its home and a youth sports facility that families could enjoy and the members could utilize. After working for over a year to gain the necessary governmental approvals and special exceptions, OBGC was ready to build the facility and received a generous donation from the Carl M. Freeman Foundation in the amount of $1.25 million to go towards the $6.5 million park. The donation from the Foundation was made in honor of Carl M. Freeman who was a local developer and philanthropist and who raised his children near Olney and who believed in giving back to the community.
The 118 acres that the Club privately owns was once owned by one of the first and most widely known families in Maryland. The Brooke family, of which Brookeville and numerous other landmarks have been named, will forever hold a prominent place in Mechanicsville (Olney), Montgomery County and Maryland State governments, due to a number of their historic accomplishments on behalf of the local community.
The first Brooke to settle in Maryland was Robert Brooke, a wealthy immigrant who sailed from England to America in his own ship in 1650. With his great wealth, Robert Brooke rose to prominent positions in the Colonial Government and became a leader in Maryland and in the State and County legislatures. In 1728, Robert Brooke’s grandson, James Brooke, had risen to great prominence in the local community and was gifted a patent (deed) for 2,000 acres of land by Charles Calvert the 6th, Lord of Baltimore. These 2,000 acres that were gifted to James were the original “De La Brooke” of “Brooke Grove”, that is now famous in the Olney community.
By 1745, James Brooke’s holdings had grown as he collected additional properties in “Olney” and Sandy Spring. He was granted a reserve of his holdings that had reached 20,000 acres and prior to James Brooke’s death, he had allowed a few members of his family to build homes on parts of his 20,000 acres. The home built in 1764, by his oldest son Basil Brooke, was located on part of the original 2,000 acres that had been gifted to his father. Basil originally named his brick home “Belleville” (the bricks were forged on the site and were very rare and expensive at the time), but was eventually renamed by Mary Briggs Brooke who was a descendant in 1824, to “Falling Green”. The name Falling Green was chosen by Mary because of the way the green grass of the yard fell away from the house, much like it does today. When James Brooke died in 1784, he left Falling Green and 2,575 1/2 acres to Basil, as his inheritance.
Over the next seven generations, the original home and acreage at Falling Green was passed down through the Brooke family and portions of Basil’s estate were sold off for one reason or another. Eventually, seven large estates were created from the original 2,575 1/2 acres and a number of them are now Olney landmarks or have been lost due to poor care.
While Falling Green was owned by the Brooke family from 1764 to 1961, it was surrounded by beautiful trees and evergreens to the north and south and was hidden from the roadway until 1949, when it was sold to Dick White, a local sod farmer who cleared it for his use. At the time of the sale away from the Brooke family, it was agreed that Mary B. Brooke and Edith Brooke Green would be given a life estate on the property (the right to live in the house) for the rest of their lives, which they did.
After two decades, Mr. White eventually sold the home and property to another local sod farmer and developer named Ken Warfield who farmed the property for approximately 10 years. The Board of Directors of OBGC purchased the property from Ken and began to not only transform the property into the Park that is now located there today, but preserve the home and barn of Basil Brooke for our kids to enjoy.
Other famous Maryland families that lived in Falling Green were Annie Farquhar and Elizabeth Hopkins.