Sandy Spring is not a place, It's a state of mind. Local saying

Crisp, brown leaves blanket the old graveyard and nestle against the worn and partially sunken tombstones.

Although many of the markers are more than a century old, the inscriptions are still clear. Strong Biblical names such as Hannah, Caleb, Sarah, Samuel and Joshua are etched simply, proudly and without flourishes.

The Quakers who settled Sandy Spring in 1727 rest easily in this peaceful cemetery next to the Friends Meeting House in the heart of the village. Descendants of such founding families as the Thomases, the Brookes and the Snowdens still attend meetings of the Religious Society of Friends in the red brick meeting house built in 1817.

Only a short drive from the glass-and-chrome highrises, traffic snarls and pollution of the metropolitan area's urban communities, Sandy Spring and its neighbor, Ashton, have retained a serene, small-town charm.

Some of the oldest settlements in the county are located in the Sandy Spring-Ashton area, and the Maryland Historic Trust has identified 35 sites that should be preserved for their historic and architectural value.

At the end of Meeting House Road the original sandy spring still bubbles up cold and clear, and in the village center the small Sandy Spring store is still selling local residents their staples from the same site where James P. Stabler opened his "mercantile store" in 1819.

Nearby, descendents of slaves freed by the Quakers live on land in what was once called the Free Negro Settlement. Along Brooke Road and Chandlee Mill live people who measure their Sandy Spring ties in centuries.

It's not uncommon for black and white residents to share the same surname. "We're all kinfolk here," explained a fifth-generation Sandy Spring resident.

This warm, friendly atmosphere permeates the town, were residents wave to strangers passing through. Quaint, quiet and refreshingly slow paced, Sandy Spring is the kind of place, where some residents don't even bother to lock their cars.

While driving down Rte. 108, civilization's main encrochment on the community, motorists slow down to drink in the rural surroundings. Autumn brown fields border the road with weathered, gray fences holding in the cows and horses that graze in the fields. Old wooden barns and trees dating back to the Civil War provide a sense of timeless tranquility.

Most of the homes are on large parcels of land, giving the area a spread-out, rural atmosphere. Even the High's dairy store has a barn-like design that fits the small-town ambience.

"Yup, it's a nice little community," nodded a local shopkeeper, "I'd sure hate to see it change a lot."