All has not been placid at The Shelburne Glebe estate since the cold January day when 100 law enforcement officers seized the 1,000-acre Loudoun County farm owned by drug trafficker Christopher F. Reckmeyer.
First, a livid neighbor complained that The Glebe's cows barreled through a wooden fence and trampled his corn fields. Then, three nude fishermen had to be chased off the 30-acre lake so they would not deplete the bass stock.
Finally, this weekend, after paying more than $77,000 in fees to keep up the farm and its animals and to advertise the estate, the government is gratefully posting a "For Sale" sign outside what was once the home of George Washington's chaplain.
Most recently, the farm served as the home of Reckmeyer and his family -- as well as the place where they stored everything from Oriental carpets to African emeralds bought with more than $100 million made from the sale of hashish and marijuana.
Since Christopher Reckmeyer, 34, and his brother, Robert B. Reckmeyer, 31, of Centreville, pleaded guilty to directing the decade-long drug operation, both have been taken to the federal medium-security prison in Danbury, Conn. Sentenced this spring to 17 years in prison without the possibility of parole, both are appealing for a reduction of sentence.
Roger Ray, the U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of Virginia who is overseeing the property, said that 30 potential buyers have inquired about The Shelburne Glebe, which is valued at more than $2.8 million.
The government is not encouraging anyone but serious buyers to go and look at the property, 4 1/2 miles southwest of Leesburg and about a 50-minute drive from downtown Washington. But Ray said he expects that the recent publicity about the home will draw scores during this weekend's open house, which begins tomorrow at 10 a.m.
"Some people still think jewelry is buried there," said David C. Leroy, the Loudoun County appraiser who assessed The Shelburne Glebe. "People talk about the hundreds of thousands of dollars of gems found there, and some probably think, 'Who knows? If I buy it maybe more will turn up.' "
When it goes on the selling block tomorrow, according to Loudoun historian Eugene M. Sheel, it won't be the first time the government has seized and sold The Shelburne Glebe.
"By law, all glebes Colonial parish houses purchased with tax dollars had to be sold in 1787," the year Thomas Jefferson's Statute of Religious Freedom became law, Sheel said. The statute outlawed supporting church-related buildings or activities with tax money.
According to Sheel, the money from the post-Revolutionary War sale was spent on the local poor. However, federal authorities say that the pending sale's profits will be used to pay informants, issue rewards and finance the work of law enforcement agencies involved in the seizure.
Calvin J. Smith and Ashbury Lloyd, caretakers who have worked on The Shelburne Glebe since 1968, remembered quieter days when The Glebe was a horse and cattle farm. Both said they were still shocked that their former employer sold drugs by the ton.
"I thought he was selling rugs and juice," Smith said of Christopher Reckmeyer, a vegetarian who stocked thousands of gallons of organically grown fruit juice in his cellar, barn and outdoor icebox. "He was a very nice man," Smith said. "But some people said he was peculiar . . . . He ate dandelions and used to chop them up in his salad."
The caretaker, who had worked for Christopher Reckmeyer since he bought the farm in 1980, said, "I often wondered why he always dealt in cash, but I figured there were a lot of wealthy people."
Robert Reckmeyer, a father of three, and Christopher Reckmeyer, a father of four including a 6-week-old daughter, were portrayed throughout court proceedings as unusually attentive family men. According to their attorneys, the Reckmeyers' wives -- once accustomed to the grand life of free-flowing cash and multicarat gems -- are destitute.
"Who can be happy?" said attorney Stan Reed of his client Christopher Reckmeyer. "He's seen the baby, and I think he's working as a teacher's aide in prison . . . . He's trying to adjust."
Caretaker Lloyd said that when Nancy Reckmeyer went to The Shelburne Glebe recently to remove her family's clothes, the childrens' toys and the unseized, inexpensive furniture, he saw her cry.
After she left, he said, there was little left of the old times at The Shelburne Glebe, just 904 gallons of her husband's Golden Acres Biologically Grown Apple Juice and a lone swan paddling on the lake.