Before the new year, if all goes as planned, the Sandy Spring Museum will move its collection of 5,000 local artifacts from its home in the basement of a bank building to Tall Timbers, the brick Colonial house where Gladys Brooke Tumbleson lived until her death last February at age 96.
The widow of Dr. Charles C. Tumbleson, she was descended from the Brookes, one of the oldest families in upper Montgomery County and after whom nearby Brookeville was named. Her estate is selling the old home to the museum for less than market value.
The museum is the inspiration of Dalmas Wood, 54, an insurance salesman and auctioneer who saw the Sandy Spring heritage slipping away as he liquidated old estates, and decided to bring everyone together to do something about it.
Wood, whose mother was Sandy Spring's postmistress for 37 years, started the museum in 1980. He encourages gifts of the kind of items he used to sell, such as farm tools, anitque clothing, domestic utensils, books and toys.
"So many in this area are in their eighties and nineties," Wood said. "The older families just didn't know what to do with these things. Now, the old people seem to be very happy that their things will have a custodian."
The family largesse on which the museum has thrived is in the tradition of community-minded Sandy Spring, a historic village founded by Quakers in the 18th century.
Once an isolated farm community, the village is now on the fringes of the Washington suburbs. Still, the spirit of community remains.
It has been, for more than two centuries, a community of friends, upon which the Society of Friends has made a large, gentle imprint.
In addition to the 1817 meeting house here, Quakers were instrumental in starting the Lyceum, a 19th century cultural center built in 1858 and still in use; the Sandy Spring Bank in 1868; Montgomery Mutual Insurance Co. in 1848; Montgomery General Hospital in 1918; Sandy Spring Friends School in 1961, and adjacent Friends House, a retirement community, a few years later.
Like some other white Marylanders, Sandy Spring Quakers were slave owners. But they freed their slaves long before the Civil War, and a community of property-owning blacks sprang up along Brooke and Chandlee Mill roads north of the village. Descendants of the black settlers still live there.
The spring from which the village takes its name still flows at the end of Meeting House Road in a cornfield. The springhead is surrounded by a wooden rail fence and there is the aroma of wildflowers and the hum of crickets.
According to an oft-quoted local saying, the unincorporated community of Sandy Spring is not a place at all but a state of mind.
A county planning study in the late 1970s noted that the area had an estimated population of between 2,500 and 3,500, including those in several satellite villages.
"Our neighborhood is a rather uncertain tract of country," wrote William Henry Farquahar, author a century ago of the first of five "Annals of Sandy Spring."
The annals were a detailed account of life and death in the community.
"The lines are not determined with such precision . . . . "
So it is that the suburbs of Olney are encroaching on Sandy Spring, and the institutions of Sandy Spring are moving to Olney, itself once a modest village.
The Sandy Spring Bank, which now has seven branches, is about to build a large headquarters in Olney.
The Sandy Spring Museum is in the basement of the current Olney branch. Lining the Olney-Sandy Spring Road on the way to Sandy Spring are subdivisions, shopping centers and office parks.
Oldtimers and newcomers alike fear that more growth could mean more traffic and widened roads, resulting in a radically reshaped environment.
Helen Farquahar, whose husband was head of the insurance company and a grandson of William Henry, had this to say about the advance of Olney:
"I just wish it would stay far away. I don't want it here." Farquahar, who says she's "only 88," lives in a 20-room Victorian house situated on 76 acres.
"I like the seclusion," she said.
She worries about overcrowded schools and too much traffic on Rte. 108, where she lives.
"I have to wait for 20-to-30 cars to go out on the road," she said. "And believe me, at my age, I wait."
Over on Norwood Road, almost opposite the Friends School, 70-year-old woodworker Brook Moore bemoans the development that is scheduled soon to gobble up most of his family's old farm, which was sold some years ago against his wishes.
Forty-four houses are scheduled to be built on the former apple and peach orchards.
"It's like they're doing it right to my body, to tell the truth," he said. "Everything is happening just too fast."
Brook Moore's family farm may be almost gone, but his real legacy is the Friends School he helped start in 1961 "with nothing but faith."
The school is set on 137 acres of woods and meadows donated by Esther Scott, now 90 and living next door. It has 243 students, 65 of whom are boarders.
Only 13 percent of those enrolled are Quakers. Adjoining the school is Friends House Retirement Community, with a nursing home and apartments.
One resident is Mary Redding Miller, 84. She and her late husband, a farmer, lived on nearly 300 acres on nearby Ednor Road, property that eventually wound up as a county sludge dump.
Miller was the last historian of the Sandy Spring Annals, which ended in 1947 with the publication of the fifth volume.
A sixth volume was in the works when she stopped it in the mid-1950s.
"The neighborhood had become too big to chronicle, and you stepped on people's feet if you didn't put them in and their children who had moved away," the longtime resident said.
"A lot of people were commuting. The real interest was not here. The tone of the neighborhood just changed . . . . You can't stop progress, but change isn't always progress."
The longest-running recent controversies in Sandy Spring revolve around the renewal of its black neighborhood and the relocation of some of the black residents into subsidized houses recently built near the village center.
Some Sandy Spring residents objected to the construction of the 55-unit Sandy Spring Meadow development on familiar grounds -- that the housing concentration on Rte. 108 would lead to increased traffic.
But some housing proponents ascribed the opposition to racism.
Carolyn Snowden, who is president of the integrated Sandy Spring Civic Association, lobbied for the housing.
Snowden, an animated woman of 60 who plans to start going to college next year, lives on Chandlee Mill Road in a one-story rambler that she and her late husband had built in 1958, on land that once belonged to her grandfather.
She praised the Quaker community for its support of Sandy Spring Meadow.
"Some Quakers signed against it, but most were very supportive," she said.
"The Quakers have really helped the blacks here. In the civic association, I don't know what we'd have done without the Quaker community."
William Henry Farquahar, in the first annals, expressed the philosophy of Sandy Spring: "United we stand -- divided we fall."
Despite their occasional differences, it's a notion to which many residents seem to subscribe.