Tina Thieme Brown, an artist, began coming to Sugarloaf Mountain in the mid-1990s, working on a field guide to the mountain, when she fell in love with a nearby town.
By 1999, she’d convinced her husband, Jim Brown, a Washington lobbyist, that they ought to move north to the town of Barnesville, Md., where the mountain, some gravel, winding roads and a patchwork of fields dominate the landscape. “I love the mountain,” said Tina Brown, 65. “I’m drawn to the mountain, the views of the mountain on the horizon.”
These days, Jim Brown commutes to his office at 16th and L streets NW either by the MARC train that stops in Barnesville or by driving to the Shady Grove Metro station to take the Red Line to Farragut North. He figures it takes an hour and 10 minutes by MARC train or up to an hour and 15 minutes by car and Metro.
“Having our own [MARC] train station, it’s a real luxury,” said Jim Brown, 70, who rarely drives all the way into the District to work. “I love it. I would be lost without it.”
Of Barnesville, he said, “It’s bucolic. You just feel like you can breathe again. It’s all the green spaces. You feel like you’re escaping from the hustle and bustle.”
Preserved farmland: Named for William Barnes, who built the first house in town, Barnesville is about half a square mile in area, according to the Census Bureau. There are about 170 residents in 79 houses. It was settled in 1747 and incorporated in 1888.
Mildred Callear, its mayor since 2017 and a commissioner before that, moved to Barnesville with her husband, Jim Callear, in the late 1980s. Their two daughters, Darina, 23, and Marina, 21, live with them. They also keep cows, sheep and chickens on their seven to eight acres.
“If we hadn’t been searching the MARC train line, we wouldn’t have found it,” Mildred Callear said.
The Callears, both lawyers, found their home in a 1911 farmhouse once owned by the late J. Edward Day, who was U.S. postmaster general under President John F. Kennedy. She is from southern Illinois and came to Washington to attend law school at Georgetown, graduating in 1979.
Barnesville is situated within the county’s Agricultural Reserve — approximately 93,000 acres in northern Montgomery set aside for agricultural pursuits, such as cattle raising and vegetable and fruit farming. Created by the Montgomery County Planning Board, when Royce Hanson was its chair, it was approved by the Montgomery County Council in 1980.
The Agricultural Reserve is a zoning district in which residential development is limited to no more than one house per 25 acres, although individual lots can be as small as an acre. Within the town of Barnesville, lots are typically four acres, although smaller ones have been “grandfathered in,” according to Mildred Callear.
She commutes to her federal job. Her husband commuted for 20 years and is now an antiques appraiser.
“Coming out here is just so different,” she said. “It’s not like living in the city. It’s so relaxing.”
Traffic problems: Yet despite what Callear calls its “idyllic” nature, Barnesville — with its split-rail fences, horse farms with dressage, peach orchards and farmers markets — is not without issues.
Reducing the speed of traffic on the two-lane Barnesville Road is an ongoing concern, because commuters use it as an alternative to Interstate 270. “People come flying through here at high speeds,” said Jim Brown, who chairs the town’s traffic safety committee. Indeed, on a Friday afternoon, crossing Barnesville Road at the intersection of Beallsville Road (Route 109) meant waiting for a lull in traffic at a point where some houses are just 12 feet from the curb. Speed bumps aren’t an option because of the road’s classification, so three-way stop signs are being considered.
Another issue is the effort to maintain the town’s rural character. “We don’t want too much development,” Callear said. So far, the town hasn’t changed much since she moved to it, and she is happy about that. “We have no desire to become another townhouse subdivision,” she said.
“Out here, there is something that kind of comes over you that is very relaxing and calming,” said Brown. He and his wife enjoy kayaking on the Monocacy River during the summer “as often as we can.”
No supermarkets: Being in the country and near places to hike, kayak and canoe drew Lauren Greenberger to Barnesville while she was still married. “We wanted to be in the country. We love outdoor sports,” she said. She knew Sugarloaf Mountain from hiking there when her children were young. Now divorced and working in landscape technology, Greenberger, 61, is president of the Sugarloaf Citizens’ Association and committed to her farm with 50 Black Angus cattle. She said she enjoys potluck dinners and moonlit paddling by canoe and kayak with friends and neighbors.
There are no supermarkets in Barnesville. Residents buy from farmers markets or supermarkets in nearby Poolesville, Germantown or Frederick. “The trade-off for us is not having a big store,” Jim Brown said. “The whole idea of the Agricultural Reserve is not to have that.”
Looking ahead, residents are working on updating the town’s master plan. “What do we want it to look like in 10 years?” asked Callear. “Our well-septic is already a limitation on growth.”
Said Brown: “In 20 years, it will be the Central Park of Montgomery County. We would be the only green spot left. That’s why we’re constantly fighting development.”
Living there: Barnesville is bisected by Barnesville Road, which runs from east to west through the town, and bordered by Beallsville Road on the southeast and West Harris Road to the northeast.
In the past 12 months, according to Charlie Jamison of Charles H. Jamison Real Estate in Poolesville, two properties have sold — one of 34.93 acres with a small structure with one bath on it, for $480,000, and a three-bedroom, three-bath house, dating to 1870, for $365,000. There is a six-bedroom, two-bath farmhouse on 105.66 acres, dating to 1850, on the market for $1.649 million.
Schools: Monocacy Elementary, John H. Poole Middle, Poolesville High.
Transit: The MARC train stops at the Barnesville station for morning and afternoon commuters; residents can drive to the Shady Grove Metro station on the Red Line in about half an hour.
Crime: In the past 12 months, according to LexisNexis Community Crime, no crime was reported in Barnesville.