Chanceford Hall’s beginning is somewhat akin to local folklore. Several historical publications, as well as the historical plaque on the home list the established date as 1759. However, the National Register of Historic Places, and several notable books indicate the home was likely completed from 1792-1793. As with homes of this stature and historical period, they sometimes take many years, even decades and several owners to complete, which can often account for a discrepancy in the true age of the building. More likely in this case, is the fact that all pertinent historical records on the origination of the property were lost in a disastrous fire in 1893 that engulfed the downtown area of Snow Hill, destroying all early historic records, housed in the courthouse. For the purposes of this article, the dates of 1792-93 will be used to elaborate on the history of the property.
According to Paul Touart, in “Along the Seaboard Side,” James Rownd Morris—clerk of Worcester County Courts, built Chanceford Hall. Morris held a politically prominent position, and he was quite wealthy. Combine Morris’s status with wife Leah nee Winder—of the prominent family from Somerset County–whose father later became a senator and governor of the state, forming what would have been quite the power couple in the late 1700’s.
James Morris died in 1795, presumably only two years after Chanceford was complete. His wife Leah and executer’s of Morris’s will sold the property, per his wishes, setting of the trend in ownership that would partially define Chanceford’s history.
The property first changed hands to a Colonel Handy, and after his death it passed to Judge William Whittington, who lived in the property, calling it “Ingleside,” until the 1820’s. During Whittington’s reign at Chanceford, Snow Hill was set to be bombed by the British during the War of 1812. Since Chanceford was comprised entirely of Flemish Bond bricks, and the rest of the buildings in Snow Hill were made of wood and would surely be destroyed, all important town records were moved to Chanceford for safe keeping.
Whittington’s daughter Sally and her husband, William Tingle became the next owners. The Tingle’s are likely responsible for adding the stucco finish to the exterior—an additional detail said to reflect wealth and prominence in the mid-1800’s. The property remained in Tingle hands until Sarah died in 1874. She transferred the property to her son Eugene, who within a few months of his mother’s passing, sold it to Hugh Sanders Stevenson.
The property remained with the Stevenson family until 1906, when Ella H. Riggin of Los Angeles bought it—making her the first “come here,”owner—a designation Snow Hill locals use fondly to describe those who move from other areas, although with the Eastern Shore dialect, it sounds more like “come ere.” John Warner Staton became the owner who would re-name the property Chanceford. Subsequent Chanceford turned into a Bed & Breakfast business in 1986, now owned by Doug and Fran Wight.