Tyrconnel Farm is situated along the base of South Mountain roughly halfway between Burkittsville and Knoxville along MD Route 17. For nearly two decades, this farm became the campus of Saint John's Select Boarding School for Young Ladies, also known as Saint John's Female Seminary. Rev. George Lewis Staley [1823-1908] was the principal and owner of the school throughout its operation, and he was well known in the community long before the first students were welcomed to Saint John's School in 1866.
Born in Shepherdstown, Virginia (now West Virginia), George was the son of the Rev. Stephen Staley and Ann Mary Leiby Staley. He studied with his father and private tutors before attending Marshall College and the Theological Seminary at Mercersburg, graduating from the latter in 1845. Once ordained, Rev. Staley was assigned to the pastorate of the newly-formed Burkittsville Charge of the German Reformed Church. He remained in Burkittsville from 1846 until 1849 when he was called to serve a congregation in Philadelphia. In 1853, Rev. Staley resigned his charge and returned to the Burkittsville area and founded a school for boys. This school was first operated at a farm named "Linwood," but quickly outgrew this location and moved to Barleywood Farm at Petersville. The Barleywood Academy was short-lived, only operating for three years, but it set Rev. Staley on the course for the remainder of his career in education.
On the morning of December 29, 2019, two historic structures at heart of Burkittsville were severely damaged in a fire that left four families displaced who lived in apartments on the property. As firefighters from eight companies across Frederick and Washington Counties, Maryland, and Loudoun County, Virginia, battled the blaze, town residents gathered to help the families and first responders. St. Paul's Lutheran Church opened its doors to house the displaced families and to provide breakfast to them and the firefighters. Donations of clothing and household goods poured in over the afternoon. As the smoke finally settled over the town, a sense of gratitude for the safety of the families and first responders was also met with a sense of loss for a historic property that had been a place of daily activity for Burkittsville residents for over 150 years.