For over 300 years, Wye Island was privately owned and managed for agricultural use, including tobacco and wheat farming. Two of the most noteworthy owners were William Paca and John Beale Bordley. Both men inherited their parts of the island through their wives, daughters of Samuel Chew. Mr. Paca, third governor of Maryland and one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, owned half of the island north of Dividing Creek. Mr. Bordley, a distinguished lawyer and jurist, owned the island's southern half. In the 1770s, Mr. Bordley gave up his law career to devote his life to farming, experimenting, and writing. Fields once devoted to tobacco now produced abundant wheat. Bordley strove to make Wye Island totally self-sufficient. Orchards and a vineyard were planted; blacksmith and carpentry shops were built, as were looms, a large windmill, and even a brewery.
Eventually the island was sold off into separate farms. The most influential owners were Glenn and Jacqueline Stewart. Ultimately they owned a majority of the land and turned Wye Island into a cattle ranch. The Stewart's built the hunting lodge (Duck House), which remains today on Granary Creek. In the mid 1970's the encroaching threat of residential development forced the State of Maryland to purchase the island to ensure its preservation.
If you would like to learn more about Wye Island, you may want to read the book "WYE ISLAND" by Boyd Gibbons which describes the history of the island.