Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Few More Added Odds and Ends

The Dennison House
This is not so much a coherent post (if you'll give me the benefit of the doubt that most of them are) as it is a showcase for a few unrelated items that I've recently added to older posts. None of them quite justify their own separate posts, but all of them are interesting enough to be saved from falling through the cracks. So far only one item has even been mentioned in a comment, while another has been posted over on the blog's Facebook page. Let's start with that one, because it's the coolest photograph of the group.

The picture, seen to the right, is of the Samuel Dennison House on Limestone Road. It comes to us courtesy of Jim Derickson, whose father Jim, Sr. was the last owner of the Derickson Farm along McKennans Church Road. Jim's mother was the former Mildred Dennison, daughter of Frank and Mary Dennison. She grew up in the home that now houses office space for the Summit Retirement Community. Mildred's brothers, Frank, Jr. and Howard, were the last of the Dennisons to work the farm. I don't know the exact date of the photo, but my guess is that it could be from the late 1800's. The aerial photo below is much later, having been taken in the 1950's. It shows the Dennison Farm, sitting on both sides of Limestone Road running up to the north.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Lost (?) Pilling Houses of Kiamensi

Was this one of the Pilling Houses?
This was just going to be a reply to a new comment in an old post, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that it needs more. This is mostly questions without answers at this point, but there's enough new information that there's a hope that it might lead to more someday. The comment in question came from Dave C. and was posted on a story I wrote about Powell Ford. Dave shared with us an interesting newspaper article he found, which originally appeared in the September 2, 1910 edition of the Wilmington Every Evening. I'll repost the article in its entirety in a moment, but first a refresher on the people involved.

Englishman Thomas Pilling (1836-1905) was, along with his brother John, one of the founders of the Kiamensi Woolen Company in 1864. The Kiamensi Woolen Mill sat on the northwest corner of Kiamensi Road and Red Clay Creek, just south of Marshallton. The company eventually owned more or less all the land between the B&O (now CSX) tracks and Kiamensi Road, from Stanton Road to just east of the creek. They also owned a good amount of land south of Kiamensi Road, too. Just how much, we'll get to shortly.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Zachariah Derickson House -- The Derickson Farm Through the 19th Century and Beyond

The Derickson House in the 1950's
In the last post, we took a look at the early history of the land surrounding the Zachariah Derickson House, and the families who owned it. We saw that the land goes back to a 17th Century land grant called Wedgebury, which ended up in the Robinson family. The land around Milltown was subsequently broken up, then, after some intermediate transactions, Samuel Montgomery purchased about 200 acres in 1766. The heirs of his son William ultimately sold what was remaining to their sister Martha and her husband, Zachariah Derickson.

Derickson was originally from Christiana Hundred, hailing from the area we now know as Prices Corner. Before leaving, Zachariah even sold a two acre lot to David Price, the man whose name is still evident today in such places as shopping center signs and bowling alley names. The evidence seems to indicate that Zachariah and Martha moved to the house on McKennans Church Road in 1842. Even today, 174 years after Zachariah's purchase and 250 years after their ancestor Samuel Montgomery first bought the land, the Derickson family still owns a small part of that original tract. In between, though, it's passed through numerous generations of Dericksons.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Zachariah Derickson House -- The Early History of the Land and Family

The Zachariah Derickson House
One of the challenges in researching the historic properties in Mill Creek Hundred is that many of them have long-ago passed out of the hands of the families who built and originally lived in them. This means that the people who would be most invested in a site's history, and the ones who would presumably have the most information about it, are out of the equation. In a few lucky cases, however, -- like the Cox-Mitchell House, the Ward-Dudkowitz House, and Woodside Creamery (the Mitchell Farm) -- the property (or a nearby one) is owned by a member of the family who long occupied it. Fortunately this is the case with an old home that, while not exactly hidden, is probably unknown to most who drive by it -- the Zachariah Derickson House.

Located on the west side (left if you're going uphill) of McKennans Church Road between Milltown Road and Delcastle Golf Course, this Derickson house has been keeping watch down the hill for about two centuries now. And while the first decades of its existence still contain a few questions, most of the history of this house is well-documented. Aiding in this documentation is the fact that someone with the Derickson name has been living in or near it since at least 1842. If you jump to Zachariah's wife's family, the current Dericksons can trace their presence on the same land back to 1766.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Roseville Covered Bridge

We'll take a quick detour now between the last post and next post (both regarding the Milltown area) to introduce a site that I'm pretty sure I was unaware of before this week -- the Roseville Covered Bridge. I've written several times in the past about the Roseville area, which is located along Kirkwood Highway just west of Possum Park Road. The posts have mostly focused on the mill seat located there or the neighboring farm (I hate to keep teasing upcoming posts, but one soon will again mention a planned later iteration of the Roseville Mill). I was aware that there was a bridge there, crossing White Clay Creek, but I didn't know it was a covered bridge.

This shouldn't have been too surprising, really. All the surrounding crossings (Paper Mill, Red Mill, and Harmony) had, at one time, covered bridges. There's no real reason why Roseville shouldn't have also. The reason why I had never heard of it before can be explained by the August 19, 1901 newspaper mention of the bridge seen above (courtesy, as usual in these cases, of Donna Peters). And although, to paraphrase a contemporary author, reports of its death were greatly exaggerated, the Roseville Covered Bridge did not last quite as long as did some of the others spanning the borders of Mill Creek Hundred.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Filling in the Gaps at the Robinson-Harlan-Chandler Mill

It all started with Wedgebury
As I've said a few times lately, one of the things I'd like to do with the new resources available to me is to go back and fill in the holes in the histories of certain sites. As it turns out, I've been able to do a decent job of just that with one of the very first sites I covered here on the blog. I actually started out piecing together the history of a neighboring site (which will be the topic of an upcoming post), but since the two were originally part of the same tract it became very easy for me to jump tracks.

The site in question here is the Harlan-Chandler Mill Complex, located on the southwest corner of Limestone Road and Milltown Road. The original post dealt mostly with the 19th Century history of the site, covering the ownerships of the Harlan brothers and the Chandler family. Only brief mention was made of its earlier history, noting that it was originally the Robinson Mill and at some point Caleb Harlan took over. (Most of the recent attention has been on the burnt and being-rebuilt Chandler House, which is about a century newer than the time-frame we'll look at now.)

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Benefits of Primary Sources

Polly Drummond's 1838 purchase of her tavern property
As I mentioned recently both here and on the Facebook page, I've had access the past few weeks to a great many new (to me) primary sources. So far, the most helpful of these have been the Delaware land records and will/probate records. Like everything in life, there are pros and cons to this new world open to me. On the up side, I can mine data and facts from the original sources with out relying on things like Scharf and Runk, which, while well-intentioned, are riddle with errors. On the down side, it provides even more of a chance for me to get distracted and taken off course.

Some of the distraction part is sort of baked into the cake -- deeds can be thought of as individual links in a longer chain. Each one gives you not only information about the next one (this one's buyer is the next one's seller) but, as I've found, very often loads of information about the previous ones. In order to prove that the seller (or, grantor. buyer is the grantee) has legal claim to the land in question, the deed often gives background information on the property. Usually it's along the lines of "being the same tract or parcel granted by so and so by indenture dated such and such a date." Once in a while the chain of ownership is complicated enough that it may go back several steps or include other information. Needless to say, this can be enormously helpful.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Montgomery Follow-Up with New Resources

First Page of Moses Montgomery's 1848 will
I want to start by saying that this is not a paid endorsement, I'm just passing along information to those who might be interested. A few months ago I was tipped off (thanks, Walt) to the fact that Ancestry.com now includes a whole slew of Delaware land records, as well as will and probate information. Even though it's not cheap (at least to someone like me), my wife and I decided to treat ourselves to a subscription to see if it would be of use (she's doing a lot of genealogical research right now). I'm still figuring out exactly how to use it, but I've already come up with some information that I never would have had before, considering that I really don't have the time to schlep down to Dover to look for this stuff in person.

The land records are not complete, and I'm still learning to decode one and two hundred year old legalese, but a few new things have come to light already. I actually started out looking up something else, which happened to be connected to another branch of the Montgomery family. Somehow, I quickly ended up back on the same Montgomery land I just left. One of the more interesting things I've found is the Last Will and Testament of Moses Montgomery, first written in 1848 (and amended a few years later).