Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dr. Lewis Heisler Ball

Sen. L. Heisler Ball, 1919
As has been noted several times in the past, Mill Creek Hundred doesn't really boast much in the way of nationally famous sons or daughters. No Presidents, Nobel Prize winners, or world-famous artists hailed from here, as far as I know. That doesn't mean, however, that there weren't certain people who had their time upon the statewide or national stage. One such person who did rise above his humble beginnings was the son of a well-entrenched local family -- the physician turned politician Lewis Heisler Ball.

L. Heisler Ball (as he was more often known) was born in Milltown on September 21, 1861, the son of John and Sarah (Baldwin) Ball. Sarah Ball (1834-1905) was the daughter of William Baldwin, and probably grew up on Polly Drummond Hill Road, just south of Ebenezer Methodist Church. John Ball (1828-1900), Heisler's father, was the son of John Ball, Sr., and both Johns have popped up several times before in other posts. Both John Balls grew up near Milltown, in what I've dubbed the Joseph Ball House, still standing in what is now the parking lot of the Arundel Apartments.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

More About Water Troughs!

Water Trough at Canby Park
No, when I started writing this blog I had no clue that one day I'd end up writing multiple posts about stone water troughs, but here we are. What started out as a side note discovered while investigating the early history of the Delcastle Farm has turned into an interesting little mystery. Now, new information has widened the scope of the story even further.

To briefly recap the story, go read the post. To slightly less briefly recap, there are five stone water troughs sitting in two locations at the Delcastle Golf Course -- formerly a prison farm associated with the New Castle County Workhouse at Greenbank -- on McKennans Church Road. The troughs have dates carved into them, ranging from 1902 to 1912. One has an M carved on the reverse side.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ashland Mill -- Part 2

In the previous post, we began looking at the history of the Ashland Mill, located on the east (north?) or Christiana Hundred side of Red Clay Creek along Barley Mill Road. We saw how the original mill was constructed about 1715 by John Gregg, and remained in the family until 1797. During that time, two houses were built that still stand -- the circa 1720 stone house behind the mill site and the 1737 brick house across Creek Road on a slight rise.

The mill and both houses passed into the Philips family for the next half century or so, before being sold sometime in the early 1850's. It's probably at this point that the 1737 brick William Gregg House was separated from the mill property and the stone house. On the 1868 map, the two are shown under different ownership. We'll leave William's beautiful house now, and focus our attention on the mill property and a "newer" tract just to the west, in Mill Creek Hundred. This is because in 1862, the old Gregg Mill at Ashland was purchased by another longtime local resident, Jehu D. Sharpless.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ashland Mill -- Part 1

Ashland Mill, 1895
As we've seen many times on this blog, Mill Creek Hundred may be the most aptly named of all the hundreds in Delaware (although to be fair, I don't know how many ducks there are in Duck Creek Hundred, and I don't even want to deal with either of the Murderkills). And even though we've covered many of the mills in the area already, there are still some we've yet to hit upon. One point that has come up several times is the fact that the majority of the mills along Red Clay Creek are situated on the west (MCH) side of the waterway. There are a few, however, on the Christiana Hundred side, including one of the earliest, which has direct connections to "our side" of the creek. This one was even mentioned previously in an "On the Road" post.

The Gregg family originally settled in eastern Christiana Hundred in the 1680's, near what would later become Montchanin. William Gregg, the patriarch of the family, had four children, but the one we're concerned with now was his son John. John Gregg (1668-1738) was a prodigious purchaser of property, ending up with holdings in the thousands of acres. One of his purchases was a 200 acre tract straddling Red Clay Creek, which he bought from Letitia Penn's agent in 1702.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Aaron F. Klair Bible

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about Aaron F. Klair and his family, spurred by an earlier post about the anti-liquor Klair Law. Then, not long ago, I got one of those wonderful, completely out of the blue emails I receive once in a while. It was from a woman named Marion who had purchased an old Bible off of Ebay a while back. What she enjoys doing is buying old books, diaries, Bibles, and so forth, and researching the people who owned them. In this case she ended up on the blog here because this particular Bible had once belonged to Aaron F. Klair.
As a quick refresher, Aaron Francis Klair was born in 1863 to Egbert and Elizabeth (Cranston) Klair, who at the time resided in the stone house now on the grounds of the former Three Little Bakers golf course. Aaron F.'s grandfather was also named Aaron, and his father was Frederick Klair. It was Frederick who, in 1810, moved his family from Pennsylvania into house on Limestone Road formerly owned by Rev. William McKennan.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Catching Up and Some Odds and Ends

Old Capitol Trail and Newport Gap Pike, 1965
As you may have noticed, the blogging here has been a bit light the past month. Ok, more than light. Non-existent. I apologize for the hiatus to anyone who looks forward to these posts, but my real life has been busy and hectic the past few weeks. Things are finally starting to calm down a bit now, and beginning to get back to whatever passes for normal these days. For whatever it's worth to whoever might care, I'm hoping to get back to a more regular posting schedule this week.

Now that that's out of the way, I have a few little things that, for lack of a better idea, I'm just going to throw all together in one post here:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak -- Another Mill Bites the Dust

(Philadelphia) Times - August 16, 1891
I haven't gotten to one of these newsbreaks in a while, so here's a quick little story. It comes to us from The Times of Philadelphia, dated August 16, 1891. It tells of the fire that destroyed Joseph Derrickson's woolen mill, reportedly near Stanton. As best as I can determine by looking at the maps, this is referring to the former Spring Grove Mill located on Mill Creek just below Stoney Batter Road.

The 1881 and 1893 maps both label the mill as "A. Derrickson", presumably for Aquila. This is slightly problematic in that Aquila Derickson passed away in November 1881. The Joseph mentioned in the article was Aquila's eldest son, who it seems acquired the mill after his father's death. I think the 1893 mapmakers may have leaned heavily on the 1881 version, since I recall seeing other instances where the later map seemed like it was not updated.

The Derickson Mill in 1881

For a while now I've wanted to write a post about this mill, but I've been unable to come up with much of what you'd call "facts", or "actual information". The closest I've come recently was discovering that Samuel Broadbent, the son of the former mill owner James Broadbent, seems to have built the Marshallton home of our new blog friend Craig. Beyond that it gets a bit thin.

I'm still hopeful that someday I'll stumble upon...um, I mean gallantly discover, more about this mill. If nothing else this article gives us an idea of the state of the mill in the early 1890's. My hunch is that it had already been shut down for good and was never rebuilt. If more comes up, I'll be sure to pass it along.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Knowles Family

Harry Knowles, brother of Cpt. Thomas Knowles
Aside from researching and writing these posts, there are a few little projects I've always wanted to do but have never had the time to get to. One of them was to go through the censuses (1850 and later) and look for odd and unusual occupations. Maybe even try to calculate how many people were engaged in something other than farming or mill/factory work. There will be a fair number of expected "others", things like carpenters, doctors, teachers, cobblers, coopers and the like. I also assume that there will be a few that I either have to look up or that will take me completely by surprise. This is the story of one of the later. Would you be surprised to know that in 1880, in Mill Creek Hundred, there lived a lighthouse keeper?

There was, and his name was William H. C. Knowles. He came from a family of sea men and probably only lived in MCH for a few years, but his family has an interesting story. I was turned on to the Knowles family a few weeks back by an email from a descendant of the family, Cindy Cunningham. She knew a little about this part of the family, and I did some research and came up with a little more. Our hope is that someday someone with even more information about the Knowles family will help fill in some of the gaps.