Friday, February 10, 2017

Red Clay Valley Marshall Families -- Part 2

This is the second part of Robert Wilhelm's story of the Marshall family in the Red Clay Valley. In Part 1, we learned the early history of the family in the area, as well as the stories of the Marshall family's ventures in the iron and kaolin industries. In this part, Robert focuses on the papermaking aspect of the family business. 


By Robert E. Wilhelm Jr.

Thomas S. Marshall & Sons – Papermakers
Israel Marshall's Auburn Heights
With the Gilpins developing a way to make paper by machine on Brandywine Creek in 1803, Robert’s4 son Thomas5 takes an interest in papermaking and in 1856 he is permitted to convert the family flour mill at Marshallvale to the production of paper. Thomas concentrates on the manufacture of news and wrapping papers including difficult to make tissue papers. The family papermaking business is operated primarily by Thomas5 with assistance of others and eventually his children, until the mill is destroyed by fire during the winter of 1865-66. One of the tenant homes, built around 1850 and known as the Marshall Mill House, is still standing along Creek Road (Route 82) and has been preserved by The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County on the Marshall Mill House Preserve.

The area that John3 Marshall purchased in 1765 eventually became known as Marshall’s Bridge in Kennett Township. The rebuilt paper mill, now larger than it had been before the fire, offered increased paper production. Thomas5 S. names the mill the “Homestead Mill at Marshall’s Bridge”. The new mill most likely relied on papermaking machinery supplied from one of the industrial paper machinery makers in Wilmington such as Pusey & Jones or Jackson & Sharp.

Various historical accounts suggest that Thomas’5 paper business at the Homestead Paper Mill was an average business but barely made a profit. According to NVF historical documents, the mill’s cylinder papermaking machine produced paper 33” wide at a rate of 50 feet per minute (137.5 square feet per minute or 212 letter-sized sheets per minute). The Homestead Mill could produce 2-tons of rag paper a week. Paper was now the primary product produced by the Thomas S. Marshall Company in the early 1870s.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Red Clay Valley Marshall Families -- Part 1

As I've been busy lately with other projects, Robert Wilhelm has stepped up with a couple of fantastic guest posts about the Marshall family, which, frankly, I would have never been able to write. This first post covers the early history of the family, as well as the brothers who engaged in the iron and kaolin businesses. The next post will cover the paper and fibre side of the family. Huge thanks to Robert, and I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.


By Robert E. Wilhelm, Jr.
Marshall's Bridge, Kennett Township, PA
Most Delawareans are well aware of the DuPont Company and how the company evolved and came to prominence after Victor Marie du Pont and Éleuthère Irénée du Pont, emigrated from France in 1800 to the young United States. Some folks may be aware that the first machine-made paper produced in this country was manufactured at the Gilpin Mill north of Wilmington on Brandywine Creek in 1803. Delawareans generally don’t know that the second iron rolling mill in the colonies was built at Wooddale and that the first Prussian iron, zinc sheet, and tin sheet manufactured in North America came from Wooddale. However, predating the DuPont’s arrival in the area, are the Garrett and Marshall families. Both families contributed significantly to Delaware’s early industrial age heritage.

Arriving in the early 1700s, John Garrett purchased five tracts of William Penn’s Letitia Manor in the 1720s and settled in the “upper county of the three lower counties of the Province of Pennsylvania” (now known as Yorklyn, DE). Garrett and four neighbors constructed and operated a grist mill at the present site of Marshall Brothers Mill now part of the property of Delaware’s newest state park, Auburn Heights Preserve. The Garrett family went on to build a snuff empire a half-mile downstream on the Red Clay that by 1900 produced a third of the world’s supply of snuff. After the forming of the United States and Delaware in 1776, the area the Garretts settled became known as Auburn, DE.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Red Clay Valley History Talks: Vignettes of Marshallton

A few weeks ago I passed along the news that the Red Clay Valley History Talk Series was returning for its third year, beginning with the Lost Motion Pictures of Brandywine Springs. The presentation (there ended up being four "shows") was fantastic, and great thanks go out to Tommy Gears and Ray Harrington for finding the movies and putting together the presentation. I hope that some of you got a chance to check it out, but if you didn't I understand that the plan is to have a DVD of the movies available for purchase at some point in the near future. I'll be sure to let you know if/when that happens.

But now, I want to invite everyone to the second installment in the series, to be held at the Historic Red Clay Valley Education Center (Wilmington & Western's Marshallton office, 1601 Railroad Ave.) on Monday, February 13, at 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:30). The talk is entitled Vignettes of Marshallton, and will be presented by yours truly, Scott Palmer. The program will be a look at some of the institutions, places, and people who have helped to shape the area over the past few hundred years. It won't be an complete, exhaustive history of the village, but instead a pointed look at some key sites and people, of course illustrated with lots of old photographs. Okay. Don't tell anyone, but it's kind of just an excuse to show a lot of cool, old pictures. I hope you won't mind.

Of course it won't just be a slideshow of historic photographs. I'll be telling the stories and histories that go along with the pictures as well. Some of the material has been included in the blog over the past five or six years, but much of it I've never presented before. I hope there will be something for everyone to enjoy. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017 Red Clay Valley History Talk Series -- The Lost Motion Pictures of Brandywine Springs

Yes, it's that time of year again. After great successes the past two years, the Red Clay Valley History Talk Series is back again, with three more presentations. I'll have more information on the second and third installments (set for early February and March) in the next week or two, especially since I'll be participating in the February talk. But right now I wanted to let you know that there are still tickets available for the first in the 2017 series, and I think it's pretty special.

This Sunday, January 8, 2017, the Red Clay Valley History Talk Series is proud to present The Lost Motion Pictures of Brandywine Springs. The program will take place at the Wilmington & Western's Greenbank Station at 2:00 PM. Featured will be motion pictures taken at Brandywine Springs Amusement Park during the summer of 1903. The park's entertainment director, N. Dushane Cloward, invited one of the Edison Company's top directors to come to the park and film some shorts there. I had mentioned this in a post about four years ago, and even embedded one of the films. The others, however, were not easily available. I knew that some other films had, at least at one time, existed, but I didn't know if they were still around. Turns out, they were!!

A dedicated team of volunteers, led by Tommy Gears, traveled to the National Archives in Washington, DC and recovered this exciting piece of Mill Creek Hundred history. After having the old films transferred into an easier to work with digital format, they are finally ready to unveil these century-plus old films to the public. It's almost certain that these have not been seen by anyone else in this region in at least a century.

The first program, scheduled for Saturday, has already sold out, so the second showing on Sunday has been set up. This, too, may sell out, so get your tickets soon. To help defray some of the costs involved in obtaining, restoring, and transferring the films tickets are $20. Light refreshments will be served. Tickets may be purchased through this link.

I'm personally very excited to see these films, as I really expected them to have disappeared. This is a fantastic piece of history and a special event. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

MCH History Blog On the Road: The Chambers House

Recently I was talking to my late-elementary school aged daughter about researching and writing. I told her that it's not unusual for you to have one idea about where you think an investigation will go before you start, and then have it end up going in a different direction once you start uncovering the actual facts. That is just what happened when I decided to look into the history of the Chambers House, located in Brandywine Hundred near Bellefonte, at the corner of Lore Avenue and Brandywine Boulevard. It's a beautiful Queen Anne style home on a corner lot, stylistically different from the comfortable early-century homes around it, yet somehow fitting in to the neighborhood.

I had known of the house before, but only that it was named for a former, high-level DuPont employee who had owned it for several decades. A few weeks ago I came across the name of the person who was credited for building the home in about 1894, so I was naturally curious as to who this person was who built such a stately home for the area. I had only her name to go on at first, but I ultimately did trace the ownership of the property from the early 1800's through the mid 1900's. I can honestly say that every step of the way had a "So that's who that was" moment, but in the end I can't quite answer the fundamental question at hand here -- Who built the Chambers House, and when?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Lamborn, Guest, and the Bunco Steerers

The location of Chandler Lamborn's farm
In the last post we saw two articles telling tales of attempted swindling aimed at MCH resident David E. Eastburn. These occurred in July and November of 1888, with the earlier article referencing another successful ploy targeting a different MCH farmer. Since the bunco steerers (gosh I love that term) failed with Eastburn, it was unclear as to what exactly their plan was. But now, thanks to the research ability of Donna Peters (contributor of the first articles), we not only have a detailed account of the heretofore briefly mentioned incident, we have another story that appears to involve the same con artists. And although the new incident didn't take place in Mill Creek Hundred, it does end up having connections both to Mill Creek Hundred and (sort of) myself.

We'll get to the new story in a moment, but first let's catch up and find out exactly what happened to Chandler Lamborn. All we knew from the Eastburn article was that three days after failing with him, the swindlers succeeded in taking $500 from Lamborn. They left the area soon thereafter. The article below gives a detailed account of just what went down that day. It appeared the same day as the Eastburn article, July 14,1888, but in a different paper, the Wilmington Every Evening. It was all a complex scheme to get the 71 year old Lamborn to gather a substantial amount of money together so that they could steal it, literally, right out of his hands.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Attempted Scamming of David Eastburn

David E. Eastburn
It's an unfortunate fact of life that as adults in the world today, we're (hopefully) all very aware of the existence of con artists. Nowadays they can approach you in many ways, whether it's via phone calls (usually during dinner), emails from important-sounding foreigners, or their frightening-sounding presidential campaign commercials. In the 19th Century, however, they mostly had to do it the hard way -- in person. I'm sure there were things like fraudulent newspaper ads then, too, but in 1888 if someone wanted to separate you from your money or possessions, they usually had to do it face to face.

One consequence of this is that the con artists and criminals of the time had to pick their prospective targets more carefully. Unlike today's scammers who can blast out to thousands or millions their claims of fast riches, unlikely enhancements, or impractical walls, the cons of yesteryear had to spend time on their marks. Therefore, they'd want to find someone worth targeting. And in 1888, apparently someone (or someones) thought that Mill Creek Hundred's David Eastburn was a worthwhile target. Two separate newspaper articles from that year (graciously supplied by Donna Peters) detail shady interactions with him.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The 4th Delaware, Company E Reunion

Cpt. David E. Buckingham
Without question, the defining event for the United States in the 19th Century (if not ever) was the Civil War. For the soldiers involved, as well as their families, it was the most exciting and terrifying period of their lives. I'm sure anyone around now who has endured more recent military service can attest to this. One of the big differences, though, between the Civil War and more recent conflicts is the scale. About 10% of the population served in the war and about 2% died. This would be equivalent to over 32 million people in the service and almost 6.5 million dead today. The only thing that remotely compares was World War II, where the service percentage was comparable but the death toll was much lower.

War is, as I've heard, hell, but even through the carnage that was the Civil War the soldiers found at least one positive experience to take away from it -- camaraderie. These predominantly rural men, many of whom who lived on isolated farms, suddenly found themselves surrounded 24/7 by their fellow soldiers. They did everything together, relying on each other for companionship and, often, their very survival. When they eventually returned home to their farms, many had no one to talk to about their experiences and missed the brotherhood in which they had been immersed in the army. It's no wonder that in the decades following the war many attempts were made to rebuild the kind of camaraderie the men had felt in the service.