Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Red Clay Valley History Talk Series

I'm excited to announce here for the first time a new series of history-related events that I'm
personally really looking forward to -- The Red Clay Valley History Talk Series. The series is the brainchild of (among others) Tom Gears, who was looking for a way to promote and to educate people about the history of the area, especially the Red Clay Valley. After some intense negotiations (ok, I don't know how intense it was, but it does make it sound more dramatic, doesn't it?), the series of lectures was set up for three nights over the winter -- January 5, February 2, and March 2.

The talks will be held on Monday nights, beginning at 7:00 PM, at the new Wilmington & Western headquarters on Railroad Avenue in Marshallton. The subject of the first talk will be the New Castle County Workhouse at Greenbank, presented by Tom Gears, Raymond Harrington, and William Salerno. It should be a fascinating talk about a piece of history that I know many people still remember (only from the outside, I'm sure). Here is the "official" press release about the series:
A new series of talks focusing on the history of the Red Clay Valley will kick off on January 5, 2015. The talks will take place in the conference room at the Wilmington & Western Railroad headquarters, 1601 Railroad Ave., Wilmington, DE 19808. Thomas Gears, Raymond Harrington, and William Salerno will present the first talk, the New Castle County Workhouse at Greenbank at 7pm on January 5th. Next will be a talk on Mt. Cuba given by Elizabeth Fite from the Mt. Cuba Center on February 2nd. Scott Palmer, local historian and blogger who writes the popular Mill Creek Hundred Blog will present the History of Wooddale as the final talk on March 2nd. The series is an educational and community outreach project of Historic Red Clay Valley Inc.
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that I'll be doing the final talk? Here's a link to the Facebook page set up for the series. I'll be putting up short reminder posts before each presentation, but feel free to check it out in the mean time. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Sons of Simon Cranston -- Part I

The Cranston-Klair House
In a recent post, we were introduced to Marcus Hook native and long-time Stanton area resident Simon Cranston. Even if Simon himself is not a well-known, household name in the area, his last name is. And although you can easily trace the reason for the family's success back to its patriarch, the more direct reason that the name lives on has more to do with the sons and grandsons of the old shipwright/farmer. During his lifetime, Simon Cranston became well-off enough financially that he was able to purchase several properties in and around the Stanton-Marshallton area, and at least one a bit further afield*.

While some of these properties were certainly money-making tenant farms, at least a few were purchased specifically to set up his sons in their own lives. And as was common in the area at the time, both his sons and daughters started those new lives with spouses from other land-owning families -- in several cases, from the same families.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Life and Blogging Update

For what it's worth, I wanted to take a moment and explain the recent lack of activity on my part here on the blog. About a week and a half ago the MCHHB family grew by 6lbs 15oz. (see unbelievably cute photo to right). Since that time, I've been pretty much offline (although almost always awake). Life is beginning to return to whatever will pass for normal for the near future, so my blogging will slowly, if somewhat sporadically for now, pick up. I do have a few things I want to get to, and I have a post that was nearly finished before "the incident". I'm now in the process of attempting to catch up on what I've missed, so to anyone who has commented or emailed me recently, I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you for your patience -- we've still got lots of good stuff to get to!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cuba Rock II -- The Irish Wall

The "Irish Wall"
-- Researched and Written by Walt Chiquoine

In a prior post, we discussed Con Hollohan and his property known as Cuba Rock.  According to his descendant Charles Esling, his home was the center of Roman Catholic worship until 1772.  The northern portion of his tract became Mount Cuba.  Con settled the land about 1747, and his estate sold the property to Evan Phillips in 1793.  It’s reasonable to assume that Phillips took over Con’s home.

Based on research done in 1986, we made the circumstantial case that Con’s homestead was in the very southwest corner of his property.  Part of that evidence was a stone wall that still stands today.  I’ve now had the opportunity to visit that wall and do some additional land research, and would like to share the results.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Simon Cranston

One phenomenon that has interested me since I began researching Mill Creek Hundred history is how certain families came to dominate particular areas, at least as far as owning property. It would usually begin with one settler on a homestead, who then would buy adjacent or nearby farms either directly for his sons or to increase his own holdings. Later on, the original properties would be divided and end up in the hands of multiple members of the family. This has happened over and over again, whether it was the Eastburns, Whitemans, Mitchells, Springers or numerous others. In the Marshallton and Stanton area, the dominant family for most of the 19th Century and well into the 20th was undoubtedly the Cranstons.

The Cranston name is of course still well known to area residents today, but their story, for the most part, is not. Besides in the name of a fire company, a neighborhood, and an apartment complex, the Cranston legacy also lives on in many of the houses they owned. Unfortunately, though, at least two have been (relatively) recently lost. Any telling of the Cranston story, however, has to begin with the first of the clan to settle in this area -- Simon Cranston.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Facebook Page Up and Running Again

I wanted to give a quick heads-up regarding the MCHHB's Facebook page. After more or less leaving it alone for a while, I've gotten back (hopefully permanently) to posting stuff there again. To be perfectly honest, I'm still trying to figure out exactly how to use it, as in what kind of things to put there. I'd like it to both support the blog and stand on its own.To that end, the recent posts are a mix of topics -- some related to the blog posts, some not. Today, for instance, I put a couple of 1965 aerial photos of the Prices Corner area on there.

If you're interested, you can find the page here. It's an open page (or whatever they call it), so you do not have to have a Facebook account to view it -- only to comment. I hope you enjoy it, and if anyone has any ideas about what kind of stuff I should put up there, let me know!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak: Century Old Fire Edition

The other day, with nothing better to do for a few minutes, I decided to travel back a century and check out what was going on in the area 100 years ago. I pulled up the local paper that Google has scanned in -- The Wilmington Sunday Morning Star -- and looked through the October 25, 1914 edition. There were several interesting articles, but this one stood out in particular due to the names of the people involved.

The article states that the day before (October 24, 1914), a fire had destroyed a barn on a farm between Stanton and Newport. The farm in question is referred to as "the Cranston farm", but was tenanted at the time by John W. Banks. If that name sounds vaguely familiar to regular readers, it's because John W. showed up in a post a while back about several Banks family artifacts. Specifically, he was connected to a ticket for a Thanksgiving Day (but not a Thanksgiving) party in 1884.

Although John had grown up in the Stanton area, by the time of the party he was living in Brandywine Hundred. As best as I could tell, he was leasing a farm somewhere near the Edgemoor/Bellefonte area. The 1900 Census finds him living at 206 Jefferson St. in Wilmington, with his brother William. John is listed as a carpenter, and with him is his wife Hannah and daughter Hattie. If I'm reading it correctly, Hattie is their only living child out of six.

Friday, October 17, 2014

How'd We End Up with a Funny Name Like Hockessin?

Of all the place names in Mill Creek Hundred, the one that invariably gives the most trouble to outsiders is the once-quiet, now upscale village of Hockessin. Any time I see a story relating to there popping up on a Philadelphia newscast, I sit waiting for the out-of-stater to pronounce it something that sounds like "hock a sin". As incorrect as that may be, the ironic thing is that almost all of us are probably actually saying it wrong. The reason hearkens back to the most probable origin of the name, a story that reaches back almost 300 years.

The problem is that this most likely origin of the name Hockessin is not the story most commonly told over the last century and a half. The other problem is that these alternative theories can be made to sound very plausible, giving them deep traction. Since the word "Hockessin" doesn't really sound like a name we're familiar with, or sound like any other English word for that matter, the natural reaction is to look to another language. In this region, that often means Native American languages.