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?
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Thursday, September 22, 2016
|The location of Chandler Lamborn's farm|
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
|David E. Eastburn|
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
|Cpt. David E. Buckingham|
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.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
|Greenbank Mill and the Philips House|
From what I've seen, at least, most of the historic photographs we have from the late 19th/early 20th Century era tend to come to us from professional photographers. Some are portraits taken in a formal studio, while many others were likely taken "in the field" by itinerant photographers. These were men (mostly) who traveled around with their camera and equipment and took pictures of those in rural areas who didn't have easy access to a studio in the nearest city. Some of these same itinerants took many of the photos for the postcards of the day, too.
All that being said, once in a while we're lucky enough to have some photos from a different kind of source -- an amateur photographer. Cameras were certainly not as common then as they are now, but they were not impossible to get or use, either. (In my own family, I have a great-great grandfather who had a camera in that era, and took some really cool shots. One was a triple exposure with three of him sitting around a table playing cards.) However, the process of taking and developing photographs at that time was still fairly involved. The people who did it really liked photography, and were probably very methodical people. They took pictures of things that interested them. We're fortunate enough that one such person like this hailed from Mill Creek Hundred, and came back to the area to take some wonderful photographs. Many of these photographs will be on public display later this month (August 2016).
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
|St. Barnabas' Church, pre-1911|
By the later 19th Century, though, a few small areas did manage to grow to at least village status. One of these locales was the mill town of Marshallton. The iron works there had been running and growing since the early 1800's, and the village with it. Additionally, just a short walk away sat the little factory village of Kiamensi. All the workers living there (or at least, most of them) attended one church or another each Sunday. The Presbyterians would walk up Duncan Road to Red Clay Creek Church, which wasn't too far away. The Methodists went to Stanton originally, until they built their own church in 1886.
The Episcopalians of Marshallton and Kiamensi had even further to go. They were forced to walk to either Old St. James Church on the other side of Stanton, or to the other St. James Church in Newport. By the late 1880's, Marshallton and Kiamensi residents began to take matters into their own hands. [I should note at this point that much of the following information comes from the wonderful history posted on the church's website, written by Judy Reinicker and others.] What would eventually become St. Barnabas Episcopal Church began as a church school sometime prior to 1890, working as an extension of St. James Church in Newport. There was no church building yet, and members simply met in each others houses.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
|The Dennison House|
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
|Was this one of the Pilling Houses?|
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.