Monday, September 29, 2014

Mill Creek Hundred History on the Radio (sort of)

We take a short break from our regularly scheduled Part II post about the Barkers (which will be up in a day or two), for this special announcement. Have you ever sat and thought to yourself, "Self, I really like reading about Mill Creek Hundred history on this here blog, but you know what would be way more awesomer? If I could hear someone's mellifluous voice talking about Mill Creek Hundred history on my computer machine or other assorted electronic devices!" If so, you're in luck! (And you may want to try to get out more.)

I recently had the pleasure to be a guest on Delaware's Timeline, hosted by WDEL's Carl Suppa. The program has much the same mission statement as I do here, namely to get the word out about our fascinating and often overlooked local history. Carl was on the air at WDEL up until a few months ago, and hopes to have the program back on the air soon. In the meantime, he's continuing the show in the form of podcasts, which you can listen to over the internet.

My guest turn on the program is thanks largely to John Medkeff, who runs the awesomely fascinating site Delaware Beer History. He had been a guest back in the spring, and passed my name along to Carl. Long story short, Carl contacted me, and after coordinating our schedules I went into the studio a few weeks back to record the show.

We had an outline of what we wanted to cover, and I figured maybe we could stretch it out to an hour or so. Silly me. I think I was in there for almost three hours, much of that time spent talking history. I don't know how Carl ever got it all edited down, but he did. The podcast, all twelve parts, can be found here on WDEL's podcast page, just a little bit down on the left. You can also get there from the homepage by looking under "Features" along the top, then clicking on "Podcasts".

I had a great time recording the show, as anyone who's met me or read this blog knows, I love talking history. If you feel like listening in, check it out!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Barkers of Barker's Bridge -- Part I

The Barker House, c.1988
Over the nearly 350 years of Mill Creek Hundred history, many families have called the area home. Most clans currently within the MCH confines have arrived only within the last 60 years or so, mine included. But of course, some arrived much earlier. Of those older families, some had a major impact and then disappeared relatively quickly (like the Hadleys); some have been around for a long time, although maybe not prominent in MCH (like the Justis'); and some are just as visible as they were a couple hundred years ago (like the Eastburns). There's one family, though, that resided in and near MCH for over 150 years, then, with one notable exception, pretty much vanished from the area -- the Barkers.

The Barkers' history in Mill Creek Hundred may begin as early as the 1670's, in the early days of the English migration into the area. The patriarch of this branch of the family (there were several other closely related branches that sprang up in other areas) was Samuel Barker (1648-1720). Samuel hailed from Shropshire, England, in the west midlands near Wales. Exactly when he sailed for the New World seems to be in doubt, but one account has him making a petition for a parcel land before the court in New Castle in 1677. Scharf notes that he bought in 1680 and sold in 1682 land near Stanton. What seems to be more certain is that in March 1685, Samuel Barker was granted 200 acres of land in Christiana Hundred by the newly-arrived William Penn. This was before Mill Creek Hundred was created out of Christiana Hundred, so the parcel along Red Clay Creek was actually mostly in what would later be MCH.

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: