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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Taylors of...All Over the Place -- Part 2

Pusey P. and Mary Turner Taylor
In the last post, we began a somewhat self-indulgent look at the Taylor family, mostly focusing on the households of William Taylor (1773-1829) and his 7th son (12th child of 14), David Wilson Taylor (1819-1895). I say "somewhat self-indulgent" because this happens to be my wife's lineage -- David W. Taylor is her Great-great-great grandfather. I do believe, though, that their story is interesting in its own right (to people other than us), as it does meander through multiple places in Mill Creek, Christiana, and Brandywine Hundreds; through historic Chadds Ford, PA; and even Virginia and New Jersey.

We'll start here with David W. and Elizabeth Taylor, who had four surviving children -- Newton Pyle (1853-1929), Pusey Phillips (1855-1924), Martha Walters (1860-1946), and Levis Walter (1864-1937). All would have been born on the Centreville farm, Newton and Pusey at the older house and Martha and Levis at the new house. All four kids lived in the general area all their lives, but in this post our concern is Pusey (my wife's Great great grandfather). In 1891, Pusey married Mary A. Turner (1869-1947) of Nether Providence Township, Delaware County. She was the daughter of an English cotton manufacturer, and went by "May" (an name that has been passed all the way down into my children's generation). Pusey and May were married in Philadelphia, but moved around several times in Delaware and Pennsylvania in their first 20 years together. I believe I've pieced most of it together.

One indispensable resource is the Taylor family's entry in the 1914 A History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and Its People, Volume 2. Among other things it, lists the place of birth for each of Pusey and May's seven children. Their first, and my wife's Great grandmother, was Margaret Flaville Taylor, born in November 1892, according to the book, at Mermaid. Although I can find no other record of the Taylors near Mermaid, I think the December 1892 ad below answers the question. It incorrectly lists his middle initial as "A", but it seems Pusey was leasing the the former Lindsay farm, purchased in 1875 by Elizabeth Ocheltree. Although the house is long gone, the barn and one stone outbuilding still stand on Middleton Drive, north of Stoney Batter Road about halfway down.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Taylors of...All Over the Place -- Part 1

David W. and Elizabeth Taylor, with
grandson David W. Taylor
In the last post about the David W. Taylor House, I promised a more indepth look at the Taylor family
to which he belonged. Not exactly coincidentally, my wife also happens to belong to that family (David W. is her 3rd Great Grandfather). This line of Taylors has a long history, and much of it (thankfully) has been fairly well-documented. My father-in-law, David Starkey, some years back himself wrote a piece about the Taylor line, which I know I read but didn't fully appreciate at the time. Now I do.

In all the documentation about the Taylors, most of it seemed to focus on the time that most of them spent in Pennsylvania, and less on their time in Delaware. I had not realized the impact these Taylors had in Delaware, and in Mill Creek Hundred specifically, until recently. As it turns out, even in my wife's direct line, they spent a good deal of time in Mill Creek, Christiana, and Brandywine Hundreds. They also made notable contributions in the Chadds Ford area, too. Here's a look at part of their story.

The story began (in the New World, at least) in 1682, when Welsh Quaker Thomas Taylor emigrated to William Penn's new colony with his young family. Thomas died soon after the trip, probably from something contracted onboard ship. Fortunately his children survived, and for the next few generations stayed generally in Delaware and Chester Counties. In 1773, Thomas' great grandson John Taylor, then living in Pennsbury township, had a son named William. It was William, third of fourteen children, who first moved the short distance south into Delaware, and into Mill Creek Hundred.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Mystery Bridge in the Delaware Park Woods

I have another mystery for you all, and it's one that falls in the category of Cool Sh*t You Find in the Woods. A reader named Frank had tried to bring this to my attention a while back but I didn't get around to it. I did now and I'm glad I did, and I thank him for reaching out again. (I also thank him for the photos.) What he found is an old bridge in the woods on the south end of the Delaware Park property. I've tried, but I can't figure out why it's there.

It spans a small creek that runs south from White Clay Creek a short distance beyond the former Pennsylvania RR (now Amtrak) tracks. It's made of concrete, so it's almost certainly early or mid 20th Century. Anything older would have been wood or stone. It's not a railroad bridge, but I can't find any evidence of there ever being a vehicular road there. I've checked old maps and aerial views, but no road. So why is it there?

All I have are guesses, some better than others. A short-lived road or planned one, long gone? Access road for local farmers? Access road for DE Park vehicles? Since it's now covered with grass and dirt, maybe access over the creek for DE Park horses? Frank thinks he recalls seeing "1941" on it once, but he's not sure. Delaware Park opened in 1937, and this type of bridge was in use both before and after then. But it does look like the kind built to handle automobile traffic, not horse-drawn traffic.

Friday, June 5, 2020

The David W. Taylor House and Dilworth Farm

The David W. Taylor House
One of my dirty little secrets here is that although I was born and raised in Mill Creek Hundred, my family didn't arrive in MCH until the 1960's. So, unlike with many of you, there aren't many of these stories that intersect directly with my own past. This story here might be about as close as I get, as you'll see shortly. And as many of the recent investigations have, it started with a simple question from a reader of, "Do you know anything about this house?" At first I thought I didn't, but then realized that I had actually run across it before, though I hadn't done any deep research into it then.

The house itself is located in Christiana Hundred, though not far from MCH. It's on Ashland Clinton School Road, just off of Old Kennett Road (about a mile west of Centreville). It's a beautiful three story stone home, built in a somewhat plain Second Empire style. There is an old wooden shed and a large barn next to it. There are also stone foundations of another large structure, between the extant barn and the road. After a little research, I think I can shed some light on the history of the house and its surroundings.

The history of the area goes back further than we need to right now, but by the mid-1700's much of the land in the region between Ashland Clinton School Road and Way Road was in the hands of the Armstrong family. This included, among other things, the property that is now the Delaware Nature Society's Coverdale Farm. It's also the same Armstrong family that later migrated a short ways south to the Mt. Cuba area, as detailed in Donald Prather's posts. In 1792, Archibald Armstrong purchased two adjoining tracts totaling 132 acres -- one from his father John Armstrong and one from John and Lydia Philips. On this farm Archibald made his home, until his death in 1839. His will granted the property next to his son Nathaniel, who it seems resided in the same house. I believe this house was the one that still stands on the east side of Ashland Clinton School Road, near Center Mill Road. Only this house appears on the 1849 map, and not the one to the north (which we'll get to momentarily).

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Mystery of the Stone Troughs...Solved!

A Wilmington Fountain Society water trough
I don't consider myself to be a great researcher or writer, or even have particularly brilliant insights into the information I gather and pass along here. However, one 'Added Value" I can contribute is being able to piece together disparate pieces of information that I've come across over the years. Yes, get to the point, Scott. Six long years ago (although, honestly, February feels like six long years ago), it was brought to my attention that there were five stone troughs (that's what we guessed they were) located at Delcastle Golf Course, the former Delcastle Farm for the New Castle County Workhouse at Greenbank. They all had dates inscribed on them -- two with 1902, one each from 1903, 1905, and 1912. Later, we learned there were several other similar troughs scattered around New Castle County, in places like Canby Park, Granogue, and Hockessin.

There were stories that they were made by prisoners at the workhouse or at the farm, but no proof of either. From the style we figured all these stone troughs were related and connected somehow, but no one knew from whence they came. Then, this morning, thanks to one word I saw in a Facebook post (thanks for sharing, Robin Brown!), it all clicked. Then, I even discovered who was responsible for the existence of the troughs at Delcastle. It turns out, these lithic beauties were the work of a 19th Century philanthropic group -- The Wilmington Fountain Society. Founded in 1870 by Ferris Bringhurst, the group erected drinking fountains around the city for the benefit of city dwellers. More importantly for us, they also placed troughs for the benefit of the city dwellers' horses and dogs. In fact the Wilmington Fountain Society is considered a precursor to today's Delaware SPCA. The troughs were said to be hollowed out of large pieces of granite.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Samuel Tyson House, aka The Hopyard Farm

In the early years of Mill Creek Hundred, many of the large plantations were given names by their new owners -- names that would have been well-known in the area in their day. Over the years, most of these monikers -- ones like New Design, Wedgebury, and Cuba Rock -- have fallen out of use and been largely forgotten. However, at least one name in the northwestern corner of MCH, dating back to the 17th Century, has remained attached to a particular house on this tract, being used as recently as this year in a real estate ad. Much of the original Hopyard Tract is now part of White Clay Creek State Park. In fact, the Samuel Tyson House, which came to be known as Hopyard Farm, is one of the few private residences now standing on what was once a tract as large as 1000 acres. Most of the rest of the (much newer) homes stand on land sold by its last "historic" owners.

The early history of the Hopyard Tract dates back to the 17th Century and is, quite frankly, pretty confusing. For our purposes here we'll jump ahead to 1720, when John Chambers purchased 664 acres referred to as the Hopyard. He devised the land to his son William in 1730, and William almost immediately sold 430 acres of it to Joseph Chambers, most likely his brother. Joseph, in turn, sold 221 acres of his land to Henry Geddes in 1738.

Geddes seems to have lived out the rest of his days here, passing in about 1756. In his will he left his property equally to his widow and four children, with ownership eventually being consolidated by his son, William Geddes. In 1763, Geddes (through his brother-in-law James Latimer) sold the tract to David Montgomery, of Lancaster County. Although David was again listed as being of Lancaster County when he sold it in 1802 to William Montgomery (presumably his son), there is evidence that he did live here, at least for a time. David Montgomery served in the Revolutionary War, and was commissioned as Captain of a Delaware regiment in September 1778. Perhaps he moved back to Pennsylvania at a later date. Whether or not Montgomery leased the farm at some point, some of the language used in earlier deeds implies that the Hopyard was leased prior to the Chambers era. However, beginning in 1803, all that would change.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Myrtle Emma -- Easter and The Seasons (Spring)

Myrtle Emma and oldest sister Mary
In a quick turnaround, here are two more excerpts from Myrtle Emma, the collected memoirs of Mill Creek Hundred native Myrtle Emma Morris White. In these uncertain times, and on the eve of the most unusual Easter in pretty much anyone's memory and the beginning of an extraordinary Spring, we'll look at Myrtle's recollections of both of these events from her childhood.

I don't have too much to add to these particular stories, so I'll pretty much just let them speak for themselves. I did try to figure out who the Mrs. Bain was in the Easter story, without much success. I'm guessing she was a fancy friend of the family's. Also, I assume the creek they walked down to would have been Pike Creek, just a short walk to the east. And maybe you already knew this (I didn't), but rusks are a type of hard biscuit or twice-baked bread. Biscotte and zweiback (literally, "twice baked") are types of rusks.

The Spring section is another excerpt from a longer chapter entitled, The Seasons. We saw the Fall and Winter part of it a few months back, just before Christmas. Seems like another world now. (If you're reading this at some time in the future, beyond 2020, you still should know why. If you're reading this far in the future, ask your parents.) We'll finish with the Summer portion a bit later. In describing the Spring, Myrtle again recounts the excitement of Easter morning, although interestingly there is no mention of coloring or hunting for eggs. The tradition was certainly around then, but it may not have been as ubiquitous as it is now.

Although I know everyone in the family worked hard and the life was certainly different than what I experienced around here 50 years later, it sounds like it was a magical place to grow up. I did the same buttercup thing as a kid, as do my daughters today. Also, I had no idea that you could find wild asparagus! So, enjoy these pieces, and have a Happy Easter. And here's to a better rest of the Spring.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Myrtle Emma -- School and Bumps & Bruises

Union School, 1926
I realized that it had been a while since we'd seen another installment from Myrtle Emma, the memoirs of Mill Creek Hundred-raised Myrtle Emma Morris White. In light of the trying times in which we all find ourselves these days, I've selected two chapters that seem appropriate in their own ways. With children all over the country currently receiving their education at home and not in their schools, the first segment sees Myrtle recounting her memories of attending the small, mid-19th Century schoolhouse that stood just up the road from her home. In the second chapter, we have her writing about things that I'm sure many antsy kids are getting at home -- Bumps and Bruises. As a special "bonus", she even mentions the "Q word."

The school Myrtle attended was the Union School, District 31. A few years back it shared with another school a post which gave the general outlines of the school's history, as far as it's known. The problem is...the history's not known all that well. The school stood a couple hundred feet west of Corner Ketch Road, just south of today's Estates of Corner Ketch neighborhood. The datestone on the two-story schoolhouse was inscribed 1850, but it's said that this date was for the addition of the second story. Supposedly the original structure was a log schoolhouse built in 1780, replaced by the first story of the stone school in 1811. I don't have any particular reason to doubt this story, but I can't confirm it either.