Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Two Losses and the Case for Vigilance

Now we get to what was supposed to be my third and final "catch up on stuff I'd missed" post,
following the posts about the Coffee Run site and the Byrnes Mill Dam. With the news I received over the weekend, though, this is now going to be a much different post. Less of just reporting some news, and more of getting up on my soapbox and trying to ease my own conscience.

I was originally simply going to report the now almost two month old story of the loss of the Abram Chandler House on Limestone Road in Milltown. The house (which was one of the first sites featured on the blog, nearly five years ago) had been vacant for several years, and the blaze has since been determined to have been arson. It was apparently in pretty bad shape even before the fire, and according to the News Journal article the owners could not be contacted. Under the circumstances it's hard not to be very suspicious about some sort of insurance situation, although as far as I know no suspects have been named.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Byrnes Mill Dam Removal

The second recent news item I'd like to catch up on is the one I described in the last post as "good news that at first might seem like bad news". Back in the middle of December, an article appeared in the News Journal about the intentional partial destruction of a structure more than 220 years old. Normally that would be tragedy, but in this case the structure in question was a dam on White Clay Creek that fed a mill associated with the Hale-Byrnes House. The dam is located amidst the White Clay Creek Country Club golf course (Delaware Park), and was removed for a very good reason.

The following article was written especially for us by Jerry Kauffman, University of Delaware professor and director of UD's Water Resources Agency. I'd like to thank Dr. Kauffman for providing us with this, and for all his work in local environmental and historical preservation.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

New Life for Two Old Sites

Now that my own life is starting to get back to a regular rhythm and I've completed (for now) my two month trek through the Cranston family tree, it's time to catch up on a few news items that have popped up recently. I'm sure that many of you have seen some or all of these stories, but I'd like to take the opportunity point a few of them out and say a few words of my own. Of the three I want to bring up, we've got good news, bad news, and good news that at first might seem like bad news.

The first one is the most recent story to appear, showing up in the News Journal on Monday, January 12. According to the article, Trinity Community Church, which recently purchased the Coffee Run Church site on Lancaster Pike, will submit plans to once again have a place of worship on the site of Delaware's first Catholic Church. Trinity founder Steve Trader feels that the property is holy ground, and that, "God made this a church."

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Sons of Simon Cranston -- Part II

In a recent post, we looked briefly (and not so briefly) at six of the eight children born to Simon and Mary Cranston of Stanton, Mill Creek Hundred. Covered were William, Joseph, Mary Ann, Eliza, Samuel, Sarah, Sneezy, Grumpy.....wait, I might have gotten a bit off track, but I know the first six were right. In this post we'll look at the final two children, third son James and fifth son Benjamin. These two and their families would arguably have the greatest impact upon the area surrounding their father's Ten Maples estate. And unlike some of the other Cranstons, theirs is an impact that can still be seen today.

James Cranston was born in Stanton in September 1807, and in 1836 married Eleanor Armstrong. Three years before that, Simon Cranston purchased the former home of John Springer along Stanton Road, south of what would become Marshallton. This home, the Springer-Cranston House, was purchased for James so that he could start his own family on his own farm. Although the house is on the east side of the Public (Stanton) Road, the bulk of the property was to the west and north, between Calf and Ham Runs. I don't have access to the deeds, but the estate must have been fairly extensive, since brothers Joseph and Benjamin also received portions of it.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Red Clay Valley History Talk

Just a reminder that the inaugural Red Clay Valley History Talk is this evening was Monday night, January 5 at 7:00, at the Wilmington & Western Office in Marshallton (NOT at the Greenbank Station). Tonight's topic is the New Castle County Workhouse, formerly located at Greenbank. Details can be found in the post below. Hope to see you there!

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!