Tuesday, April 14, 2015

General Washington in Milltown

One of the things I really love about doing the kind of hodgepodge "research" that I do is the times when interesting and significant stories just pop up seemingly out of nowhere. Well, OK, they usually come from somewhere, whether it's something I happen to run across or something that someone sends to me. In this case, it was the latter. Recently, Donna Peters, who is a whiz at mining old newspapers for MCH-related stuff, sent me the article below. It's not all that long, but it managed to raise two separate and fascinating issues, neither of which I had known about before. The following appeared in the August 19, 1857 edition of the Delaware County American:

ONE OF THE RELICS. - It is said that General Washington and Staff held a council of war on the evening previous to the battle of Brandywine, in the house on the old Harlan property, now belonging to Mr. Allen Ward, in the Milltown, Mill Creek Hundred. The room pointed out for this important conference is little more than ten by twelve feet, and is still in good repair. Although the present owner has erected a substantial brick dwelling adjoining, we presume he intends to preserve this momento of the days of the revolution. The American army was posted in great force at this point, as the British were expected to take the route to Philadelphia, but they changes there course, keeping farther to the north, and the Battle of Brandywine, at Chaddsford, was the result. The house alluded to above, is built of logs, dovetailed together, which are in a remarkably good state of preservation; there are four rooms and a passage on the first floor, and five on the second, with a garret above; the floors are oak, and although they are said to be 112 years old, look as though they might last for a century to come. Attached to the ceiling, in the entry, is a three cornered box, which is of the shape of the military hat worn in the revolution, and it is generally supposed that it may have held the chapeaux of Washington. The descendants of the Harlans may know something of his history, and we have no doubt that they might furnish an interesting chapter in regard to it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Mill Creek Hundred Blanket, or Banner, or Something

In a recent post I lamented the fact that as far as the Mill Creek Hundred area goes, there often seems to be a limited amount of information out there to be found. Many a time an investigation has stalled because that key piece of information just can't be tracked down. With the size and historic population density of MCH, it stands to reason that the same limitations hold true for items and artifacts, too.

In a perfect world, I'd have time to scour through yard sales, resale shops, and antique shops looking for MCH-related items (and have the money to buy them, but one fantasy at a time). With the mental catalogue I've put together the last few years, I'd have a decent chance at recognizing relevant items. I'd mostly have to be looking for recognizable structures (in photos) and names of businesses and families to link them to MCH. You wouldn't normally expect an item to just have "Mill Creek Hundred" written across it in big letters, right? Except, of course, for when it does. Like now.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Yet Another Stoney Batter Theory

Was this Stoney Batter?
OK, this was originally going to be a comment on the original post, but it seemed to be running long so it's now a short post of its own. The other day, commenter Tharanstudio asked if I had anything on the E. Gregg House, which stood near the base of Stoney Batter Road until just a few years ago (relatively speaking). At first, I was just going to say, "Yes, it was mentioned in the post a while back about the Walkers of the Mermaid Area", and just be done with it. But, in looking back over said post, something jumped out at me. This serves as a good example of the value of occasionally going back and looking over/up old information once in a while.

In the Walker post, I mentioned that there had been a Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) report done on the property at one point, but that only the photographs (and not the data pages) were posted online. Since I hadn't checked it in a while, I figured I'd look to see if the rest had been posted. Unfortunately they have not, but in looking at the entry I noticed something that I probably hadn't before, or at least it didn't seem important before. It may not end up meaning anything, but I thought it warranted some looking into. What I noticed was that while the HABS report officially lists the property as the J. Walker Farm, under "Other Title" it lists Stoney Batter House. (insert dramatic "dun dun DUN music here)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Stoney Batter Update

It didn't take long for a few good pieces of information to come in relating to the mystery of the origin of the name "Stoney Batter Road", introduced in the last post. Neither of them come anywhere near conclusively answering the question, but both give (or potentially give) us a bit more information. Interestingly, each addresses a slightly different aspect of the riddle.

The first item, forwarded to me by Donna Peters, is the birth certificate seen here. It belongs to George Lilburn Gray, born April 15, 1888. The certificate itself, however, wasn't issued until 1941. What's relevant to us right now is that in the mother and father's residence field, and in the place of birth, is listed "Stoney Batter, near Stanton". So not only do we have a verified pre-war mention of the name Stoney Batter, it seems to be used as a place name, not a road name.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Stoney Batter Road

See? No name. Ugh.
Due to the nature of the history in Mill Creek Hundred, and of the information available about it, almost never in these posts do we ever get all the facts or the whole story about any given topic. However, I'm usually able to cobble together a good framework of facts, even if some of the details are still a bit fuzzy. The one type of story that seems to consistently buck this trend, though, is the origin of some local place and road names. We've seen this before with places like Stanton (Cuckoldstown), Hockessin, and Corner Ketch. There's one other road name (smaller in stature, admittedly, than these others) that so far has eluded any attempt by me to pin down its origin -- Stoney Batter Road. --(h/t to Keith Orr for bringing this up)

This uniquely-named thoroughfare is located near the center of Mill Creek Hundred, running from Limestone Road at the Mermaid Tavern, eastward down to Mill Creek Road. Or to put it in more modern terms, it's on the north side of Goldey-Beacom College. It's also known as Mermaid-Stoney Batter Road. I'm sure many of you are as familiar with this road as I am, and I'm equally as sure that you've wondered just were the heck the name came from. I wish I had a good, definitive answer for you, but as of now I don't. Maybe someone out there has information pertaining to the naming of the road, but I've looked around and I can't find it. What I do have are at least three separate, inconclusive theories.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Final Red Clay Valley History Talk

The third and final talk in the Red Clay Valley History series (for this year, at least) will be held on Monday night, March 2, at 7:00 PM. As with the others, it's taking place at the Wilmington & Western's business office on Railroad Avenue in Marshallton. The topic this time is the history of the Wooddale area, and it's being presented by....wait, who was that again?....oh right, me. It will cover some ground already included in previous blog posts, but tied together and with some additional information.

Should be a fun evening, hope to see you there! If you'd like to RSVP, you can do it here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Brandywine Springs Park Request

I just found out recently that New Castle County has decided to tear down the main pavilion at
Brandywine Springs Park and rebuild a new one. For those familiar with the park, this would be the larger pavilion down the hill from the parking lot, as seen here. Apparently it is suffering from structural problems that are too extensive to economically fix, so NCC has determined that it's more cost effective to just replace it.

I've had some fun there, but the pavilion itself is not particularly historically valuable, so I don't have any problem with them putting in a nice, new facility. The existing pavilion was built in the 1950's, when the park, originally a State Park, first opened. And as those of you who have been around here a while may recall, it was not originally alone. When Brandywine Springs State Park opened, there was another building that stood in front of the pavilion, just to the left of the photo above. This building contained the park office, along with restrooms. We're not quite sure exactly when this office was removed, but some recall it still being present as late as the mid-1980's.

Now here's my challenge to you -- Does anyone have any more information, any fond memories (that would be suitable for a family blog), or any old photographs of the office or the pavilion? More specifically, does anyone remember exactly when the office was torn down? Any special memories of the pavilion to help eulogize it? And does anyone happen to have any pictures that might happen to show the office in the background? I realize that it's unlikely that you would have taken just a picture of the office, but maybe it might be visible in the background of a shot from a picnic, or a party, or a family reunion. Thanks!!

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Barker Mill Site

Barker Sawmill race, 1895
I fully and freely admit that I'm an amateur at this history thing. I'm not writing academic papers here, and for the most part my biggest contribution is in compiling the work of others and gathering information together from scattered sources, hopefully putting it into a coherent story. Like you, I'm just a guy who finds this stuff interesting. Maybe my biggest asset is that I have a high tolerance for wading through lots of junk to find the widely-scattered jewels.

But now that I've spent more than five years just combing through Mill Creek Hundred related history, there's one other thing I can add. I have a fairly decent memory, and once in a while as I'm researching a particular topic I'll stumble upon something related to a subject I'd covered in the past. A name, place or word will jump out at me, and I'll have to go back and see if it's truly new information. It may even be something I had seen before, but had failed to recognize the significance of until after I had done an investigation.