Friday, May 29, 2015

William H. and Anna Walker Photos

William Hicks Walker
A while back I put out an open-ended request for any old photographs that anyone might have that pertained to people or places connected to Mill Creek Hundred. Since that time (although in a few cases not necessarily because of the plea) I've been fortunate enough to have had several people forward some old pictures to me. In some cases they relate to prior posts, and in some cases they don't. Where there are pre-existing posts that the photos are connected to, I'll add the new pictures to the old posts. If the subject is a new one, I'll put up at least a short new post about the pictures.

However, since I think all of these photographs are fascinating in their own rights, I want to at least give a very short post to even the photos going onto old posts, just to make sure everyone is aware of the new additions. I'll be putting some of these up over the next week or two, starting now. The first new pictures we'll take a look at are of folks mentioned (or at least, he was) in a post from three years ago, about a family that was the source of an unusual place name in MCH.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ward-Dudkewitz House

The Ward-Dudkewitz House
couple posts back we were introduced to the fascinating little 1857 newspaper article relating the story of how General George Washington held a "council of war" in a house in Milltown, just prior to the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777. In that post I mentioned that the article raised two separate issues, and that I was at the time dealing only with the question of whether such an event actually took place as claimed. (We decided that there's no real proof either way, but for various reasons the story is very plausible.) Now it's time to tackle the other issue -- just a throw-away line in the article -- which turned out to be every bit as interesting as the Washington angle.

Instead of reprinting the entire article again, I'll refer you back to the original post if you're interested in the whole thing. Right now, we're essentially only concerned with part of one sentence. After mentioning that the house where Washington met was "the old Harlan property, now belonging to Mr. Allen Ward", it tantalizingly notes that "...the present owner has erected a substantial brick dwelling adjoining...". So I started thinking -- Harlan property in Milltown, brick house built in the 1850' must be the recently fire-ravished Abram Chandler House! It's usually given a build date closer to 1870, but there's a fair bit of ambiguity about the property in that time period. My second thought was, "Who the crap is Allen Ward?" We'll get to that second, elegantly phrased question in a moment.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Diamond State Kaolin Company

We all know that Mill Creek Hundred never had any sort of densely populated area like a city or even a large town. There were numerous small mill towns and crossroad hamlets, places like Milltown, Loveville, Corner Ketch, Milford Crossroads, and Wooddale. There were, however, only three locales that I would elevate even to Village status, each having its heyday at a different point in MCH's history.

First there was the milling and shipping center of Stanton (or Cuckoldstown for you oldtimers), prominent in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Then, as it started into decline, the manufacturing village of Marshallton (along with nearby Kiamensi) rose for a time in the mid to late 1800's. Finally, although it had been around in some form since the early 1700's, the northern MCH village of Hockessin became the "place to be" in the later 19th Century. Two of the biggest reasons for this Hockessin Golden Age had to do with the land, namely what was under it and what was built across it -- kaolin clay and the railroad. Recently I ran across a photo of an artifact that sits squarely in the intersection of the two. (Thanks go to Bob Wilhelm for identifying the background of the company involved.)

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.