Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cuba Rock II -- The Irish Wall

The "Irish Wall"
-- Researched and Written by Walt Chiquoine

In a prior post, we discussed Con Hollohan and his property known as Cuba Rock.  According to his descendant Charles Esling, his home was the center of Roman Catholic worship until 1772.  The northern portion of his tract became Mount Cuba.  Con settled the land about 1747, and his estate sold the property to Evan Phillips in 1793.  It’s reasonable to assume that Phillips took over Con’s home.

Based on research done in 1986, we made the circumstantial case that Con’s homestead was in the very southwest corner of his property.  Part of that evidence was a stone wall that still stands today.  I’ve now had the opportunity to visit that wall and do some additional land research, and would like to share the results.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Simon Cranston

One phenomenon that has interested me since I began researching Mill Creek Hundred history is how certain families came to dominate particular areas, at least as far as owning property. It would usually begin with one settler on a homestead, who then would buy adjacent or nearby farms either directly for his sons or to increase his own holdings. Later on, the original properties would be divided and end up in the hands of multiple members of the family. This has happened over and over again, whether it was the Eastburns, Whitemans, Mitchells, Springers or numerous others. In the Marshallton and Stanton area, the dominant family for most of the 19th Century and well into the 20th was undoubtedly the Cranstons.

The Cranston name is of course still well known to area residents today, but their story, for the most part, is not. Besides in the name of a fire company, a neighborhood, and an apartment complex, the Cranston legacy also lives on in many of the houses they owned. Unfortunately, though, at least two have been (relatively) recently lost. Any telling of the Cranston story, however, has to begin with the first of the clan to settle in this area -- Simon Cranston.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Facebook Page Up and Running Again

I wanted to give a quick heads-up regarding the MCHHB's Facebook page. After more or less leaving it alone for a while, I've gotten back (hopefully permanently) to posting stuff there again. To be perfectly honest, I'm still trying to figure out exactly how to use it, as in what kind of things to put there. I'd like it to both support the blog and stand on its own.To that end, the recent posts are a mix of topics -- some related to the blog posts, some not. Today, for instance, I put a couple of 1965 aerial photos of the Prices Corner area on there.

If you're interested, you can find the page here. It's an open page (or whatever they call it), so you do not have to have a Facebook account to view it -- only to comment. I hope you enjoy it, and if anyone has any ideas about what kind of stuff I should put up there, let me know!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak: Century Old Fire Edition

The other day, with nothing better to do for a few minutes, I decided to travel back a century and check out what was going on in the area 100 years ago. I pulled up the local paper that Google has scanned in -- The Wilmington Sunday Morning Star -- and looked through the October 25, 1914 edition. There were several interesting articles, but this one stood out in particular due to the names of the people involved.

The article states that the day before (October 24, 1914), a fire had destroyed a barn on a farm between Stanton and Newport. The farm in question is referred to as "the Cranston farm", but was tenanted at the time by John W. Banks. If that name sounds vaguely familiar to regular readers, it's because John W. showed up in a post a while back about several Banks family artifacts. Specifically, he was connected to a ticket for a Thanksgiving Day (but not a Thanksgiving) party in 1884.

Although John had grown up in the Stanton area, by the time of the party he was living in Brandywine Hundred. As best as I could tell, he was leasing a farm somewhere near the Edgemoor/Bellefonte area. The 1900 Census finds him living at 206 Jefferson St. in Wilmington, with his brother William. John is listed as a carpenter, and with him is his wife Hannah and daughter Hattie. If I'm reading it correctly, Hattie is their only living child out of six.

Friday, October 17, 2014

How'd We End Up with a Funny Name Like Hockessin?

Of all the place names in Mill Creek Hundred, the one that invariably gives the most trouble to outsiders is the once-quiet, now upscale village of Hockessin. Any time I see a story relating to there popping up on a Philadelphia newscast, I sit waiting for the out-of-stater to pronounce it something that sounds like "hock a sin". As incorrect as that may be, the ironic thing is that almost all of us are probably actually saying it wrong. The reason hearkens back to the most probable origin of the name, a story that reaches back almost 300 years.

The problem is that this most likely origin of the name Hockessin is not the story most commonly told over the last century and a half. The other problem is that these alternative theories can be made to sound very plausible, giving them deep traction. Since the word "Hockessin" doesn't really sound like a name we're familiar with, or sound like any other English word for that matter, the natural reaction is to look to another language. In this region, that often means Native American languages.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cuba Rock

Con Hollahan's mark
-- Researched and Written by Walt Chiquoine

This research began with some questions that Scott tossed out concerning Ramsey Ridge.  What did we know about Con Hollahan, Mount Cuba, and a reference to an “Irish Wall”?  Is Mount Cuba synonymous with Cuba Rock, the name Con gave to his land?  Where did the name Cuba come from?  And could an “Irish Wall” be a part of his original homestead?  We found sufficient evidence to re-tell the story of Con Hollahan and Cuba Rock in a new light.    

Con Hollahan is well-known in the historical writings of the Diocese of Wilmington, since he is credited with hosting the first Roman Catholic services in northern Delaware.  Con was described in a history of the local Catholic Church, written in 1884-86, by his descendant  Charles Esling.  From Esling’s history [which can be found here, beginning on page 117], we are told that Con Hollahan arrived from Ireland before 1747 and settled on a tract he called Cuba Rock.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Barkers of Barker's Bridge -- Part II

Samuel Barker's property and neighbors
(courtesy W. Chiquoine)
In the last post, we traced the history of the Barker family from the 1680's up until the late 1700's. We covered several generations and at least two distinct properties in the area that came to be called Barker's Bridge, along what became Lancaster Pike near what would later be known as Wooddale. We arrived at Samuel Barker (1721-1803), grandson (through Joseph) of the Samuel Barker who originally settled in the area. After mentioning seven of his nine children, we're left with the only two sons who didn't move out of the area -- William and Abraham. As noted, Samuel seems to have inherited his father Joseph's property along the Red Clay. This is corroborated by the fact that in 1762 Samuel filed a warrant for the 340 acre tract, and four years later had it resurveyed. It sounds like he was probably reaffirming his ownership of the tract, on which he would reside until his death in 1803. After his passing, the property was acquired by William and Abraham.

For some reason, when the rest of the Barker sons moved west to Pittsburgh, these two stayed behind. The histories specifically state that William never married, and there is no mention of a wife or children for Abraham, either. It is stated that William, like several of his brothers, served in the Revolutionary War, and fought at the Battle of Brandywine, among other places. It's not known (at least as far as I know) where any of the early Barker homes were located, or if any survived much longer than their residents. However, one house did outlast the family who built it, only to be lost not many years ago.

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!