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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Fascinating (and Confusing) Lobb Family -- Part II

Locations of past and current (as of 1881) Lobb properties
In the last post, we took a deep and confusing look at the Lobb family, who from 1847 until 1882 lived along Barley Mill Road amid land now owned by the Mt. Cuba Center. There were a number of obstacles to understanding the family from the census records, mostly due to uncertainties over the identity of various people's parents. Our starting point was the 1850 Census, compiled only three years after Mary and George W. Lobb purchased their home, and helpfully enough the first census to list every person individually by name. Unfortunately the 1850 Census did not list each person's relationship to the head-of-household (which would have been really helpful), as that did not begin until 1880.

The first mystery we face for the family in the 1850 Census is the relationship between Mary and George, with whom she bought the house and three acre lot. He's definitely not her husband, as you might first assume. He was born in 1828, about thirty years after Mary, and a few years later married the former Hannah Hoopes. In the 1860 Census, George, Hannah, and their children are listed as a separate household in the same house as Mary and the others. George's occupation is shown as butcher, which would make sense for a man with a small (three acre) farm. In 1870 he's listed completely separate from Mary's household, and shown as owning $15,000 in real estate. Although that's quite a large amount, he's nowhere to be found on the 1868 map. Judging from the names near him, he seems to have been somewhere on Lancaster Pike near Wooddale. I've also not found any record of George's buying any other properties in Delaware. I cannot explain his 1870 listing.

What I can explain is where he and his family went next. Sometime before 1880, George bought a farm in Pennsbury Township, Chester County -- just west of Chadds Ford. Although I don't have access to Pennsylvania land records, the map seen below, from 1883, shows George Lobb's farm just above the center. For reference, The Gables at Chadds Ford restaurant is now located in that small, triangular intersection directly south. There is still a house on Lobb's property which is dated to c.1740, meaning it was likely his home. The bigger question for us, though, is who was George W. Lobb?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Fascinating (and Confusing) Lobb Family -- Part I

Often when I think about local history, I come back to that line that I was always told as a kid if I asked about what "used to be here" -- It was all just farmland. And by raw acreage, that's not completely inaccurate. Most of New Castle County was, in fact, farms. But that statement overlooks two important facts. One, there were other things beside farms, like mills, churches, taverns, and all sorts of artisans. Secondly, those farms were occupied by real families. Families who lived lives just as complex and interwoven as we do now. Their stories are filled with joys, tragedies, struggles, and complications that rival (if not exceed) anything we experience today. 

The problem for us now is that most of those stories are lost to time. We can catch glimpses of them through historical records, but sometimes the whole story is frustratingly out of reach for us. When doing genealogical research, it's important to keep in mind that on the one hand, there may be mysteries that'll never be solved. But on the other hand, if you keep digging, you just might find other amazing surprises you never knew were there. The story of the Lobb family of Red Clay Valley certainly as plenty of all of these phenomena.

My initial point of entry into the Lobbs' story is the household of Mary Lobb, residing on a three acre lot on the northeast side of Barley Mill Road, now nestled amidst land owned by the neighboring Mt. Cuba Center. Although the county lists the erection date of the house as 1735, the Lobbs had only owned it for three years at the time of the 1850 Census (which we'll return to shortly). In 1847, Mary Lobb and George Lobb purchased the lot from Jesse and Rachel Bishop. Rachel might well have been Mary's sister (although like most things here, there's no consensus), and George we'll address more in the next post. The Lobb and Bishop families were obviously close, and had ties that went back at least a generation or two.

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Alrich-Wooleyhan farm

The Wooleyhans' West Wind farm

For this story, we're again going to travel outside the confines of Mill Creek Hundred, this time southward into White Clay Creek Hundred. But New Castle County being what it is, by the time we get near the end we will have a direct link to one of the oldest families in Mill Creek Hundred. Like several of our recent outings, this too was initiated by a simple question from a reader about a property that had been in her family. There was some brief confusion at first, but I quickly came to understand that the farm in question had been located on Old Baltimore Pike, southwest of the historic Village of Christiana. The farm is gone now, replaced by the development of Norwegian Woods (isn't it good?).

The property was owned by her family in the mid-20th Century, but she was interested to find out about the earlier owners. This ended up being one of those situations that got more confusing the deeper I dove, until it suddenly all became clear. One thing that made this a little easier was that we don't have to delve back into the deep depths of history here. The 133 acre property that would become the farm was not a separate tract until 1860. Before that, it was part of a much larger tract, which most recently had been purchased by Henry L. Smalley in 1848. Smalley died just a few years later, and after a couple intermediate transactions, his widow Tabitha sold 133 acres to William E. Heisler. This is the part that confused me at first, and which serves as a good example of why it's sometimes good to keep digging, even if on the surface it seems pointless.

There originally had been some confusion with what is known as the Heisler Tenancy Site, which was an African-American-occupied, 19th Century farmstead. This site, however was located on the north side of Christiana. It was owned for a time by William Heisler, but when I first researched him, all I could find was that he owned what's now known as Blue Hen Farm, north of Newark. I figured he was a wealthy Newark-area farmer who just happened to buy and sell a few properties in the Christiana area. I was about to move on from him, but decided to dig a bit more.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Views of Christiana Hundred in Winter '73

A prize-winning photo

If you’ve ever noticed, most of the old photographs (and I’m defining “old” as anything before digital cameras. Film. Remember film? That used to be a thing, kids!) showing historic buildings tend to fall into one of two categories. They’re either cold documentary photos for some report, or fuzzy things in the background of photos showing something else. (The exception to this would be postcard pictures.) Well, here we have another exception – beautiful artistic shots, taken several decades ago, of a few different historic structures.

In January 1973, a University of Delaware student participated in a Winterim project to take pictures of “Delaware in Winter”, photos that would be graded on their artistic merit. An afternoon spent driving around Ashland Clinton School Road produced the pictures seen here. I was sent these pictures (and given permission to share them) primarily because the barn shown in several was thought to be the David Taylor Barn, subject of a recent post. I was all set to post them as such, but before I did I took another, apparently closer, look at them. When I did, I quickly realized they weren't what I thought they were. To explain what these photos actually are, the easiest place to start is with the picture seen below, which once identified will help place the rest.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Faulkland Lyceum and the Faulkland Quiz

February 7, 1890 -- The Lyceum is born

Unbeknownst to most (and by "most", I mostly mean "me"), the not-quite-village of Faulkland seems to have had something of an intellectual golden era in the late 19th Century, at least for a few years. Probably owing to the presence of several specific local residents, Faulkland had two ventures visible as outgrowths of this "Renaissance" -- the Faulkland Lyceum and the Faulkland Quiz. They both seem to have only lasted a few years before disappearing almost forever, but as we'll see these two were both fairly unique and examples of what seems to have been a trend at the time. I have a fair amount of information one, and not much on the other (yet), but here's what we know.

In case it's not familiar to you, the area of "Faulkland" is essentially the region directly around Brandywine Springs park, near Newport Gap Pike and Faulkland Road. At this time (late 1880's to the early 1890's), Brandywine Springs was in a transition phase. The existence of a hotel at the site dated back to 1827, and at the time the so-called "Second Hotel" was in humble operation. The amusement park was a few years off, but the foundations for it were beginning to be put in place. One of those foundations was the man brought in to run it beginning in 1886 -- Richard W. Crook. He, Dr. (and future US Senator) L. Heisler Ball, and Red Clay Creek Presbyterian's Rev. John D. Blake seem to have been the core of the intellectual society of the area.

On February 2, 1890, it was reported that, "The people of Faulkland and vicinity have organized a lyceum which meets every two weeks." A lyceum is defined as "an association providing public lectures, concerts, and entertainments", and that is precisely what the Faulkland Lyceum did, with a heavy leaning toward formal debates. I hope they'll forgive me for this, but somehow I get the feeling that a lot of people were bored in the winter and looking for something to do.

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.