Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Still on the Trail of the Stone Troughs

Those of you who have stuck around here a while know that I've developed a kind of fascination with the stone water troughs that I first ran across at Delcastle Golf Course, formerly Delcastle Farm. I can't quite explain why they interest me so much, outside of the basic fact that it's a mystery that I haven't solved yet. If you want to refresh your memory, the previous posts can be found here and here. After seeing the ones at Delcastle, I had the suspicion that there had to be more of them around. Then, sure enough, Tom Gears pointed out another one in Canby Park, and Ken Shelin recalled seeing one years ago in the Concord Pike/Naamans Road vicinity.

Those finds proved that the troughs at Delcastle were not unique, which made me even more sure that there had to be more out there. Well, we've got another one. Like the others, this one is located nowhere near Delcastle -- it's found in the yard of a house on Smith's Bridge Road near Granogue, in Chateau Country, northeastern Christiana Hundred. The house itself only dates to 1957, so the current owner (thanks for sending the pics!!!) believes that the trough was purchased and placed by the previous owner.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Photo of Robert L. Armstrong's Hedgeland

Armstrong House known as Hedgeland
I have here another entry into my continuing quest to try to mine new bits and pieces of Mill Creek
Hundred (and MCH-adjacent) history. This particular item is the photo you see here, sent to me a little while back by a descendant of the family in question (as well as several other families oft-mentioned in the blog), Nancy Lynam. Although the house did not technically stand within the boundaries of Mill Creek Hundred, it was featured in a post detailing the familial holdings of the Armstrong clan, located in western Christiana Hundred. And though the house was lost long ago, it stood in a prominent location, one I'm sure many of you have passed countless times (perhaps some of you on your way in to work every day).

The beautiful five-bay, two and a half story, fieldstone home shown here was the house known as Hedgeland, or The Hedge. It was located on the east side of Centre Road (Rt. 141), just north of Faulkland Road. The segment of the 1881 map below shows the estate. The house itself, as best as I can determine from historical aerial photographs, stood right about where the flag pole is today, at the South 141 entrance to DuPont's Chestnut Run Plaza. This part is even more iffy, but it appears that the house faced south, perpendicular to 141 and facing down towards Faulkland Road. The blue rectangle in the bottom, modern photo indicates approximately where the house stood.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

William Guest (Part 2) -- Owner of Cuckoldstown

Did you know what it meant?
Here is the promised second of Walt Chiquoine's two appropriately-titled Guest Posts. Whereas the first dealt with the continuing effort to sort out the early history of the Stanton Mill, MCH's oldest business enterprise, this one deals with another of the area's mysteries -- the origin of Stanton's original name. I think he's come up with a fascinating and very plausible idea. What do you think?

Researched and Written by Walt Chiquoine --

In my prior post, I introduced you to William Guest, an affluent and educated guy who settled in MCH in 1682.  We know he was an attorney, judge, and representative, and he finally settled on a large tract that includes today’s Stanton.  After years of litigation, he gained full control of the first mill seat at Stanton from Cornelius Empson.  The mill property was sold by Guest’s estate in 1720.  So for a number of years, William Guest lived in Stanton and managed the mills and tenants on his property.  He must have been a very public figure to his peers at court and to his humble neighbors.   

William Guest may have left another legacy for early Stanton.  We know there are 18th century references to the area as Cuckoldstown, and I’ve agreed with Scott Palmer and others that this could have originated as Cocclestown for the shellfish that were plentiful in the creeks and estuaries.  Other historians suggested the name may have come from an Inn that hosted adulterous trysts, but that of itself seems an inappropriate use of the term cuckold.  And it just doesn’t seem that noteworthy since it was probably true of many taverns, and I struggled with that explanation.

A cuckold is a husband that suffers or tolerates (or even encourages) his wife’s promiscuity in a way that is publicly known.  Then and now, I imagine it happens pretty regularly, but to name a village for it?  It’s a derisive and condescending label.  I assume it would require the cuckold and the cuckolding to be a well-known person that involved well-known events, something that really stood out in people’s minds like a bad joke, something to gossip about.  Could the cuckold be William Guest, in the sense that it was his Cuckold’s Town?  Not the plural, but the possessive…

Monday, July 6, 2015

William Guest (Part 1) -- Owner of Stanton Mill

William Guest's Wedgebury Tract
When Walt Chiquoine found out I was looking for more Guest Posts, I think he might have misunderstood what I meant. In any case, here is the first of two very interesting posts from Walt about the early history of the southeast corner of Mill Creek Hundred, the area now known as Stanton:

Researched and Written by Walt Chiquoine --

I thank Scott for another chance to talk about some of our earliest history in Mill Creek Hundred. This time, it’s about William Guest, a gentleman from West Bromwich, England who immigrated with the fleets of William Penn.  Early historians list him on the Hester and Hannah, arriving at New Castle in August of 1682.  Guest settled immediately in Mill Creek Hundred (MCH).  And despite his appearance in the same year as Penn, he was not Scots-Irish nor was he a Quaker.

William Guest did arrive as a fairly affluent and well-educated man, since he immediately engaged in legal and civil affairs.  I have not found his date of birth, but I’d guess he was around thirty – he certainly wasn’t afraid to mix it up in court with his peers, as a deputy to William Penn described him as “naturally passionate” in 1686.  Within a year of his arrival, Guest was elected to Penn’s Assembly as a representative from New Castle County (1683).  He later served as a judge for the Court at New Castle.  Guest left an incomplete legacy in his deeds and personal records; in what we have, there is no mention of an early wife or family.  But he may have a role in explaining two mysteries:  what happened to the first grist mill in MCH, and where did the name Cuckoldstown (early Stanton) come from?

In this post, I’d like to introduce you to William Guest and talk about the first Stanton mill.  I’ll follow with a separate post on Cuckoldstown. (Second post can be found here.)     

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Early History and Impact of the Wilmington & Western Railroad

Invitation for the inaugural WWRR train, Oct. 19, 1872
The topic of transportation advances has come up in several recent posts, but mostly in the context of the rise of the automobile and the changes it required of roads and bridges. That was the 20th Century. In the 19th Century there was another major advancement in transportation technology, one which forever changed the social and economic factors involved in the movement of people and goods. We're talking, of course, of the railroad.

There were three railroad lines built through MCH in the 1800's, two along its southern portion and one up its eastern side. The two southerly ones -- the PW&B (later the PB&W, now the Amtrak line) and the Baltimore and Ohio (now the CSX line) -- were just portions of much longer lines. There were stations here, but mostly they just passed through, sort of like I-95 through Delaware today. The third line, though, weaving its way along Red Clay Creek and then away to the northwest, was much more of a local business and passenger line. More Kirkwood Highway than I-95. This was the Wilmington & Western Railroad, and it was a good example of how a business can be important without being, itself, particularly successful.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Changing Face of Milltown

A bridge on Milltown Road, 1921
In the last post we looked briefly at some of the changes that were taking place in and around Mill Creek Hundred in the decades surrounding World War II. [Editor's note: That started out as just the intro paragraph to this post, but rambled on long enough to be spun off on its own.] [Writer's note: I'm also the Editor.] One of the most noticeable things going on was improvements to the area's roads and bridges. Now we'll look more closely at the changes made over the years to one particular place -- the intersection of Limestone and Milltown Roads.

To be honest, this is one of those topics I had neatly avoided for years, primarily because it always seemed like more trouble than it was worth. I kind of understood what had happened, but it never completely made sense to me. Recently, however, with the help of Bob Wilhelm (who grew up very near the intersection), it all now seems much more clear. Hopefully it will to you, too, when you're done reading the post. It draws heavily upon Bob's recollections of his youth, and I thank him greatly for his help.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Changing Face of Mill Creek Hundred

Section of Lincoln Highway (Kirkwood Highway) in 1918
The history of Mill Creek Hundred, as with much of New Castle County, can be neatly divided into two parts: the Pre-War Rural Era and the Post-War Suburban Era. In this blog we deal primarily with the earlier time period, but since the "modern era" began 70 years ago it's just as much a part of MCH's history as "The Olden Days". And while there are many still around who can remember it well (even if the details sometimes get mixed around), the events in the next post took place over a half century ago.

Once Europeans began settling MCH in the early 1700's, the face and general feel of the area didn't really change all that drastically for the next 200 years or so. Sure, the large tracts of the first settlers were broken up, farms got a little bit closer, and some new industries popped up here and there through the 19th Century, but all in all, I don't think someone from 1720 would have felt all that out of place walking around in 1880. Heck, he would have even recognized a lot of the names! The 20th Century, however, was a whole new ballgame. (Literally. Baseball historians use 1900 as the start of the Modern Era.) Take someone from 1880 and drop them on Kirkwood Highway in 1965, and I'd bet they'd be a bit taken aback.

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.