Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Magical 1948 Map

Lower left quadrant of 1948 map
Of all the resources I've found for use while researching Mill Creek Hundred history, some of the most useful have been maps. The first one of these I found was the 1868 Beers map (found at the upper right of the page), and it's no exaggeration to say that none of the rest of this would be here without it. There are a few other 19th Century maps that have been very helpful, but very little from the 20th Century. I have a 1904 topographic map, but it doesn't have any names on it like the older ones do. Most of what you'd get are just road maps, and not very detailed at that.

The two exceptions to this that I've come across are the circa 1941 New Castle County Bus Map and the 1948 map shown here. This is actually only a quarter of the entire map, the lower left quadrant to be exact, it doesn't have names of property owners like the earlier ones, but there are several things on and about it that make it interesting enough to take a closer look at.

First of all, it comes from a transitional time in the history of Mill Creek Hundred (and the rest of the Wilmington suburbs, for that matter). 1948 was right near the beginning of the post-war suburban expansion in MCH, and the map reflects that. There are a few new developments shown (Kiamensi Gardens, for example), but not many. You can see the suburbs expanding out of Newport and Elsmere, but for the most part things are pretty clear west of the Red Clay.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Mitchell Station -- Part 2

In the last post, Guest Blogger SteamCarriage mentioned an odd artifact found in the fields of Jim Mitchell's Woodside Farm southwest of Hockessin, with the date of 1892 on it. He gave us an excellent background on the creation and evolution of Delaware's (and Mill Creek Hundred's) unique, curved northern border. In this post, SteamCarriage will delve deeper into the events of 1892, and explain exactly how this MCH hill was used. Now, the exciting conclusion of  Mitchell Station...

--Researched and written by SteamCarriage

Stone found in the fields of Woodside
United States Coast and Geodetic Survey
It took nearly 40 more years before another Commission sought out the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (an early version of the US Geological Survey) to resolve the matter.  The Survey appointed William Chandler Hodgkins to lead the project.  The United States Coast and Geodetic Survey published a very detailed report titled “A Historical Account of the Boundary Line between the States of Pennsylvania and Delaware” by W.C. Hodgkins, dated December 1, 1893.   The 52-page report is available online through Google Books and well worth the read for anyone wanting to know the particulars of the survey.  It is part of the Report of the Superintendent of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1893 (in two parts).

After initial field work, Hodgkins discovered two circles would best define the northern border between Delaware and Pennsylvania and he proposed a solution to the Commission.  They accepted Hodgkins’ analysis and he completed the official boundary survey in 1892-1893 defining the eastern arc boundary of Delaware and Pennsylvania along with the intersection of the Delaware-Maryland border.  The Wedge became part of Delaware and the Delaware-Pennsylvania arc border is a complex arc defined by two different radius arcs with neither center point at the New Castle Court House (but very close).

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mitchell Station -- Part 1

Time for another guest post, this one from a new contributor, SteamCarriage. It's about a subject I've always meant to get around to, but never have -- Delaware's unique northern boundary. What's neat about these posts are how they tie the topic in to MCH with a specific object and site, located on a historic property previously covered here. Thank you, SteamCarriage for all your work, and enjoy!

-- Researched and written by SteamCarriage

Stone, urn, and spike found in the fields of Woodside
While working a field on one of the higher locations of Woodside Farm, owner Jim Mitchell uncovered a flat square stone that had long been buried. On it was chiseled a triangle with a hole in the center along with the markings “U S 1892”. Under the stone Jim found a clay urn with a square iron spike secured in the center that aligned with the hole in the cover stone. Jim shared the find with the author and asked if we could determine the stone’s origins, use, etc. After some research it was learned that Mitchell Station was a point selected by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1892 for the purpose of settling, once and for all, the disputed 12-mile arc boundary that existed between Pennsylvania and Delaware. What follows is a brief history of how the dispute came to existence and how the stone came to Woodside Farm as a key element in the process the US government used to resurvey and establish the 12-mile arc boundary putting the matter to rest in 1892-3.

Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland
The first settlers arrived to the lower shores of Delaware in 1631. In 1632 King Charles I granted Cæcilius Calvert, the second Baron of Baltimore, a large estate between the 38th and 40th parallels of north latitude. The land included the present states of Delaware, Maryland, and the lower portion of Pennsylvania. In 1664 King Charles II granted his brother, James Calvert, the Duke of York, all the lands between the Connecticut and De la Ware (Delaware River as it is known today) Rivers which encompassed parts of the present states of eastern Pennsylvania, eastern New York, and most of New England and included the colony at Newcastle (New Castle, Delaware as we know it today).

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Help with the Sinclair Station and/or Campbell's Store

Location of Campbell's store, next to the library
One of the fun things that has happened since I’ve been writing the blog is that by default (and partially by intent) I’ve set myself up as, well not so much an “expert”, because I don’t claim to be that, but maybe as a clearinghouse of local history information. In that capacity, I often find people emailing me with questions about people, places, and events from MCH’s past. Sometimes I can answer them, sometimes I can’t, and sometimes –like now— I think, “I’ll bet someone else knows about this!”

The most recent query relates to a property that apparently served numerous roles during the early to middle part of the last century. It's a white house, with some obvious additions added on over the years, located on the northeast corner of Old Capital Trail and Wollaston Road, directly across Wollaston from the Kirkwood Highway Library. Anyone who's gone to the library over the years has gone right by it countless times but, like me, probably had no idea that the house had it's own unique history. Problem is, we're not real sure exactly what that history is.

A family member of the current owners contacted me and asked if I knew anything about the history of the property. I don't, but we're hoping someone out there does remember something. The current family came into the property in the mid-to-late 1950's, when it was purchased by Vickers (Vick) and Mary Campbell. They had previously lived on a farm near Richardson Park Elementary, but decided to buy this property instead of that farm.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Forest Oak District #35 School

Forest Oak School #35, in 1926
This is going to be one of those frustrating posts where I have precious little of what you'd technically call "facts", but the pictures are worth it alone. Maybe I'll look at this as just the beginning of this topic, and add to it as more information comes along. The subject this time is another school -- one likely unfamiliar to most, but with a name known by many. It was the District #35 school, which was located on St. James Church Road in what's now the Village of Lindell, and it was called Forest Oak.

The exact early history of the Forest Oak School is not well-documented (at least not that I've found), but a general timeline can be inferred from other sources. The school that preceded Forest Oak as the District #35 school was also on St. James Church Road, but a little further south. Initially founded in 1808, the St. James School was located across the road from the church of the same name. After the passage of the Free School Act in 1829, the subscription school became the District #35 public school. Although the school house remained standing until 1915 (when it was torn down and stones from it used to build a sexton's house, which now forms part of the parish house), it had long since ceased to be a public school. When, exactly, I can only somewhat narrow down.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Couple of Old Stanton Schools

Stanton #38 School, 1928
When you're sifting through collections of old photographs and you come across a "new" picture of a house or building, there are a couple things that can make it really exciting. One, is it could be an image of something that you've never seen before. You may or may not know what it is, but this is the first time you've actually seen what it looks like, or at least seen a decent (or close-up) picture of it. This was the case with the photographs recently posted of the State Industrial School and of the old stone house across from Emily Bissell.

Some other things that can make a newly-discovered picture interesting are if it shows a structure you're familiar with in a different state or condition, or if it provides new information about the building. It's these last two that prompted me to want to share a couple of old photographs of some neighboring buildings in Stanton. Of the two buildings, one is long gone, as should be obvious from the picture itself. The other is still standing, although heavily altered and looking very different than it did 85 years ago, when the two briefly shared a bond besides their close proximity -- a bond I only became aware of because of one of the pictures.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Two Lost Houses from the Brandywine Sanatorium System

Nurses' Home on the move, 1941. From the
collection of James and Anita Brady
I'm going to group together here stories and photos of two different houses, both of which were owned by the Brandywine Sanatorium, later renamed Emily Bissell Hospital. They go together not only due to geographic proximity, but because in each case a new piece of information has shed some light on a long-standing mystery. Unfortunately (as often seems to be the case), in neither case, however, is the mystery completely solved. But in both cases, though, I was excited to see these new images and find this new information.

The first case has to do with the picture above, which was sent to me a while back by James Brady III. It was taken from one of his grandmother's photo albums, but at first neither he nor I knew anything more than was readily obvious. It's from 1941, of a house being moved, and has something to do with the Edgewood Sanatorium. The only thing I could add at first was that Edgewood was the "Colored" facility, for African-Americans with tuberculosis. It was located not far from Brandywine, on the bend in Hercules Road, at the top of the hill.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The State Industrial School for Colored Girls

The rear of Denney Hall
In the last post about the Kiamensi Truck Shed, I mentioned that in the photo collection from the Delaware State Archives there were shots of a site that I vaguely knew about, but which I had never seen photos of before. While it was not technically in Mill Creek Hundred, it was listed as Marshallton, so close enough. The site was in operation for about 40 years, but comes from a corner of history (and society) not often celebrated. The facility in question was the State Industrial School for Colored Girls, and it sat on Newport Gap Pike, just south of the CSX (B&O) railroad tracks south of Price's Corner.

In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the issue of how to deal with delinquent minors was just beginning to be addressed in a more modern way. Instead of going to prison, children (mostly teens) were sent to Industrial Schools to (hopefully) be reformed, educated, and reintroduced as productive adults. In Delaware, both white and African-American boys were remanded to the Ferris Industrial School on Center Road (Rt. 141). White girls ended up at the Industrial School for Girls, later called the Woodshaven School, on Darley Road in Claymont. There was, however, two decades into the last century, nowhere in Delaware set aside for the care and rehabilitation of girls of color.