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.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Kiamensi Garage and Inspector's Dwelling

The Delaware State Highway Department's
Kiamensi Truck Storage Shed, in 1941
One of the things I have to consciously keep in mind as I do my research (which, due to my time constraints is primarily computer-based) is that after all this time, we are still in the early days of the Digital Age. Although documents have been digitized and posted on the internet for more than 20 years now, what's available is still only a small fraction of what's out there. The good news, though, is that more is being added every day. This makes it important to occasionally go back and revisit sites and online collections to see what's been added lately. In looking for something else, I recently checked out the Delaware Archives website for the first time in a while, and saw that they had some new stuff posted.

Amongst this new stuff were a few really cool pictures that I had never seen before, and that in a few cases raise more questions. On the plus side, at least one lingering question has been (mostly) answered and one site I'd only kind of known about is shown in great detail. These pictures all come from insurance evaluations done in 1941 for government-owned facilities, like schools, armories, medical facilities and such. I'll roll out some of these over the next couple weeks, but we'll start here with two related photographs, one of which I'd seen something similar to before and one of which was new to me.

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.)