Friday, July 16, 2010

Pomeroy and Beers 1868 Atlas of the State of Delaware

In addition to writing posts about the historic places and people of Mill Creek Hundred, once in a while I'd like to turn my attention to some of the resources that I have found to be helpful in tracing the history of the region. By doing this, I hope that maybe I can help someone else along in doing research of their own. These resources could be books, websites, organizations, or, in this case, a map.

In 1868, a company from Philadelphia called Pomeroy & Beers issued their Atlas of the State of Delaware. It is a large, hand-colored book of fairly detailed maps of the entire state. There are individual maps for each of the 30 or so hundreds that existed in the state at the time. Additionally, there are a number of separate maps for specific towns and cities, such as Wilmington, Dover, Newark, Georgetown, New Castle, and a few others. For some smaller towns, there are insets along side their hundred's map. And for some reason, the inset for Stanton is located on the New Castle Hundred map.

Not surprisingly, the particular map I've spent the most time staring at is the one of Mill Creek Hundred, as seen above, as well as on the right side of this blog. For anyone at all familiar with the area, it shouldn't take too long to get oriented: Red Clay Creek runs along the right, White Clay along the bottom and left, and the PA state line forms the upper boundary. With the exception of Kirkwood Highway (not built until the 1930's), most of the other major roads of the area are easily identifiable. Limestone Road runs north-south through the center, Newport-Gap and Lancaster Pikes are there towards the right, Milltown Road connects to Old Coach Road going right to left, and Route 4 goes through Stanton, with Telegraph Road branching off and becoming Old Capitol Trail. With just a bit of searching, most roads on the map can be easily matched with their current counterparts.

While it can be fun to try to figure out what roads are what, the most useful marks on the map are all those little dots and their tags -- the buildings. The map shows the locations of many of the houses present at the time, along with the name of the owner. And while the map is not always 100% accurate, it is an invaluable resource when trying to determine where people lived in 1868, or who owned what property then. For me personally, there's quite a tinge of excitement when I can match up a dot and name on the map with a house or building still standing 142 years later.

If you take a close look at the map, you'll notice that houses are not the only features present. There are several churches shown, like St. James, White Clay Creek Presbyterian, and Red Clay Creek Presbyterian. Hotels are listed at Mermaid and Brackinville. There are two Quaker Meeting Houses listed (Friends M.H.), an Odd Fellows Hall, several post offices, and a few businesses listed by name. A few other helpful abbreviations to know are:
  • PO = post office
  • G. Mill = grist mill
  • S. Mill = saw mill
  • Hrs. after a name = heirs (the owner probably recently passed)
  • W. & B.S. Shop = Wheelwright and blacksmith shop
  • S.H = schoolhouse
If you see what look like initials, but aren't listed above, look at the surrounding names. Often, if a person owned several houses in proximity to each other, the name will be listed once and the initials used for the others. The "Districts" listed boldly on the map are actually school districts. If you look closely, you'll see that each district has one schoolhouse in it. The colored version of the map is easier to see these districts on.

Now, on to the good stuff -- where can you get it? In physical form, many libraries and historical societies have copies of the atlas. It's probably the most common of the several 19th century maps. As far as downloading the maps, the best place to start is the Delaware Geological Survey's website. They have black and white, good quality versions of all the maps available for free download in TIFF or PDF form. For the hand-colored version, this website has high-quality versions available for free download or for purchase. Enjoy, and happy hunting!


  1. Wow. Thanks for the David Rumsey link. Those maps are huge! And free!

  2. There is one of these Atlas books of Delaware coming up for sale in an auction run by Blue Hen Auction on March 4th, 2011, in Cheswold, DE, at the firehouse.