Thursday, August 12, 2010

Marshallton in the 1920's, Through the Eyes of a Girl -- Part II

Marshallton Colored School, 1920
We now continue our journey [from Part I] through Marshallton of the '20s, on Duncan Road, travelling up towards Kirkwood Highway. On the right hand side where apartments are now, were a bunch of houses. This was the African American section of Marshallton. On Jackson Avenue (not far to the left) was the Marshallton Colored School, which was built in the 1920’s with funding from Pierre Samuel DuPont. Between Duncan Road and Jackson Avenue, Ham Run meanders down to empty into Red Clay Creek. One of the things the kids of Marshallton looked forward to was to pack their lunches, go to Ham Run, sit on the stones and picnic.

We have now turned around and are going up Jackson Avenue. As we get to the end of Jackson Avenue and we pass the house where Anna Mae and her husband lived, she begins into a story about Herb Thornet and his floral shop. From Jackson Avenue we make a left onto Chalet Drive. Anna Mae is telling of 6-8 large glass greenhouses filled with flowers that Mr. Thornet was growing for his floral shop. Mr. Thornet’s house is still standing at the end of Chalet Drive. As children, they would walk up to the greenhouses and go through and smell all the wonderful flowers.

We make our way back down to Greenbank Road, and before we get to the bridge we pull over and sit a while as Anna Mae remembers with astonishing detail this area in the twenties. On our left is the red brick building that was once the American Store. Across the street there is an opening and she tells of how there was once a barbershop there. She describes it as a small building about the size of a garage -- enough room for two chairs and a small sink (about the size of a kitchen or bathroom sink) in the middle. In front of the two chairs are big mirrors on the wall. She was so excited to tell of how her Mother would send her down to get her hair cut short to show off a nice wave at the top of her red hair.

Next to the red brick building stood another building. Back in 1927 Mr. Hubert (the store owner), Mr. Stubbles, and a few other men were sitting around a table at Mr. Hubert’s store. One of the men said, "Let's start a fire company." As the story was told, Mr. Stubbles then reached into his pocket, pulled out a one dollar bill, set it on the table and said, "Here is the first dollar." They then probably decided to have an official meeting, which was held in the social room of the Marshallton Methodist Church, and on January 6, 1927 the Mill Creek Fire Company was first officially organized. Mr. Hubert lent out land behind his store for the fire company, and this would be their home for the next two years. There was just enough room in the building for one fire engine. The fire company held dinners where they would walk down the streets and ask people to donate food for the dinner. They had to move the fire truck into the street in order to fit all the people of the community for the dinners and bingo nights. As the Mill Creek Fire Company grew, it was moved to the building next to the red brick building. It was one building with an interior wall dividing the building in half. As you went in the building, to the right was the fire hall and to the left was the post office (after it had moved from Mr. Mullen’s house).

Every Saturday night the fire hall would hold square dances. This is where Anna Mae would meet her future husband. This is a fantastic and romantic story by the way. However, we will have to read about it when the book comes out.

I hope this painted a picture of what Marshallton was like in the 1920’s and 1930’s. I would invite, encourage and ask anyone who has any further information about what the area was like, or what I may have missed to please share your stories here on the blog. If you have any pictures please email us. A huge thank you to Anna Mae for sharing her memories of Marshallton.


  1. Hi! I grew up on Chalet Drive In the 1980's. I've been trying to find out more history about the street and Marshallton in general. Any ideas?

    1. Thanks for writing! I'll tackle the street first. I really don't know much more than is mentioned in the post here, about Herb Thornet having his florist business there. His house is the bigger one on the right side of the cul-de-sac at the end of Chalet. However, I did go back and look at the old aerial photos, and realized something I hadn't before (you can view the pictures thru the link "Historic Aerial Photographs", under "Historical Resources" above on the right. Fun to play with.).

      There was a road going from Jackson Ave back to Thornet's house, which I had assumed was in the same spot as Chalet Drive. It wasn't. The old road ran basically behind the houses on the right side of Chalet, between them and the public storage place. The green houses were on the left side of this road, which would put them about where the 3rd, 4th, and 5th houses are on the right side of Chalet (give or take a house). In looking before, I had always assumed they were on the right side of Chalet.

      As far as finding more Marshallton stuff, I have two quick suggestions. The first is to use the search box on this blog to find other things I've written about the village. The other is to check out the Lower Red Clay Valley Blog (link above right under Local Groups). Denis has lots of good, old Marshallton pictures and info there. And as always, if there's something specific you're curious about, just ask here or at Denis' blog. I can't promise we'll have an answer, but we'll try (or someone else might know).

  2. Anna Mae's brother was my grandfather. I've only met her in person once, and have only driven through Delaware or been through it on the train. I've never had a chance to explore it. But as the family genealogist, I appreciate the stories Anna Mae tells (she's told me a few in our phone conversations, too!), and I've gotten several more tidbits for the family history here. I hope they DO write a book about her! I'll get even more family history information that way. :) She's a real special lady.

    1. I totally agree with your last statement. I first met her about 10 years ago, and she's about the sweetest person I've ever met. Unfortunately, time has pretty much taken her eyesight, but not her mind or her energy. From what I hear, she'll still go out to her favorite restaurant whenever she can get someone to take her. I actually think about her almost every day, as I pass the little blue house she was born in.

      The book about her did get published, but sold out fairly quickly. I've heard there's been talk of a second printing, but it hasn't been done yet, as far as I know. If it does get reprinted, I'll be sure to post it her, since I know there are some others who would like a copy, too.