Tuesday, October 12, 2010

John McDaniel House

John McDaniel House
   A few posts back, when we took a look at the McDaniel-Peach House, I mentioned that it was one of two related, historic houses in the area. Now, we'll focus on the other house -- the John McDaniel House. Unfortunately, like its older companion, there is frustratingly little information available about this house and the family that built and occupied it. The house is included in the large, thematic National Register entry that deals with agricultural buildings in MCH, but the main focus of that report is the barns in the area, not the houses. Where a house does exist, it is included and given an architectural assessment, but usually only a very cursory historical background. For the McDaniel House, the entry runs four pages, but only one paragraph deals with the house (even then, it doesn't even give the first name of the builder, only calling it the J. McDaniel House). The rest describes the large, tri-level barn that used to sit next to the house, about where the next house over is, to the northwest. The barn was torn down about 20 years ago.

So, with little information to go on, I'm left to piece together what I can, and take educated guesses at the rest. What the National Register entry does say about the house, which sits a few hundred yards north of Paper Mill Road just east of North Star Road in the Meadowdale neighborhood, is that it is a two-story, five-bay, fieldstone house covered in stucco. Originally, the front facade was a classic Georgian five-bay symmetrical arrangement with a centered door, but at some point a two-story bay window was added covering the two eastern-most (right side) windows. As I noted in the McDaniel-Peach House post, that house has a similar addition on it. It may not be completely a coincidence, since the two houses were built by men in the same family. While I can't be completely sure who was responsible for these houses (and if anyone does know, I'd love to hear), I can make solid hypotheses.

Whereas the older house was likely built by James McDaniel sometime before 1777, this house was almost certainly constructed by John McDaniel, who I'm guessing to be James' son or grandson. The one thing we do have a clear indication for is when the house was built, thanks to a datestone in the west gable showing 1826. What is also clear is that this house was directly linked to the mills that are still standing down the hill on the northeast corner of Paper Mill and North Star Roads. An 1804 county tax assessment lists one saw mill as belonging to a Thomas McDaniel, about whom I can find no other information. A safe guess would be that he was either James' son or brother. Whoever he was, he died sometime before 1825, because in that year a survey done for what would become Upper Pike Creek/North Star Road showed the mill as belonging to the heirs of Thomas McDaniel. Obviously the heir who ended up with the mill was John (probably his son or nephew), because Scharf relates that in 1827, John tore down the old mill and erected a new one, presumably one of the two structures still standing (the other is a grist mill put up a bit later).
Rear of the house, in 1986
John McDaniel must have been in quite the building mood, and it seems logical to assume that he inherited this corner of the family's property in about 1825. He first built himself a new house, then the next year rebuilt the sawmill. In all likelihood, the lumber for the barn built shortly thereafter was cut in the new mill -- maybe some of the first pieces to come out of it. The next thing I know for sure is that John is listed as a flour miller in a 1851 business listing, and that he died sometime before (and probably not long before) 1868, as the Beers map of that year lists the house as "McDaniels Hrs." Among those heirs were John, Jr. and his widowed sister Mary, both of whom lived in Wilmington by 1874 and "lease[d] their family place", presumably this house. From there, the story grows cold. I have not been able to determine if or when the house passed out of the family, but I can say that the current owners have taken great care of it. From the outside, at least, the house looks to be in wonderful shape. Hopefully this will continue, as the John McDaniel House is a great example of the growth of MCH in the early 1800's.


  1. I ran across your blog while doing some genealogy from my home in NW Washington State. What you label the McDaniel House looks much like a spiffed up descendant of my mother, Carolyn Peach Langworthy's childhood home. I have a couple of old (1915?) photos I could send to you, though I realize this topic is nearly two-years-old.
    My gggrandfather Paul Peach married Margaret McDaniel, and their son John took over the McDaniel (?) farm earlyish in the 19th century.
    Of course all traces of the Peach Kaolin Mine are likely gone

  2. The age of the post is nothing compared to the age of the house. Nothing's ever closed around here (we're like a casino -- but with fewer flashing lights). I'd love to see any pictures you have, and any information. You can email them to me if you want, at mchhistory@verizon.net. I'd love to see what it looked like pre-"spiffing up". Thanks!!!

  3. Since the Hanna family lived along Limestone Road and Papermill Road, could this John McDaniel house be related to 3x GGmother, Leah McDaniel who married 3xGGfather Thomas Hanna Sr. She would have been the mother of Joseph Hanna my 2xgreat Grandfather? I am curious about this. You know it would be great if you put all of this in a Hard Copy book to sell to the ancestors of the families of MCH. I know I would buy one. Regards, Frances A. Clancy-Green

    1. Frances -- I started to take a dig into the McDaniels, and was quickly reminded why I hadn't before. Man, they're a mess. Besides the fact that we're talking about the late 1700s and early 1800s, long before census info helps much, the family's name tends to be a bit, um, fluid. It can be McDaniel, McDannel, McDonall, or what I think was the original form, McDonald. I'm still convinced that they descend from Bryan McDonald, an early settler near Brandywine Springs.

      The only new things I can add right now from what I just looked at is that there was a Thomas McDaniel who died around 1825, with his son Samuel being his administrator. Just going by assumed ages, if Leah was born about 1800, she may have been Thomas' daughter and John and Samuel's sister. I have no proof of that, though. There could have been another line, with them being cousins. At some point I hope to clear that up.

      That all being said, to answer your original question, since the McDaniels and Hannas were basically neighbors, I don't think there's any doubt that she was one of them. Goes back to my thoughts on 18th and 19th century MCH dating -- If you have to walk more than 20 minutes to find a wife, it's just not worth it.