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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reverend William McKennan

Headstone of Rev. McKennan, Red Clay Creek Church

Being right in the middle of the holiday season, it seems appropriate to do a post now about a religious figure, so I've picked the one whose name is probably most familiar to area residents -- Reverend William McKennan. He was mentioned before in the post about the McKennan-Klair House, which he occupied for over forty years, but now we'll look a bit closer at one of the most influential and long-tenured men to ever preach in Mill Creek Hundred.

William McKennan was born in 1719 in the north of Ireland of Scotch-Irish descent, much like many of his future congregants. When exactly he emigrated to America seems to be in question. Some sources cite 1730, but I'm inclined to think 1750 is more likely, since there seems to be no record of him here before then. Actually, there doesn't seem to be much information about his early life at all, until he became a Presbyterian minister sometime before May 1752. The Presbyterian Synod of Philadelphia it seems had taken responsibility for supplying pastors for churches in what must have then been frontier regions in Virginia and North Carolina, and Rev. McKennan was one of the ministers sent. He spent much of 1752 in the Shenandoah Mountain region of Virginia, near Staunton. In the spring of 1755, he spent three months in North Carolina.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Old Stone Hotel, Stanton

The Old Stone Hotel, then the residence and office
of  Dr. Irvin and Ruth Carroll
With the network of roads, turnpikes, and waterways present in Mill Creek Hundred, it's not surprising that there were a number of inns, taverns, and hotels that operated here throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. They were usually located either along a major route for travellers in the midst of their journey, or at a destination for those who had reached the end of their trek. One place, though, fit the bill for both -- Stanton. Therefore, it makes sense that there was a hotel located here, in what was the first, and at one point the largest, community in the hundred.

Stanton, originally known by the indelicate name of Cuckoldstown (the speculation as to why will have to wait for another day), sits right near the confluence of the Red Clay and White Clay Creeks, and was the site of one of the earliest mills in the area. More mills soon followed, with commerce spurred on by the fact that in Colonial and early Federal times, White Clay Creek was navigable all the way to Stanton, allowing ships to be loaded and sail straight out to Wilmington and Philadelphia. Because of this, Limestone Road soon became busy, as this route was easier for Lancaster County farmers to get their grain to market than going overland to Philadelphia. When farmers came to ship and/or have their grain ground, they needed a place to sleep before heading back home. In addition to this, Stanton also lay on the main route from Newport (and Wilmington and New Castle) to Christiana (and Newark and beyond). Therefore the hotel in Stanton also catered to weary long-distance travellers as well.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reynolds-Lindell House and Property, Part II

Milk Bottle from Locust Grove Farm
 In the last post, we traced the history of the house and property located in what is now the Village of Lindell on Milltown Road, from Andrew Reynolds' building of the house in 1790 and the mill in 1799, through the ownerships of Samuel Anthony and Abraham Cannon, and finally to its purchase by Robert T. Lynam. I don't have the exact date of Lynam's purchase of the property, but we can narrow it down to sometime between 1877 (when the mill was still owned by Cannon) and 1881 (when a map shows Lynam as the owner). Lynam had acquired the property across the road (which would eventually be sold to the state by his grandson for the building of Dickinson High School) in 1848, and may have purchased Cannon's farm with his son Robinson in mind.

Unlike the other owners of the tract, the Lynams had no interest in milling, and as Scharf states, Robert Thomas Lynam tore down the old Reynolds mill in 1887. Very interestingly, according to an interview with later owner Raymond Lindell, the frame addition to the house (later used as a store for the dairy) was also built in 1887. Although I have no evidence for it, it's very tempting to speculate that some of the lumber from the mill might have been reused in the construction of the rear addition. No sources even state whether the mill was frame or stone, but if it was frame, it would not be unusual for the time for building materials to have been recycled from an older structure to a newer one. I think it is very possible that some of the wood used in the frame section of the house was actually part of Andrew Reynolds' 1799 mill.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reynolds-Lindell House and Property, Part I

I'd be willing to bet that there are few private properties in Mill Creek Hundred that go back as far, and had such a 20th Century impact, as the land around the Reynolds-Lindell House, located in what is now the Village of Lindell on Milltown Road. From its 18th Century beginnings as a milling property, to its 20th Century role as a working dairy farm still remembered by area residents, the land was in constant use for over 200 years. Now, the only reminder of its past is the old house, today nestled in a quiet neighborhood bearing the name of its last working (and current) owners.

The identity of the first owners of the land is not clear (although it might have been the Lynams), but by the late 1700's the property was owned by Andrew Reynolds. Presumably it was he who built the main section of the two-story, plastered stone house in 1790. Scharf relates that Reynolds erected his grist mill in 1799, so either there was an earlier mill that it replaced, or the property initially was exclusively a farm. As for Reynolds himself, he was born in 1767 and through his mother, Ann Caldwell, was a member of the prominent Caldwell family of Kent County. (He was a cousin of Andrew Gray, as their mothers were sisters.) Like many other members of his family, he was active in public life, serving in the Delaware legislature for over 20 years. He also served as a turnpike company commissioner, a commissioner for the St. James school, and as one of the original three school commissioners for Mill Creek Hundred in 1817. He is still listed as owning the mill in 1832 (when he was 65), and probably sold it not too long afterwards.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thomas Worrell Family and Mill

Worrell Woolen Mill and House
It's kind of funny sometimes when I go to write a post, how much variation there can be in the amount of information I'm able to find about different topics. Sometimes there's so much that it's difficult to pare it down to a blog post sized amount; sometimes there's not much, but enough to tell the story well enough; and sometimes, like with this one, I really wish I could find out more, but it just doesn't seem to be there (at least, not yet). Thomas Worrell (or sometimes incorrectly, Worrall) was a name that I neither knew nor was looking for, before it popped out at me while doing research on another topic. I had remembered seeing the name on the Beers map (although it actually looks to be "T. Werrall" on the map), but I didn't know anything about him or his family, and didn't remember seeing the name come up anywhere else. The only thing I did know was that across from his home along Mill Creek, there was a woolen mill. Now, after finding a little bit here and there, I wish I did know more about the Worrell family.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mt. Pleasant and Union Schools

Mt. Pleasant School, 1933
As of the 1860's there were about 13 public school districts with school houses in Mill Creek Hundred. To the best of my knowledge, the Harmony School House on Limestone Road is the only 19th century school still standing intact.* For the other dozen schools, there is generally frustratingly little information that I've been able to find so far. Since even with my penchant for verbosity it would be hard to pad most of them out to a full post, I'll once in a while take a look at a couple of them at a time. In this post, I'll focus on the Mt. Pleasant School (District 34) and the Union School (District 31). For these two, at least, I've been able to scrape together a little bit of information.