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.

The next owner of the mill (and presumably the house) was Samuel Anthony, who purchased it sometime between 1832 and 1850. In the 1850 and 1860 censuses (censi?), Anthony is listed as a miller. On the 1850 census, in the same household is listed a Thomas Oliver, who is presumably the "T. Oliver" whose name appears by the mill on an 1849 map. The next owner of the mill, according to Scharf, was Abraham Cannon. I could only find a little information on Abraham Cannon, but what I did leads me to believe that he may not have been a full-time resident and operator at the site for much of his tenure. He, too, was active in other arenas, and served as New Castle County Sheriff from 1858-1860. There also was an Abraham Cannon who was a resident of Christiana and ran a store there, and this may have been the same man. If so, it would not be surprising that he would have someone else run the mill for him. In the 1870 census, it's unclear who was operating the mill. It might have been a Mr. Cox, whose first name I'm unable to make out. I think this might be correct, because on the same page is shown William Robinson, who Scharf does name as the last operator of the mill in about 1877.

I don't know if the mill was ever enlarged or if it remained the same for all of its 88 years, but by the 1870s it was a three story structure, measuring 35 by 47 feet. In 1867 (probably while owned by Cannon), it was leased to William Jenks Fell for a year to be used as a spice mill, while the Fell's Faulkland mill was being rebuilt after a fire. Andrew Reynolds' old grist mill (which seems to have always been a small-scale custom mill, only grinding grain for local farmers) was last used around 1877, probably about the time Cannon sold the property to the man who owned the land across Milltown Road (where Dickinson High School is), Robert T. Lynam. It was Lynam who finally tore down the old mill in 1887. This, however, was far from the end of this farm's story. In the next post, we'll follow the property into its next life, which lasted well into even my lifetime.

2 comments:

  1. Scott-

    Do you know approximately were the mill stood? I'd like to go exploring for any old signs of the operation.

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  2. Bill,

    As best as I can tell from the several maps I have that show the house and mill, it looks like it sat on a race about halfway between the house and Mill Creek, in a northeasterly direction. That would put it right about where the house is on St. Francis with the open lot to its right. Since it's been 123 years, I doubt there's anything to be found without excavating. And although I have no evidence or reason to think so outside of a gut feeling, I still think the most likely place to look for any remnants of the mill is in the frame addition to the house.

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