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Monday, February 28, 2011

Recent Comments Now Displayed -- And Why

As you may have already noticed, I've added to the right of the screen (and down a little) a listing of the recent comments posted onto this blog. I'd like to take a moment and explain the two reasons why I've decided to do this now. The first has to do with me, and the second with you.

Learning about history, like learning about anything, is a constantly growing and evolving thing. One of the things I struggle with most in writing these posts is when to draw the line, stop researching, and just write the stinkin' post. Very often I come into a topic thinking I'll just look into quickly, find a few things, then write up a short post. What ends up happening, though, is that I keep finding interesting little tidbits related to the subject and I end up with one (or both) of two problems. Either I've found a number of (I think) interesting facts that I struggle to horn into the post and still keep a modicum of flow, or I keep digging for facts, putting off writing (or finishing) the post, because I'm sure the next really cool discovery is sure to be in the next place I look.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Little, Medill, and Mote: The Teachers of MCH

Miss Lora Little, 1924
 There are a few major categories of what I like to call "Names we know but don't usually think about". One of those is road names, and a few such names have come up in previous posts. These are names like (Benjamin) Duncan Road, (Rev. William) McKennan's Church Road, and the Robert Kirkwood Highway. No doubt, you'll notice that these are all men, which should not be too surprising since, let's face it, men's names were generally the most prominent until relatively recently. However, there was at least one profession open to a woman in the 19th and early 20th Centuries where she could make enough of an impact on the community to have her name remembered by future generations -- teaching. In this post we'll take a look at three such teachers who lived and/or worked in Mill Creek Hundred and, in honor of the contributions they made, had schools named for them -- Lora Little, E. Frances Medill, and Anna P. Mote. (h/t to Donna Peters for the idea)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Hadley-Dennison House

Hadley-Dennison House
 One of the things I enjoy most when researching our local history is reading about a significant person or place from long ago, then realizing that there is still something standing today that ties directly in to someone or something from several hundred years ago. I had one of these exciting revelations recently after reading a little about one of the pioneering settlers in what would become Mill Creek Hundred, long before Delaware was its own entity. I'm sure not many people realize that slightly northwest of Valley Road and Limestone stands a direct link to one of the original settlers of Mill Creek Hundred. Although at first glance it looks too new (if you can call nearly 120 years old, new), the Hadley-Dennison House likely contains at its core one of the first permanent houses erected in this part of Delaware. And for good measure, it also has a barn that is at least 200 years old, if not older.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Further Information on the Mary Whiteman Story

Here is an (almost) instant update on the story just posted about the 1866 death of Mrs. Mary Moore Whiteman. In that post, I noted that I had not found any other references to the horrific events of  November 25, 1866, other than the one paragraph linked to in the post. Well, someone else did find another reference to it, and it helps to fill in some of the blanks left from the first story. A reader of this blog, Donna Peters, forwarded to me a story that appeared in the December 4, 1866 issue of the Village Record, which I believe was out of West Chester, PA. Here is how they told the story:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Tragic Death of Mary Whiteman

In the post about the Roseville Cotton Factory, I included a snippet from an old newspaper that I had found online, more specifically, at the site Old Fulton NY Post Cards. I realize that Fulton is nowhere near Delaware (it's between Syracuse and Lake Ontario), but the site has a collection of old newspapers that includes one from Wilmington. In searching the site one day for Mill Creek Hundred-related items (yes, my days are just that exciting), I came across a couple of things of interest. Most of what I found was more along the lines of what we already saw -- real estate ads. However, the piece excerpted here caught my eye. It was not a particularly important event in and of itself (except to the families involved), but I thought it was interesting to be able to flesh out the details of those involved. As a side note, it also is a good example of the interconnectedness of families in MCH in the 19th Century.

The paragraph in question was reprinted in a number of papers. This one happened to be from the December 5, 1866 edition of the Albany Evening Journal. It tells of the tragic death of Mrs. Whiteman and her two-year-old son, and of the narrow escape of her baby. While filling a coal oil lamp on November 22, the oil exploded, setting Mrs. Whiteman and the room ablaze. Her sister was able to save the baby, but Mrs. Whiteman and her son were killed. While I can find no other direct references to this incident, I have been able to piece together a little more about the people involved, and I have some guesses at more. As it turns out, there's already been a post about this family on this site -- the Henry Whiteman House post. The Mrs. Whiteman involved in this horrific accident was the wife of Andrew Jackson Whiteman, who lived in the house on the south side of Smith Mill Road, just west of Paper Mill Road (the house I believe was originally built about 1826 by Andrew's father, Henry, although it was certainly renovated later in the 19th Century).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mitchell Farm, aka, The Woodside Farm Creamery

There were, and still are, many old farms in Mill Creek Hundred. There are many old families in the hundred. There are many new businesses, too. But rarely will you find one venture that incorporates all three of these traits into one enterprise, the way you see with the Woodside Farm Creamery on North Star and Valley Roads, south of Hockessin (and rarely are they as delicious, either, but I digress). It might sound a bit odd to call a business entering its 14th year of operation "new", but in relative terms, this one is. While Woodside Farm Creamery may be less than a decade and a half old, the Mitchell family has been working this same land for well over two centuries. In fact, the current creators of (in my opinion) Delaware's best ice cream are the sixth and seventh generations of the family to live and work on the farm. Through their hard work and dedication to the land, a little bit of old Mill Creek Hundred has been preserved.

The Mitchell family story in America began sometime before 1750, when three children made the perilous voyage from England only, as the story goes, to have their parents die at sea. The children settled in and around Philadelphia, and one of the children, Joseph Mitchell (1725-1815), had a son named Thomas. For some reason, in 1796 Thomas Mitchell (1750-1827) decided to leave his home in Pennsylvania and purchase 1000 acres in Mill Creek Hundred. Very likely, Thomas and his wife Lucy initially built a small log house for their family, but it didn't take long for them to upgrade their homestead. In 1804, Thomas built a two and a half story, three bay stone house for his family, which included a daughter, Hannah, and a son, Joseph. The Mitchell tract was vast and mostly wooded, so the first few generations were spent largely clearing and working the land, and dividing it up between the sons of the next generation.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ebenezer Methodist Church

The second incarnation of Ebenezer Church
 It's been a while since we've looked at an active congregation in a post, and since I've been focused a lot recently on the western part of our little corner of Delaware, I thought we'd focus now on one of the older churches in Mill Creek Hundred -- Ebenezer Methodist Church. Some people may not be familiar with this church, maybe because it's situated above much of the commotion of the busy southern corridor of the region. It may also be because, if you drove by it today, you'd have little reason to think that this was a particularly old congregation. The truth is, though, that Ebenezer is an old church hiding in a new building.

The roots of what would become Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church date back to the early days of the 19th Century, when the members of that faith in the area held meetings in private homes. These meetings were often led by itinerant Methodist missionaries, and it was these missionaries, along with the local help of Alexander Guthrie (who lived off of Paper Mill Road just north of Milford Crossroads), who were instrumental in the formation of the church. In 1824, the first Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church was constructed on the west side of Polly Drummond Hill Road, just south of Pleasant Hill and the Eastburn-Jeanes lime quarries and kilns. This first church measured 28' x 24', was built of stone, and had a gallery. There was no permanent pastor at the church at that time -- circuit pastors were provided every fourth Sunday by churches in neighboring hundreds. In between visits, though, the local congregants held prayer meetings, class meetings, and Sunday school lessons.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Roseville Cotton Factory

Ad for James Black's land, later the Roseville Mill
 One thing that always surprises me is how, through the course of history, things get forgotten. I'm not talking about average people, or small businesses, or family homesteads. I mean important people, large industrial sites, and even whole communities. One location that illustrates all of these points is the Roseville Cotton Factory, which was located on White Clay Creek just east of Newark, Delaware, in the southwestern corner of Mill Creek Hundred. Although the name "Roseville" hangs on by a thread in the area, I'm sure very few people are fully aware of the scale of the area's industrial past. In a real way, this post is almost a follow-up to the James Black post since it deals with the property once occupied by him. Although there are still a few holes in the story, I've been able to piece together a rough idea of how this area turned from a quiet agricultural tract, to a busy industrial one, and back.

This particular story picks up after James Black's death in 1794, when most of his property passed to his son, James R. Black. As the pictured ad shows, the property was still for sale in 1809. And although I haven't yet been able to figure out who, someone obviously bought the property soon after that with the intention of introducing a new industry to the millseat. As we'll see shortly, James Black's flour mill remained on the site, but was now joined by a substantially-sized cotton factory. This footnote from a book about the nation's early economy contains an excerpt from a letter written by the residents in the area around Roseville. The date of the letter, January 1816, tells us that the Roseville Cotton Factory was in operation by that date. The only reference I could find to the factory for the next 16 years was its mention in an 1820 tax survey, when the proprietors are listed as "Hart & Hamer". I've not yet found any more on these gentlemen.