This story, like that of many of MCH's early immigrants, begins in Ireland. In 1675, Simon and Catherine Hadley had a son, also named Simon. At the age of 37, Simon, Jr., his wife Ruth, and their six children made the passage to America in 1712. Being members of the Society of Friends, their natural destination was Philadelphia. After living in several temporary locations in Chester County, they eventually settled in Mill Creek Hundred. Simon probably first built a log home for the family, but in 1717 replaced it with a brick house which he named "Messuage Plantation". Although it's hard to confirm for sure, it's likely that this is the same house that still stands, somewhat altered, near Hockessin today. Simon Hadley purchased 1000 acres of land from William Penn, and although his house was in Delaware, most of Hadley's property ended up being in Pennsylvania after the colonies' border was drawn. He was recognized as a citizen of both colonies, and was active in each. He was a founder of, and very active in, the New Garden Meeting in Chester County.
In MCH, Simon Hadley served as a Justice of the Peace for a number of years, and even acted as a judge in the New Castle Court. I think it's safe to say he was a very well-respected member of the early MCH community. In addition to the six children they brought with them from County West Meath, Ireland, Simon and Ruth had two more daughters born in America. Eventually, many of the Hadley children moved to North Carolina, but a few of them stayed in the area. Simon lived the rest of his life in his home at Messuage Plantation, and was able to set up several of his children and grandchildren by granting them portions of his original 1000 acre tract. The well-off Simon was known for carrying large amounts of money around with him, and this, as the family's story goes, proved to be a fatal mistake. Legend says that Simon Hadley was killed in 1756 by a servant who was robbing him in his stable. He was buried along side Ruth (who had passed six years earlier) at the New Garden Meeting House cemetery. Simon had since remarried to Phoebe Buffington, a widow and Quaker minister.
After Simon's passing, his home and surrounding land went to his grandson (through his son Joshua), also named Simon. This younger Simon was already living in North Carolina, but came back to MCH for a few years, before returning south in 1763. What happened to the house next I can only speculate. We know Simon did not stay in MCH, but he may have held on to the land for a while. One reference I found while researching the Mitchell family stated that Thomas Mitchell had bought his land in 1796 from Simon Hadley. While this might have just meant that the land originally was a part of Hadley's tract, it's possible he purchased his land from this younger Simon Hadley, who still held title to a part of the original grant. In any case, the only Hadley listed in the 1804 tax assessment was the estate of Samuel Hadley, who had died in 1798. Samuel was the son of a cousin of Simon's, and it's possible that maybe he had purchased the house at some point prior.
When exactly Messuage Plantation left the Hadley family is unclear, but, unless there was an intermediate owner, the next resident was Andrew McIntire. McIntire was born about 1788, and the first proof I can find of him in MCH is the 1820 census. He owned the property until his death, sometime between 1860 and 1868. In the 1860 census, McIntire is listed as a retired farmer, at what has to be this house. However, the head-of-household is James McDowell, who also seems to be listed as a tenant on the property in 1850 (McIntire resided then in Maryland). Although I can find no evidence to support this, my feeling is that McDowell's wife, Barbara (or something close to that), is McIntire's daughter. On the 1868 Beers map, the property is shown as "A. McIntire Est.", so Andrew must have passed soon before.
The next twenty years or so are a bit of a blank, as I can't tell if the McIntire family held on to the property, if McDowell purchased it, or if someone else bought the land. The next resident I know of for sure was the one responsible for the Victorian renovations to the old Hadley house. Harlan C. Dennison (1853-1898) was the son of Samuel Dennison, and grew up not far away on Limestone Road. In 1888 he married Hettie Springer, and the couple soon moved in to the old house. Who they bought it from, or even if Samuel Dennison maybe had already purchased it, is unclear. The Dennisons soon began updating their home, adding a pointed Gothic gable and a two and a half story addition, perpendicular to the main house. There were apparently two ells located on the rear of the main house (no idea when they were built) that the Dennisons also removed in the midst of their renovations. To commemorate the event, they placed a datestone on the front of the house, underneath the Gothic gable. The stone reads, "SRH 1717" and "HHD 1894", honoring Simon and Ruth Hadley's erection of the house, and Harlan and Hettie Dennison's renovations.
|Stone barn at Hadley-Dennison House|
Nearby to the house also stands a great stone and frame barn, which Harlan Dennison also added on to. Older parts of the barn date to at least 1830, but it's possible that part of it is older. It's unlikely that this is the actual barn in which Simon Hadley was killed, but it is probably in the same location and may incorporate parts from the Irishman's 18th Century structure. The 1830 section would seem to have been built by McIntire. Sadly though, with as much work as Harlan Dennison put into his home, he didn't get to enjoy it for very long. In 1898 he developed appendicitis, had surgery, and died from a resulting infection. I'm not sure what happened to the house after this, but Hettie Dennison and family (including her seamstress sister) did remain in the area. Whether they stayed in the house or moved to another home in Hockessin is unclear. Her daughter became a teacher and her son worked in a fiber mill (presumably in Yorklyn).
So far, the old house and barn have been able to escape the creeping suburbia around it. There is still over 150 acres surrounding Simon Hadley's old Messuage Plantation, giving us a feel for what it might have been like when one of the founders of Mill Creek Hundred worked the land here.