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.

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.

28 comments:

  1. Where exactly is this house located? Is it on Limestone Rd. between Little Baltimore Rd and 72?

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  2. West of Limestone Road, north of Little Baltimore. If you go to the "Map of Historic Sites" page (tab at the top of this page), there is a blue "pushpin" on it. It's basically due north of the Little Baltimore Rd - Valley/North Star Rd intersection.

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  3. Mrs. Dennison raised an Afro-American 'son' who became a kaolin engineer for the Peach Kaolin Company. Do you have information about him. His name was Ambrose Reed, became an kaolin engineer in 1895. Where did he come from and where did he go?

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  4. I did not know anything about Ambrose Reed, but I did find a little. This is all just from quick census searches, but looks like he was born about 1878, maybe to an Ambrose and Annie Reed. Possible Ambrose was middle name, William was first. Lived near Limestone Rd. In 1900, lived with Abraham Dennison and his sister, Elizabeth Moore. Not positive, but they may have lived on Limestone Rd, just south of Paper Mill. Abraham may have been a cousin of Hrlan's.

    Ambrose married Emma Massey 2/20/1902 (John Peach signed as a witness), and by 1910 had 3 kids -- Elwood (7), Jerry (or Jerral) (5), and William (3). Listed as laborer in clay yard. 1920 lived in Wilmington as a boarder on Taylor St (I think) on the East side. Looks like worked in "boat yard", so maybe Pusey and Jones? Family not living at same place.

    Not sure what happened to him. Found death cert for an Ambrose Reed in 1926, but had birth date as 1884, but worked for Pusey and Jones. So, I don't know. BTW, the Peach Kaolin Co and John Peach (who Ambrose obviously worked for) are mentioned in the post about the McDaniel-Peach House from last October.


    Thanks for the search, and if you're interested in Mr. Reed or have a connection to him and want more infor, feel free to email me. mchhistory@verizon.net

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. Anonymous -- I apologize for removing your comment, but I'd prefer to stay away from posting people's actual addresses. That being said, yes, I think the address you put up is the correct one. I haven't been by that way in a while, so I'm not sure if you can see the house from Limestone Road.

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  7. Thank you very much for this posting. Simon Hadley was my wife's 7th Great-Grandfather.

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  8. You're welcome, Ed. The Hadley name is not one that's big in the area anymore, and I'd wager most people have never heard of him (I hadn't until I researched this). But, Simon Hadley could easily be called one of the Founding Fathers of Mill Creek Hundred, and certainly the Hockessin area. I always love hearing about descendants of these men and women so important to our local history. Thanks for commenting!

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  9. I am a decedent of Simon Hadley. My daughter and I are planning a trip from Texas to the North East and this is one of the sites I hope to see. We will be coming back home one day before our annual Hadley reunion in October.

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  10. Thank you for posting this as well Scott P. I am also a direct descendant of the Simon Hadley II. My family has gone through great lengths to research our lineage. I've gathered quite a bit from my uncle and am picking up the research where he left off. I think you and I may be able to clue each other in on some things if you would at all be interested. I know you have filled in a few key pieces for me and I would like to know where you obtained some of your information. If you would like to discuss things please email me at the1kidd03@yahoo.com

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  11. My grandmother, Vera Hadley, 1916-2010, told me we descended from Simon, and she and my grandfather, Lawrence "Ted" Cutler, had visited the Hadley house in the past.

    My wife and children and I visited the area in 2001 on a vacation. We were towing a camper-trailer and looking for the New Garden Friends meeting house, as Grandma told us someone around there could point us to the old house. We did, indeed, locate someone who wondered if we were the Indiana Hadleys, who seemed to come around a lot. We were the Iowa Hadleys, of which there seem to be few (but that's a different story). Anyway, we drove up the driveway to the house in spite of a "No Trespassing" sign with our camper and all. Clearly the home was still occupied, and we felt too nervous to approach the occupants, so we left. The area was picturesque, though surrounded by suburbia. An asphalt paved drive led up to the building site.

    Thank you for posting this history. I will dig through my grandmothers things to figure out if there is more about Simon to add, if you are interested.

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  12. Thanks for the story, Jim. It does seem like Simon's descendants have done a good job of spreading out. And yes, if you can find anything interesting about him that doesn't seem to be available via a quick Google search, send it on!

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  13. Jim Cutler,
    I was the one who posted on July 9th. I am of the Indiana Hadleys. Our line has gone to some lengths to keep track of our heritage. I am familiar with the Iowa Hadley's in that the ones who migrated there are distant cousins of ours if I remember correctly. Our ancestors were siblings. I'll have to go through my records again to clarify the details but I distinctly remember this because it was the only two out of history to move that far west which we have record of. When I get a chance to find those records again, I'll post back here. I'd love to find out who of the Indiana Hadleys has been visiting the site. My wife and I are planning to as well one day.

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  14. Hi, my name is Kris Jackson, and you have touched on some of my family history. I am, right now, at a bit of brick wall, but I can tell you about the James McDowell that lived there in the 1860s. He is my 3x great grandfather. He was born in 1803, and the censuses vary with whether it was in PA or DE. His wife was Hannah Harper. (She had a sister named Ann that lived with them through the years.) Throughout the years, James and Hannah lived in both DE and PA - New Londer, Chester Co, PA, is where they seem to have spent the 1850s and early 1860s. They are buried in the London Tract Baptist Cemetery in Chester. James' father, James, who appears on the 1850 census at 75 years old, appears to have been born in Ireland in 1775, but I am darned if I can find anything about him. From the looks of it, he seems to have been in the Mill Creek Hundred in the 40s - or so the census would have me believe. http://interactive.ancestry.com/8057/4411331_00513/1589661?backurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.com%2fcgi-bin%2fsse.dll%3fdb%3d1840usfedcenancestry%26h%3d1589661%26ti%3d0%26indiv%3dtry%26gss%3dpt%26ssrc%3dpt_t24260614_p1699695475_kpidz0q3d1699695475z0q26pgz0q3d32768z0q26pgplz0q3dpid&ssrc=pt_t24260614_p1699695475_kpidz0q3d1699695475z0q26pgz0q3d32768z0q26pgplz0q3dpid&backlabel=ReturnRecord#?imageId=4411331_00513
    It's a bit of a challenge with these guys migrating back and forth over the PA/DE line!!! I'm heading up to Chester on Thursday to search the London Tract Cemetery to see if I can find the elder James. Wish me luck!
    If you can push me in a general direction, I would be MOST appreciative. I have been searching wills and other documents, some of which are available online, but am really running into a bit of a sand pit. There are THOUSANDS of McDowells in DE, and we seem to be related to very few of them!!!

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  15. So sorry! In my previous signature, I gave the link to the wrong James McDowell:
    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/24260614/person/12518349555
    That's the one on MY tree.

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  16. Simon Hadley is my 6th great grandfather through my mother's Quaker Sutherland Lineage.

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  17. Thank you so much for this information and beautiful photos. 7th Great Granddaughter

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  18. I am a Hadley from Kentucky and I have done a DNA test that takes me back to Simon Hadley. I am planning a trip to PA and would like to go see Simon Hadley's house and barn. Does anyone know if the current owners allow visitors? I would certainly not want to get there and then be ran off. Thanks in advance for your help.

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  19. It turns out that I am a descendent of Simon as well, by way of the Curl family, also Quakers, who drifted down to North Carolina and, eventually, Mississippi. I'm getting an idea of a spring trip I will take from Long Island this year.

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  20. Simon Hadley is my husband's 6th great grandfather. Daughter Hannah Hadley married a Stansfield . Their son Thomas Stansfield had a daughter Phebe Stansfield who married a Sutherland in Logan County, Ohio. Excellent article.

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  22. Simon is my 7th great grandfather. I am related to him by his son Joshua and grandson Thomas.

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  23. Jane Hinson MackieMay 3, 2017 at 10:50 PM

    Simon Hadley was my husband's 7th great-grandfather through Simon's son Joshua and grandson, Simon that moved to NC. If we had a reunion, there would be a lot of people there! I am still a Quaker and I go to Meeting in PA. I stumbled on this blog when looking for day trips to take.

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  24. Simon is my 6th great grandfather through Joshua, Thomas and Simon.

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  26. So glad to find this. I'm a descendant of Simon on my mother's side through his son Joshua.

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  27. We are also direct descendent of Simon and are living in TX. We are the daughters of Donald Hadley. I'd love to know your lineage! Let me know if you'd like to share emails and family lines.
    Thank you!
    Erin Hadley Kincaid

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  28. I too am a descendant if Simon. I hope to make the trip with my dad very soon. I’m so excited. We go Simon,Joshua, Joseph, Jacob, Simon, Ira, Floyd,Ira and Steve. This is so awesome!!!

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