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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Abel Jeanes -- A Strong and Complicated Man

Abel Jeanes' 1880 Death Certificate
A couple months back, I wrote a few posts dealing the the Eastburn-Jeanes Lime Kiln District. In the first of these posts, I indicated that at the time, I did not have very much detailed information about Abel Jeanes, one of the founders of the business there. I did actually have one more piece of information, but decided not to include it in the post (I will include it here). In fact, I didn't even know exactly when Jeanes died, so I assumed that he had died in the early 1840's, around the time that Joseph Eastburn took possession of Jeanes' home. (Joseph, if you'll recall, was the son of David Eastburn, Jeanes' brother-in-law and business partner.) This assumption, I've now found out, was incorrect. Thanks to some excellent research done local resident (and feeder of fascinating information to this blog) Donna Peters, we can begin to piece together the complicated picture of Abel Jeanes. (Incidentally, the reason for Donna's interest in the subject? David and Elizabeth Eastburn are her 4th-Great Grandparents, making Abel Jeanes her 4th-Great Uncle.)

Abel Jeanes (1795-1880) was born in Plymouth Meeting, PA, to Joseph and Mary Jeanes,  the youngest of 12 children. It's still not exactly clear when he bought his property along Pike Creek, but Jeanes did later give 1816 as the beginning date for his lime business. Three years later he married Priscilla Brackin (1801-1893), the daughter of William and Elizabeth (Evans) Brackin. (Priscilla was the cousin of the William Brackin who ran the Peace and Plenty hotel, and was the niece of the brilliant, but ahead-of-his-time, inventor Oliver Evans.) Abel and Priscilla had four children: Elizabeth, Mary, Priscilla, and Joseph. We'll leave his personal life for a while, though, and take a look at a few interesting tidbits relating to Jeanes' business ventures.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Johnson-Morris House, Part 2

The house during the Larson years, 1921-1937
 In the last post, we traced the history of the Johnson-Morris House property (Mill Creek Hundred's newest National Register entry) from the Wollaston family through the Johnsons, ending with Samuel Johnson having the land seized in 1843 to pay off a debt incurred by his father-in-law, Simon Cranston. The property next went through the hands of two absentee landlords, who leased the farm to tenants during their ownerships. In 1843, the land was purchased by Samuel Barr, a coal dealer from Wilmington. It is his name that is shown by the two houses on the 1849 Rea and Price map. Ten years later, Barr sold the tract to a dentist from Philadelphia, Thomas Pedrick.

Pedrick owned the house for only two years, and in 1855 sold the property to John Ridgway (1803-1875). Ridgway, along with his wife Sarah, daughter Sarah, and sons David and James moved to Delaware from New Jersey. (Well, if they didn't move directly here, they were at least likely living in NJ in 1850, since daughter Sarah was born there.) Since the addition of the one-room, two-bay extension to the west wall soon after construction, it seems no major changes had been made to the house or the property. Since the two absentee owners probably did not add anything new, it's likely that the next addition to the property was erected by John Ridgway. Just north of the house (behind it), Ridgway erected a two-bay wagon shed. This, like much of the property, would be modified by a later owner.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Johnson-Morris House

Original section of the Johnson-Morris House
 Those of you who have read a few pieces on this site may have noticed that I usually attempt to weave some sort of story into my posts, or to put the subject into some sort of context. Rather than simply listing the facts about a house, I try (to the best of my middling ability and understanding) to explain why a site is significant, or how it fits into the larger story of the region. With the subject of this (and the next) post, the Johnson-Morris House on Upper Pike Creek Road, this task is pretty easy. Not only is it tied in with several prominent families, it also neatly follows several larger trends of the past few centuries, and is connected to possibly the earliest (European) settler and one of the earliest milling sites in this part of Delaware. Oh -- and it also happens to be Mill Creek Hundred's newest listing on the National Register of Historic Places. (Here is a link to the nomination form.)

The story of the Johnson-Morris House begins with neither Johnson nor Morris -- it starts some 50 years before the first of this line of Johnsons emigrated to America. In 1664, the Dutch controlled the Delaware River Valley (the recently conquered New Sweden), as well as what is now New Jersey and southern New York. This happened to conflict with the new English policy of controlling all of North America, so to "rectify" the situation, the English sent a fleet of ships and a small army. They first took New Amsterdam (renamed New York), then sent a detachment to do the same down here. When the English took the fort at New Amstel (New Castle), one the soldiers involved was a man named Thomas Wollaston. This Thomas Wollaston, according to Scharf, was "probably the earliest settler in what is now Mill Creek Hundred."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Forgotten Communities -- Brackinville

Possible Ruins of William Brackin's Barn
 * If anyone happens to be interested, there are a few notes at the bottom of this post that might help to explain it a bit.

As was mentioned in the first of these posts (about Loveville), Mill Creek Hundred, like most of Delaware (or at least, New Castle County), does not have a lot of officially recognized communities, like towns, townships, or boroughs. Instead, there have been a few "larger" groupings -- like Stanton, Marshallton, and Hockessin -- and a lot of smaller communities, most lost to time in all but name. These small hamlets usually grew up around a mill or factory, a crossroads, or, like Brackinville, a tavern or hotel. This particular hotel, of course, was operated by the Brackins for almost 50 years. During its lifespan several other related buildings and several homes sprung up in the area, enough that the area was referred to as "Brackinville". Now, all that's left of this quiet little hamlet (besides the road of the same name) is one house and the remains of a barn.

You can't talk about Brackinville without first talking about the Brackin family (or at least, I'm not going to. see * below). The first of the Brackins to come to America was William Brackin (1671-1749), who arrived in Philadelphia in 1699. He soon settled in MCH, records indicating he was in the area by at least July 1702. Of the seven adult children William and his wife Hannah raised, most ended up moving out of the area. One went to York County, PA, but most moved to North Carolina, apparently to the same area as the Hadleys and Dixons. Of the three sons, the only one who remained in MCH was Henry (1704-1779), who had at least two sons of his own, William (?-1792) and Henry (?-1813). In the 1804 tax assessment, a Henry Brackin is listed as having a grist and saw mill. This is likely Henry, Jr., grandson of the first William.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Powell M. Ford

Powell Ford's 1946 marriage certificate
 I think this is a first here on this site -- a post that grew directly out of a discussion in comments of another post. In the post about the Kiamensi Woolen Mill, a series of comments ended up on the subject of Powell Ford. The county park that bears his name is (more or less) across Kiamensi Road from the old mill site, and a large old house that has some sort of connection to the mill also may or may not be associated with him. With some help from readers Bill Harris and Donna Peters, I was able to tack down a little information about Mr. Powell, but I haven't quite found the answers to a few of our questions. Here, though, is a quick rundown of what I was able to find.

Powell Miller Ford was born in Church Hill, MD on March 24, 1888, the son of Merrit and Hester Ford. The elder Mr. Ford was originally from Delaware, and was living in Kenton, DE in 1880. By the 1900 census, the Ford family was living in Galena, MD, also on the Eastern Shore and not far north of Church Hill. In 1910, the 22 year old and newly married (to Mary Clair) Ford was living in Baltimore and working as a book keeper for a meat business. Sometime in the following ten years, Mr. and Mrs. Powell Ford, along with their first son Arthur, born about 1912, moved to Marshallton. In the 1920 census Ford's occupation is listed as an accountant with a manufacturing company. Assuming that he moved to Marshallton for his job, that probably means he worker for one of the two large manufactories in the area -- the Kiamensi Woolen Company or the Delaware Hard Fibre Company (I think that's what it was called at the time). It's possible that he may have worked for Kiamensi Woolen during their last few years, but I think the higher probability is that he worked for the fiber mill (previously the Marshallton Rolling mill, later Ametek and Haveg).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Justis Family in Mill Creek Hundred, Part II

Justa Justis' grave, St. James Church
 In the first part of this post, we traced the Justis family all the way from the immigrant soldier/farmer Johan Gustafsson, who arrived in 1642, through his grandson Gustaf Gustafsson, Jr. (Justa Justis) who first moved to Mill Creek Hundred, down to his grandson Jacob Justis. As I wrote in that post, my feeling is that Jacob's home, and probably that of his father and grandfather, was located just south of The Cedars neighborhood on Newport Gap Pike. After Jacob died in 1802, his land was divided between his three sons -- Joseph, Justa, and David. This generation had a very visible impact on our corner of Delaware, but the genesis of that impact may have lain in another, somewhat enigmatic, member of the Justis clan.

Whether or not any of the other local Justises had worked as builders or carpenters before is unclear, but the first local builder in the Justis family that we're aware of was Thomas Justis (c.1770-1841). He was briefly profiled in the post dealing with his house on Milltown Road, and frustratingly enough, even with all the information about the family out there, there doesn't seem to be anything stating what exactly Thomas' relationship to the other Justises is. From his age, he seems to be of the same generation as Jacob, but he doesn't seem to be a brother -- maybe a cousin? Since I can't find him mentioned by name in any Justis family history, my hunch is that maybe "Thomas" was not his given name. Perhaps it was a middle name that he adopted as an adult. Whatever his connection was, he was certainly close to Jacob's family. Thomas is mentioned in several court documents, business dealings, and wills relating to Jacob and his family. Not the least of these is a mention in Jacob's will of a payment to him for "schooling of David, a minor child".

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Justis Family in Mill Creek Hundred, Part I

 Recently, I wrote a post (The Hadley-Dennison House) that featured the Hadley family, some of the first English-speaking settlers in Mill Creek Hundred. But as you're probably aware, the actual first Europeans to settle in what would become Delaware were not English-speaking. Aside from the short-lived Dutch Zwaanendael colony near Lewes, the first European residents of the First State were Swedes (and a few Finns) who arrived in 1638. They set up a fort and settlement called Fort Christina near "The Rocks" in Wilmington, as well as a number of others in the Delaware River Valley. They held control over the region for less than 20 years, before being ousted by the Dutch, who were overtaken themselves by the English just a few years later. Even though New Sweden was a thing of the past, many of the original Swedish families remained in the region and prospered under their conquerors. One of the most prominent of the early Swedish families was the Justises. When, in the early 1800's, several members of that family became the preeminent builders in eastern MCH, their family had already been in the New World for well over 150 years.