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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.

From the available evidence, it seems that Henry's home (and maybe the original home of William Brackin) was on the north side of Stoney Batter Road, just west of Middleton Drive. Although Henry had eight children, it seems that the line we're interested in came from his brother William, who lived somewhere nearby. William and his wife, Sarah, had a son named John Brackin (1758-1792). John lived on and worked a farm on Limestone Road -- where, I don't know. He served as a private in the Revolutionary War, and came to an untimely end in a farm accident in 1792. Before passing, though, he and wife Elizabeth had several children, including sons Benjamin and William. Benjamin (1790-1862) later moved to Wilmington, where, among other things, he ran the Washington House Hotel for a time.

John's other son, William Brackin (1788-1859), is the one who finally ties us into Brackinville. In 1809, William purchased a farm north and east of his family's holdings, along the road running from Wilmington to Lancaster. He farmed his new land for almost ten years until he entered into another venture, which he would run for the remainder of his life. (He also served as a private in the War of 1812 during those years.)  In 1818, spurred by the opening of the Wilmington Turnpike (today's Lancaster Pike) the same year, William Brackin open a hotel which he named the "Peace and Plenty". The hotel stood on the northwest corner of   Old Lancaster Pike and Brackenville Road, and was torn down sometime before 1937. It's interesting to speculate as to whether or not this was Brackin's plan from the start. The Wilmington Turnpike Company was formed in 1809, the same year Brackin bought his new property. Also, there was a John Bracken who ran the Mermaid Tavern around 1800, so he may have been exposed to the idea then. (This John Bracken was not his father, but might have been his uncle, the son of Henry, Jr.)

As happened around the Mermaid (and countless other taverns/inns/hotels), several other businesses and a small community sprung up. A wheelwright shop and a blacksmith shop were built on the south side of Brackenville Road, to service the wagons and horses passing by on the turnpike and lodging at the hotel. Cattycorner from the hotel stands the only complete structure remaining -- the house of Thomas J. Chandler. I don't know more about this house at this time, except that Chandler lived there for many years and was the father of Dr. Swithin Chandler. Also, there was an Odd Fellows Hall that stood just north of the intersection. (Here is the official incorporation of the lodge, then located at the Peace and Plenty.) In fact, the Hockessin Methodist Church first met in the wheelwrights shop in 1881, then moved for a short time to the Odd Fellows Hall, before building their own church in 1883. (However, the church's website says they first met in the blacksmith's shop, then moved to the hotel. The picture they have is of the Chandler house, not the hotel.)

Headstone of William Brackin and son Richard. St. James Church
William Brackin ran his hotel first with his wife Mary (nee Mendenhall), with whom he had eight children before her death in 1837. Nine years later, he remarried to Bethia Russell (1813-1886), with whom he had another four children. After William's death in 1859, Bethia continued to operate the hotel (at some point renamed "Brackin's Hotel") until 1876. By that point, the railroads had taken much of the traffic from the old turnpikes, and Mrs. Brackin likely would have had trouble staying in business. The family remained in the house, with her son Newton farming the land. The ruins shown above are most likely the barn (or perhaps a stable) he would have used, and may have been built by William soon after his move. The wheelwright and blacksmith shops likely closed when the hotel did, or soon after. Eventually, Lancaster Pike was even rerouted around the intersection, leaving it even quieter. By then, the hamlet of Brackenville had faded into history, like so many of Mill Creek Hundred's forgotten communities.

* I'll say up front that this post may seem a little disjointed, and in fact, it took me a while to decide how to write it. I started by researching the Bracken family, which turned out to be fruitful, and difficult. Fruitful in that I found a lot of information, difficult because of the family. First, the name is spelled in various places as, Bracken, Brackin, Brochon, Brachen, or several other variations. The most common spelling ended up being Bracken, but since Henry Jr. and his family used the Brackin spelling, so have I. Second, the family really liked a small handfull of names, like William, Henry, and John. It makes it hard sometimes to keep the different lines separated. Since I had just done the Justis family post, I hesitated to center this one solely on the family again. However, there isn't much information about the hotel or the community, either. So, I decided to do it as a "Forgotten Community" post, but using much of the Brackin family history I found. Frankly, I just didn't want to waste it.


  1. Hi Scott, we meet again. I have a Hannah Brackin in my tree who was married to Joseph Ball, parents of Hannah Ball, which you should recognize, who married Peter Springer. I am guessing Hannah fits in to this family also, just not sure how yet. She was born in 1739 and died in 1816. She was my 5th gr. grandmother.

  2. Hi John, If I understand correctly, and you are looking for the parents of Hannah Brackin, I have her as the daughter of Henry Brackin and Susannah (who may be a Yarnall). The William Brackin who is featured in this post was the great grandson of Henry and Susannah. Donna P

  3. Yes I have a Susannah Davis married Henry. Thanks!

  4. Looks like a developer has submitted a request to tear down the remains of the barn:

  5. Thanks for the link, Bill. I guess we should have seen that coming, and frankly, I'm surprised it's even still there. With the rest of the property gone, I'm afraid its days were numbered.

    On a related note, at some point I need to get back to this area, because there seems to be some confusion (possibly mine) about this intersection, and exactly what was where. Some sources put the hotel not where I thought it was.

  6. I drove past the site of the old barn last night and was saddened to see that the demolition has been completed. Another piece of our past has been lost forever.

    1. Thanks for the update, Bill.

    2. I was driving to work when they were tearing it down, but the next day I saw they didn't completely level it! They brought it down to about 3' high to be used in that horribly ugly house's landscaping. They even built a little wall in the middle with the keystone. It's better than nothing I guess.

    3. Last time I was by there I thought it'd been torn down completely. Honestly never would've guessed that bit of landscaping was the barn.

  7. Scott, just discovered my connection to the Bracken's..I am using this spelling. Thanks for all your research and info...It adds to my family tree. I have chatted with you before about my Mom's family The Graves...of Graves' Road in Hockessin.
    I just discovered going back :
    William Bracken

    "B:9 Sep 1671 in Meilling, Nester, Lancashire, England
    D:28 Dec 1749 in Wilmington, New Castle, Delaware, USA

    He settled at Delaware 1703 from England. He was the first Bracken in America and reached Philadelphia on 25 August 1699 by the ship Britannia from Liverpool,England. He settled near the present town of Brackenville, Delaware.

    From latest back......

    Mom, Ruth Graves via the Graves name (Greave)
    Delbert Graves
    Lemuel M Graves
    William F Graves
    William Graves
    Samuel Graves
    John Graves
    SamuelGraves married Eliz Bishop: her parents are John Bishop and Eliz Jordaine
    Eliz Jordaine's parents are James Jordaine and Hannah Bracken
    Hannah Bracken's parents are William Bracken and Hannah Booker
    William Bracken's parents are Thomas Bracken and Margaret Bleadsdale
    and Thomas Bracken's parents are Robert Bracken and Margaret Relmshen (from Lancashire, England)

    The Bracken's moved here in the 1700's on the road near our home, Brackenville Road....once again our family line!!!! Right up the road from where we grew up. Now we know of 2 roads in our family line: Graves and Brackenville. We are also related by marriages to the Chandlers, Hollingsworths, Woodwards and the Mendenhalls and the Klairs."

    In quotes is what I wrote to my family.
    Thanks for the picture of the grave stone and location!

    Thanks for the great website! Donna Beverin

  8. Thanks for the information William Bracken and Mary Mendenhall were my 3rd great grandparents.

    1. Hello..William brackin is my 6th great grandfather...this article is so exciting for me to discover !! #brackinville

    2. I'm glad you found us here. It's always great to hear from actual descendants of the people I write about. Odd as it might sound, but it's sometimes easy to forget that these are not just names in old history books, but real people with real families still around. Thanks for stopping by!!

  9. I worked with Byard Bracken who lived in the house with his mother...this was in the '70's. I believe he died.

  10. Hi Scott
    Greetings from the UK and many thanks for such an interesting and informative article. William Thomas Bracken b. 1671 is my 7th great grandfather and was born in Salter, Lancashire and baptised within the parish of Melling on 9th September 1671. He married Hannah Booker at Slaidburn in Lancashire on 26th January 1692. My line extends through William's son Thomas William Bracken b.1695 in Clapham, Lancashire who sailed with his father, mother and brother John b.1697 from Liverpool to Philadelphia on the Quaker ship Britannia in the summer of 1699.
    Thomas Bracken married Martha Green daughter of Edward Green and they are believed to have had eight children, one of whom was certainly Hannah (my 5th great grandmother). Hannah Bracken married Nicholas Bishop the brother of John Bishop the inheritor of John Bishop House on Barley Mill Road MCH (the subject of another fascinating article on this site).
    If anyone has more information on the connections or relationships between the Brackens and the Bishops in MCH around this time I would be very interested to hear from them.
    Nicholas and Hannah Bishop removed from the Delaware area I believe around 1765 and took the Great Wagon Road to the Carolinas eventually settling in Chester District, SC. Their son John states in his Revolutionary War pension application "I had it from my Parents, that I was Born in the City of Philadelphia, & was brought to South Carolina when a suckling child I suppose I was Born about the year 1763 or '4"

  11. My 12th great grandfather is William Brackin 1528-1602.

  12. Hello,
    I accurately trace my family line back to the civil war era when my great, great grandfather, John Brackin, acquired what became the family farm near Jennersville, Chester County, PA.
    My cousin and I have been working on any gaps we may have working back to our family's arrival in America in 1699.