Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Dixon-Wilson House

I think it's been a while since we've been in the Hockessin area, so I thought we'd take a quick look at one of Mill Creek Hundred's historic houses hiding in Hockessin (also, it seems to be Alliteration Day). Sitting on the north side of Valley Road, about half way between Limestone Road and Lancaster Pike, is the Dixon-Wilson House, one of the oldest in the area. Sometimes, I think, people tend to think of Hockessin as a bit of a newer area, relatively speaking. There is some truth to this, since Hockessin as an organized town didn't really take off until later in the 19th Century, well behind such earlier centers as Stanton, Marshallton, Milltown, or Brackenville. It got its economic steam from the kaolin mining industry, and has even been likened to a western boom town in the late 1800's. However, the roots of settlement in the area go back much further, back to the beginnings of English occupation of what would be Mill Creek Hundred.

One of the original families to settle in the Hockessin area was the Dixons, who purchased a large tract from the Penns around 1730. The family consisted of a widow, and her four sons. One of the sons, Henry, built a home along what's now Lancaster Pike. His brother, John Dixon (1702-1740), received a portion of the homestead a bit farther west, and built his own home on Valley Road. Although it appears to have been added to extensively over the years, Dixon's house still stands. It's quite possible that the inscription on the datestone -- "I & J Dixon - 1732" -- reflects the construction date of the earliest section. The "I" in the inscription refers to John's son Isaac, to whom the house went after John Dixon's untimely death.

Isaac Dixon (1722?-1766) lived in the house and worked the surrounding land until his own passing in 1766, when the family home came to his son John. The Dixons of this era seem to have been cursed, either by genetics or by fate, as John also died young, leaving the estate to his only son, Isaac (1779-?). (Yes, they seemed to really like those names.) The next to own the land and home was Isaac's eldest son, Jesher H. Dixon (1800 -1871). It was during Jesher's tenure that the house passed out of Dixon hands, and into the possession of another family that was busy buying up land from some of the original families. After receiving his education both in Hockessin and in Wilmington, Jesher left his ancestral home and built his own in 1832. His house, located just to the north on Southwood Road, still stands as well. In addition to farming, Jesher H. Dixon was involved in politics, serving a term in the State House of Representatives, as well as being a commissioner for the county Levy Court.

There seems to be some confusion as to when exactly John Dixon's old home was sold. In Hockessin: A Pictorial History, Joseph Lake gives the date as 1860 (unless I'm misunderstanding -- always a possibility). However, the 1849 Rea and Price map clearly shows the house as already belonging to J. Wilson. Again, unless I'm confusing houses in Lake's narrative, I believe the Dixon house was not purchased by Stephen Wilson in 1860, but by Jonathan Wilson (1798-1850) sometime prior to 1849, possibly much earlier if Jesher Dixon sold it to build his own home. The Wilsons were not newcomers to the area -- they were descended from Christopher Wilson, who first settled in the area in 1718, and helped found the Hockessin Friends Meeting. Jonathan was his great-grandson, and was part of  a drive by the Wilsons in the first half of the 1800's to buy up much of the land formerly owned by the Dixons and Springers.

While the 1849 map shows Jonathan as the owner, the 1850 census, taken after his death in February of that year, shows his widow Sarah living in the house with five of their children. One of those children, Ephraim Wilson (1836-1879), would be its next owner. Sometime in the 1860's, Sarah moved to a nearby house, likely the other "E.W." house on Valley Rd on the 1868 map. After the 1879 death of Ephraim, who had served as the clerk for Hockessin's school district (#29), it appears that his widow Mary sold the house, as she and their three children were living in Wilmington in 1880. It may have taken a while to sell the house, since an 1881 map lists the property as "Est. of E. Wilson".

I've yet to figure out what happen to the house after that, since I don't have that section of the 1893 map, and the 1880 census is almost illegible. Even if this home left the Wilson family, the family did not leave the area. The original Wilson house (which I'm sure will be a topic one day), built in 1741, still stands just to the south and was still in the Wilson family at least into the 1970's. It, like the Dixon-Wilson House, is just one of the many hidden treasures that testify to Hockessin's long and storied history.

8 comments:

  1. Where Can I find this house? Exact address please.

    Thank you.

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  2. I don't have the exact address, but if you're coming from Lancaster Pike on Valley Road, it's about 1/4 mile past Evenson Rd on the right. The picture above is an old one. Now, there are trees pretty much blocking the view from the road.

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  3. Are there two stone posts at the driveway end with a mason sign?

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  4. There might be. I haven't been by there paying attention for a while, but one of the aerial pictures looks like there are two little "entrance walls" or posts of some sort there.

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  5. The posts are new and were recently put up, if that is the same house. I can't find it without an address or other details. I would like to take a look.

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  6. I would like to see this house. Can you give more information where I can locate it?

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  7. I'm not sure what you mean by "see this house". It's a private residence, and because of that I'd prefer not to post the address. I'm not sure how much you can see from the road, but there are directions posted above. If you want more detailed info, feel free to email me directly at the address on the "About" page. Thank you.

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  8. There is only one house on Valley Rd with that rare roof line. It's pretty easy to spot.

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