Mill Creek Hundred, like every region of Delaware (or anywhere else, for that matter), has had certain families who you would call the "movers and shakers". Around here, those would be clans like the Eastburns, Marshalls, Cranstons, Montgomerys, and others. But moving past these families, you find a lot of smaller families whose names may not be quite as familiar, but whose history in the area goes just as deep. One family that certainly fits this description is the Yearsleys, who for at least a century and a half (and maybe more) lived and worked along the northern end of Duncan Road, just south of Red Clay Creek Presbyterian, where many of them now lie. We're also lucky enough to have one of their homes, as well as the remains of another structure, still standing today.
Now, because the Yearsley family was never particularly large or high profile in the area, there is very little written about this part of their family. I have, however, been able to piece together a little of the Yearsley story in MCH. It began in the late 18th Century with Thomas Yearsley (1759-1809), whose Quaker great-grandfather had emigrated to Chester County, Pennsylvania about a century before. Sometime between 1787 and 1792, Thomas and his wife Jane arrived in MCH, and presumably settled in the area just below Rev. McKennan's church. They had several children, including Nathan Yearsley (1792-1862), the only child I can be sure remained in the area.
There is no record I can find stating whether Thomas did anything besides farming, but Nathan certainly did -- he was a blacksmith. Thomas Yearsley died when Nathan was only 17, and it seems likely that he then remained living in his father's house. I don't believe there is anything remaining of this house, but it was probably a log home built in the late 1780's. Not long after his father's passing, Nathan married Margaret McCoy (1795-1848), with whom he had six or seven children. Daughters Jane and Mary married and moved away. Son Nathan moved also, ending up eventually in Iowa. The three youngest sons, however, stayed in and around the family property on what is now Duncan Road, and at least two of them would follow in their father's professional footsteps.
The eldest remaining son, Samuel Yearsley (1827-1874), seems to be the one who managed the family farm, since in both the 1860 and 1870 censuses Samuel is listed as a farmer. I think it's also possible that he may have lived in the family home, if it was still standing. The family's property seems to have extended northward to Mill Creek Road, and maybe even over it, since there is a reference to Samuel selling two acres to Red Clay Creek church in the 1860's. I don't know if the church has ever owned any land south of Mill Creek Road.
The next son, James (1830-1860), did apprentice with his father and become a blacksmith. However, he died young, at age 30. Before his death, though, he may have been in business a few years with his younger brother, McCoy (1835-1900). Eventually, McCoy would become the patriarch of the Yearsleys in MCH. I think it's also probably his house that stands along Duncan Road today, now looking across at the Delcastle Recreation Area. I haven't had a chance to examine this house close-up, but county records indicate a construction date of 1870, and from the looks of it, that date seems to be in the right ballpark. As it so happens, in exactly that same year, McCoy Yearsley married Susan Naudain (1844-1910). McCoy was 35 at that point, so it would be reasonable that he would have enough money by then to build a nice, new house in which to start a family.
Duncan Rd - McKennan's Church Rd Area through the Years
As mentioned, I have not yet had a chance to examine the property closely, but there are definitely at least two other older structures on site, besides the house and the remains of the barn. In the rear, there is either an old carriage house, or possibly an open stable. More interestingly, next to the house is a smaller, long red building, mostly frame, but with a foundation of the same stone as the barn. This leads me to believe that this, too, is a 19th Century structure, and by my thinking, the logical function for it would have been as a blacksmith shop -- either McCoy's, or possibly Nathan's. These seem to be the only standing remnants of the multiple properties once owned by the family in the area.
As the maps above show, the Yearsleys owned several holdings through the years. The 1849 map shows only N(athan) Yearsley, and his "Smithy" next door. By 1868, the same property is listed as M(cCoy) Yearsley, with the "B S SH" (blacksmith shop) next to it. However, McCoy now owns a house on the other side of McKennan's Church Rd, opposite the end of Duncan Rd (about where Cranhill Dr is today). In 1881, that house is shown as "Mrs. Yearsley", presumably Susanna, Samuel's widow. And while McCoy still has the original property (presumably with the 1870 house on it), he also seems to have a house at the corner of Duncan and Faulkland Rds. On all the maps, there are shops (blacksmith and wheelwright) shown at this corner, which makes me wonder if McCoy purchased this property to expand his blacksmith business, which was fairly successful. (In 1880, for example, he was the highest grossing blacksmith in MCH, with an annual product valued at $1800.) By 1893, I think we get to see the name of the business, as the western property (formerly Mrs. Yearsley's) is shown as "Yearsley & Bro.". Presumably, this is McCoy's business, with the "Brother" being the long-since-passed James, with whom he may have started. There doesn't seem to be any other brother it could be, unless Samuel was a partner.
McCoy must have been fairly well-known at the time, as this 1893 legislation shows. It's an act to re-divide school districts in the Marshallton area, and defines the boundaries of the new districts. Since there weren't many official road names in rural areas yet, they were usually described by where they came from and went, or a major point along the way. Here (from the best I can tell), the road we know as Duncan Road/Newport Road is named as "The road leading from Newport to McCoy Yearsley's shops". So it seems his shop was generally known at the time, not surprising since his family had been there for over 100 years by then.
McCoy Yearsley's Certificate of Death, 1900
Sadly, as seen above, McCoy died only seven years later in a farm accident. He was buried at Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church, like many of his other family members. I don't have any good information about the later fate of the Yearsley properties, but it does seem that McCoy's son Frank did remain in the area, quite possibly farming the same land his great-grandfather did years before. On the 1930 census, Frank's daughter Ruth is listed as a public school teacher, possibly at the No. 33 Brandywine Springs school nearby on Duncan Road. Presumably, the property did eventually leave the family's hands. However, the name does still linger, as the residential streets surrounding the the old house are named Yearsley Drive and Yearsley Place. Just another example of how even a relatively small family, remaining in an area for generations, can have a lasting legacy, even if few are aware of it.