|James Mendenhall's 1826 Mill|
The first place to start, I guess, is at the beginning of the Mendenhall story, and to state that I now know that it wasn't really the beginning. In the previous post, I had written that Aaron Mendenhall, Jr. (1729-1813) moved to Delaware about 1763, and settled first on a property known as Sugar Loaf Farm near Brandywine Springs. Then, about 20 years later, his son James A. Mendenhall (1763-1839) moved to the Mill Creek area and erected the first mill there. With the new information that I've found and was refocused to (thanks, Walt C.), I can now see that almost none of that is accurate. Contrary to what my wife thinks, I actually can admit when I'm wrong.
The biggest (and most confusing) piece of the puzzle comes from a DelDOT archaeological report that's mostly about the Stoney Batter/Mill Creek Road intersection to the south. If you scroll about halfway through this PDF, you come to 14 pages worth of deed information and chain-of-title. The data seems to deal with more than just the immediate intersection, and appears to encompass land all the way up to the Mendenhall Mill. (Wade through it at your
The land in question was first purchased from Lecitia (Penn) Aubrey in 1726 by William McMechen. In 1727 and 1729, McMechen sold parcels to William Emmitt, who in turn sold them in 1744 to John Buckingham. Up until this point, there seems to be no mention of any mill. However, when Buckingham sells in 1751 to Daniel Nichols, he sells 196 acres and part interest in a mill, mill house, dam, and race. I'm not sure if it's correct about the interest in the house, but I know it was not uncommon for mills at the time to be owned jointly by several residents. It's also not clear exactly where this mill was, or which is the house in question. It may be the house at the end of Mendenhall Mill Rd and a mill nearby, but we can't be sure.
It's only at this point in the story that the Mendenhall family makes it appearance, when in 1763 Aaron buys 196 acres and a grist mill from Nichols. The deed quoted here seems to imply that Aaron only had a quarter share of the mill, so he may have bought out the rest later. It also seems to state that John Buckingham (whose brother James was the founder of the Buckinghams in the Corner Ketch area) was the builder of the mill. Finally, it describes Aaron Mendenhall as being "of the same place", meaning Mill Creek Hundred, which would imply that he had already moved from Pennsylvania.
Although it's hard to follow, the Mendenhalls spent the next 60 years or so expanding their holdings in the area. I don't want to get too into the details at this point, except to tease that there is at least one other extant house whose past can be partly traced through this, and which I'll get to in another post sometime. The last early point I want to clear up is Sugar Loaf Farm. This house, north of Faulkland Road near Brandywine Springs, was owned by a Mendenhall, but probably not by Aaron. It was Aaron's third son, Abraham, who moved here, possibly around 1814 when he sold 49 acres on Mill Creek to his brother John. Again, I'll get into more details when we someday focus on Sugar Loaf Farm and its history.
Finally, to wrap up this post of corrections and additions, a few notes about the mill itself. The mill in the picture above was built by James Mendenhall in 1826, presumably to replace the earlier, mid-18th Century mill. The two semicircles visible (one over the door, one near the gable) were apparently halves of a millstone. The upper one had the date of 1826 and the initials "JM"; it's possible that they came out of John Buckingham's 1740's mill. As for the new information I found, the first piece corroborates what "Stephen" had written in the comments on the last post. Indeed, grinding was done on the second floor of the mill, while logs were cut on the lower floor. Logs and grain weren't the only things processed here, either -- at some point, the Mendenhalls used it to press cider in the autumns, after the grain harvest had all been ground.
Mendenhall men operated the mill until 1898, when it was leased to Elmer Malin, Sr., who did custom work until 1911. William Taylor did occasional work by special request for about another decade after that. For the next half century, the old mill stood idle, until being torn down in 1970.
I hope this post has done more to clear things up than to muddy the waters. With the scarcity and dubious nature of some of the information available about historic Mill Creek Hundred, errors like this are almost inevitable. As I've always said, if anyone ever has any information contradicting anything I write, please let me know. Whether someone else points it out to me or if I stumble across it myself, I'll always try my best to correct any errors I find. There's always new information out there to find -- just one of the things that makes this journey so enjoyable.