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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New MCH Nostalgia Page

This is something I had been thinking of doing for quite some time, but now the time seems right. Spurred on by a few recent comments and some fascinating emails, I've decided to launch the MCH Nostalgia Forum. It's a stand-alone page on the blog here (accessible from the tabs above), designed to be an outlet for stories and memories of a more recent nature than are usually covered on the blog. Here is what I put as a lead-in to the page (because yes, I am that lazy):

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church

White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church
 In the early days of Mill Creek Hundred, two religious groups played major roles in the development of the area -- the English Quakers and the predominantly Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. By the early 1720's, the latter group had established two bases of worship in the hundred -- Red Clay Creek Church in the east and White Clay in the west. Since I've been slowly posting pictures of headstones from the White Clay Creek cemetery, I thought it was a good time to look at this 300 year old congregation, currently in its fourth church and second location.

White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church sits on the north side of Kirkwood Highway, at the base of Polly Drummond Hill Road. Before it was known as Polly Drummond Hill, though, the high ground to the north was called Meeting House Hill. The meeting house for which it was named was not where the present church is, but about a mile up the road, on Old Coach Road (actually, it's on an old section of the road now called Coach Hill Drive). As early as 1708, residents near White Clay Creek petitioned the Presbytery to be allowed to set up their own meeting house, but the New Castle church objected, not wanting their congregation to be split.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The First Name of the First Town in MCH

Main Street in Stanton, courtesy Ken Copeland
 There are, of course, countless unknowns and mysteries surrounding many aspects of the history of Mill Creek Hundred. There are plenty of names, dates, and places that are either lost to time, or frustratingly unclear in the historical record. One of these mysteries though, in my mind stands out above the rest. It dates back to the very beginnings of MCH, and has been frustrating historians for at least 120-some years, and I would imagine probably a good bit longer than that. It has to do with the early history of the first community established in what would become Mill Creek Hundred -- Stanton. More specifically, it has to do with the origins of the odd-sounding name by which Stanton was known before it was renamed "Stanton".

It is well-documented in the historical record (and recently brought up by a commenter on another post) that in the 18th Century, the village near the confluence of the Red Clay and White Clay Creeks was known as "Cuckoldstown". Not surprisingly, this indelicate moniker has raised quite a few questions over the years, but no answers -- until now. After a surprisingly brief bit of research, I believe I have finally figured out where the name came from, and in the process discovered another surprising fact -- Cuckoldstown was not the village's original name. Now, after at least two and a quarter centuries, we can finally restore to MCH's first town, its first name.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

George A. Wolf -- Publisher and Artist

George A. Wolf postcard of the old Marshallton Mill
 I think anyone who does historical research would agree that one of the most enjoyable experiences associated with the task is when you run across a connection or a fact that makes you sit back and say, "Wow, I did not see that coming!" I had just such an experience recently while doing what I figured would be some quick, mostly fruitless research. It dealt with a man who wasn't born in, nor did he live in, Mill Creek Hundred, yet some of what we know of the area a century ago is because of him. He's probably not well-known to most these days, however some detail-oriented people who enjoy old pictures and postcards may be somewhat familiar with the name of George A. Wolf. His name is on many of the picture postcards of Wilmington and the surrounding area that date from the first decade of the 20th Century.

Because his name appears on many of the pictures I've seen of Wilmington and vicinity (especially Brandywine Springs Amusement Park, where he was the "official" publisher of postcards), I had always assumed that George A. Wolf was a photographer. The more I started to uncover, however, the more I realized that this was not the case. The key was the postcards, not necessarily the photographs on them. It turns out, Wolf was actually a publisher in Wilmington. "Publisher", though, doesn't quite cover all of it. He was also more of what I'd call a graphic artist, a fact we'll return to shortly.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Stanton "Covered" Bridge

The Stanton "Covered" Bridge
 It's understandable if the title of this post may be a bit confusing in a couple of different ways. First, you might be saying, "I've never heard of a covered bridge in Stanton." Secondly, you might be asking, "What's the deal with the quotes around "covered"?" As it so happens, both of these items are connected, and they led me on a journey to what I think is a very interesting lost bit of local history. Then, as a bonus, the answers I found helped me make sense of another picture that had kind of bugged me for a while now. And in the process, I was exposed to a type of structure that I didn't even know existed, let alone existed right here in our area.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The William Morgan Farm

The 1813 William Morgan House
 About two hundred yards north of Corner Ketch, straddling Doe Run Road, sits a beautiful matching set of a house and barn. The pair of two-century-old fieldstone structures (and a slightly newer frame one) make up the William Morgan Farm, and they're just another example of the quiet history sitting all around us here in Mill Creek Hundred.

The story begins, not surprisingly, with William Morgan, who purchased 235 acres of land north of Corner Ketch in 1797. The National Register of Historic Places (to which it was added in 1987 as part of a group of MCH sites) nomination form states that Morgan bought the land from an agent of the Penn family, although it seems a bit late for that to me. In any case, I've not been able to find very much definitive information about William Morgan. He probably came from Pennsylvania, since later on his daughter is listed as having been born there in 1777. There is a William Morgan, Revolutionary War veteran, buried in the Pencader Cemetery in Glasgow, but I don't know if this is the same person (the death date of 1833 is about right).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wilmington & Western's Summerfest 2011

If anyone happens to be in the area this coming Saturday, August 13, 2011, and is looking for something fun to do, the Wilmington & Western Railroad will be having its now-annual Summerfest. In addition to three trains running that day (all pulled by one of the WWRR's steam locomotives), there will be a number of other events and attractions taking place at the Greenbank Station on Newport Gap Pike, just down the hill from Kirkwood Highway.

Trains will depart from Greenbank at 10:30, 12:30, and 2:30, all headed for the Mt. Cuba Picnic Grove on the banks of the Red Clay Creek. After a half-hour layover at the picnic grove, the train will return to the station where there will be lots going on. For those of you who like to eat, there will be food available provided by Backyard Louie's BBQ, and ice cream from Woodside Farm Creamery. There will also be magicians and musicians roaming around, as well as facepainting for the kids.

But don't worry, us grown-ups won't be left out of the cool stuff, either. Stanley Steamers will be on display, courtesy of the Marshall Steam Museum at Auburn Heights. There will also be displays from the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, and antique fire equipment from Cranston Heights Fire Company. Plus, and this is in no way meant to be an "attraction", I'll be there working in the Historic Red Clay Valley Visitor's Center and Museum, located in the old W&W Yorklyn Station next to the main station. It should be a fun day, and with any luck we'll have some nice weather. So if you're interested, stop on by this Saturday!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The P W & B's Stanton Station

There are three main railroad lines that, historically, have serviced Mill Creek Hundred (or at least, close to it). All three are still in service today, although in different forms. The Wilmington & Western (now a tourist line) and the Baltimore & Ohio (currently the CSX freight line) are the relative newcomers to the area, having been built in the 1870's and 1880s. Decades before that, though, some of the first tracks in the state were laid just south of MCH (and technically, through a small part of it). This track, constructed in 1836-37, is now the Amtrak line that winds south from Claymont, through Wilmington, past Newport, Stanton, and Newark, and on through to Maryland. Thanks to a wonderful picture forwarded to me by local resident Ken Copeland, we have, to the best of my knowledge, the first glimpse of one of the local stations serving that line in the 1800's. I had known where the station was, but I had never seen a picture of it before.

To give just a quick backstory, the railroad that ran just south of White Clay Creek was known during the 19th Century as the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad (PW&B). It was formed in the early 1830's, originally consisting of four companies with connecting lines reaching from Philadelphia to Baltimore. The Delaware portion of the line was called the Wilmington and Susquehanna, but by early 1838 the separate companies had merged to form the PW&B. It's first president, Matthew Newkirk, was also the owner of the Brandywine Chalybeate Springs Hotel. He may even have bought the resort with the hope that his railroad would increase business, although it didn't really seem to.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Josiah G. Hulett

Josiah G. Hulett
 This is another one of those posts that I originally had no intention of writing, but I eventually was given and came across so much information -- and interesting information -- that now I feel I have to. This is very much related to the post about the Bailey family, and most of the information for it came from Jeanne Jackson Dell'Acqua, a descendant of both families (Josiah is her great-grandfather). She's been researching her ancestry for almost 30 years, and has found quite a bit of fascinating information, much of which directly relates to the history of Mill Creek Hundred. She's been kind enough to share her findings with us, and through them, will allow us here to get to know a little about a very interesting 19th Century resident of the hundred, Josiah G. Hulett.

Josiah Garrett Hulett was born on April 9, 1839 to William Hulett (1790-1850) and Martha Bailey Hulett (1805-1877). Martha was the sister of John and James Bailey, and the daughter of Amor Bailey. Although it's hard to pin down the exact location, census records hint that William Hulett's farm may have been on Yorklyn road, not far east of the Hockessin Friends Meeting House. William and Martha had five children before William's death in 1850. After his death, Martha was unable to keep the farm, having only small children. As many do, she turned to her family for help. The Huletts went then to live with Martha's brothers, the Baileys. They split between the brothers, and Josiah ended up with James Bailey. (Although to be fair, they were on neighboring farms, so the family wasn't actually very "split up". The arrangement was probably just more practical from a living space standpoint.)