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).

For the first 16 years of their residency at the site, Morgan and his family lived in a log house (possibly built by Morgan himself) and had a log barn. It's an interesting window into their priorities to see that it was the barn, not the house, that was first upgraded from log to stone. In 1809, commemorated by a datestone in its west gable, Morgan erected a large stone barn on the east side of the road. The NRHP form has many more details, but architecturally speaking, the Morgan Barn seems to be somewhat of a transitional structure. It's one of the oldest dated stone barns in the area, and has features both of the older, 18th Century barns, as well as later 19th Century ones. The wooden additions, a straw shed and a combination corn crib-wagon shed, were added later in the 19th Century as dairy farming came to dominate the area.

Morgan Barn, built 1809
Four years after raising his new barn, Wiliam Morgan got around to upgrading his home, too. The old log home gave way to a new, rather large, fieldstone house in 1813 (again, documented with a "WM M 1813" datestone). The house is a three bay, centered door design, with the interior arranged in a double pile, center hall configuration. What's somewhat unusual about this house is that it seems the rear ell was original - it was built at the same time as the main block. Because of this, the house was large enough that unlike most other homes of the era, there was never any need to expand it with additional wings later in the century.

William Morgan lived on his farm until his death in about 1833, at which point the property went to his daughter, Mary Morgan. Presumably by this point Morgan was a widower and either had no other living children, or at least had none in the area. Mary lived in the home until 1857 when, at the age of 80, she sold it to Milton Michener, a Quaker farmer from Londonderry Township, Chester County.

Michener, who was about 30 when he purchased the farm with his wife Esther, only occupied the house for about ten years. The small Quaker headstones for Milton and Esther that lie up the road at the Mill Creek Meeting House are tricky to read, but it looks as if they may have died in 1867 and 1868. They also had a daughter, Anna, born in 1862, but I haven't been able to find what became of her. By the time of the next record I have of the property, an 1881 map, it's shown as being owned by Samuel Eastburn. The post on the Eastburn Store has a little background on the two Samuel Eastburns, but my assumption is that the house was purchased by the older Samuel Eastburn (1818-1906) after Michener's death, and used as a rental property. Samuel himself resided in his father's old house on the south side of Paper Mill Road.

Although I can't confirm it for sure, Eastburn descendant Donna Peters recalls being told that her Great-Great Grandfather, Oliver Wilson Eastburn lived in the house. This sounds probable for two reasons (besides the fact that I have no reason to doubt her): 1) Oliver W. Eastburn was Samuel's nephew, and the Eastburns seemed to always be a pretty close-knit family, and 2) census data does show that Oliver resided in the area. Of course the census pages then didn't have addresses, so it's difficult to nail down exact locations.

Oliver remained in the house until the early 1920's, at which time he moved to Upper Darby, PA. (His first wife, Sarah, had died in 1917, and he remarried in 1921.) Oliver had obviously purchased the property outright at some point, because he then sold it to the Dempsey family, possibly to George R. Dempsey. The house and barn remain in the Dempsey family to this day. This means that in almost 215 years, the property has only been owned by four families, and one of those was for only about a decade. It's not surprising then, that the stone house and barn erected by William Morgan two centuries ago are still in the wonderful shape they are today.

Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
  • On the 1850 census, Mary Morgan is shown to be living with three women - Jane, Margaret, and Sarah Hollan (at least that's what it looks like). They are probably sisters, as they are 19, 34, and 27 years of age. I don't know who they are, but would guess they are relatives of some sort.
  • The Micheners also had a son named Lewis who died at nine months old, possibly in 1861.


  1. Scott, One of those Hollan ladies from the 1850 census maried a local man. Jane Holland/Hollan/Hollen married James Stinson on 22 APR 1852. There is a barn on Corner Ketch Road that is on the NHR that is called the J. Stinson Barn. I have not discovered where the Hollans came from. Donna P

  2. Interesting, Donna. I'll have to look into that. I figure there has to be a connection to the Morgans somehow, and I'm sure they all have their own stories.

    Also, thanks to info from Donna, I've updated the post and written more substantially about the later ownership of the Morgan Farm.

  3. I'm an Eastburn descendant and cousin of Donna P. We have Michener cousins on our Eastburn/McVaugh side but I haven't been able to connect Milton to those Micheners.

    Milton is listed in the 1860 US Census in Mill Creek Hundred and Post Office of Mermaid. His last name was mispelled as Mitchner.

    I visited New Castle County two years ago. I took a picture of each grave marker at Mill Creek Friends Cemetery. I set up Find A Grave memorials for Milton, Esther and Lewis

    Rich Morrison

  4. Rich, Milton was the son of Jesse and Rebecca (Fell) Michener, grandson of Joseph and Anna (Dunn) Michener and Thomas and Elizabeth (Kinsey) Fell. Donna P

  5. Donna, I've got Rebecca Fell in my tree. She's part of the Quaker Fell family from Bucks County, PA along with our Eastburn ancestors. I'll add them to my tree.


    Rich Morrison

  6. link to Rebecca (Fell) Michener in my tree

    Rich Morrison

  7. Milton Michener, July 1827-Oct 4,1868 m before census 1860 Esther Lloyd, abt 1830-11/11/1863. she was daughter of Samuel Lloyd first postmaster of Pleasant Hill Post Office. Later became Corner Ketch.
    Lewis 2/1861-11/19/1861
    Anna 7/1862-2/11/1863
    Milton m 2/1/1866 Hannah Baker b 8/9/1832
    Milton Jr, 4/67-5/67

  8. Thank you, John, for filling in that information about the Micheners. I can't imagine what it must have been like for him to lose two infants and a wife within 2 years, then another child 4 years later. So then maybe it was Hannah, the second wife we didn't even know about, who ended up selling the farm after Milton's passing.

    Thanks again John for sharing this information on what I'll guess is some part of your family. (See, I'm perceptive like that.)

  9. John, Thank you for identifying Esther! I had the children of Samuel Lloyd and Rebecca Eastburn to be Elizabeth E. (Lloyd) Forbes MD, b. 14 SEP 1831; Mary (Lloyd) Walker, b. 12 FEb 1834; Eastburn Lloyd, b. 25 MAR 1836, m. Rose Pancoast and Barclay Lloyd, b. 3 SEP 1838, m. Emma Bean. I had no idea about Esther. Do you have a birth date for her? Donna P

  10. The William Morgan buried in Pencader Cemetery is an ancestor of mine; I had no idea his farm survives and is part of the NHR until I found your blog. Many thanks for the post. There were several errors in the original 1987 NHR documentation, however, so to set the record straight: the Mary Morgan who sold the farm in 1857 was William's second wife (not his daughter). William was born about 1862, probably in New Castle County. It's likely that he used an inheritance from his father to buy the 235 acres, living there initially with his first wife, Martha Williams, and their three children, all of whom predeceased him. I have copies of William's and Mary's wills if anyone is interested in the family.

    James Hollins/Hollands was a neighbor of the Morgans. He and his daughter, Jane, are named in William's will and Margaret is named in Mary Morgan's will.

    1. Thanks for the information! I was frustrated when writing this that I couldn't find more about Morgan, outside of guessing that it was him at Pencader. If you have any other info abut him or his immediate family, or if you have scanned copies of the wills, feel free to send them to me ( I'd love to see them. Thanks again for helping to get our information straight.

  11. Interesting. As a Dempsey, it is very interesting to learn the history.