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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rea and Price 1849 Map

I recently ran across something on the interwebs that was just too cool not to pass along -- at least in my own odd sense of the word "cool". A while back, I did a post about the 1868 Beers map, which is probably the historical map I use the most in my research. Besides the fact that it's a very fine map (and colorful, too!), one of the reasons I use it so much is the simple fact that I have all of it in one place. For all the other maps, I only had various bits and pieces of them culled from different places -- some totalling more or less the entire area, some with gaps. Now, however, I've found a full version of my second favorite map, the 1849 Rea and Price map.

I don't know when they put it up, but sometime recently the New Castle Community History and Archaeology Program  (NC-CHAP) posted a full-sized, high resolution, zoomable version of the map. You can find this version here. To be honest, since even the best copies I had seen of the map were in black and white, I didn't even know that the original was in color. It's actually a beautiful map, in its own way.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Samuel Dennison House

The Samuel Dennison House in 1986
A lot of the historic houses and locations of Mill Creek Hundred featured on this site lately have been in quiet, secluded, out-of-the-way places. That doesn't mean that all of them are, of course, and Limestone Road, being one of the oldest roads in the area, has more than a few old homes still lining its path north to the farmland of Pennsylvania. Several of these sites have already been featured, like the Harmony School, the Mermaid Tavern, the Aquilla Derrickson House, and the McKennan-Klair House. This time, we'll take a look at a house a slight bit younger than these, but still no youngster at 135 years old -- the Samuel Dennison House.

The Dennison House is located just north of Papermill Road, about 130 feet back from the west side of Limestone Road (it once sat closer to the road, until Limestone Rd. was widened and realigned in 1964). It's a 2 1/2 story, five-bay house built of local fieldstone, although it is plastered everywhere except the front. It was built in the "Georgian I" style, with one large room on either side of a central stairhall. An ell protrudes from the north half of the rear of the house, and was probably built at or about the same time as the house, which was erected in the centennial year of 1876. The builder of the house, Samuel Dennison, was by no means a newcomer to the property. In fact, he and his family had lived there for more than 50 years before he upgraded to his big, new, stone home.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Castle County Bus Map

Circa 1940 Bus Route Map (photo by Mike Ciosek)
 You know how sometimes when you're not even thinking about a problem and BAM!, out of nowhere, a flash of inspiration comes to you? That's what happened to me a week or two ago when I (belatedly) realized I might have a resource to answer some questions raised by a few previous posts. This goes back again to the discussion about trolley and bus service in Mill Creek Hundred, triggered by the picture on this post, which then spawned this one. The resource I finally thought of dates to the time just after tracked trolley service ended, but while trolley coaches (or trackless trolleys) still plied the roads along with  gasoline buses. What it is specifically is a map showing the routes of those services in New Castle County.

The large, wall-mounted map (probably about 4ft x 5ft) is located in the back video room at the Red Clay Valley Visitor's Center, at the Wilmington & Western Railroad's Greenbank Station. The map, while not exactly hidden, is not in a position where it is viewed by most who visit the museum. It's also somewhat unique in the collection in that it's one of the few bus-related items. That being said, I think it's a fascinating piece, and one that I've spent quite a bit of time just staring at.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Lost Village of Roaringtown?

From frequent contributor of helpful, interesting, and sometimes frustrating information Donna Peters, comes this excerpt from the April 12, 1753 edition of The Pennsylvania Gazette:
    BY virtue of his majestywrit of venditioni exponas to me directed, on Saturday, the 28th inst. will be sold, by publick vendue, at Roaringtown, in Mill creek hundred, New Castle county, A tract of land, containing upwards of 300 acres, divided into 2 plantations; each plantation has valuable improvements, and is situated on the publick road which leads from Conestogo to Newport, and White clay creek landings, being convenient for either store or tavern, and is but 4 miles distant from divers places of Divine Worship (or from said landing) and lies commodious to sundry merchant mills, is in a very healthy part of the country, well water, and has many other good conveniences. Also on said day will be sold, A house and lot of ground, containing one acre, near White clay creek landing; the whole being the property of Walter Thetford; taken in execution at the suit of sundry creditors, and to be sold at ten a clock on said day, as per conditions to be exhibited, by GEORGE MONRO, Sheriff.
There are a few things I can make a bit more clear from this public notice (I'll get to those in a moment), but rising far above all those is this: Roaringtown? Over the past few years, I've read a fair amount about the history of Mill Creek Hundred and of Delaware in general -- not as much as some, but more than most. In all that I've read, I can honestly say I've never seen so much as a passing mention to a "Roaringtown". Has anyone else? I can't even think of anything remotely close that this could be an alternate spelling for. Is it possible that this is some sort of lost community of the mid-18th Century, whose name all but vanished from the historical record? I did a cursory search for the name, and the only Roaringtown that comes up was an old village in Cumberland County, PA, just north of Harrisburg. Nothing else.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Another Blaze at the Fr. Kenny Farm

I would be remiss if I didn't call attention to this story from last weekend, in case anyone missed it. In what is now becoming a disturbing pattern, there was yet another fire at the abandoned Mundy Farm, also known as the Rev. Patrick Kenny Farm. This time, the fire was located in the large, stone barn that looms over the site where Fr. Kenny's house once stood. The historic 1812 house was destroyed in a fire on February 10, 2010. That blaze was determined to have been arson, and in September 2010, two teenage boys were convicted of setting the fire.

This most recent fire occurred last Sunday, September 11, as many of the firefighters were preparing for a memorial service at the Delcastle Recreation Area in remembrance of the 343 firefighters lost in the 9/11 attacks. The fire was extinguished in about a half an hour, but did "significant damage" to the structure. The barn, the original part of which was constructed by Rev. Kenny soon after he took up residence in his new home and which was expanded several times over the years, was thankfully still standing after the ordeal. The only question is, for how long?

It's been well documented that the owners of the property would like to develop the site, and now with the house gone and the barn heavily damaged, I wouldn't put much money on the long-term survivability of the site. Thankfully, the adjacent cemetery and site of the first Coffee Run Mission is a separate parcel, still owned by the Catholic Church. Again, to me, this is another reminder that these historic structures we have are not guaranteed to always be here, and that we need to study and appreciate them while we can.

Update 10/13/2011:

The News Journal is reporting today that "Two Hockessin-area boys, ages 15 and 16, have been charged with arson and conspiracy in a Sept. 11 fire that burned a

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Samuel P. Dixon House

Samuel P. Dixon House, 1986
 Sitting very close to Barley Mill Road, just south of Brackenville Road, is what was, until recently, a simple, four-bay fieldstone house. Along with a large stone barn and a springhouse, it represents yet another relic from what was once one of the most prominent families in the northeastern part of Mill Creek Hundred -- the Dixons. Along with the Dixon-Jackson House and the Dixon-Wilson House (both in Hockessin), the Samuel P. Dixon House dates from the time when the descendants of Irishman William Dixon owned large tracts of land in the area.

Although from the front (not including the new large addition on the far side, not shown in the picture above) the house looks like one uniform structure, it was actually built in two stages, probably in succeeding generations. The original section (the left half in the picture above) was built about 1791, and was a two-bay, single room plan common among Quakers of the time. Several decades later, likely by the son of the original builder, the western addition was added, effectively doubling the size of the house.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Trolley Comes to Stanton

Since the picture at the right seems to have generated a good bit of interest, I thought I'd share a few quick notes on the trolley shown travelling down Main Street (today's Route 4). This image is one of only two I know of showing the trolley in Stanton (if I ever find the other one again, I'll post it). There were, at one time, three different trolley lines serving various parts of Mill Creek Hundred. Two were somewhat related, but we'll focus here on the third, and southernmost, line in the hundred.

The first two trolley lines to be run into MCH -- the West Chester, Kennett and Wilmington (AKA, the Kennett Trolley) and the Peoples Trolley -- were both created more or less from scratch to serve the Brandywine Springs Amusement Park. The third line, which just barely made it into the southeastern portion of the hundred, can trace its lineage back to the early 1890's, when the Wilmington City Railway Co. built a new route that included part of Maryland Avenue. At first it went only as far as Linden St. (where I-95 now passes overhead), but within a year it was extended to Beech, and then as far as 6th Ave. It wasn't until 10 years later, in 1901, that the line would be extended out of the city.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Historical Floodings of the Red Clay and White Clay

Flooding in Marshallton, 1938 -- courtesy LRCV Blog
 After seeing Red Clay Creek jump its banks yet again last weekend, this time thanks to Hurricane Irene*, I thought I'd take this opportunity to highlight a few other instances from the historical record of flooding in the area. It certainly seems like there have been quite a few major floods in the past dozen years or so, but flooding in the Red Clay Valley is not anything new. There may be more of them now, but living and working along the creek has always been a risky proposition. This post is by no means a comprehensive list, just a few examples I could find documentation for.

* -- The Lower Red Clay Valley blog has some great pictures and videos of the August 27-28 flooding in Marshallton. You can find them here and here.

The first one took place on January 25-26, 1839, and was one of the most violent floods seen in the area at the time. This article in a Baltimore newspaper a week later gives some of the details. The Brandywine seems to have been the hardest hit by the freshet, no doubt fueled by heavy rain and melting snow. Among other damage in Wilmington, the first covered bridge over the Brandywine on North Market Street, built only a few years prior, was washed away. Of more interest to us, though, is the mention, however brief, of flooding along the Red and White Clay Creeks. More specifically, it makes mention of two railroad bridges affected by the raging waters. At first this had me a bit confused, but then after looking at some old maps, I think I know what the article is referring to.