|Flooding in Marshallton, 1938 -- courtesy LRCV Blog|
* -- 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.
The railroad in question is the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore (PW&B), whose history was briefly outlined in a previous post. The Delaware section of the line opened only 18 months prior to this flooding. What's confusing is that it mentions bridges over the White Clay and the Red Clay. The White Clay bridge is likely the covered railroad bridge mentioned in the other post, and located in the same place where the Amtrak line currently crosses the creek. (The article even references the bridge's "wooden superstructure", presumably meaning the covered enclosure.) However, the line does not at any point cross Red Clay Creek.
After looking at some old maps (including the 1849 map below), I realized that what they're actually talking about is a small tributary called "Old Red Clay Creek", not the main creek itself. This creek is still there (it starts up around Delcastle High School), but it seems it was probably larger then than it is now. Apparently it was large enough to wash away a railroad bridge less than two years old. As a side note, you can also see on the map S(amuel) Baily, whose mill was noted in the article. At the time, Baily owned the old Stanton mill first erected in 1679.
|Southeast MCH, 1849|
|Mt. Cuba Covered Bridge, destroyed 1938|
Marshallton, too, was severely affected by the late July flooding, as evidenced by the photo at the top of this page. If you look closely at the top of the water, just to the right of center, you can see the top of the steel truss bridge that carried Newport Road across Red Clay Creek (the Lower Red Clay Valley blog has a few other pictures related to this flooding, and a bit more explanation). The news article also tells of several people who had to be rescued from the raging waters, including one man who had been helping someone else. It sounds as if this flood was on the same magnitude as the 2003 flooding that put an end to industrial operations at the Marshallton millseat site.
And speaking of the 2003 flood, I came across one other interesting, if meaningless, fact while looking into this topic. As anyone who watched the news coverage of Irene surely heard numerous times, the last hurricane to make a direct hit on the state of New Jersey was way back in 1903. That storm, also known as the Vagabond Hurricane, made landfall on September 16, 1903. I was unable to find any reports of flooding in Delaware, but I assume there were effects from the storm. As luck would have it, the 2003 flooding, a result of the remnants of Tropical Storm Henri, occurred one day short of exactly 100 years later, on September 15, 2003. So I guess we'll have to warn our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to watch out in mid-September 2103.
Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
- I have no idea whether Old Red Clay Creek ever connected with its namesake or not, or why it was called what it was. For that matter, even though the creek still exists in a smaller form, I don't even know if it has a name anymore.
- The 1938 article mentions the Mullin apartments, which seem to be in Marshallton. Does anyone know where this apartment house was located?