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.

There are a couple of other possibilities that come to mind that could explain this. One is that it could have been a briefly-used name for a hamlet we're familiar with, like Milltown, Stanton (Cuckoldstown/Cocclestown), or Milford Crossroads. If it is, it's one I've never run across. Just about the only other thing I can come up with is that, even though the very name would imply otherwise, "Roaringtown" might have been a specific place, like an estate or a tavern, rather than an actual town. This, though, doesn't feel right, either.

I don't know whether it'll help or not, but I can fill in a few holes in the rest of the ad. The man whose property is being sold by the Sheriff (likely due to bankruptcy) was Walter Thetford, and I may have a little on him. If this is the same man, a Walter Thetford married Rebecca Rammage in Philadelphia, in 1733. She was probably from Philadelphia, but it's unclear where Thetford lived. In any case, the excerpt below, also from The Philadelphia Gazette, establishes that he lived in Delaware by at least 1744, the date of the notice:

Run away on the 30th of May, from Walter THETFORD, of Newcastle County, a servant man, named Henry RADMONT, fair hair, whitish complexion. Had on when he went away, a blue jacket, and another huckaback double breasted, drawers of the same, half peak toe'd shoes. There went away with him a Freeman, called Patrick SILVER, native Irish; he deluded him away, and it is thought took some goods with him that was not his own. Had on a brown coat of broad cloth, a jacket of the same of the others and same fashion both jacket and drawers.

Any person that takes up said servant, and brings him to Joseph RAMAGE, or secures them so that they may be had, shall have three pounds, and reasonable charges, paid by Walter THETFORD.
Joseph Ramage is likely Walter's father-in-law or brother-in-law. I can find no other references to Thetford in Delaware, or to his properties here. Of those properties being sold off in 1753, one is a house and one acre lot near "White Clay Creek Landing", which was a wharf located behind the Hale-Byrnes House southwest of Stanton. The other, larger tract was along Limestone Road about four miles north, which would put it (very roughly) in the area between Stoney Batter Road and Paper Mill Road.

After having his property seized by the Sheriff, Thetford moved south to Orange County, North Carolina, to roughly the same area where members of other MCH families (like the Hadleys, Dixons, and Brackens) were headed in about the same period. There, in 1767 -- surrounded by a family that also included children Josias, William, Simon, and Deborah -- Walter Thetford died. Apart from his will (he apparently rebuilt his estate, as he willed several large tracts to his children), I can find nothing else about Walter Thetford.

All of that, though, is pretty much just an aside to the main question -- What was Roaringtown? It could be anything from a lost community to a misprint in an 18th Century newspaper. As I said, I've never heard of it before. I'm hoping that someone else has, or maybe someday someone will run across another mention of it that will shed some more light. If anyone has an ideas or theories, the floor's open....

6 comments:

  1. I have a question, where is Conestogo?

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  2. I think it's supposed to be Conestoga. Was either a misprint in the original article or in the transcription. I haven't seen the original, so I can't say for sure on several words whether it's one of those, or just non-standardized 18th Century spelling.

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  3. What a great story says a descendant of Walter Thetford in Mississippi

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  4. The only thing I can add is that I've also seen it spelled "Raritan" in one other passing reference. I've spent quite a while looking for this same lost community, and as yet, it's still lost...

    Dan Thetford
    Normal, IL

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  5. Thanks, Dan, for the info! I'll be sure to look for that variation of the name, too. Since there's a Raritan in NJ, I wonder if there's any connection bewteen them, even if it's just the origins of the name. Hmm. "Roaringtown" and "Raritan" sure sound like names that could get corrupted over the years, kind of like "Cocclestown"/"Cuckoldstown".

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  6. Property records suggest to me that the original Josiah Ramage property encompassed the intersection of Limestone and Brackenville Roads. This is based on surveyors' sketches from around 1700 showing the property granted to Nicholas Daw(s), The 200-acre property passed from Daw to Joseph Clayton (1686) to John Jordan (1720) then to Ramage in 1724 (G1:344). John Jordan is referred to as a blacksmith.

    Today, the original property covers what we might call the Guthrie farm. This east-west rectangle remains preserved in current property lines, and can be located on Google Maps. Rather unusual.

    In 1730, Josiah Ramage bought 114 acres to the south at a sheriff's sale. This was one-half of the 200-acre property of Francis Bradley, sold to Robert Box in 1728 (I1:54). Apparently Josiah Ramage died soon after, leaving an estate of just over 300 acres.

    There is a slew of unanswered questions about the Ramage family, the property, and Walter Thetford, too many to lay out here. But this is almost certainly the property advertised as Roaringtown in 1753. As for the name, until I see it referenced elsewhere, I'm inclined to think it was a promotional gimmick.

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