This won't be a particularly long post, but I figured I'd address the subject now, since Bill Harris' recent comment got me thinking about it. There have already been two separate sites featured on this blog that contain the name "Kiamensi" -- the Kiamensi Woolen Mill and the Kiamensi Spring Water Company. On top of that, Kiamensi was adopted as the name of the community that sprung up around the woolen mill, as well as the B&O Railroad depot nearby. And of course, it survives today as the name of the road that goes through the area, and in the name of several neighborhoods. But where did this sometimes tricky to spell and pronounce word come from?
If you said, "From the Indians," you'd be right. It does in fact derive from a Native American word, one of the few still to be found in Mill Creek Hundred ("Hockessin" being another). However, like much associated with the region's first inhabitants, some of the details are not quite clear, and there is some overly-romanticized myth thrown in for good measure.
The myth, which you may or may not be familiar with, is that Kiamensi was the name of a lovelorn Indian maiden (or princess) who threw herself into Red Clay Creek from a rock at "Lover's Leap". Why she did this and where exactly this "Lover's Leap" was, as far as I know, was not recorded. I think it's fair to say that the likelihood of this story being true is not particularly great. It does, however, probably explain the Native American girl on the Kiamensi Springs postcard seen on that post (I guess she's supposed to be Kiamensi).
What I think is far more likely to be the real etymology of "Kiamensi" deals more with native words than names. And instead of being the name of one person, it was actually the name of the entire creek, and possibly a settlement. There seems to be agreement and good documentation on the origin of the word, even if there's a slight disagreement on one of the details. The original Algonquian (or Delaware, or Leni Lenape, or Unami, depending on how precise you care to be) word was Hwiskakimensi. The Native Americans in the area referred to the Red Clay Creek as the Hwiskakimensi Sippus, "Sippus" meaning creek, or stream. The name Hwiskakimensi can be seen on this map by Swede Peter Lindestrom, printed in 1691, but probably drawn in about 1654 (the name is near the top, just under and before the "R" in "Revier").
Hwiskakimensi is made up of two Unami words, the second of which, mensi, means "tree". There seems to be two differing opinions, though, on the first part of the word. Usually the name is translated as "young tree", apparently from weski, meaning "young". This source, however, has a different etymology for it. I won't go through all the variations, but they translate it as "grape vine tree", so named for the abundance of grapes in the area. (Now, "the area" could mean anywhere in the vicinity of the creek, not necessarily in the Marshallton/Brandywine Springs region.)
I can't seem to find it again, but I believe I saw one reference to Hwiskakimensi as also being the possible name of a Native American settlement somewhere in the area. This would make sense if Hwiskakimensi was used to describe the general area. Also, as a final side note, this source states that another old name for Red Clay Creek was "Rodlers Creek". I had never heard that name before, and I can't seem to find anything about with a cursory search. If I ever do uncover more about this name, I'll be sure to pass it along. As usual, it seems every answered question raises at least one more unanswered one.