Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Country Roller Rink -- Updates and Extras

After completing the post about the Country Roller Rink (located next to Brandywine Springs Amusement Park) I happened to come across some more information while aimlessly wandering...um, I mean diligently researching the subject in some of the old digitized newspapers. I've made a few updates to the original post, but instead of making those of you who have already read the post go back and wade through to find the new stuff, I thought I'd lay it out here, too. Mostly the new information deals with the actual rink buildings themselves -- their construction, size and layout, and the nature of the second rink. I also found some more about the drive to fund the initial construction, as well as some other pictures. This post will end up being a bit heavier on pics and short(er) on text.

In the original post, I mentioned that Cloward and the others behind the rink sold stock to the public in order to fund its construction. What I didn't realize is just how hard they pushed for buyers. All through February, March, and April there were various large ads run selling people on buying into the rink. Below is one that ran on March 17, 1907. There was even a large ad soliciting "amateur agents" to sell stock on their own. They would "accept any reputable person of Wilmington (and immediate vicinity) as an agent, skaters preferred". Agents would receive one share for every ten they sold.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

MCH History Blog On the Road: The New Castle County Courthouse

The New Castle County Courthouse
I've decided to introduce a new occasional feature -- MCH History Blog On the Road. Here we'll look at sites and structures beyond the borders of Mill Creek Hundred. They may have some sort of a connection to MCH, or they may just be things I personally like or feel some sort of connection to. It's certainly not meant to be a comprehensive or systematic look at the wider area, just an excuse to feature some topics I find interesting.

My own personal gateway into the study of local history -- before I started focusing on Mill Creek Hundred -- was learning about the history of Wilmington. I think in large part this was just because that's what there's the most written about. There are lots of books and other material written about the First State's largest city -- about MCH, not so much. While reading about the 300 plus year history of Wilmington and its predecessors, one building always stood out to me, and quickly became my personal favorite -- the (first, in Wilmington) New Castle County Courthouse. It only stood for less than 40 years, but it was probably the best-known building in the city during its time. Its location is still one of the best-known spots in town, even if very few now know what used to stand there.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Brown's Track -- Forerunner to Delaware Park?

Sunday Morning Star, August 15, 1909
I know I've threatened before to put up "short" posts, only to have them end up being longer than I expected. This one, though, really will be short. I have nothing more than what I found, and a vague thought. What I found (while wandering through the old Sunday Morning Stars that are online) is the paragraph you see to the right. This appeared in the August 15, 1909 edition, at the bottom of a column reporting on horse races elsewhere in the state. What caught my eye, obviously, was the mention of Stanton.

I've never before seen a mention of a horse track in the area in the early 20th Century. I've also not yet found any more information about this, but from the listing of Stanton and the name Brown, I have to guess that this is connected to the Brown family highlighted in the post about The Farmhouse. *(See below) James Brown, the brother of John who lived in the Farmhouse property, owned the farm to the south, just below the B&O (now CSX) tracks. What I believe was his house is still standing, just off of one of the parking lots for Delaware Park.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

W. L. Edison at Greenbank

From The Sunday Star May 12, 1907
This is a bit of an odd post, only because I don't really have too much of substance say about it (although to be fair, that's never stopped me in the past). It's honestly not much more than somewhere between a padded-out blurb and a long, "Huh? How about that." It was something that caught my eye as I was looking for other things in the scanned copies of the Wilmington Sunday Morning Star that Google has online. I could get lost for hours just browsing through them. Come to think of it, I have.

What specifically caught my eye this time is the advertisement seen to the right. It appeared in the May 12, 1907 edition, and ran the following week as well. As you can see, it's an ad (almost a short article, really) for Premier* cars, one of the myriad of car manufacturers that popped up in the early days of the automobile, in what is now called the Brass Car Era. What initially jumped out at me and made me take notice of the ad was the address of Greenbank, Del. Since cars were still relatively new and expensive, most dealerships were in the city. Seeing one listed as Greenbank made me curious.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Country Roller Rink and Roller Polo

In the recent post about N. Dushane Cloward, it was noted that one of the business ventures he was associated with was the roller skating rink located next to Brandywine Springs Amusement Park. It was also mentioned that a fast-moving and briefly popular sport was played there, as well as at other rinks. I'm not sure quite why, but I thought I'd cover these topics here in their own post. Maybe it's because I don't get to do many sports-related posts, or maybe I just really miss hockey (NHL, not the KHL, OHL, or QMJHL stuff that's on now). In any case, the Country Roller Rink and roller polo do have their own stories, related to but separate from the amusement park.

The roller rink was built 1907 and was always part of the park, but not really. It was officially owned by the Springs Amusement Company, a new entity managed by several of the amusement park managers, including Dushane Cloward. They sold stock in their new company to raise capital to build the rink, and anyone who purchased ten dollars or more in stock was entitled to free admission to the rink for the first year. [See follow-up post for more information.] One of those passes (seen below) is on display at the Red Clay Valley Visitor's Center Museum at Greenbank. It's about 4 1/2 inches long and is signed by N. Dushane Cloward, President of the company.

Monday, December 3, 2012

N. Dushane Cloward

N. Dushane Cloward, 1899
There have been many people over the years who, while they may not have been born or raised in Mill Creek Hundred, have nonetheless made a significant contribution to some aspect of its history. One such person was N. Dushane Cloward.

It's easy to think of Brandywine Springs Amusement Park as consisting of no more than the rides, attractions, and buildings that once stood in the glen along Hyde Run. Of course, the park was much more than just its physical structures -- it was conceived, built, and operated by real people (a simple statement, I know, but one that often gets overlooked). Like any business today, it was populated by all kinds of people, some with simple stories, and some with more interesting backgrounds. One of the more interesting people involved with park was N. Dushane Cloward. Cloward was a musician, an artist, and a showman, and he was integral to the success of the amusement park.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Updates and a Bit of Housekeeping

Just a couple of things I wanted to address quickly. First of all, I am aware that the recent comments feature on the sidebar has not been working for the past week or so. Unfortunately this is a third-party gadget, and there appears to be some sort of an issue with it currently. Since this isn't exactly a current events blog (actually, pretty much the opposite), there can be comments made at any time on any of the 180+ posts on here. For this reason, I know the recent comments feature is an important way to keep up with any new information coming into the blog. Because of that, until the gadget is fixed (which hopefully will be soon, since there's no other decent alternative), I'll try to add any new comments here on this post.

Secondly, for those who haven't checked it out yet, I did come up with a new feature for the MCH History Blog Facebook page. Twice, so far, I've posted a This Day in Mill Creek Hundred History feature. While I don't have enough stuff to do this every day, I hope to have something to put up at least a couple times a week. If the item of the day is connected to a past blog post, I'll provide a link to the post. Unless I'm mistaken, everyone should be able to view the Facebook page, whether or not you have a FB page of your own. If you do have your own page, you can comment on the MCH FB page and/or "Like" it, too.

Finally, you may or may not have noticed, but the little counter at the bottom of the page recently passed 25,000 visits to the blog. Now, I realize that not every one of those visits was someone coming here intentionally to read, but on the other hand that count doesn't go all the way back to the beginning of the blog, either. Any way you look at it, 25,000 visits is an arbitrary number for sure, but just as good a reason as any for stopping to say, "Thanks". My heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who has contributed to, commented on, or just stopped by to read the blog. It makes it a lot easier and more fun to do this knowing there are others who enjoy this stuff, too. Thanks.

Recent Comments:

Gail Riblett December 4, 2012 6:53 PM

Harry Riblett is my Dad. He is a published author and consultant on airfoil design. He and his brothers are pilots by hobby. I can remember my Uncle Richie landing helicopters...

Anonymous December 4, 2012 11:11 AM

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

Larry T November 27, 2012 7:35 PM
I also grew up in Sherwood 2, I must be older than Vic C. The property on both sides of McKennans used to be state property/ prison farm. After closing the prison farm, the state sold...
Scott P November 27, 2012 10:07 AM
Thanks, Vic. Good to know. So unless the house was small and overgrown, then it sounds like the barn lasted longer than the house did. In either case, it...
Anonymous November 26, 2012 12:45 PM
I grew up in Sherwood Park II. I don’t remember the house but I do recall an old barn back there. Older kids would go there to smoke. We roamed about the overgrown fields quite often. It was...
Anonymous November 24, 2012 12:02 PM
I have been miss spelling the last name. But, when you said the sons name was Francis X. that but a chill down my back. My time with them was from 45-50. What is the Cedars? They moved....
My mistake - this information pertains to the Old Stone Hotel in Stanton.
I knew the clowns, or the group, that burned the barn down and it was in the mid 1980s
From the picture of the lane leading to the former site of the Foote house, one might speculate that a spring house also may have been located nearby. The headwater...
 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

FootePrints in Mill Creek Hundred

The So-Called (by me) 25 Foote Road
Originally this was supposed to be a very short post answering a simple question and revealing the historical background of a small road-related anomaly I had always wondered about. I happened to stumble upon the answer one day, so I thought I'd write a quick post. The more I dug into the answer, though, the more complicated (and interesting) the associated family became. What started as one site turned into three, all in different branches of the same family. The tricky part came in trying to sort out -- and tie together -- these separate branches. I think I've done a decent job of it now, with the only major speculation confined back to an early generation in the 18th Century. As with all posts, I'd welcome any more information that anyone might have.

The gateway into this whole topic was the small piece of roadway you see above. Many of you probably recognize it --it's on McKennan's Church Road, at the southern end of the Delcastle Recreation Area by the soccer field. During games, there are often cars parked here. It always seemed odd to me, somewhere between the start of a road never built and the beginning of a parking lot never realized. It wasn't until I looked at the old aerial photographs (in conjunction with the old maps) that it occurred to me what it was, although some more "veteran" locals might already know. It was the end of a driveway that led back to an old house! I knew that there was a house there, I just hadn't realized it remained so long, well past when Sherwood Park was built next to it. As the old maps tell us, the house belonged to the Foote* family, leading me to refer to this anomaly as The 25 Foote Road. (That was also an alternate title for the post. Others included "Foote Notes" and "The Post is aFoote!". A truly puntastic name in the wrong hands. Sorry. I'm done.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

MCH History Blog on Facebook

For what it's worth, I finally got around to setting up a Facebook page for the blog. I'm not really sure exactly how I'll use it just yet. Certainly I'll post on there whenever a new post goes up on the blog. I might also add additional content, like some pictures that didn't get into the blog posts. I could also put requests on there if there's specific information that I'm looking for. Maybe intermediate status updates on posts, too.

In any case, maybe it'll make it a little easier for interested people to find the blog. Please feel free to share it, or like it, or comment on it, or whatever the deuce people do with these things. As much as I'm comfortable with blogging and the internet in general, Facebook is new to me, and I'm still trying to figure the dang thing out. Anyway, something new. Yea!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Diamond State Land Development Company

Map from the Diamond State Land Development Company
In the last post, we took a look at Hockessin's John G. Jackson (1818-1897), a man of varying interests who became involved in quite a number of different fields and businesses during his lifetime. One particular venture, though, was only very briefly mentioned in passing. It's something I'm sad to say I don't really have a whole lot of information about, but it interested me enough that I thought it merited its own post. In fact, most of what I know came from just one picture and its associated caption, included in Joseph Lake's wonderful 1976 book Hockessin: A Pictorial History. (Seriously, it's a great book. If you ever see it anywhere, get it.) Probably the biggest reason there's not a lot of information about the venture is that it never got very far off the ground, or past the planning stage. Still, there are a few vestiges of it remaining today, if you know where to look.

The business venture in question was called the Diamond State Land Development Company, and Lake tells us that it was a joint venture between the Jackson and Mitchell families in 1880. I'm not sure exactly who all was involved, but I'm confident that the main players were John G. Jackson and John Mitchell. As detailed in the post about Mitchell, he had already bought, renovated, and resold a number of properties by then (sort like a 19th Century flipper), so real estate was familiar to him. By 1880, both men were 62 years old (they were the same age) and comfortably well-off. Both were raised with strong Quaker morals and both displayed those morals throughout their lives. As they approached their retirement years, it's not surprising that both men would be looking for a way to use their means and talents to better their community, and assist those less fortunate than themselves.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

John G. Jackson

John G. Jackson
In small rural towns and villages, it's probably cliche, but true, to say that pretty much everyone knows everyone else. I think to some extent 19th Century Mill Creek Hundred as a whole can be looked at in this way. With the myriad of familial ties running through it, I've often said that it can almost be thought of as a very spread out small town. This familiarity between residents only grows when you focus your view to an actual village and its surroundings. In this case, where almost no one is a stranger, there is often someone who seems to be even more well-known than everyone else. Over a period of about a half a century, that man in Hockessin was John G. Jackson. Joseph Lake called him "the most famous Victorian to live in Hockessin."

John G. Jackson* was a native son of Hockessin, born into one of the largest landowning families there at the time. He was born in 1818 in the Dixon-Jackson House, which his grandfather James Jackson had purchased in 1771. The child of Thomas (1777-1861) and Jane Griffith (1784-1853) Jackson, John was the second of two sons, two years younger than his brother James C. Jackson (1816-1907). John spent his early years being schooled first at home by his parents, then at the Friends school nearby (the Jacksons, like many of their Hockessin neighbors, were Quakers). Young John had a voracious appetite for knowledge, and supplemented his schooling with hours spent reading books from a local library. It was from these books that he discovered a passion for astronomy that would stay with him his entire life.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Spring Hill Brewery

Red dot marks location of the Spring Hill Brewery
With all of the variety of industries and manufactories that have operated in Mill Creek Hundred over the past 300 years, there is one type that breaks my heart to say (as far as I know) has never been present -- a brewery. (And no, the Mr. Beer in your basement doesn't count.) Luckily, though, if you were around 120 years ago, there was one literally a stones throw away in Christiana Hundred. I've heard stories -- mostly not far above urban legend level -- of the existence of a 19th Century brewery for a while now, but I had never been able to find any more information about it. Then, the other day, while looking for something completely unrelated, I stumbled across a reference to it that contained the name of the brewery and the man who ran it. Yea for serendipity!!

All I really knew about the brewery before was that it was located on the other (east) side of Red Clay Creek somewhere near the Wooddale Quarry. The quarry is located just north of the former Delaware Iron Works, along the Wilmington & Western Railroad tracks. It was used by the B&O (of which the Wilmington & Western was then a part) as a source for ballast stone (the stones lying under and around the tracks). The quarry was last used in 1932 to aid in construction of the nearby Hoopes Reservoir dam. Today, the site of the quarry is easily visible from the railroad, with the 175 foot sheer-face back wall providing an impressive backdrop for the house now located where Italian immigrants once toiled. Stating the brewery's location in relation to the iron works and the quarry is not an arbitrary choice -- they were in large part the reason for its existance. Or, more precisely, their workers were the reason. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"Stanton"-Tatnall-Byrnes House Mystery Solved?

The Sutton-Tatnall-Byrnes House?
I have a lot of fun doing research for this blog, and just as much fun writing it. If you catch me on the right day, I might even admit to being proud of it. I like the fact that I've helped to make a good bit of our local history accessible to more people. That being said, I'll be the first to admit that most of what I do is usually just gathering, compiling, sometimes fact-checking, and repackaging work that was done by others before me. To be fair, though, I do always try to add value where I can, whether it's adding a little bit of background or tying together a few threads from different sources (almost never does one source have all the information). Once in a while, though, I get to make what feels like an actual contribution to our collective knowledge.

Now, I'm not saying that these contributions are on the scale of unearthing the Holy Grail, deciphering Linear A, or finding an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, but they're contributions none the less. It's at least locally significant -- and pretty cool -- to realize that we've uncovered or figured out something that no one else may have known for several hundred years, not since the original actors in the story. As you've probably guessed, I think we've (mostly not me) found another piece of "new" information.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Stanton Mills and Stanton-Byrnes House -- Part 2

In the last post, we looked at the first 150 years or so of the history of the mills and house that sat south of Stanton. We tracked it (as well as possible) from its beginnings in the 1670's until its sale from the estate of James Brian to Samuel Bailey. One pattern that arose (and is shown in the Brian-Bailey sale) is the fact that the mills were very often "foreign owned". By this, I mean that unlike some of the other mill complexes in the area, the Stanton Mills (from probably sometime early in the 1700's) were owned by people who either didn't reside near the mills, or who lived here for only a short time. This, again, is one of the things that makes figuring out who lived in the brick house a bit difficult. I think that much of the time, it was a contracted miller, not the mill owner, who probably lived there.

But back to our story, in 1820 the Stanton Mills were purchased by Samuel Bailey. He was the son of Joseph Bailey, one of the most prominent and well-connected men in Wilmington. How well-connected? His father-in-law was Joseph Tatnall, who may have been the most famous person in the city's first 200 years. Elizabeth Montgomery mentions that Joseph Bailey "succeeded in the drug business", so he may have made his money originally as a druggist. From 1810-1841, he served as the President of the Bank of Delaware. He and his son Samuel probably knew James Brian, and knew of the Stanton Mills. Scharf says that after buying the mills, Samuel Bailey built a new frame mill, presumably to replace the old stone structure. If the stone mill he mentioned was the original mill, it would have been over 140 years old at that point.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Stanton Mills and Stanton-Byrnes House -- Part 1

One thing I've found while doing my research -- and I have a feeling it holds true for some of you, too -- is that not all historic sites generate the same feelings in me. Don't get me wrong, I think they're all interesting. It's just that some seem to "stick with me" more than others. It might be because it's in an area I'm more familiar with, or because I find its story more interesting, or it might just be aesthetically pleasing to me. One such site that's always fascinated me is the old Stanton Mills site and the house that stood near it. They were located just south of Stanton, down towards the end of what's now Mill Road. The road, which is really an extension of Limestone Road south of Route 4, stops about half way now, but once extended almost to where Red Clay Creek empties into White Clay Creek.

So if I'm so fascinated by this site, you might ask, why has it taken me so long to write about it? Well, basically because the information about it always seemed rather confusing to me. The mill was in operation for over 200 years, but was destroyed well over 100 years ago (think about that for a moment). In cursory searches in the past, I was never able to find much about it. But as I dug some more, I came up with a decent amount of information, testified to by the fact that this ended up as a two-part post, where I wasn't sure at first that I'd have enough for one. There are still a few gaps in the story, but I now have a much clearer notion of the history of this fascinating site.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Beginnings of Roseville Park

Roseville Park, 1937
Because, yes, I am this easily distracted, I wanted to post a few things about the early days of Roseville Park. This was brought to my attention by a comment by Bill Harris, who linked to this article in the News Journal (link may or may not work for you). The gist of it is here:
Planning for the neighborhood of Roseville Park got under way off Kirkwood Highway in 1928, with a few homes done before the Great Depression idled the project and uncounted others nationwide.

The post-World War II boom saw many more homes built in the neighborhood – boasting the oldest continuous civic association in the state – and more recent building brought the total of homes to 179.

From its start, when Kirkwood Highway was two slim lanes, the quiet, almost-hidden neighborhood near Polly Drummond Hill Road – one of the state’s first subdivisions, if not the first – welcomed residents and guests with a brick wall with end post tops engraved “Roseville” and “Park.”
The point of the article was that part of one of those brick pillars had been found in someone's yard, and was rebuilt. A good article, and a good mention of a community that was older than I had realized. In my response to Bill's comment, I had expressed some doubt about the characterization of the development as having "gotten under way off Kirkwood Highway in 1928". (Leaving aside the facts that A) there was no Kirkwood Highway in 1928, and B) technically the road there even today is Capitol Trail, not Kirkwood Highway.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Inexplicably Famous Polly Drummond

Polly Drummond's Tavern today
Several times previously here on the blog, we've (directly or indirectly) uncovered the origins of, and the people behind, various road and place names in Mill Creek Hundred. We've hit things like Duncan Road, Brackinville Road, Little Baltimore Road, Loveville Road and McKennan's Church Road. Usually, the person behind the name is either a major landowner nearby, or a prominent figure in the community (like a preacher). This time, we'll look at a name (first and last) known by pretty much anyone who's spent any time living in or passing through Mill Creek Hundred -- Polly Drummond. And while she did live for a while in the area that bears her name, she was not a large landowner (by "large", I mean her property -- I have no idea about Polly's size) nor did she live there very long. Assuming the name started to be used while she was there, it's now been around almost ten times longer than she was.

The very short version of this post is that Polly Drummond, for a time, operated a small tavern on the hill that now bears her name. The dual challenge here is to A) find out more about who Polly Drummond was, and B) figure out why her name came to be attached to a hill that already had a name (the road, of course, was later named after the hill). For the first part, I think I've done a pretty good job of collecting more about Polly Drummond in one place than any other place I know of. I can pretty much follow her from cradle to grave, and I even have some more information about the tavern that made her "famous". As for the second part -- we can only speculate. Not surprisingly, though, I do have a few thoughts about it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Identify This Mystery Object

The Mystery Object
I have something I want to put out for everyone to take a look at. My hope is that maybe someone might know what the heck it is. It was found in the woods near an old farmsite (I don't want to say exactly where just yet, on the off chance it might be rare), and I have no idea what it is. It seems to be made of copper, judging by the coloration and discoloration. If I remember correctly, it's roughly about two feet long, give or take.

The catch here is that it may or may not have anything to do with the farm in which it was found. It's not very far from the barn, but it's sitting in a small creekbed. It may or may not be connected to some copper tubing that is visible nearby. The tubing comes out of the creekbank and may come from the barn as some sort of drainage system. Since the object is in this small creek, that, to me, at least raises the possibility that it could have been washed there from somewhere else, and have nothing to do with the farm. It could be an old car part for all I know.

Does anyone have any idea what this might be? Here are a couple more pictures. If you have any ideas, feel free to speak up.




Friday, September 14, 2012

The Interesting Owners of Woodside

Woodside
I know that this one, again, is technically a little outside of Mill Creek Hundred, but it's close and does have a connection. This particular topic came to my attention recently while researching the posts about Caleb Harlan and Plumgrove Farm. I had always figured that the Ferris School was built on land donated by Mr. Ferris, although until recently I had no idea who that might have been. As it turns out, though, the money to start the school came from John Ferris, but the property was purchased with that money by his cousin, Caleb Harlan.

The property that Harlan purchased, known as Woodside, of course has its own history prior to the founding of the school. I'm not interested here in going into too much detail about the very early years of the house, or details about the house itself, for that matter. If I find more about those topics, perhaps I could come back to that someday, but the focus of this post is in a slightly different direction. In particular, I want to look briefly at the last three men to own Woodside, immediately before Harlan's purchase and the founding of the school. (Unless someone owned it very briefly, I believe these are the last three owners.) While none of these men were from Mill Creek Hundred (and I think only one was technically from Christiana Hundred, where the property sits) or particularly impacted it directly, they're just interesting guys.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Fell Historic District

Fell Historic District area, c.1860
A couple years ago (have I been doing this that long?) we took a brief look at the history of the Fell Spice Mill at Faulkland. In that post, we focused primarily on the history of the spice mill itself, and the Fell family who ran it. I mentioned, however, that there are several other aspects of the story that are worthy of their own posts. I think the most obvious are the surrounding buildings in the Faulkland area that comprise the Fell Historic District, entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. There are eight buildings in the district, erected over a period of a century and a quarter, from 1800 to 1925. Some of them are visible from Faulkland Road, and some are not. You may even have driven by them without realizing their historic nature.

We'll now take a look at these eight homes (they weren't all homes to begin with, but they are now), which I've divided into three periods -- Early, Middle, and Late (original, huh?). There's more to say about some than others, but we'll touch on them all (with pictures!!). If you want to refamiliarize yourself with the basic history of the district, I recommend going back and reading the original Spice Mill post. That will hopefully make it easier to follow along with the names being used here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Abel Jeanes' Great Stone Barn

Aerial view of the Jeanes Barn remains
A while back, in what ended up being a series of posts (history, structures, lime kilns, Abel Jeanes), we took looks at several different aspects of the Eastburn-Jeanes Lime Kiln District. This turned out to be a fun topic to explore for a number of reasons. Among these were the facts that there is a fair amount of documentation about the area and the industry that went on there; that the families involved are pretty well documented (a process that continues today, right Donna?); and that the structures in the district are generally in a remarkable state of preservation. Except for the lime kilns themselves (which I doubt could be pressed into service now), there was only one structure mentioned that would fall into the "ruins" category -- Abel Jeanes' Great Stone Barn.

The barn was erected by Abel Jeanes in 1832 and sits sort of away from everything else, on the east side of Pike Creek. The general consensus for why Jeanes built it over there was to place it a safe distance away from any stray sparks that might escape from the lime kilns. Aside from its placement, the most outstanding feature of Jeanes' barn has always been its size. For many years after its construction, it was thought to be the largest barn in Delaware. It's not known exactly why it was built so large, but I put forth two possible explanations -- one serious and one semi-serious. My serious theory is that it was so big because of all the livestock Jeanes owned and needed to house. To do the heavy work of hauling around cartloads of lime, at the time the barn was built Jeanes owned 38 horses and 10 or 12 yoke of oxen. In this way I look at it as being as much a 19th Century parking garage as a barn. An alternate explanation is that from what we know of Abel Jeanes himself, he might have built the barn so large just because he could. He was not exactly what you'd call a shrinking violet.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Two Abandoned Bridges in the Woods

Bridge over Turkey Run
This might not be the most exciting little post, but I wanted to write it anyway. There was something I had found a little while ago and shared with someone, but I realized I never posted it for everyone to see. Now I've come across another similar situation, so I figured I'd bundle them together in one post. At issue are two small bridges -- one repurposed and one abandoned -- in the woods near ruins I've been shown recently. These bridges were never very large or heavily trafficked even when in use, and are certainly not much to look at today. What this story is, I think, more than anything, is a neat way to use a reference source I haven't touched on in a while -- the 1921 State Highway Department Bridge Survey. Well, at least I thought it was neat. Your mileage may vary.

The first bridge in question goes back to the post about the Walter Craig House, which if you'll recall is located southwest of Corner Ketch, and just north of Thompson Station Road. In the post, I mentioned that the ruins are also near an old, abandoned road, visible on the old maps, that now serves as part of one of the trails through White Clay Creek Preserve. After having walked down this old road/new trail to get to the Craig House, and before going to the ruins themselves, my guide and suburbosylvan explorer (any chance that term'll catch on?) Roger Suro showed me the bridge that carries the trail over Turkey Run. The decking and upper portion of the bridge are new, presumably put in place by the state when the trail was created. However, if you look underneath the newer footbridge's decking and railings, you'll see a much older support system.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Plumgrove Farm

In the last post, we took a fairly in-depth look at the life and works of Dr. Caleb Harlan (1814-1902), originally of Milltown. We touched on his family roots, his work as a homeopathic doctor, his poetic writings, and his instrumental role in establishing the Ferris School. To be honest, when I set out to write that post, that was pretty much all I had planned to write about. I either knew or had read little bits about all those topics, and figured that's all the post would be. However, while researching Dr. Harlan I did come across one topic that had eluded me before, and which was mentioned in the post. This in turn led to what I think was the most exciting part of the story, and one that, I believe, even ties into another one of our "ongoing investigations" here on the blog.

To be more specific, the subject in question is Harlan's 1876 agricultural treatise "Farming with Green Manures, on Plumgrove Farm". It's a highly thought-out and fairly scientifically-approached work that advises farmers on how best to use the idea of green manures on their fields. This process involves strategically planting cover crops in certain fields, then plowing this vegetation into the soil in order to replenish nutrients. The concept was not new in the 1870's (heck, it's really just a better version of the centuries old idea of crop rotation), but Harlan approached it in a very scientific way, always looking for better methods to use. The ideas he espoused in his book were not just theoretical -- they were based on years of actual experimentation.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Caleb Harlan -- Physician, Poet, Agronomist

Dr. Caleb Harlan
For any given area, you'll always be able to find a few people who stand out from the rest. Not necessarily for their talent or success (although those may come with it), but just because they seem to think a bit differently from those around them, or do things that others don't. One such person in Mill Creek Hundred a century and a half ago was Caleb Harlan. He was born to a family of farmers and millers, but ended up using his intellect more than his frail body for both his profession and his passion. He had the mind of a poet and a radical thinker, but always remained focused on improving the well-being of his fellow man, both physically and economically. His name is almost forgotten today, but there was a time when I'm sure almost everyone in the area knew Dr. Harlan.

Caleb Harlan was born on October 13, 1814 to John and Elizabeth (Quinby) Harlan, at their home in Milltown. John Harlan (1773-1851) was a Quaker miller who, along with brothers Caleb, Jr. and Joshua, owned and operated a mill along Mill Creek at the intersection of Limestone Road and Milltown Road. The "new" mill erected by the Harlan brothers in 1815, converted in the 20th Century to a residence, still stands today. No other homes from this era remain (the brick house next to the mill was built by a later owner in 1860's), but it's very possible that the Harlan house(s) stood on the east side of the old course of Limestone Road. This would place them right in the current path of Limestone Road, as changed in 1964.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

More About the McDaniel-Peach House

McDaniel-Peach House, 1910's
A while back I did a couple of posts about a pair of related houses -- the John McDaniel House and the McDaniel-Peach House. I had a few scraps of information about the John McDaniel House, but for the older McDaniel-Peach House I was left with little more than an old story and a heap of educated guesses. Recently (OK, my version of "recently" is "within the past few months"), however, I've been fortunate enough to have been contacted by several people with family connections to the McDaniel-Peach House. And while we still don't have all the answers, they were able to fill in a few blanks along the way. In the process -- in regard to the original post -- I managed to confirm one thing I wrote and refute another. And while we're here, we'll take a quick look at the industry that flourished for a time on the property.

First, to quickly get everyone up to speed and recap the original post, the McDaniel-Peach House is located just north of Paper Mill Road, about half way between North Star Road and Limestone Road in the development of Chestnut Valley. I had speculated that it was built sometime before 1777 by James McDaniel, who may have been a descendant of Bryan McDonald, an early MCH settler in the area near Brandywine Springs. The 1777 date sprung from a story related by Francis Cooch in the 1930's, and later compiled in the book Little Known History of Newark, Delaware and Its Environs. (I'm happy to say I found the original version of  Cooch's article, printed October 16, 1932.) I believe that a few of the items graciously forwarded to me to share can shed some light on the construction of this home overlooking the Pike Creek Valley.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Guthrie Tract Along Limestone Road

1886 Dennison House, site of the 1822 Guthrie House
At first I wasn't sure what to title this post, or exactly how to approach writing it. In it, we'll look at two properties along Limestone Road that were associated with a family that's been mentioned before, but never directly featured -- the Guthries. What's a little odd about the houses we'll focus on is that neither was the family's home for the bulk of their tenure in the area. One was built by the subsequent owner of much of the original farm, and the other was built for the widow of the last Guthrie to farm in the area. What ties the sites together is the family, whose ties to the area stretch back into the mists of the 18th Century.

The Guthrie family in Mill Creek Hundred is, depending on when and where you look, either fairly easy or very frustrating to try to follow. Thankfully for the purposes of this post, the branch that resided along Limestone Road is pretty easy to trace. The other main branch in MCH lived in the Milford Crossroads area near Paper Mill Road and Possum Park Road. This is the family that has been mentioned in connection with Ebenezer Methodist Church. The two are certainly connected, most likely with the Limestone Road line breaking off during the days of the Early Republic. At some point I hope to have more information about the Milford Crossroads Guthries, and a better understanding of how the two fit together. But like with some other families, the Guthries are challenging to trace partially because of reused names. In this case, the name is Alexander.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More About William Morgan

Marriage Bond of William Morgan and Martha Williams
Last year I did a post about the William Morgan Farm, a beautiful gray stone house and barn along Doe Run Road in Corner Ketch. At the time, I lamented the fact that there was little information I could find about the farm's builder and namesake, William Morgan. Several weeks ago, though, I was contacted by Marcia Healy, a Morgan descendant who does happen to have more about him and his family. In graciously providing this information about her family (she's actually a descendant of one of William's sisters, if I understand it correctly), she managed to both confirm and refute some of the assumptions I had made about Morgan. But thanks to her, we'll now have a more complete (and accurate!) picture of who William Morgan was.

First the part I got right -- The William Morgan buried at Pencader Presbyterian Church in Glasgow is the correct one. He was born in Pencader Hundred in about 1762 to John Morgan, also likely a native of that hundred. The Morgans were probably of Welsh origin, as were many of the early 18th Century immigrants to that area (the word "Pencader" itself is a Welsh term meaning "chief chair" or "highest seat"). Although William's resting place is included in the "Abstract of Graves of Revolutionary Patriots", we haven't yet found any other concrete evidence that he served in the Revolution. However, he would have been about the right age, turning 18 in about 1780, right in the middle of the war. Since there must be some evidence somewhere to explain his inclusion on the list, I would assume that he in fact probably did serve in one of the Delaware regiments.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Walter Craig House

Largest standing wall of the Craig Barn
For (I think) fairly obvious reasons, most of the structures profiled on this blog are, or recently were, still standing. Occasionally we'll look at a house, school, or mill that disappeared long ago, but in those cases there's usually nothing at all left of the building. In this area, that's normally because the land that the historic building stood on has since been developed. Once in a while, though, you can find the ruins of an old house in an area that hasn't been developed, if you know where to look. I didn't know where to look, but I was contacted recently by someone who does. He was kind enough to take me on a hike one morning and show me what he had found, which was A) the remains of some old structures, and B) a fascinating example of just how fast a landscape can change.

Roger Suro has been hiking the woods northwest of Corner Ketch for about thirty years now, always with an eye toward nature and history. Among the treasures he's come across on (and a good bit off) the trails in what's now a part of the White Clay Creek Preserve are the ruins of several structures just north of Thompson Station Road. The stone remains sit west of a road that used to run south from Corner Ketch Road to Thompson Station Road, crossing over Turkey Run just prior to its (the old road's) southern terminus. The road seems to have been passable by automobile as late as the 1950's, but now it remains only as a footpath, in some places only one person wide.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Hattie Milliken House

This is a bit of an odd post for several reasons. First, the site is slightly outside of Mill Creek Hundred, but only very slightly. Second, the house in question, although built in an old style, dates only to the mid 1930's. Finally, the topic grew completely out of comments on another post. It's actually because of one comment in particular that I've decided to give the subject its own post. I thought the story was interesting enough that I didn't want this comment (which is almost a post in itself) lost in the shuffle.

It all started last November, with a question in a comment on the post about the Josiah G. Hulett House. Bill Harris asked if I knew anything about a nearby stone house that overlooked Lancaster Pike. It sits on the south side of the road, on the left just before you cross Red Clay Creek and the railroad tracks if you're coming from Centerville Road or 141. It's made of fieldstone, and at first glance looks as if it could be 18th or 19th Century. I didn't really know anything about it at first, and some quick research gave me only the barest of facts. County information stated it was built in 1936, on land purchased the previous year by Hattie and Mahlon Milliken. An anonymous commenter stated that he/she cared for the Millikens late in their lives, and that they called the house "Beech Bower".

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reverend Thomas Love

Rev. Thomas Love
Nineteenth Century Mill Creek Hundred, like the rest of the country, was a highly religious place. The smattering of small, country churches helped to define and unite the communities, and in doing so the leaders of those churches (especially ones who remained for an extended period of time) became influential and well-known in the community. In the mid-1800's, few men were more respected in this area than the Presbyterian minister Rev. Thomas Love. He preached at local churches for over 35 years, taking several struggling congregations and building them into strong churches. He also managed to be a gentleman farmer in eastern MCH for more than 55 years, joining his ministerial predecessor in leaving his name on the map even today.

Thomas Love was born on March 22, 1796 in Faggs Manor, PA (near the present-day towns of Avondale and Cochranville). His parents were James and Mary Love, and his grandfather, also Thomas Love, was a soldier in both the French and Indian War as well as the Revolution. It was this elder Thomas' grandfather who first emigrated from Ireland to America. The family was likely Scotch-Irish and devoutly Presbyterian, like the MCH residents to the south to whom the younger Thomas would ultimately minister.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Zoomable 1868 Beers Map Overlay

First of all, at the risk of disappointing anyone who misread the title the same way I did an email subject line, this post is not about Zombie Beers. For better or worse, it's just not. What it's actually about is a cool new tool, made specifically for us, by the creator of one of my other favorite resources. If you've had the ... we'll say "pleasure" ... OK, "experience"... of reading a few posts on this blog, you've no doubt seen me reference the 1849 Rea & Price Map of New Castle County. Originally, like several of the other maps, I could only find little bits and pieces of the Rea & Price map. Eventually, to my great delight, I came across a complete, color, high-quality, zoomable version of the map.

This high-quality, zoomable (meaning you can zoom in and out) version was created by Jim Meeks, and hosted at his website -- New Castle Community History and Archaeology Program (NC-CHAP). This is a fantastic website devoted to the history of the town of New Castle, the oldest town in the county named for it. Well, Jim's at it again. This time he's taken on my other favorite map, and he's made an awesome version of it specially for us.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Joseph Ball House -- Epilogue


Ball House, July 2007
I wasn't really planning on doing a third post (after Part 1 and Part 2) about this house, but there just ended up being a few things that either I didn't get to, or that came up after the other posts were put up. Mostly, they deal with the 20th and 21st Century history of the house, which for the most part consists of conjecture and reminiscences. However, since those reminiscences we've gotten seem to have some good information, I thought I'd put this all together in one last post.

The first thing I wanted to touch on was the physical structure of the house itself. As was pointed out in Denis' comment on the first post, the house as it is now is strictly a fieldstone structure. However, until recently there was a frame addition situated on the east end of the house (the right side as you're looking at the front). I haven't seen a picture of this addition, nor do I really know any more about it, such as who might have built it and when. It was apparently removed some time between five and ten years ago, presumably for structural/safety reasons. The picture above comes from Google Street View, and shows the house with the addition removed. The picture is shown to have been taken in July 2007, which gives a timeframe for its removal. The house apparently remained open like this for several years, before modern siding was used to cover the end of the house.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Joseph Ball House, Part 2

The Joseph Ball House
In the last post, we took a look at the 19th Century history of what I call the Joseph Ball House, located in the parking lot of the Arundel Apartments northwest of Milltown. The little, stone, two-story house doesn't look like much, but I think it dates back well over 250 years and connects to an important early family in Mill Creek Hundred. The chronology may have been a bit confusing in the previous post, so here is how I believe the ownership/residency of the house went in the 1800's. At the start of the century, it was owned by Joseph Ball, whose son James may have worked the farm with him. After Joseph's 1821 death, James lived here for two years until his death in 1823. James' widow Isabella then had the house until her own passing in 1831. At this point the house went to John Ball, whose relationship to Joseph we'll look at later in the post.

When John died sometime in the 1850's, the house went back to James' son, James W. Ball. After James W.'s death in 1861, the house went to John's son Reuben, who lived there until his death in 1891. An unknown (to me, at least) F. Hicks is shown on the 1893 map, after which the ownership is unclear. The key to pushing the history back into the 18th Century -- and to figuring out who might have built the house and when -- is Joseph Ball. But to do this, we have to go back a couple generations. I think the easiest way to do this is to go back to the beginning, and work our way up. We'll also see how this house is linked to another historic house just up the road.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Joseph Ball House, Part 1

I've only been writing this blog for a little less than two years now, but in that time I feel I've learned a pretty decent amount about the history of Mill Creek Hundred (and I hope I've been able to pass along a lot of "new" knowledge, too). But even in a relatively small area like MCH, I'm still coming across things that surprise me -- even in an area of the hundred that I consider to be my "backyard". To be accurate, though, I didn't come across this one by myself. A couple weeks ago, Dave O. (he's commented a few times), in the context of discussing other sites, offhandedly mentioned to me in an email that there was an old house in the middle of the parking lot of the Arundel Apartments (northeast of Limestone Road, just above Milltown Road). Intrigued, and pretty sure I knew which house it was on the 19th Century maps, I went to check it out. As soon as I saw it, I knew there was going to be some frustrating research ahead. I was right.

As it turned out, there were really three parts to researching this house -- one which I'm pretty confident about (its 19th Century history), one that I'm less sure of but still feel good about (its 18th Century history), and one in which I've made an educated guess based on circumstantial evidence (connecting the two). All in all, I think I have a good idea of the history of the house, but I still reserve the right to come back at some point in the future and say, "What? You really thought he built it?" The difficulty in putting all this together springs from the fact that the family in question, the Balls, are another one of those that tended to reuse a few core names over and over again. The further back you go in time, the more difficult it becomes to know exactly who is being referenced at any given time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hockessin Colored School #107C

Hockessin Colored School #107C
In my opinion, there are many interesting and significant historical sites in Mill Creek Hundred. Most, though, are significant only in a local context, and not much more. However, one site in Hockessin -- recently almost lost -- bucks that trend. Not only was it born of one of the greatest philanthropic crusades in early 20th Century Delaware, it had a contributing role in probably the most important court case of the century, too. Although it's been in the news quite a bit the past year or so, many people probably don't know very much about the Hockessin Colored School #107C. The story of this plain-looking little brick building -- especially its beginning and its end -- is really the story of a few principled individuals trying to better the futures of children overlooked and mostly disregarded at the time.

To fully understand "107C" we have to go back a little, to the 1800's. Beginning in the 1820's, the schools in MCH and the rest of Delaware were controlled and mostly funded locally, by local school boards, with minimal assistance from the state. This, though, was for the white schools. Black children had far fewer options. Before the Civil War, there were very few schools in Delaware for African-Americans. In the years following the war some organizations, most notably the Delaware Association for the Moral Improvement and Education of the Colored People, did establish and fund black schools. And while these schools seemed always on the verge of exhausting their limited funding, these efforts did help to prompt an 1875 state law that taxed African-Americans for the support of their local school. In 1881 the state began contributing funding for black schools, and in 1897 this support was raised to be equal to that of white schools. Unfortunately, schools still relied mostly on local school taxes, so even with increased state support the black schools were still noticeably inferior.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Joseph Jones' Sale Ad

Joseph Jones' 1855 sale ad
I wanted to share something here that got forwarded to me while back, and that I'm just now getting around to posting. It comes from the personal collection of Denis Hehman, of the Lower Red Clay Valley blog. Since it doesn't seem to specifically fit into the bounds of his blog, he's graciously allowed me to share it here with everyone. It's not (as far as I know) a particularly historically significant document, but it's interesting nonetheless. I haven't found a whole lot of information about, but I did recently find just enough to give it a bit of historical and geographical context.

What Denis has is a handwritten document from 1855 detailing an upcoming sale of personal property. For those who can't read the document (although the handwriting is impressively clear -- this coming from one whose handwriting is often illegible even to himself), I've transcribed it below:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Brown Farm, AKA "The Farmhouse"

As we've seen in through the pages of this blog, there are still quite a few historic houses scattered around Mill Creek Hundred. Most of the survivors are still being used for the purpose for which they were erected many years ago -- as private homes. A few, though, have been repurposed over the years and now serve a commercial function for their owners. Several of them -- like the Meeteer House and the Aquila Derickson House -- have been featured already. Another one that some of you may have visited sits on the south side of Old Capitol Trail, west of Stanton, between Kirkwood Highway and Delaware Park. Now a beautiful setting for weddings and other events, The Farmhouse was once, well, a farmhouse.

Like a few of the things I've written about recently, I don't know nearly as much about this house as I'd like to (yes, after almost two years I've exhausted most of the "low hanging fruit" -- the things there's a lot written about already). For one thing, I don't know exactly how old it is. Dating this house is particularly tricky, since there has been so much new construction added onto it to turn it into the reception center that it is today. What we do know is that a house at this location (in all probability the same house) is shown on the 1849 Rea & Price map as being owned by a W. Rice. At first I thought this might be Washington Rice, a Mill Creek Hundred native who became a successful grocer and businessman in Wilmington. I was probably drawn that way by the "W. Rice's Store" not far away on Old Coach Road. However, after looking through the census records from the time, I now realize it was actually a different W. Rice.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Lang and Sturgis Store

The Lang & Sturgis Store
At the risk of seeming to be fixated on the topic, I have one more post on the general subject of the Smith's Corner area. After this one, though, I promise you'll never look the same way at a building you probably never gave a second thought to in the past. I know that personally, I'm kind of fascinated with it now. The starting point for all this comes via Denis Hehman (who authors the wonderful Lower Red Clay Valley blog), who got the basic information (and the old pictures) from someone in what started out as a conversation about other historical sites. (You can also read Denis' original post about the store, which also includes a picture of a Wilmington store, mentioned later.) He asked about Smith's Store, and instead of getting information about it, he got a story and photos of what was either a competitor or successor to Smith's.

What Denis was told was that there was another store on that same intersection (Old Capitol Trail and Newport Gap Pike), this one owned by Lang and Sturgis. Through some basic research, by studying the pictures, and by hashing out some ideas back and forth through email (as well as some information from a family member), I think Denis and I have come up with a somewhat coherent picture of what was going on at the time. And at two separate times, just by staring at the picture above, I think I realized two sort of surprising things. Both things now amaze me every time I pass by this intersection (which is almost every day).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

More About Naomi Harlan and the Stanton PO

At the end of the last post about former Stanton postmistress Naomi Harlan, we didn't really know much about her beyond what was in the short newspaper article. Besides her name and former post, we knew that she was, as of March 1925, awaiting trial for embezzlement. I'm still not aware of exactly how that prosecution went, but thanks to some great work by a reader and frequent contributor, we now know a bit more about Harlan's background. And thanks to another contribution, we have one more mention of her as heading the Stanton Post Office.

Within a day of my publishing the post about Naomi Harlan and saying I didn't know anything more, Donna Peters had in my inbox all the information I couldn't find. I don't know how she did it, but she did. In my defense, and to Donna's great credit, almost every time Naomi is listed in a census she's either very hard to read or is listed -- sometimes comically -- incorrectly.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Stanton's Postmistress Troubles

Just a quick little post here, since I unfortunately don't have anything to add beyond the clipping itself. As you can see, it seems Stanton had a bit of a scandal relating to its post office in the 1920's. The newspaper clipping -- from March 22, 1925 -- states that three local woman had taken the civil service exams for the postmistress position in the southern Mill Creek Hundred village. The position became available upon the arrest for embezzlement of Naomi Harlan, the former postmistress.

At that point Harlan was out on bail and awaiting trial before a Federal Grand Jury. What ever became of her is something of a mystery. Even who she was is a mystery to me. I've searched for information about Naomi Harlan, including census records, but I have not been able to find anything about her. Nor have I found any mention of her court case or its outcome. This is probably one of those stories that was big for a short time (with Stanton being such a small community, I have to believe this was a big local story), but quickly faded away.

I wish I had more information about the story to share, but in looking at census records, I can't even find a Naomi Harlan who lived in the area. Of course, with this story taking place smack dab in the middle of the census cycle (ie, the decade), it does make it harder to find anything. If anyone ever runs across something that illuminates Mrs. Harlan's fate, please pass it along. I'll do the same.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Robert Graham House

The Robert Graham House
While some of the (I'd say, to most people) surprisingly large number of 150+ year old homes in Mill Creek Hundred are relatively well known and fairly visible, others are a bit more "off the beaten path". And while these hidden gems may be less well known and less viewed, they are by no means less significant. In fact, one such house -- the Robert Graham House (entered into the National Register in 1997) -- tucked away on Crossan Road north of Corner Ketch hides within its walls an interesting and, to the best of my knowledge, pretty rare example of a building type that was common in its time. When looking at the house, the section that most looks "old" is the stone wing on the west end, closest to the road. However, it's actually the center section, hidden beneath a weatherboard exterior, that's the oldest part. To get the full story, though, we have to go back even further.

In 1714, a Quaker named Daniel Worsley purchased 250 acres from William Penn's son, and about ten years later erected a brick house for his family. This house, now known as Penn Manor, still stands about a half mile north of the Graham House, in the development of Thistleberry Farm. (If I can find a bit more info, I'd very much like to write a post about this house, too.) Upon Worsley's death, the estate passed to his daughter Sarah, who married another Friend -- James Thompson. In 1750, Thompson purchased an adjacent 100 acre tract to the south of the original 250 acre farm. It was on this 100 acre lot that the Graham House would be built.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

1940 Census Released

1940 Enumeration District Map
Back in the early 1990's, we Flyer fans used to taunt the players and fans of the New York Rangers with a chant of "Nineteen Forty, Nineteen Forty", which was the last time they had won the Stanley Cup. In 1994, the uncouth Rangers rudely ruined our taunt by winning the cup, forcing all Philadelphia sports fans to become pinnacles of grace, decorum, and sportsmanship (at least, that's how I remember it). Why has 1940 been rattling around in my head again lately, along with the things that usually rattle around in there? Because as of April 2, the 1940 U.S. Census has officially been released to the public!

Federal law currently requires a 72 year waiting period before public release of census information, in order to protect personal information. However, of the 132 million people counted in the census, an estimated 21 million are still alive. Few of them, though, would have been adults at the time.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Update on Smith's Corner

Near Smith's Corner, 1921
A little while back I did a post that, partially, dealt with a State Highway Department picture from 1921 of what they termed "Smith's Corner".  From all the evidence, it appears that what they called Smith's Corner was the intersection of Newport Gap Pike and Old Capitol Trail, what I would describe as being "behind" Price's Corner. The big question I posed was, "Where did the name Smith's Corner come from?" Now, it seems we might have an answer.

As luck would have it, not long after publishing this post I was contacted by someone who may have solved this little mystery for us. I hope to have much more information from and about her at a later date, but it turns out she is the granddaughter of Powell M. Ford. She emailed me after running across the post about her grandfather, and I had to ask her about Smith's Corner, since her family lived in the area at the time. She recalled hearing something from her mother that may solve the Smith mystery (Smithtery?).