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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Randolph Peters and His Nurseries

Possibly Randolph Peters' House
There has always been something on the 1868 Beers map that intrigued me, but about which I had never found any information (although that could be due, in large part, to the fact that I never really tried all that hard). Down in the very lower, left-hand corner, just north of White Clay Creek and between the Roseville and Curtis Mills, is something that says "Fruitland Nursery". I had tried in the past to look up the Fruitland Nursery, but with little (OK, no) success. It wasn't until I attacked it from a different angle that I learned what this was, and found that it was only a part of a larger operation that extended far beyond the borders of Mill Creek Hundred.

I had actually intended to do a post about the house seen above, which is located on the south side of Old Paper Mill Road, about a half mile east of Paper Mill Road. Old Paper Mill Road once connected all the way over to Possum Park Road, right where Old Possum Park Road now joins up with the rerouted road. Although this house certainly dates to at least the early 1800's, I wasn't able to find much about it in a quick search -- at least not before I was sidetracked into a different direction. Once I looked through the census and discovered who the "R. Peters" was who was listed below the Fruitland Nursery, it all fell into place.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Joshua T. Heald

Joshua T. Heald
It is, admittedly, true that Mill Creek Hundred does not boast much in the way of sons or daughters who have made a lasting or visible impact on the national or global level. However, if we step down a notch to the state/local level, we do find some residents who did make significant impacts on the development of the region. One such MCH native was a 19th Century businessman, son of an 18th Century farmer, but with a decidedly 20th Century vision. His name was Joshua T. Heald (1821-1887), and of him Scharf said, "...it is probably not an exaggeration to say that he did more to enhance the interests of Wilmington than any other one man."

When he was born in northern MCH, it seemed he was destined to live as a farmer like his father and most of his neighbors. However, an unfortunate accident for him turned out to be a stroke of good luck for the city of Wilmington and the surrounding area, including his home region. Heald would instead turn his attention to the business world, and in the process he would help the region transition into the new, modern world. His vision was one that would benefit everyone, from the most powerful industrialists to the lowliest immigrants. He also quite literally changed the map of Wilmington and beyond.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Walkers of Little Baltimore

I always like it when one historical investigation leads me naturally into another one, rather than having to look around and decide what to dive into next. While trying to figure out the later history of the Aaron Klair House, I found that it had passed into the Walker family. These Walkers were the same ones that owned the Mermaid Tavern at the time, and had several properties in the immediate vicinity. I also noticed that there were Walkers farther north, between Corner Ketch and Hockessin, and I assumed that they were all related. I soon realized that this was not the case. Then, in researching this northerly family of Walkers, I found that there were several old houses related to them still standing up in that region. I also came across the explanation and origin for the odd-sounding road they're on, which took its name from an old name for the area.

The Walkers we'll be focusing on here trace their lineage back to Alexander Walker, who married Mary McIntire in 1770. The McIntires (or McIntyres) were prominent landowners just across the state line in New Garden Township, Chester County. Alexander and Mary had three sons: Andrew, John, and Alexander. When the boys were young, sometime before 1780, their father died; Mary moved back into her family's home, but soon remarried to Thomas Moore. Moore purchased three farms from the estate of Samuel Young, who had died in 1781. All three properties were along the road that ran westward from Limestone Road to New Garden, PA -- two on the north side and one on the south side.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Aaron F. Klair and Family

The Aaron Klair House
In the last post, we took a look at Prohibition Era Delaware, and Delaware's own heatedly contentious anti-liquor statute, the Klair Law. While all that was interesting in its own right (although possibly only to me), besides the fact that the law did apply to Mill Creek Hundred, the main connection to our area was the name of the law and its legislative sponsor, Aaron F. Klair. In this post, we'll turn our attention to Rep. Klair and his family, which I believe has been under-represented so far in this blog. Aaron Klair was a life-long resident of MCH, and his family has a rich history here dating back two full centuries. Also, on a personal note, I happen to have a couple of personal connections to the family, which I'll throw in at the end. And to top it all off, I came across a historic house that I imagine few people are aware of.

The Klair family story in MCH began in 1810, when farmer Frederick Klair (1771-1857) moved down from Pennsylvania and purchased a farm along Limestone Road. As outlined in the post about the McKennan-Klair House, Frederick Klair would reside in the house for the rest of his life, doubling its size in 1818 with a stone addition. Frederick and his wife, Hannah (Supplee) Klair (1772-1829), had eight children, but the one we'll focus on now is their third child (and second son), Aaron. He would be the grandfather of our prohibitionist legislator, Aaron Francis Klair.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Klair Law

Rolling advertisement for Prohibition Repeal, Wilmington 1930
 New Years has just passed, which always brings to mind two things (OK, it may mean other things to other people, but I'm picking these two): alcohol and new laws. If you're thinking historically, the convergence of intoxicating beverages and legislation can mean only one thing -- Prohibition. But the Eighteenth Amendment (which prohibited the production, sale and transport of "intoxicating liquors") and the Volstead Act (which filled in the details as to what was and was not allowed, and provided penalties for violating it) were really the culmination of the Dry Movement (about as fun as it sounds), not the beginning. Anti-alcohol forces had been hard at work since at least the beginnings of the Temperance Movement in the late 1700's, to varying degrees of success.

The two major pieces of national legislation that went into effect in 1920 were by no means the only such laws on the books in the US. Many jurisdictions enacted Dry Laws prior to National Prohibition, and some of these laws went further than did the federal ones. Here in Delaware, pioneers that we are, we had both. At the time, the state was divided into four "local option units", which seems to mean regions that can have laws pertaining to them (I'm not a lawyer) -- the three counties and Wilmington. In 1907, Kent and Sussex Counties voted to go "no-license", which meant that saloons would no longer be permitted to sell alcohol (I think that meant that no one could get a license to sell, but I'm not sure if it affected possession). After defeating the measure several times, New Castle County finally followed suit in 1917, leaving Wilmington as the only wet area in the state.