|The Aaron Klair House|
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.
Aaron Klair (1802-1874) was born in Pennsylvania, and moved to MCH with his family at the age of seven or eight. He grew up in the McKennan-Klair House, and in 1824 married Hannah Stidham, a descendant of Dr. Timen Stiddem, one of the original Swedish colonists who arrived on the Kalmar Nyckel in 1638. Aaron and Hannah probably moved out on their own soon after being married. Knowing where they would end up, I was expecting to find them in the 1830 census in the house shown above. However, after searching the census, I found Aaron listed directly between James Buckingham and Jacob Derrickson. At that time, Buckingham operated the old Hersey grist mill (later site of the Marshall Iron Mill), and Derrickson lived on Stanton Road near Kiamensi Road. This was at a time when the Springer-Cranston House was "between owners", so it's unclear who, if anyone, lived there. Either way, it looks like Aaron and family lived in the Marshallton area, before it was Marshallton.
Frustratingly, Aaron does not appear in the 1840 census (at least not in MCH), but he reappears on the 1849 Rea and Price Map. By that point, he and his family were living on the east side of Pike Creek, a bit southwest of the Mermaid Tavern. His house is still standing on what was, until recently, Three Little Bakers (Pike Creek) Golf Course. I had a chance recently to go over and take a look at it, and it appears to be in decent shape. It's a four bay, fieldstone house, with what looks like two doors on the front. (I assume the front to be the side shown above, which faces out towards Pike Creek and Pike Creek Road.) I was hoping to find a datestone on it somewhere, but no such luck. From its style, though, it certainly dates to at least the first half of the 19th Century. Whether Aaron built it in the 1830's or 40's, or whether it was built earlier by someone else, I'm not sure.
By 1849, Aaron and Hannah had seven children at home (three others had died in infancy), the eldest being Egbert. Egbert Klair (1826-1915) was probably born either at his grandfather's home on Limestone Road, or possibly at the house in Not-Yet-Marshallton. When Frederick Klair passed away in 1857, he left the McKennan-Klair House to Aaron, who moved in to it then. Aaron, in turn, left his home to Egbert, who in 1859 married Elizabeth Cranston (1832-1907), daughter of Joseph Cranston. Egbert and Elizabeth (who apparently had a thing for vowels), had five children in their home overlooking Pike Creek: Evalina, Aaron, Adeline, Ella, and Evan. Aaron was, of course, the future author of the despised Klair Law.
|Presumably the rear of Aaron Klair's house|
Egbert continued to farm the land around his house until sometime in the 1870's, when the family moved to the Stanton area. I don't know this for a fact yet (I can't find any solid information on it), but I believe Egbert and Elizabeth may have moved in about 1872, because that's when her father died. I think they moved into her father's large white home on Limestone Road just north of Stanton. This house, the Cranston-Klair House, stood until about 2001 when it was torn down for the Commerce bank (now TD Bank). If this is correct, then this is where Aaron F. Klair grew up.
|The Cranston-Klair House, soon before demolition|
On the topic of Aaron F. Klair's formative years, it's interesting to note that the Cranstons were Friends, and several members of the family are specifically mentioned as being active in the temperance movement. Perhaps this is where Rep. Klair's views on drink originated. After coming of age, Aaron married Annie Armor in 1889. The couple had two children, Sarah Edith and Norman. By 1900 Aaron was farming his own land, somewhere just west of Stanton, I believe. (I find the later the census, the harder it is to figure out exactly where anyone is.) In 1910, he appears to be living just south of the Cedars, although it's possible that the census list is jumbled at that point.
In both the 1920 and 1930 censuses, Aaron (or Frank, as he is on the 1930), is listed on Lincoln Highway in Marshallton. Since to the best of my knowledge this would be what we'd call Old Capitol Trail, it appears he may have lived somewhere on OCT west of Marshallton. Both of his children lived next to him. Edith had married Kemper B. Pierson, and Norman wed Helen Pryor. Although his name stirred debate for over a decade, Aaron served only one two-year term in the state House (1919-1921). His cousin Irvin G. Klair served two sessions later, as did several other relatives at other times. Aaron finally passed away in 1939, at the age of 76, and was buried with many of his family members at Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church. Since he doesn't show up in any of the newpaper pieces I read, we can only guess at what his opinion of his legacy was.
Personal Side Note: I happened to grow up in Klair Estates, which was part of the property associated with the Cranston-Klair House. The house eventually went to Evan Klair, Aaron F.'s brother. While my wife and I were dating, we found out that in the 1930's, her grandfather came to the area from Maryland and befriended Evan's son, Howard "Pete" Klair. He actually worked for a time on the farm that included the land I would later be raised on. Pete Klair later built for himself the brick house on OCT at Farrand Drive, where for a time, I delivered newspapers to. I always remember him as a very nice old man.
Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
- Sadly, Frederick and Hannah Klair's eighth child, Hiram, died in infancy. The other seven, though, as a whole, were remarkably long-lived. Aaron had the shortest lifespan, at 72, while Jesse, the eldest died at 78. The other five all lived to be 90 or more, with George topping out at an even 100.
- That Klair blood was pretty strong, because several of Aaron's children lived to an old age, too. Three of his sons lived to be 83 or older, and daughter Emily beat them all, living to the ripe old age of 98.
- In another instance of those odd family relationships, Aaron Klair's brother Jesse married Hannah Stidham's sister Ann.
- Mostly due to not really having the time for it, I haven't gotten much into active historic preservation activism yet. However, the Aaron Klair House seems like it would be a good one to keep an eye on. It seems to be (at least from the outside) in decent structural shape. If anyone knows if there are any plans for it, I'd love to know about it.
- The "barn" next to the Aaron Klair House is a mid 20th Century structure (I figured that out from the "1950" inscription. Brilliant, huh?) Most of it is metal and concrete, except for the foundation of one section of a raised patio-like area. This foundation is clearly much older, being made of fieldstone similar to the house. My assumption is that it's the remains of the foundation of Aaron Klair's barn.
- Presumably, Annie Armor is somehow related to Howard Armor, who married Aaron F.'s cousin Bertha Klair. Bertha was Jonas Klair's daughter, and a cousin of Aaron F.'s. Jonas had inherited the McKennan-Klair House, which eventually passed to Bertha's son Merritt K. Armor.
- In another interesting area Prohibition connection, the Federal Prohibition Director for the State of Delaware was W. Truxton Boyce. Boyce resided in the Hale-Byrnes House south of Stanton. Boyce didn't have to worry about the Klair Law, though, as he was tasked with enforcing only federal Prohibition laws. In a few of the newspaper articles I read, Boyce almost seemed to be irked at the further-reaching state law.