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.

Sometime not long after 1800, presumably as the boys were coming of age, Thomas Moore sold the farms to two of his step-sons, John and Andrew Walker (I thought I saw that Alexander moved away, but I can't confirm that now). John Walker (1773-1860) purchased the two western-most farms, one north of the road and one south. The eastern property went to Andrew. Since there were already Walkers established nearby at Mermaid, the locals needed a way to distinguish the new Walkers from the old ones (they apparently were not related). Although their father Alexander came from Chester County, it seems that either he or his father had lived for a time in Baltimore. Therefore, John and Andrew became "The Baltimore Walkers". Consequently, the area around their farms came to be called "Little Baltimore". The road going through it, of course, acquired the name of Little Baltimore Road.

John and Andrew Walker's farms in Little Baltimore, 1849

There are two historic Walker homes still standing in Little Baltimore, although to be honest, I'm not sure exactly how old either of them is. One of them is the brick house pictured at the top of the post, which sits on the eastern farm owned by Andrew Walker (1780-1866). Andrew originally worked as a carpenter, before settling down on his farm. He married Esther Crawford, daughter of Robert Crawford (probably the same man who owned the Bartley-Tweed Farm at the time), and according to Runks built a barn and a large brick house. It's quite possible that the house that stands there today is the one that Andrew built, albeit possibly with a few later changes. 

After Andrew's death (probably in 1866), the farm went to his youngest son, Robert. Robert Walker (1813-1896) grew up on his father's farm, then moved out for a time to work on his own farm. Judging from the old maps, Robert's farm may have been located east of Polly Drummond Hill Road, where the development of Deacon's Walk is now. Robert married Sarah Whiteman (1828-1855), daughter of Jacob Whiteman, and this farm is later owned by Charles Whiteman, who may have been Sarah's brother. Eventually Robert moved back to Little Baltimore and took over his father's farm. Robert and Sarah had two boys: Alfred W. who married Mansell Tweed's daughter Louise and moved to Wilmington, and Henry C. who had become a doctor and lived in Philadelphia.

Upon Robert's death in 1896, Henry moved back to MCH and took over the house and farm. According to Francis Cooch in 1932, the farm was owned at that time by Clarence Jester. I do believe the house may date to Andrew's tenure in the early 1800's, but the barn that stands nearby is almost certainly a 20th Century addition. However, there do appear to be remains of the foundation next to it, likely the original barn.

A few hundred yard west of the Andrew Walker House is a simple, three bay frame house, the last remnant of one of his brother's farms. Again, I'm unsure of the age of the house, but it's certainly 19th Century. Here, too, there are stone foundations that were likely the base of John Walker's barn. This house could be John's, or it could have been built later by his son. Cooch, however, writing in the 1930's, seems to speak as if these are the original houses. John Walker (1773-1860), like his brother, was not initially a farmer. He trained as a carpenter, but also worked as a shopkeeper. Runks states that he ran a store at Ewart's Corner in Chester County (no idea where that is), and later in Little Baltimore. I've also seen mention that he may also have had one near Hockessin. Eventually, though, he settled on his property here. He was married twice, first to Elizabeth Ewart, then to Edith Sharpless. Unusually for the time, it does seem he and Elizabeth were divorced.


With his second wife, John had five children, two of whom would eventually occupy his farms. John's farm on the north side of the road, with the house shown above, was taken over by William Hicks Walker (1828-1913). This property actually extended into Chester County, PA, and also included a house in its northwestern part. After the DE-PA state line was resurveyed in 1892, I believe this house ended up being located in Pennsylvania. I don't think it's survived, and the portion of Doe Run Road that used to extend up to it north of Little Baltimore Road is long gone. I don't know if there were other owners after William, but in 1932 this farm was owned by Mahlon P. Lee.

The last of the three Walker farms is the only one not to have a Walker-era house on it. This is the other of John's farms, located on the south side of Little Baltimore Road. John's son Thomas Moore Walker (1822-1906) took possesion of this farm after his 1847 marriage to Mary A. McCabe (1819-1895). Mary was the daughter of Dr. Robert McCabe, a prominent local physician who lived a short distance east, between Limestone Road and the Mitchell's Woodside Farm. (The McCabe House is still there, although it appears to have been heavily altered by later owners.)  Thomas and Mary had seven children. Two of their sons, John M. and Thomas H., operated a kaolin clay mining company, the Walker Bros. Kaolin Company. I don't know if they did any of their mining on their own property, but they did lease other properties on which to mine, too.

Perhaps the most locally-notable child of Thomas and Mary was their oldest (in every sense), Francis M. Walker (1848-1950). Francis grew up on his father's farm, and later recalled seeing soldiers marching up Limestone Road in the summer of 1863. A few days later, he heard the rumbling of cannonfire from the Battle of Gettysburg. He studied law, and became a prominent lawyer in Wilmington. He continued to live in the Hockessin area his whole life, commuting by train to his office from 1872 to 1931. In fact, he was the only person to ride both the first Wilmington & Western train in 1872, and the last passenger train on the line in 1931. Here is a newspaper article on the occasion of his 101st birthday. He passed away in September of the following year, just shy of 102.

The original Thomas. M Walker House that Francis grew up in burned down around 1912 while owned by Roland Thompson, and was replaced with a new house. That house, owned in 1932 by Frank E. Hitchens, is no longer standing either, but it would have stood on the south side of Little Baltimore Road, between the Andrew and John Walker Houses. Taken together, these three homes and their owners gave the area its unlikely name of Little Baltimore, a moniker I'm sure still confuses people today.


Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
  • Information on the McIntires is a bit thin, but Mary is certainly related to the McIntires who purchased the Simon Hadley estate adjoining this area. What exactly her relationship was I  have not yet determined.
  • William H. Walker was married to Anna P. Shortlidge (1834-1869), sister of Evan G. Shortlidge. Evan was a doctor in Wilmington, served a term as mayor, and was an important advocate for the public schools there. Shortlidge Elementary (now the Shortlidge Academy) was named for him.
  • The Walkers were always involved in their community. John Walker and his nephew Robert each served terms on the New Castle County Levy Court. Thomas was a school commisioner, presumably for the nearby District 30 North Star School.

25 comments:

  1. Hi Scott, I am really enjoying the history you are posting here. You are doing an excellent job! Please keep it up... Ed

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  2. Per my late 20th Century maps, Ewart Road is the name taken after Old Wilmington Road crosses the PA state line (and also where Benge Road and McGovern Road intersect. Ewart Road is only about a mile long and has two crossroads - the intersection just mentioned and it's intersection with Kaolin Road at the other. Beyond the second intersection, Ewart Road then (confusingly)becomes another "Kaolin Road" as it passes by Hartefeld CC. Hope this is helpful. KC.

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    1. Good catch, Ken. That makes sense, because I didn't think it was very far away. The reference I mentioned to John Walker's store near Hockessin was in Joseph Lake's "Hockessin: A Pictorial History". I don't have it in front of me right now, but it was pretty vague. I think it might have said it was on Old Wilmington Road, though. Perhaps whatever vague recollection he was using actually was referring to the Ewart's Corner store.

      The 1849 map shows a bit of PA, but the only store it shows is at the intersection of Gap-Newport Pike and Limestone Road. It's not on what's now Ewart Road, but it's very close. Maybe that store is the one that used to be John's.

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  3. As I understand it, The Jester house you mention in this article burned on Christmas Eve 1932 or '33. Don't know where the family went, but the farm was purchased by my uncle. He used the stones from the foundation to build a cape cod style home. The property has since become part of a conservancy which reaches northward to the Limestone Road and the house has been modified. I sent the link for your site to the cousin who lived there and he thoroughly enjoyed it. You may hear from him.
    I love these articles and look every day for a new one.

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    1. Was this house on the north side of Little Baltimore Road or the south? From what I can tell from county records, the John (or William H.) Walker House, the grey one in the bottom picture, is located on the Robert N Downs Memorial Conservancy, which looks like it encompasses the former farm property. I don't think anything south of the road is included, but I could be wrong.

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    2. Sorry, Scott. I spoke too soon. North side. If the brick house in your first picture is the Clarence Jester house, then the house I referred to was Mahlon Lee's. That was John Walkers place. It burned in the early 30's. Would have been one of the two Walker farms Cooch mentioned. My Uncle took over the mortgage for the farm and built a cape cod style house on the site of the "mansion", as it came to be known, using stones from the mansion. The frame house was simply a tenant house. Behind that house are the foundation stone of the barn. it was struck by lightning and burned soon after the farm except for a few acres around Uncle's cape cod was sold to the Downes Conservancy. There are houses there now, and Uncles cape cod has been modified and enlarged.
      If you were to continue westward around the bend, and looked across the field to the woods you see the residence of "Doc" Palmer the local veterinarian. Any connection?
      My cousin sent me a lengthy email on the subject. It is too long for this space. If you are interested, I can send it by snail mail.

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  4. Always curious as to how or why certain areas get their placenames. "Little Baltimore" seemed somewhat unusual for the area, but your research shows that the naming had a real meaning behind it. Hopefully it will stay that way and not be renamed for some politician 20 years down the road.
    A bit off subject, but does anyone know the origin of the name "Pike", as in Pike Creek? I have seen it referred to as Picks Creek, Peecks Creek and Pikes Creek. Just curious.

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    1. I found a John Walker in the Delaware 4th Regiment Infantry roster for Company B. These were mostly local MCH fellows. I'm not sure if there is any way to positively link him to the Little Baltimore Walkers, though. KC.

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    2. I think I found the same guy you did, but according to the online records, that John M. Walker was a shoemaker born in Salem County, NJ. I wonder if he ever got asked if he was related to any of the MCH Walkers?

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    3. That's a good question about Pike Creek. I too have seen it written several different ways on old maps. I can't recall ever coming across an explanation for the name, though. If I ever do, I'll be sure to note it and write it up.

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    4. Just struck me. In the 17/18th centuries, many smaller streams were often identified by the adjacent property owners. Hyde Run has been referred to as Guest's Run, for William or John Guest who acquired property on the creek from the MacDonald family. Pike Creek has been referred to as Brewer's Run, not for the distilleries but for Brewer (Broor) Sineckson (Sinneck) who owned land where the creek emptied into White Clay Creek. Broor purchased the land from Peter Oalson (Olafson) Pecco in 1682. Certainly a Swede, perhaps a Finn, and an early settler.

      Pecco...Peck...Pike? Anybody want to run with this one?

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    5. That's a great catch, Walt. In fact, I think that idea is good enough that it deserves its own post so we can elaborate on it.

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    6. Well, I went to Philly today and returned with copies of about 20 property surveys from 1705 to 1740. Three show Pike Creek but do not name it; three label it as Peck's Creek, and one as Peck Creek. So I guess it wasn't named after the fish. And Middle Run is named at least twice; I had assumed its earliest name was Muddy Run. Live and learn.

      The earlier records of New Sweden are meager and challenging.

      I've made a bit of progress on the property records. Let me know how I can help.

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    7. Walt C., You are really going the extra mile to decypher the mystery of Pike Creek. Philly, no less. Your previous explanation sounds very plausible, regarding the name of Pecco. I'm familiar with the name of the swede Broor Sineckson, but have not read anything about Pecco. Still, it sounds like he could be our man!

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  5. Have you ever researched the Spice Mill Manager's House on Faulkland Road where Fell's Spice Mill was? I stopped and met the current owners recently while in Wilmington. I'm interested because I found my 3xs Great grandfather's lease for the house dated 1833 at the Hagley Library where he lived for about 30 years. Current owners think the house was built in 1735.
    Ken Shelin

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    1. That's awesome that you found which house they were living in! Your people were the Woodwards, right? So they lived in the Miller's House. I have not yet gotten back to the Fell District to look deeper into any of the other structures, but I'm sure I will. And when I do, the Miller's House will be at the top of the list, since it's the oldest structure in the area. It's definitely 18th Century, and 1735 is not out of the question, as far as I know.

      What really intrigues me about it is its connection to the Faulks, and also, I think, to Oliver Evans. Maybe I will have to get to it sooner rather than later....

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    2. Scott, I think you're right about the Faulk connection. The current owners told me the house was built by John Faulk in 1735. Since John Faulk witnessed my 3xs great grandfather's lease (Leonard Woodward)in 1833,it was likely another Faulk. The mill had a Oliver Evans designed milling system in it. The mill was originally a grist mill. The current owners have photos of the mill showing the house directly behind it so the mill was likely right on Faulkland Road. The remains of the mill race are still visible too leading right down beside where the mill was likely located. The house was divided into an east and a west side when my family lived there. They leased the west side of the house for $30 per year. The house is now combined into one residence.

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  6. For the die-hard history buffs here.

    On September 8th and 9th, 1777, the British army marched through Mill Creek Hundred on their way to Chadd's Ford and the Battle of Brandywine on September 11th. On the 8th, a brigade of British troops was likely camped on the hillside a few hundred yards southeast of Samuel Young's farms, according to a map by John Andre, aide to British General William Howe.

    On Sept. 14th, after the Battle of Brandywine and while George Washington is consolidating his troops along the Schuylkill River, Genl. Washington writes to General William Smallwood of the Maryland militia. He encourages Smallwood to bring his troops north to harass the British, and "he wishes you, if you can, to obtain a supply of powder out of a Quantity said to be deposited at a Saml. Youngs, about Nine Miles from Wilmington in Mill Creek Hundred."

    I don't know if the British found the gunpowder, or Smallwood's Maryland militia found it (they did march to PA, arrived in the midst of what is called the Paoli Massacre, and most of them fled). I've not come across another Samuel Young in the Hundred in that era, so I assume these are the properties that played a documented role in the American Revolution.

    Enjoying your posts as always. -w

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    1. That's a great story, Walt. Thanks. I knew that the British were camped in the area, but I had never heard the story about the gunpowder. I have to think you're right that it's the same Samuel Young, which brings up other fascinating questions, in addition to the obvious of whether Smallwood ever got it.

      So there was "a quantity" of powder on a property more or less directly adjacent to where the British were encamped, and had even put up earthworks. Was that powder hidden there when the British were there? Was it elsewhere, then moved back after they left? What was Samuel Young's involvement? Did he have anything to do with it, or was the powder just on his property?

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    2. After a little further digging, I can only add the following. Smallwood received Washington's note on Sept. 15th while he is near Oxford Meeting in Chester County. On September 19th, Smallwood is in Parkesburg west of Downington. The direct route would be up PA10 through Cochranville. So unless Smallwood sent out foraging parties, the militia passed many miles west of MCH.

      Alas, you ask good questions, but the 18th century does not give up its secrets easily. The British were taking food and livestock from all the local farms, and there are very few specifics as to what they commandeered.

      Looking at Samuel Young, the Cooch history is consistent with geneological data that suggests he married Jane Kincaid (Kinkead) and had four daughters. Otherwise he is an enigma.

      To clarify, Smallwood was commander of the regular Maryland brigade of the Continental army. Washington dispatched him specifically to raise a brigade of militia, or volunteers. His regular brigade suffered at Brandywine without his leadership, while the militia literally marched directly into the British buzz saw at the Battle of Paoli. Smallwood was a respected officer and had a distinguished career.

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  7. That is interesting about the supply of gunpowder and the question....how did it get there? I was wondering if it could have been stashed there prior to the "possible battle" that never occured as a precaution/reserve if Howe was to move his troops in that direction during or after a battle in Stanton and the supply here was getting depleted.

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  8. I am currently researching the Walker family of New Garden, Pa., and I came across this blog. From the available census records I have a Hiram Walker in the 1800s, but I can't figure out who his parents were. I'm going to read through your other posts, but if you have any info on a Hiram Walker please post. Thank you!

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  9. I have a James Logan Walker 1818-1893 Born in Delaware. Father Andrew Walker. Have you come on this name? James moved to Del. Co. PA

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    1. I can't place him, either. I spent a little time digging around, but I can't find him in anyone's tree. The timing would be right for him to be the son of the Andrew in this post, but I can find no evidence of that. I'll keep my eye out, and if I come across anything I'll let you know.

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  10. Thank you for your blog. I live in West Marlborough Township in Chester County, PA - not far from you. My great grandparents were Willian H. Walker and Anna Phoebe Shortlidge Walker. I have photos of them and have just scanned them. if you would be interested in seeing them, I can e-mail them to you in jpeg or PDF formate. Please let me know if you are interested. Sincerely, Helen E. Martin SatTeacher@aol.com

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