Friday, February 17, 2012

A Possible Origin of Pike Creek

A few times before, we've attempted to delve into the past and uncover the origins of a place name in Mill Creek Hundred. And I do mean "we". As often as not, it seems the initial idea or key connection in finding the root of the name comes not from me or my research, but from information uncovered by a reader. [This is probably the thing I love most about doing this site. Individually, none of us knows everything, but collectively we've got a chance at finding a lot.] This is another example of a reader (who I know has done a lot of research into things that make my head spin) coming up with a key fact I probably would never have found. This key fact may very well explain something that I don't think I've ever seen explained before.

Over on another post, Walt C left the following comment in response to Delaware21's question about the origin of the name "Pike Creek":
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?

I was aware that there were older alternate versions or spellings for Pike Creek, along the lines of Peck or Peck's Creek. I've even seen Pipe Creek, but since it seems to be later I have a feeling that's more of a misspelling or mishearing of Pike Creek. I hadn't, however, ever come across Brewer's Run as a name for it. When I looked into it, though, dang if Walt wasn't right (not that I had any doubt).

If this is the right track to be on, and I think it is, then we need to go back to the first European settlers in what would become Mill Creek Hundred -- the Swedes. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail, because frankly that stuff is very confusing to try to follow. [OK, I ended up going into more detail than I expected, since I found a bit more info. It's still confusing, though, as you're about to see.] For one thing, the Swedish names were not particularly standardized as far as spelling goes. Once you then factor in translating them through Englishmen, it gets really hard to figure out who's who. Suffice it to say that Walt is right -- a Swede named Brewer (or Broer, or Broor) Sennexen (or Sineckson, or Sinnickson, or Sinnexson, or Sinneck, or...well, you get the point) owned land in the 1680's along White Clay Creek. From some of the other names mentioned (like Ball and Rees), it seems likely that the land was located on the north side of White Clay, between Mill Creek and Pike Creek.

Sennexen purchased the land in 1682 from another Swede, whose name I believe I know, but whose nickname I'd like to know more about. This page (PDF) has a list of numerous land transactions from the area, several of which include the names we're interested in. On the second page there's a deed dated April 20, 1685 that is of particular interest. Sennexen (here's an example -- his name is spelled three different ways in the same paragraph) is selling land he received from "Peter Oalson, alias Pecco". Oalson, I believe, acquired the land from his father, who inherited it from his brother.

Peter, I think, was actually the man listed on this site as Peter Thomasson. His father was Olof Thomasson -- which is where the Oalson, or Olofson, comes from --, whose father Thomas Jacobsson was a Finnish immigrant who arrived in 1656. New Sweden was then under Dutch rule, so Jacobsson headed to what was then the western frontier -- Bread and Cheese Island, near the confluence of Red Clay and White Clay Creeks. Thomas had several sons (including his eldest, who was kidnapped by Indians and ended up as a Lenape Chief) and his land was divided, but as best as I can tell a part of it did end up with Peter Thomasson, aka Olofson.

Peter does seem to have another name by which he was known, and this is the one we need to understand. The 1685 deed also refers to him as "alias Pecco". I admit I don't understand this completely, but there seems to have been a tradition at the time of Swedish and Finnish men acquiring aliases, or nicknames, that they often used. Sometimes, the alias was common enough that it ended up being their family name. Peter's seems to have been Pecco. I can't find what that might mean, but one possibility is that it was actually something close, but different. On this page, you can see references to a Peter Putco and a Peter Puro, who may all be the same person. I don't know how it would get from Puro to Pecco, unless Putco was an intermediate step. When I tried to translate "puro", to my surprise I found that in Finnish, it means "creek".

So to circle back now, Walt's original thought was that the name "Pecco" had been attached to the creek from Peter's ownership, and that "Pecco's Creek" may have morphed into "Peck's Creek", and then finally to "Pike Creek". To me, that sounds like a very good possibility. Certainly better than any other explanation I've ever heard for the origin of "Pike Creek". I've never come across anyone named Pike living in the area. And if "Pecco" somehow started as "Puro", in a way, it's sort of named Creek Creek.

If anyone can find any other references to any of these men, the name Pecco, or other names for the creek, please let us know. Also, if anyone has more information on the Swedish of Finnish name or word "Pecco", that might help, too. [See follow-up post here for more information about another possible meaning of "Pecco".]

Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
  • As for Brewer's Run, I did find mentions of it, and it definitely was used as a name for a local creek. At this point, though, it's not clear to me whether it was referring to Pike Creek or Mill Creek. In either case, it didn't seem to affect the story any, so I didn't include it in the text of the post.
  • The Swedish Colonial Society website also has more information on Brewer Sinnicksson and his family, too. It doesn't mention the Pike Creek area property, but he did only own it for a few years.
  • Don't be confused about the lack of mentions of Mill Creek Hundred in the old deeds. Remember, MCH was not formed until 1710. This is probably playing with fire, but on a related note to this, on the Swedish Colonial Society site on the page mentioning Peter (Olofson) Thomasson, there's another odd thing. The part about Peter's brother Paul states that in his 1707 will, Paul declared himself a resident of "Red Clay Creek Hundred". I wonder if this was an early name for the area that would soon be officially MCH? Perhaps the residents already felt that they were separate from Christiana Hundred, but hadn't settled on an official name yet.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, from my initial querry regarding Pike Creek, I didn't expect so much research to be done. I'm impressed! The Pecco explanation is as good as I've heard. I've been doing early Delaware Swedish genealogy research for about 5 years and did not expect that "Pike Creek" may have Swedish, or perhaps Finnish origins.
    I do know that 1) a number of Swedes-Finns adopted new names along the way. Usually, it pertained to the town, province or area from whence they came. Or, 2) Sometimes, a name was assigned by the land and/or taxing agent based on what the person looked like,smelled like, or where they lived. Usually, the surnames were shortened or condensed or anglicized to some extent. Probably over 98% of the 17th century residents in New Castle county were illiterate, and many did not speak the language of their neighbors. I will look into Pecco, Putco, Puro and other variations on my next trip to the Hendrickson House at Old Swedes church.