Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The (Actual) Walkers of the Mermaid

The Mermaid Tavern
In the previous post, I gave a somewhat (for me, at least) brief overview of one of the Walker families in Mill Creek Hundred. This was a clan that can be traced back at least to James Walker (1744-1796), and possibly to an older James Walker who might have been his father. Members of this family line owned several properties in the Mermaid area north of Milltown, on both sides of Limestone Road. By the end of the 19th Century, they would own the Mermaid itself. However, for most of the century, the Mermaid Tavern was owned by another set of Walkers -- a set whose connection to the James Walker family is not quite clear.

Although there is evidence that a James Walker acquired a liquor license for the Mermaid as far back as 1746, the actual tavern was owned by the Ball family until the late 1820's. In March 1829, the property was purchased by Samuel C. and Sarah Ann Walker of Chester County, PA, and it would stay in their direct family for the next 66 years. The question, though, is who exactly were Samuel and Sarah, and how were they related to the Walkers already in the area? Francis Cooch, writing in the 1930's does imply that these two sets of Walkers were different lines within the same family. With the relatively small population of the region at the time, I think the idea that these Walkers were unrelated is unlikely, at best.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Walkers of the Mermaid Area

Circa 1835 Robert Walker Barn
I was going to call this "The Mermaid Walkers", until I realized that it probably works better as a horror movie title than a blog post title. Researching this part of this family wasn't quite a horror, but it did get frustrating at times. I attempted to gather as much information as I could and to make as much sense out of it as I could, but there are still some gaps in the story and some unidentified people, including a few major ones. Making it worse, most of the holes are from the 18th and early 19th Centuries, when the records are less numerous. Instead of waiting until I have everything completely nailed down (which could be never), I'll just lay out what I know, what I think I know, what I'm guessing at, and what I have no idea about. At minimum, it should provide a base for further research and help clarify a few historic sites in the Mermaid (or what we'd now call Pike Creek) area.

In the previous post about the Little Baltimore Walkers, it was stated that that description was adopted in the early 1800's to differentiate that family from another set of Walkers already living in Mill Creek Hundred. These Walkers had been in place in the area near the Mermaid Tavern (just north of Milltown) for a while, but just how long is not quite clear. I've yet to find other, definitive proof, but it seems at least one family may have been here before 1750. There is a mention in the letter attached to the Mermaid's National Register form of a James Walker receiving a liquor license there in 1746 (he didn't own it, but may have operated it). Also, this page (about 3/4 of the way down) notes that a James Walker purchased 250 acres of James Robinson's land in 1762. My hypothesis is that this James Walker is the patriarch of the Walkers in the area, but I have not yet found concrete proof of him.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ocasson -- The Cox-Mitchell House

Ocasson today
In the recent post about John Mitchell, it was related that in 1868 the venerable Quaker purchased an even-then-historic home near Hockessin, which is still in the possession of his family today. In fact, during its 286 year history, the Cox-Mitchell House has been owned exclusively by members of the Society of Friends. Not only has the house been owned by a number of the most prominent Quaker families in the area, it has a deeper connection to the local Friends community, as we'll see in just a moment. For two different (yet related) reasons, in my opinion the Cox-Mitchell House can rightly be called "The Birthplace of Hockessin".

The story (and the Quaker connection) begins, of course, with the most important Quaker family -- the Penns. In 1701, William Penn granted 15,500 acres in Chester and New Castle Counties to his daughter Letitia, which she would slowly sell off over the subsequent several decades. In 1721, for £86, she sold 300 acres to William and Catherine Cox, fellow Quakers who had been married about five years before. Cox then purchased 50 more acres from Henry Dixon in 1725, giving him a total of 350 acres. His tract was located east of today's "Downtown" Hockessin, bordered roughly by the current Old Wilmington Road, Meeting House Road, and Benge Road.