Wednesday, November 21, 2012

FootePrints in Mill Creek Hundred

The So-Called (by me) 25 Foote Road
Originally this was supposed to be a very short post answering a simple question and revealing the historical background of a small road-related anomaly I had always wondered about. I happened to stumble upon the answer one day, so I thought I'd write a quick post. The more I dug into the answer, though, the more complicated (and interesting) the associated family became. What started as one site turned into three, all in different branches of the same family. The tricky part came in trying to sort out -- and tie together -- these separate branches. I think I've done a decent job of it now, with the only major speculation confined back to an early generation in the 18th Century. As with all posts, I'd welcome any more information that anyone might have.

The gateway into this whole topic was the small piece of roadway you see above. Many of you probably recognize it --it's on McKennan's Church Road, at the southern end of the Delcastle Recreation Area by the soccer field. During games, there are often cars parked here. It always seemed odd to me, somewhere between the start of a road never built and the beginning of a parking lot never realized. It wasn't until I looked at the old aerial photographs (in conjunction with the old maps) that it occurred to me what it was, although some more "veteran" locals might already know. It was the end of a driveway that led back to an old house! I knew that there was a house there, I just hadn't realized it remained so long, well past when Sherwood Park was built next to it. As the old maps tell us, the house belonged to the Foote* family, leading me to refer to this anomaly as The 25 Foote Road. (That was also an alternate title for the post. Others included "Foote Notes" and "The Post is aFoote!". A truly puntastic name in the wrong hands. Sorry. I'm done.)

According to the 1849 map, the house was then owned by George Foote (1769-abt1855). Unfortunately the house was razed some time ago (late 1960's?), so I don't have any solid information as to when it was built. Add to that the fact that George is in the oldest generation I have decent information about, and we're left with some modestly informed speculation about the early days of this house, and of the Footes in general in Mill Creek Hundred. And I'll preface this by saying that I don't have concrete evidence about the family relationships in the 1700's. What I do have is a bunch of names and dates that seem to fit fairly neatly into families and generations. Maybe I'll have to come back and revise it someday (that would be great, by the way), but I'll lay out what I think at this point.

The earliest group of Footes (trying hard to resist calling them Feete) I have decent information about are three men, all born within ten years of each other, and each associated with one of the three main Foote estates of the 19th Century. Although I can't prove it, it's tempting to believe that John (1759-1821), William (1766-1844), and George (1769-abt1855) were brothers. The problem is that the prior generations are...well, to say they're a bit vague would be an understatement. I've found a fair number of references to Delaware Footes earlier in the 1700's, but even when there is relationship data it tends to be contradicted elsewhere.* The best wisdom seems to be that the family in Delaware came from John and Ann (Hawkesworth) Foote, a couple from Connecticut and Massachusetts who moved here in the 1720's, then may have moved back.

If John, William, and George were brothers, my best guess is that their father was Jonathan Foote, probably the son of the New England John and Ann. Interestingly, I've found mention of Jonathan marrying, in 1757, to Mary Robinson (somewhere else says it was a William -- told you it was vague). This is interesting because two of the three Foote farms are on land that was once owned by the Robinsons, almost certainly Mary's family. As Walt C. has noted, the original Robinson tract was split up over the years between the descendants of the family. Perhaps this is how these properties came into the possession of the Footes.

Of the two, the one I think most likely fits this pattern is the McKennan's Church Road property. This was definitely controlled by the Robinsons in the mid-1700's, and may have been where John and Mary set up their home. (This is only speculation, though. They could just as easily have lived near St. James Church or at another location.) If John and Mary didn't build it, then George probably did, and he probably built it just after 1800 when he married Sarah Evans. George and Sarah probably had at least four children (James, Mary, Elizabeth, and George) but the one we're interested is their son James Foote (1815-1895). After George's death (between 1850 and 1860), James took over the family farm and would live there the rest of his life.

Lane leading to George Foote House site

The 1849 map shows another house for George on the west side of the road, on what would now be the golf course. By 1868 that house is not shown, so it may have been a tenant house or an older structure torn down after George's death. One thing that is shown on the 1868 map is a short lane leading back to the east-side house. Assuming this lane eventually became the 20th Century driveway, this is what our 25 Foote Road was the beginning of. Even today, you can still see George and James' little country lane (above), next to the wooded area where the house used to stand. I wandered back into the undergrowth one day, looking where I thought the house should have been, but I was unable to find anything except a few pieces of concrete that may or may not have had anything to do with the house.

In this house, James and his wife Emeline (1830-1897) raised four children: John, Ella, Sallie, and James. All four were single (ages 17-25) and living at home in 1880. James is still shown as owning the house and 80 acres on the 1893 map, so I assume he died there two years later. Of his children, Ella died in 1880, and John may have, too, since I can't find him in the census after 1880 (recall, the 1890 Census is essentially nonexistent). Sallie married Alexander Guthrie, an undertaker, and lived in Hockessin. In 1900 and 1910, her brother James lived with them (he was a bartender in the 1900 Census). All this leads to the conclusion that the house was sold out of the family after James' death, or possibly in 1897 after Emeline's.

The John Foote House

The house on McKennan's Church Road was not the only Foote farm in MCH, though. Two other tracts were farmed by Foote men at the time, and both of these houses are still standing. The first is located at the corner of Old Capitol Trail and St. James Church Road, basically across the street from the church and behind Midway Park Apartments. County records list the construction date as 1782, a date I have no reason to doubt.* If that is the case, then two and a half story fieldstone house may have been built by John Foote, the brother (or maybe, cousin) of George. The 1800 Census is tricky to place geographically, but John does seem to be in about the right spot. After his death in 1821, the house went to his son, John Foote, Jr (1790-1865).

John, Jr. resided here until his death in 1865, when the house went to James Ross Foote (1827-1899). I initially thought James was John's son, but this doesn't seem to be the case. Instead, James R. was the son of William R. Foote (1803-1880), who may have been the younger brother of John. My assumption is that John had no children, so he left his property to his nephew. The house may have stayed with James R.'s son John, who died in 1926. I don't know if the home stayed in the Foote family any longer after that.

The third and final Foote estate in MCH was that of William Foote, again either the brother or cousin of John and George. This house is a bit farther north, on the east side of Mill Creek just north of Mendenhall Mill Road. Its proximity to that road is, I believe, not a coincidence. According to this short biography of his grandson, William Foote -- in addition to being a farmer -- was a cooper. The county's date for this house is 1790, which sounds like a reasonable date for the 24 year old William to have built. The 1800 Census has him listed directly before the Mendenhalls, for whose mill he undoubtedly made his barrels.

George W. Foote
After William's death in 1844, the house went to his son William, Jr (1802-1888). The younger William would live at least most of his life in the house his father built. There he lived with his wife Susan (Foulk), the daughter of John Foulk, former operator of the mill along Red Clay Creek in the area that bears his family's name, Faulkland. The later disposition of this house is another avenue yet to be pursued, since William's son George moved to Colorado in 1874, where he became a successful businessman. Although the bio says William "passed his entire life upon the farm", in the 1880 Census he and Susan are living with their daughter Hester and her husband Cyrus Burgoyne in Wilmington. The 1881 map shows William as the owner of the MCH house, so he may have been leasing the farm at the time.

As you can see, the little patch of concrete at Delcastle turned into a bit of a journey. There's certainly more to uncover about the Foote family and their farms in Mill Creek Hundred. If I'm able to find more information about this family with deep roots in our area, I'll certainly pass it along.

Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
  • Again we have a family with a name whose spelling sometimes drifts a bit. I'm using "Foote", which seems to be the main spelling, and is what's on most (if not all) the 19th Century tombstones. But if you wanted to look them up yourself, also look under "Foot" and "Footte".
  • This is one of those posts where I eventually just had to raise the white flag. I found myself getting bogged down trying to piece together every little bit of the family, and failing miserably. If I can ever find a better source (written or a person), maybe I'll come back and try again to sort it out better.
  • As I've said before, the dates listed by the county on their Land Use website often need to be taken with a large grain of salt. They're really not "official" data, and usually just seem to be whatever someone wrote down once. With older houses, though, the more random-seeming the date is, the more I trust it. If someone were guessing, they're more likely to say "1800" or "1750" than "1782". And sometimes they truly are correct, especially if there's a solid clue like a datestone.
  • Most of the Footes are buried at St. James Church, with the exception of the family of James Foote, son of George (the ones on McKennans Church Road). They are interred at Red Clay Creek Presbyterian.


  1. Scott,

    Intersting that you mention that John Foote may have lived near St. James Church. I have a St. James Church cemetery deed dated 1862 signed by William Foote as Church Secretary and John Foote as Church Warden. Curiously, a good friend of mine here in Sarasota is a Foote from Massachusetts.

    Ken Shelin

    1. That's really cool, Ken. Yes, most likely that was the John who lived in the house by the church (he'd die 3 years later) and probably William R Foote, the guy I can't place for sure. It didn't get into the post, but the Footes were very involved with the church there.

      Who knows, your Foote friend from MA might be related to the ones here. If I recall, the original John and Ann were married in Boston. If they were all from the same family, I think one of them was governor of CT at some point.

  2. From the picture of the lane leading to the former site of the Foote house, one might speculate that a spring house also may have been located nearby. The headwater of Calf Run is in that vicinity (behind the houses on Bardell Drive). If the brambles aren't too thick, maybe I'll take my grandson on an "exploration".KC.

  3. I grew up in Sherwood Park II. I don’t remember the house but I do recall an old barn back there. Older kids would go there to smoke. We roamed about the overgrown fields quite often. It was a great place to shoot our BB guns. This was the late ‘60s or early ‘70s.

    If you look at as map of Sherwood Park II, you will see two similar dead end roads coming off Bardell Drive. I don’t know if they were ever connected to your 25 Foote Road or not, probably just part of the SPII construction. A small creek (Calf Run from previous comment)meanders along the perimeter of SPII roughly paralleling Bardell Drive. It passes under Milltown Road near the Jehovah’s Witness Church. This creek originates at a spring near the first little spur off Bardell Drive. It used to bubble up in a several foot diameter concrete pipe sunk in the ground over the spring outlet. We used to drink water right from that pool of water. The second spur headed towards St. John’s Church via a small wooden bridge.

    Vic C.

    1. Thanks, Vic. Good to know. So unless the house was small and overgrown, then it sounds like the barn lasted longer than the house did. In either case, it sounds like the property was abandoned.

      And you're right -- I did notice the two spurs, but I don't have a good explanation for them. The northern one points toward what would have been the rear, side of the Foote property. The 1961 aerial photo shows both spurs, the same length they are today. The southeastern one could have been put in as a planned back entrance to St. John's. If I had to guess, though, I'd say they might have been routes into another planned addition of the neighborhood.

      The northern one especially looks like the start of a road into another Sherwood Park section that never materialized. Maybe the builder thought he could buy more land but never did. Which actually brings up another point I don't know, but didn't raise in the post -- When did the Foote tract become part of Delcastle? I know that at least some of what's now DelRec was part of the Workhouse Farm, but was all of it? Was the Foote property part of the Workhouse Farm, or was it bought by the county later?

    2. I also grew up in Sherwood 2, I must be older than Vic C. The property on both sides of McKennans used to be state property/ prison farm. After closing the prison farm, the state sold the property to New Castle County for the golf course.

      The Foote driveway led to a house and barn. Mr and Mrs. Fleetwood lived there for years. The property was always refered to as Fleetwoods farm. Mr probably worked for the state and Mrs. was a cafeteria lady at Lora Little Elem. Real nice people, they always let us roam the property.

      The house burned soon after the prop. was sold, kids... Most of the barn had the same fate a while later.

      The stub roads off of Bardell were for possible tie ins to future construction and a back entrance to St. Johns.

  4. Nothing conclusive here, only adding to the data. Bear with me.

    William Guest first sold 200+ acres of Wedgbury to Richard Mankin. The remaining 500+ acres were sold to Ann Robinson in 1691, and they passed down through her family.

    A William Foot is noted in a deed prior to 1777, and he is the only Foot(e) noted in that era. In 1763, he purchased about 65 acres from the Mankin property undivided, presumably the southern end of Delcastle Rec Center and adjacent to the Robinson tracts (U1:622). [Imagine from Sherwood Park II NNE straddling McKennan's Church Road up past the ball diamonds. That seems to be the property you are talking about? Sherwood Park II was all Robinson land.] Later that year, the entire property was formally divided; Foot retained his 65 acres and released the northern 131 acres to Richard James (W1:407).

    So it would seem that William Foot (his wife was Esther) owned a tract adjacent to the Robinsons' by 1763. Was he the father of the Foote brothers you speak of? Was Esther a Robinson or from the Mankin line? Was it a son of William that married a Robinson 20-30 years later?

    The disposition of the Mankin and Robinson properties is complex, since they involve probate, Orphan's Court, and deed records. I hope we will know more over time.

    1. Walt, Esther, wife of William Foot was Esther Ball, daughter of Jeremiah Ball and Mary Ogle, grandaughter of William Ball who died in 1709 and Esther ___?___. Esther Ball and William Foot were licensed to marry on 1 SEP 1756. Donna P.

    2. I had a feeling you would know that! ;)

      Do you know more about this Foote family? The indications suggest William and Esther are the parents of John, William, and George, and that the property stayed in the family for several generations.

      I can find reference to Margaret Foot, married Thomas Garrett about 1754, and Bridget Foot, married Simon Hadley in 1756. They were likely sisters to William? But I can't find anything on other males of same generation.

    3. Walt, I have the children of John Foot and Ann Hawkesworth as William (1725-1798) married Esther Ball on 1 SEP 1756; Benjamin (1727-) married Mary Robinson on 28 JUN 1757(1 source has Jonathan m. her); Margaret(1729-) married Thomas Garrett; Bridget(1732-) married Simon Hadley, and possibly David(not very sure about him).
      My problem has been in trying to connect these with the next generation(s). Bridget’s line is the exception.
      John, William and George may be the sons of William and Esther. I have 2 probable daus., Ann and Rachel who m. Robert Giffen and a possible son, James.
      These New Castle Co. church and newspaper records:
      -Marriage Bond, 2 Jan 1796 William Foote of Wilm, to Kittey Matson.
      -William Reynolds Foote s/o John and Margaret baptized 24 JUN 1804, 7 months.
      -John Foote Lic. to m. Margaret Poulson, 15 MAY 1823.
      -Benjamin, s/o John and ___ Foote bap. 21 MAY 1809, 7 months.
      -David s/o John and Elizabeth Foote bap. 14 SEP ___. ( placed in 1806 records)
      -Lewis Foote m. Esther Foulk, 28 FEB 1818.
      -James Foote m. Margaret Boyd, 1 JAN 1798. Probably the parents of William Reynolds Foote, father of James Ross Foote(1827-1899). J.R. m. Rachel A. Johnson and had John J. (1855-1926) amd Oliver D.(1856-1929.
      -David L. Foot d. 14 FEB 1836 at res. of brother near Stanton.
      -Hannah Foot d., of yellow fever 20 SEP 1798.
      -Margaret Foot d. 21 OCT 1798, yellow fever.
      --Elizabeth (Robinson) Foote, w/o James of MCH d. 1 APR 1851. They m. 25 JAN 1850.
      Also, a James Foote placed an ad in the “Delaware Gazette” in 1814 to sell a small farm in the village of Newport on the Lancaster and Newport turnpike.
      The William Foote who m. Susan H. Foulk was the s/o a William. (7 children) A Benjamin (1829-1917) m. Martha Rumer and Louisa McCoy may have been an earlier s/o William and Susan. Donna P.

    4. You have a strong case that William, Benjamin, Bridget, and Margaret are siblings. Benjamin ran an ad in the PA Gazette (1758) for a runaway horse owned by Joshua Hadley, Bridget's father-in-law.

      The marriage of Benjamin to Mary Robinson is on the record, and contemporary with William settling on the Mankin tract. I thought there would be some continuity in William's family as far as ownership of that property, but there is no evidence yet. In fact, the will of William Foot in 1797 does not mention any sons, only daughters Ann and Rachel Giffen, and Rachel's children.

      The properties noted in 1849 for "G. Foote" is the land purchased by William in 1763, of that I'm reasonably sure. But even though he was on the right property at the right time, it now seems more likely that John, William, and George were sons of Benjamin Foot and Mary Robinson, as Scott suggested.

      Someday I will dig in to the Robinson records, maybe more will turn up. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I grew up in Sherwood park II. The last family who lived there were the Fleetwoods. It was a working dairy farm with several buildings including a 2 story wood siding farm house with the back porch facing Sherwood Park II, a large dairy barn, several smaller wooden buildings used as workshops and storage, There was also a spring house. the remains of the spring house remain next to a well. The entire farm was burned to the ground around 1969. The soccer field was a corn field with a strawberry patch located in the corner near the large pine tree that still remains. There were also peach tees,an apple orchard and 2 large pear trees located at each end of the drive connecting to McKennons Church Road, Another interesting note is that Del Castle Golf Course was a prison farm during that time

    1. Thanks for the information! The whole property sounds delicious.

  6. Don't know the veracity of this, but I have seen that Foote is a bastardization of the last name "Faut" and that Jacob Faut came to the Delaware from Germany. By the time his daughter, Margaret ,married Thomas Garrett, the name had been changed to Foote. It is unknown exactly when Jacob came to Delaware, but his daughter Margaret was born on Mill Creek Hundred in 1729.

    1. Very interesting idea. I don't know if it's true or not, but it definitely sounds plausible. Certainly something to keep in mind while researching. Thanks!!