|The So-Called (by me) 25 Foote Road|
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|
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|
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.