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Monday, December 30, 2013

McBride Tragedy at Stanton Crossing -- Follow-Up

In the last Mid-Week Newsbreak post we got the sad story of the McBride family, and the possible eventual consequences from the incident. To quickly summarize the tale, early on the morning of Christmas Eve 1897 T. Wesley, Jennie, and young Carrie McBride were on their way from their White Clay Hundred home into the market in Wilmington. While crossing the PW&B (now Amtrak) tracks south of Stanton, the family's wagon was struck by a train, killing Mr. and Mrs. McBride and severely injuring six year old Carrie. There was then one last article that mentioned a possible lawsuit against the railroad, which I hypothesized might have lead to the building of the underpass at the crossing, still present today.

Now, thanks to some typically marvelous research by Donna Peters, we do have a little bit more information about the family and the after-effects of the accident. None of it substantially changes anything about the story, but it does help to flesh it out a good bit. Frustratingly though (for me, at least), we still don't have any concrete evidence to support my claim about the underpass.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

(Expanded Version) Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak -- Tragedy at the Stanton Crossing

After a short absence, the Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak is back, with a story about a holiday season tragedy in Stanton. This one is interesting because it started out as just a short posting, but the more I found out the more I'm thinking that it might have had repercussions that are still evident today. I found several similar but slightly different newspaper accounts of the incident, each one providing a bit more of the story. The one seen above gives the short version of it, being that three people (well, two and a third assumed) were killed when they were struck by a train in Stanton. Sadly, it's a story that you can still see in the paper once or twice a year nowadays it seems, but this one may have a little more to it, I have a hunch.

For a longer version of the story, the December 24, 1897 edition of the (Washington, DC) Evening Star (in the upper left) gives a lot more (and a lot more graphic and gory) details. Very early on the morning of Christmas Eve 1897, T(homas) Wesley McBride, his wife Jennie, and their six year old daughter Carrie were on their way to the Wilmington market. They weren't regular attendants to the market, but this day they had some poultry and eggs they wanted to sell, maybe for some money for a Christmas feast. I'm not absolutely sure where they lived, but it may have been on the family farm formerly belonging to Wesley's father, William McBride. Ironically for a story about physical injury, the McBride farm seems to have been located at the present site of Christiana Hospital. If they did live there or close to there, it would make sense that they would be coming up the road toward Stanton, on their way (via today's Route 4) to the city.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dutch Billy

Wilmington Star, Dec. 18, 1927
Most of the history we have about historic Mill Creek Hundred, and therefore most of the posts here, deal with what would be considered to be the upper middle and upper classes of the area. You know, the people who owned the large farms, the people whose names are on the old maps, and the families who show up in the old biographies (like Runks). What should be obvious but sometimes isn't is that there were many other people who lived in MCH. People who were born here or moved here, lived their lives here, and died here. People who, for the most part, we know almost nothing about and probably never will. Once in a while, though, one of these "common folk" will make such an impression on their neighbors that stories about their life (and/or their death) will survive to be passed on or written down. One such person in the later 19th and early 20th Centuries was a loner -- sometimes even referred to as a hermit -- called Dutch Billy by his neighbors. He was such a memorable figure that his life and his death (and beyond) rose to the level of folktale in the area.[Thanks go to Hugh Horning for bringing this story to my attention.]

The man called Dutch Billy was actually named William Losien, and was born in Germany in 1844. He came to America in 1882, according to this feature written by Andrea Cassel for a Friends of White Clay Creek State Park newsletter, as well as the 1910 US Census. Presumably his "Dutch" moniker came about the same way as the "Pennsylvania Dutch", which was a mistranslation of Deutsch, or German. He was said to have been heavy-set with a full beard, probably very "mountain man" looking. I choose to picture him much like Victor French's "Mr. Edwards" from the Little House on the Prairie TV series.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Remnants of Old Roads and Bridges -- Old Linden Hill and Pigeon Hollow Roads

Old Linden Hill Road, 1849
I'm pleased to say that this is another Guest Post, written by Dave Olsen. Dave actually submitted this to me a while ago, along with the wonderful post about the David Wilson House. It's my own fault that it took so long to post it. As you'll see, it's about a couple of road remnants, left behind when the main road was rerouted earlier last century, during MCH's expansion era. As Dave shows us, if you look hard enough, traces of the past are all around, unseen by the vast majority. If you ever happen to come across something like this, feel free to let us know. I know there are other road and bridge remnants around, waiting to be discovered (and written about).

During the course of my pavement pounding this past winter, in addition to getting some up close and personal vantages of the various posts and references that you continue to add to the MCH history, I have become quite interested in the old roads that can still be found in our area. Although Millcreek, Linden Hill, Limestone, Pike Creek and Paper Mill Roads to name just a few have all been thoroughly traveled for the past 300+ years, they have been modified substantially over the last 50 years or so. Due in part to the development of the entire MCH, the various roads still basically follow the same routes, however, there are some significant deviations when compared to the older maps (1849 & 1868) that we typically use as reference.

The first of these roads is Linden Hill. Old Linden Hill Road starts on the northern boundary of Carousel Park at Limestone Road and to the best of my knowledge this is the same route that can be seen on the 1868 map. If you follow the road it will end at the lower parking lot for the park. The road continues across the small stream that feeds the big pond at Carousel. Although the timbered floored bridge has been rebuilt I’m sure many times, there is some evidence still of the old foundations on either side. The road continues for approximately 75 yards and terminates as it starts to venture up the hill.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak -- Danger! Bridge Out! Edition

Reading Eagle August 12, 1925
 After taking the week off last week for Thanksgiving (yeah, that's the reason), the Mid-Week(ish) Historical Newsbreak is back, this time featuring an on-the-job accident from the Roaring Twenties. It comes from the Reading Eagle, dated August 12, 1925. As you can see, it states that four men were seriously injured while removing the old covered bridge over the Red Clay at Kiamensi. The old bridge was about to be replaced with a new concrete bridge, which probably was in place until updated with a newer bridge relatively recently. The covered bridge the workers were dismantling can be seen below in a photo taken only a few years earlier, in 1921. If you look closely in the background, you can see part of the Kiamensi Woolen Mill, as well as the railroad bridge that still spans the creek.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Chillas Family/Roseville Follow-Up

David Chillas' notice of starting his own business
In the last post about Philadelphia lithographer and MCH farmer David Chillas, I made several working assumptions regarding the Chillas family's ownership of property in and around the Roseville Cotton Factory area, just east of Newark. This post seems to have given Donna Peters just the excuse she needed (which is very little, to be honest) to dig through an online database of old newspapers in search of more. In her normal fashion, she came up with a few interesting finds that I think fill in a few more of the gaps in our knowledge.

The first of these (seen above) doesn't really tell us much more than we already knew, but I think it's neat nonetheless. It's an ad placed by David Chillas in the April 19, 1853 edition of the North American and United States Gazette advertising the fact that he was now doing business on his own, after the dissolution of his partnership with Alphonse Brett. He's basically just letting people know that he's working by himself now, and doing business out of the "New Girard Building", 50 South Third Street.

While the Chillas notice is interesting, the other two are far more informative. As often seems to be the case, though, they're illuminating -- but not as much as I wish they were. I'll lay everything out and let you decide, but I think they do help to tell a bit more of the story of the Roseville Cotton Factory.

Friday, November 29, 2013

David Chillas -- Lithographer

Ad for David Chillas, c.1855
In February 2011, I did some cursory research and wrote a post about the Roseville Cotton Mill, which was located along White Clay Creek near Kirkwood Highway, just east of Newark. In the last paragraph of the post I mentioned that after its manufacturing days were over, the property seemed to have been sold to the Chillas family. I had all of two sentences about them, noting only that the owner appeared to be Scottish-born David Chillas, then later his son Arthur. Then the other night, while trolling around for something completely unrelated, I happened to come across the Chillas name again. At first I didn't believe it was the same person, but when I finally realized it was, I think my jaw did literally drop. It seems that Mr. Chillas had a surprising career before moving to Mill Creek Hundred.

David Chillas was born in Scotland about 1817, but eventually ended up in Philadelphia. There he became an artist and a printer -- a lithographer, to be precise. Lithography had first been developed just prior to 1800, and was popular throughout the 19th Century. Using a combination of acid, wax, water, and oil-based paints on a stone plate, lithography represented the first method that allowed artists to make multiple prints of the same high quality as the original. When chromolithography was developed around 1840, artists and printers could finally mass-produce color images. It was in these early days of chromolithography that David Chillas worked in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Armstrongs of Woodland and Brookland

In the last post, we began looking at the Armstrong family of southwestern Christiana Hundred, a portion of which they came to dominate in the 19th Century. We saw four generations of Robert Armstrongs, at least three of whom lived on the farm called Hedgeland, located at the present-day site of DuPont's Chestnut Run facility. The funny thing is, this is not even what I started out researching. Initially I was looking into two other Armstrong properties -- Woodland and Brookland -- situated west of Centre Road (Route 141) and south of Faulkland Road. The recent removal of the Woodland name (which I doubt many people knew dated back at least 200 years) from a prominent place along the road got me thinking about the area, which in turn lead me down the whole Armstrong family path.

In the Armstrongs of Hedgeland post I noted that most of the family biographical information (which primarily came from Runks) began with Robert Armstrong (1743-1821). It said little other than A) he served in the Revolutionary War, B) owned a farm called "The Hedge", and C) had two sons, Robert and William. In the first post we followed the line of son Robert. In this one we'll take a look at William and his descendants.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Armstrongs of Hedgeland

Hedgeland, circa 1880
One phenomenon that I've run across in my research that I've always thought was interesting was how certain families end up controlling certain areas, with multiple adjacent or near-adjacent farms all owned by relatives. Often this is a result of an early, large tract being broken up over the years but staying within a family, or by related men purchasing farms near each other (or a combination of both). We can see this with a few families in Mill Creek Hundred, like the Whitemans, the Eastburns, the Walkers, the Dixons, and the Jacksons. Another good example can be found just over the border in the southwestern part of Christiana Hundred, around the intersection of Centre Road (Route 141) and Faulkland Road.

The family that controlled this particular area was the Armstrongs, and their legacy can still be seen if you know where to look, although one highly-visible example recently disappeared (that's actually what got me interested in this in the first place, and we'll get to it in the next post). The Armstrongs, as I quickly learned, are one of those very old families that has semi-related (or possibly not related) branches in several places around New Castle County. The farther you go back, the more difficult it becomes to sort out exactly how everyone is related to everyone else. It didn't take me long to realize that I really just wanted to focus on the branch that settled near the 141/Faulkland Road area.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak: Lost and Found Department

For this week's Historical Newsbreak, we'll keep it shorter and lighter. It comes to us from the August 2, 1904 edition of The Washington Times.

Yes, not particularly historically notable, especially in a week that sees major anniversaries of the Gettysburg Address and the Kennedy Assassination. Still a cute little story, though. The lucky farmer was Richard S. Fisher (1848-1925), the son of English immigrant Richard G. Fisher (1809-1885). I don't have the portion of the 1893 map that would show him, but I'd assume that his farm was the same one his father had owned since at least 1868. It was located east of Old Wilmington Road, south of Brackenville Road. The farmhouse does not appear to have survived, but I believe the property is now a part of the Mt. Cuba Center. The Fisher family is interred at Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak: Train Mayhem Edition

This week we have a couple of iron-horse-related stories, sent to me by Donna Peters. They both come from the 1890's and occur along the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore tracks near Stanton. This is the present-day Amtrak line just south of the village. I don't know what they say, except that life has always had its dangers.

From the Alexandria (VA) Gazette, December 7, 1893:

From the (Flagstaff, AZ) Coconino Weekly Sun of October 8, 1896. Ouch.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak: Animal Anomalies

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be a regular feature (at least for a while) here on the Mill Creek Hundred History Blog. For a while now I've had a random assortment of very short historical newspaper clippings, but I could never quite figure out what to do with them. Very rarely have I been able to find out much, if any, additional information about the stories, and, well, you know how I am. I don't usually like to post stuff unless I feel I have something to add, even if it's just pulling a few things together. Because of that, I've only ever posted a few of these clippings here and there, normally when they're somehow connected to a larger story.

A good number of these clippings have come to me from Donna Peters, and recently she sent me another good batch. Since I can't justify holding on to them any longer, here's what I've decided to do. For the foreseeable future, once a week (probably about Wednesday) I'll post one or two of these clippings as a Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak. Depending on the selection, there may or may not be much in the way of accompanying text. Even if so, it may be as simple as, "The farm mentioned was located here", along with a map snippet. I hope you enjoy these brief glimpses of the past.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Possum Park

Unlike other times when I've made this statement and been wrong, I'm pretty sure this will be a short post (at least compared to some recent ones). In fact, stick around a few paragraphs and watch me dig really deep for some facts to throw in. This post came about the other day when I was trying to gather some information about the origins of the name of a particular road -- Possum Park Road, to be precise. In case you're not familiar with it, Possum Park Road runs north from Kirkwood Highway to Milford Crossroads, just east of Newark.

The road itself long predates the name, and was in place before 1820. At that time and at least as late as 1912, the thoroughfare was known as the Hop Yard Road. The Hop Yard tract was a large and old property occupying the northern part of Milford Crossroads, on the north side of Paper Mill Road. So when and why did the name change from Hop Yard Road to Possum Park Road? I've never found an explicit explanation, but a big clue lies on the 1868 Beers map, located in the upper right of this page.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Henry Clark Woollen Mill

Sunnybrook Cottage
From the late 17th Century through the early 20th, Mill Creek Hundred was home to numerous water-powered mills. For obvious reasons of power, most were seated where you would expect -- along the main waterways of the region (Red Clay and White Clay Creeks) or their major tributaries, like Mill Creek and Pike Creek. A few, though, sat on smaller streams where, frankly, you're likely to look at them and say, "There was a mill powered by that?" One of those streams (which actually hosted at least two mills), was the usually tame Hyde Run, which winds its way from north of Loveville down to join the Red Clay in Brandywine Springs Park. And for nearly 100 years, in a now-wooded area east of Newport Gap Pike, stood a textile mill.

The story begins, though, more than a century before any cloth was manufactured on Hyde Run, or Great Run as it was referred to in the oldest documents. The property was originally part of a larger 239 acre tract purchased in 1689 by Bryan McDonald (or McDonnell, or MacDonald, or McDannell, or...don't even go there), of which this was in the northern part. It went next to Brian, Jr., who in 1747 sold his holding at the time to Jeremiah Wollaston. Wollaston in turn sold a 147 acre portion of the tract to George Robinson in 1757. Its location can be seen in the illustration below.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ephraim Jackson House and Mill

If it seems sometimes like there's no particular rhyme or reason to what I write about at any given time, that's only because there isn't. One of the things this blog is meant to be is a documentation of my own journey of discovery through Mill Creek Hundred history. And that journey is about as straight a line as one of those old Family Circus comics. Once in a while a few posts will connect to each other, but more often than not I'm all over the place. The other day, as I was trying to decide where to focus next, I got an email from someone asking about a certain house (thanks, Julie!). As it turns out, I knew a little about it (although not as much as I thought I did), had mentioned it once before in a post, and always meant to get back to it. So since I'm that easily influenced, we'll take a look at a beautiful tucked-away house whose secluded location belies its significance to its area's history -- The Ephraim Jackson House.

The two story brick house is probably one of Hockessin's oldest, and sits on the south side of Evanson Road, most of the way down to Mill Creek Road, coming from Valley Road. There doesn't seem to be any firm date for the construction of the house, but a look into the property's history does lend some clues. Most of the information I was able to find came from Joseph Lake's book, Hockessin: A Pictorial History, with help on the early years from the research of Walt Chiquoine. There are still a few parts of the history that aren't exactly clear (especially towards the end), but a general story does emerge.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The David Chambers House

David Chambers House, September 2013
Recently I reported on the status of two historic homes on Limestone Road, located just north of Paper Mill Road. The larger and more prominent of the two houses (which will both be saved and renovated) was the Samuel Dennison House, built in 1876 and now standing completely exposed on the property cleared for construction
(as of October 2013). The history of this house has already been covered, and can be found here. However, there is a second house on the property, which even though it sits closer to the highway is less conspicuous due to surrounding foliage. This house, which is actually about a half century older than its larger neighbor, is the David Chambers House.

The David Chambers House is a two story, stuccoed fieldstone home with 20th Century additions on its west and south sides. The main block has four unevenly-spaced bays, with the main entrance set in the middle right bay. A faint line over the first floor windows hints at a front porch, long since removed. As of this writing, small trees help insulate the house from the widened and encroaching Limestone Road out front.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Albert Gallatin Springer -- Delaware-Born Texas Cattle Rancher

I'm happy to say that this is another in our series of Guest Posts, kindly submitted to me by fellow readers of the blog. This one, in a way, is sort of a Guest Post once removed. Those of you who have been hanging around here a while probably recognize the name Rich Morrison from numerous informative comments he's left. Rich lives in Georgia, but his family roots go back far and wide in Mill Creek Hundred. Among the clans to which he has ties are the Springers, a family he's done a lot of research on. Rich recently retired (trying not to be jealous, trying not to be jealous..), giving him more time for important things, like genealogy. He recently connected with a professional historian named Bill Green, who had some information about an interesting member of the Springer family. Bill wrote a brief biography of the man -- Albert Gallatin Springer -- and has graciously allowed me to post it here.

I'll follow Bill's work with a few thoughts of my own at the bottom, but up here I want to forward along Rich and Bill's plea, which is for a picture. They've yet to find a photo of Albert Springer, so if by any chance anyone happens to have one, please let us know. It's a longshot, but we've already made some interesting connections through here, so you never know.

Albert Gallatin Springer

Unlikely as it seems, a Delaware native established the first cattle ranch in the Texas Panhandle. Probably born in Pencader Hundred in 1844, the youngest of eleven children, Albert Gallatin Springer grew up in Wilmington. His father, Peter Springer, reputedly was a furrier who operated the only hat shop in town before moving in the mid-1830s to White Clay Creek Hundred where he farmed for a number of years. Then, Peter retired and the family moved back to Wilmington about 1855. Albert's mother, Elizabeth Heinold Springer, died shortly before his twelfth birthday in 1856. By 1860, he was apprenticed to Wilmington blacksmith John Wesley Sullivan.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Status Update on the Samuel Dennison House

Samuel Dennison House, September 2013
About two years ago, I did a post about the Samuel Dennison House located on the west side of Limestone Road, just north of Paper Mill Road. Last week I received a message through the blog's Facebook page asking me if I knew anything about the old houses on Limestone Road, around which a new development was apparently being built. I told Joanne, who sent me the message, that I didn't know anything about it, but that I'd take a ride up there and check it out. I did that over the weekend, and got a bit of a scare, then some information that put my mind at ease (at least for now).

Joanne said that from the blog she figured out that the house in question was the Samuel Dennison House, and that from what she could see driving by, she thought that it might be getting prepared either to be torn down or moved. When I got there, I could see exactly what she meant. The house now sits utterly exposed, surrounded by large stretches of barren earth, as seen in the accompanying pictures I took. All the smaller (and mostly if not all 20th Century) outbuildings have been removed, and it truly does look like the main house is about to go, one way or the other. After a quick bit of searching, I'm pleased to say that the future of the 1876 stone home seems to be secure.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Whiteman Family Revisited Part 2 -- Henry Whiteman and AJ Whiteman Houses

Henry Whiteman House, 1913
In the last post I began to revisit the story of the Henry Whiteman House, a topic I first covered several years ago. As I noted, there are actually several Whiteman houses near Paper Mill Road, between Smiths Mill Road and Polly Drummond Hill Road. (There are maybe a half dozen others throughout MCH, but we'll focus on these particular ones for right now.) We've covered the oldest of these homes, the Jacob Whiteman House built sometime between 1804 and 1816. The next one, the Henry Whiteman House, sits on what was the southern portion of his father Jacob's original 196 acre tract. Henry purchased this half of his father's land shortly before Jacob's death in 1826, and by 1828 Henry had already erected a stone house on the property for himself and his family. At the time, he and wife Anna (Kinsey) had four children, with the fourth, Henry, Jr., being born in 1827, around the time the house was completed. The couple would ultimately have nine children.

Henry resided here for almost 30 years, up until his death in 1855. At that point, the history as written in the 1999 UD report stated that the house and farm went to his son George. This was another of the points at which I was confused the first time around, since I couldn't find a George Whiteman in the 1850 or 1860 censuses. I now know why, and I also know a bit more about this man.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Whiteman Family Revisited Part 1 -- The Jacob Whiteman House

The Jacob Whiteman House
During a recent exchange of emails (unrelated to this post), a descendant of several local families wrote that she hoped she wasn't boring me with her "little family stories". I quickly assured her that she was most definitely not boring me. In fact, I realized and told her that these little family stories are local history. They may seem inconsequential in relation to "The Big Picture", but they can be important for any of a number of reasons. They can provide a missing piece to a larger mystery, or they can be touching stories in their own right. The stories I received recently relating to the Whiteman family certainly tick both of these boxes. (We'll actually get to those stories in the next post.) They also prompted me to revisit an old mystery.

Almost exactly three years ago, I delved into and wrote a post about the Henry Whiteman House, located on Paper Mill Road and Smith's Mill Road, just north of Foxden Road. In the initial post, I stated that the history of the home and the property didn't seem quite right to me, and I laid out an slightly different scenario which represented my best guess at the time. Even at that, it still seemed like there was something I was missing. I still didn't have a really good grasp on the family or the history of the houses in the area. Now, after being prompted with new information to go back and look at it again, I think that finally I know what the real story is (with only one slight hedge).

Friday, September 13, 2013

Brandywine Springs Tour -- September 21

Alright, I hope this isn't too last-minute of a notice, but I think we've come to a consensus. Although I did say I'd do a tour with just a few people, it seems that there are several people who can't make it this week, but can make it next week. Since this isn't anything where there's a reservation or set plans involved, I've decided to wait the extra week in order to allow more people to attend. I hope this isn't a problem for those who said they could come this week. And for what it's worth, the Weather Channel's long-term forecast has it in the 70's with a 0% chance of rain on the 21st. All in all, this seems like the best thing to do.

We can nail down a time that's best for everyone, but since a few seemed to indicate that early afternoon was good, I'm suggesting 1:00 for now. [Edit: See below]The tour should take somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half, depending on how much I ramble on. As I mentioned before, we'll walk through the park, stopping and talking about the various rides, attractions, and structures present a century ago. There are some signs in the park with pictures (installed over the years by the Friends of Brandywine Springs (FOBS)), and I'll have some additional pictures with me as well. If you don't know much about the park, I think you'll be amazed at what it was like.

In the mean time, there a a few resources available to "bone up" a bit on the history of the amusement park. You can start with my post of a few years ago (good Lord, three years ago), which gives a brief overview of the park. Additionally, FOBS has a website that contains a good history and some pictures. FOBS does now also have an excellent Facebook page, containing LOTS of pictures and features. The page is accessible to everyone -- you don't have to be on Facebook to view it. If you really want to be thorough, you can check out the two posts about the original hotel, too.

Now we've got another week to work out any issues, but if anyone has any questions, concerns, or suggestions, feel free to speak up. Hope to see you there!!

Update 9/18/13: I've now "officially" set the time for 1:00 PM on Saturday, September 21. Weather looks good. If anyone would like to attend but needs directions to the park, just let me know. We'll meet in the near end (closest to the entrance and basketball courts) of the parking lot. We'll talk for a few minutes there, and then work our way down to the amusement park site.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The 1844 MCH Election Flag

This is another item from the cache given to me by Fran Casarino, descendant of the Banks and Chambers families. (The Jabez Banks items from a previous post came from her, as well.) I don't really have a whole lot to say about it, but I thought it was certainly interesting enough to share with everyone. It's a newspaper article from 1959 that mentions an item I had seen referenced once before. One that would have been quite familiar to Mill Creek Hundred residents a century and a half ago.

As seen in the photo on the right, the item in question is a flag, purchased by a group of MCH residents in 1844. The accompanying article, shown below, gives the rest of the story. (Reminder: click on the image to view a larger, easier to read version.) Way back (in this blog's very first post, as a matter of fact), it had been noted that the Mermaid Tavern on Limestone Road (just north of the Pike Creek Shopping Center) was for many years the polling place for the hundred. One of the reasons I chose the Mermaid for the inaugural post was that it was the closest thing MCH had to a town hall or central public location. If this was the de facto town hall, then this banner was the town flag, albeit one displayed only on specific days.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Brandywine Springs Tour and/or Next Gathering

OK, time for me to 'fess up (and for those of you of a certain age, no, this has nothing to do with Davey Crockett). Back when we all met up in February (where has the year gone?), we seemed to decide that we'd like to do some sort of gathering again sometime. A meeting at Brandywine Springs park in the spring was suggested, an idea I liked. Unfortunately, by the time I got around to seeing if I could reserve a pavilion they were all booked for the entire summer. With the demographic range we'd be likely to have present, I felt a reserved pavilion was necessary to ensure that everyone had a comfortable, shaded place to sit. Once the spring sprinted by me, I figured that trying to get a reasonable quorum together during the summer would be tricky. And considering the weather, probably also sticky.

Now that the summer of '13 has been laid to rest (again, wasn't it February like a few weeks ago?), I thought it was a good time to start thinking about group activities again. When the idea of a Brandywine Springs meeting was bandied about, there was a suggestion of walking down the hill and taking a tour of the old amusement park site. I was wondering if anyone was still interested in that? I've given tours of the site before (in conjunction with the Wilmington & Western RR), and it takes about an hour or so. It's all on trails, but there is a decent hill on the way down and back up. The other caveat is that it, of course, would be dependant upon the weather. (I.E., I ain't walkin' around no park in no rain.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Follow-Up to Greenbank and Marshallton Mills Origins Posts

I was originally going to call this post a "wrap-up", but in these types of matters nothing is ever really wrapped up. That's especially important to keep in mind in this case, I think. Now that all three parts of Walt Chiquoine's amazing work on the origins of the Greenbank and Marshallton mills [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3] are up, I wanted to take a moment and look at a few specific angles. There's a lot of information in what Walt has written, and there are a few key points that I want to make sure don't get lost. But do you want to know where there's even more information? In the full version of his report!

Yes, the three posts published on the blog here are actually an abridged version of the full work. The full version, in PDF form and including even more information and documentation, can be found here. A permanent link can be found along the righthand margin of the blog. I want to thank Walt again for A)doing all this research in the first place, B)writing it up and providing the "blog version", and C)allowing the full version to be available and posted here. I know he's written up other things for himself, but this is the first time I've posted anything by him. (I could have, though. He's sent me emails, written out just to keep things straight in his and my head, that could stand as blog posts on their own.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

On the Origins of the Greenbank and Marshallton Mills, Part 3

Researched and written by Walt Chiquoine --


So far, I have discussed the property of Thomas Gillet on Red Clay Creek, and then the southern half of this property settled by Isaac Hersey and his family. Justa Justis, Jr. was settled on the northern property, possibly as early as 1711. As late as 1708, mention of a mill is conspicuously absent from a sheriff’s deed for the entire Gillet property. But in 1747, Justa sells several acres to his son Swithin, mentioning a mill on the tract. This was Swedes’ Mill, later to become the Greenbank Mill.

Swedes’ Mill has had a fuzzy history, first mentioned by Scharf in his History of Delaware published in 1888. In Scharf’s own words,

Friday, August 16, 2013

On the Origins of the Greenbank and Marshallton Mills, Part 2


Researched and written by Walt Chiquoine --

In my first post, I discussed the early history of the property of Thomas Gillet, lying on Red Clay Creek between Ham Run and Hyde Run. This property passed to Nicholas Allum and Mathias Mattson of Cecil County, MD, then likely to Mattson’s nephew, Richard Rumsey. Rumsey lost the property at sheriff’s sale to Hipolitus Lefeaver, who sold the tract to Nils Laican in 1711. Laican would split the property in two halves.

Much of the early history of both properties of Nils Laican comes to us from his will of 1721 and a deed for the southern property written in 1730. By will, the southern property was to be sold to cover the expenses of Laican’s estate. In 1722, and after Nils’ death, John Seeds married Brita Laican. About the same time, he bought both a tract in Christiana Hundred and the southern Laican tract. Not long after, Seeds sold an interest in the southern property to Isaac HercĂ© (now Hersey or Hershey), a French Huguenot who had arrived in MCH several years earlier.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On the Origins of the Greenbank and Marshallton Mills, Part 1

Researched and written by Walt Chiquoine --

I do a lot of property research for MCH, from original grants up through the 18th century.  Sometimes it is rather tedious and boring, like reading a family genealogy that is nothing but names and dates.  But sometimes the land and court records provide a thread that ties together other facts and ideas into a real story about the early families of MCH, a story that has not been told before.  I’d like to share the story of one such property on Red Clay Creek that involves two of our founding families (Justa Justis Jr. and Isaac Hersey) and two of our earliest mill seats (Greenbank and Marshallton).  The complete story, more fully illustrated and referenced, is available elsewhere on this site. 


The story begins with two warrants (1682 and 1684) and a 1684 survey to Thomas Gillet.  Gillet came from England in 1682 on the Welcome, a passenger on the same ship as William Penn.  Penn’s first landing was at New Castle, where it seems Gillet disembarked and set about finding some land to settle.  His property, surveyed by Thomas Pierson, is given in this sketch that is recorded in the Book of Surveys at the Delaware Public Archives:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Introduction to a Special Series of Guest Posts

If there were such a thing as "Sweeps Week" for blogs, the next few posts are the ones I'd put up during it. I'm so excited about it that I'm confining my introduction to this separate post, for fear of getting in the way. Those of you who are regular readers of the blog are probably familiar with Walt Chiquoine (usually Walt C. in comments) and what he's brought to numerous discussions and topics in the past. I've talked before about how most people who stumble across the blog have a specific area of interest in addition to a general love of history. Walt's area of expertise is the early history of property ownership in Mill Creek Hundred. His modest goal is to map out, as completely as possible, all of the original land grants and purchases in MCH. I've seen his work, and he's well on his way to completing it. I daresay he has a better understanding of who owned what 300 years ago than anyone since then, if even then.

What makes Walt's work so impressive, reliable, and valuable is that he deals largely with primary resources, not other people's work. He's spent so much time in the archives in Dover that I'm surprised they haven't comped him a room there, or at least given him a parking spot. Over the years he's learned how to read and understand the 17th and 18th Century property documents there as well as anyone, professional or not.

One trait that Walt shares with any good researcher is being bothered by something that doesn't seem to make sense. When something doesn't look right, even if others tell you it is, you feel the need to dig into it until it finally does seem right. I think this is what may have started him out a few months back in looking into the early history of the Greenbank Mill. In this case, the more he dug into it the less the "official" history seemed to add up. What he ended up with after countless hours of research is what I think is far and away the most comprehensive (not to mention accurate) history of the early ownership of what came to be the millseats at Greenbank and Marshallton. The topic ended up being extensive enough that his work will be published here in three posts over the next week or so. After the last post is up, a slightly more complete and more illustrated version of the paper will be available as a single PDF document if anyone wishes to download it. At that point I may add a few thoughts of my own and highlight what I think are the most important points Walt has made.

I want to thank Walt for all his hard work, and for allowing me to post his work here on the blog. I happen to think that what he's convincingly come up with here is a very significant part of our local history. Any time someone contradicts the conventional wisdom or long-held "truth" of a topic, there's bound to be some disagreements. In this instance, however, I think Walt's made a pretty tight case for his narrative. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did!

Friday, August 9, 2013

William Julius "Judy" Johnson

Johnson with the Pittsburgh Crawfords
Time for another Guest Post here at the Mill Creek Hundred History Blog, as this time Bill Harris has stepped up to the plate. Bill has a post for us about arguably the greatest athlete ever to have lived in (or very close to) Mill Creek Hundred. (You can put your Randy White arguments in the comments section, if he did actually live in MCH as well as go to high school here.) Johnson's home on Newport Road is technically in Christiana Hundred, but A) it's part of Marshallton, and B) it's close enough that he could probably hit a ball into MCH, so he's close enough for us. After Bill's piece, I'll follow up with a few thoughts of my own.

The Mill Creek Hundred History Blog has highlighted dozens of people and families that have been innovators, businessmen, and politicians that have contributed to the region and state’s growth. However its arguably most famous [very close] resident gained national notice in through his skills on the baseball diamond.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Foard's Store

Foard's Store, Spicer's House, and "The Rock"
Of all the different types of businesses and institutions around in the 1800's, one has always held a particular interest for me -- the general country store. Maybe it's because my own great-great-great grandfather ran one in the rural Bronx, or maybe it's because Mr. Oleson is my favorite "Little House" character. Either way I've generally had little luck finding much concrete information about the various stores that once served Mill Creek Hundred. Recently, though, my (our) luck changed. I was contacted by Mrs. Ruth (Ford) Smith, daughter of Edward Ford and granddaughter of Powell Ford. She forwarded to me a wonderfully descriptive paper written by either her father or grandfather, detailing one of these businesses -- Foard's Store in Marshallton.

Foard's Store sat on the southwest corner of Old Capitol Trail and Newport Road, across that road from the present Big D's Pizza. As best as I can tell it would have stood mostly between the road and the building that stands on the corner today. The Spicer's house (seen in the top photo and mentioned in the post) would have been in the middle of the current road. Remember that until 1931 Old Capitol Trail dead-ended at Newport Road. Not until that year was the cut-off and bridge completed. So, many thanks to Ruth for sharing her family's recollections. Also thanks to Denis at the Lower Red Clay Valley Blog for use of the pictures of the store. Now enjoy your tour through Foard's Store!

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Couple More Banks Family Items

Jabez Banks Sale Notice, 1889
A little while back I was fortunate enough to have a small cache of local history items given to me by Fran Casarino, a descendant of several long-standing Mill Creek Hundred families. Over the coming weeks, I'll slowly roll out some of the items that I think might be of interest, most of which relate to the Stanton area. The first items deal directly with one of Fran's family lines, the Banks family. This post could really be considered to be a continuation or addendum to the Jabez Banks Invitations post of a few months ago. The items profiled in that post also came from Fran's collection.

The first item, seen above, is a notice from 1889 advertising the sale of the "Stock and Farm Impliments" of Jabez Banks. The notice goes on to list in detail the items for sale, including horses, cows, pigs, chickens, carriages, harness, milk churns, pans, buckets, and "in fact, everything needed to carry on farming". Basically an entire farm except for, well, the farm.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Rotheram (Harmony) Mill House

Rotheram House
It's been noted before that the bulk of the mills along the Red Clay seem to have been built on the west (Mill Creek Hundred) side of the creek, especially in the lower Red Clay Valley (Wooddale, Faulkland, Greenbank, Marshallton, Kiamensi, Stanton). I'm not sure if there's any real explanation for it, but it did work out that way. Along the other border waterway of MCH, however, the mills seem to be a little more evenly placed on either side of the power source. The mills on or near White Clay Creek show up on both sides, some in MCH (Red Mill, Roseville, Curtis) and some in White Clay Creek Hundred (Dean, Tweed). One of the oldest mills along the White Clay, long out of service, sat just south of the creek in WCCH, about midway along the southern border of MCH. The mill itself is long gone, but its memory survives through the nearly 275 year old home of its owner, and the name by which it was known throughout most of the 19th Century -- Harmony Mills.

The only standing remnant of this once-thriving complex is the two-story brick Rotheram House, facing eastward on Old Harmony Road just south of Kirkwood Highway and White Clay Creek. The house was built about 1740 by Joseph Rotheram, an English Quaker who had come to America around 1723. Rotheram probably settled first in New Castle, but in 1739 purchased a grist mill and saw mill at a Sheriff's sale. The early history of these mills is unclear, but their existence along the White Clay prior to 1739 makes them some of the earliest in the area. After acquiring the mills, Rotheram quickly built a new brick house for himself and his family, which included his wife, two sons, and two daughters.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Reminiscences of Stanton

The Old Stone, or Rising Son, Hotel, c.1970
I'm proud to present here the next in what I hope to be a continuing series of Mill Creek Hundred History Blog Guest Posts. Slightly different than the last one, this post is a collection of a few of one man's memories of Stanton. I was contacted a while back by Raymond Albanese, who currently resides in Conowingo, MD. But from 1962 to 1977, Raymond lived in Stanton, in Mannette Heights (between Stanton Middle School and the railroad tracks). He had some additional information about several earlier posts, and after some thought, we decided to roll them up together into one post. It's not meant to be a single narrative, but rather a collection of several separate thoughts on various topics relating to the Stanton area. I've added a few links to the original posts for reference.

Below is what Raymond sent me, with just some very minor editing to convert an email into a blog post. All the memories and stories are his, and we hope they'll spark a few of your own. As always here, please feel free to add your own thoughts and recollections. Odds are if you remember it after all these years, either someone else does too, or else they've been trying to remember it. Thanks again to Raymond for taking the time to write these up. Enjoy!

On one of your comments in reference to the Stone hotel in Stanton [post is here], where it was razed to build the Alert gas station, the question was asked if it was a doctors office at one time. Indeed it was. As I knew it in the early sixties it was a Dr. Carrol who practiced medicine there and lived there also with his wife and daughter. The daughter attended school with me at Stanton Jr. High. The house stood on the east side of Mill lane. It was razed in the late sixties or early seventies after the construction of Mitch Rd in 1969. Another part of little Delaware's history erased in the name of the inevitable thing called progress.

Monday, July 8, 2013

MCH History Blog On the Road: The Lea-Derickson House

Lea-Derickson House
Take a trip sometime into Wilmington and position yourself on the north end of the Market Street Bridge over the Brandywine. In the 18th and early 19th Centuries, this was the heart of Brandywine Village, and the engine that drove Wilmington’s early economic development. As you stand at 18th Street looking north, behind you were the mills that made Wilmington a force in the colonial economy. The “Wilmington Superfine” flour produced here was known worldwide, and was generally regarded as the best produced in America. From this trade, the men who produced the flour became very wealthy. These men, Quakers mostly, chose to build their homes very near the mills. There were a few on the south side where the first mills here were constructed, but most chose to build on the north side, and created what came to be known as Brandywine Village. Not a part of Wilmington until 1869, the village was simply an unincorporated part of Brandywine Hundred. It had no official political leadership, and any disputes were settled at the home of Squire Elliott, the Justice of the Peace. His house stood to your right, where the small park and historical sign are today.

However, for this post we shall turn our attention to our left, and the wonderful Lea-Derickson House at 1801 North Market Street. This five bay, fieldstone home was built in about 1770 by James Marshall (born abt 1735), who, along with his brother William (1735-1808), was attempting to bring milling to the north bank of the Brandywine. To this point, with the exception of one small bolting mill, all industry was along the south side of the river. The Marshalls had but one major obstacle to overcome - the rocky formations that made digging a race very difficult on this side. However, the excavated stone did make good building material, and this house, as well as the Joseph Tatnall House next door, was constructed from it. Unfortunately for the Marshall brothers, they had gotten themselves in over their heads. The north race proved to be more difficult a task than they could support, so they handed control of the project over to Joseph Tatnall, who in addition to being James Marshall’s brother-in-law, also had more money.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gettysburg Sesquicentennial

Pickett's Charge, July 3, 1863

I don't often do little timely posts like this, but this seemed too important not to acknowledge. As most of
you are probably aware, we are in the midst of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Today (June 3, 2013) happens to be the 150th anniversary of the final day of the three-day ordeal of the Battle of Gettysburg. I call attention to this sesquicentennial not just to be able to use the word sesquicentennial, which I happen to think is a pretty cool word. I don't want to write up a history of the battle, which many other much more qualified people have done. Suffice it to say, it was a pretty big deal.

We were more than two years into the war by that point. Confederate General Robert E. Lee decided that if he could only bring the war to the north, win a few battles and maybe take a city or two, the northern populace would grow as tired of the conflict as the southerners, who had already seen it up close, had. In June 1863 he moved his army up through western Maryland and into southern Pennsylvania, meeting the Union Army of Gen. George G. Meade (promoted three days earlier) near the small town of Gettysburg. The three day battle that ensued didn't end the war, but it did help to make clear that ultimately, the Union would prevail.

Friday, June 28, 2013

National Guard Encampments at Brandywine Springs

Richard R. Kenney

Perhaps no place in Mill Creek Hundred has as rich and diverse of a history as Brandywine Springs. Normally when we think of these 60-some acres at Faulkland Road and Newport Gap Pike we think of its more than two centuries worth of use as a public site for rest, relaxation, and entertainment. The site has, in turn, hosted a colonial-era tavern/inn, a resort hotel, an amusement park, and a public state/county park. Lesser known are some darker stories, including several deaths and at least one tragic murder. But just as interesting and noteworthy as these chapters are the park's military connections, including one Victorian Era story in particular. (Hat tip to Terry Zitzelberger for making me aware of it)

Throughout its history, MCH has had occasional brushes with the military, whether it be Robert Kirkwood, the events of early September 1777, or the more recent presence in or near the hundred of several facilities used by the armed forces, reserves, or National Guard. It happens to be this last group that takes center stage in this story, which takes place at Brandywine Springs.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Different Direction on Smith's Corner

If you'll recall (or even if you won't), a while back there was a post that included a 1921 picture of a bridge that was captioned as being "near Smith's Corner". Since the picture looked to me to be almost certainly taken on Old Capitol Trail just west of Newport Gap Pike, I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out just what and where Smith's Corner was.

At the time, my working assumption was that Smith's Corner was the Newport Gap Pike-Old Capitol Trail intersection that would have been just behind the photographer of the 1921 shot. I and several others then went about trying to figure out why it was called Smith's Corner, a name no one seems to have been familiar with. I spent my effort attempting to find someone named Smith who ever lived at or near the crossroads there. Seemed like the logical answer at the time. A follow-up post even put forth one possible theory for the name.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Some Thoughts About the Scots-Irish in Mill Creek Hundred

This is really less a full-blown post than just a few thoughts, but I wanted to put them out there while they were still rattling around in my head. I've seen several programs recently that dealt in various ways with the Scots-Irish, and it got me thinking about something. I'll get to it in a moment, but first a quick refresher on the Scots-Irish (sometimes Scotch-Irish) and their importance to MCH and to the country.

The Scots-Irish were Scottish Protestants (primarily Presbyterians) who were forced by King James I (himself a Scotsman) to settle in the newly-conquered Catholic lands of Northern Ireland, in the region of Ulster, in the early 1600's. Over the next century, these Presbyterian Scots endured numerous hardships and persecutions, many caused by the fluctuating leanings of the English crown regarding their preferred religious strain. By the early 18th Century, many of these Scots-Irish families had decided they'd had enough, and set off west in the hope of finding greater freedom in the English colonies of America. As it happened, many of these immigrants entered the New World in our region, coming through Philadelphia and New Castle. And while their treatment in the Old World explains why they emigrated, it's the treatment the Scots-Irish received in the New World that I'm particularly concerned with now.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The David Wilson House

A short while back I made mention of the fact that for the foreseeable future I'd be having less time to research and write the blog. I also mentioned the possibility of "Guest Posts", if anyone had anything they knew about or were researching, and felt like sharing. After all, that's how this blog started -- I was doing my own research for fun and decided to find a way to share what I'd found with anyone who might be interested.

I'm happy to say that I've already received several responses, and this post represents the first such Guest Post on the MCH History Blog. It was written by Dave Olsen, who often runs across lost history, off the beaten path (literally). He's the one who showed me the Plumgrove Farm ruins last year. Here's what he came up with:

The David Wilson House
While running earlier this past winter, I happened to turn off of Brackenville Road into Hockessin Valley Falls.  As I headed around the outside loop of the neighborhood, which by the way gave me a great view of the valley looking towards Lantana Square, HAC and obviously Valley Road, I literally ran right back into the 1700’s and a complete farm that has changed little in the past 250+ years.  After pinching myself to make sure I hadn’t entered some time warp, I couldn’t get home quick enough to start looking into the details.  A return trip by car confirmed my initial reaction.  There are two lots:  506 and 516 Wilson Drive.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Isaac Flinn House

There was a picture I had seen a while back (shown at right) that had piqued my interest, but I hadn't gotten around to writing about it until now. The only clue to go on in the quest to figure out where it might have been was the caption attached to the picture, which reads -- "Isaac Flinn House, Price's Corner, Wilmington, Delaware, 1890's. Isaac Flinn and his family pose inside the gates in front of their home. The house had served as an inn about the time of the American Revolution." Obviously, the mention of Price's Corner caught my eye, and while that meant it was probably a bit outside of MCH, it was close enough to interest me.

Since the house didn't look like anything I recognized as standing today anywhere near Price's Corner, the only clue to go on was the name "Isaac Flinn".  The Flinn family has been in the region for quite a while, and was prominent in the 19th Century in a broad swath from Newport to Greenbank. The name shows up all over the 19th Century maps, but sorting out the family is a bit tricky since there doesn't seem to be a good, comprehensive genealogy of the clan.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Jabez Banks Invitations

Jabez Banks, Jr.
In the recent post about the Mendenhall Mob I wrote about how nice it is to occasionally get a glimpse into the everyday lives of the 19th Century residents of Mill Creek Hundred, and how helpful it can be to come across something from their lives with which we can easily relate. Assuming that everyone has at one time received a party invitation, I have another example. A few months back I was given an envelope containing items relating to three events, all of which once belonged to an ancestor of the donor. There are two party invitations and one commencement program and ticket, all once belonging to a MCH native named Jabez Banks (1855-1927).

If the name sounds vaguely familiar, Jabez was mentioned briefly in the post about his brother, the local automotive pioneer Richard Banks. He was the son of Jabez and Jane Banks, English immigrants who settled originally in Christiana Hundred in the 1840's. In 1850 they were living in the area just west of Wilmington, near Dupont Road and Maryland Avenue (Rt. 4). Interestingly, this was very close to another newly-arrived English family, the Browns. By 1860, Jabez and Jane had moved to the same area in which several of the Brown sons also settled -- just west of Stanton.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Red Clay Creek Corridor Park and Greenbank Park Plan -- 1975

General outline of the Red Clay Creek Corridor Park area
In the mid-1970's, New Castle County found itself in possession of two properties in a state of flux, and it had to decide exactly what to do with them. One property -- Brandywine Springs Park -- had recently been acquired from the state, and the county was still trying to figure out what to do with it. The other property -- Greenbank Park -- had been the site of the County Workhouse (prison), which had just recently been torn down. The site was to become a county park, but what kind of park was still very much up in the air. As we all know, what ultimately happened to these sites was that Brandywine Springs stayed as a low-key, wooded park with a few ball fields and picnic pavilions, while Greenbank became an open sports-oriented space with ball fields and tennis, handball, and basketball courts.

Unknown to most (or at least until recently, to me), there was at least one other potential plan floating around during those high-flying Ford Years. I have no idea how seriously this plan was taken, or whether it ever had any real chance of being implemented. My gut feeling is that this was strictly a "Let's see what we can come up with on the ambitious end of things" kind of plan, and I have a hard time imagining it being adopted. And even if it had somehow miraculously been adopted, the continuous funding and effort it would have entailed would have made it an easy target any time budgets needed to be trimmed. Even with the strongest of supporters, I couldn't see most of the plan lasting very long.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Kiamensi Road House

Kiamensi Road House
This one is much less of a normal blog post for me, and more of just a picture gallery. The photos below are of a house on Kiamensi Road, just east of Stanton Road. It stands almost directly across from the entrance to Powell Ford County Park. I don't really have very many concrete facts about the house at present, so a few educated guesses will have to suffice. Needless to say, if more information about the property does surface, I'll definitely pass it along.

Judging from its style, the house was probably built sometime in the 1870's or 1880's, and was almost certainly connected to the Kiamensi Woolen Mill just down the hill along Red Clay Creek. During that era, the mill employed dozens of workers and had surrounding it a small village, which probably extended most of the way from Stanton Road to the Red Clay. By 1888, Scharf states that the company owned 26 dwellings, although it's unclear (to me, at least) whether this is solely at Kiamensi, or if that figure includes their Stanton mill as well. In either case, I'd be shocked in this house was not one of the 26.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Mendenhall Mob

The Aaron Klair House
There were a number of reasons why I started writing this blog 2-1/2 years ago, one of them being to help combat what I felt was a common misperception. (I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating in this case.) I think that when a lot of people are asked, about Mill Creek Hundred, "What was around here 100, 200, or 300 years ago?", the common response would be, "Oh, it was all just farmland." And as we've seen here, that dismissive phrase is just not accurate. Although to be fair, even though MCH has been home to many other things over the centuries, the great majority of its expanse has been primarily used as farmland. But with those farms, it's important to bear in mind that they were built, lived on, and worked by real people. I know that sounds on the surface like a simplistic idea (of course there were "real" people there), but it's one I feel gets overlooked sometimes.

I think the main reason it's so easy to forget that those names we see on maps and census rolls represent real people is that we rarely get personal, up-close glimpses into their lives. Once in a while we have a photograph or two of a 19th Century resident, which is always wonderful. There's no better way to be reminded of the "realness" of someone than to actually look into their eyes, to see the part of their hair, to take in their crooked smile or the wrinkles on their face. [I don't know if I mention this enough, but if anyone ever has or knows of any old photos of people or places in the area, please let me know.] Other times -- even more rarely, it seems -- we come across a personal story from their lives that makes you think, "Yeah, they sound just like some people I know. I understand exactly how they felt and what they were thinking." This is a whole other level of "realness", and it's why I love the story of The Mendenhall Mob.

Monday, February 25, 2013

MCH History Gathering a Success!!!

I'm here to unilaterally declare Saturday's Inaugural Mill Creek Hundred History Gathering a smashing success. (Did you not see the three -- count 'em, three -- exclamation points in the title? I don't use them lightly.) The day was a bit dreary, but luckily it wasn't really raining while we were there. The venue was fabulous. How perfect was it to be talking about history in a 200+ year old house, overlooking a 200+ year old mill on the site of one a century older? It certainly made all our talk seem very appropriate. Many thanks go out to Greenbank Mill Associates for allowing us the use of the room. And thanks to the generosity of our attendees, we ended up making a $90 donation to GMA as a way of showing our appreciation. "Thanks" to everyone!! I couldn't have been happier with how it all went.

I'm a very bad host and didn't get a precise count of how many people we had, but I'm pretty sure there were about 22 or 23 of us, give or take. After we all sat down, we went around the room and had everyone introduce themselves and say a few words about their particular interest or connection to MCH history. I have to admit that I generally don't like things like that (I hate being called on to talk about myself in meetings or in classes), but it seemed like a good idea for the situation. Very few of us there knew one another in person, so it felt like a good way to get the "Oh, so you're so-and-so" out of the way up front. That went well (thanks everyone for playing along), and it even sparked a few discussions as we went.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Greenbank Mill and the Philips House -- Part 2

Greenbank Mill and the Madison Factory
In Part 1 of this post, we traced the early history of the Greenbank Mill and the Philips House, which are located on Greenbank Road just down the hill from Price's Corner. We saw that the original log "Swedes Mill" was purchased in 1773 by Robert Philips, who then built a larger frame mill next to it in 1790. A few years after that he built a new stone house for himself and his family. Around the time of the War of 1812, Robert and son John R. Philips entered the wool manufacturing business, and built the stone Madison Factory on the site of the recently razed Swedes Mill. The wool business was not kind to them, and by the early 1820's the mill had been seized by the sheriff for unpaid debts, and John R. had moved away.

Robert Philips died in late 1828, and in 1830 the property was finally sold to his nephew, John C. Philips. For the next twenty years or so, John C. Philips (1782-1854) operated the grist mill, as well as a saw mill that was installed sometime before 1822. (The saw mill was mentioned in an ad attempting to sell the mills that year, but since it was not uncommon to have a saw mill operating alongside a grist mill, it could have been in place much earlier). Eventually John was joined in business by several of his sons, who would initiate the next chapter in the story of Greenbank Mill. And like with the woolen venture of their great uncle, these Philips brothers would be responding to changes in the business climate around them, albeit on a somewhat more local level.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Greenbank Mill and the Philips House -- Part 1

Greenbank Mill in the 1960's, before the fire
The power of the many streams and creeks of Mill Creek Hundred has been harnessed for almost 340 years now, as the water flows from the Piedmont down to the sea. There have been literally dozens of sites throughout the hundred where waterwheels once turned, but today only one remains. Nestled on the west bank of Red Clay Creek, the Greenbank Mill stands as a living testament to the nearly three and a half century tradition of water-powered milling in MCH. The millseat at Greenbank is special to the story of MCH for several reasons -- it was one of the first harnessed here, it's the longest-serving, and it's the only one still in operable condition. The fact that it now serves as a teaching tool only makes it more special, at least in my eyes.

The early history of the millseat at Greenbank is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside....Ok, it's not quite that bad, but the actual facts are far from clear. The precise details (such as they can be determined) probably need to be tracked down in another post, but the short version of the accepted facts is that the land on which the mill stands was patented in 1677 to a Swede named John Anderson (Stalcop). Part of Anderson's tract was later acquired by Thomas Bird (who was the son-in-law of Cornelius Empson, part-owner of the Stanton Mill), upon whose death the property was left to his son, Empson Bird. It was from Empson Bird that the property was purchased in 1773 by Robert Philips.