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Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Red Barn Restaurant

Red Barn ablaze, October 20, 1968
I know that this is outside of the normal range for this blog, and that I don't usually write about topics this modern, but I couldn't help myself. Recent comments from Jack Walker in the Nostalgia Forum about the Red Barn Restaurant got me thinking about it, and I came up with a few things I wanted to share, without the chance of them getting buried in another page. For anyone who is not familiar with it, the Red Barn was a restaurant and cocktail lounge in the 1960's and 70's, located on Kirkwood Highway where the Best Buy is now. Actually, it was two restaurants, each one destined for ruin, the first one spectacularly so. The destruction of the first restaurant is probably what most people remember about the Red Barn today.

The original Red Barn was a dining establishment housed in....a big red barn. (Fortunate naming, huh?) It opened sometime in the early 1960's, but after 1961 (anyone know any more specific than that?). The aerial photo below shows the area that year, without even Farrand Drive yet in place. The barn can clearly be seen, with a drive coming back from Kirkwood Highway. [A side note -- the circular shape with something on its west side, about where Smith's Volkswagon is now, may have been, from what I gather, a trampoline park. Anyone remember this?] Who owned the farm (which probably extended north and west before the highway was built) is unclear, but judging by the 1940 Census, my two guesses are either Norman Klair or Jacob Maclary. They seem to be the first two farmers listed coming what I'm guessing to be west out of Marshallton.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Boggs Family and the Boggs-Jacobs House

Revolutionary War uniform of John Boggs
A few weeks back a very interesting comment was left on an old post, a comment that referenced a Revolutionary War-era anecdote and a family that I had not come across before. I didn't have the chance to write about it at the time, but there was some behind-the-scenes communication and research going on relating to it. My contribution was not much more than pulling it all together. Most of the information came from Bonnie Boggs (descendant of the original settlers) and Walt C. (who deciphered the deed and pinpointed the location of the property). What we uncovered shed light on a family prominent in the early development of Mill Creek Hundred, as well as the new country as a whole. It also provided another piece of the MCH history puzzle, giving information about a house that may have stood for over two hundred years, disappearing at the dawn of the new, suburban MCH.

The clan in question is the Boggs family, and they're one of those that was prominent in the area in the 1700's, but pretty much gone from the region by very early in the 1800's. They do have quite a story, though. The progenitor of the Boggs family in this area was James Boggs (1667-1736), who was born in Londonderry, Ireland and came to America about 1720. James had seven sons and two daughters, all but one of whom either came with him or followed soon thereafter. Where James Boggs originally settled in Mill Creek or White Clay Creek Hundred is unknown, but in 1726 he purchased land from John Chambers in the northwest part of MCH. This property was part of Chambers' Hopyard Tract, a 644 acre expanse he had acquired in 1720. The Hopyard Tract (with that name, but a little smaller) dates back to John Ogle in at least 1683. Thanks to the skill and work of Walt C., we have a pretty good idea of exactly where Boggs' 100 acres was located.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Update on the Spring Hill Brewery

The former Biedermann property, 1933
If you'll recall, back in October I published a post about the Spring Hill Brewery, which was located on Barley Mill Road, between Red Clay Creek and the Hoopes Reservoir dam (which of course was not there at the time). I was able to piece together a fair amount of information about the brewery and its owners, frankly far more than I thought I would. One glaring hole in the story, though, was the circumstances and timing of the demise of the brewery. Since publishing that post I've figured out a little more regarding that issue (as well as a few other things), so I wanted to document all that here. The original post has already been updated to reflect the new findings. Also, how I found it is kind of an amusing and "Duh" sort of story that I'm sure anyone who's done research can relate to (or is it just me?).

I don't even remember what I was originally searching for that day (something else relating to the WW Railroad), when I thought to search using the only words I knew that had to do with it -- Wooddale brewery. When you do a Google news archive search with those terms, you come up with this. The first result is an article from The Baltimore Sun that talks about the brewery. Since it's behind a paywall (and I'm poor and cheap) I never read the whole article, but it gave me the names "Biedermann" and "Spring Hill", and I ran with it from there. I got so excited (sadly, not exaggerating, I think I literally got up and danced with joy) in fact, that I completely forgot/ignored what the article was actually about, which was apparent even from the Google result.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Meeting of the (Historically-Inclined) Minds

OK, yes. I'm finally getting around to this. This is an idea that has been suggested to me by a number of people over the past couple years --and I've agreed it's a good idea -- but I've never gone so far as to act on it before. The idea is this: Over the past couple years, this blog has drawn together a group of people who share an interest in local history. I didn't create this interest -- just a place to share information and gather the like-minded. So if all of us enjoy sharing our mutual interest, as well as sharing information (swapping stories and asking questions), why not get together and do it in person?

Several people have expressed a desire to see if anyone would be interested in getting together and meeting in person sometime. No set agenda or anything. Less of a Meeting than just a meeting. Just an opportunity, for those who want to, to hang out with other people who share an interest, and maybe put a face with a name for those who’ve been hanging out here for a while. The tricky part is, I have no idea how many people might actually be interested in doing something like this – could be four, could be forty. What form this gathering ultimately takes will be determined by how many people think they might attend. If there’s just a few, we could get together at a bar or restaurant (or I know a coffee shop nearby that would be accommodating). If there’s a greater interest, we’d probably want to look into getting a room or meeting space somewhere.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Springers of Northern Mill Creek Hundred -- Part 2

Front of the George Springer House
In the first post, we traced the old Swedish family from the kidnapped indentured servant Charles Springer, down to his grandson Nicholas. Through that whole story, though, we only focused on one house -- the Springer-Yeatman House tucked away just below the state line on Limestone Road. In this post, we'll look at four houses -- two built by Nicholas' sons, and two by their sons. Thankfully, like Nicholas' house, all four are still standing, although one has taken a short trip down the road.

The first of these second-generation Springer houses in the area was built (or at least part of it was) by George Springer (1779-1835), the eldest surviving son. George married Esther Johnson of Chester County sometime around 1800, and it's logical to assume that he moved out of his mother's house soon thereafter. He did not, however, move off of the property. Instead, he took his new family and moved into a pre-existing log house situated a few hundred yards south of the family home. The nature of this original dwelling is the biggest mystery surrounding the George Springer House. Joseph Lake, in his Hockessin: A Pictorial History (and again, I can't stress enough how cool a book this is), surmises that George moved into a log home built in the 1760's by John Dixon, from whom Nicholas Springer purchased this part of his property. The DelDOT report (PDF) from the mid-1980's seems to be leaning in a different direction.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Springers of Northern Mill Creek Hundred -- Part 1

Nicholas Springer, or Springer-Yeatman, House
One of the really fun aspects of doing historical research (even the kind of "research" I do) is that you never really quite know what direction you'll end up going, or what connections you'll end up making. Very often, the idea I have in my head for a post prior to researching turns out to be nothing like what end up writing. In this case, I started by looking into two houses, both owned in the 19th Century by members of the Springer family. I was initially hesitant to dive into the Springer family, for fear of getting genealogically lost in them. Those who have read this blog have seen how the Eastburn family grew large and very intertwined amongst almost every other family in the area, seemingly. With the Springers, imagine the Eastburns with more than a century's headstart. Thankfully, though, I did look into this old Swedish family, and I was able to make a key connection that tied together these two houses with three others nearby.