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.

Boggs property. Map courtesy Walt C.

To put the above map into context, Paper Mill Road is running south to northeast, and taking up much of James Boggs' land today is Louviers/Deerfield/whatever Bank of America calls it now. The red outline is the Boggs farm (or at least pretty close to it). Whether all of his sons started out with him is unclear, but most seem to have settled nearby in New Castle County or Chester County. Upon James' death in 1736, the home farm was bequeathed to his 23 year old son Robert Boggs (1712-1804). While his father lived in MCH for little more than a decade, Robert would reside here for about 80 years. Here in his house (the location of which we'll get to shortly), Robert and his wife Margaret (nee, Robinson) (1721-1801) raised nine children, many of whom would go on to lead very adventurous lives.

Of their seven sons, all but one would serve in some capacity in the Revolutionary War. Only Joseph, the youngest (and from whom Bonnie descends), would not participate directly. Bonnie's theory is that he was held home by Margaret to work on the home farm, and for his safety. This sounds quite reasonable when you learn that two of his brothers -- William and Benjamin -- were killed in service. Their deaths occurred in October 1779 while delivering dispatches (likely regarding British troop movements) and supplies for Washington and the Continental Army. Two other brothers, James and Moses, also served, probably in the Delaware Militia. Robert had moved away from MCH just before the war and in 1775 was among the founders, along with Daniel Boone, of Fort Boonesborough, one of the first English settlements west of the Appalachians. He served in the war in the 12th Virginia Regiment (what became Kentucky was still then part of Virginia).

Perhaps the most historically significant connection between the Boggs family and the fight for Independence comes with John Boggs, who served as a Captain in the Delaware Militia. John soon ended up at Fort Boonesborough with his brother, and helped to defend the settlement there. After the war, John held on to his uniform, which passed down to his son, Benjamin (seen below, if for no other reason than he's the only old Boggs for whom we have a picture...and I like old pictures). The uniform stayed in the family until the 1970's, when it was donated to the Eastern Kentucky University library (it now resides in the Irvinton House Museum in Richmond, KY). Believe it or not, this seems to be one of only two or three complete, authentic Revolutionary War uniforms known to exist. At some point, all the surviving Boggs sons lived in Kentucky, although a few later moved.

Benjamin Boggs (1806-1883)

But to return us to the friendly confines (sorry, Wrigley) of MCH, the father of all these adventurous, patriotic boys had his own story, too. It seems likely that Robert Boggs' father James was probably a very early member of the White Clay Creek Presbyterian congregation, and is probably buried in the old cemetery along Old Coach Road. By the time the church moved to its present location in 1752, Robert Boggs was one of the twelve trustees to whom the land was given. And like his sons, Robert also had a hand in the Revolution. In 1777 he was awarded the rank of Colonel in the Delaware Militia, but it's unclear as to whether he saw action outside of the state (he is recorded as a wagoneer, though, bringing supplies to the troops). The 65 year old Robert was certainly at home in September 1777, when the incident related in Bonnie's comment took place:
When the army of Lord Cornwallis was retreating before Washington in the State of Delaware they passed through Robt Boggs yard. The old gentleman mounted his horse and betook himself to a high hill where he could witness the proceedings.

The soldiers on arriving being hungry attacked the bee hives that were nearby to get some honey, as might be expected the bees became angry, so did the soldiers & a hot fight ensued. The bees however being very skilled in war with use of sword overcame their antagonists & drove them from premises. Mr. Boggs feeling now somewhat relieved exclaimed "Even my bees are patriotic!"
The British troops in question were marching up Paper Mill Road on their way toward Hockessin, and ultimately to Chadds Ford and the Battle of Brandywine, not retreating as Robert's grandson Joseph says. I have to feel that when he say "even" my bees, he's referring to himself and his six sons in uniform.

Although he certainly farmed his land at Milford Crossroads, one phrase from Scharf hints at another occupation for one of the Roberts, either Junior or Senior. In mentioning the 1768 petition for a road from Stanton (Cuckoldstown) to Newark, it's described as being "[...]extending to the old Presbyterian Church, and thence till it intersects the road from Newark to the Circle, near the school-house of Robert Boggs." If I'm interpreting this correctly (I'm understanding this road differently now that I did before, which I'll revisit in another post), the intersection it's referring to is Milford Crossroads. I don't know which Robert it means (senior would be 56, junior 22), but this might be a forerunner of the Milford Crossroads school that appears later.

In 1801, Robert sold his farm to his son Moses (1756-1833), perhaps for a reason relating to the death that year of his wife Margaret (he and she are both interred at White Clay Creek Presbyterian). By that time, only Moses and Joseph, the youngest, were still living in Delaware. But not for long. Four years later (and after the 1804 passing of Robert) Moses sold the family farm for $1250 to a man from Montgomery County, PA -- George Jacobs. It was that link to Jacobs that allowed us to find a precise location for the house, because luckily for us the Jacobs family held on to the property even longer than the Boggses did.

Jacobs was born about 1769, and according to one census, in Germany. I've not been able to find much about him, but he did reside here for over 55 years, presumably in the same house built by Robert, or even James Boggs. The location of the house is shown on the 1849 Rea & Price map, although no name is affixed to it. The Jacobses were still there then, the 1850 Census showing George, Sr. residing there with this son George, Jr. and his family, including wife Sarah and their ten children (two more would come later). The younger George seems to have died sometime between about 1854 (the birth of their last child) and 1860, when he does not appear in the census. The then-listed-as 90 year old George, Sr. is shown as the head of household in 1860. He seems to have passed sometime before 1868, as the Beers map of that year labels the house as "Mrs. Jacobs", which would be George, Jr.'s widow Sarah. The house eventually passed to their youngest son Joseph, who is shown on the 1893 map.

Boggs-Jacobs House, 1937

Same view, 2007

So where was the house, exactly? If we make a few reasonable assumptions (i.e., that either the Jacobs family lived in the Boggs house, or that any rebuildings were done on the same location), we can tell exactly where the original Boggs house sat. The 1937 aerial photo above shows the house (the white spot) with two trees standing between it and Thompson Station Road. With only a little imagination, I even think I can see an ell extending from the rear. The house appears to have sat almost exactly where the connecting road is now, running between the parking lot and the road going behind the complex. The picture below, taken only about 15 years after the old aerial shot, shows why the house was razed.

Newly-built Louviers in the early 1950's
Here we see the DuPont's new suburban office complex, Louviers, in the early 1950's. The two trees are still standing, but the house behind them is gone. Here is an October 28, 1951 newspaper article that talks about the last few holdouts in the area. At this point, I don't know what relation the Boggs-Jacobs property has to the H.A. Perkins estate, the 680 acre tract the article says made up most of the Louviers property. The Perkins tract may have included this, or it might have been more like the former Rankin farms where the golf course is now, more or less.

In either case, it seems obvious that the house was torn down by DuPont to build their new facility. Whether or not it was the same house lived in by James Boggs in the 1700's, I'm not sure, but I think that's likely. If so, I'm sure it had a lot of stories to tell. I hope that further research (maybe at the Hagley Library) might someday yield a photograph of the house, perhaps taken by the Louviers builders before it was leveled. Even if not, thanks to the contributions from Bonnie and Walt another piece of MCH history has fallen into place, and a fascinating family has been restored to our local story.

15 comments:

  1. Walt,
    Thanks for your excellent summary of our recent detective work. It is very much appreciated. Hoping that many families can eventually piece together their histories thanks to connections in this blog.
    Bonnie Boggs

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    1. I forgot to add the date of this publication falls on my dad's 94th birthday. Nice
      Bonnie Boggs

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    2. Several people found pieces of this puzzle, including you. I think Scott did a great job organizing, enhancing, and presenting the story. He is a wizard at that.

      For my part, I am happy that MCH has re-connected with a story about a very patriotic, even heroic, local family that helped our nation win its freedom.

      And congratulations to your dad, he has the Boggs spunk in him!

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  2. Wow, just doing some digging on my family's history and came across this. I never had a clue about any of this. I'm pretty sure this is the Boggs I'm related to. Very interesting.

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    1. Glad we could help!

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  3. Many thanks for all of this including the "Patriotic Bees".

    Jesse Kenneth Boggs

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  4. Interested in learning the source for the comment that Joseph Boggs did not participate in the Revolutionary War.

    http://www.kchistory.org/cdm4/results.php?CISOOP1=exact&CISOFIELD1=CISOSEARCHALL&CISOROOT=all&CISOBOX1=Boggs%2C+Joseph%2C+Sr.

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    1. Looks like it's a different Joseph Boggs. The one in your articles was the son of William, while the one here was Robert's son. Robert and William were brothers, so the Josephs were cousins. Tough family to keep track of because almost every family has some or all of Robert, Joseph, James, and John. Does seem though that the MCH line were not the only actively patriotic Boggses.

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  5. The John Boggs clan eventually ended up settling in Lawrence County, Blaine KY. Settling on a large farm later known as Caine's Creek. This property is still in our (Boggs) hands. However, I am potentially the (6th generation) grandson of John Boggs or one of his Boggs brothers. I am attempting to connect the limbs on this tree. The strongest point of reference I have is that my family still owns the original Boggs Farm and I have names from myself back to my great-great-great grandparents.

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    1. Yes - a large family for sure! A family who traveled the wicked seas from Londonderry, Ireland and County Cork, Ireland,for a better life, in the Americas... to the Coast of Delaware... And the American Chain of Boggs DNA began.

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    2. WHAT PART OF CO.CORK DID THEY COME FROM?
      This is important because recent DNA research suggests
      there is a link to co.cork.
      regards
      HAM

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    3. As for myself personally, I don't know any more about where they came from than it says in the post -- that they reportedly came from Londonderry. That's a long way from Cork. I wonder if maybe the reference to County Cork refers to them departing from Cobh (then Queenstown), which was a major port for emigration. Just a guess.

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    4. I have just reached the 1500's in my ancestry search!! It's been consuming me but I had to be positive on everything. Count me in as a relative!! Julie Faye Boggs granddaughter of Oliver Carroll Boggs. Father is Joe D. Boggs. Wow!!

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  6. I am also a decendent of one John Boggs, Sr. however I don't believe it is the above family but could be another relative? My John Boggs realtive's tombstone states "Born In Ireland" 1737 and his death was stated as 1845. He is buried in Riverton, WV or at the time it was VA. Would love to figure out where in Ireland he came from.

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  7. Very interesting article-- thanks! I was looking for more info on James Boggs and his descendants and came across your post. Robert's son Joseph would be my fifth great grandfather.

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