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.

The Springer story in Delaware begins with a tale that sounds like it's pulled from a movie script. Carl (Anglicised as "Charles") Christophersson Springer was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1658, but went to London as a boy to study. After completing his studies, at about age 18, he decided to return home to Sweden. Before he could, though, he was kidnapped, put aboard an English ship, and sent to the West Indies. From there he was shipped to Virginia, where he was sold as an indentured servant. In Virginia he served five years, essentially as a slave, doing what he referred to as "unspeakable" work, clearing fields for the planting of tobacco and corn. [A transcript of a letter to his mother, recounting his tale, can be found here.] After serving his five years, he happened to hear of a community of Swedes 400 miles to the north, in the Pennsylvania colony. He walked all the way to the settlement along the Delaware, joining his fellow countrymen in the New Castle/soon-to-be Wilmington area. Charles Springer became a cornerstone of the community here, and was one of the founders of Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church.

Charles and his wife Maria had 11 children, the eighth of whom was Jacob (Anglicised as "James"). In turn, Jacob's eighth child was a boy named Nicholas Springer (1743-1792). It was Nicholas who, in 1766, became the first Springer to move into northern MCH (his cousin Charles had purchased land near Milltown several years prior, as noted in the Lynam Log House post). Nicholas purchased 43 acres from William Eynon, situated on the east side of Limestone Road just south of the Pennsylvania border. Enyon had bought the property several years earlier from Simon Hadley, whose grandfather of the same name had settled in the area about 50 years prior. I think there is a high likelyhood that the house Nicholas settled in still stands along Limestone Road (and is seen in the picture at the top of the post), even if one source seems to disagree. I believe this DelDOT report (PDF) is mostly correct, but probably has one or two plots confused -- not a hard thing to do when dealing with 18th and 19th Century deeds.
A clearer, if less colorful, view of Nicholas Springer's House

The 2-1/2 story, three-bay, fieldstone house may have been built in 1762-63 by William Eynon, according to Joseph Lake in his Hockessin: A Pictorial History. [The frame section on the right was a 20th Century addition.] Nicholas Springer was single when he moved into the house, but in 1772 he married, and he and wife Elizabeth soon began a family. They would ultimately have eight children, although as was sadly common for the time, not all would attain adulthood. Two of the sons -- George (1779-1835) and Stephen (1785-1842) -- would carry on the Springer name in the area. (Another son, Nicholas, would move away, while two others died young.) Two of the daughters have appeared (if not by name) in other posts -- Hannah (1776-1838), who married Robert Walker and lived off of today's Skyline Drive; and Elizabeth (1789-1835), who wed Alexander Guthrie.

Although Nicholas probably spent most of the final 26 years of his life on his farm, he did have at least one brief period away from it. According to research done by his descendant Richard Morrison (Rich is also a frequent commenter here, and a great resource), Nicholas Springer was also a Revolutionary War soldier, taking the Oath of Allegiance on June 9, 1778. Before his passing in 1792 and interment at White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church, Nicholas, through purchases in 1773 and 1785, increased his original 43 acres to almost 150. That he died in 1792 is not in question, since on his grave marker it's literally etched in stone. Several sources (including the property's entry in the MCH Ag Buildings group nomination for the National Register of Historic Places) state that Nicholas died about 1800, but I believe this is because the property may not have been settled until then. [Possibly because Nicholas, Jr., the oldest surviving son, turned 18 that year?]

The exact chain of occupancy is a little blurry, but here is what I think might have happened. Upon Nicholas' death in 1792, the family remained in the old house. Sometime between 1800 and 1810, Nicholas, Jr. moved away from the area (he had a son born in Lancaster County, PA in 1810). The eldest son to remain, George, probably married his wife Esther (Johnson) about 1800. It couldn't have been too much later, as their eighth child (of 13!) was born in late 1814. George and Esther may have started out in the family home, but soon moved to a new house nearby -- but we'll get to that in the next post.

c.1820 Springer-Yeatman Barn

After his brothers moved out, this left Stephen Springer as the "man of the house". Stephen married Margaret Huston in 1813, and in the same year bought from his mother a 20 acre tract that may have included the old family home. Also still standing on the property today is a bi-level stone barn, said to date from about 1820, although it could be a few years older. In either case, the timeline would suggest it was built by Stephen Springer, before he moved his family a few miles south. When exactly he moved is not clear, but census information does suggest a range. In 1820 he's clearly still on the family farm. But in both 1830 and 1840 he's listed near Mary Mendenhall, which I'm pretty certain shows he's already down at his new home south of Mendenhall Mill Road (to be discussed in the next post). This seems to indicate that Stephen moved out of the house sometime in the 1820's, prior to selling his father's old home to Thomas Yeatman in 1837. Presumably in the interim the farm was either leased out or occupied by another family member.

By the time Nicholas Springer was done buying up land in the 1780's, his holdings on the east side of Limestone Road stretched from the Pennsylvania line all the way down to Valley Road. A number of early 19th Century transactions and divisions broke it up some within the family, and Stephen's sale of the northern section in 1837 reduced it some. The middle part of the 1800's saw four new Springer houses come into existence (or at least into the family), two each by each of the generations. Two houses stood on what was Nicholas' land (although one no longer does), and two are a little further south -- the original two I started researching. We'll look at all those in the next post.

The Springers of Northern Mill Creek Hundred -- Part 2

Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
  • As I tried to note in the post, the various sources are not all in agreement about the timeline and other facts relating to the Springer-Yeatman House. I've laid out what I think is the most likely narrative. The discrepancies between sources are almost certainly due to misreading of deeds, and confusion of lots. Either that, or some of the primary source documents (deeds, tax assessments) are incorrect in listing what was present, as far as whether a house or barn was stone or log. As always, I'm as happy to be proven wrong as to be proven right.

11 comments:

  1. Nice story Scott. Thanks

    I'm an Eastburn descendant too.

    Rich Morrison

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    Replies
    1. Seriously, it would probably be harder to find a MCH family you're NOT related to. You're probably no more that 2 degrees from anyone in the 1870 census.

      Thanks again for your work, Rich. We'll see more of it in the next post.

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    2. Rich, are you also a descendant of Hugh Morrison, who lived on White Clay Creek in the 18th century?

      I'm just curious. As Scott said, 2 degrees from anyone...

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    3. Walt,

      I have Hugh in my tree. I've chased nearly every Morrison in New Castle County. http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=DESC&db=rjmorrison&id=I2224

      I haven't been able to find a blood connection. I haven't been able to find a living, male Morrison from that line to do a Y-DNA test. I am connected to that line through 5 different marriages.

      Delete
    4. I do have a Y-DNA match with the Gabriel Morrison line http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=rjmorrison&id=I5055

      FAG memorial http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=77512365

      Gabriel was married to Ann Love. Ann is the aunt of Reverend Thomas Love of Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church. I haven't found my blood connection yet to Gabriel's line but it seems very close.

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    5. Shucks, I thought you might have a solid connection to Hugh Morrison, who bought property in MCH in 1727 (H1:228, New Castle County). Hugh of MCH and Gabriel's grandfather of Lancaster County were contemporaries.

      A later deed, actually a release, lists the children of Hugh Morrison (Q1:311 in 1750). They are not accounted for in the old Morrison history book. Let me know if you need. Donna P and Scott have my email address.

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  2. I have an interesting note on this family. In 1879 Thomas Springer, a Presbyterian clergyyman of Brooklyn, Baltimore Co MD performed the marriage of my great-grandparents, James A Dalton and Hannah Springer Hersey in York Co., PA. Thomas was the grandson of Stephen Springer and Margaret Huston. Hannah Springer Hersey was the granddaughter of Peter Springer, innkeeper at Stanton DE

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a neat story. We'll get to Thomas and his family in Part 2. Of course (as a spoiler), he was Thomas Love Springer, whose other grandfather (Rev. Thomas Love) has already been the subject of a post. Incidentally, Thomas' son Courtland did a lot of Springer family history work in the early 1900's, and was instrumental in debunking something called "The Springer Hoax". One day I'll get to a little post about it.

      Peter Springer was related, or course, his line coming down through Christopher Springer, another one of Charles' sons.

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  3. I made one little revision to the post today, included in the next-to-last paragraph. I thought to look for Stephen Springer in the census, and found what I think is strong evidence that he moved out of the old house before 1830, at least 7 years before he sold it. Not Earth-shattering stuff, but one more piece of the puzzle, and it will have implications in the next post, too.

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  4. Scott, nice post! You are correct in stating Charles Springer(the original) had eleven children. However, he also had at least 96 grandchildren, and most of them remained in this area for quite some, multiplying and raising their own families. Imagine how many Springer houses have been lost over time; its nice that you could bring a few back to life.

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