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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.