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.)

In trying to assess what Walt has done here, I think the first, most obvious, point is that he has put together, for the first time (as far as we're aware), a fairly complete and comprehensive view of the early ownership of this section of the Lower Red Clay Valley. And as is demonstrated here, it's often difficult, if not impossible, to understand one property without also understanding the surrounding ones. The fact that he's done this using (and documenting) the primary sources makes his case that much stronger. Yes, there are a few gaps in the record here and there, but even those gaps are relatively small, documented, and placed into proper context.

One thing that should be fairly obvious in the report is that not only is Walt revealing an accurate account of the history, he's also in places refuting the long-standing, "accepted" histories. It's notable that the report explains point by point where and why the conventional wisdom is inaccurate. Unfortunately, the vaguely "accepted" date of 1677 for the erection of the original Swedes (Greenbank) Mill does not hold up to scrutiny. There is compelling evidence that no mill was present at least as late as 1708, and probably later. Rather than being the earliest mill in Mill Creek Hundred, Greenbank now seems likely to have been contemporary with some of the other early mills, like the Hersey Mill in what would become Marshallton. It should be noted, however, that no exact date for the construction of the first mill at Greenbank has yet been uncovered, and it could have been as early as the mid 1710's.

The other interesting discovery, in my opinion, is the pushing back of the date for the Marshallton Mill. The grist mill that survived there into the 20th Century had always had the date of 1768 attached to it (literally, as can be seen in some old postcards) -- an impressively early date. What Walt has found is that this one was actually the second mill on the site, replacing the original mill dating from some forty years earlier. As Denis pointed out in the comments section, that means the site had been in continuous operation for about 278 years by the time Ametek shut it down after the devastating flood of 2003.

All that being said, as I noted at the top of the post this story is far from wrapped up. Through his diligent research Walt has given us a clearer picture of the early ownerships of these properties than we've ever had. In fact, we probably know more than anyone in several hundred years. There's always more to be learned, though. If you have any questions or comments about any part of the report, feel free to chime in on any of the posts. I know Walt keeps an eye on the blog and he'd love to hear your comments. And once again, the full report can be found here.

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