Monday, August 19, 2013

On the Origins of the Greenbank and Marshallton Mills, Part 3

Researched and written by Walt Chiquoine --


So far, I have discussed the property of Thomas Gillet on Red Clay Creek, and then the southern half of this property settled by Isaac Hersey and his family. Justa Justis, Jr. was settled on the northern property, possibly as early as 1711. As late as 1708, mention of a mill is conspicuously absent from a sheriff’s deed for the entire Gillet property. But in 1747, Justa sells several acres to his son Swithin, mentioning a mill on the tract. This was Swedes’ Mill, later to become the Greenbank Mill.

Swedes’ Mill has had a fuzzy history, first mentioned by Scharf in his History of Delaware published in 1888. In Scharf’s own words,

Scharf was let down by his staff, since this story doesn’t hold up. He notes the mill is located on John Stalcop’s “Southern Land” property, but Stalcop’s property is clearly on the eastern side of Red Clay Creek. (Swedes’ Mill is on the western side, on the Gillet property.) Scharf uses a deed from 1773 to connect the property to Robert Phillips, but this deed is for tracts in Christiana Hundred and none are along Red Clay Creek. Other evidence will show that Phillips purchased the mill seat in 1790, not 1773.

John Stalcop was admonished by the Court at New Castle in 1682 to settle Southern Land or risk losing it. He was a large landowner in Christiana Hundred, and had an interest in the grist mill on Shellpot Creek. Stalcop died in 1685 or 1686, probably never settling on Southern Land. The tract passed on to his son Peter. Given all of this evidence, there is no basis for Scharf’s connection of Swedes’ Mill to a Stalcop property in 1677. Instead, I have offered the ownership that is given in the primary records: Gillet to Allum/Mattson to Rumsey to Lefeaver to Laican to Justis. Since there was no mill on the property in 1708, it was Justa Justis, Jr. who built Swedes’ Mill sometime after 1711.

The first mention of a mill on this tract is in two deeds from 1750 and 1751, referring to the sale of the property to Swithin Justis in 1747. Swithin quickly sold two tracts and half the mill to John Garrett, presumably of the Garrett snuff mill family. Unfortunately Swithin Justis died suddenly before the end of 1747. John Garrett sold his share to his brother Thomas in 1750, and Swithin’s two tracts and half the mill were sold to Justa Walraven in 1751.

All together, there were four tracts and the mill itself described in the two deeds, as shown in the diagram. As of 1751, Lots 1 and 2 belonged to Thomas Garrett, while Lots 4 and 5 belonged to Justa Walraven. They shared the Mill Lot 3 equally. The size of each lot is given in square perches (about 270 square feet). As has been suspected, the lower or diversionary dam was the original dam for the mill.

Garrett’s share soon ended up with Jonas Justis, who I believe was the son of Andrew Justis of Wilmington. Justa Walraven became the driving force behind the mill. But Red Clay Creek was not to be tamed; it seems like the creek broke through its banks and carved out new channels in the flood plain to the east. In 1759, Justa Walraven and Jonas Justis purchased 2+ acres on the eastern side of Red Clay Creek from Andrew Stalcop. The upper dam was built on this property, and this new dam became part of the mill lot.

Over the next few years, Justa Walraven took over the entire mill, reluctantly it seems. He and Jonas advertised for a miller in 1761, then Justa himself advertised again in 1762. (The newspaper research is courtesy of Donna P.) John Shepard and David Reynolds ran the mill for a few years, but Justa Walraven recovered the property in court by 1767. Then, Walraven sold the mill to William Anderson of Philadelphia and Christopher Ottinger in 1768.

Anderson was formerly a Captain in the colonial militia, and he raised 5 sons who would serve in the Continental Army during the Revolution. I assume that Anderson and his sons operated the mill as best they could until his death around 1782, when his estate was administered in Orphan’s Court. His estate was deeply in debt to Justa Walraven, Christopher Ottinger and others; his son Joseph purchased half the mill in 1783. The other half passed to Joseph’s brother, Enoch.

Either things didn’t go well or the brothers lost interest. In 1786, Joseph and Enoch Anderson advertised the property for sale in the Pennsylvania Packet:


The brothers were not successful finding a miller in 1786, and they lost a suit for a large debt in the same year. The property was put up for sheriff’s sale in 1788 and 1789, but there was no buyer. Finally in 1790, Robert Phillips of Christiana Hundred purchased the mill and property. It seems he had every intention of rebuilding the mill with the new milling technology of his neighbor, Charles Evans. Phillips and members of his family operated the mill into the late 19th century.

I have offered this story based on primary evidence that the Greenbank Mill site began as part of the tract of Thomas Gillet in 1684. It passed to Nils Laican in 1711, then to his daughter Christian and her husband, Justa Justis Jr. at about the same time. Justa built the “Swedes’ Mill”, and sold the mill properties to his son Swithin in 1747. The mill was managed by Justa Walraven then William Anderson and his family until it was sold to Robert Phillips in 1790.

This wraps up my story of the property of Thomas Gillet, the Justis and Hersey families, and the origins of the Greenbank and Marshallton Mills. It provides a new perspective based on the primary records, filling a gap in our understanding of these properties from the 18th century. Other researchers have given us substantial histories of these mills through the 19th century in older texts, archeological studies, HABS and NRHP surveys, DelDOT reports, and other documents. I tip my hat to all the folks who contributed to this body of work that advances our local history.

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