Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Whiteman Family Revisited Part 1 -- The Jacob Whiteman House

The Jacob Whiteman House
During a recent exchange of emails (unrelated to this post), a descendant of several local families wrote that she hoped she wasn't boring me with her "little family stories". I quickly assured her that she was most definitely not boring me. In fact, I realized and told her that these little family stories are local history. They may seem inconsequential in relation to "The Big Picture", but they can be important for any of a number of reasons. They can provide a missing piece to a larger mystery, or they can be touching stories in their own right. The stories I received recently relating to the Whiteman family certainly tick both of these boxes. (We'll actually get to those stories in the next post.) They also prompted me to revisit an old mystery.

Almost exactly three years ago, I delved into and wrote a post about the Henry Whiteman House, located on Paper Mill Road and Smith's Mill Road, just north of Foxden Road. In the initial post, I stated that the history of the home and the property didn't seem quite right to me, and I laid out an slightly different scenario which represented my best guess at the time. Even at that, it still seemed like there was something I was missing. I still didn't have a really good grasp on the family or the history of the houses in the area. Now, after being prompted with new information to go back and look at it again, I think that finally I know what the real story is (with only one slight hedge).

If you re-read the original post, you'll see that I was convinced that the history laid out for the Henry Whiteman House was actually an amalgam of the histories of two different houses. Somewhere in the middle of the story, they jumped from one to the other. I still believe that to be the case, only now I think the other house is a different one than I believed it to be before. To recap the story, here is what the 1999 University of Delaware report had to say about the history of the Henry Whiteman House:
The Whiteman family first came to Mill Creek Hundred in 1799, when Jacob Whiteman, Sr. purchased a large tract of land from Thomas Rice. By 1804, Jacob constructed a log house and a frame barn on the 196-acre property. The 1816 tax assessment for the property lists the house as being constructed of stone. This improvement coincides with the trend towards stone construction that occurred in Mill Creek Hundred between 1798 and 1820.

Prior to his death in 1826, Jacob Whiteman sold 98 acres to his son Henry. According to the 1828 tax assessment, Henry Whiteman built a stone house and a frame barn on the property during his first two years of ownership. Henry and his wife, Anna, had six children while living in Mill Creek Hundred. When he died in 1855, Henry left the 98-acre farm to his son George.

George Whiteman occupied the farm for at least five years, but by 1864, the farm passed into the hands of George's brother, Henry. It was in this year that he in turn gave the farm to their brother Andrew Jackson Whiteman. Probate records show that the farm primarily cultivated grain crops, such as wheat and oats. Likewise, potatoes and Indian corn were also grown. The family maintained a small number of steers and milk cows to supplement their farming activities. Other smaller crops included hay and clover seed.

So the first Whiteman house in MCH was built by Jacob Sr. (?-1826), and was a log home on his 196 acre tract built between 1799 and 1804. Sometime between 1804 and 1816, the log house was replaced by a stone house. If I'm correct, this house still stands a short ways north of the Henry Whiteman House, on Starling Street, just south of Polly Drummond Hill Road. (Starling Street, incidentally, was at the time the course of what's now Paper Mill Road.) Before his death in 1826, Jacob, Sr. divided his land between his sons Jacob, Jr. (1780-abt1855) and Henry (?-1855). Henry bought 98 acres (half of the 196), and the rest was left to Jacob. This is corroborated by Jacob, Sr.'s will, made in 1826: "I order that all my just debts and funeral expenses shall be paid soon after my decease. Also, I give and devise to my son, Jacob Whiteman, all that part of my plantation, which part I now live on, and bounded, and containing 98 acres and 19 perches; to have and to hold to him, my aforesaid son, Jacob Whiteman, his heirs and assigns forever."


From the 1849 Rea and Price map

As of the 1850 Census, Jacob, Jr. was still residing in his father's house, along with several of his adult children (and his sister-in-law). The 1849 map shows the property as "J. Whiteman". [The dot for the house is sort of inside the large "L". Foxden Rd. is at the bottom, Polly Drummond Hill to the right, and Henry Whiteman's house is on Paper Mill Rd.] Sometime in the intervening decade Jacob, Jr. died, passing ownership of the house to his son Jacob III (abt1825-1898). The 1860 Census shows him as the head-of-household, with his brother Israel also living there. Sometime in the 1860's, Jacob III was declared insane, and Israel (1825-1893) took possession of the family home. The 1868 map has "I Whiteman" listed for the property, and the 1870 Census shows Israel as the HoH and Jacob as "Insane". As we'll see in the next post, this was not the only instance of mental illness in the Whiteman family.

That, then, as best as I can tell, is the story of the Jacob Whiteman House. So although I don't think it's particularly clear, all the early references in the Henry Whiteman House history actually refer to this home. The story of Henry's house on Smith's Mill Road doesn't begin until 1826. In the next post, we'll review the history of this home, and pick up a few family stories along the way.

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