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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Possum Park

Unlike other times when I've made this statement and been wrong, I'm pretty sure this will be a short post (at least compared to some recent ones). In fact, stick around a few paragraphs and watch me dig really deep for some facts to throw in. This post came about the other day when I was trying to gather some information about the origins of the name of a particular road -- Possum Park Road, to be precise. In case you're not familiar with it, Possum Park Road runs north from Kirkwood Highway to Milford Crossroads, just east of Newark.

The road itself long predates the name, and was in place before 1820. At that time and at least as late as 1912, the thoroughfare was known as the Hop Yard Road. The Hop Yard tract was a large and old property occupying the northern part of Milford Crossroads, on the north side of Paper Mill Road. So when and why did the name change from Hop Yard Road to Possum Park Road? I've never found an explicit explanation, but a big clue lies on the 1868 Beers map, located in the upper right of this page.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Henry Clark Woollen Mill

Sunnybrook Cottage
From the late 17th Century through the early 20th, Mill Creek Hundred was home to numerous water-powered mills. For obvious reasons of power, most were seated where you would expect -- along the main waterways of the region (Red Clay and White Clay Creeks) or their major tributaries, like Mill Creek and Pike Creek. A few, though, sat on smaller streams where, frankly, you're likely to look at them and say, "There was a mill powered by that?" One of those streams (which actually hosted at least two mills), was the usually tame Hyde Run, which winds its way from north of Loveville down to join the Red Clay in Brandywine Springs Park. And for nearly 100 years, in a now-wooded area east of Newport Gap Pike, stood a textile mill.

The story begins, though, more than a century before any cloth was manufactured on Hyde Run, or Great Run as it was referred to in the oldest documents. The property was originally part of a larger 239 acre tract purchased in 1689 by Bryan McDonald (or McDonnell, or MacDonald, or McDannell, or...don't even go there), of which this was in the northern part. It went next to Brian, Jr., who in 1747 sold his holding at the time to Jeremiah Wollaston. Wollaston in turn sold a 147 acre portion of the tract to George Robinson in 1757. Its location can be seen in the illustration below.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ephraim Jackson House and Mill

If it seems sometimes like there's no particular rhyme or reason to what I write about at any given time, that's only because there isn't. One of the things this blog is meant to be is a documentation of my own journey of discovery through Mill Creek Hundred history. And that journey is about as straight a line as one of those old Family Circus comics. Once in a while a few posts will connect to each other, but more often than not I'm all over the place. The other day, as I was trying to decide where to focus next, I got an email from someone asking about a certain house (thanks, Julie!). As it turns out, I knew a little about it (although not as much as I thought I did), had mentioned it once before in a post, and always meant to get back to it. So since I'm that easily influenced, we'll take a look at a beautiful tucked-away house whose secluded location belies its significance to its area's history -- The Ephraim Jackson House.

The two story brick house is probably one of Hockessin's oldest, and sits on the south side of Evanson Road, most of the way down to Mill Creek Road, coming from Valley Road. There doesn't seem to be any firm date for the construction of the house, but a look into the property's history does lend some clues. Most of the information I was able to find came from Joseph Lake's book, Hockessin: A Pictorial History, with help on the early years from the research of Walt Chiquoine. There are still a few parts of the history that aren't exactly clear (especially towards the end), but a general story does emerge.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The David Chambers House

David Chambers House, September 2013
Recently I reported on the status of two historic homes on Limestone Road, located just north of Paper Mill Road. The larger and more prominent of the two houses (which will both be saved and renovated) was the Samuel Dennison House, built in 1876 and now standing completely exposed on the property cleared for construction
(as of October 2013). The history of this house has already been covered, and can be found here. However, there is a second house on the property, which even though it sits closer to the highway is less conspicuous due to surrounding foliage. This house, which is actually about a half century older than its larger neighbor, is the David Chambers House.

The David Chambers House is a two story, stuccoed fieldstone home with 20th Century additions on its west and south sides. The main block has four unevenly-spaced bays, with the main entrance set in the middle right bay. A faint line over the first floor windows hints at a front porch, long since removed. As of this writing, small trees help insulate the house from the widened and encroaching Limestone Road out front.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Albert Gallatin Springer -- Delaware-Born Texas Cattle Rancher

I'm happy to say that this is another in our series of Guest Posts, kindly submitted to me by fellow readers of the blog. This one, in a way, is sort of a Guest Post once removed. Those of you who have been hanging around here a while probably recognize the name Rich Morrison from numerous informative comments he's left. Rich lives in Georgia, but his family roots go back far and wide in Mill Creek Hundred. Among the clans to which he has ties are the Springers, a family he's done a lot of research on. Rich recently retired (trying not to be jealous, trying not to be jealous..), giving him more time for important things, like genealogy. He recently connected with a professional historian named Bill Green, who had some information about an interesting member of the Springer family. Bill wrote a brief biography of the man -- Albert Gallatin Springer -- and has graciously allowed me to post it here.

I'll follow Bill's work with a few thoughts of my own at the bottom, but up here I want to forward along Rich and Bill's plea, which is for a picture. They've yet to find a photo of Albert Springer, so if by any chance anyone happens to have one, please let us know. It's a longshot, but we've already made some interesting connections through here, so you never know.

Albert Gallatin Springer

Unlikely as it seems, a Delaware native established the first cattle ranch in the Texas Panhandle. Probably born in Pencader Hundred in 1844, the youngest of eleven children, Albert Gallatin Springer grew up in Wilmington. His father, Peter Springer, reputedly was a furrier who operated the only hat shop in town before moving in the mid-1830s to White Clay Creek Hundred where he farmed for a number of years. Then, Peter retired and the family moved back to Wilmington about 1855. Albert's mother, Elizabeth Heinold Springer, died shortly before his twelfth birthday in 1856. By 1860, he was apprenticed to Wilmington blacksmith John Wesley Sullivan.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Status Update on the Samuel Dennison House

Samuel Dennison House, September 2013
About two years ago, I did a post about the Samuel Dennison House located on the west side of Limestone Road, just north of Paper Mill Road. Last week I received a message through the blog's Facebook page asking me if I knew anything about the old houses on Limestone Road, around which a new development was apparently being built. I told Joanne, who sent me the message, that I didn't know anything about it, but that I'd take a ride up there and check it out. I did that over the weekend, and got a bit of a scare, then some information that put my mind at ease (at least for now).

Joanne said that from the blog she figured out that the house in question was the Samuel Dennison House, and that from what she could see driving by, she thought that it might be getting prepared either to be torn down or moved. When I got there, I could see exactly what she meant. The house now sits utterly exposed, surrounded by large stretches of barren earth, as seen in the accompanying pictures I took. All the smaller (and mostly if not all 20th Century) outbuildings have been removed, and it truly does look like the main house is about to go, one way or the other. After a quick bit of searching, I'm pleased to say that the future of the 1876 stone home seems to be secure.