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Friday, November 29, 2013

David Chillas -- Lithographer

Ad for David Chillas, c.1855
In February 2011, I did some cursory research and wrote a post about the Roseville Cotton Mill, which was located along White Clay Creek near Kirkwood Highway, just east of Newark. In the last paragraph of the post I mentioned that after its manufacturing days were over, the property seemed to have been sold to the Chillas family. I had all of two sentences about them, noting only that the owner appeared to be Scottish-born David Chillas, then later his son Arthur. Then the other night, while trolling around for something completely unrelated, I happened to come across the Chillas name again. At first I didn't believe it was the same person, but when I finally realized it was, I think my jaw did literally drop. It seems that Mr. Chillas had a surprising career before moving to Mill Creek Hundred.

David Chillas was born in Scotland about 1817, but eventually ended up in Philadelphia. There he became an artist and a printer -- a lithographer, to be precise. Lithography had first been developed just prior to 1800, and was popular throughout the 19th Century. Using a combination of acid, wax, water, and oil-based paints on a stone plate, lithography represented the first method that allowed artists to make multiple prints of the same high quality as the original. When chromolithography was developed around 1840, artists and printers could finally mass-produce color images. It was in these early days of chromolithography that David Chillas worked in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Armstrongs of Woodland and Brookland

In the last post, we began looking at the Armstrong family of southwestern Christiana Hundred, a portion of which they came to dominate in the 19th Century. We saw four generations of Robert Armstrongs, at least three of whom lived on the farm called Hedgeland, located at the present-day site of DuPont's Chestnut Run facility. The funny thing is, this is not even what I started out researching. Initially I was looking into two other Armstrong properties -- Woodland and Brookland -- situated west of Centre Road (Route 141) and south of Faulkland Road. The recent removal of the Woodland name (which I doubt many people knew dated back at least 200 years) from a prominent place along the road got me thinking about the area, which in turn lead me down the whole Armstrong family path.

In the Armstrongs of Hedgeland post I noted that most of the family biographical information (which primarily came from Runks) began with Robert Armstrong (1743-1821). It said little other than A) he served in the Revolutionary War, B) owned a farm called "The Hedge", and C) had two sons, Robert and William. In the first post we followed the line of son Robert. In this one we'll take a look at William and his descendants.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Armstrongs of Hedgeland

Hedgeland, circa 1880
One phenomenon that I've run across in my research that I've always thought was interesting was how certain families end up controlling certain areas, with multiple adjacent or near-adjacent farms all owned by relatives. Often this is a result of an early, large tract being broken up over the years but staying within a family, or by related men purchasing farms near each other (or a combination of both). We can see this with a few families in Mill Creek Hundred, like the Whitemans, the Eastburns, the Walkers, the Dixons, and the Jacksons. Another good example can be found just over the border in the southwestern part of Christiana Hundred, around the intersection of Centre Road (Route 141) and Faulkland Road.

The family that controlled this particular area was the Armstrongs, and their legacy can still be seen if you know where to look, although one highly-visible example recently disappeared (that's actually what got me interested in this in the first place, and we'll get to it in the next post). The Armstrongs, as I quickly learned, are one of those very old families that has semi-related (or possibly not related) branches in several places around New Castle County. The farther you go back, the more difficult it becomes to sort out exactly how everyone is related to everyone else. It didn't take me long to realize that I really just wanted to focus on the branch that settled near the 141/Faulkland Road area.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak: Lost and Found Department

For this week's Historical Newsbreak, we'll keep it shorter and lighter. It comes to us from the August 2, 1904 edition of The Washington Times.

Yes, not particularly historically notable, especially in a week that sees major anniversaries of the Gettysburg Address and the Kennedy Assassination. Still a cute little story, though. The lucky farmer was Richard S. Fisher (1848-1925), the son of English immigrant Richard G. Fisher (1809-1885). I don't have the portion of the 1893 map that would show him, but I'd assume that his farm was the same one his father had owned since at least 1868. It was located east of Old Wilmington Road, south of Brackenville Road. The farmhouse does not appear to have survived, but I believe the property is now a part of the Mt. Cuba Center. The Fisher family is interred at Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak: Train Mayhem Edition

This week we have a couple of iron-horse-related stories, sent to me by Donna Peters. They both come from the 1890's and occur along the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore tracks near Stanton. This is the present-day Amtrak line just south of the village. I don't know what they say, except that life has always had its dangers.

From the Alexandria (VA) Gazette, December 7, 1893:

From the (Flagstaff, AZ) Coconino Weekly Sun of October 8, 1896. Ouch.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak: Animal Anomalies

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be a regular feature (at least for a while) here on the Mill Creek Hundred History Blog. For a while now I've had a random assortment of very short historical newspaper clippings, but I could never quite figure out what to do with them. Very rarely have I been able to find out much, if any, additional information about the stories, and, well, you know how I am. I don't usually like to post stuff unless I feel I have something to add, even if it's just pulling a few things together. Because of that, I've only ever posted a few of these clippings here and there, normally when they're somehow connected to a larger story.

A good number of these clippings have come to me from Donna Peters, and recently she sent me another good batch. Since I can't justify holding on to them any longer, here's what I've decided to do. For the foreseeable future, once a week (probably about Wednesday) I'll post one or two of these clippings as a Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak. Depending on the selection, there may or may not be much in the way of accompanying text. Even if so, it may be as simple as, "The farm mentioned was located here", along with a map snippet. I hope you enjoy these brief glimpses of the past.