Monday, February 25, 2013

MCH History Gathering a Success!!!

I'm here to unilaterally declare Saturday's Inaugural Mill Creek Hundred History Gathering a smashing success. (Did you not see the three -- count 'em, three -- exclamation points in the title? I don't use them lightly.) The day was a bit dreary, but luckily it wasn't really raining while we were there. The venue was fabulous. How perfect was it to be talking about history in a 200+ year old house, overlooking a 200+ year old mill on the site of one a century older? It certainly made all our talk seem very appropriate. Many thanks go out to Greenbank Mill Associates for allowing us the use of the room. And thanks to the generosity of our attendees, we ended up making a $90 donation to GMA as a way of showing our appreciation. "Thanks" to everyone!! I couldn't have been happier with how it all went.

I'm a very bad host and didn't get a precise count of how many people we had, but I'm pretty sure there were about 22 or 23 of us, give or take. After we all sat down, we went around the room and had everyone introduce themselves and say a few words about their particular interest or connection to MCH history. I have to admit that I generally don't like things like that (I hate being called on to talk about myself in meetings or in classes), but it seemed like a good idea for the situation. Very few of us there knew one another in person, so it felt like a good way to get the "Oh, so you're so-and-so" out of the way up front. That went well (thanks everyone for playing along), and it even sparked a few discussions as we went.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Greenbank Mill and the Philips House -- Part 2

Greenbank Mill and the Madison Factory
In Part 1 of this post, we traced the early history of the Greenbank Mill and the Philips House, which are located on Greenbank Road just down the hill from Price's Corner. We saw that the original log "Swedes Mill" was purchased in 1773 by Robert Philips, who then built a larger frame mill next to it in 1790. A few years after that he built a new stone house for himself and his family. Around the time of the War of 1812, Robert and son John R. Philips entered the wool manufacturing business, and built the stone Madison Factory on the site of the recently razed Swedes Mill. The wool business was not kind to them, and by the early 1820's the mill had been seized by the sheriff for unpaid debts, and John R. had moved away.

Robert Philips died in late 1828, and in 1830 the property was finally sold to his nephew, John C. Philips. For the next twenty years or so, John C. Philips (1782-1854) operated the grist mill, as well as a saw mill that was installed sometime before 1822. (The saw mill was mentioned in an ad attempting to sell the mills that year, but since it was not uncommon to have a saw mill operating alongside a grist mill, it could have been in place much earlier). Eventually John was joined in business by several of his sons, who would initiate the next chapter in the story of Greenbank Mill. And like with the woolen venture of their great uncle, these Philips brothers would be responding to changes in the business climate around them, albeit on a somewhat more local level.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Greenbank Mill and the Philips House -- Part 1

Greenbank Mill in the 1960's, before the fire
The power of the many streams and creeks of Mill Creek Hundred has been harnessed for almost 340 years now, as the water flows from the Piedmont down to the sea. There have been literally dozens of sites throughout the hundred where waterwheels once turned, but today only one remains. Nestled on the west bank of Red Clay Creek, the Greenbank Mill stands as a living testament to the nearly three and a half century tradition of water-powered milling in MCH. The millseat at Greenbank is special to the story of MCH for several reasons -- it was one of the first harnessed here, it's the longest-serving, and it's the only one still in operable condition. The fact that it now serves as a teaching tool only makes it more special, at least in my eyes.

The early history of the millseat at Greenbank is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside....Ok, it's not quite that bad, but the actual facts are far from clear. The precise details (such as they can be determined) probably need to be tracked down in another post, but the short version of the accepted facts is that the land on which the mill stands was patented in 1677 to a Swede named John Anderson (Stalcop). Part of Anderson's tract was later acquired by Thomas Bird (who was the son-in-law of Cornelius Empson, part-owner of the Stanton Mill), upon whose death the property was left to his son, Empson Bird. It was from Empson Bird that the property was purchased in 1773 by Robert Philips.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Inaugural MCH History Gathering -- Location Revealed!!!

The Philips House
At first I wasn't sure what kind of a venue we'd be able to get for our get-together, but I figured I'd come up with something. In all honesty, any old room somewhere would have sufficed, but I never expected to be able to secure the kind of perfectly suited location for the event that I did. The Inaugural Mill Creek Hundred History Gathering will take place at 2:00 PM, Saturday February 23, 2013 at.....The Philips House at the Greenbank Mill. Thanks to the suggestion on the FaceBook page from Laurel Haring (who is a board member at the mill, and I understand will be joining us at the event) I contacted the mill, and they were kind enough to allow us to meet in the house. Thank you to Abby for helping me to coordinate this!

I really don't know if there's too much better and more appropriate of a location for a historical gathering than in a house built in 1794, next to the only remaining historic mill in Mill Creek Hundred. And in case you're wondering, I do plan on having a Greenbank Mill post up sometime before the event, for anyone not familiar with this historic, but vibrant, property. I'm very excited about this location for our get-together, and I hope you are, too.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

MCH History Blog On The Road: Strand Millas and Rock Spring

Strand Millas
It's time to hit the road again, and visit a site outside of Mill Creek Hundred. As I said before, these sites can be selected for a variety of reasons -- they may have some connection to MCH, or they may just be something that I personally find interesting. The particular sites we'll look at now, though, happen to fall into both categories. I first chose the twin sites of Strand Millas and Rock Spring, located just east of Montchanin in eastern Christiana Hundred, because they're on my mind a lot, since I pass them everyday. As I soon learned, however, they do have a direct link to some of the earliest development in our own hundred.

The pair of 300+ year old houses along Rockland Road between Montchanin and Rockland were both built by one of the earliest of the Quaker immigrant families to the area, the Greggs. In 1682, William Gregg (1642-1687) emigrated from Ireland with his wife Ann, and four children -- John, Ann, George, and Richard. They arrived first at Upland, in Chester County, but in 1683 Gregg purchased 200 acres from William Penn on the west side of Brandywine Creek. He added another 400 acres the following year. On his tract William Gregg erected a log house for his family, probably on land now occupied by the Wilmington Country Club. He gave his tract the name of Strand Millas, although I think the original name may have been "Stran Millis". This is derived from the Irish for "sweet, or pleasant stream" (the Brandywine?), and is also the name of a neighborhood in Belfast.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

MCH History Event -- Location Obtained!!!

Great news! I got a place for us to have our meeting/gathering/event/whatever this is!!! It's an awesome site, but I'm not going to reveal the location just yet. All I'll say for now is that it is in Mill Creek Hundred, and should be easily accessible for everyone. It seemed like the general consensus was that a weekend afternoon was the best fit for the most people. Because of that, I've tentatively reserved the space for Saturday, February 23, 2013. I don't have a time yet, but I was thinking 2:00? How does this sound to everyone?

If anyone has any thoughts on the time and date, let me know. I hope the 23rd is good for everyone, or at least as close as we can get to everyone. I couldn't be happier with the venue, and I'm sure you all will be as excited as I am. If we get some feedback and the specifics seem OK, I'll post more info over the weekend. Stay tuned.....

Friday, February 1, 2013

MCH History Event

So now it looks like there really is some interest in having a get-together event for readers of the blog and anyone else who enjoys local history. Now we go from hypotheticals to logistics. We need to come up with a time and a place. As far as a time goes, we first need to decide what kind of a time frame would be the best for the most people -- weeknight, weekend day, weekend night. I figure we'll want to have a couple of hours to sit or stand around and talk. That probably means an evening time (7:00, maybe) or an early to mid afternoon if it's on a Saturday or Sunday (1:00, 3:00). That being said, I'm open to suggestions. This our event, not just mine.

And as for a place, I'm open to ideas there, too. I'd say we're probably looking at somewhere in the range of 10 to 20 people, so a smallish room would suffice. I'm thinking large enough that we can mingle around, set up a few tables for those who want to/need to sit, and have a couple tables for displays and maybe some snacks (we can get to that in the next round of planning). I realize that the time and place, to some degree, will probably have to be planned in concert with each other. A great room is no good if no one can make it, and it doesn't work if it's not available when we are. Our other constraint is that my ideal pricepoint for the room is approximately what I make from writing the blog. I don't want to make this a paying event, so I'd like to find somewhere that will just let us use a space for a few hours. We'll clean up, and we won't be too rowdy.

So to move things to the next step, I've replaced the polling question to the right to ask about preferred time frames. Feel free to throw in any ideas or comments here, at the FaceBook page, or by emailing me directly.