Thursday, August 22, 2013

Follow-Up to Greenbank and Marshallton Mills Origins Posts

I was originally going to call this post a "wrap-up", but in these types of matters nothing is ever really wrapped up. That's especially important to keep in mind in this case, I think. Now that all three parts of Walt Chiquoine's amazing work on the origins of the Greenbank and Marshallton mills [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3] are up, I wanted to take a moment and look at a few specific angles. There's a lot of information in what Walt has written, and there are a few key points that I want to make sure don't get lost. But do you want to know where there's even more information? In the full version of his report!

Yes, the three posts published on the blog here are actually an abridged version of the full work. The full version, in PDF form and including even more information and documentation, can be found here. A permanent link can be found along the righthand margin of the blog. I want to thank Walt again for A)doing all this research in the first place, B)writing it up and providing the "blog version", and C)allowing the full version to be available and posted here. I know he's written up other things for himself, but this is the first time I've posted anything by him. (I could have, though. He's sent me emails, written out just to keep things straight in his and my head, that could stand as blog posts on their own.)

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,

Friday, August 16, 2013

On the Origins of the Greenbank and Marshallton Mills, Part 2


Researched and written by Walt Chiquoine --

In my first post, I discussed the early history of the property of Thomas Gillet, lying on Red Clay Creek between Ham Run and Hyde Run. This property passed to Nicholas Allum and Mathias Mattson of Cecil County, MD, then likely to Mattson’s nephew, Richard Rumsey. Rumsey lost the property at sheriff’s sale to Hipolitus Lefeaver, who sold the tract to Nils Laican in 1711. Laican would split the property in two halves.

Much of the early history of both properties of Nils Laican comes to us from his will of 1721 and a deed for the southern property written in 1730. By will, the southern property was to be sold to cover the expenses of Laican’s estate. In 1722, and after Nils’ death, John Seeds married Brita Laican. About the same time, he bought both a tract in Christiana Hundred and the southern Laican tract. Not long after, Seeds sold an interest in the southern property to Isaac HercĂ© (now Hersey or Hershey), a French Huguenot who had arrived in MCH several years earlier.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On the Origins of the Greenbank and Marshallton Mills, Part 1

Researched and written by Walt Chiquoine --

I do a lot of property research for MCH, from original grants up through the 18th century.  Sometimes it is rather tedious and boring, like reading a family genealogy that is nothing but names and dates.  But sometimes the land and court records provide a thread that ties together other facts and ideas into a real story about the early families of MCH, a story that has not been told before.  I’d like to share the story of one such property on Red Clay Creek that involves two of our founding families (Justa Justis Jr. and Isaac Hersey) and two of our earliest mill seats (Greenbank and Marshallton).  The complete story, more fully illustrated and referenced, is available elsewhere on this site. 


The story begins with two warrants (1682 and 1684) and a 1684 survey to Thomas Gillet.  Gillet came from England in 1682 on the Welcome, a passenger on the same ship as William Penn.  Penn’s first landing was at New Castle, where it seems Gillet disembarked and set about finding some land to settle.  His property, surveyed by Thomas Pierson, is given in this sketch that is recorded in the Book of Surveys at the Delaware Public Archives:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Introduction to a Special Series of Guest Posts

If there were such a thing as "Sweeps Week" for blogs, the next few posts are the ones I'd put up during it. I'm so excited about it that I'm confining my introduction to this separate post, for fear of getting in the way. Those of you who are regular readers of the blog are probably familiar with Walt Chiquoine (usually Walt C. in comments) and what he's brought to numerous discussions and topics in the past. I've talked before about how most people who stumble across the blog have a specific area of interest in addition to a general love of history. Walt's area of expertise is the early history of property ownership in Mill Creek Hundred. His modest goal is to map out, as completely as possible, all of the original land grants and purchases in MCH. I've seen his work, and he's well on his way to completing it. I daresay he has a better understanding of who owned what 300 years ago than anyone since then, if even then.

What makes Walt's work so impressive, reliable, and valuable is that he deals largely with primary resources, not other people's work. He's spent so much time in the archives in Dover that I'm surprised they haven't comped him a room there, or at least given him a parking spot. Over the years he's learned how to read and understand the 17th and 18th Century property documents there as well as anyone, professional or not.

One trait that Walt shares with any good researcher is being bothered by something that doesn't seem to make sense. When something doesn't look right, even if others tell you it is, you feel the need to dig into it until it finally does seem right. I think this is what may have started him out a few months back in looking into the early history of the Greenbank Mill. In this case, the more he dug into it the less the "official" history seemed to add up. What he ended up with after countless hours of research is what I think is far and away the most comprehensive (not to mention accurate) history of the early ownership of what came to be the millseats at Greenbank and Marshallton. The topic ended up being extensive enough that his work will be published here in three posts over the next week or so. After the last post is up, a slightly more complete and more illustrated version of the paper will be available as a single PDF document if anyone wishes to download it. At that point I may add a few thoughts of my own and highlight what I think are the most important points Walt has made.

I want to thank Walt for all his hard work, and for allowing me to post his work here on the blog. I happen to think that what he's convincingly come up with here is a very significant part of our local history. Any time someone contradicts the conventional wisdom or long-held "truth" of a topic, there's bound to be some disagreements. In this instance, however, I think Walt's made a pretty tight case for his narrative. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did!

Friday, August 9, 2013

William Julius "Judy" Johnson

Johnson with the Pittsburgh Crawfords
Time for another Guest Post here at the Mill Creek Hundred History Blog, as this time Bill Harris has stepped up to the plate. Bill has a post for us about arguably the greatest athlete ever to have lived in (or very close to) Mill Creek Hundred. (You can put your Randy White arguments in the comments section, if he did actually live in MCH as well as go to high school here.) Johnson's home on Newport Road is technically in Christiana Hundred, but A) it's part of Marshallton, and B) it's close enough that he could probably hit a ball into MCH, so he's close enough for us. After Bill's piece, I'll follow up with a few thoughts of my own.

The Mill Creek Hundred History Blog has highlighted dozens of people and families that have been innovators, businessmen, and politicians that have contributed to the region and state’s growth. However its arguably most famous [very close] resident gained national notice in through his skills on the baseball diamond.