Monday, December 30, 2013

McBride Tragedy at Stanton Crossing -- Follow-Up

In the last Mid-Week Newsbreak post we got the sad story of the McBride family, and the possible eventual consequences from the incident. To quickly summarize the tale, early on the morning of Christmas Eve 1897 T. Wesley, Jennie, and young Carrie McBride were on their way from their White Clay Hundred home into the market in Wilmington. While crossing the PW&B (now Amtrak) tracks south of Stanton, the family's wagon was struck by a train, killing Mr. and Mrs. McBride and severely injuring six year old Carrie. There was then one last article that mentioned a possible lawsuit against the railroad, which I hypothesized might have lead to the building of the underpass at the crossing, still present today.

Now, thanks to some typically marvelous research by Donna Peters, we do have a little bit more information about the family and the after-effects of the accident. None of it substantially changes anything about the story, but it does help to flesh it out a good bit. Frustratingly though (for me, at least), we still don't have any concrete evidence to support my claim about the underpass.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

(Expanded Version) Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak -- Tragedy at the Stanton Crossing

After a short absence, the Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak is back, with a story about a holiday season tragedy in Stanton. This one is interesting because it started out as just a short posting, but the more I found out the more I'm thinking that it might have had repercussions that are still evident today. I found several similar but slightly different newspaper accounts of the incident, each one providing a bit more of the story. The one seen above gives the short version of it, being that three people (well, two and a third assumed) were killed when they were struck by a train in Stanton. Sadly, it's a story that you can still see in the paper once or twice a year nowadays it seems, but this one may have a little more to it, I have a hunch.

For a longer version of the story, the December 24, 1897 edition of the (Washington, DC) Evening Star (in the upper left) gives a lot more (and a lot more graphic and gory) details. Very early on the morning of Christmas Eve 1897, T(homas) Wesley McBride, his wife Jennie, and their six year old daughter Carrie were on their way to the Wilmington market. They weren't regular attendants to the market, but this day they had some poultry and eggs they wanted to sell, maybe for some money for a Christmas feast. I'm not absolutely sure where they lived, but it may have been on the family farm formerly belonging to Wesley's father, William McBride. Ironically for a story about physical injury, the McBride farm seems to have been located at the present site of Christiana Hospital. If they did live there or close to there, it would make sense that they would be coming up the road toward Stanton, on their way (via today's Route 4) to the city.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dutch Billy

Wilmington Star, Dec. 18, 1927
Most of the history we have about historic Mill Creek Hundred, and therefore most of the posts here, deal with what would be considered to be the upper middle and upper classes of the area. You know, the people who owned the large farms, the people whose names are on the old maps, and the families who show up in the old biographies (like Runks). What should be obvious but sometimes isn't is that there were many other people who lived in MCH. People who were born here or moved here, lived their lives here, and died here. People who, for the most part, we know almost nothing about and probably never will. Once in a while, though, one of these "common folk" will make such an impression on their neighbors that stories about their life (and/or their death) will survive to be passed on or written down. One such person in the later 19th and early 20th Centuries was a loner -- sometimes even referred to as a hermit -- called Dutch Billy by his neighbors. He was such a memorable figure that his life and his death (and beyond) rose to the level of folktale in the area.[Thanks go to Hugh Horning for bringing this story to my attention.]

The man called Dutch Billy was actually named William Losien, and was born in Germany in 1844. He came to America in 1882, according to this feature written by Andrea Cassel for a Friends of White Clay Creek State Park newsletter, as well as the 1910 US Census. Presumably his "Dutch" moniker came about the same way as the "Pennsylvania Dutch", which was a mistranslation of Deutsch, or German. He was said to have been heavy-set with a full beard, probably very "mountain man" looking. I choose to picture him much like Victor French's "Mr. Edwards" from the Little House on the Prairie TV series.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Remnants of Old Roads and Bridges -- Old Linden Hill and Pigeon Hollow Roads

Old Linden Hill Road, 1849
I'm pleased to say that this is another Guest Post, written by Dave Olsen. Dave actually submitted this to me a while ago, along with the wonderful post about the David Wilson House. It's my own fault that it took so long to post it. As you'll see, it's about a couple of road remnants, left behind when the main road was rerouted earlier last century, during MCH's expansion era. As Dave shows us, if you look hard enough, traces of the past are all around, unseen by the vast majority. If you ever happen to come across something like this, feel free to let us know. I know there are other road and bridge remnants around, waiting to be discovered (and written about).

During the course of my pavement pounding this past winter, in addition to getting some up close and personal vantages of the various posts and references that you continue to add to the MCH history, I have become quite interested in the old roads that can still be found in our area. Although Millcreek, Linden Hill, Limestone, Pike Creek and Paper Mill Roads to name just a few have all been thoroughly traveled for the past 300+ years, they have been modified substantially over the last 50 years or so. Due in part to the development of the entire MCH, the various roads still basically follow the same routes, however, there are some significant deviations when compared to the older maps (1849 & 1868) that we typically use as reference.

The first of these roads is Linden Hill. Old Linden Hill Road starts on the northern boundary of Carousel Park at Limestone Road and to the best of my knowledge this is the same route that can be seen on the 1868 map. If you follow the road it will end at the lower parking lot for the park. The road continues across the small stream that feeds the big pond at Carousel. Although the timbered floored bridge has been rebuilt I’m sure many times, there is some evidence still of the old foundations on either side. The road continues for approximately 75 yards and terminates as it starts to venture up the hill.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak -- Danger! Bridge Out! Edition

Reading Eagle August 12, 1925
 After taking the week off last week for Thanksgiving (yeah, that's the reason), the Mid-Week(ish) Historical Newsbreak is back, this time featuring an on-the-job accident from the Roaring Twenties. It comes from the Reading Eagle, dated August 12, 1925. As you can see, it states that four men were seriously injured while removing the old covered bridge over the Red Clay at Kiamensi. The old bridge was about to be replaced with a new concrete bridge, which probably was in place until updated with a newer bridge relatively recently. The covered bridge the workers were dismantling can be seen below in a photo taken only a few years earlier, in 1921. If you look closely in the background, you can see part of the Kiamensi Woolen Mill, as well as the railroad bridge that still spans the creek.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Chillas Family/Roseville Follow-Up

David Chillas' notice of starting his own business
In the last post about Philadelphia lithographer and MCH farmer David Chillas, I made several working assumptions regarding the Chillas family's ownership of property in and around the Roseville Cotton Factory area, just east of Newark. This post seems to have given Donna Peters just the excuse she needed (which is very little, to be honest) to dig through an online database of old newspapers in search of more. In her normal fashion, she came up with a few interesting finds that I think fill in a few more of the gaps in our knowledge.

The first of these (seen above) doesn't really tell us much more than we already knew, but I think it's neat nonetheless. It's an ad placed by David Chillas in the April 19, 1853 edition of the North American and United States Gazette advertising the fact that he was now doing business on his own, after the dissolution of his partnership with Alphonse Brett. He's basically just letting people know that he's working by himself now, and doing business out of the "New Girard Building", 50 South Third Street.

While the Chillas notice is interesting, the other two are far more informative. As often seems to be the case, though, they're illuminating -- but not as much as I wish they were. I'll lay everything out and let you decide, but I think they do help to tell a bit more of the story of the Roseville Cotton Factory.