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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak -- McKennan-Klair House Sales Ad

So the other day I was looking through one of the collections of newspaper articles that Donna Peters had sent me a while back, trying to come up with something good to post this week. One in particular caught my eye, and after taking a closer look and checking a few things out I got very excited by what I found.

The ad, seen on the right, came from the July 26, 1764 edition of Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Gazette. At first glance it looks like a pretty typical ad from the time for a property sale, this one being in Mill Creek Hundred. The wording of the ad makes it clear that it's an estate sale, and goes on to give a good description of the property, the structures present on it, and some of the other personal property to be sold at the same vendue, or public auction.

There are several interesting things in the ad, besides the fact that "a thriving Negroe Girl, 12 Years of Age" is very matter-of-factly listed along with other pieces of property to be sold. The tract is noted to be along Mill Creek, with "the great Road leading from Newport to Lancaster" running through it. Being situated on the road, the ad states that the house "will suit either Store or Tavern-keeping". What really caught my eye, though, having just completed the James Annesley post, was the mention of the name Robinson. As you may recall, Annesley spent several years on the farm that Duncan Drummond had just purchased from George Robinson. Whether it was connected at all to that story or not, I had hopes of determining exactly which property this might have been referring to, as I did back with the Merestone ad last month.

The more I read it, the more some of the names started to sound familiar. With the mention of Mill Creek nearby, I figured that the "great Road" noted in the ad was probably Limestone Road. The only place that Limestone Road comes near Mill Creek (and where it crosses it) is in the Milltown area. That fit perfectly with the names in the ad, especially Robinson, Ball and even Springer. At this point I had a hunch, so I went to check it out.

The McKennan-Klair House

I went back and found the post from over 3-1/2 years ago on the McKennan-Klair House, which stands on the east (actually at that point, north) side of Limestone Road just above Milltown. Although I had skipped quickly over the earliest years of the house in the post, sure enough the owner previous to Rev. William McKennan was John Robinson. I even had to remind myself that yes, the oldest part of the house (the part that would have been present in 1764), even though it's now covered in stucco, is actually brick, as the ad states.

What really clinched the connection was when I looked at the deed summary (above) of the property that was included in an old DelDOT report. As you can see, the reason I had originally glossed over this is that, frankly, it's what's technically known as "a big ol' mess". Most of the the details of the early history of the property are still not relevant to us now, but the important points are that: A) it ended up with John Robinson, B) he died in 1764 leaving the house to his heirs, and C) McKennan's purchase of the property was finalized in 1765. Whether the good Reverend didn't purchase it until 1765 or whether he bought it at the August 1764 sale and it wasn't recorded until the following year, I don't know.

Whatever the details of the eventual sale were, it seems pretty convincing that this ad is, indeed, referring to the McKennan-Klair House. Maybe I just get excited easily, but I think it's really neat when one of these old ads can be linked to a specific property, especially when it's for a house that's still with us.


  1. Wow!.....had no idea the house dated back that far.

  2. Scott,
    Wondering if George Robinson and son John Robinson were close relations to my gggg-grandmother, Margaret Robinson c.1721-1801, w/o Robert Boggs c.1712-1804 (lived on the property now occupied by BOA former DuPont Louviers bldg.). Posting on this last Feb 2013. Alleged father of Margaret is a James Robinson.. I continue to enjoy this blog....thank you for your efforts.
    Bonnie Boggs

  3. Yes Bonnie, I'm fairly certain it's the same family. Someone could correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like she was the youngest child of James and Catherine Howell Robinson. Tricky thing is that she seems to be listed as Phoebe on many of the trees. John and George would then have been her brothers. Good catch! And thanks for keeping tabs on us.