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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak: Century Old Fire Edition

The other day, with nothing better to do for a few minutes, I decided to travel back a century and check out what was going on in the area 100 years ago. I pulled up the local paper that Google has scanned in -- The Wilmington Sunday Morning Star -- and looked through the October 25, 1914 edition. There were several interesting articles, but this one stood out in particular due to the names of the people involved.

The article states that the day before (October 24, 1914), a fire had destroyed a barn on a farm between Stanton and Newport. The farm in question is referred to as "the Cranston farm", but was tenanted at the time by John W. Banks. If that name sounds vaguely familiar to regular readers, it's because John W. showed up in a post a while back about several Banks family artifacts. Specifically, he was connected to a ticket for a Thanksgiving Day (but not a Thanksgiving) party in 1884.

Although John had grown up in the Stanton area, by the time of the party he was living in Brandywine Hundred. As best as I could tell, he was leasing a farm somewhere near the Edgemoor/Bellefonte area. The 1900 Census finds him living at 206 Jefferson St. in Wilmington, with his brother William. John is listed as a carpenter, and with him is his wife Hannah and daughter Hattie. If I'm reading it correctly, Hattie is their only living child out of six.

In December 1905, Hannah Banks died. About two years later, John remarried to Laura Downey (a woman about 25 years younger than himself), and the 1910 Census shows them living back in the Bellefonte area on River Road. John was again farming. Obviously, sometime in the next four years the family moved back to John's old stomping grounds near Stanton.

The 1914 article doesn't state exactly where the farm is, only "between Newport and Stanton", but I have a pretty good guess. From the 1868 map onward, various Cranstons are shown on the property on the south side of Newport Pike (Rt.4 ), just east of Stanton Road. This is the brick house across from the old Shop Rite. Until recently it was a nursery and garden shop, although at the moment I can't recall the name.


As you can see, the style of the house clearly dates to the 1800's, but the barn looks to be of an early 20th Century design. My hypothesis is that this barn was built to replace the one destroyed in the 1914 fire. I won't delve into the Cranston side of this story right now, because an upcoming post will deal with that particular family in a more in-depth manner. Until then, this article is a neat glimpse into what must have been a frightening event a century ago.


  1. Scott, The name of the nursery was Meyers or Myers. I used to get my flowers there every spring. I always wondered about the house. Donna P.

  2. I've added a tangental story related to this post onto the facebook page. Check it out if you're interested. I don't think I've seen this particular situation come up before.