Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Duncan Road: A Colonial Highway

As promised, here is the fourth and (for now) final post relating to the Conestoga Wagon, aka, the Yarnall Tavern. In the last post questioning the original opening date of the tavern, one argument I made for a post-1810 timeframe was the fact that the road that became the Newport and Gap Turnpike more or less didn't exist before then. Here now is Walt Chiquoine, who has much more to say on the topic.

By (now frequent) Contributor Walt Chiquoine --

The historical importance of roads is their role in commerce – getting products from here to there. The colonial roads through MCH needed to get local farm products to market, but more significantly, they allowed products from Lancaster and Chester Counties to reach the mills and wharves at Stanton, Newport, and Wilmington. This was as true of beaver pelts and tobacco in 1650 as it was of grain, dairy, and produce in 1750 and 1850.

Many historians attribute early roads to the pre-existing American Indian trails. While in many cases this is probably true, it is also a trap. No one has a 1637 map of the old Indian trails, so there is no hard evidence of those trails, only stories. Any road could be claimed to follow an Indian trail, and none of us would be the wiser.

Delaware Brewing History Lecture -- Tonight!

Sorry this is pretty last minute, but if anyone is looking for something to do tonight -- Wednesday, February 19, 2014 -- there will be a lecture that might be of interest. John Medkeff, Jr. will give a talk about a subject that he's done quite a bit of research on -- Brewing in Delaware. Yes, beer and history! Two great tastes that...oh, never mind. The lecture will take place at the New Castle Court House Museum in Old New Castle, and will begin at 7:00 PM. Admission is $5 (free for New Castle Historical Society members). More information about the NCHS can be found here, and for the Court House Museum, here. I'm going to try to make it down there (I don't even think there's any snow in the forecast for the next 12 hours!!!). If you don't have any plans, stop on by. I'm sure it will be a very interesting and informative talk.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak -- Osage You Can See

Delaware State Reporter, Aug. 24, 1855
I realized it's been a while since we've had a Newsbreak wherein someone or something didn't perish in a fairly gruesome manner, so here's a story about plants. It comes from the August 24, 1855 issue of the Delaware State Reporter and has to do with a new type of plant introduced into Corner Ketch. It says that Samuel Loyd started growing osage orange trees about ten years earlier, and now has a nice grove and over a mile of hedge.

The Samuel Lloyd of the article ran the store at the corner of Corner Ketch Road and Doe Run Road, and was the first Postmaster of the Pleasant Hill (Corner Ketch) Post Office. The osage orange is a small tree/large shrub often used in hedges. It has a round, bumpy, green fruit roughly the size of a softball, sometimes called horse apples or monkey balls.

I no longer have the email in which Donna Peters originally sent me this story, but I think she said that this type of tree can still be found in and around Corner Ketch. If so, these trees are no doubt descendants of the originals planted by Lloyd in 1845. Something cool to think about the next time you drive through the area.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

When Did the Yarnall Tavern Open?

I hope I'm not boring anyone with this, now the third post related to the Conestoga Wagon Inn, also known as the Yarnall Tavern. It was truly a minor establishment with a short lifespan, important more for what came after it (the Brandywine Springs Hotel and then the amusement park) than for its own sake. But one of my first gateways into local history was Brandywine Springs Amusement Park, so things related to it have a special place for me. This whole investigation was originally just supposed to be a quick mention of the mysterious second tavern, covered in the last post, which I only became aware of (and its connection to the Conestoga Wagon) recently. Then Walt Chiquoine had to go and do some great work piecing together the early history of the Yarnall family in MCH and of property ownership in the area, so I had no choice but to do a separate post covering that and the founding of the first tavern. (Just go with me on the "no choice" thing, OK.)

Then, while putting the pieces together for that, a few things seemed like they just didn't fit. After consulting with Walt again, I decided that the conventional wisdom about the Conestoga Wagon was almost certainly not correct. I don't mean to harp on this again, but if you'll recall there was very little if anything ever written about Holton Yarnall's tavern that didn't have to do with its final years, the sale of the property in 1827, and the coming of the big, new hotel. Just about the only thing ever said about Yarnall's establishment was that it was a "Colonial Era tavern". As we saw, just going by Holton Yarnall's birth year (1774) should tell you that he didn't run a tavern in the Colonial Era. But there were other things, too....

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Yarnalls (and More) and Another Inn

The Conestoga Wagon, or Yarnall Tavern
In the previous post, we looked at the early history of the Yarnall family, their acquisition of land around the area now known as Brandywine Springs, and the opening of the Conestoga Wagon inn, often called the Yarnall Tavern. In this post we'll take the story forward, focusing on the end of the Conestoga Wagon and on another "Mystery Inn" that may have been a successor to it.

As noted in the first post, it's unclear exactly when the Conestoga Wagon first opened. My hypothesis was that Sarah Yarnall began keeping the inn soon after her husband Ephraim's death in 1793. New information has called that theory into question, quite possibly moving the date of the house and tavern significantly forward. This new idea will be dealt with more fully in another post to come.