Thursday, April 2, 2015

Yet Another Stoney Batter Theory

Was this Stoney Batter?
OK, this was originally going to be a comment on the original post, but it seemed to be running long so it's now a short post of its own. The other day, commenter Tharanstudio asked if I had anything on the E. Gregg House, which stood near the base of Stoney Batter Road until just a few years ago (relatively speaking). At first, I was just going to say, "Yes, it was mentioned in the post a while back about the Walkers of the Mermaid Area", and just be done with it. But, in looking back over said post, something jumped out at me. This serves as a good example of the value of occasionally going back and looking over/up old information once in a while.

In the Walker post, I mentioned that there had been a Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) report done on the property at one point, but that only the photographs (and not the data pages) were posted online. Since I hadn't checked it in a while, I figured I'd look to see if the rest had been posted. Unfortunately they have not, but in looking at the entry I noticed something that I probably hadn't before, or at least it didn't seem important before. It may not end up meaning anything, but I thought it warranted some looking into. What I noticed was that while the HABS report officially lists the property as the J. Walker Farm, under "Other Title" it lists Stoney Batter House. (insert dramatic "dun dun DUN music here)

With my brain currently firmly stuck in Stoney Batter, that jumped out at me. [apropos of nothing, "Brain Stuck in Stoney Batter" would be a great album title] This secondary name could mean one of two things. On the one hand, it may be that whoever filed the report just sort of made up the name Stoney Batter House because it was at the base of Stoney Batter Road, or the house could have acquired the name from the road over the years. If this is the case, then it doesn't help us in our etymological quest into the origins of the name.

But, and this is a big but, if that name was recorded because the researchers found it used as the name of the house (or farm) at any point, it would be a huge clue for us. If you'll recall, one of the possibilities I put forth for the road name was that it could have come from the name of a farm somewhere along it. And if Mermaid-Stoney Batter is an older form of the name, then it would make perfect sense for Stoney Batter to be at the opposite end of the road from the Mermaid (Tavern). That happens to be pretty much where this house stood.

The final intriguing piece comes when you look at the history of the property. It was in the Gregg family for much of the later 19th Century, after having been owned by the Walkers for about 50 years. Before the Walkers, however, the property was owned by the Bines family. To be honest, I can't really pick apart their full involvement right now, except to say that according to the NRHP form, Dr. Robert Bines acquired the property in 1761. He's always mentioned as having been a surgeon in the Continental Army, although I'm not sure how to reconcile that with the fact that he died in 1774. Later tax documents apparently list a Dr. Robert Bines, so the farm may have passed to his son James Robert Bines, although that is pure speculation on my part at this time.

All that being said, the really important fact to us right now is that Robert Bines was from......Ireland. I can't find any indication of where in Ireland he came from, but if by chance he hailed from somewhere near Dublin, he would have known Stoneybatter. Could the name in our area have originated with this Irish doctor? Perhaps. With some luck, maybe someday we'll know.

One more treat for you, while we're here. While I was digging around trying desperately to find any more information about the good doctor, I stumbled across the portrait below. It's owned by the Delaware Historical Society, as you can see. They label it as being either Dr. Robert Bines or Maxwell Bines. Maxwell was his son. I can't help but think the jacket looks like a uniform jacket. Was this the face that brought Stoney Batter to Mill Creek Hundred, confusing the hell out of nice people for centuries??


  1. Scott, this is great stuff! I just saw this post today for some reason. I was told the last owner had the house knocked down or sold it to limestone hills and they tore it down as parkland? It was in great shape. I grew up on Millcreek road and can remember it being gone by 1999 everytime we traveled stony batter road. Thanks for posting the history.

  2. I lived in this house, growing up. Any more pics?

    1. Frustratingly, no, I don't think I've run across any more pictures of this house. The HABS entry has a few more that were taken at the same time as the one at the top of the page. You can find those here:

      I'm going to put this on my list of sites to look at again, now that I have access to more land records. Might be able to straighten out a bit more of its history, with any luck.

      Funny. If you didn't add that second sentence, I was going to ask you if you had any more pictures. It's only mentioned on this post because of the name, but I dug a little more into the site on this earlier post (also linked in the first paragraph):