Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Couple New Picture Additions to the Collection

William "Dutch Billy" Losien, 1921
I was going to subtitle this "A Hick and a Brick", but decided that didn't sound very nice. Recently, two fellow history aficionados have been kind enough to allow me to post pictures of theirs on the blog, and I wanted to make sure that everyone got a chance to see them. They've been added to the appropriate original posts, but I wanted to make sure they didn't get lost in the shuffle. One image is an old (almost 100 years) photograph of an old man, while the other is a new image of an old artifact. Both are fascinating and I'm thrilled to be able to share them.

The first picture is one you might have seen alluded to in a comment recently, and it kind of blew my mind when I saw it. I honestly never even considered the possibility that we might one day have a photograph of this man, but here we are. The picture was taken near Pleasant Hill (south of Corner Ketch) in 1921, and comes to us from Rob Hobdell, the grandson of the original photographer.

The subject of the photograph is a German immigrant named William Losien, but he was much better known as Dutch Billy. The original post has all the details, but the short version is that Billy, born in Germany in 1844, came to the United States at the age of 38 in 1882. He worked as a farmhand and butcher, but also made much of his living as a hunter and trapper. He was a friendly type, but kept largely to himself in his cabin in the woods. He died by his own hand in December 1927, surrounded by his beloved hunting dogs.

In addition to the fabulous (just by its very existence) picture, we can add a few more details to the story of Dutch Billy, by way of family lore passed on by Rob. From what he's been told, Billy was a devout Quaker (and therefore a pacifist), and left Germany to avoid conscription into the army. With some aid from by a network set up by the Society of Friends to help conscientious objectors, Billy was directed to the community surrounding the Mill Creek Meeting. (In the story Rob was told it was the Union Meeting, but with "Union" being the name taken by Corner Ketch when it got a Post Office in the 1870's, I think it's safe to say the Union Meeting was a local name for Mill Creek.) Depending on the version of the story, either Billy attended the meeting for a while before drifting away or he lived in the woods by himself from the start.

One piece of information Rob shared gives us some insight as to why Billy may have chosen to live his secluded lifestyle. Apparently he was afraid of being found by German spies and returned home to be hung for desertion. I don't know whether there was any realistic reason to fear this or if it was just paranoia, but it does help explain why he never wanted to settle on a permanent homestead. It also explains why Billy had Rob's Great-Grandmother Myrtle Whiteman Lamborn send and receive letters to and from his mother in Germany. (Myrtle was the daughter of Henry Whiteman, whose house was covered in a previous post.) There seems to be a disagreement as to whether this practice began with Myrtle's mother Sarah Ann (Moore) or her mother-in-law Emma (Dixon) Lamborn. In either case Billy was always welcomed at the Lamborn's home near Ashland, and often attended holiday meals there.

Incidentally, Rob states that the photograph was taken by his grandfather Nelson Hobdell, likely on a day when he and wife Mildred were out riding around on their Indian motorcycle, with Mildred of course in the sidecar.

Peach Kaolin Company brick

The other recently-acquired photograph is actually a new one, but of an old item. It's a picture of a brick from the Peach Kaolin Company, Mermaid, Del. It was found by a local homeowner in the creek behind Renee Lane, in the Chestnut Valley neighborhood off of Paper Mill Road (more or less across from the Independence School). That little creek (I don't even know if it has a name) runs pretty much through the middle of the former site of the Peach Kaolin Company. The business, the family that ran it, and the house they owned were all featured in a post a few years ago.

The brick itself is a firebrick, made to be used in high-temperature applications, such as fireplaces, kilns, or furnaces. When William Peach and his siblings began mining the kaolin clay from their property they built a processing plant onsite to make bricks such as this one. The owner says that there appears to be some mortar on the reverse side, so this one may have been part of a structure at the site. I had only ever seen one other photograph of a brick like this, but that one was taken some forty years ago, and I have no idea what became of that brick. (And I only recently came across that picture.)

Both of these photographs are wonderful records of subjects we knew existed, but maybe never thought we'd actually see. They're also another great example of why the job of chronicling this history will never be done -- there's always more stuff out there to be found.

And as a bonus, for no reason other than I neglected to post it earlier, here's a photo of William Peach and his favorite horse.

William Peach (left) and horse, by his home


  1. Hi, just wondering if you ever got around to posting any information regarding the land that surrounds St Marks High School and the neighborhood on the hill next to it and the house that was on the schools property until about 10 years ago. Thanks!

    1. Not a whole lot at the moment. As for the farm on what's now Milltown Village (south of the school closer to Pike Creek Rd), it was owner for much of the 1800's by Englishman Joseph Trender and wife Jane. He's there from the 1849 through the 1893 maps. Born about 1815. Couldn't find anything more about him. Looks like the house was across Calan drive from the barn.

      Now that I'm done the Montgomery post I was working on, I'll see if I can come up with anything about the other house. Looks like it was where a practice football field is now. It's shown as a W. Kelly on the 1849 map, and Thomas Higgins thereafter. I'll let you know if I find anything else.

  2. Oh wow I had no clue the house that was used to be on the schools property dates back that far! Very interesting. As far as the farm where Milltown Village is, I heard that the owner hung himself in the barn... Thank you very much!

    On a related note, if you look at google earth or maps at S. Riding Dr where it meets Highlands Dr. right next to Heritage Elementary school, you will notice the road dead ends at the woods. I've walked through those woods there a few times which takes you to St. Marks. And it feels like it used to be an old road through there at one point, or as if they planned the road to extend.

    In the late 90s/early 2000s before St Marks redid their practice field layout, and before that new neighborhood was built that backs up to the schools back entrance, this "dirt road" or trail through the woods was much more visible. I believe there might even be old powerlines that run along the trail, along with trash and other stuff people have dumped more recently, or kids hanging out back there.

    Looking at the aerial historic photographs of the area, in 1961 it looks like Old Mill Road used to run through the schools property to another road where the old house was located, which also runs through where the cemetery currently is. I wonder if that road continued up towards Heritage Elementary. It's hard to tell on those old photograps

    1. I couldn't find anything about a suicide there, so I can't say one way or the other. I don't even know when Trender died, except after 1893. If anything comes up, I'll pass it along.

      I do actually have a little more about Thomas Higgins, which I'll put in a post before long. I can't recall what the house looked like, so I can't say for certain that it was the same one shown on the 1849 map, but there was a definitely a house there in about the same spot.

      You're right, S. Riding does look odd at the end. I can't tell if it extended just to give the school parking lot an exit or if originally there was to be another section to the neighborhood. I know the trails you're talking about. When I ran for and coached Dickinson cross country in the late 80's and early 90's, we used to run back there sometimes. There was a path about halfway up the woodline if I recall, we ran through some trails, then ended up at an open field. Must have been the area that overlooks the St. Marks parking lot.

      There was a farm up about where Skyline Middle is, but it doesn't appear that the lower roads connected to it. It was accessed by a partial forerunner of Skyline Drive, coming from Linden Hill Road.

  3. As a teenager living in Meadowood, we walked many times up through St. Marks to get to Skyline Jr. High when we missed the bus. We always thought there must have been some kind of a connector road that shot off of Old Milltown Road and lead up to the Highlands of Heritage Park or really the farm that used to be there. On another topic, is the Higgins farm different than the Crossan farm which is where Taylors Mill is located? I can't remember a second farm, just the Crossan's.