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Friday, April 29, 2016

The Montgomery Family Cemetery

The Montgomery Family Cemetery
Whenever you're doing genealogical or historical research, one of the best sources of information has to be cemetery records. Whether you're looking for a birth date, death date, denominational affiliation, or just the correct spelling of a name (at least at the time), there's no better way to get the information than literally written in stone. I use this all the time (with the help of sites like Find-A-Grave) in my Mill Creek Hundred research.  The churchyards at Red Clay Creek Presbyterian, White Clay Creek Presbyterian, Ebeneezer Methodist, St. James Episcopal, the three Friends Meeting Houses (Hockessin, Mill Creek, and Stanton), and others have loads of great information on the past residents of MCH.

The problem, though, is that not everyone can be found at these official, church cemeteries. While most people chose to be interred in hallowed ground, some chose to remain closer to their beloved homes. Especially earlier in the history of the area, some families created and used private family cemeteries on a portion of their property. I don't think anyone knows how many of these family cemeteries there were, and I don't think we will.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In Memory -- Gertrude Mitchell Bell and Anna Mae Hedrick

I don’t usually do obituaries here, but there are two recent notable passings that I thought I should mention. Both were wonderful people, had been mentioned in posts in the past, and had long-time links to the area. In fact, between the two of them they had over 200 years’ worth of connections to Mill Creek Hundred.

Our first loss occurred back in February, when Gertrude Mitchell Bell passed away at the age of 103. She was the daughter of John C. Mitchell and the granddaughter of John Mitchell. It was John Mitchell who, in 1868, purchased the Cox-Mitchell House (aka Ocasson) on Old Wilmington Road east of Hockessin. Trudy grew up in Hockessin, long before it was the Hockessin we know today. When I had the pleasure of meeting her a few years ago (I think she was “only” 99 at the time), I swear she remembered more about the Hockessin of the 20’s and 30’s than I remember of last year. She was a sweet, kind woman, a trait passed down to the rest of her family. And speaking of which, I can report that the now 290 year old house will remain with the family. They have a great deal of love and respect for the home, which bodes well for the future of the house I call The Birthplace of Hockessin.

The second notable passing, occurring earlier this week, was Anna Mae Hedrick of Marshallton. Ann had just turned 100 in January, and with the exception of the last few years in a nursing home had lived her entire life in her beloved Marshallton. She grew up, fell in love, and raised her family all there in the village which she saw greatly change over the course of her life. As she tells it, Marshallton was “out in the country” when she was young. I first met Anna Mae through the Friends of Brandywine Springs, where she was the last remaining member of the group who had actually attended the amusement park. She enjoyed showing off the scar on her arm that she got from the slide in the funhouse. She was also a longtime member of the Mill Creek Fire Company, even driving the truck during World War II.

Both of these women had a special connection to their particular corners of MCH, and their presence will be sorely missed. My condolences go out to each of their families, but both can take comfort in knowing the effects that each of the special women had on countless others during their enviably long lives.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Abel Jeanes Wants a Road

Whenever I'm researching history (or even just watching a show or reading about it for fun), one of the truisms I try to keep in mind is the reality and humanity of the people who populated that past. They weren't just one-dimensional characters, they were real people, the same kind of people we have now. There were good people and bad people, generous people and greedy people, quiet people and outspoken people. And just like today, everything that they did they did for a reason. Sometimes those reasons were kind and magnanimous, sometimes they were petty and self-serving.

All this came to mind recently when I was looking back over an old newspaper article forwarded to me a while ago by Donna Peters. It originally appeared in the March 1, 1825 edition of the Wilmington paper the American Watchman, and was really more of a letter to the editor than an article. The piece, written by "A Citizen of White Clay Creek Hundred", dealt with the county's Levy Court's reconsideration and approval of an earlier denied request for a road located in western Mill Creek/northwestern White Clay Creek Hundred. The writer seems less than thrilled with the idea of the county footing the bill for the road in question.

Under normal circumstances, the Levy Court's consideration of whether or not to fund a public road would not be all that exciting or noteworthy -- it was one of its regular functions. However, in this case the story is more pertinent to us due to the identity of the petitioner for the road -- Abel Jeanes. As we've seen in several previous posts, Jeanes, co-founder with brother-in-law Joseph Eastburn of the Eastburn-Jeanes Lime Kilns, was quite a forceful personality. He was undoubtedly a good businessman, but he didn't seem to be all that concerned with being a well-liked businessman.