Friday, June 24, 2016

The Zachariah Derickson House -- The Early History of the Land and Family

The Zachariah Derickson House
One of the challenges in researching the historic properties in Mill Creek Hundred is that many of them have long-ago passed out of the hands of the families who built and originally lived in them. This means that the people who would be most invested in a site's history, and the ones who would presumably have the most information about it, are out of the equation. In a few lucky cases, however, -- like the Cox-Mitchell House, the Ward-Dudkowitz House, and Woodside Creamery (the Mitchell Farm) -- the property (or a nearby one) is owned by a member of the family who long occupied it. Fortunately this is the case with an old home that, while not exactly hidden, is probably unknown to most who drive by it -- the Zachariah Derickson House.

Located on the west side (left if you're going uphill) of McKennans Church Road between Milltown Road and Delcastle Golf Course, this Derickson house has been keeping watch down the hill for about two centuries now. And while the first decades of its existence still contain a few questions, most of the history of this house is well-documented. Aiding in this documentation is the fact that someone with the Derickson name has been living in or near it since at least 1842. If you jump to Zachariah's wife's family, the current Dericksons can trace their presence on the same land back to 1766.

The beginning of the story starts with a Montgomery, but not a member of the Montgomery clan living in the Old Wilmington Road area. Samuel Montgomery was very possibly related to them, but not closely. In March 1766, he purchased four adjacent tracts of land (of 10, 60, 92, and 39 1/2 acres) from James Gillis, the son and heir of John Gillis. These were all originally part of the portion of the Wedgebury tract purchased by Ann Robinson in 1691. After going through Ann's son John Robinson (who built the first mill at Milltown), then to his eight children, the original tract was divided into numerous smaller portions. In the 1740's and 1750's John Gillis bought up some of these former Robinson lands, as well as briefly owning a share of the mill (I've found the deeds for all but the 39 1/2 acre lot).

1766 Indenture from James Gillis to Samuel Montgomery

After John's death, his son James sold the just over 200 acres to Montgomery. Samuel Montgomery was, of all things, a sloop captain from Philadelphia. What, if any, relationship he had to the Alexander Montgomery who briefly co-owned the Robinson Mill in the late 1740's (and who had previously owned the 10 acre lot Samuel bought) is unknown. As far as I can tell, Samuel and wife Elizabeth had only two sons, William and James. James briefly owned part of the family land, but passed away sometime prior to 1800. After deaths of Samuel and Elizabeth (just before and just after 1800), all the land passed to William Montgomery.

The William Montgomery House

If the name William Montgomery sounds familiar, it may be because one of the first things he did was to build a new stone house for himself, situated between (Old) Limestone Road and Mill Creek. The William Montgomery House is still standing, and was home to William, first wife Margaret, second wife Jane, and his seven children. After William's death in 1838, his land consisted of three separate tracts, of 14, 26, and 117 acres. His widow Jane was given a 1/3 share of the two smaller tracts, the smallest one containing the family home. Four years later, Jane and the rest of the heirs sold their rights to all three tracts one of the daughters -- Martha -- and her husband, Zachariah Derickson.

1849 map showing some of Zachariah's sales

Zachariah Derickson was originally from Christiana Hundred, from the area we now know as Prices Corner. And funny thing, Zachariah seems to be in part responsible for it acquiring that name. He was involved in several land transactions around his home farm in the 1830's and 1840's. I don't know the full extent of the Derickson land, but his father Joseph sold him some land, and he purchased several small lots from neighboring farmers. In 1837, Zachariah sold a two acre triangular lot to a blacksmith named David Price (or Pryce, as spelled in the indenture). It was bounded by Greenbank, Center, and Centerville Roads. Some readers may recall this lot, which remained until the 141 overpass and cloverleafs were built.

The Derickson and Montgomery (then Alcorn) Houses, 1849

In the early 1840's, Derickson was apparently in the process of selling all of his Christiana Hundred land, which did contain most of what we now think of as Prices Corner. All of the indentures, up to and including his 1842 sale of 77 acres to Isaac Flinn (this post may have to be revisited), refer to Zachariah as being "of Christiana Hundred". Only after 1842 is he listed as being a MCH resident. This implies that he and Martha did not move until after purchasing the remainder of her father's land that year. The implications of that will be revisited in the next post.

There were, across the years, many other small land transactions we've brushed past here. A few acres here, a few acres there. Sometimes farmers would trade land for reasons as simple as straightening their fence lines. The last major deal in the early Montgomery-Derickson saga, the one to close out the first chapter, was the 1844 sale of the William Montgomery House and its surrounding 14 acres from Zachariah Derickson to George and Elizabeth (Montgomery) Alcorn. Elizabeth was one of William's daughters.

1842 sale from the Montgomery heirs to Zachariah Derickson

So, by 1844, none of William Montgomery's (and Samuel's before him) land was in the Montgomery name, but through Elizabeth Alcorn and Martha Derickson was still in the family. In the next post we'll follow the Derickson family through the rest of the 19th Century and beyond. The farmhouse that Zachariah moved his family into in 1842 has been out of the Derickson family for about 40 years now, but one member still resides within the bounds of the old farm. That means that this past March (2016), the Montgomery-Derickson family celebrated 250 years of residence on the same land, or at least now a small part of it. Next, we'll see how the farm passed down through the generations, and some nice pictures, too.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! My family has lived next door to that part of the remaining Derickson family for all those almost 60 years. I look forward to the rest of their story.

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