Monday, November 6, 2017

The Dericksons of Kiamensi

The Jacob Derickson House
Since I write this blog for fun and on my own time, I have great flexibility in choosing topics to research. Basically, I just write about whatever interests me at that given moment. Sometimes ideas come from me just poking around. The most satisfying situation, though, is when a seemingly simple question ends up taking me in directions I didn't expect and to answers I didn't know I'd be looking for. It's even better when, as in this case, the question comes from someone asking about their own ancestors.

The original query was simply from a woman looking for more information about her great-great grandfather Cornelius Derickson, and his son-in-law, her great grandfather Morris Highfield. I'd come across the Highfield family before but not, to my knowledge, Morris. I've definitely written about the Dericksons, but I was pretty sure Cornelius was not a part of their line. Certainly related, but I didn't know how. I did know, however, that on the old maps there was a C. Derickson whom I had neatly danced around in previous investigations into the Marshallton and Kiamensi area. It turns out that it was time to get to know the Dericksons of Kiamensi.

The first issue I had was that the "C. Derickson" listed on most of the maps was not the first one. On the 1849 map (seen below), a "J. Derrickson" is shown living on the northeast corner of Stanton Road and Kiamensi Road. This was Jacob Derickson (1781-1851), and how he ended up there was the key to answering the first of at least four long-simmering questions during the course of this investigation.

Jacob Derickson in the Kiamensi area, 1849

In 1820, Jacob purchased 75 acres "bounded by the lands of Simon Cranston, William Price, Thomas Lea and others" from Joseph and Sarah Derickson, for $2950. This was land that Joseph had purchased at a sheriff's sale in 1817, seized from John Reece (owner of the Springer-Cranston House just to the north) to pay debts owed to Zachariah Derickson. Zachariah could have been Joseph's brother, but more likely was his father. Joseph and Jacob were almost certainly brothers, which gives us our connection between the families. Joseph lived over in the area that would soon come to be known as Price's Corner, and two of his sons -- Aquila and Zachariah -- would found long-standing MCH families.

I'm not sure how many children Jacob had, but he did have at least one son. Cornelius Derickson (1813-1881) inherited the family farm upon his father's death in 1851 and not only held that property, but purchased several more (both near and far) throughout his lifetime. Several of these (like his properties in Wilmington and Christiana) we won't deal with, but several we will. One such purchase, from Benjamin F. Duncan in 1876, answered a question I would never have even thought to ask. This tract was a farm on the south side of Milltown Road, around the modern development of Cedarcrest. The deed was in Derickson's name, but as we find out later in his will, $2000 of the purchase price was paid by his son-in-law Morris Highfield. Highfield had married Mary Derickson two years earlier, and the couple was bequeathed the farm in Cornelius' will. Their house still stands on W. Parris Drive in Cedarcrest.

Marriage Certificate for Mary E. Derickson and Morris Highfield

This was not, however, the only property to bounce around the family. Before marrying Mary, Highfield had purchased a little more than 1-1/4 acre from Franklin Flinn in 1866. This lot was on the west side of Newport Road in Marshallton, on the south side of Red Clay Creek. It seems that Morris and Mary probably lived there first, then moved to the Milltown Road farm a couple of years later. In late 1880, Highfield sold the Marshallton lot to Derickson for $1000. Cornelius gave the property to his daughter Sarah Jane and her husband William Vandegrift, first for their use and then officially in his will. Daughter Georgianna was bequeathed her father's property in the Village of Christiana.

This leaves only the home farm in Kiamensi, which Cornelius gave to his wife Annie, then upon her death (which came in 1899) to go to his son William Henry Derickson. The original Derickson House in Kiamensi no longer stands, but I'm pretty sure we do have a photograph of it. In a 1941 survey of state-owned properties, along with a photo of the Highway Department's Kiamensi truck shed, there is a shot of a house called the Inspector's Dwelling. It appears to be a 19th Century (possibly early 19th Century) home, and can be seen at the top of the page. The location shown on the maps for Jacob and then Cornelius' home would put it right near the edge of the 3 acres that the state purchased from the Marshallton Development Corporation in 1935, for use by the Highway Department.  I don't think there's any reason to believe that this wasn't the home of Jacob Derickson.

Kiamensi area, 1893

Although Jacob Derickson's house is long gone (sometime in the 1960's, I believe), there are no less than four other old houses on what was the Derickson farm that either still stand or did until recently. My current understanding of their histories varies. The two that took the most digging to understand are the houses on the west side of Stanton Road, north of the railroad tracks. From what I've uncovered so far, here is what I believe happened. The land in that area was originally part of Jacob and Cornelius' property. In April 1897, William H. Derickson sold 14 acres north of the tracks and west of the road to Irviene W. Guest for $2500. Somewhat unusually, and very helpfully for us, the indenture specifically mentions the existence of "a frame dwelling house, stable, and other buildings...", so we know that a house was present by then. Plus, the 1893 map (seen above) also shows the house, directly above the words "Kiamensi Sta.".

I believe that this house had been William's. William married Annie Highfield (daughter of Calvin Highfield of Loveville, probably related to, but not closely to, Morris Highfield) on April 4, 1881, only two weeks after his father's death. In Cornelius' will, the home farm and all his affects were granted to his widow, so I think it's reasonable to assume that she continued to live in the old house until her death in 1899. I think that sometime around 1881, William and Annie had a new home built for themselves on the family property, a short distance from the main house.

The difficulty is that there are now two houses, both very similar, along Stanton Road. One was likely built by William H. Derickson c.1881, the other around 1900 by Benjamin A. Groves. In August 1898, after Guest had swapped 2-acre tracts with neighbor William B. Cranston, he sold 14 acres (again, with "a frame dwelling house, stable and other buildings") to Groves. Groves had moved to Kiamensi to work as a bookkeeper for the Kiamensi Woolen Mill, but would now start a coal business that would ultimately be turned over to his son, Robert Groves. I know that by the 1960's Robert lived in the house on the left, and judging by several factors (including the placement of the chimneys) I believe that his was the older house. The house on the right, and closer to the road, does seem to appear on a 1904 topographical map, leading me to think that Groves had it built soon after acquiring the property. I do admit, however, that the exact histories of these houses are unclear -- but I hope to have it cleared up in the near future.

So, if William H. and Annie Derickson had been living in the house that they sold to Irviene Guest in 1897, where did they move to next? Well, they still owned the old Derickson house, so they could have lived there. However, I think they moved into an even newer house they had constructed on their remaining land, very close to the old house. This would be the house that stood on Kiamensi Road opposite the entrance to Powell Ford Park, seen below. After years of referring to it simply (and unimaginatively) as the Kiamensi Road House, I can now say for certain that this was at one time the home of William H. and Annie Derickson. Whey they moved is not known, but William's mother passed away not long after, in March 1899. This may or may not have been a factor.

The William H. Derickson House

I can be sure that this house (the origins of which had been bugging me for several years) was Derickson's because of specific wording in some of the deeds. When an aging William sold the bulk of his land (52 acres) to his future son-in-law Robert Milligan in 1912 (who then turned around and sold it to Richard Pilling of the Kiamensi Woolen Company), there was a one acre carve-out excepted for this house. When the couple (now living in Wilmington) sold their Kiamensi house to George Green in 1920, the transfer specifically states about the house, "...being the late home of the parties of the first part [William and Annie Derickson]." I have found each successive transfer of the lot (to Purnell Jones in 1923, to Emedio and Mildred Calvarese in 1941, to David Burton in 1996, to Schweizer and Brown in 1998, and finally to the Bale Development Co. in 2016) to prove that it was, indeed the same house.

The (very briefly) Sidney Roach House

This now leaves only two other older houses on that original land purchased by Jacob Derickson back in the 1820's. Both are on the east side of Stanton Road below Powell Ford Park, both are over 100 years old, and both have had some extensive work done to them in recent years. The southern-most (closest to Rt. 4) is, I think the younger of the two. It was built (probably about 1920) on a half-acre lot that William sold to his daughter Sidney Roach for $1 in 1922. Sidney and her husband Walter lived in Wilmington and quickly sold the house, so I assume the idea was for them to sell it and get the money.

The final Derickson house in Kiamensi

A few doors up is the final home we'll cover in this post, and I believe the last home in the area in this Derickson family. I don't have proof of my theory, but this is what I think this was. William and Annie, in addition to the daughters already mentioned, had a son -- Harvey Derickson. I can find no deeds in his name, but other deeds do mention his land, and I think he was given the home farm to work. Sadly, though, Harvey died in 1919 at the age of 34, leaving a wife (Georgie Benjamin Derickson) and three young daughters (Hilda, Lois and Eleanor). I think this is what prompted the final sell-off of the Derickson's land in Kiamensi. In February 1920, they sold the house on Kiamensi Road, mentioned earlier. That same month William sold what must have been most of the rest of the farm (two tracts totaling 21 acres) to James Haggerty. With no one in the family to work the farm, the sales make sense.

However, the following year, the Dericksons bought back from Haggerty one acre, which must have contained the house above. I don't know when it was built, but both the 1881 and 1893 maps seem to show a house in this location (but not the 1868 map). It may have been built for a tenant farmer, or for a family member. I believe that William and Annie moved into this house after buying it back in August 1921. William H. Derickson died in 1923, presumably here. The 1930 Census shows Annie living with daughter Alice and son-in-law Robert Milligan on Kiamensi Road (pretty sure that would be Stanton Road). The 1940 Census has the Milligans in Greensboro, MD, but Annie still in Kiamensi.

Obituaries for Annie (1947) and for Alice (1952) both state that they died at their home in Kiamensi. I am unable to track the property any further, but Robert L. Milligan died in the hospital in 1961. Presumably the house was sold either before his death or soon after, thus ending more than a century of Dericksons in the Kiamensi area. There is still more research that can be done and more questions that can be answered, but it's amazing how one simple query can lead to connections to so many different homes.


  1. Scott, Nice post! I know how one seemingly simple question can become very complicated. I am sure this post required a lot of research. Just for the record, the original Derickson house was torn down in March of 1958. I have a newspaper article about the demolition if you are interested. Donna Peters

  2. Yes, Donna, this one just kept growing and growing, and I kept getting stuck trying to nail down details for some of the sites until I kind of gave up. And yes, I'd love to see the article about the house. Thanks!!!

  3. Thank you so much, Scott! Your blog is wonderful and answered so many questions for me. I will definitely be driving around to see these properties.
    Donna P, as a Derickson and Highfield descendent, I would love to see the article about the house, too. I moved to Delaware 15 years ago and was amazed to learn that I actually came back home!
    Susan Dunhour

  4. Hello,
    I an interested in info on the Simon Cranston House in Stanton at the intersection of Stanton Rd and W. Newport Pike. It is currently going to Sheriff Sale and I may be interested in attempting to purchase the property as a residence and to restore to its original heritage. My fear is that a developer may want to buy the property and demolish the house. Could you give me some ideas where to look for any further info about the original owner/builder? Thank you.
    Bob Jensen / email:

    1. Wow, I'm both excited and nervous to hear that Ten Maples is going up for sale. I just did a presentation on Marshallton last week, and maybe a third of it dealt with the Cranston family, starting with Simon. The best place for you to start, if you haven't already, is to read the Simon Cranston post on the blog, followed by the ones covering his sons. Long story short, Simon built this house in 1812, lived there until he died in 1856. Then went to his son Benjamin, then to Benjamin's son William B. Cranston. I was recently given a Cranston contact to pursue, but haven't had a chance to do that yet. If you have more or more specific questions, feel free to email me at

  5. Hi Scott,

    I came across this post and wanted to give you some information on the last paragraph. I'm Harvey Derickson's (1885-1919) great-granddaughter. He did die at the age of 34 but actually had 3 surviving daughters and a wife. My late grandmother, Eleanor (born 1918), was his youngest. I'm not sure when Georgie, his wife, and his daughters moved out of the home but Georgie passed away only 5 years after Harvey's death. My grandmother along with her sisters then went to live with their aunt. I would be curious to know if my grandmother lived there between 1918 and 1924. Thank you so much for complying all of this information on my family. I really appreciate all of your research.
    -Kailah Neal

    1. Thanks for the info and the tip, Kailah!!! I've made a slight edit to the post to correct it regarding your family. Working backwards, I found your grandmother in the 1940 and 1930 Censuses, living with Georgie's sister Adeline and her husband Smith Toulson. On Georgie's death certificate, her address is listed as 207 N. Park Drive in Elmhurst, which I can't even find. It says she had lived there three years, so they must have moved in 1921. Frustratingly, I can't find them at all in the 1920 Census. They're not listed with William and Annie, who are still in Kiamensi. If I find them in 1920, I'll let you know.