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Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Mendenhall-Pierson Farm

General location of the Mendenhall-Pierson farm
After a couple of fits and starts, as well as a few (very fun) distractions, we're back to document the remaining old properties along the stretch of Graves Road west of Newport Gap Pike. However, unlike the Peoples farm we already looked at, these two properties do have historic homes still standing on them. And if the construction dates listed by the county are even close to accurate, they rank among the oldest houses in existence in Mill Creek Hundred. Although the two farms have been separate for a very long time, I'm putting them together here in these posts because originally, they were parts of the same tract. Their chains of ownership get a bit murky at times, but I'll do my best to sort them out.

The trail begins when, on January 20, 1725, a tract of 214 acres is surveyed for John Huey. It was sold to him by Reece Thomas, attorney for William and Letitia Penn Aubrey (William Penn's daughter). The tract was roughly vertically rectangular, lying to the west of the Peoples farm and south of where Sanford School now stands. It extended south of today's Graves Road, which did not exist at the time. At some point very early on, 80 acres on the north end were sold to a John Laugherty, leaving 134 acres for Huey. I've tried and tried to follow that 80 acres, so far to no success.

When John Huey, Sr. dies in the 1750's, his land is left to his son John, Jr. I think John Huey, Jr. moved away from the area, and he sold the 134 acres in 1753 to James Philips. James Philips also didn't stay long, as he sold the property in 1763 to Uriah Blue. (The Philips name would stick around through James' brother William, who owned Ocasson (The Cox-Mitchell House in Hockessin) and whose descendants would later own the Greenbank Mill.) I haven't found much about Blue, except that his wife's name apparently was Mary Jordan. A James Jordan owned an adjacent tract to the original property, so if she was perhaps his daughter, that could be a link to the area. (I admit to being oddly obsessed with trying to figure out why people bought particular pieces of land.)

Friday, March 15, 2019

Fire at the Mill Creek Road Gregg House

The Gregg House on Mill Creek Road
As you may or may not have seen, there was a fire yesterday (March 14, 2019) at the old house on the Delcastle Golf Course property, on Mill Creek Road at the bend. The house is owned by New Castle County and is part of its curatorship program, which allows tenants to rent the property for free, as long as they make substantial improvements to it. The current occupants have been there for about five years. The blaze, which preliminary reports state was an accident started in a laundry room, has seemingly done major damage to the structure. The residents were able to get out safely, but a Minquas Fire Company firefighter was injured in battling the blaze. Please send your thoughts and prayers or whatever it is that you send out to wish him a speedy recovery. I still don't understand the heroic mindset that allows people to run towards a burning building, but I'm thankful for all those who do.

When I saw this story, my first reaction was the same as that of Ann DePace Keen who contacted me -- What is the history of this house? My quick answer to both of us was a resounding, "I'm not quite sure." When I wrote about the earlier history of the Delcastle property almost five years ago, I deftly avoided mentioning this particular house. The reason I danced around it is that the history of the house is not quite clear. As you can see by the pre-fire picture below, the house is clearly old. The question is, how old?