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Friday, June 24, 2022

The William Foote House

The William Foote House
There are a few different ways an old house can be situated. It can be prominently displayed along a 
major road. It can be set along a smaller road, or nestled deep within a modern development. Sometimes, it's now nothing more than some ruins in the woods. There's one house though, tucked deep into the Mill Creek Valley, that's not at all visible from the nearest roads. There have probably been times during its over 200 years when the area has been more open, but today, probably the only way you're likely to see it is in the pictures in this post. Its owners have been local families and "out of towners". And it has been owned by some of the poorest people in the area and by one of the richest to reside in the vicinity.

The William Foote House is located on the east side of Mill Creek and Mill Creek Road, surrounded on three sides by the development of Bella Vista, but not too closely surrounded. It currently sits on just under 15 acres of land -- a lot by today's standards, but far less than it used to oversee. The associated property around it went through many changes over the years, with land being acquired and then sold off. Honestly, the early history is a bit confusing, at least as far as determining which tracts contain the land on which the house now sits.

In 1753, William Tate acquired 80 acres of land, which he sold in 1762 to John Watt. Watt bought even more land in the area over time (including 134 acres from Uriah Blue in 1767). In his 1790 will, John Watt wrote, "I give and bequeath to my loving Brother Robert McFerson and my friend John McBath the plantation that is now in the tenure of William Montgomery lying and being in Millcreek hundred[...]". That's great, but there are a few details therein that aren't exactly clear. First of all, I've been unable to determine what the relationship was between Watt and McFerson. If the will is to be taken literally, then perhaps they were step-brothers. McBath (or more commonly, McBeath) and McFerson were definitely connected, as we'll see in a moment.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Many Updates to the Rotheram (Harmony) Mills House Post

NE exterior of the Rotheram House,
showing the 
original gambrel roofline
and window (1971)
I have always viewed this blog, and historical research in general, as an ongoing, continuous endeavor. It's not at all unusual for me to come across new information on an old topic, at which point I'll either just correct or add it to the original post, or maybe write a full follow-up post with the new information. I've done that a few times recently. Sometimes, though, I find so much more stuff that more drastic measures must be taken. Recently I fairly accidently came across something I had in my collection but hadn't realized the significance of. That set me off doing more digging on a topic I had first written about almost nine years ago, and I ended up finding a lot more. I decided the only fair thing to do was to do a massive update to the original post about the Rotheram (or Harmony Mills) House.

I chose this route mainly because of the amount of new information I added, plus the breadth of it. I found new stuff about the early years of the mill, the middle years, and the later years. The real quick version of this post is "Go read (or re-read) the original post." The link's right there. Frankly, you have no excuse not to. At this point the "new" post is probably about twice as long as the original version, and is now much more of a complete story. There are still a few holes to be filled, but most of the story is pretty clear.

However, if you either did not want to re-read the original post or wanted to know what the new information was, here's a brief rundown, in chronological order, not in the order I found it. And since I've already woven the new finds into the story of the house and mills in the original post, I thought I'd just do a quick bullet-point rundown here. Any objections?....No? Good. Here we go:

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Crowell Tape Corporation

Crowell Corp.'s Yorklyn warehouse, c.1955
(Courtesy of the Marshall Steam Museum,
the Adelman Collection)
Like, I think, many researchers, my favorite kind of topic is one I initially know very little about. My
favorite kind of question is one I don't know the answer to. That came up recently when I was asked if I knew anything about the Crowell Tape Mill, just south of Yorklyn. Honestly, at the time my only answer was, "Wasn't it that skinny building along the road that burned down in the 60's?" While it turned out that both of those things were correct, as you might imagine there was much more to the story.

The Crowell Tape Mill was what I'd call a second-generation business in New Castle County. They didn't build their facility here, but instead moved into an already existing complex. The company itself didn't even start anywhere near Delaware, but it turns out there was a very logical reason why they moved here. The story all starts in New England, with the company's namesake, Charles H. Crowell.

Crowell was born in Lynn, Massachusetts (just north of Boston) in 1868, and by the late 1890's owned his own company in nearby Rockport. His business made gummed paper -- basically water-activated adhesive paper. Cut into strips it was used as sealing tape for boxes, as pressure-sensitive tape (like scotch tape or packing tape) wouldn't  become widely-used until well into the 20th Century. It was also used for bookbinding. It seems when his first business folded in 1898, Crowell sold it to another firm which kept him on as a manager. They moved the factory to south Boston, but in 1904 it was destroyed in a fire. The company then purchased another struggling firm in New Hampshire, reorganized, and became the Nashua Card, Gummed and Coated Paper Company.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Eastburn Homestead -- Part 2

The Eastburn Homestead today
In the first post about the Eastburn Homestead, we looked at the early years of the Eastburn family in
Mill Creek Hundred, beginning with David Eastburn's purchase of about 150 acres of land near Milltown in 1804. Twelve years later, along with his brother-in-law Abel Jeanes, Eastburn purchased about 200 acres near Pleasant Hill, south of Corner Ketch. The property basically sat on the south side of Paper Mill Road, between Polly Drummond Hill Road and Upper Pike Creek Road. In addition to having a brick house, an inactive grist mill, and various other structures, the property contained several working limestone quarries and lime kilns.

Two years later, in 1818, the men divided their joint property between them nearly in half, with Eastburn taking the northwestern portion and Jeanes the southeastern. Eastburn's part was slightly larger, but Jeanes' section included what's now the Eastburn-Jeanes Lime Kiln District and seemingly all the existing structures at the time. The real question for us is whether the Eastburn House was there when the tract was purchased, and when the house was built. If "probably in the early 1800's" is good enough for you, feel free to skip the next section. If not, read on and be prepared to be frustrated.

As far as I know (and this includes talking to the new current owners), there's nothing definitive in or on the house that gives an exact date. The county lists it as 1810, but the older picture further down in the post had a date attached to it of 1813 (for the house, not the photo). Both of these dates would slightly predate the arrival of the Eastburns, and both (or even an earlier one, which we'll get to later) are certainly plausible. If new information arises to corroborate one of these dates I'll be perfectly willing to accept it, but when I read the evidence, my money (disclosure -- I have very little money), is on a slightly later date.

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Family of David and Elizabeth Eastburn

David Eastburn, Jr.
I'll start this out by saying that this is a post that was never meant to be, but I'm glad it is, as it truly does
have a reason for being. In researching the recent posts about the Eastburn Family Homestead, I found it was important to understand the Eastburn family themselves. So to that end, I decided to write a quick rundown on the first generation of Eastburn children in MCH, the offspring of David and Elizabeth Eastburn. Have you ever tried to write a "quick rundown" on 14 people? In case you haven't, I'll tell you it doesn't work, especially when the people are as well documented as the Eastburns. And so...this post.

The Eastburns are a remarkable group for several reasons, but the most important one for us is the impact they had on the area. Although, as you would expect with so many children, some of them moved away, many remained within a short distance of the home farm. This would have been especially important because David Eastburn, Sr. died in June 1824, when the oldest child was 22 years old and the youngest only 6 days old. Elizabeth Jeanes Eastburn (who never remarried) was certainly a very strong woman.

Another remarkable thing about that first generation of MCH Eastburns was their health. The child mortality rate in the US in 1815 was about 46%. That means that 46% of children born then did not make it to their fifth birthday. (When people long for "The Good Old Days", just remember facts like that.) The Eastburns, however, went fourteen for fourteen. All the children survived childhood, and most lived into what we would consider old age today. I've never seen anything that mentions it, but I strongly feel that the home of the widowed Elizabeth was always a busy place, with family members constantly visiting. The Eastburns always seemed like a strong, close family. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Eastburn Homestead -- Part 1

The Eastburn Homestead
There have certainly been a number of prominent families in Mill Creek Hundred over the past several hundred years, but few have had quite the reach and staying power to match the Eastburns. We've come across the Eastburns many times before in the blog, spanning several generations of the family and focusing on sites all over the hundred. However, one site that's only been mentioned in passing and never fully investigated here is the one that would have been the most dear to the family -- the original Eastburn Homestead near Pleasant Hill, south of Corner Ketch. Although the family was large and by necessity spread out, this home remained an important family base for nearly a century.

One catch, though, is that this wasn't really the "original" Eastburn home. It wasn't even their first home in Mill Creek Hundred. There were several purchases prior to the move to Pleasant Hill. When I started finding and trying make sense of the deeds, my first reaction was just to give up and go get a drink instead (although to be fair, that's my first reaction to a lot of things these days). However, after taking a bit of time to sort them all out I think I now basically understand what happened, even if some of the details still elude me. What I can tell you for sure about the family is that Quakers David Eastburn and Elizabeth Jeanes hailed from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and were married at the Gwynedd Meeting in Montgomery County in December 1801.

In December 1804, David Eastburn bought at auction two lots in Mill Creek Hundred, totaling about 150 acres. These had formerly been the lands of Thomas Springer and were located nowhere near Pleasant Hill and the area the Eastburn clan would soon make their own. This farm was at Milltown, and I believe sat on the west side of Mill Creek, encompassing what would much later become the Lindell Farm. It did not include the Reynolds-Lindell House or the mill, which were then owned by Andrew Reynolds. The tract does come west from Mill Creek and share borders with Reynolds, Rev. William McKennan, John Ball, and the heirs of Simon Paulson, and also excludes a strip for Reynolds' mill race. Beyond that I can't make much sense of the exact metes and bounds, but if anyone wants to take a crack at it I'll be happy to send you the deed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

The Baileys of Faulkland, Revisited

The 68 acre farm sold by Ephraim Yarnall
to Amor Bailey in 1829
After not having really updated many old posts in a while, I seem to be on a bit of a roll now. This one is especially exciting because after revisiting an old topic after a question about a certain house, I ended up answering questions about not one, but three different properties and houses! They were all in the same family, the Baileys, although one of the houses I had no idea had been in that family until I followed along the family's trail of deeds. All three houses are in the Faulkland area, just north of Faulkland Road near Brandywine Springs Park. The original post about the Bailey family was written more than ten years ago, and while I believe all the information in it is correct, I can now add a good deal more and fill in some holes along the way.

While that original post focused more on James Bailey and his farm on the east side of Newport Gap Pike (it was sparked by questions about his granddaughter, who still lived there in the 1950's), here I want to look closer at what was going on earlier and on the west side of the turnpike. I still haven't really been able to clear up much more about the Baileys' history prior to moving into the Faulkland area. What I can elaborate on is exactly when they moved and what the farm was that Amor Bailey purchased.

In the old post I had said that it appeared Amor Bailey and family had moved to somewhere north of Brandywine Springs between 1820 and 1830. I've now found that on March 24, 1829, Amor Bailey purchased 68 acres of land from Ephraim Yarnall. This was on the west side of the Newport and Gap Turnpike, which had opened only 11 years earlier. Even more recent in the area was the Brandywine Chalybeate Springs Hotel, which had opened less than two years earlier just below Bailey's new farm, also on land formerly owned by the Yarnall family.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Sunset Cottage and the Golding House -- Part 2

The lot sold to Annie Golding in 1880
In the last post we took a close look at Sunset Cottage, the Hockessin retirement home of John G.
Jackson. We learned how the property came to be acquired by the Jacksons, some of the unique features of the house, who owned the home after the Jacksons, and how the look of the house changed after a serious fire. We also learned that just before Sunset Cottage was built, John and Elizabeth Jackson sold off 1-1/2 acres of the original 5-3/4 acre lot. This acre and a half was on the corner of Valley Road and Southwood Road, and like its neighboring lot would have a house built on it in the early 1880's.

From a distance these homes looked similar to each other, and even though this house didn't have the unique features that its neighbor Sunset Cottage had, it has its own interesting history. In a small town like Hockessin (heck, I often think of MCH in general as just a spread out small town), it's no surprise that there were some connections, both professional and familial, between the residents of the neighboring homes. This starts right off the bat with the first owners of the lot, and the couple responsible for the building of the Golding House -- Edwin and Annie Golding.

In January 1880, the Jacksons sold the 1-1/2 acres to Annie H. Golding for $375. That price would seem to imply that there was no house there yet (when Annie sold just 9 years later, the price was $2200), but the home must have gone up very soon after. In the 1880 Census, taken June 10/11, the Goldings are listed right beside the Jacksons. (Incidentally, this could either mean that Sunset Cottage was completed by then, or that the Jacksons were still residing in their old home with no one between them.) So who were the Goldings?