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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mendenhall House and Mill Revisited -- Additions and Corrections

James Mendenhall's 1826 Mill
A while back, I did a post about the Mendenhall House and Mill located around the intersection of Mill Creek Road and Mendenhall Mill Road. While I still think that most of what is in the post is correct, and it was all written with the best information I had at the time, I have come across new information that sheds new light on the early history of the area, and a little on the later history. One of the reasons I started writing this blog originally was to document my own journey of exploration through the history of the Mill Creek Hundred area. And like many journeys, this one sometimes heads the wrong way. I want to use this post to clear up some of the things that I now know I got wrong, and to add some more information to the story.

The first place to start, I guess, is at the beginning of the Mendenhall story, and to state that I now know that it wasn't really the beginning. In the previous post, I had written that Aaron Mendenhall, Jr. (1729-1813) moved to Delaware about 1763, and settled first on a property known as Sugar Loaf Farm near Brandywine Springs. Then, about 20 years later, his son James A. Mendenhall (1763-1839) moved to the Mill Creek area and erected the first mill there. With the new information that I've found and was refocused to (thanks, Walt C.), I can now see that almost none of that is accurate. Contrary to what my wife thinks, I actually can admit when I'm wrong.

The biggest (and most confusing) piece of the puzzle comes from a DelDOT archaeological report that's mostly about the Stoney Batter/Mill Creek Road intersection to the south. If you scroll about halfway through this PDF, you come to 14 pages worth of deed information and chain-of-title. The data seems to deal with more than just the immediate intersection, and appears to encompass land all the way up to the Mendenhall Mill. (Wade through it at your own risk leisure.) While it's difficult parse out (or parcel out) exactly what land is being referred to in each transaction, a general picture does emerge of the early history of the area. Much of this is open to interpretation, and feel free to chime in if you read it differently, but here is my interpretation (picked through to deal with just the Mendenhalls and their land, for now).

The land in question was first purchased from Lecitia (Penn) Aubrey in 1726 by William McMechen. In 1727 and 1729, McMechen sold parcels to William Emmitt, who in turn sold them in 1744 to John Buckingham. Up until this point, there seems to be no mention of any mill. However, when Buckingham sells in 1751 to Daniel Nichols, he sells 196 acres and part interest in a mill, mill house, dam, and race. I'm not sure if it's correct about the interest in the house, but I know it was not uncommon for mills at the time to be owned jointly by several residents. It's also not clear exactly where this mill was, or which is the house in question. It may be the house at the end of Mendenhall Mill Rd and a mill nearby, but we can't be sure.

It's only at this point in the story that the Mendenhall family makes it appearance, when in 1763 Aaron buys 196 acres and a grist mill from Nichols. The deed quoted here seems to imply that Aaron only had a quarter share of the mill, so he may have bought out the rest later. It also seems to state that John Buckingham (whose brother James was the founder of the Buckinghams in the Corner Ketch area) was the builder of the mill. Finally, it describes Aaron Mendenhall as being "of the same place", meaning Mill Creek Hundred, which would imply that he had already moved from Pennsylvania.

Although it's hard to follow, the Mendenhalls spent the next 60 years or so expanding their holdings in the area. I don't want to get too into the details at this point, except to tease that there is at least one other extant house whose past can be partly traced through this, and which I'll get to in another post sometime. The last early point I want to clear up is Sugar Loaf Farm. This house, north of Faulkland Road near Brandywine Springs, was owned by a Mendenhall, but probably not by Aaron. It was Aaron's third son, Abraham, who moved here, possibly around 1814 when he sold 49 acres on Mill Creek to his brother John. Again, I'll get into more details when we someday focus on Sugar Loaf Farm and its history.

Finally, to wrap up this post of corrections and additions, a few notes about the mill itself. The mill in the picture above was built by James Mendenhall in 1826, presumably to replace the earlier, mid-18th Century mill. The two semicircles visible (one over the door, one near the gable) were apparently halves of a millstone. The upper one had the date of 1826 and the initials "JM"; it's possible that they came out of John Buckingham's 1740's mill. As for the new information I found, the first piece corroborates what "Stephen" had written in the comments on the last post. Indeed, grinding was done on the second floor of the mill, while logs were cut on the lower floor. Logs and grain weren't the only things processed here, either -- at some point, the Mendenhalls used it to press cider in the autumns, after the grain harvest had all been ground.

Mendenhall men operated the mill until 1898, when it was leased to Elmer Malin, Sr., who did custom work until 1911. William Taylor did occasional work by special request for about another decade after that. For the next half century, the old mill stood idle, until being torn down in 1970.

I hope this post has done more to clear things up than to muddy the waters. With the scarcity and dubious nature of some of the information available about historic Mill Creek Hundred, errors like this are almost inevitable. As I've always said, if anyone ever has any information contradicting anything I write, please let me know. Whether someone else points it out to me or if I stumble across it myself, I'll always try my best to correct any errors I find. There's always new information out there to find -- just one of the things that makes this journey so enjoyable.


  1. I'd like to think that everyone appreciates the challenges of piecing together histories from the 18th (and even 17th) centuries. Historians writing 125 years ago did not get everything right, but everyone quotes them as gospel. Even primary sources (wills, deeds, etc) and grandpa's recollections will have errors. Your analogy to a journey is appropriate, and we appreciate how you have chosen to share yours and make it informative and entertaining. A most sincere thanks.

  2. You're welcome. I hope that the fun I'm having doing this comes across in the posts. And like any journey, the more people along for the ride, the more enjoyable it is. (Unless there's a bunch of screaming kids or a smelly guy something, but I digress...)

  3. I don't know if this is a lead or not, but in the 1810 census, two lines after the Mendenhalls is a Robert Grimes. He's not there in 1800, and this is 30 years after 1780, but maybe it's a start. I can't seem to find anything about the Grimes family in MCH, though.

  4. Scott, I hope you get somewhere with the Grimes family. I have an ancestor, Sarah Grimes(abt 1771-1818) who was married to Samuel Harper. Info on this couple is very sparse. I have been beating my head against Sarah for some years. I do know that she had a sister, Mary who was married to Job Stern. The Sterns lived in the Centerville area. Donna

  5. This is a nice random find for me, I have read with interest the "mill" stories. can add a small snippet. John Buckingham (1669-1754) moved to MCH sometime after 1700. He and family had a mill and farm,Pleasant Hill Farm, His son John is noted below:

    The Delaware Historical and Genealogical Recall of Matilda Spencer Hart, p 7,
    Orphans, New Castle Co., Baldwin, William, aged 8 yrs, 5th Nov. past son of John Baldwin, miller, consent of his mother Elizabeth Baldwin to John Buckingham, miller and cooper. 18 Oct 1748 - OC -c-103.

    "William Buckingham of Chester County, Penn. and some descendants,"
    Campbell Chapter, N.S.D.A.R. Nashville, Tenn. March 1946, p 3,
    On Nov 1, 1746, John Buckingham Jr & wife Sarah conveyed to Jacob
    John 1/2 interest in Water Grist or Corn Mill, Mill Stones, Mill
    Wheel, Bolting Mills earth, 3 3/4 acre of land including Dam, Mill
    Pond and Mill Buildings, (a small part of the 196 acre tract
    purchased by John Jr in 1744).
    Alan, I did not search for docs on this or other associated items.

    "William Buckingham of Chester County, Penn. and some descendants,"
    Campbell Chapter, N.S.D.A.R. Nashville, Tenn. March 1946, p 4,
    On Feb 18, 1750, John Buckingham Jr and Sarah his wife convey to
    Joseph Buckingham 150 of the 196 acre tract.

    "William Buckingham of Chester County, Penn. and some descendants,"
    Campbell Chapter, N.S.D.A.R. Nashville, Tenn. March 1946, p 4,
    On Jan 30, 1751, John Buckingham, Jr and Sarah his wife and William
    Buckingham and Jan, his wife, convey their 1/4 interest in Mill to
    Hannah (Buckingham) Heath.

    "William Buckingham of Chester County, Penn. and some descendants,"
    Campbell Chapter, N.S.D.A.R. Nashville, Tenn. March 1946, p 4,
    On Mar 9, 1761, (next line is Mar 9, 1751, this prob s.b. 1751
    also), they (John Buckingham Jr & wife Sarah) convey 1/8 interest to

    The family is John-1669-1754-patriarch
    John Jr 1701-1762
    James 1721- 1793 My ancestor.

  6. Thanks for that information. I think the Buckinghams are one of those families that are deserving of their own separate post someday. They seem as if they were pretty spread out early on, between what seems like their "homebase" in the Corner Ketch area, to this mill, to the former Hersey, soon-to-be Marshall mill at Marshallton. They certainly had a major impact on the area in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    The other thing that jumped out at me was that you mention that John Buckingham's property was called Pleasant Hill Farm. Assuming that it was just south of Corner Ketch, it seems like it was probably the source of the name for that area, Pleasant Hill. I know all sorts of things that I can't recall at any given moment, but I don't think I've ever come across that before. Thanks!!

  7. Scott,
    I have some informaton on Mendenhall Mill that I think you might be interested in. My great-grandmother was Rebecca Elisa Mendenhall married to Elmer Ellsworth Malin. She was the youngest daughter of James W. Mendenhall and Mary Pennock Hoopes. This was his second marriage. At one time Rebecca Mendenhall Malin and Elmer Ellsworth Malin owned Mendenhall Mill. I have an old flyer listing the sale of all that farm or tract of land known as "Mendinhall Mill", note spelling of Menhenhall. This was on the 20, December, 1900. Also, have a bill of sale when Rebecca amd Elmer Malin sold the mill on the 17, April, 1919. Plus an old postcard showing a couple of houses and other buildings. I have a receipt for deposit for $100.00 from William M. Taylor for tract or parcel of land known as the Elmer E. Malin Property and containing 36 acres.
    Ellie O.

    1. Thanks for the information, Ellie! So presumably the 1900 sale was after James W.'s death. Even if Elmer and Rebecca did buy it immediately (do you know if they did?), maybe the will said it had to be offered for public sale? Great to know the family connection between the Mendenhalls and the Malins. By this point, I don't know why I just don't assume as a default position that a property is staying in the family, even when the name changes.

      Also great to see the name William Taylor, too. Not that I don't trust the information in the reports sometimes, but it's always nice to get corroboration.

      And just out of curiosity (he says, trying to act nonchalant), do you happen to have any of that stuff scanned in? If you have anything you might be willing to share, feel free to email me at mchhistory@verizon.net.

      Thanks again for the info. There might be a "Later History of the Mendenhall Mill" update post here at some point.

    2. Ellie and Scott, (I'm a year late seeing this but...) I also would be extremely interested in viewing scans or photos of the documents Ellie mentioned in here comments above. If either of you have images to share please let me know. Stephenrusz@gmail.com


    3. This is a little off the subject but looking for all the help I can get and hoping someone would be able to fill in the blanks. My Great Great Grandmother was Elizabeth A Malin and was married to Richard T Stratton. Elizabeth was born in Wilmington, DE in 1870 but can't find any records of who her father or mother were. My father remembers there being a Auntie Anna as a kid who lived on a farm in Delaware. With only this to go on I am leaning towards a Elmer F Malin being her father. Have contacted Delaware's Archives with no luck? Have Any Malins out there have any ideas? Thanks