Friday, June 23, 2017

Green Bank Park

In the most recent post about the Capital Trail Garage, I wrote of the thrill of learning about a site or topic of which I had been previously unaware. I now present another entry in that category, located in the same corner of southeastern Mill Creek Hundred. The subject is Green Bank Park, but not the one you know, located on the former site of the county workhouse. This Green Bank Park predated even the workhouse by nearly twenty years, and appears to have operated for about two decades. Full credit for bringing this lost site to my attention goes to the wonderful Red Clay Valley History Talk Series Facebook page.

When I first saw the Facebook post featuring the park, I initially had doubts as to whether it really was what it appeared to be. My own first entryway into local history was the nearby Brandywine Springs Park more than 15 years ago. In all that time I can't recall ever hearing about a 19th Century Green Bank Park, or any other Victorian Era excursion park in the area. But sure enough, after a little research I found that it really did exist and was an early competitor to Brandywine Springs. The ending date for Green Bank is still not clear, but it seems obvious that it was a victim of the Springs' success in the early years of the new century.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Capital Trail Garage

Robert E. McFarlin's Capital Trail Garage
Just a quick post here to share a couple of fantastic pictures that were recently shared with me. In general, there are two types of stories that I research. Most are ones I'm at least somewhat aware of ahead of time, like a house or a person, which I then research to find out more about. The second, and more rare, type are subjects that I didn't even know existed before they came to my attention. These can be really fun. The Capital Trail Garage is definitely in this second category.

Through the course of that past few centuries, there have undoubtedly been many small, family-run businesses that have come and gone in Mill Creek Hundred. The majority (especially those that didn't last very long) have probably passed irretrievably into history. Once in awhile though, one gets resurrected from obscurity. And even cooler for me personally, this one was located only about a quarter mile from where I grew up.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Camp Mattahoon

I'm proud to present another wonderful Guest Post from Dave Olsen, who's becoming quite the expert on the Mill Creek region north of Milltown. Although admittedly I was originally hesitant to cover topics too far into the 20th Century with this blog, I now realize that there are plenty of fascinating such stories. Dave's post here on Camp Mattahoon is a perfect example. I thank Dave for his great work, and feel free to add any of your own memories of the camp. I know there are still people out there who experienced it firsthand.


--Researched and Written by Dave Olsen
Tucked in along the side of Mill Creek, slightly north of Milltown proper off of Limestone Road are the remains of what was the 170 acre camp ground owned and operated by what we now know as The Boys and Girls Club of Delaware.  The county oasis and get-away was named Camp Mattahoon, supposedly after the Indian Chief from whom, it is said, the early settlers bought land which is now part of Wilmington.  For over 40 years beginning in 1930, the camp provided the opportunity for hundreds of boys to escape the confines of city and as former Director Alfred Kamm mentioned in his 1946 annual report,  “When it comes to fun, health building, self-development, learning of skills, knowledge and habits, there is nothing better than camping for a boy.  More good guidance in behavior and attitudes can be offered a boy in two weeks of camping under proper leadership, than in practically a whole club season.”

While a good part of the Mill Creek Hundred remained true to its agricultural and farming roots in addition to various mill related industries, by the early 1800’s populations were expanding, especially in urban centers like Wilmington. In 1837, railroads connected Wilmington with the larger cities of Baltimore and Philadelphia. Cotton, woolen mills, iron-casting, shipbuilding and numerous other industries were prevalent in Wilmington. For a one hundred year period, from 1830 until 1930, railcar manufacturing, shipbuilding, carriage manufacturing, and leather working (tanneries) were the four largest industries in Wilmington.  Communities of workers living in close proximity to their place of employment were growing up around these factories.  The manufacturing and industrial expansion during this period was also reflected in the population growth. There was an almost fifty percent (49.32%) population increase each decade from 1860 to 1900.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The White Clay Creek Supply Company and the Roseville Electric Plant

The early 20th Century was a time of great changes in rural and suburban infrastructure. The rise of the automobile necessitated improvements to roads and bridges. Those same automobiles, along with the earlier introduction of electric trolley lines, helped birth the existence of suburbs. Basic utilities like running water, sewers, telephone, and electricity that had been present in cities for a while were now working their way out to the burgeoning suburbs and beyond. Eventually they would reach even the old farmhouses that had done without such luxuries for generations.

There are undoubtedly stories to be told on all these topics (the Artesian Water Company, for example, was founded by a MCH family), but right now we will focus on electricity. More specifically, on a forgotten, early power provider, the White Clay Creek Supply Company (WCCSC), and one particular installation of theirs. If you don't remember writing any checks to them, it's understandable -- I'm pretty confident in saying that WCCSC was gone long before you were around. It wasn't in operation for very long, but it's a neat insight into the early days of suburban utilities. It was also the final heir to an old mill seat.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Still More on Stoney Batter

The full extent of Stoney Batter Road
I'll start out by saying that I never intended to write this post. Then, when I did, I wanted it to be more than it turned out to be. In the end this post, at least, is destined to be somewhat unsatisfying. I started out trying to answer one simple question, moved the goalpost a little bit, came closer to answering it (by eliminating some possibilities), but ultimately was unable to arrive at a good, solid answer. And for good measure, a whole new set of questions were opened up. Good times. Good times.

The original question, which we've attempted a few times already, is this -- Where did the name "Stoney Batter" come from in Stoney Batter Road? In the past, I attacked it from an etymological standpoint, trying to determine what the words were supposed to mean. I came up with a few ideas. One could be right, but likely not. However, now after prompting from a few comments, I feel like that mindset might be missing the point. I now think the relevant question is not what was Stoney Batter, but where was Stoney Batter.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Few "New" Firm Dates for Marshallton Sites

Town Hall and General Store of David Ecoff
I am keenly aware that most of what I do history-wise is a matter of compiling (and sometimes rediscovering) work that others have already done. Once in a while, though, I stumble across something that, at least to modern eyes, could be considered new. Something that, as far as I know, no one else around is aware of. I recently became aware that I have access to more old newspapers than I thought I did, so, naturally, I started nosing around. Not with any particular goal in mind, just sort of shotgunning any search terms I could think of. When I looked for Marshallton-related items, I came up with a few interesting pieces. And in the process, I think I've established some firm dates for two sites that I could only guess at previously.

The first location, which I'm sure anyone who's been through Marshallton will be familiar with, is the three-story brick building on the northwest corner of Duncan Road and Greenbank Road. It's had many occupants over the years, and is currently owned by Events Unlimited. The earliest image I've come across of it is the postcard seen above, which probably dates from about 1905 to 1910. At that time, the building (or at least the bottom floor of it) was home to the general store of David Ecoff. Ecoff was listed as a storekeeper in Marshallton as early as the 1880 Census, and was probably set up even a few years prior to that.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Red Clay Valley Marshall Families -- Part 2

This is the second part of Robert Wilhelm's story of the Marshall family in the Red Clay Valley. In Part 1, we learned the early history of the family in the area, as well as the stories of the Marshall family's ventures in the iron and kaolin industries. In this part, Robert focuses on the papermaking aspect of the family business. 


By Robert E. Wilhelm Jr.

Thomas S. Marshall & Sons – Papermakers
Israel Marshall's Auburn Heights
With the Gilpins developing a way to make paper by machine on Brandywine Creek in 1803, Robert’s4 son Thomas5 takes an interest in papermaking and in 1856 he is permitted to convert the family flour mill at Marshallvale to the production of paper. Thomas concentrates on the manufacture of news and wrapping papers including difficult to make tissue papers. The family papermaking business is operated primarily by Thomas5 with assistance of others and eventually his children, until the mill is destroyed by fire during the winter of 1865-66. One of the tenant homes, built around 1850 and known as the Marshall Mill House, is still standing along Creek Road (Route 82) and has been preserved by The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County on the Marshall Mill House Preserve.

The area that John3 Marshall purchased in 1765 eventually became known as Marshall’s Bridge in Kennett Township. The rebuilt paper mill, now larger than it had been before the fire, offered increased paper production. Thomas5 S. names the mill the “Homestead Mill at Marshall’s Bridge”. The new mill most likely relied on papermaking machinery supplied from one of the industrial paper machinery makers in Wilmington such as Pusey & Jones or Jackson & Sharp.

Various historical accounts suggest that Thomas’5 paper business at the Homestead Paper Mill was an average business but barely made a profit. According to NVF historical documents, the mill’s cylinder papermaking machine produced paper 33” wide at a rate of 50 feet per minute (137.5 square feet per minute or 212 letter-sized sheets per minute). The Homestead Mill could produce 2-tons of rag paper a week. Paper was now the primary product produced by the Thomas S. Marshall Company in the early 1870s.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Red Clay Valley Marshall Families -- Part 1

As I've been busy lately with other projects, Robert Wilhelm has stepped up with a couple of fantastic guest posts about the Marshall family, which, frankly, I would have never been able to write. This first post covers the early history of the family, as well as the brothers who engaged in the iron and kaolin businesses. The next post will cover the paper and fibre side of the family. Huge thanks to Robert, and I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.


By Robert E. Wilhelm, Jr.
Marshall's Bridge, Kennett Township, PA
Most Delawareans are well aware of the DuPont Company and how the company evolved and came to prominence after Victor Marie du Pont and Éleuthère Irénée du Pont, emigrated from France in 1800 to the young United States. Some folks may be aware that the first machine-made paper produced in this country was manufactured at the Gilpin Mill north of Wilmington on Brandywine Creek in 1803. Delawareans generally don’t know that the second iron rolling mill in the colonies was built at Wooddale and that the first Prussian iron, zinc sheet, and tin sheet manufactured in North America came from Wooddale. However, predating the DuPont’s arrival in the area, are the Garrett and Marshall families. Both families contributed significantly to Delaware’s early industrial age heritage.

Arriving in the early 1700s, John Garrett purchased five tracts of William Penn’s Letitia Manor in the 1720s and settled in the “upper county of the three lower counties of the Province of Pennsylvania” (now known as Yorklyn, DE). Garrett and four neighbors constructed and operated a grist mill at the present site of Marshall Brothers Mill now part of the property of Delaware’s newest state park, Auburn Heights Preserve. The Garrett family went on to build a snuff empire a half-mile downstream on the Red Clay that by 1900 produced a third of the world’s supply of snuff. After the forming of the United States and Delaware in 1776, the area the Garretts settled became known as Auburn, DE.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Red Clay Valley History Talks: Vignettes of Marshallton

A few weeks ago I passed along the news that the Red Clay Valley History Talk Series was returning for its third year, beginning with the Lost Motion Pictures of Brandywine Springs. The presentation (there ended up being four "shows") was fantastic, and great thanks go out to Tommy Gears and Ray Harrington for finding the movies and putting together the presentation. I hope that some of you got a chance to check it out, but if you didn't I understand that the plan is to have a DVD of the movies available for purchase at some point in the near future. I'll be sure to let you know if/when that happens.

But now, I want to invite everyone to the second installment in the series, to be held at the Historic Red Clay Valley Education Center (Wilmington & Western's Marshallton office, 1601 Railroad Ave.) on Monday, February 13, at 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:30). The talk is entitled Vignettes of Marshallton, and will be presented by yours truly, Scott Palmer. The program will be a look at some of the institutions, places, and people who have helped to shape the area over the past few hundred years. It won't be an complete, exhaustive history of the village, but instead a pointed look at some key sites and people, of course illustrated with lots of old photographs. Okay. Don't tell anyone, but it's kind of just an excuse to show a lot of cool, old pictures. I hope you won't mind.

Of course it won't just be a slideshow of historic photographs. I'll be telling the stories and histories that go along with the pictures as well. Some of the material has been included in the blog over the past five or six years, but much of it I've never presented before. I hope there will be something for everyone to enjoy. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017 Red Clay Valley History Talk Series -- The Lost Motion Pictures of Brandywine Springs

Yes, it's that time of year again. After great successes the past two years, the Red Clay Valley History Talk Series is back again, with three more presentations. I'll have more information on the second and third installments (set for early February and March) in the next week or two, especially since I'll be participating in the February talk. But right now I wanted to let you know that there are still tickets available for the first in the 2017 series, and I think it's pretty special.

This Sunday, January 8, 2017, the Red Clay Valley History Talk Series is proud to present The Lost Motion Pictures of Brandywine Springs. The program will take place at the Wilmington & Western's Greenbank Station at 2:00 PM. Featured will be motion pictures taken at Brandywine Springs Amusement Park during the summer of 1903. The park's entertainment director, N. Dushane Cloward, invited one of the Edison Company's top directors to come to the park and film some shorts there. I had mentioned this in a post about four years ago, and even embedded one of the films. The others, however, were not easily available. I knew that some other films had, at least at one time, existed, but I didn't know if they were still around. Turns out, they were!!

A dedicated team of volunteers, led by Tommy Gears, traveled to the National Archives in Washington, DC and recovered this exciting piece of Mill Creek Hundred history. After having the old films transferred into an easier to work with digital format, they are finally ready to unveil these century-plus old films to the public. It's almost certain that these have not been seen by anyone else in this region in at least a century.

The first program, scheduled for Saturday, has already sold out, so the second showing on Sunday has been set up. This, too, may sell out, so get your tickets soon. To help defray some of the costs involved in obtaining, restoring, and transferring the films tickets are $20. Light refreshments will be served. Tickets may be purchased through this link.

I'm personally very excited to see these films, as I really expected them to have disappeared. This is a fantastic piece of history and a special event. Hope to see you there!