Thursday, November 24, 2016

1943 Wagamon Feed Mill Fire

AUGUST 4 1943

Fire of an undetermined origin early this morning destroyed the four story Diamond State Roller Mill with an estimated loss of $125,000 and three injured firemen, one seriously.
Vonel Banning suffered sever burns of the arms and body , less seriously hurt were Victor Spencer, the fire chief, and fireman Sam Hearn.
The feed mill is operated by Henry C and William B. Wagamon.

Elmer Hastings, farmer living near the mill, discovered the fire at 4 am, but by the time the fireman could get there the flames were unable to be checked, however, were able to save three other structures containing feed and poultry equipment. The mill contained modern machinery to manufacture floor, all types of dairy, hog and poultry feed and a large inventory in storage. . Also lost were 2000 bushels of wheat, 1000 pounds of corn, eight tons of dried milk. It served a wide area of farms.

Milton firemen were assisted by Ellendale, Lewes, Georgetown and Milford. Heat of the burning building was so intense firemen could not get within 50 yards with water hose. Sparks flew about the town and firemen stood by to prevent other fires from starting.

The original mill was built in 1901 by Daniel Wagaman and Curtis Wagamon , with additions made in 1926 and 1937 and was one of the largest and oldest feed mills in the state.

Wilmington Morning News, August 5 1943

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Woolton Hall On The Delaware

Woolton Hall, the beautiful mansion overlooking the Delaware River, recently purchased by William duPont from the Conroy heirs is being remodeled at great  outlay by its new owner.  A new wing has been added to the structure giving a fine architectural effect to the stately mansion.  New stables have been erected. The grounds and mansion have been furnished with electric.  A grand garden has been artistically laid out, the mansion is to be fitted with modern plumbing and appliances .

Monday, November 21, 2016

Lewes Delaware WW II Air Raid Wardens


Wardens under the Civilian Defense Corps of Lewes to serve five sectors in the town zone and out lying districts including nearby small communities have been appointed by Chief Air Raid Warden W. Herald Brittingham.

Plans also have been made to cover any possible disaster, including evacuation. A 'clearing house', mainly for casualties, was made for any possible disaster including, evacuation.

The five sector wardens for the town are; Glenwood Harrington, Howard Green, Daniel Littletown, Captain Irvin Maull. Roland D. G. Raught has been appointed warden of the Kimmey Town section of Lewes, Clarence Spencer for Murrays Corner, Louis Wolfe for Carpenters Corner, Alton Brittingham for Quakertown, W. H. 'Zip' Rice at Westcoats Corner, Pearl Baylis for Five Points, Stephen Hudson for Coolspring and Conrad Roach for Nassau.

Cool Spring Grange Community Hall , located three miles out of Lewes, will be set up as a 'clearing and assembly station' for sever casualties with physicians in attendance. At this station injured persons will be diagnosed, treated and routed to hospitals.

Ernest S. Ratledge was appointed evacuation chief to replace Thomas Arterbridge who has been recalled to service in the Army.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Delaware's Railroad's 1827 - 1996

1827 - 1996
Railroads in Delaware, as in all America, developed in the late 1820's as a rapid, all weather, transportation alternative, which also fostered community development away of the cities and waterways.

The Delaware Railroad, established in the late 1850's opened southern Delawares farm markets to the populated cities. They located well inland away from the colonial villages set on navigable waterways , nearer the bay.
Kent county's Felton, was one of many towns that grew with the railways.

Early Delaware railways would link major eastern cities with a reliable
year around network.

The New Castle & Frenchtown Turnpike, opened in 1811, is considered the first road system, connecting Cecil county Maryland's Elk River to New Castle on the Delaware which greatly improved transportation between Baltimore and Philadelphia. In 1830 it became a railroad and was a success until 1843 or about and became part of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore, part of Wilmington & Susquehanna Railroad System. The western most nine miles were abandoned in 1857.

The NC&F was at first a horse drawn railway which quickly went to steam in its success. .

The PW&B, formed in 1840, brought to Wilmington key suppliers to the railroad industry, such as, Betts, Pusey & Harland, aka Harland & Hollinsworth, well known for their railroad car factory. Other's were Diamond State Iron, Lobdell Wheel Company, Jackson & Sharp. Repair shops opened there in 1865. It dominated Delaware railroading the next 45 years offering fast, dependable, all weather transport between Washington, DC and New York.

Still, poor management, engineering mistakes threatened the existence. . New management, replacing the rail with heavier tracks , improved locomotives and cars and better service so that in 1850 the PW&B was still a factor.

This success gave thought in 1836 and 1847to linking to downstate and Delmarva, but financing was not available. Waterways remained the primary means of downstate transportation. In 1852 the State stepped in, helped by the duPont Family, with money for Delaware Railroad. 1855 saw the operation of the Delaware Railroad Division of the PW&B .

The Delaware Division choose to route on the western side of the state, bypassing the established seaport towns , leaning an eye toward the Maryland's Eastern Shore. Dover was reached by 1856 and Seaford by the end of the year. In 1859 the railroad was at Delmar, a new railroad town, and connected with the Maryland Eastern Shore Railroad.

This railroad improved transportation to market for lower Delaware farm and forest products. Towns of Cheswold, Felton, Viola, Wyoming, Harrington, Greenwood, Seaford and Delmar grew in to shipping points for lumber, peaches, melons and fresh spring fruits and vegetables.

With the main north and south line complete and successful, attention was turned to branches. 1869 saw the Junction & Beakwater from Harrington to Lewes in operation. 1878 found Rehoboth at its last station bringing hundreds of vacationers each summer. 1874 Georgetown to Selbyville was completed. In 1883 the railroad was named Delaware, Maryland & Virginia, DM&V. Branches ran from Smyrna to Oxford, Maryland, Townsend to Massey and Centerville, Seaford to Cambridge.

After the Civil War railroads were reaching all corners of America. It was the country’s big business. In 1869 there were 30,000 miles of track, in 1900 there were 200, 000 miles and they became more standardized. A standard gauge of four feet, eight and one half inch was accepted. Upgrading to heavier structure and equipment, steel instead of wood., was the major project.
The railroad became the dominant form of transportation.
Beside the PW&B, there became the B & O, and Pennsylvania in the Washington to New York corridor. The B & O purchased the PW&B in 1881 but Pennsylvania offered a higher price and gained control of Washington to New York lines. So now Delaware Railroad was part of the Pennsylvania system. The B & O was a parallel competitor during the 1890 era, linking many other railroads in the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and New York – New England area.


A number of other railroads were founded in Delaware, the Wilmington & Northern, Pennsylvania & Delaware, Baltimore & Delaware Bay, The Maryland, Delaware & Virginia, which were smaller players serving local needs as feeders.

Wilmington & Northern, Birdsboro, Pennsylvania to the Delaware River through Wilmington, began in 1866, brought coal to the Wilmington docks. Eventually going to Reading in 1874, it soon became the Reading Railroad in 1899.

Pennsylvania & Delaware , 1869, ran from Pomeroy Pennsylvania to the wharfs at Delaware City, and soon spun off into the Newark & Delaware and the Pomeroy and Newark.

The Delaware peach growing industry in late 19th century, spawned several minor lines . In 1879, Jay Gould of the Southern RR of New Jersey bought tracks from Pierson's Cove at Bombay Hook to Chestertown, with a ferry from Bombay Hook to Bayside, New Jersey. 1902 it merged with Delaware Railroad. The Queen Anne's Railroad was opened 1898 from Love Point, Maryland to Lewes, through Greenwood, Ellendale and Milton, in 1902 became Pennsylvania, and sold out in foreclosure by 1923. This railroad had significance between 1897 and 1931 as the main way to get vacationers from Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia to Rehoboth Beach.
1881 -1945

Pennsylvania Railroad was the railroad. Clayton became Delaware's largest railroad center with offices and shops. It was the largest land holder and tax payer in the state, a key political player. Much of the system was doubled tracked. New York, Philadelphia & Norfolk, NYP&N, carried trains across the Chesapeake Bay to the large port of Norfolk. Southern produce, vegetables, fruits, tobacco, cotton, oysters, became common in New York and Boston markets. This brought Kent and Sussex counties alive with their peaches, melon and strawberries. The food processing industry was much benefited and the area had many canneries. Starting in 1902 the railroad upgraded, bridges elevated tracks, stations, freight yards, and four track systems.

The B & O found it necessary to follow suit. The viaduct over the Brandywine in 1910, 1920 the Augustine bridge and the Wilsmere Yards.

Electrification began in 1910, first under the New York city rivers. New Jersey railroads following the trend, gave high speed track service to the railroad. 1928 and after the New Deal WPA made improvements available and electrified high speed passenger and freight service was the norm. The network of overhead electric wire was called 'catenary'.

1917 – 1946 profits, government regulated pticing structures became a problem. Competition of trucks and automobiles, the highway development, cut into the railroads monopoly. Passage of the Federal Highway Act of 1916, and entry into WWI exacerbated railroad woes.
They reorganized, cut expendables but the automobile was moving ahead. The Depression worsened the situtation. Then came WWII, troop movements, decreased coastal ship activity and automobile travel restrictions, thrust transportation burdens back to the railroad.

This was found to be short lived. The industry was physically in sorry shape by WWII's end. The system was punished by deferred maintenance, lack of replacement parts, for the tracks and equipment. Improved highways and the truck industry taking a large percent of business, air travel increase , left the railroad with no place to go but down and out.

1956 saw the end of a monopoly. Delaware removed one of the two tracks. Trucks using the 'piggyback' system for longhaul and cross country shipping did some help to keep railroads alive. There are positives to the railroad existence, such as, the railroad location in the establishment of the Newport General Motors plant and the Newark Chrysler plant.
Mergers brought the Chessie System in 1960's, Penn Central. 1970 Congress created Amtrac. Conrail and CSX came about in 1980. Deregulation with the Staggers Act allowed an improved climate for the railroad business which allows the ownership of other types of transportation such as barges and auto truck lines.
Today, the railroad continues to be an important player in Delaware economy. Amtrak carries a heavy passenger load, Conrail and CSX transport freight. The CSXT line carries Conrail & Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific with freight from outside the Diamond State. Conrails Indian River Secondary Track serves to Frankford. Maryland & Delaware, an independent railroad of the Snow Hill Shippers Association , Townsend & Chestertown, Seaford to Cambridge, Georgetown to Lewes, old Breakwater and Junction, are on line with trains every now and then. .

Wilmington & Western, a private owned tourist attraction , runs through Red Clay Valley, Wilmington to Hockessin. Delaware Valley Railroad, the old Wilmington & Northern & Reading Railroad is a bridge route to Pennsylvania shippers .

Source: “Delaware's Railroad's, 1827 – 1996” is an abstract of an WWW Internet site , perhaps on line at the University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.

Friday, November 18, 2016



Delaware's first newspaper was inspired by the publishing success of Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia.
James Adams, who had learned the printing trade at Londonderry, Ireland, emigrated to Philadelphia at an early age, became a printer under Franklin & Hall.
In 1760 he left this famous printing partnership and set up his own business but the competition was too great and the young Irishman failed. Remember that Philadelphia was at that time the printing center of the new country.
Having heard that there was no printer down the Delaware in Wilmington , in 1761 he published a 'letter' titled “Proposal For Printing A Newspaper”, which received so much encouragement and offers of backing, that he moved his heavy and clumsy Franklin Press, type and all, to Wilmington, and set out the first issue of the “Wilmington Chronicle”, a weekly, requiring long working hours at night to get the paper, each sheet a piece of individual skill, into homes early morning on time.
To print, type was laid out on a flat surface, covered with ink, then a sheet of paper was laid across the 'bed of type' , pressed and removed, one side of each sheet at a time.

The “Chronicle” was not a paying venture and was discontinued after a six month period. But, Adams, continued as the only Wilmington printer, printing many of the Colonial Government publications, religious pamphlets and books. The publication of a yearly Almanac and a business selling and binding books, dealing in paper products, other writing necessities, kept him as the only Delaware until 1775.
In 1789, with his eldest son as a partner, the published “The Delaware & Eastern Shore Advertiser” . As the other sons grew of age they came into the business and when Adams died in 1792, they took the business over.
The elder Adams was greatly esteemed and the family were the outstanding publishers of early Delaware publishers of early Delaware .
Two sons, Samuel and John, established a printing press in New Castle, and in 1797 the “Laws of Delaware” has their imprint.


Politics was the incentive for another paper in 1799, “The Mirror of the Times”, published by James Wilson, to further the interest of the Federal Party and President John Adams.
This paper was the first to be printed in America on pure white stock, which was a novelty at the time and was produced at the Wilmington mill of Thomas D. Gilprin on the Brandywine.
The Mirror of Times was a semi weekly paper printed out for Wednesday and Saturday on an old Franklin type hand press. Wilson was an editor with energy and ideas but no ability to make profits. He had the problem of collecting. During election time in New Castle he spent the entire day at Captain Caleb Bennetts Tavern with his account books, waiting for subscribers to call on him.


“Christian Repository” was published by Peter Brynberg at 4th and Shipley, ”Federal Ark” made an appearance in 1803 and a literary weekly , “Museum of Delaware” published by Joessph Jows , 1804 to 1810.

Delaware Gazette and Delaware State Journal became the Every Evening in 1822.

Source: Wilmington News Journal, Saturday, October 11, 1930.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016



William duPont who lives near Wilmington, Delaware, has bought the homestead of President James Madison at Montpeller, Orange county, Virginia

The estate consists of 1300 acres and buildings. A force of mechanics employed by duPont from Delaware will be there soon to put the building in repair.

These buildings were erected around 1774 and President Madison spent his last days there.

Mr. duPont has not determined whether he will occupy the property as a residence as he is now living in the handsome homestead recently purchased of the Conrow estate , Woolton Hall on the Delaware river.

A Baltimore man, Louis F. Detrick, was the recent owner of Montpeller.

Saturday, November 12, 2016



1936 Wilmington News Journal
Comments by
Charles Alfred Rudolph, age 70, Wilmington Jeweler.

About 1870, Mr. Rudolph recalled, much of what is now Reboboth Beach , was farm and woodland, purchased by The Rehoboth Campmeeting Association, laid our in lots purchased by Delaware residents and persons living in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

When the sale of lots was going good, the promoters treasury flush, lots were graded, that is top soil removed , there were many Indian relics found. He remembers J. Morton Poole, of Wilmington, bent low, going over these spots, picking up arrowheads and relics.

The avenues and lots were marked by wood stakes, trees were cut and piled to the center of the streets to clear the way. When money ran short, the clearing of the woods was abandoned. And the piles of felled trees remained in the middle of the avenues in huge piles. He, being one of the ten or twelve boys who vacationed here roamed all over the place, playing in the piles of felled trees, one day decided to rid their playland of the obstructions, set a fire at each pile, then left in a hurry.

When the got back to the hotel, they could see much smoke above the tree tops and that the guest were alarmed , thinking Lewes was burning. The Lewes people, it turn, thought Rehoboth was afire. People were running in all directions.

The superintendent of property, Morris Lamborn, gathered a posse, gathering whatever implements were at hand, and kept the fire to the section it started in. The 'boys' went along to help. Brisk winds from the northeast were blowing and the smoke drifted into the Grove, where the campmeeting was in progress which brokeup quickly.

A notice was posted by William Bright, the president, seeking information but no one knew for several years who the guilty ones were. It was decided that the incident saved the association much money by clearing the area and no problem came of it.

Rehoboth lent itself to other pranks as there were no police, it stood off by itself. The first hotel did not escape the attention of pranksters. That was the Surf Hotel. It stood between a small pond and the ocean, where the Henlpen is today. A long barn of a building. Three stories with an attic. It had a porch on either side and pillars to the roof. The halls ran full length of the building and room doors opened into the hall. It was custom to place your shoes in the hall to be shined each night. One night the 'boys' changed up the shoes, leaving 'odds', tied the doors together with clothesline. Seems the 'boys' at that time had a good time.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Armstrongs Seadromes



Edward R. Armstrong, of Holly Oak, Delaware, a circus strongman, before he became an able engineer in 1933 or so, with an idea to solve a problem with Trans-Atlantic air flights, being the short distance a airplane could safely fly with a load of people.

He called them Airdromes, sort of an aircraft carrier, or floating platform, big enough to have a 1200 runway or landing strip, service stations, weather and directional station, hotel and restaurant., to be located to serve as stepping stones to overseas point as necessary.

In the 1920's and 1930's fleets of passenger ships carried thousands of vacationers, immigrants and other travelers between America and Europe and made this idea practical. Models were built and tested, approved and read to build and locate, but, the Great Depression came, and funds dried up.

In 1932 Franklin Delano Roosevelt became President and began to bring the country our of the depression and his Secretary of Commerce, Daniel Roper took notice of Armstrong's idea and announced the PWA would begin a 1.5 million dollar project, in the shelter of the Delaware Breakwater. This meant $6,000,000 and 10,000 construction jobs for the south of Delaware.

Harold Ickes, Secretary of Interior, under Roosevelt, denied the 1.5 million allocation.

Meanwhile, Charles Lindbergh, Igor Sikorsky, Eddie Rickenbacker, and other aviators foresaw the ability to develop long range airplanes and did so.

The construction of Airdromes at Lewes Breakwater was abandoned before the first worker was hired.

Source: Delaware Coast Press, November 9 2016, Michael Morgan, Delaware Diary
Time, November 27 1933 ; “Airports Across The Ocean” Stewart Nelson.

Saturday, November 5, 2016



Ellendale has witnessed the most heroic act by an ordinary man in this country town. His name is David H. Reed and the incident came about in a most remarkable way.

Harry W. Jester has just finished his handsome new home and erected a cedar water tank on a 30 foot high tower in the barn yard from which to furnish running water to home and shed. There is a gasoline engine pump below it to send water up into it. Beneath the tank and its platform is a two foot space containing charcoal to help keep a freeze away. But during a severe period of cold weather the pipes did freeze and Mr Jester had Joseph Ennis, with his blow torch thaw out the pipe, and, set the charcoal afire which only smouldered until the high wind on Thursday. The next anyone saw was a twenty foot high flame all around the water tank and it was quickly seen this had to stopped, and now.

The finest homes and the total town of Ellendale could be wiped out real fast. Everyone was in a panic, the women screaming, men busy removing valuables from the houses, but here came David. He started the gas pump motor, pumped water to the burning tank , climbed the tower, with bucket in hand, and from the pipe threw water on to the flames which were at times catching his coat on fire. Everyone watching calling for hm to come down, stayed with the flames which ceased came down with his coat aflame, covered with a sheet of ice on his face and charred hands, calm as he always was, appearing to be none the worse, but did become somewhat ill, taken home by Uncle Joe Smith for a bit of stimulant and a change of clothing and in a short time was about and chipper as a lark.

Later the evening he was met with many thanks after being recognized as the savior of Ellendale to which he replied, “all in a days work. I have simply done my duty, say no more”.

Source: The pen of the correspondent of the Milford Chronicle.
Wilmington Every Evening, Monday January 17 1910