Interview with Harvey L. Fell, 1968 June 10 [audio]

Hagley ID:
  • Fell family background; Living at Brandywine Springs Park; Fell's early life; Working as a teamster for DuPont's farms and hauling powder out of Hagley Yard
    Partial Transcript: Dr. Wilkinson asked Dr. Fell to give some of his family background.

    Fell: Originally the Fell family came from Cumberland, England. The old family home there was known as "Longlands; " that happens to be the name of the late Mr. R. R. M. Carpenter's home on his estate down south. Our branch of the Fell family came to the area of Wilmington. In fact, my father was born on what is now known as Polly Drummond Hill. His father, my grandfather, was a country carpenter. In later years they moved into Wilmington, and my grandfather went in business with the late Alfred D. Peoples at 507 Market Street. This was known as Fell and Peoples. My dad was just a boy at that time and drove the store wagon for them. About 1897-1898 my grandfather and Fred Peoples dissolved the partnership. My grandfather opened a hardware store, and my dad opened a feed and pet store adjoining each other at 7 and 9 West Fourth Street. After my grandfather died my dad took over the entire business and finally dispensed with the hardware business, keeping just the feed and pet store, which was known as Lewis S. Fell. In 1916, he moved from the 4th and Shipley Street location down to the present location at 109 West Fourth Street, and my son Harvey, Jr., is now carrying on his grandfather's business.

    Dr. Wilkinson questioned Dr. Fell about the Fell Spice Mill.

    Fell: The spice mill was out at Faulkland, I believe, and the owner of that was Mr. Jenks Fell from Philadelphia, and he was partly responsible, or I guess was responsible, for developing Brandywine Springs Park. Then in later years the Spice mill became what they called a chocolate mill before it became a feed mill. When I was a boy, a group of us used to go camping in what was then called Boynton's Woods, but it was the old Fell property. Mrs. Boynton was Miss Elsie Fell, one of Jenks Fell's daughters.

    Dr. Wilkinson questioned the relationship of Jenks Fell to Dr. Fell's father.

    Fell: About a 52nd cousin, I guess. They were from the same branch of the family, but I never knew them personally at all. They were Philadelphians who set up this mill down by Brandywine Springs. There were supposed to be mineral waters there, and it was originally developed as a health center, rather than an amusement park. A hotel stood up on top of a hill, and there was a flight of almost 100 wooden steps that went down into the amusement park which was developed later. From the time I was nine years old until I was about sixteen we lived out there. We had a cottage up on top of the hill there by the old hotel. Of course, the old hotel has long since been torn down, but it was standing when we lived out there in the cottage. At that time one end of it was fixed up as an apartment, and a family had that summer after summer and very, very occasionally would it be used as a hotel. There was a caretaker there and a few rooms were fixed up.

    Mrs. Pizor questioned the size of the hotel.

    Fell: It was three stories high and about 3 rooms deep; 3 I expect there must have been 50 or 60 rooms at one time. The back part of it was right along Faulkland Road, and there were gate posts at the end of the hotel and stables. That was horse and buggy days, and when people came out to old Brandywine Springs Park they either came out on the old Brandywine Springs car or the farmers all drove in there. They had regular shed stables where they could leave their horses and go down into the Park. It started as a health resort and in later years it became an amusement park. They brought excursions down from Philadelphia. The People's Railway Company took over Shellpot Park, and then Brandywine Springs faded, and they tried to bring Shellpot back, and then it faded. They'd bring excursions down on the old Wilson Line at the foot of 4th Street and then they'd run the trolleys from there on out to Brandywine Springs.

    Dr. Wilkinson asked if the mineral springs were still there.

    Fell: They are still there, but it's just a wilderness now. It's interesting to try to walk through there and find out where the old merry-go-round was, but it's such a wilderness. There is talk that they are going to try to put a road up through there and try to develop that area. Of course, it is a Delaware state park. They have a very nice recreation center up on top of the hill, but they haven't done anything yet with the valley. Wilkinson: We've talked to Maurice du Pont Lee and I gather he had quite a lot to do with having the state take that over. Now, let's get down to your career.

    Fell: I was born October 20, 1898. I'll be 70 this October. I graduated from Wilmington High School in 1916 and entered what was then Delaware College in the fall of '16 and graduated from there with a B.S. in agriculture in June 1920. At that time I took a job with Mr. William du Pont, Sr., at Montpelier, Virginia.

    Wilkinson: Let's go back to when you graduated from high school. What did you do about a job then?

    Fell: A bunch of the boys were going to enter Delaware College, and I had no idea if I’ d be able to go to college; I didn't think mother and dad could afford it. At that time, all that was required was an examination in English. There was no tuition. My mother suggested that since some of my friends were going down to take an examination I do the same. I was accepted, and in September I started there. My first love was and still is for animals, and the only course I could take down at Delaware that pertained to animals was agriculture. So, I signed up for Ag and specialized in animal husbandry. Two years later I decided my stomach wasn't as weak as I thought it was and so I entered the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School to become a veterinarian.

    Wilkinson: You said you worked here in 1918; could we fit that into this interview?

    Fell: If you signed up for Agriculture you had to agree to spend at least two summers working on a farm. The summer of 1917, three of us went up to New York State to a farm called the "Merrydale Farm,” a Jersey cattle farm, and spent that summer there. The summer of 1918 I was finishing my sophomore year; this was right when World War I was going on and there was a manpower shortage, and they were trying to get boys to go out and work on the farms. So I signed up with the Boys' Working Reserve (that's what it was called), and we were excused from college about the middle of May. I was fortunate enough to secure a job here on the DuPont Company farm. Primarily I got it through a friend of mine who had worked here the summer before; he suggested that since he wouldn't be able to work because he had broken his leg I come out to see Mr. William Betty, who was the farm boss. He lived right down here at Hunter's Corner. Knowing that I had a horse and that my dad was real "horsey," he signed me up as a teamster on the farm.

    Wilkinson: We've heard of this before; just where was Hunter's Corner?

    Fell: Right down there where Buck Road meets the Montchanin Road. That was the end of the old Rising Sun car line, and there was a little wooden pavilion. I always knew that as Hunter's Corner - it was right there where the entrance to Bobby Carpenter's place is now.

    Wilkinson: Across Route 100 was the site of an old tavern. Was it Hunter's Tavern or was it Fleming's Tavern?

    Fell: It wasn't a tavern then. That was split into three different dwellings in 1918; all partitioned off. Mr. William Betty lived in the upper side, closest to Mr. Thompson Brown's house, and there was a man named Jake Hoover, who was a night stable man, living in the lower one. I can't remember who lived in the middle one, but there were three families that lived in that old stone tavern. At that time the old pump was still there in the front, although I'm sure they must have had running water in the houses.

    Wilkinson: Mr. Betty interviewed you and hired you? What kind of wages were you offered?

    Fell: The laborers on the farm were paid $2.50 a day, the teamsters $2.65 a day. Teamsters got paid a little more because they had their teams to look after. The night stable man always had them cleaned off and the harness on them in the morning, but at night you had to take the harness off, put it on the peg. You had nothing to do with the feeding of them; the stable man took full charge of that. But we were paid $2.65 a day. That went along until we were through haying about the middle of July, when the Company was short of teams for shipping out their powder over in the Yard. There were regular teams at the stable here that worked in the Yard all the time. Anyway, they were short of these teams so they sent some of the farm teams down to the Yard, and that's how I came to haul powder. We worked an eight-hour day and got an increase in pay. The team had to be in the Yard by 7:00 in the morning, and the working day was over at 4:00 in the afternoon. If you worked after 4:00 you got time-and-half; lots of nights we worked until after 7:00. We received 40¢ an hour for an eight-hour day for doing just ordinary work, hauling whatever had to be hauled, but if you were put on to haul any powder or loading cars you were paid 4¢ an hour more. 44¢ an hour, or after 4:00 in the afternoon 66¢ an hour. That was real money in those days.
    Synopsis: Fell provides some background information about the Fell family. He says that his father owned a hardware store and then a seed and pet store. He talks about a spice mill his family once owned and operated and eventually converted into a feed mill. He says that his family used to live near Brandywine Springs in the summertime. He says it started as a health resort and became an amusement park. Fell then talks about his early life. He says that he always loved animals and decide to become a veterinarian. He describes working as a teamster for DuPont hauling farm products and black powder. He details the wage structure for farm work and powder work.
    Keywords: Black powder; Brandywine Springs Park; Cumberland, England; Du Pont, William, 1855-1928; Farms; Fell Spice Mill; Hagley Yard; Hardware stores; Immigration; Montpelier (Va.); Teamsters; University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School; Wages; Wilmington (Del.)
  • Safety concerns working at Hagley Yard; the barn at Hagley
    Partial Transcript: Scafidi: Did you have any reaction about being sent to the powder yards? Were you worried about being blown up?

    Fell: It made me realize, after being there for a while, how some of these accidents could happen. We had what we called spring wagons; they remind you very much of the old brewery wagons where the seat was way up high, and you had a brake which you worked with your hand and the body was lower; we called them spring wagons. They were big and heavy with steel tires and there was nothing but a stone road through the powder yard. The first load of so-called powder - it was all processed, it wasn’ t loose powder, and some of it was in these cases of pellets - I hauled from the lower part of the Yard up to the siding here, I can remember I had those horses just barely creeping. I was afraid of a spark from the wheels on that stone road. After three or four days it was no more than a load of coal, you didn't think any more about it. Now, when you were hauling it out of magazines, the driver was the driver, and when you went down the Yard, regardless of what you were doing you were supposed to have a helper on the wagon. At that time when I went down there to work, due to the manpower shortage, they had employed about 30 or more Negro girls. When you normally would have had a helper on your wagon to help load, they put two of these Negro girls on instead. They wore these...almost like a child's romper suit, one-piece coveralls with bloomers, and if you were hauling coal you had two girls to shovel coal and one man. We had to all wear rubber-soled shoes. No one with nailed soles was allowed to go into a magazine for fear it might strike a spark. I never heard anything of a labor union; I know I didn't pay any union fees, but apparently all the driver was to do was to handle his team.

    Wilkinson: When they switched you from the farm to the powder yards did anyone give you a short lecture on safety practices?

    Fell: No. That first morning the boss told us to go down to the yards; back of the machine shop was the office, and they'd tell us down there what to do. That was my first experience. I was almost twenty at that time.

    Wilkinson: We plan to open our barn within the next year or two as an exhibit area. We are picking up all kinds of information as to what the farming operations were like years ago. We are going to show it back in the 19th century, but we would like whatever information you might have as to what crops were grown on the farm, what kind of livestock was here. Could you give us anything on that?

    Fell: No livestock except the horses which were working in the yards and on the farm. The crops were hay, corn and wheat. The hay and corn were principally for feeding their own stock here. The wheat was sold. After it was thrashed we hauled it up to the mill there at Chadds Ford to have it milled, and that was the last we saw of it. We took it in the horse-drawn wagons up Montchanin Road and Creek Road up to Chadds Ford to the mill. I'm not too sure but that old mill isn't still standing there - right along the railroad tracks. There's a lumber yard there and the mill set back a little from the yard. This area right here where your Library is was the hay field. One day I was raking hay here, and I raked up a yellow jacket's nest. I had a blind horse and he took off, and all I could do was run him into a corner of the fence, get him unhooked, and get him out of there as fast as I could. The summer I was here, what is now Mr. Simpson Dean's front lawn was a cornfield, and up beyond where Mrs. Archibald du Pont lived, that field which goes up toward Church Street, which is now being developed into a housing development, that was a corn field. Mrs. Archibald du Pont lived at the top of the hill where Mr. Robert Brown lives, beyond Mrs. Thompson Brown. Mrs. Archibald du Pont lived at the top of the hill in a big house on the right-hand side going toward town. You go down a grade and up toward Church Street where St. Joseph's Church is - Route #141. That was known as Church Street – from #100 over to the Pike was known as Church Street, and that whole field beyond Mrs. Archibald du Pont's house was all corn in 1918. It always amused me how different that farming was from regular farming. If you were cultivating a row of corn and the noon whistle blew you dropped your hoe right where you were, got on your horse and took your hour off for lunch. Then you rode him back there, hooked up the cultivator or whatever it was, and started again. Farmers now don't farm that way, but that was the way of doing it then. Bill Betty, as we all called him, walked all over this place. He didn't use a horse or a cart or anything; he just walked with his little fox terrier dog beside him. If you were up there in that field, for instance, cultivating corn, and it was hot and you'd happen to come along the fence row where there was a tree or two, whether you stopped to cool yourself off or your horse, after a while you'd see this little white fox terrier dog come running along and you'd know the boss was coming. That little dog was always about 30 yards ahead of the boss, but he went every place with him.

    Mrs. Pizor questioned the size of the work crew.

    Fell: I would say, roughly, about 20 laborers and about 8 or 10 teamsters. They had the old powder wagons, without the canvas tops, but the same shape as the old Conestoga wagons and they drove string teams to those. String teams were without the shafts, one-wheeler and the horse ahead; three horses one ahead of the other. They were busy all the time. Wilmington was full of livery stables at that time, so their job was to haul the manure out from the livery stables to the farm for fertilizer. There was a big manure pit below the barn, and if they didn't have the time to spread it right on the field they piled it up in the manure pit. There was a fellow named Grover Hayes who drove one of these string teams and he was a cracker-jack at it. He was a mule skinner; he had a big black snake whip and he'd sit back and just crack that whip and never touch a horse. He'd make that whip crack right over his leader's ears, and that horse would be right on his toes.

    Pizor: Were there any other barns beside the one down here?

    Fell: No, just this one. But just at the entrance, right opposite this tree, referring to barn picture, was a little frame single barn with a hayloft up top, a little two-story barn. A fellow named Al Smith, who was one of the regular teamsters, kept his two horses and his wagon and his tack in there. But it was just that and the big barn. The horses were kept down on the lower level, and there was a cobblestone runway that went down to it. This was a very up-to-date farm. They used steam engines for thrashing, but everything else was horse drawn. There weren't any tractors then. Everything on this farm was kept in perfect shape. On a rainy day all the harnesses would be cleaned. When you took your team out they almost looked like show teams. The horses were in beautiful condition – well fed, well taken care of. No mules, all horses. Even the powder carts that ran on the little railroad were pulled by horses. They'd pull the powder from the Upper Yard down to the Rolling Mills. There were double tracks and all day long these horses would go back and forth. They went by themselves. There was one man in the Upper Yard and one man at the Rolling Mill, and those horses would go back and forth between those two men all day long by themselves. They weren't old horses, either, they were well taken care of and good horses. But the whole time I worked down here there never was any runaways. They were horses that weighed anywhere from 1600 to 1800 pounds.

    Wilkinson: I know Mr. Betty was the farm boss, but who in the DuPont Company supervised the farming operation?

    Fell: I really don't know. I never saw anybody come out here to give him any orders. Now, who he reported to, I don't know. He gave all the orders around here. He was a rough customer; he was one of the most foul-mouthed men I ever knew, yet you couldn't take offense to it because it was just his way of talking.

    Pizor: Did you have the feeling while you were here that the farm operation was going to be closed down soon?

    Fell: No, not at all, then. World War I was right in its prime, and they were busy day and night down in the yards. Of course, November 11th the armistice was signed and things began to fold very quickly, but during the summer I was here you just thought it was going on forever. I had almost planned to come back the following summer for a job, but I had to go to R.O.T.C. camp the last summer I was at Delaware College.
    Synopsis: Fell talks about safety risk working with black powder. He describes how DuPont dealt with manpower shortages during World War I. He talks about the barn at Hagley and the crops grown at the DuPont company farms. He describes the location of the fields and recalls the names of old roads. He describes the horse DuPont used in their operation and says that they were well trained and well taken care of. He says that he never had the impression the farms would cease operation soon after 1918.
    Keywords: African Americans; Black powder; Chadds Ford (Pa.); Explosions; Farms; Hagley Yard; Horses; Teamsters; World War (1914-1918)
  • Explosions at Hagley; Layout of the Lower Yard; World War I memories; Interactions with the workers at Hagley
    Partial Transcript: Dr. Wilkinson discussed that before World War I broke out there had been talk of closing down the mills because they were old and obsolete and wondered if Dr. Fell sensed any of this being done when the war was over.

    Fell: I guess I was at the age where I didn't think about that at all. It was just a job for me for the summer time. I had to do it to fulfill my requirements at Delaware, and I was doing something I liked to do. It just never occurred to me. Of course, already there was a big operation over at Deepwater Carney's Point, the smokeless powder. I can well remember when I was a youngster we lived at 9th and Adams, and when that powder plant first started they'd have blows over there. You'd hear a loud explosion, and everything would shake, and you'd run out to the street, look first to Jersey, and then out here to the Yards. If it was Jersey it would be a big white streak of smoke, if it was out here it would be black. I remember hearing about the packing house going up and quite a few men being killed. They withheld a week's pay on you out here, and when I finished the last of August I had to come back to get my last week's pay. My Dad let me have his horse and runabout to come here, and I came around to the back here to a little place which was then the Hagley office. I tied the horse to a telephone pole outside, and while I was in there getting my pay a rolling mill went up. The office was just outside the Yard fence, and the mill was just down over the bank. The old office where the main desk was had windows about two stories high, and they just shattered right down all over the desk. I made a dive for the front door, but it was an unwritten law if a mill went up and you were inside any place you didn't go out because you never knew what might be coming down. So, as I made a dive for the door someone yelled, "Don't you go out there.” I said, "Man, I've got a horse tied up out there and if she goes home without me or I go home without her, it’ s going to be bad." So, I went out and that little mare was just standing there paralyzed. I quickly untied her and just stood there and held her and quieted her, and fortunately there was no debris came up over the bank. But just that quick, with a snap of your fingers, women were coming running from all directions toward the middle gate because when a "blow" came these women weren't sure if someone in their family might be in it. That was the only real "blow" while I had anything to do out here, and as I recall it there wasn't anybody in the rolling mill at the time. I knew very little about the inside of any of these buildings about twenty-five yards apart; down by the iron bridge. They were called pellet presses. They pressed powder into little pills. They were spaced far enough apart so that if one went up it wouldn't set the whole string off. During that summer I worked here, late one afternoon after I had left work, one of these pellet presses went up, and as I was saying, we had these Negro girls working here as laborers, but the next morning there wasn't one of them showed up for work. It was about a week before they could get them to come back to work.

    Wilkinson: The Hagley office at that time was a stone building. It is now a stone house down the road from Christ Church, where the old blacksmith's shop used to be?

    Fell: Yes, that's right. I remember when I came out after my pay I went in there by Christ Church to the office. Of course, at one time this house of Mrs. Paul du Pont's was called the office.

    Scafidi: Did you go home after you finished working?

    Fell: Oh yes, I lived just at 1025 Clayton Street. My dad had given me a little horse, and I would either ride him out or use a little brake cart we had. If it rained I'd use the Rising Sun trolley. I kept my horse at 7th and Van Buren at that time and I had to get up and get my horse and get out here and feed him and have the powder team down in the yard by seven o'clock in the morning.

    Wilkinson: Who was the bookkeeper? And who was in charge of the office?

    Fell: I can't remember. I was only there for the six weeks. You didn't have a chance to talk to anybody. You just went in the upper gates with your wagon, you got down, the guards went all over you to make sure you didn't have any matches on you. Mrs. Crowninshield's house was a police barracks that summer. That was for DuPont police who guarded the yards. There was a fence all around, and it was guarded, and there were guards at the upper gate, the middle gate, the lower gate. You didn’ t go in or out without being searched. We came out the barn with the team right down to Mrs. Crowninshield's house, made a left-hand turn just down a little grade and that was the upper gate. The police knew all the teams and the drivers.

    Wilkinson: On the other side of the barn there is now meadow land. At one time that was a family garden, when the du Ponts lived in the house. We have been told that in World War I it was converted into victory gardens, and the employees around here operated these gardens for their own food supply. Do you know anything about that?

    Fell: I have an idea that was more after World War I; in the depression time. There were no gardens here during the summer of 1918 while the war was going on because that field across from the barn came clear down to Mrs. Crowninshield's house and then there was a dirt road that went in the opposite direction to take you down to Mrs. Crowninshield's house on up toward the Hagley office.

    Dr. Wilkinson showed Dr. Fell some pictures taken of the house when it was being renovated in 1922.

    Fell: No, you see that's all dressed up. This road came right down from the barn almost facing the front door and turned this way and came into the upper gate. Then there was this little dirt road that went up past the Dean property, which at that time was the Nemours property, and that whole field was a corn field. There were no war-time gardens. I just imagine that that was done during the depression years. They had gardens during depression time in that field I mentioned before up by Mrs. Archibald du Pont's house.

    Pizor: Where the Museum building is now, were you ever up in that area?

    Fell: That's what I call the Lower Yard. Oh yes, that was the machine shop and the Museum building was what I guess you called the Keg Shop at that time. Then right up Barley Mill Road the old Hall of Records used to be, and we were often sent from the Yard to haul a load of records from there to someplace. We just hauled the records in the same wagons we hauled coal, etc.; we'd just put a piece of canvas down and haul the records any place they wanted us to.

    Pizor: From some pictures I've seen of the Museum area there were some big, old buildings in the parking lot next to the Museum. Do you remember any of these?

    Fell: It's not too clear to me. The Keg Shop and the Machine Shop were just there along the road at the lower end. Then you came out the lower gates and went around and up Squirrel Run where all the workers lived. Whenever there was a blow the splintered timbers would be put in a pile and the Company would give the workers that for firewood provided they would pay the man's time to haul it after 4:00 in the afternoon. They didn't pay the driver. It was all done in the office, and in your paycheck at the end of the month you'd get so much extra for so many hours somebody had paid you for hauling wood.

    Scafidi: Were you worried about sabotage during the war?

    Fell: No. Not at all. Of course, the Company probably was or there wouldn't have been police men all around.

    Scafidi: Did you ever get inside any of the workmens' homes?

    Fell: Yes. One experience I of these fellows who lived up Squirrel Run had me haul a load of wood for him; they were nice little houses, they had spring houses down underneath in the basement. You'd come down from the outside and here was a little spring house. They were all happy, their homes were the way they wanted them, and they never complained about not getting enough money. They just seemed to be like one big family. I never heard any complaining here on the farm. Most of the fellows on the farm were natives from right around here, there were a couple of Italians; Jimmie Devers was an Irishman, John Comaranowas an Italian I remember. There was one Negro who worked on the farm and I don't know what his first or last name was, but everyone called him Driggins. He was always just as happy as he could be; he was just a laborer. I didn't notice that the Irish predominated. Most all of the men were born and raised here, probably came from Irish descent. Now, Bill Betty had two boys, Buck, who was William, Jr. and George, and they are plasterers here in Wilmington. His, daughter was Dr. W.O. LaMotte's nurse for years and years and years, then after he quit practicing she went with Dr. Mayerberg; she still went by the name of Miss Betty. She was born and raised right here at Hunter's Corner. I'm not sure whether or not one of the Betty boys passed away, but the Betty Bros. plastering business is still in operation. Bill Betty had a brother Bob, who drove a team down in the powder yard and he lived right up at Rock Springs, in the stone house where Mrs. Draper lives on the Rockland Road going from Montchanin over into Rockland, up back of Mrs. Louisa Carpenter's place. When you turn right there at Kirk Road (they used to call it Campbell Road) right after you cross over the tracks at Montchanin you turn right. It's right beyond that antique shop, and as you go over the railroad again and come up the grade back of Dilwyn is Louisa Carpenter's place, and on the left-hand side after you pass Dilwyn Farm, is what is known as Rock Spring. And that little stone gate house right out on the edge of the road is where Bill Betty's brother Bob used to live. The DuPont Company farmed that ground clear up to that road. Clear up to where Winterthur started.

    Wilkinson: We are interested in the acreage under cultivation. Down Route#100, and here, and up toward the Rockland Road...

    Fell: I never knew. I wasn't a good judge of how much acreage they had.

    Pizor: Was there any special reason they sold some of this? I think you said the hay went for the horses, but the grain was taken up to the mill at Chadds Ford.

    Fell: It would have to be milled into flour anyway. I never remember them to have any surplus hay to sell. The wheat was the only thing I can remember them selling. Of course, they might have if I'd been here with them through the winter and into the spring. I was just here that summer. I always felt the farm was more or less a necessity and not something to make any money out of. It was more profitable to raise their own food for the horses that they used in the yards.
    Synopsis: Fell describes a powder explosion he was present for. He talks about how he would go to and from work. Fell describes what he remembers about the layout of Hagley's Lower Yard. He talks about some of the powder men he knew and time spent in the worker's villages around Hagley.
    Keywords: Black Powder; Explosions; Gardens; Hagley Yard; Horses; Lower Yard; Safety; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Street-railroads; Wages; World War (1914-1918)
  • Operations at Hagley Yard; The R.O.T.C. and Student Army Training Corps
    Partial Transcript: Wilkinson: Had you ever heard any talk that there had been planning to introduce little steam engines to pull powder carts through the yards?

    Fell: No, I never heard anything about that.

    Wilkinson: Were the horses shod with any special kind of horseshoes?

    Fell: No, just the regular kind. The horses that pulled the powder wagons had rubber pads on their feet, but the other horses had just regular steel shoes. The wagon that Charlie Godfrey drove, what we called the powder wagon, was all lined with canvas and the whole body was put together with wooden pegs. He was the one who hauled the bags of loose powder. He was carrying the powder when it was at the stage more highly explosive than other times.

    Wilkinson: We have been told that just outside of the powder mills the track was wood rather than metal so that in loading or unloading if any powder got dumped or spilled there wouldn't be the danger of it exploding. Do you know if this is true?

    Fell: No.

    Wilkinson: Did you ever observe the men operating a rolling mill? What they did?

    Fell: No. As I said, every place you went there were "No Trespassing" signs and you minded your own business. I didn't get into any of the places other than inside some of the magazines when we were loading and unloading onto the cars. When the doors were open we could look in and it was just like a big storeroom. These cans or cases were just stacked in there, and you just backed up, and they'd put them in your wagon. You'd go on up the siding and back up to a railroad car, and then pack them in a railroad car and that was it.

    Wilkinson: Did the people working in the magazines have woolen stockings pulled up over their shoes?

    Fell: No. There actually wasn't anyone working in there. They just stored the powder there and the door was closed and locked and there was nobody who stayed there all the time. You were told to go to a certain place and by the time you got there someone was there to open the door. Other than the fact that the people who loaded the wagons had wooden peg shoes or like tennis shoes on, there was no difference.

    Wilkinson: When they rolled these 25-pound cans of powder onto your wagon, we've been told they rolled them on a wet carpet.

    Fell: No. They didn't roll them on, they carried them on. That must have been in earlier days, because they just walked in and picked them up and stacked them in the wagons. They started out being very careful at first, but after a while they'd just drop one of those cans on top of the other and go on and pick up another one to load. There was a siding that came in at the upper end of the Yard just off from the Montchanin tracks, and a car would be right inside the yard, and it would be loaded right there. From the magazine into our wagon, we'd haul it to this siding and back up and it would be loaded right into the freight car. There were magazines scattered all over the other side of the creek, and sometimes we'd have to go over the old iron bridge and bring it back (near Louviers and up where Pete du Pont lives and down in the hollow that used to be Mrs. "Essie" du Pont Weir - there was a magazine there right at the foot of the hill just off to the left as you turn to bear right to turn to her house - that was later converted into a three or four car garage).

    Wilkinson: As far as we know that side of the creek was only used for powder making during World War I.

    Fell: When I was out there they weren't manufacturing any powder on the other side of the bridge. It was simply used for storage in these magazines. All the manufacturing was done on this side of the creek at that time.

    Pizor : Did men work during the evening also?

    Fell: Our day was 7 to 4 and all after 4:00 in the afternoon you got time-and-a-half for any time you worked. I never worked later than 7:00 any night, but some of those mills were going day and night, and of course the men in the mills worked shift work. It was just a day's work; nobody talked much about the war. I was probably more interested in it than anyone else, because I knew the following summer I had to go to R.O.T.C. camp. We'd eat our lunch and joke and talk and maybe stretch out under a tree for 10 or 15 minutes, but they didn't talk much about the war.

    Wilkinson: What about deferments?

    Fell: Most of those men who worked on the farm, other than us kids that worked during the summer were past draft age. I guess the draft age was 18 to 35. I was right in it, because of being in the R.O.T.C. at Delaware and in the fall of 1918 the government took over the R.0.T.C. and made what they called a Student Army Training Corps, so I was a chemical engineer for six weeks after I went back to Delaware that fall because the government decided they didn’ t need agricultural specialists. But then came November, and armistice was signed and that was the first thing cut off - the Student Army Training Corps.
    Synopsis: Fell describes some of the safety measures from Hagley Yard. Fell says he was in the R.O.T.C. and the Student Army Training Corps during World War I, which, according to Fell, was the first program shut down following the armistice.
    Keywords: Hagley Yard; R.O.T.C.; Safety; Student Army Training Corps; Wages; World War (1914-1918)
  • Contact with members of the du Pont family; What happened after Hagley Yard closed down; Changing uses of Eleutherian Mills; Coworkers at Hagley
    Partial Transcript: Wilkinson: Did you ever have any contact with members of the du Pont family?

    Fell: Not while I was working here, but after I started veterinary practice I had the privilege of knowing a number of them personally.

    Scafidi: Did you ever hear of any young du Ponts working their way up through the yards?

    Fell: Some of the old fellows used to talk about Mr. Victor du Pont. I guess he was quite a character and apparently some of the others didn't associate with the laborers like he did. I knew him very well after I got into practice and did work for Mrs. du Pont. He was a yard foreman at one time. He started in and worked his way up. But he was sort of the black sheep of the family and said what he wanted and did what he wanted. His widow is still living; Mrs. du Pont is in very poor health. In fact, I think she has been bedridden for a couple of years now. This Victor was the father of the present Mrs. Henry Belin du Pont.

    Dr. Wilkinson discussed Dan Shields of Greenville with Dr. Fell and told him of Mr. Shield's desire to have the Foundation reconstruct a little office building that used to be down at the foot of the road just below the Upper Yard gate. This was where Mr. Victor apparently had his office. "So, we are interested in hearing more about Mr. Victor du Pont?"

    Fell: Well, as I say, he was quite a character. I expect Mrs. Belin du Pont - whom I have known ever since she was a little girl, could tell you all about her dad. She was quite a horse woman.

    Wilkinson: Alfred I. du Pont is spoken of with a great deal of affection by some of the men who worked in the mills while he was superintendent. Did you ever hear any stories of Alfred I? Or anything about him as a personality?

    Fell: He was peculiar and of course he was another of those who said what he thought. Of course in later years he was at loggerheads with the rest of the family and pulled out. The story was that when he was asked why he built the wall up there with the glass on it, he said, "To keep some of the G-d du Ponts out of here."

    Wilkinson: We've heard that.

    Fell: He was quite a character and of course I don't really remember him. He had that foreign car that his chauffeur took him back and forth to town in. He used to have an old dog who rode right up in the front seat with him, and the story is that the dog is buried over there in the crypt in the monument with him.

    Wilkinson: Under the carillon tower?

    Fell: Yes. It was a stray that he picked up and kept, and it was in his will that the dog was to be buried with him. The dog died shortly after he died.

    Pizor: The dog was blind in one eye.

    Wilkinson: You don't recall any other contacts or associations with the family here.

    Fell: You were speaking of contact. Mr. Alfred I. had a coachman named Newman, an old English coachman, and Newman's daughter is like Miss Betty. She is still Miss Newman, but that isn't her name now. I don't know what her name is, but she is Dr. C. W. Johnson's nurse (dentist, at 828 Washington Street). Miss Newman is still with Dr. Johnson. Her father was coachman and in later years chauffeur for Alfred I. She still lives right up on the old Murphy Road (beyond the wall - that short stretch that runs up toward the Concord Pike there).

    Wilkinson: And she is still Miss Newman? She didn't marry?

    Fell: Yes, she is a Mrs. Somebody, but everybody knows her as Miss Newman. Because if you call Dr. Johnson's office you say Miss Newman, she'll say, "Yes."

    Wilkinson: He's a dentist you say. Do you folks have some more questions to put to Dr. Fell?

    Scafidi: Were you still in the general area when the mills closed down?

    Fell: Yes.

    Scafidi: I'd like to know what people did who worked here when the end came.

    Fell: Well, I guess just faded away. Some of them just stayed here - they belonged here -and there was some talk of what was going to happen to them when they started remodeling some of the houses down at Henry Clay where some of the mill workers lived. I think a good many of them were taken in by members of the family. I think S. Hallock du Pont probably took in quite a few of them who had lived in Squirrel Run, found something for them to do, because he took in that lower section of the yard you know, and most of them - you've run across a lot of them - are still around this neighborhood. If it's home to you, you stay there because most of those people were deep-rooted right here. They weren't travelers who just went from place to place. They didn't know any place else.

    Pizor: When the yards closed, what happened to the farm? Did you ever hear?

    Fell: Well, you see what has happened to it. Of course the yard was split up in sections: Mr. Carpenter got this upper end, Soda House; Mrs. Crowninshield got the middle; I guess the Copeland's got some; Simpson Dean got some; and members of the family were split up that way. I imagine the ground off beyond that maybe belonged to the Company: I don't know whether the farm part was sold and divvied up.

    Wilkinson: We've been told that it wasn't given to the members of the family - they purchased it.

    Fell: Yes, I imagine so and that is how the Foundation has gradually come about. Where Bobby Carpenter lives, "Wagoner's Row,” there used to be a row of stone houses where the wagoners, the fellows who hauled the powder in the old Conestoga wagons, lived. That was known as Wagoner's Row. It stood right along the old Rising Sun car line that ran diagonally through the woods. When Bobby fell heir to that property and built his home there he called it "Wagoner's Row." He has the old Conestoga wagon with the mules on the sign.

    Wilkinson: The wagoners used to be the most elite of the laboring force, we have been told. They had the most precarious kind of job and hazardous and so on, and they were given these houses partly in recognition of that. I guess their wages were better and they had helpers to do the real hard physical work. Did you get this impression from the wagoner of your time, or had that breed passed on?

    Fell: We got 15¢ an hour more.

    Wilkinson: But in your time the long-haul transportation was all by railroad or boat. Were the docks on the Delaware River still operated by DuPont? Did they ship off of Edge Moor dock at that time?

    Fell: I don't think so.

    Wilkinson: How about Middleboro? There was a dock down at Middleboro. Was that functioning at that time? 1918?

    Fell: I don’ t know much about that. The old Wilson Line from Philadelphia to Wilmington was still functioning at that time, clear up into the 20's.

    Wilkinson: Both freight and passengers?

    Fell: Yes.

    Wilkinson: If a load of powder was going down to South America or Central America from the mills, how would that be put on board ship? Where?

    Fell: I would just kind of imagine Marcus Hook.

    Wilkinson: Now that you mention it, that was a third shipping point.

    Fell: I imagine they would try to get it with the shortest shipping possible. Get if off their hands as quickly as possible. Well, we would think Edge Moor would be the most direct but by that time Wilmington had probably grown so much...I don't think at that time the port was functioning at Edge Moor.

    Wilkinson: This second office - Mrs. E. Paul du Pont's home - in 1918 that was a private residence, and were the E. Paul du Pont's living there at that time?

    Fell: Yes.

    Wilkinson: They've been there quite a time then haven't they? Did you know either of them?

    Fell: I just had occasion in later years to know Mrs. E. Paul. I did some small animal work for her but never came to feel that I knew her very well. I knew Mrs. Irenee very well, Mrs. A. Felix, and did work for all of Mr. Lammot's family. That was the first family as they were growing up. I didn't know the first Mrs. Lammot or the second. I knew the third, though. I knew Mrs. Irenee very well. She was just a wonderful person. Their children grew up, and I've known most of them since they were children. Mrs. Silliman is still living in her mother's home and Mrs. Bredin, and Mrs. Darden, Mrs. Rusk, Mrs. May, they were all just a very wonderful, democratic family.

    Wilkinson: They have been animal lovers I take it by family tradition.

    Fell: Mrs. Irenee was the animal lover, Mr. Irenee wasn't very much. Now, Mrs. Rodney Sharp was quite an animal lover, and Mrs. R.R.M. Carpenter was a great animal lover.

    Wilkinson: Were the men too busy running the business do you think?

    Fell: I don’ t know. I know Mrs. Irenee had some black Manchester terrier dogs that she thought were awful nice. Mr. Irenee always spoke of them as the black demons. They were yappers.

    Wilkinson: You know that Mrs. S. Hallock du Pont has a special breed of Clumber spaniels?

    Fell: Yes, they have always been for the sporting dog with the Labradors, the Springers and Cockers and Clumbers. Mrs. Hallock du Pont is a very fine woman too. She is very much interested in our Wilmington Kennel Club you know. She has quite a kennel up here at the lower end of the yard.

    Pizor: When the house was a police barracks was it the same as you see now, or was it larger - things that went with the clubhouse, it might have had an extension.

    Fell: No, it looked very much - I just question whether these wings were on it in 1918. Were they? (early illustration of Eleutherian Mills home)

    Wilkinson: Yes, this upper wing, or rather downstream wing, we think, was built early in the 1800's and this one up here, the upstream wing, was built in the 1850's. We have been told that in the 1890's when this was converted into the Brandywine Workmen's Clubhouse after a bad explosion the family got out - they rebuilt it and made it a clubhouse, there was a building, and I suppose frame, built on this lower side where they had a recreation room, library, pool table, shuffleboard court, etc. Now there is nothing of that type showing in 1918.

    Fell: I don't recall that at all. It was a very plain building standing there. Of course, when you faced it, it was so early in the morning that maybe you were only half awake. We only had a short distance to go right down the grade you turned immediately to our left, right at the foot of that house. As I say that was the police barracks, and there wasn't anybody around there but policemen. I guess they slept there. They must have. Used it for dormitories I suppose. I was never in it at that time. I wasn't in it until after I was practicing when I did some work for Mrs. Crowninshield. I came out to see her parrot one time.

    Wilkinson: Oh! did you take care of her parrot?

    Fell: Anything from a gold fish to an elephant.

    Wilkinson: Does the name Clower ring any reminiscences as being associated with the house during your time?

    Fell: No, the name rings a bell but I can't place it.

    Wilkinson: Do you recall the names of any of your working associates?

    Fell: There was a little old fellow named George Cleaver. He drove the one horse special delivery wagon. He worked in the yard all the time. It was just a one-horse open wagon, and he made trips back and forth to town and special errands. Al Smith had the private stable right next to the big farm yard, then there was another fellow named Bill Smith who worked on the farm and he lived down in one of those stone houses outside the yard, toward Henry Clay.

    Wilkinson: That was known as Pigeon Row to you or Stone Block?

    Fell: Yes. Grover Hayes drove one of the string teams; Frank Lutton drove a powder team and Charlie Godfrey, an older man, drove the black powder wagon. It was put together with wooden pegs.

    Wilkinson: We have interviewed Mr. Godfrey.

    Fell: Have you? Is he still living?

    Wilkinson: Well, he was, back about 1958 or 1959.

    Fell: I haven't seen Charlie since I left here. George Cleaver, who drove the one-horse wagon for years, lived just above me on Clayton Street. Several years after I worked here I bumped into him and asked him where he lived, and he said, "Right up the street from you."

    Wilkinson: Is he the one who would pick up the mail and bring it out, and did he do errands on the way for members of the family? We have been told that this kind of practice was carried on.

    Fell: He was kind of a special delivery man. He didn’ t spend much time here although one time he was coming up through the yard - I don't know whether it was when the packing house blew up or what - but he was coming up through the yard on his way up to the barn, and it knocked his horse down and threw him off his wagon. It didn't hurt him or injure the horse. That was the closest shave I know he'd had up to that time.
    Synopsis: Fell says he had no contacts with members of the du Pont family when he worked at Hagley, but he knew many of them after he became a vet. He talks about some of the stories he's heard about Alfred I. du Pont. Fell talks about what happened to powder yard workers after the mills closed. Fell talks about providing veterinary services to members of the du Pont family. Fell talks about the time when Eleutherian Mills was used as a police barracks. He says he helped Louise du Pont Crowninshield take care of her parrot. Fell names and talks about his co-workers at Hagley.
    Keywords: Crowninshield, Louise du Pont, 1877-1958; du Pont family; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Du Pont, S. Hallock (Samuel Hallock), 1901-1974; Du Pont, Victor, 1882-1943; Eleutherian Mills (Greenville, Del. : Estate); Veterinarians; Wagoner's Row (Del.: Village)
  • Leisure and taverns; Weather; Alfred I. du Pont's glass-topped wall; Firefighting
    Partial Transcript: Pizor: Was that a stable by the old blacksmith shop coming down from Christ Church? We have been told that there might have been a stable there.

    Wilkinson: That would be below the Hagley Yard office on the other side of the road.

    Fell: Not to my knowledge. Not in my time. There was a saloon up there at the corner - Lawless' Saloon - at what we used to call Church Street. It's part of the school, St. Joe's now.

    Scafidi: What did people do in their spare time after they got off from work?

    Fell: They didn't have any spare time. There was really no planned recreation. You didn't hear of them going out and having ball games at night or things like that. There was very little means of transportation, and if they wanted to go to town - they didn't have automobiles – they used horses and carriages. If they wanted to, they could use the old car line. The last car on the Rising Sun car line came out about 11:00 at night. You had your work, and your church furnished the entertainment in those days.

    Scafidi: Did they ever go out for a short beer?

    Fell: I don't know.

    Wilkinson: The taverns right along the creek road - we understood there were maybe two or three at different times.

    Fell: Of course the Henry Clay was quite a noted tavern at that time. The old building is still there. I forget who operated that.

    Wilkinson: Does the name Blakeley mean anything?

    Fell: Blakeley - Jeff Blakeley. Of course, a lot of the people who worked in the yard also lived there on Breck's Lane. All those houses that Chick Laird has renovated in recent years.

    Wilkinson: What was going on at Breck's Mill at this time - 1918?

    Fell: As far as I know it was closed down. I don't believe they were using Breck's Mill at all at that time.

    Wilkinson: Not as a social center for the people of the community?

    Fell: No, that came along in later years.

    Wilkinson: The Tancopanican Band. Did you ever hear of that? It was one of those local musical groups that Alfred I. apparently founded. But it possibly folded before 1918. Do you recall the mills ever being shut down for high water, low water, the creek frozen over?

    Fell: No. Prior to the time I worked here I had no contact with anything here. I knew the powder mill and the powder yard were here, but I didn't know a thing about it. I knew about the surrounding country because I was born and raised here. People seemed to take things like that in their stride. If the mills did close down, you wouldn't get big headlines in the Wilmington paper that the mills were flooded, or anything like that. If they were flooded, well they painted them up and went back to work. They didn't seem to publicize so much of this stuff like they do today.

    Pizor: If the farm crop was unusually heavy one year did they bring up some of the powder men to help with the farming?

    Fell: I would say no.

    Pizor: Just the opposite. If the powder business was heavy they would send the farm help down.

    Fell: They knew what they were planting, and if you had a particularly heavy crop of hay, why, the same number of men had to handle it just the same. And the same way with your wheat, etc. One man on a binder. Of course, in those days the binder wasn't mechanized at all. They were all horse-drawn.

    Scafidi: How about men who were past the age where they wanted to work in the mills. No social security, retirement benefits. What did they do with them?

    Fell: I imagine they had a pension system. I don't know.

    Wilkinson: It started fairly early. I don't recall the dates, I think pre-World War I there was some provision.

    Fell: I think when I was out here there was some facility for the regular employees for pension.

    Wilkinson: You don't think they moved them out on to the farm to do tasks of easier work?

    Fell: No.

    Wilkinson: Did you ever hear the term "Never-sweats" applied to any workers around here?

    Fell: No. Were they some people that worked down here?

    Wilkinson: Well, the story we picked up is, there was a group of masons - now of course when a mill blew and had to be rebuilt or work of that type they were busy men. But for long stretches of the time they apparently had nothing really to do so they had them building stone walls on du Pont property, and the other workmen apparently thought they had a pretty soft snap. And the term "Never-sweat" was applied to them. I didn't know whether in 1918 this was a term in....

    Fell: No, I never heard that before, but my next-door neighbor is Ed Smyth who lives right there at 28 Paschall Rd. His father was a contractor and built that wall for Alfred I. Ed was just a boy at that time, and he had to break up the glass to put on the top of the wall. They brought in the glass bottles, and he had to put them in a barrel and take a crow bar or sledge hammer to break up the glass for the top of that wall.

    Wilkinson: Well, we heard the story that the contractor Smith was originally from Maryland.

    Fell: No, they are from 40 Acres here in Wilmington. They spell it Smyth, but everyone knew the old man as Jim Smith. When the boys went down to Delaware they were Smyth but now that they are out of school they are Smith again.

    Wilkinson: What we heard was that when Alfred I. told him, Mr. Smith, that he wanted the wall built in such a way with the glass on top, and that Mr. Smith demurred, tried to talk him out of it, and Alfred replied something to the effect, "Well, God damn it, if you won't do it, I'll do it myself. Or I'll get somebody else to do it." So this reflects Alfred I. I think.

    Fell: Well, as I say, he was a character. Now, this didn't come from Ed Smith to me because he wouldn't admit it, but another chap was telling me that when this Jim Smith was doing that work Alfred I. was out there, and he said, "Who does that truck belong to?" to one helper and he answered, "It belongs to Jim Smith." About a week later he saw another one. "Who does that truck belong to?" "Jim Smith." And he said, "Well you just fire him. We'll get a new contractor. He's getting too many new trucks."

    Wilkinson: Do you recall any choice stories or anecdotes of powder yard or barn relevancy?

    Fell: The character of the whole thing was our boss, Betty, he was the only one of his kind. You just couldn't repeat a lot of the things he said.

    Wilkinson: We've picked up ghost stories here and there from old time powder men which they had heard, I guess, and I suppose associated with the powder operation. And they would, in the course of time, develop a certain amount of folk lore - tales of various types, either other worldly or under-worldly, you never heard any of these?

    Fell: No. I used to hear some funny stories. I didn't mention that they had one crew of two men and three horses that pulled the pump wagon. You see, all these people who lived and worked on the property had no inside plumbing in their houses; they all had outhouses. The job of this team, day in and day out, was going around pumping out these outhouses. The night soil, as they called it, was hauled out over the fields for fertilizer, and that went on day in and day out. That was their only way of sanitation.

    Wilkinson: Was the little building down below the barn known as the lime house? The company kept a quantity of lime there and the work people could get their own lime and make whitewash.

    Fell: Yes, they used that lime, too, when they pumped out these wells because they didn't have septic tanks like they have today. They were just like wells. They had pumps and they were hand pumped.

    Wilkinson: What was the water supply system? Do you recall?

    Fell: Spring water.

    Wilkinson: There are a lot of springs on the property. Was there a reservoir up here on the Carpenter property in your time.

    Fell: Yes.

    Wilkinson: The water was pumped from the creek to the reservoir?

    Fell: Now here in the barn (in the lower barn) there is a big watering trough. There was water that just ran there all the time. A natural spring.

    Wilkinson: Some of our people often fill bottles at the spring down by the quarry, at the bottom of the road. Fire fighting. Never had any experience with this of course?

    Fell: I don't know what their fire fighting equipment was. They kept it under cover pretty well. I never saw anything down in the yard when I was down there.

    Wilkinson: There were local fire companies that could be called in Talleyville. Was that in existence?

    Fell: No. You see, at that time Wilmington was volunteer. I can well remember when all the fire engines were horse-drawn. The old Reliance down at 4th and Pine was the first automobile fire engine in Wilmington. And it was still volunteer at that time. Out in the country fire fighting mostly was done by lodges and granges. Not much of a volunteer system. If there was a barn fire the neighbors came from far and near and organized a bucket brigade to try and put it out. I don't know when our really organized volunteer fire department first came into existence.
    Synopsis: Fell talks about what the powder men did in their spare time. He says that he cannot recall the mills shutting down for inclement weather, but says people took that in stride then. He talks about Alfred I. du Pont's glass-topped stone wall. Fell talks about how DuPont managed the water and sanitation needs of the workers at Hagley. He talks about firefighting at Hagley and in Wilmington.
    Keywords: Blakeley's tavern; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Fire fighting; Floods; Hagley Community House (Breck's Mill); Henry Clay (Del.: Village); Ice; Lesiure; Sanitation; Tancopanican Band; Water; Weather
  • Barn burnings along the Brandywine; Miscellaneous memories about Hagley Yard
    Partial Transcript: Wilkinson: Have you ever heard of accounts of the stories of the "Barn burners" here in the Brandywine area?

    Fell: Oh, yes.

    Wilkinson: Can you tell us anything about the "Barn burners."

    Fell: No, I can't tell you anything specific. That thing just ran in sprees. They'd go around and burn barns right and left. Sometimes they would catch them - sometimes they couldn't.

    Wilkinson: What was the motivation behind this? Did you ever hear?

    Fell: Just firebugs. They apparently liked the sight of a fire.

    Wilkinson: At one time there were about 4 or 5 Company-owned barns went up in about two to three years' time. Did you ever hear the story of this and what may have motivated this?

    Fell: I heard that Mr. Irenee didn't carry fire insurance on any of his barns at Granogue. He established his own insurance company because he said it would just be prohibitive, and he put away what he thought he would have to pay in insurance premiums and, touch wood, he always seemed to be pretty lucky - nobody seemed to have any grudge against him.

    Wilkinson: Well, that was the Company policy as you know. Regular insurance companies would not insure powder companies and quite early they set aside a certain percentage of profits to act as an insurance fund for rebuilding.

    Scafidi: I was just wondering, you get sent down from the farm to the mills. Did you have to change shoes?

    Fell: No, because I was a teamster and I wasn't supposed to get off the wagon. As long as I didn't have the proper kind of shoes I was prohibited from going in the mills anyway. There was no question about it. I never thought to ask any questions, "Is there any special insurance I get for going down there?" I was told to go down there, and one morning when I came to work, you take your team and follow so-and-so down to the yard and I just did it, that was all. Just part of the job.

    Scafidi: Do you recall how the mills were lighted at night?

    Fell: No, it was summer time, and the latest I worked down in the yard was seven o'clock, one night, and it was just dusk - still light. I know there was electricity here in the barn but I was never down in the yard after dark.

    Wilkinson: Was the charcoal house operating during your time or was charcoal being brought in from outside?

    Fell: I think it was being brought in from the outside.

    Wilkinson: This is on the steep road right below the barn going down to the upper yard gate. That building still stands. Was it simply a storage area?

    Fell: Don't know. Never saw anything going in or coming out of it.

    Wilkinson: The refinery was functioning?

    Fell: Oh yes, the refinery was functioning.

    Wilkinson: Did you know anything about the refinery operation? Did you ever get into that area?

    Fell: Never knew a thing about what went on. I would see wooden boxes, and they would say these are grenades, or these are pellets. Other than that, how it was done or anything else, well you didn't get in to see the process. I just simply knew the scenery, that was all.

    Wilkinson: By the time your summer was coming to an end, you had no feeling that you would like to be a permanent employee to do this kind of work?

    Fell: I was just betwixt and between. I didn't know I was going to be a veterinarian. I got so provoked when my oldest boy who was in junior high school didn't know what he wanted to do, and Frank Heald told me there was something wrong with him - a boy in junior high school should have his life planned. Man, you are crazy. I graduated from high school, went to Delaware College, studied agriculture and ended up a veterinarian. I had no idea when I graduated from high school that I was going to be a veterinarian. The son is now operating his grandfather's business on 4th Street and I know he didn't think he was going to do that in junior high school.

    Wilkinson: Well, do you think we canvassed your working career out here?

    Fell: I think I have told you pretty near everything I know.

    Wilkinson: Your memory is excellent Dr. Fell. That's 50 years ago. It's remarkable that you can recall these details and names. Names have a way of fading for most of us. Do you ever meet any people who were working out here?

    Fell: No. I used to go down, when Dad was living, to pick him up and this fellow I mentioned, Frank Lutton, used to come walking out 4th Street and just stop there while I was waiting for my Dad, and pass the time of day. I used to see George Cleaver every once in a while, but they're about the only ones. Of course, I would see Bill Betty, some called him Beatty, and before he died he went stone blind. He lived with his two boys over there in Lancaster Village and I used to see him occasionally. He was a brother to J. Elmer Betty, the florist.

    Wilkinson: I think we ought to try to talk to the sons - or one of the sons.

    Fell: Yes, they grew up here as kids, and they trailed around after their father. They were here summer and winter and went to school, but they would know a lot more about the year round operation than I would.

    Wilkinson: You may have told us where they lived.

    Fell: Right here at Hunter's Corner at the old stone tavern. They lived in the upper end of it and Jake Hoover, and I don't know who the third family was, there were three families lived there and it was split up - a long house cut into three parts, all under the same roof.

    Wilkinson: We have run across the name Jake Hoover before as wagoner. In fact, I think we have a photograph of him.

    Fell: I think he was probably a wagoner in his early days, but when I was here he was promoted to night man and stable man. As I say, he already had the feed and hay in for the horses, and then he came in I guess about four in the morning, cleaned out the stables and put the harness on the horses. When you arrived, your horses were already harnessed and all you had to do was hook up the wagon and get out.

    Wilkinson: Usually around barns and stables there are dogs. Were there dogs here then?

    Fell: No, the only dog was Bill's own dog who went every place he went.

    Wilkinson: There is a little spot down below the barn where Mrs. Crowninshield buried her pet dogs. She has little markers there.

    Fell: Mrs. Crowninshield has always been a great animal lover you know.

    Wilkinson: Well, Dr. Fell this has been a good session and we have picked up a tremendous lot of information on areas on which we were a little weak.

    Fell: Well, I hope there has been something about it that you could use. We were over at Mrs. MacDonald's one night, and we were talking about the country around here. I happened to mention that I drove a team down in the powder yard for six weeks one summer, and of course she and Mr. MacDonald were very much interested.
    Synopsis: Fell talks about DuPont barns being intentionally burned down. Fell talks about some miscellaneous memories from working at Hagley. He also discusses his job and education.
    Keywords: Arson; Barns; Brandywine Creek; Charcoal; Disputes; Firefighting; Fires; Hagley Yard; Labor; Wagoners; Work

Digitized material in this online archive may document imagery or language that reflects racist, ableist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive and harmful beliefs and actions in history. Hagley Library is engaged in ongoing efforts to address and responsibly present evidence of oppression and injustice in our collections. If you are concerned about the archival material presented here, or want to learn more about our ongoing work, please contact us at