Interview with Emily Peoples Blackwell, 1970 July 6 [audio]

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  • Family's Irish origins and living in Squirrel Run, Del.; Family and siblings; Explosions at Hagley; Ice skating on the Brandywine; Sledding
    Synopsis: Blackwell talks about her family's Irish origins. She lists her siblings' names and talks about her mother's side of the family. She describes her memories of an explosion at the powder yards and her family members that worked at Hagley. She talks about ice skating on the Brandywine and sledding on Breck's lane. She lists the names of the other families that lived in Squirrel Run.
    Keywords: Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Belfast, Ireland; Brandywine Creek; County Donegal, Ireland; Du Pont, S. Hallock (Samuel Hallock), 1901-1974; Family; Hagley Yard; Ice skating; Immigration; Ireland; Keyes’ Hill; Siblings; Sledding; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Swamp Hall (Henry Clay, Del.: Dwelling); Swamp Lily Room
    Transcript: Mrs. Emily Blackwell, who formerly lived in Squirrel Run interviewed by J. A. Hinsley and Mary Sam Ward on July 6, 1970.

    Hinsley: I would like to know about your living on Squirrel Run and how your family happened to come there.

    Blackwell: Well, my father was a powder worker and my mother and father were born in Ireland. My mother was born in County Donegal. My father was born in Kilamacrennan (Sp) near Belfast in Ireland and my father came over first with his sister to visit his sister. My mother met him and they were married and my father went to work for the du Ponts as a powderman and we all went to Alexis I. du Pont School. And we had lovely times in Squirrel Run.

    Hinsley: You said you all went to Alexis I. How many of you were there?

    Blackwell: Well, all the Protestants went to Alexis I. and the Catholics went to St. Joseph's and we were all like one big family. We just loved living up in Squirrel Run and many a happy day we had there.

    Hinsley: How many brothers and sisters did you have?

    Blackwell: Six brothers and one sister. And we were all born in Squirrel Run except one. My sister who was born in Squirrel Run was six or seven months old when she left there and my father and mother moved down to the Highlands on Woodlawn Avenue. They built a couple of houses there and we moved down there. My sister doesn't remember Squirrel Run because she was so young but the rest of us do. Then I had a brother born down on Woodlawn. Avenue, my youngest brother, Austin and he passed away about two years ago.

    Hinsley: Now, what year were you born?

    Blackwell: I was born in 1887, November 15.

    Hinsley: Then you knew Miss Beacom whom we have interviewed?

    Blackwell: Oh, I knew Miss Elizabeth Beacom very well. The Beacom family lived real close to us and she is a good friend of mine.

    Ward: Now, could you give us the names of your brothers and sisters.

    Blackwell: Yes. My oldest brother is John C., my next is Robert J., Edgar D., Ernest J., William H., Jesse A., and Austin T.

    Hinsley: It isn't easy when you have that many.

    Blackwell: Did you get my name?

    Hinsley: No, we didn't.

    Blackwell: My name was Emily Mary Peoples.

    Ward: And your father's name was?

    Blackwell: My father's name was Robert and my mother's was Mary Ann McElhinney.

    Ward: Now, could you tell us a little about her family?

    Blackwell: Mother's family? Well, my mother’ s brother married my father's sister and he worked for the DuPont Company and he was blown up in the Powder Works.

    Ward: What was his name?

    Blackwell: His name was Robert McElhinney.

    Hinsley: Now, would that have been the explosion of 1890?

    Blackwell: It may have been, I'm not sure.' Don't quote me, I'm not sure.

    Hinsley: I said 1890 because I know there was a large explosion....

    Blackwell: I don't remember the year but I remember the explosion very well because we all ran out of the house and ran up on the hill and it broke lots of glass in the windows of the houses. We ran over the Diamond Bridge and up the hill, to the top of the hill....you could see a little smoke but you couldn't see anything, because they had a high wooden fence around the powder mill and no one could get in, no one could get near the powder works.

    Ward: Do you know what job your uncle had?

    Blackwell: No, I don't know what job he had but I know he worked in the powder mill and that's all I can tell you. And then I had another uncle worked in the powder mill, Emil Krauss. He worked in the powder, down in Hagley and then I had another uncle, my father’ s brother, he worked in the tin shop. I forget what they called it but it is just as you enter Hagley, that building there. My uncle John Peoples worked there; that was my father's brother. Robert McElhinney was my mother's brother. He married Hannah Peoples.

    Ward: I believe you said one of your relatives lived in the yellow house under the bridge.

    Blackwell: Yes. well before my aunt moved into that yellow house a family lived there for years named Miller and they lived in that yellow house and the railroad track ran right across in front of the yellow house that was right under McConnell's Bridge. Right across from the Hall of Records and that big yellow house. It was quite a large house. The Millers lived there for years and then my aunt, Mrs. Krauss, Emil Krauss' family moved into there and they lived over....before they moved into that house, they lived over on Walker's Banks. That's across the creek, right across the creek, that's where they used to live.

    Ward: Now, how did you get over the creek?

    Blackwell: Well, paddled with a paddle. We didn't row. We had a little boat and paddled across there, to my aunt's. And we went ice skating from Hagley Museum down to Breck's Mill. We would ice skate on that part of the "crick" and we had a lovely time.

    Hinsley: I've read about some of the du Pont children skating during the winter on the ice.

    Blackwell: I'm sure you did. And then Alfred I.'s home and Bessie G. - Gardner - was right up on Breck's Lane.

    Hinsley: What was it they called that home, do you remember?

    Blackwell: Swamp Hall.

    Ward: And what about coasting in the winter?

    Blackwell: Oh, coasting in the winter. We coasted down Squirrel Run from the top of Squirrel Run all the way down almost to Hagley and our father made our homemade sleds for us and some of them were called runners and the runner was a real large pointy sled and three of us could get on it and the mothers and children all could get on it and went sledding down the hill, down Squirrel Run and then in the summertime Father Birmingham from St. Joseph's Church, they gave a great big picnic up on Keyes' Hill. That is where Hallock du Pont lives and we just went up there, Protestants and Catholics alike. We were all like one big family, and Father Birmingham, we just loved him. We had a grand time up there, dancing, singing. Oh, we just enjoyed it so much. And Keyes' Hill ran all around back of our houses. See, there was a row of houses from the top of Squirrel Run all the way down to Hagley, a long row of houses on both sides. And across the Diamond Bridge there was a row of houses and a place called the Swamp Lily Room on the other side of the Diamond Bridge. All the men went over there and enjoyed themselves and had a lovely time in the Swamp Lily Room.

    Ward: Could you tell us the names of some of those people that lived in Squirrel Run?

    Blackwell: Oh yes. Well, at the top of Squirrel Run, at the top where Hallock du Pont lived, there was a little white house and in that house people lived there by the name of Hardwick and I think there are still two or three of them living. I’ m not sure whether the house is still there or not. Then when you come down from Hardwicks, down the road, it was a real rough road. They weren’ t finished or anything. We walked over stones and everything, and cinders and we went in our bare feet and we got stone bruises and we didn't mind it, we had fun. Then there was a row of houses about four in each block and Consono was one, Sayers were another, Peoples, MacAdoo. Then it started another row, McLucas, Beacom, Gamble, Bonifacino. Then there was a big pump right there and we went to the pump to get water and then the next row was Harkins and Shields and MacAdoo and then the big grocery store; that was Bob Blakely, then down below that there was Stevenson, Daugherty and Callahan and then another Daugherty and Welch's and then after Welchs left there Harry Gamble moved there, then the next row was Jacobs, Cochran and Beale. And across from Beale was McLaughlin and then there was houses at the back and Maloney lived back there. He led the band for Alfred I. du Pont and Walter Mathewson helped Alfred I. take charge of that. Mr. Albert Buchanan helped out too. We had a glorious time and Alfred I. du Pont gave the powder workers children a big entertainment there at Christmas.
  • Breck's Mill and Alfred I. du Pont; Church activities; Using the trolley; Buying groceries
    Synopsis: Blackwell continues to list the families that lived in Squirrel Run. She mentions the celebrations that Alfred I. du Pont hosted at Breck's Mill. She lists some families who lived in Upper Banks. She talks about the church functions that she attended and notes that her family were members at Green Hill Presbyterian. She talks about using the trolley and getting into Wilmington. She talks about local shops near her home. She talks about school and some teachers that she remembers and finishing her education at Beacom Business College. She talks about her early working life. She discusses the circumstances around her family leaving Squirrel Run as well as her father's work and building a home.
    Keywords: Bancroft's woolen mill; Beacom Business College; Blakeley's tavern; Brosius and Smedley; Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Dennison Crepe Paper; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co.; Green Hill Presbyterian Church (Wilmington, Del.); Hagley Community House (Breck's Mill); Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; Mt. Salem United Methodist Church (Wilmington, Del.); Peoples Railway Company (Wilmington, Del.); Sam Frizzell's store; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village) (Upper Banks(Del.:Village); Storey's Printing; Street-railroads; Wagoner's Row (Del.:Village); Wilmington, Del.
    Transcript: Hinsley: Was that at Breck's Mill?

    Blackwell: That was at Breck's Mill right beside Breck's Lane. See there was Barley Mill Lane, and Breck's Lane. And we used to sled down Barley Mill Lane too. Down as far as the creek.

    Ward: There wasn't much traffic in those days.

    Blackwell: Just horse and wagons. Then there was an ice cream man used to go up Squirrel Run by the name of Twaddell and we'd run and get our pennies and a penny’ s worth of ice cream. It was homemade ice cream. We loved to see Twaddell come.

    Ward: Now, have you given us the name of all the people on the other side of Diamond Bridge?

    Blackwell: Well, the names on the other side of the Diamond Bridge were McDowells, and my aunt used to live there years and years ago. Her name was Mrs. Emil Krauss. Then my other aunt lived next door to her, Mrs. Hannah McElhinney, and then down a little further was Hunters and Link. There was another party there but I forget their name.

    Hinsley: I think it is remarkable that you remember as many as you do. You said that when the explosion occurred you went across the Diamond Bridge. Was your house quite near the Diamond Bridge?

    Blackwell: Yes, it wasn't far from the Diamond Bridge, very close to it. And then up a little bit above the Diamond Bridge there was what we called the Upper Banks and Knotts and Eacksons lived there, just below Christ Church. We used to go across Diamond Bridge and go up the hill and cut over the field to Christ Church.

    Ward: Were there steps there?

    Blackwell: No, but there were steps down further, back of McLaughlins, right back of the Hagley Museum there was a high step and we used to go right back of McLaughlin’ s house over a little bridge and up the steps and on up the hill past the powder mills up to Christ Church.

    Ward: Did you ever go to Christ Church?

    Blackwell: Yes, I went to Christ Church in the evening lots of times and we went to entertainments up there too. We got chocolate eggs at Easter time. I went to Christ Church, I went to Mt. Salem Sunday School, I went to anything they had going on at Christ Church. I went to services several times but not often but I went to Mt. Salem Sunday School and we were members of Greenhill Presbyterian Church. That is my family church.

    Hinsley: Now, if you went into Wilmington, did you use the trolley?

    Blackwell: The People's trolley. It ran along the Brandywine below the tower and it came over Woodlawn Avenue and it ran for a long time. It stopped at Wagoner’ s Row and it had open trolley cars on it and lots of time my mother would go on it. When it stopped running my mother and lots of the mothers would walk over the trestle; there was a trestle on Breck's Lane and we would walk over the trestle. The school children would even do it, going up to Alexis I. du Pont school. And when we went to Sunday School we would go over the trestle and we would go up over the steer field; they called it the steer field. Pierre Gentieu, he lived there at the end of the steer field and he was a very good friend of Alfred I. du Pont. He was French. He lived back there and we would walk across this trestle but the train came across once a day and we had to make sure that we wouldn't go over when that came. Many times we crossed it - it was very dangerous, but we loved to do it. Another time we would go underneath it; another time we would go across the railroad and back of Alfred I.'s place and up Breck’ s Lane to make a short cut to Alexis I. du Pont School. Other times we would go up over Keyes' Hill where Hallock du Pont lives now and cross over. I don't know what that road is coming down toward the Experimental Station there from Buck Rd., Montchanin Road, you know where Tommy Lawless had his saloon, that road that comes down to go over....

    Hinsley: Was it called Barley Mill Road then?

    Blackwell: Yes, Barley Mill Lane. That's what we called it.

    Hinsley: There was a Barley Mill there.

    Ward: Now, was there any kind of transportation into Squirrel Run?

    Blackwell: No, our mothers walked all the way over to Rising Sun to get the trolley car to town. And then Wagoner's Row. I think it was called Wagoner's Row because there were men there that drove powder wagons.

    Ward: Did many of the people own horses or carriages?

    Blackwell: I don't remember but I tell you, we used to have meat men come up there. They would have lovely meat. They would have their wagons and bring their wagons up to Squirrel Run.

    Ward: Did they bring groceries?

    Blackwell: No, we went to Wilmington or down to Bob Blakeley's store and then George Frizzell's store. It was right across from Breck's Mill and Peggy gig; she was down at the bottom of Breck's Mill and then there was an old shoemaker by the name of Dabby Elwood. He was right back of Breck's Mill. And the men used to congregate in old Dabby Elwood's store - a shoemaker - and one of them used to sit in there and I think he had a little too much to drink. He used to play a fiddle or something and Oh, they would have a grand time. And then we would stop at Peggy Dad's and we would buy candy on our way up to school.

    Hinsley: What time did your school start in those days?

    Blackwell: Same time it starts now.

    Ward: Do you remember any of your teachers that you used to have?

    Blackwell: Oh, I remember Miss Hersey was one. And Miss Beacher was another.

    Ward: After you left Alexis I. school, where did you go to school?

    Blackwell: Well, I didn’ t graduate. I left; I don’ t know what grade I was in but I went into Beacom's and I graduated from Beacom’ s as a stenographer. Mrs. Beacom gave out the dictation-~they had just started-- and they had a little place over the top of Govatos’ store where they started out. Mr. Beacom: taught the bookkeeping side and Mrs. Beacom taught the shorthand side, rapid calculation and penmanship.

    Ward: Now where did you work after you graduated from Beacom?

    Blackwell: Well, I worked at Storey's Printing place for awhile and then I left there and went to Philadelphia and worked for Dennison Crepe Paper as a stenographer and stayed up with my aunt for about a year. Then I came home and worked with Du Pont.

    Ward: What did you do for them?

    Blackwell: Shorthand, stenographer. I first worked in the Traffic Department and I worked for quite a long time and then I got married. I worked with Mr. McMullen and Mr. Taggart in the Traffic Department and I took dictation from those men.

    Hinsley: About what year did you stop living on Squirrel Run?

    Blackwell: Well, I think I stopped living up there--now my sister is in her 60's--1902.

    Hinsley: Was that the year that your father built the new home on Woodlawn, about that time?

    Blackwell: He might have built it about 1901, around that time.

    Ward: Were many people moving out of Squirrel Run at that time?

    Blackwell: I can't remember. They moved out one at a time but I just don’ t remember.

    Ward: Do you know any of the reasons why they were moving; were the men not working there?

    Blackwell: No, they stopped working there. Then after my father left Du Pont, why he went down to Bancrofts. Then after he left Bancrofts he went to Brosius and Smedley. So I don't know why they moved. I was too young.

    Hinsley: Was it difficult for a man to build a house, having worked as he had?

    Blackwell: No indeed. Oh no. He didn't have a bit of trouble. James Smith is the man who built my father's home. They built two of them. They were about the first to build....I think there was one more built on Woodlawn Avenue before he built his two.

    Ward: Now, was your house far from Columbus Inn?

    Blackwell: No, we were about a square and a half.

    Ward: Do you remember people going by there?

    Blackwell: Oh yes, I remember drunken people going from Columbus Inn past our house.

    Hinsley: Maybe things haven't changed so much.

    Blackwell: Maybe not. Well, I don’ t know. I think they know how to take care of themselves nowadays. They were very foolish in those days.

    Ward: Do you think any of those men were powder men.

    Blackwell: Well, they might have been and they might have worked at Bancroft's too. And then Harry Gamble, he worked there: he worked down at Bancroft's too. He was my uncle and he married my mother's sister. Her name was Margaret McElhinney and she married Harry Gamble.
  • Living near family; Peeling willows for gunpowder
    Synopsis: Blackwell talks about her extended family that also lived in the area around Wilmington, Del. She describes her family home in Squirrel Run and peeling willows for gunpowder manufacture. Blackwell mentions her neighbors again and lists some people who she knows are still alive as of the interview. She talks about some of her connections to the du Pont family.
    Keywords: charcoal production; Chicken Alley (Del.:Village); Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Gentieu, Pierre A., 1842-1930; Gunpowder; Homes; Peeling willows; Squirrel Run (Del.:Village); Wagoner's Row (Del.: Village) Charles' Banks (Del.: Village); Willows
    Transcript: Ward: You had a lot of relatives living there.

    Blackwell: Quite a lot, yes indeed I did. They lived up in Squirrel Run too, Harry Gamble and his wife and they built a home down here near my mother and father's. Then there was a storm came and blew the roof off the house and then they built a home over on Pennsylvania Avenue. Their children are still living in that home. Mary Gamble and Robert.

    Ward: Do you remember anything about the house you lived in in Squirrel Run--what it looked like?

    Blackwell: I'm not sure whether it was stone or frame. I'm not sure but I know we loved that little house. Everyone had flower boxes in the front and they kept the houses so nice and clean. Oh, Squirrel Run was so clean. Then right across the street from our house why there was a little, what we called a shed. Then outside beside the little shed was a big box called the coal box and we had coal in there and took it in for our stove. We had an old fashioned stove and my mother baked many a loaf of bread in that stove. We had the living room and the kitchen downstairs, I think that was all. Then there was two bedrooms upstairs and then I think there was an attic. I’ m not sure but I remember the two bedrooms and the two rooms downstairs. But there was....we had plenty of room even though we had all those children, we had plenty of room.

    Ward: Were there little picket fences around these houses?

    Blackwell: We had little yards out back.

    Ward: I have read where people had vegetable gardens; where would they be?

    Blackwell: Yes, the powder men all had a vegetable garden and that was up on one side of Keyes' Hill, back of Hardwick's house. They all had gardens up there and they would plant potatoes and their children, all of us children would go up there and pick the potatoes out of the pit when...our father would dig them. See there were little vines and they put Paris Green on the vines to keep the bugs off and we would pick the potatoes and put them in baskets and take them down home. I think they were put under the porches. We didn’ t have any icebox or anything and this little place back of the house that was cemented, like a little....well, that’ s where we kept tins of scrapple and things like that. They would keep wonderful, covered over well and they were well protected in these little holes.

    Ward: Naturally we know there were trees. Do you have the impression that it was a real, cool, shady place?

    Blackwell: Oh yes, we used to go up and play on the Green--we called it the Green. There was a little place with a lot of trees up above our house and we used to go up on the Green and play there and have fun up there. There was a little well up there where you could go down and get the water below Hardwicks and we would go and get some spring water there.

    Hinsley: Did you ever peel willows?

    Blackwell: Yes, I peeled willows up in Wagoner's Row and lots of the powder workers peeled willows in Wagoner's Row. Our mothers would pack a lunch and we'd go up and sit along the stream and spend the day peeling willows. We'd have a lovely time. Then when the willows were all peeled and piles and piles of willows, the men would come with their wagons and put them in there and take them away and make charcoal out of them. Then the charcoal was made into powder and then they would take it down to what you call the Sand Hole and they would test it in these cannons down in the Sand Hole.

    Ward: Do you remember hearing the....?

    Blackwell: The bang, many a time we would hear the bang. We had lots of fun up there. They called it the meadow, down in the meadow. That was just beyond the Sand Hole.

    Ward: Is Christ Church property adjacent to Squirrel Run?

    Blackwell: Well, it isn't far from Squirrel Run. It is very close to Squirrel Run. It's up on the hill and Squirrel Run is down in the hollow. Then the Diamond Bridge connects one side of Squirrel Run with the other side.

    Ward: Now, were there other bridges other than Diamond Bridge?

    Blackwell: Well, there was a little one. It wasn't used very much. It was above the Diamond Bridge, a very small one.

    Ward: Was it like a little foot bridge?

    Blackwell: Exactly, that is just what it was. It went over to some of the houses over to Mrs. Boubelle's and Martins and Flemings. They lived on that side.

    Ward: I have read of a Fleming store. These were not the Flemings who owned the store?

    Blackwell: No, not that I know of.

    Ward: Do you know of these children who grew up when you did? Do you know many of them now?

    Blackwell: Well, of course, many of them have passed away. Quite a few of them have passed away. Miss Beacom is the only one and I don't know too many of them now. Well, I know some of them. One of them was.... You know Yetter’ s Restaurant on the Philadelphia Pike? Well, Mrs. Yetter, she and her sister were born on Squirrel Run and her sister's name is Mrs. Elliott. Mrs. Florence Elliott.

    Hinsley: Were most of the people Irish families at the time you were a child?

    Blackwell: A good many of them.

    Hinsley: But I noticed there were some Italian names you said.

    Blackwell: The Italians and Protestants, they all worked in the powder mills. Consono and Bonifacino, they are Italians. They worked there and Rose Consono, she died about a year ago. She lived near me. Priscilla McDowell died years ago. She lived near me. Mary Stevenson, she died years ago, she lived up there. A good many of them have passed away.

    Ward: We mentioned going in town to get your groceries. What about your clothes? Did you make them?

    Blackwell: Well, my mother made a good many of my clothes. Yes, but Mrs. Robert McElhinney....Robert McElhinney that was blown up in the powder, her son and daughter are still living, John McElhinney, he lives downtown, on Maple Street and then there is Sara McElhinney and she is a cousin of mine and she lives in Lancaster Court Apartments and she worked for DuPont and just retired. She is Uncle Bob McElhinney's child. There are two of them living.

    Ward: Now, where are your brothers and sisters living?' Are they still in the Wilmington area?

    Blackwell: Mary and Robert Gamble live in the homestead on Pennsylvania Avenue. They are my cousins, my mother's sister's children. Then my oldest brother, he lives in McDaniel Heights, and my next brother, his home is in Florida but he comes up to his summer home in the summer time, that's Robert. Edgar lives in Gordon Heights and William has a home in Sarasota, Florida. He's the Mayflower man that moves you. Then Jessie lives on Woodlawn Avenue across from my mother and father's houses; Jessie Hayes, and then Austin passed away about a year ago. So I think that's all, I'm not sure.

    Ward: Then you are fortunate to have grown up with so many of your relatives so nearby.

    Blackwell: I think so too. Now Miss Beacom, she lives on Lovering Avenue. I think.

    Ward: We have some pictures here that we thought maybe you could or might identify some of the people in them. Now, that look anything like the homes that were up there?

    Blackwell: Yes, it does. See, there are the coal boxes. Yes, that does look a lot like them. We had nice little porches with flower boxes in the front and everything was whitewashed. And kept nice and clean.

    Ward: Were there many flowers growing around?

    Blackwell: Well, they were in the flower boxes, There weren't many places for flowers. Our house was right on the street.

    Hinsley: Did someone from the DuPont Company come around to see about the maintenance of the houses?

    Blackwell: I don't know. I'm not sure. Most of the men that lived in the houses kept them, tended to the maintenance themselves. I'm not sure.

    Ward: Do these look like any of them?

    Blackwell: Yes, they look like them. Oh, I think I know where this is. I'm not sure but it looks like it is up in Charles' Banks, a way up. I'm not sure.

    Hinsley: I think perhaps that is Chicken Alley.

    Blackwell: Yes, maybe it is Chicken Alley, across the swinging bridge. I knew it....see Charles' Bank is right near there.

    Ward: Now this has some Du Pont workers. Second from left, Ferraro, Griffith and Boubelle. Do you recognize any of them?

    Blackwell: Oh, I just forget what they looked like. I just can't remember what they looked like. If I saw them in person and they talked to me I would remember.

    Ward: This is the Maxwell family.

    Blackwell: Oh yes, I remember the Maxwell family.

    Ward: This was Frank Shepherd and brothers.

    Hinsley: Many of these pictures were made by the Mr. Gentieu you mentioned.

    Blackwell: He was very close to Alfred I. du Pont.

    Hinsley: Did you see many of the du Pont family when you were a child?

    Blackwell: Oh yes, Mrs. Bessie G.,....Alfred I. du Pont's children, Madeline, Bessie, Victorine, and Alfred; they were younger but we remember Madeline and Bessie. They used to go around and talk with us children. They were very nice to us, Bessie and Madeline, two lovely girls.
  • Interacting with Mrs. Crowninshield and other members of the du Pont family; Visiting Ireland
    Synopsis: Blackwell talks about knowing Louise du Pont Crowninshield. She says that Mrs. Crowninshield ran a sewing circle and often invited members into her home and took them on outings. She describes visiting Ireland and traveling there by boat.
    Keywords: Brandywine Manufacturer’ s Sunday School; Chadds Ford (Pa.); Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Crowninshield, Louise du Pont, 1877-1958; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Eleutherian Mills (Greenville, Del. : Dwelling); Henry Clay (Del.:Village); Ireland; Keyes' Hill; Lenape (Pa.); Long Row; Sam Frizzell's store; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Winterthur (Del.)
    Transcript: Ward: Now, what about Mrs. Crowninshield? Did you know her?

    Blackwell: Did I know Mrs. Crowninshield? Yes, indeed I did. She rode in a little pony cart to Christ Church and we belonged to a little society up at Christ Church. She had us up at her home every summer, once a summer and out on the patio we were entertained and walked through her garden. The gardens were down below her house and we always called her Miss Louise. She was a delightful person and I forget what they made down in that garden. Miss Beacom could tell you what they made because her father Worked in that garden - it has just left me.

    Hinsley: You mean before it was a garden.

    Blackwell: Yes, before it was a garden.

    Hinsley: It was a refinery.

    Blackwell: Saltpeter was it. Saltpeter was refined there. And we walked through that beautiful garden and when Mrs. Crowninshield had it, it was lovely. I guess there were about 25 of us girls that went to the little sewing group which she had and she took us down on Market Street and entertained us at Miss McConnell's restaurant at 9th and Market. We went on an open trolley car and we had fun. We were all entertained down there.

    Ward: Now, do you recognize this? Is it a picture of Sam Frizzell?

    Blackwell: Is that Sam Frizzell? For pity sake.

    Hinsley: It says that it is. That was years ago.

    Blackwell: Oh, I knew Sam Frizzell very well. His father lived right there as you go down Rising Sun Hill, below the trolley car, on the right hand side, going down, in the first house and this grandchild lives in that house.

    Ward: Now did they drive a wagon, is this the same family?

    Blackwell: I’ m not sure what they drove. But Sam Frizzell had a grocery store right across from Breck's Mill, right across from it. And we used to go down and get the mail at Henry Clay. It was never delivered to us, we had to walk all the way along the "crick". They called it the Long Row and we walked from our house all the way to Long Row up to Henry Clay to get our mail and we had to walk to school. We didn’ t have any buses or automobiles. We had to walk and the snow was very deep and we walked through all these big drifts. We'd jump in all these drifts along the road. We went through the yellow school woods and up to school. We went through Miss Mary du Pont's estate up to school, any short cut we could take we'd take.

    Ward: Did you know Miss Mary?

    Blackwell: No, we didn't know her. But we always went through her property and she never said anything.

    Ward: You mentioned this sewing group. Did you do any sewing?

    Blackwell: Oh yes, we used to sew little scarves and things for the poor children down on....there is a place right now down on King Street where these little....that Mrs. Crowninshield was interested in.

    Ward: Sort of like a day nursery?

    Blackwell: Yes, we used to make little scarves and things for them. I forget just what we made.

    Ward: Did you bring your own materials?

    Blackwell: No, it was all furnished for us.

    Ward: Was she living in the Eleutherian Mills house at that time?

    Blackwell: No, she was living with her mother up at Winterthur I guess. That's where she was living. And her mother entertained us up on her lawn up in Winterthur one time. Out on the lawn. I can see us all sitting there eating ice cream and cake. The Colonel's wife.

    Hinsley: Yes, that was Colonel Henry.

    Blackwell: Colonel Henry du Pont's wife and she was the sweetest person. Oh, she was a lovely person. She was very nice. She had us all up there, I remember that. We were sitting out on her terrace eating ice cream.

    Ward: Do you remember any of the other du Ponts?

    Blackwell: No, I don't remember the rest very much. We didn't have very much to do with anyone except Alfred I. He went all around the powder workers and their children and he was a very lovely person, Alfred I. was. He was a very big stalwart man, very straight and erect. Fine looking gentleman. Mrs. Bessie Gardner du Pont was the sweetest lady you ever met. She was so genteel and so lovely. Oh, she was just delightful. And she used to drive a little electric automobile. I can just see her sitting at that wheel going along in a little electric automobile, a two-seater. Madeline du Pont was the oldest and Bessie was next to her and see they had two more after that and then he and Bessie G. were divorced and he married Alicia Bradford and Judge Bradford lived back of the old Sunday School back of Gibbons, up in the woods and he had a son who was a lawyer and his name was Edward Bradford, then he had two daughters, Alicia and Joanne and Joanne married a man by the name of Bush and she had several children. She was the youngest.

    Ward: Do you know the ladies who are living in the old Brandywine Manufacturer’ s Sunday School?

    Blackwell: Yes, the two ladies that are living in the old Christ Church Sunday School are the Misses Florence Seitz and Miss Pauline Seitz and Miss Pauline and Miss Florence worked for DuPont and that was Miss Florence Seitz' office when she first started to work, up there in the old Sunday School so they say they can stay there until the end.

    Ward: You mentioned the parties that Mrs. Crowninshield had. After Eleutherian Mills was restored, do you remember going at that time or was it earlier?

    Blackwell: I remember the people that lived in that house before it was made into Mrs. Crowninshield's house and people that lived there by the name of Clower, Elsie Clower, she and her parents lived there, before it was fixed. They managed the farm.

    Ward: At one time, at the turn of the century, it was used as a recreation hall for men. Do you ever remember anything about that?

    Blackwell: No, I don't remember that. Then there was a Mr. Cheney who lived up there, next to the church and he was a sexton for Christ Church. They lived next to the church.

    Hinsley: Are there other pictures, Mrs. Ward?

    Ward: Does this look like those steps we were talking about?

    Hinsley: The steps of Squirrel Run; were they wood steps?

    Blackwell: Yes, they were.

    Ward: This is a picture of the old wooden bridge. Do you remember that?

    Blackwell: Oh yes, that goes across at the Experimental Station. Yes. This is Breck's Mill and this is where Mattie Ferraro lived and this....

    Ward: This is Walker's Mill. This is the Museum building. Then would you have walked back up this way? Would this have been Squirrel Run?

    Blackwell: Yes, up back of the Museum. You go up the hill and the first road back of the Museum when you go up the hill and there was no step there, not there. Oh, you mean to go up to Christ Church? Yes, that was up back of the Museum. The steps went up back of the Museum, to Christ Church. But to enter into, get into Squirrel Run you go up the hill from the Museum and then you turn the first road to your right to go through Squirrel Run.

    Ward: Now this looks like it is heavily wooded.

    Blackwell: Yes, up through Miss Mary's woods and up beyond on Keyes' Hill, beyond Hallock du Pont’ s on the other side of Barley Mill Lane.

    Ward: Was it this heavily forested?

    Blackwell: Yes, it was, yes indeed it was. And Montgomerys lived on Barley Mill Lane for years and years. Their children were born there. Mr. Montgomery was a good friend of Alfred I.

    Ward: This was taken about 1900 in the old cannon house and at Christ Church. Do you remember the cannon house?

    Blackwell: The cannon house. I can't remember that.

    Hinsley: That was up very near the church.

    Blackwell: I can't recall that. Well, what is this then? That's up on Keyes' Hill, isn't it?

    Ward: Well, this is what we wondered.

    Blackwell: Up on Keyes' Hill. I'm not sure.

    Ward: Did your little bridge look anything like this? See, here is a little bridge.

    Blackwell: No, that isn't the one but it was similar to that.

    Ward: Well, we are going to walk up there in a very few minutes so we can see what it is like up there.

    Hinsley: Why was the bridge called Diamond Bridge?

    Blackwell: That's what I can't tell you. And I don't know why Squirrel Run was called Squirrel Run. But there was a run going down through Squirrel Run and it came from Chadds Ford and from Lenape and it would come all the way down for a run. I don't know where the Squirrel came from.

    Ward: I guess there were a lot of squirrels in that area.

    Blackwell: That's what I said to my brother John one day. I said, "I wonder why that was called Squirrel Run?". He said he didn't know. So someone else might know.

    Hinsley: I don't know why but it shows it here on much earlier maps.

    Blackwell: Well, John McElhinney and his wife, they had quite a few children, I guess eight or nine and they are all very prosperous and a lovely family and he's now about 85 and he is still living and can go around, not too well but he gets around.

    Ward: Did any of your brothers and sisters, or yourself, ever go back to visit Ireland, your family?

    Blackwell: Oh yes, indeed. Three of my brothers went over to visit Ireland. Yes indeed, they did.

    Ward: And did you go back?

    Blackwell: Well, when I was a little girl about eight or nine years old, my mother and father took myself and John and Bob and Edgar. Edgar was just a baby, be was just learning to walk and we went over to Ireland and we saw the old homestead. I can just see the turf stack and we climbed up on it and had fun. And we went down in what is called the Glen. They called it a glen but over in the field and down in the hollow and we ran all around and saw the little schoolhouse up in the wood where my mother went to and the little church down along the water's edge and the cemetery next to it and that’ s where her mother and father are buried. And she had two brothers buried there and a sister buried and the little church down along the water. That's north of Ireland.

    Hinsley: Wasn't that quite an undertaking in that day for all of you to go back?

    Blackwell: Well, it was and there was a storm on the ocean too at the time and I don't remember whether it was when I went over or when my mother went by herself that there was someone buried at sea and they were buried on a board and slid down into the water. Well, they don't do that now you know but there was a storm when we were there and we were ordered downstairs off the deck.

    Ward: Did you get seasick?

    Blackwell: I don’ t remember that but my mother, she went over about six times, she was never seasick. I don't remember we were seasick or not, we may have been. That's not a very pleasant thing either.

    Ward: Did your mother live to be quite elderly?

    Blackwell: My mother lived to be 92 years old. My father died when he was about 50.

    Hinsley: And at that time he was with Bancroft?

    Blackwell: Yes. No, he was with Brosius and Smedley.

    Hinsley: I do have one more question about Squirrel Run. Were all the houses single dwelling houses or were some....?

    Blackwell: No, they were all together in row.

    Hinsley: And would there be four families in one building?

    Blackwell: Consonos, Sayers, Peoples and McAdoos. We all had our own home but we were all hooked together. None were separate.