Interview with Elizabeth Beacom, 1967 May 29 [audio]
- Her father and mother emigrating separately from Ireland; location and floor plan of her family's house in Squirrel RunKeywords: "Orange Irish"; Boardinghouses; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Iré né e), 1864-1935; Du Pont, Francis Gurney, 1850-1904; fireplace; Irish immigrants; James Cheney; rain barrels; spring water; Squirrel Run (Del. : Village); water hydrants; Water-supplyTranscript: [Note: transcription is not always verbatim]
Wilkinson: This interview was granted by Miss Elizabeth Beacom of 1813 Shallcross Avenue here in Wilmington, Delaware on Monday, May 29, 1967. We usually like to go back beyond your time and find out who was the first in your family to locate in this area. Would you want to tell us when the first of your family did settle here? What brought them here?
Monigle: Was your father the first one of your family?
Beacom: Yes, he came to Squirrel Run about the 1870's.
Wilkinson: What brought him here? Did he ever say why he settle in the Brandywine?
Beacom: He never said why. My mother came in 1881, but she wouldn't go back; she had such a rough voyage.
Wilkinson: Your father came from Ireland?
Beacom: Yes. County Tyrone or County Fermanagh, North Ireland, and my mother came from County Armagh.
Wilkinson: Were there other relatives of your father here?
Beacom: His sister [Elizabeth Ward]. I don't if they came over together or not. I do know she was here when my mother came over.
Wilkinson: You think your father came simply because opportunities were better here in America than in Ireland? What had he done in Ireland, do you know?
Beacom: Yes. He was just a farmer in Ireland. Everybody in Ireland had a farm. My father had a very good education. He was very good at rapid calculation.
Wilkinson: When you say good education for the 1870s, formally how far had he gone in school in Ireland?
Beacom: I would say it was equal to a college education here. But he never worked at it. He just got this job in the refinery. Of course, he had a family, so, he wanted the family taken care of so he just worked there. Wilkinson: He was married when he came? They didn't know each other in Ireland prior to coming?
Beacom: No. She came over here with her two brothers, and she met this James Cheney on the boat and they all belonged to the Orange Irish. James Cheney asked them to come here and he would see if they could get a job with DuPont's. They had a rough voyage and landed up the Fall River in Massachusetts. Then they transferred them by train to Wilmington and they got as far as the B. & amp; 0.; that's the only distance the trolleys ran--I think they were horse carts in those days--and then they had to walk from there to Squirrel Run. They didn't have much. I still have my father's tin box and it's not much bigger than that. It's marked "Steerage," so I guess that's the way he came.
Wilkinson: Did he ever say what his first contact was with somebody in the company? Who hired him, for example?
Beacom: No. He was very fond of Mr. Francis G. and Mr. Alfred I. du Pont. He would always tip his hat to them. Mr. Francis Gurney hired my father, and every now and then he would come down on horseback to see my father and ask him if he knew of a good man he could get. One of the men my father recommended was Mr. Alex Stevenson. And he came to work on the farm.
Wilkinson: Well, then when he was hired and he was assigned to a job in the refinery, did he ever say what he got paid?
Beacom: $34.00 a month. We paid $4.25 a month for rent. Before he married my mother, my father lived also in a boarding house with my aunt and family. Then there was a Mrs. Collison or a Mrs. Caldwell who had a boarding house; also, I think there was a Mrs. Nicholls who had a boarding house too. I know he lived with one of them, but I don't know which one. They were all at the bottom of Squirrel Run. Then he married my mother in July, 1881, at Scott Methodist Parsonage, 7th and Spruce Streets, in Wilmington, and they went to live on the left side of Squirrel Run in the back of the last row house. As the family increased he got a double house in the next block. It was big; all the rooms were great big rooms.
Wilkinson: Could you describe the house for us?
Beacom: Oh, it had a beautiful fireplace. We had about eight steps up to the porch, then from the porch you entered the living room which had a great big fireplace in it [and a hanging lamp in the center of the ceiling]. There was a closet beside the fireplace where the boys kept all their guns and cartridges there, and every year before the 15th of November my father would get them out and clean them all up. They made their own shells and early in the morning on the 15th of November they would get up and go gunning together [with "Dewey" the rabbit dog]. It was like a vaudeville when they came home. One boy couldn't hit a barn door and the other boy could knock anything over. They always managed to get a rabbit.
Wilkinson: How were these rooms laid out?
Beacom: There was this great big living room and then what we called the pantry and the stairway, which was a crooked one, it went up out of the pantry. Then on the other side of that there was a great big kitchen which was only one story. My mother had a kitchen stove, a settee and a big sideboard, about eight or ten chairs, [and a bench table. We ate off the table and our school books were kept on the seat underneath]. Then we had a pair of steps go up the hill in back and we had two sheds. [One was a chicken shed] And a little house was up above that.
Monigle: Miss Beacom, in the kitchen, what did you have, a wood-burning stove?
Beacom: Yes. The fireplace was in the front room. Upstairs we had two nice rooms. Then there was another crooked stairway up to a big room which was the whole width of the house. The four boys were up there.
Monigle: Was there no heat in the second and third-floor bedrooms and the attic.
Beacom: No. We had a stove in the front room and the kitchen stove. That was all the heat we had. You should have seen us run up and down those steps on a cold morning! My mother had the two double beds up there in the top room for the four boys. It was big, so we had plenty of room.
Out back we had a bench where we kept the buckets of water. We had a big rain barrel and we caught the rain water for my mother to do the wash. We filled the buckets with water from the hydrant; it just had a little handle on the top of it like a spigot. This water came from the spring up in the Green.
Wilkinson: The Company had laid pipes and brought the water down?
Beacom: At first we had to carry the water from the spring. Then they had a typhoid fever epidemic there and so they laid the water pipes.
- Her family's garden and cellar; bringing her father lunch at the refinery; childhood impression of du Pont family membersKeywords: Canning and preserving; charcoal house; community garden; company housing; corn crib; du Pont family; flower gardening; gate house; Industrial accidents; Paris green; refrigeration; saltpeter refinery; shutters; Vegetable gardening; watchmanTranscript: Wilkinson: We are interested in the housing around here. Can you tell us any other interesting features about the house?
Monigle: It was a stone house, I imagine?
Beacom: No, it was a frame house. The first house, the one in the back, it was was stone, but the big house I was just describing was frame. We had a coal box out front across the road. Then beyond that we had a flower garden and the run was next. My father took care of the garden. He loved to be in the garden. Then on the top of the hill we had another garden.
Monigle: This was like a community garden?
Beacom: Yes, most every house had a garden up there. That was sport for us. We'd go up and dig the garden, and every Fourth of July we'd have our first potatoes. We would spread that Paris green over the potatoes to kill the potato bugs. We did all the preparing of the garden by hand. The garden was about one and one-half the size of this room [Mr. J.P. Monigle's office]. We grew potatoes, celery, onions, beets, etc.
Wilkinson: Did your mother did a lot of canning?
Beacom: Oh, yes indeed. She did over a hundred quarts a year. They'd buy a barrel of flour and so many bushels of potatoes for the winter. We had a deep cellar and they kept the potatoes down there. We also had a little spring in the cellar, too, and we'd keep our milk and things like that in there. Once a year, we'd go down and bud the potatoes. The cellar went the full length of the house, except for under the kitchen which was on the back. The floor was a dirt floor but the little spring was cemented around the edge of it.
Wilkinson: Did you mention what rent you paid or was it a free property? Beacom: We paid $4.25 a month. Any repairs needed were taken care of by the Company. If there was an explosion Taylor Hipple came around to see what damage had been done.
Monigle: Did people use the shutters on houses in those days? Did they close the shutters at night at all?
Beacom: Yes, I think it kept the house warmer. We had screens in the summer. They were just half-way screens.
Monigle: What time did things get started in the morning?
Beacom: My father got up between 4:30 and 5:00 every morning. He started work here in the refinery at 7:00 a.m. He was never late a day. In the summertime, my mother would pack a lunch for him and we kids would get together and carry the lunch. It was a picnic for us. We'd come through the turnstile and through the field and then go over a pair of steps beside the corn crib and then down past the barn into the refinery. We'd sit on the roof while my father ate his lunch. Sometimes I'd go down with my father. He stood up very high and he'd mix the saltpeter in a long trough with a big, long-handled stick - like a hoe. The vat had a mist over top of it, but I don't remember much of an odor in there. The charcoal house was over this way and it had a smoky odor to it.
Wilkinson: Was there a high, board fence separating the house area from the refinery?
Beacom: Yes, and then there was a gate down here below the little stone building. I can't remember if there was a gate we had to go through to get to the saltpeter refinery. There was a little place up here by the road where we came to get our lime to whitewash our houses and I can't remember if that was where the gate was or not. [I think it was below the springhouse.] The lime house was right near the First Office. This path went right straight down, past that pond that's there. The pond was there when I was a little girl, but I don't know what it was used for. My father worked on this long vat and I saw other men there working. There were big barrels down there and I don't know what they did with them; maybe put the saltpeter in them. My father was alone on this big vat.
Wilkinson: But you got the impression that this big vat was hot?
[Discussion about Lammot du Pont's former Laboratory near the Deans' property.]
Beacom: There was a gatehouse there between the two gates. There was an explosion and my father was hurt - he had his collar bone broken and then his ankle - and later on in years they gave him a job as watchman there between the two gates. The iron bridge was in about the middle between the two gates.
Wilkinson: This was a control point for Hagley and the Upper Yard and also in going across to the Louvier's side?
Beacom: My father had to open that gate to let them in or out. - Some Italian lost his arm, and after my father was pensioned this Italian got that job.
Monigle: When you first remember out here, the du Ponts were living in their house over here, did you ever go near it or did you feel it was a place to stay away from because the bosses lived there? What did you kids feel about the du Pont home?
Beacom: The du Ponts were so nice to us. When they met us, they made a fuss over us. We had no fear of any du Pont. It was like the King of England or somebody like that coming along when we saw them. We did respect them very much. It was always "Mr. Alfred," or "Mr. Frank," or "Mr. Henry," or "Mr. Eugene," and "Miss Louise" and "Miss Joanna."
- Experience with explosions, including getting a birthmark from the 1890 explosion; not being allowed in the Lower Yard as childrenKeywords: 1890 explosion; boiler; Du Pont, S. Hallock (Samuel Hallock), 1901-1974; Grinding Mill; Industrial accidents; laundry; Lower Yard; pompadour hairstyle; washtub; Yellow SchoolTranscript: Monigle: What year were you born?
Beacom: I was born in 1891, seven months after the big explosion in 1890. I have this birthmark and it was said that's where it came from. I was born with this mark on my foot that looks exactly like a powder burn and everyone said that since my mother was carrying me while going through the explosion this was the result of that explosion. It's peppery, just like powder, and I would sit on the floor and scrub it with a brush and my brothers would say that's where you got shot.
Wilkinson: When this explosion occurred in October of 1890, your family was living in Squirrel Run - was it that severe that your house was affected by it?
Beacom: Yes. My mother ran toward the refinery. After any explosion all the wives would run to the plant to see if their people were hurt. Upper Banks and the banks across on the other side, known as Charles Banks, [and Chicken Alley] were really torn apart. The doors were blown in and everything. I think it was in this explosion that a beam fell on my father and he had his collarbone broken. [continued discussion]
Monigle: What was the explosion you said he took you all up to near the Yellow School?
Beacom: That was the big Grinding Mill down near Hagley Museum, right around the corner from there. And we always understood if it blew, it would blow the hill. It was the heaviest one, see. We had all gone to bed and we were all wakened and told to go up to the field and lie.
Monigle: There was danger it would explode?
Monigle: Was it on fire?
Beacom: There was a fire next to it.
Monigle: What year would that have been, I wonder? How old were you?
Beacom: I was in my teens then because we wore rats in our hair you know to make a big pompadour and when we all met up in the field we all had a good laugh at each other. We didn't look alike.
Monigle: Did it blow?
Beacom: No, it didn't blow. See, they were afraid it would be set on fire. There was a fire in the yard.
Monigle: So tell us again, you went up to the top of the hill and your father had you...
Beacom: My father went to the Yard to see what he could do to help 'cause he was that type, but my mother took us all up to the field and we had to lie flat on the ground 'cause they said it was better for you. So then we stayed there until the fire was over then we all came back home. My father prayed that the wind would change and the community would be saved...on the way to the Yard.
Monigle: How did the people react to this sort of thing?
Beacom: Well, we were used to explosions. I remember when Mr. Whiteman was killed - it was on a wash day. My mother had her washtub on two chairs. In those days, they boiled their clothes in a boiler and stirred them with a broomstick. She told me to help her off with the boiler, and just as we went out the door, my, it did rip. It was a frosty morning and something struck me on the back of the hand and I had a lump the size of a walnut on the back of my hand. And we came in, the plaster was all down in our kitchen down in the washtub.
Wilkinson: When you speak of the Yellow School field, would that be back of the cemetery or back of the house?
Beacom: Well, you know where Hallock du Pont's house is? Well, the field was that open area from there to the road. There was the cemetery below the Yellow School, and then the woods is between the cemetery and this field.
Monigle: How was Mr. Whiteman killed?
Beacom: It was in one of those explosions. He was the only one killed. Those mills, it seemed they blew more in winter - I don't whether the ice crystallized or what but it was always a spark or something that blew those mills.
Monigle: You mentioned earlier about taking your father his lunch. Could you have strolled on down through the Yard?
Beacom: No. We used to go with some girls whose fathers worked in the engine room down in the Lower Yard and we weren't allowed in there at all. We had to stay outside the fence.
Wilkinson: They could come to the gate with his lunch and he'd pick it up there?
Monigle: I think perhaps they were a little easier, more permissive, with boys. We've heard a lot of young men, who, when they were boys would get through the yard one way or the other.
Beacom: They weren't allowed any nails in their shoes, but they all had to wear pegged shoes. My father was a saltpeter man.
- Her father's morning routine; peeling willows; playing baseball; her father standing proudly on the family coal box as she walked to her high school commencementKeywords: Alexis I. du Pont High School; baseball; Big Barn; charcoal; Children--Death; Children--Social life and customs; coal box; diphtheria; graduation; hide-and-seek; oatmeal; oil lamps; peeling willows; powder bags; powder wagons; special; Walls of Troy; widowsTranscript: Monigle: What did your father do during those hours in the morning from the time he got up at 4:30 until he went to work at 7:00?
Beacom: Well, he always got up and he would build the fire for my mother so it would be nice and warm when she came down, and sometimes he would cook oatmeal or something like that for breakfast. Mostly just putter around like that. Of course, he had over a mile to walk from Squirrel Run down to the refinery. He walked up to Christ Church and then up the road and across the corn field and down past the barn. The men who drove the powder wagons would be up there....Jake Hoover, and I think Sammy Stewart was one, but I know Mr. Hoover was one. We called that the Big Barn. That's where they kept the horses that drew the powder wagons, and also some farm horses. They would have the powder bags hanging all over those fences. The widows of the powdermen would sew those bags; Mrs. Walker did quite a lot of that because Mr. Walker was killed in the Rolling Mill.
Wilkinson: Did you ever peel willows?
Beacom: Yes. We peeled under that big tree down by the Cannon House, the sand bank. Bill Beatty used to bring the willows there [in a big wooden farm wagon drawn by two horses.]
Monigle: Did the Company put out a notice that anyone wanting to make a little extra money could peel willows? How did the word get out and who went?
Beacom: Well, the parents would go and the children went with them. I don't remember exactly just at what time. But it was in warm weather. We would go up with my mother. I don't remember my father ever doing it.
Monigle: Would there be a lot of women and children from the village and you'd all meet there?
Beacom: Yes. We would know the wagon load was coming in and then we would go up and peel these. We stood half the time; sat on the grass. We had a good time. We all had our own knives. I don't know how much we got paid for doing this. My parents would get the money.
Monigle: How long a piece of willow were you fooling with?
Beacom: They were different sizes. The sap, you know, in the willow, it was easy. You just started and it would rip right off. The sooner you got to them after they were cut the easier it was to peel them. There would be maybe ten of us - whatever kid that was in the neighborhood that wanted to go along they'd go with us. It was fun. See, we had no amusements; we had to make our own.
The boys would play ball up there on the Green in Squirrel Run. They would come in with the balls of string. The boys would wrap the string themselves, and they would come in to my mother and she would sew that string together and then she would darn the outside of it. And then they would go out and get a branch off the tree and that would be their bat. There was a big rock [under the Piggy Tree] up there in the Green and that was our grandstand seats. And they were good games.
Wilkinson: What do you girls do by way of recreation, other than peeling willows?
Beacom: Oh, we were always running around. We played hide-and-seek a lot. My sister was great for dolls, but I was always with my two brothers. I was more or less of a tomboy.
Monigle: How did you stand in age to your four brothers?
Beacom: There were three older brothers and then my sister, then I came in, and one younger brother. And then there was a girl died when she was, youngest one. She died with diphtheria, she was thirteen months old.
Monigle: Did you have any special chores to do around the house?
Beacom: Oh, the dishes. We had to help around and we had to always wash the globes. We used oil lamps and we had to wash the chimneys (that's what we called them). We had to help our mothers. I lived in that house until 1912.
Wilkinson: You mentioned the coal box being across the road. Did that coal come in big chunks?
Beacom: No. Nut coal I think they called it. We had to buy it and we'd burn about five ton in a year. It was in the coal box, took a scuttle. We were the only family that had a coal box on the road.
Monigle: Tell us about the coal box and why you remembered it being there.
Beacom: Well, I graduated from Alexis I. du Pont High School and I can remember my dress--it was five and three-quarter yards around the bottom and had the Walls of Troy in it [and a starched embroidered petticoat]. I don't know what you would call it but it had seven things of lace. Mary Stevenson made my dress. I was coming down the steps to go to the Commencement and my father was standing over by the coal box and he had the shovel in his hand. He thought I was just wonderful and the big tears were just running down his cheeks as I went down the road.
My youngest brother, he finished high school and then he went to the University of Delaware and graduated from there. My oldest brother, he left and went to Wilmington High School and so did the third boy, and then second boy enlisted when he was 18 in the Marines. I went all the way through Alexis I. school from kindergarten. We had three years in high school. [My sister, Madeline, attended Alexis I. du Pont School and graduated from Beacom College. After working 25 years in Pay Roll Department of the DuPont Company she married William T. Rakestraw.]
- Walking to school and one day getting an automobile ride from Alfred I. du Pont; Christmas parties at Breck's Mill; grocery shopping; route of the People's Trolley from Rising Sun Lane to Woodlawn AvenueKeywords: automobile rides; Blakeley's Store; Breck's Mill; Diamond Bridge; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Iré né e), 1864-1935; Gregg's Store; grocery shopping; King Street Market; Opera House; People's Railway; Rising Sun; Santa Claus; Street-railroads; trestle; trolley cars; wages; Woodlawn Avenue; Yabba BuchananTranscript: Monigle: Tell us about yourself - you father was up and off to work and then you children had to get up; did you get your own breakfast?
Beacom: No, my mother got our breakfast. And then we walked, or ran half of the time, to school. We'd go down through Squirrel Run and we walked the railroad track (that went into the Yard) over to Breck's Lane, and then we had a shortcut through the field and on top of the stone wall by Mr. Alfred I.'s engine house down below his big house and then we went up Breck's Lane. We weren't allowed on the car track over by the cooper shop but that didn't stop us. We often went up there and along the railroad track into the back gate into school, but if we got caught we got told about it. Otherwise we had to go around the road and up the pike to the school.
One day we were going along and Mr. Alfred I. du Pont came out and got behind the hedge and hollered, "Boo" at us, and then he laughed. Then he went across the road to where his garage was and brought out this great big automobile and all of us kids piled into that car - it was the first ride any of us had had in an automobile - and he took us right up to the school steps and around the flower bed. He was just tickled and so were we. This was back in the early 1900's. The men really loved him.
When my father died he sent a great big wreath of flowers. He always had parties for us in Breck's Mill every Christmas. Mr. Alfred I. was very fond of music. He would play Santa Claus and he would give us all a box of candy and also a toy, and refreshments would be served, and we'd have a good time. After you passed 14 you didn't get invited, but some of those kids on the Brandywine never got older than 14. He would really get into a Santa Claus suit and be a lot of fun.
Wilkinson: He was married at that time. Did you know any of his children?
Beacom: Yes. Madeline and Bessie and Alfred and Victorine. They didn't mix in with any of us. But Mr. Alfred I. du Pont did. He and "Yabba" Buchanan were great pals. He used to go down to their house and Mrs. Buchanan would give him a slice of bread with molasses and sugar on it. That's what you got in those days. He was down there often - he enjoyed it. He'd be out with Yabba. He was very democratic.
Wilkinson: Had you ever heard anything about the fact that although Mr. Alfred I. was well-liked he didn't pay much in wages?
Beacom: Well, DuPont itself didn't pay that much. They were only paying thirty to forty dollars a month. I know that my father made thirty six dollars, and of course it would go a long way in those days.
My mother went to town every Saturday. She'd walk to the Rising Sun and we would go to the Rising Sun to meet her and we'd come home through that corn field where Copeland's house is built down there, and if we knew the train wasn't coming we'd walk the trestle. If not, we had to go down underneath, but we walked the railroad track all the way up to Barley Mill Road. My mother went every Saturday to King Street Market. Of course, the grocery men came around. Mr. Ewing from Rockland, and then we had Blakeley's Store. It was right in Squirrel Run, right by the Diamond Bridge.
[Following comments in double brackets are inserted into transcript but are not in audio]:[[My mother bought the following:
Eggs from Mrs. Deery in the Upper Banks for ten or twelve cents a dozen. We went to her place for them.
Milk from James Ball, Montchanin, who carried his large milk can and quart measurer and poured the milk we needed into our container which sometimes was a large pitcher. Price, 2 quarts skim milk for five cents, regular milk four to six cents per quart.
Meat from Pete Mayne who knew just about what you wanted. The roasts were large and delicious. Prices, five to ten cents per pound. He delivered on Saturdays.
Shoes from George Dougherty who was a local minister and interested in the Sunday Breakfast Mission and had a shoe store at Front and Madison Streets. He came in the village now and then and measured our shoes and then brought a variety. He always came at Easter time. Price, $1.50 per pair.]]
Wilkinson: Why didn't your mother use the People's Railway?
Beacom: She did later on, but we moved shortly after that, the Peoples' Railway came up the Brandywine. I don't know when it was started. Up to that time she would go to Rising Sun Lane, but when that trolley came she used that.
Wilkinson: We know it came along the Creek Road and up through the field and through Squirrel Run and terminated at Montchanin Road, but the lower end of it, where did that go after it left Rising Sun? Did it go along the creek by Bancroft's?
Beacom: Yes, it did. The track crossed Rising Sun Lane between Gregg's Store and Newbridge Station [north of the Reading Railroad track.] Gregg's Store was located just before you entered the entrance to the Covered Bridge. The trolley track followed the Brandywine east and parallel with the Reading Railroad track until almost the end of the woods. Then it made a right turn underneath the Reading Railroad. After passing underneath the track it made a left turn and up through the field this side of Rockford Hall but still out in the field until it reached Rockford Road and made a right turn until it reached Delaware Avenue. It then turned left to Woodlawn and then right on Woodlawn to Sixth or Seventh Street, where it turned left into the City. It cost five cents a ride or six for a quarter.
Monigle: Did the children get allowances? Did your parents give you any spending money?
Beacom: No. We didn't need any money. Once in a while we'd get a quarter. It cost five cents in to Wilmington, and five cents on the trolley out, and we'd get a bag of candy or a bag of peanuts and go to a movie in the Opera House. All that for a quarter.
- St. Joseph's Fourth of July celebrations and the 1902 DuPont Centennial; her father's respect for the du Pont family; her father getting pensioned off from DuPont Co.Keywords: badge; box luncheon; Du Pont, Irenee, 1876-1963; DuPont Centennial celebrations 1902; Fourth of July celebrations; pensioned; peppermint candy; Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church; Wilmington Country Club; Yetter's ice creamTranscript: Monigle: What was the big holiday out here?
Beacom: The Fourth of July. St. Joseph's had a picnic up there on Keyes' Hill. I don't remember if the mills were all shut down or not, but I guess they were. My brothers would get up in the morning and shoot their guns off out the bedroom windows to announce the day. Then the boys would always have a baseball game. St. Joseph's had stands and they'd make money. They also had a big dance floor up there. My father went into Yetter's and he'd get five gallons of ice cream; we had that every Fourth of July because everybody came to our house— -it was like the B. & amp; 0. Station. Yetter's was on Fourth Street between Market and King Streets. They had a bakery. I should remember but I'm not sure just what the five gallons of ice cream cost; by buying it by the five gallons you got it cheaper.
Wilkinson: Did you ever make your own ice cream?
Beacom: Oh, yes. My brother Ed was great for making ice cream. But he'd make it too rich. He'd put all cream in it and the next day we'd be half-sick.
Monigle: So you went up to the picnic celebration at St. Joe's on Keyes Hill. Did you ever hear it called Daddy Keyes Hill?
Beacom: No. Most of the community went up there because there was nothing else to do. This was not a Company picnic nor a community picnic. It was just run by St. Joseph's. I don't remember them having any fireworks. We went up to Lammot du Pont's for the fireworks.
Monigle: When you went to Lammot du Pont's for the fireworks, where did they used to fire them?
Beacom: Oh, I was thinking of Irenee du Pont. I don't remember Lammot du Pont's. And I remember the Centennial in 1902. Fireworks were at 7:30 in the evening at the Wilmington Country Club after the picnic. That day they gave us each a badge and a box luncheon. The picnic was at Keyes Hill and then we went over to the Country Club to see the fireworks. I didn't get to go. My father and the boys went, but my mother wouldn't let me go.
Wilkinson: Can you remember any of the names of men who worked with your father in the refinery?
Beacom: Well, there was a [Barney] Dougherty, and I think Dan Harkins. I really don't know. I know my father just stayed there in the refinery. He wouldn't walk around to any of the other shops.
Monigle: How did your father feel about his job? Do you think if they had asked him to be a powderman or take some other type of job he would? Or do you think he just wanted the job he had?
Beacom: I think my father felt that anything the du Ponts would tell him to do, he would do it. He had so much respect for them. They just seemed to admire them so much. I don't know if it was a wise thing or not, but they did. He was very content with his saltpeter job. My father had steady work and he had a family and he was very good to us. He'd go to town on Saturday night and he'd come home with a bag of peppermint candy, and Sunday after dinner we'd all get a chocolate peppermint.
Wilkinson: How long did your father work here?
Beacom: He began working in the 1870's, and I think he was here 36 years before he was pensioned. He must have been pensioned around 1904 or 1905. This was a Company pension. It was a surprise to him when he was pensioned off. Quite a few were along with him. I think they were about the first pensioners. I know that this Italian who lost his arm got my father's work in the gatehouse by the Iron Bridge. I guess my father was about 60.
Monigle: Did that mean he had to give up your house?
Beacom: No. We still stayed there after he was pensioned. He loved the Brandywine. We stayed there until 1912.
- Her father's death; her mother's financial management; Italians moving into Squirrel Run and other relatives from Ireland immigrating to the areaKeywords: American Vulcanized Fibre; chambermaid; Du Pont, Evelina, 1840-1938; Du Pont, Pauline Foster, 1849-1902; Irish immigrants; Italian immigrants; Mt. Salem Cemetery; trolley; University of DelawareTranscript: Monigle: Did you manage to make out on just your father's pension? He had been making a regular weekly salary.
Beacom: My father went to work for American Vulcanized Fibre. My brother and I were still going to school at this time. I don't know what kind of work he did there. That plant was located on Maryland Avenue and he used to have to take the trolley there. He didn't work there too long. He went to work one day and took sick and came home, and he wasn't sick but three or four days and he died. He died in the Squirrel Run home, April 19th, 1912, and we stayed there that summer and then moved down to this house he owned when he married my mother. He had been renting this over the years for $11.00 a month. He is buried in Mt. Salem Cemetery.
Wilkinson: Doesn't it surprise you that your father, earning what he did per month, could buy a house and be a landlord and not live in the house?
Beacom: My father thought when you married you ought to have a home to take your bride to. That was his doctrine. He used to tell the boys. None of them ever followed that. My mother and father were married in 1881. He may have brought some money over here from Ireland because I know they had had a farm over there. My mother was a good manager. She paid cash for everything and she never had a bank account until we went to work. When my sister went to work she first gave up her money and then she paid board. Then when I went to work and my brother was going to the University of Delaware we gave her the money.
Monigle: Did your mother keep any kind of a written record or just sugar bowl?
Beacom: No. Just "sugar bowl." My father didn't smoke nor drink.
Monigle: In the community of Squirrel Run, were there times when business would slack off and some of the men would be laid off and families had to leave their house -- was there a feeling of nervousness?
Beacom: That never happened to us, because my father had steady work. I can't remember that happening to anybody I know.
Wilkinson: When did the Italian people begin to move in?
Beacom: After we moved they started to come in then. An Italian got our house. They were a nice group of Italians.
Monigle: What do you think happened? Did the Irish supply run out? Why was there a change?
Beacom: I guess they were sitting on top of the world. Their children had all grown up and were working and moving out. My father kept his contacts with friends and relatives in Ireland, and he wrote to them and sent them newspapers and we had a lot of relatives come over. My cousin Sarah Cordner came over and went to work for Mrs. Henry du Pont and Miss Evelina du Pont; Sarah married James Morrow. Then there were three sisters who came over and my mother brought them to our place--their names were Sarah Boston and Margaret Boston, and I forget the other one. Then my cousin John Cordner, who was Sarah's brother, he came to our house. Maggie Martin wrote to my father and asked him to let her come over, and he said she had to ask her mother if she could come, and if her mother said she could come, then my father would let her come. She came and often tells about how when she arrived here. She had a sheaf of wheat on the top of her hat and she carried a cloth bag in her hand. That was all the baggage she had. She walked up Rising Sun and up along the Brandywine; she walked all the way. My father was to meet her but she got in a day too soon. She came on by herself and she recognized Mrs. Stevenson because she had come over from Ireland and she asked her for directions. Later she brought her mother and father here and they lived in the Carpenter Shop row in Squirrel Run.
- Louise du Pont (Crowninshield)'s sewing class, later reunions of the sewing class, and other memories of Mrs. Crowninshield; her own career history with the DuPont CompanyKeywords: accounting; Beacom College; Boca Grande; business school; Christ Church; Crowninshield, Louise du Pont, 1877-1958; Eleutherian Mills; Episcopal Day Nursery; Jones' ice cream shop; mail room; Marblehead; reunions; secretary; sewing lessons; WinterthurTranscript: Monigle: Could you give us some information on Mrs. Crowninshield's sewing class?
Beacom: Well, when she first started it she was Miss Louise du Pont, the Colonel's daughter. She had us children on the Brandywine come up to Christ Church every Saturday morning at nine o'clock and she taught us how to sew. We sat at a long table and she would give us some thread and a needle and some cloth. Then she would come around the table and bend over us and teach us how to sew. One day she came to me and she said, "Bessie, you're the best hemstitcher I have." I thought that was wonderful, so I stopped then, because I thought I was really good. Well, at the end of the season she came around with prizes and I didn't get any. So, she said, "Bessie, I didn't give you any prize because you stopped. You are not supposed to stop, always in this life you are to try to do better." So, I didn't get any prize. I didn't like that. I went home and my mother agreed with her, so that took care of that.
She got married, I think in 1900, and invited us to the wedding and she had a reception for us over in the Sunday School room. Oh, she did look pretty! We just thought she was wonderful. She must have been in her teens when she started this sewing class. She would take us up to her parents' place at Winterthur for an outing. I had curly hair and one time the Colonel came out and grabbed me by my curls, and then he started to laugh and I thought he gave me a penny, but when I got home I saw it was a gold piece he had given me. He said something about buying pencils, but I can't remember exactly what, but anyway, it was a gold piece. Sometimes she would take us into the Episcopal Day Nursery--that was around Third and West Streets. Then we would go up to Jones'--that's where Miss McConnell was at Ninth and Market Streets. This was an ice cream shop and she would treat us all to ice cream. We never went to Reynolds', we always went to Jones'. She was very nice to us.
Monigle: Was this part of the Sunday School Class? Didn't she have a Sunday School Class that she taught?
Beacom: Yes, she had a class of boys in Sunday School, but this was her own idea treating us. She taught us on Saturday. When Miss Louise got married Miss Joanna Bradford took over. She was Judge Bradford's daughter. [Her mother was a du Pont and was President of St. Elizabeth's Society of Christ Church which was composed of our mothers.]
Monigle: Did you keep going after the disappointment over not getting a prize?
Beacom: Oh, yes. I went back. I got over it. About twenty-five years ago, she started to have reunions of the girls she had taught. I guess there were about thirty to forty of us in that group. We were all the powdermen's daughters and most of us went to Christ Church. We just had a grand time, and she enjoyed it so much she started to bring us up here every year to have a party. Every year during the month of May, just before Decoration Day, she would have us come here to Eleutherian Mills and we'd all go in that room to the right. The house would be just a mass of flowers from the doorway all down the hallway and up the steps. It was just gorgeous. We'd go in that room on the right and we'd sit and chat and she'd ask all about us.
She had a wonderful memory. Let me tell you, if the DuPont Company needed a president and would have a woman she would have been tops. Then she would take us downstairs to that room in the basement and we would say, "We've got better things than this at home." She'd have this big long table there in the basement and she'd have plates and spoons, and you could get two spoons full of ice cream on those spoons they were so big. Then she would take us down through her garden and she knew when there was a dead leaf on a tree or a branch. We'd have a wonderful time when we came to Eleutherian Mills. Some of the girls would sit on the big chairs and pose and pretend they were a du Pont.
Monigle: Did Mr. Crowninshield ever show up?
Beacom: Yes, but he never bothered much with us. He painted. She had an island up there at Marblehead and she entertained Bella McGarvey, whose father was killed in the 1890 explosion, and me up there and gave us this cabin on this island and we'd have to wait until the tide came in to get off it.
Wilkinson: I wonder how she ever got started on this sewing class?
Beacom: I don't think they had things to do in those days, and she just wanted to occupy her time that way. She loved to do it. There were no movies or things like that. We always met in the Sunday School next to the Church. There were two big rooms and we sewed in the smaller one.
Wilkinson: Was there any patronizing manner about her?
Beacom: No. It was just friendly. She mixed easily. After I was pensioned, she took me to Boca Grande for three months and she gave me a pass for the musicals down there and I used to sit there and wish some of that gang would come along and see me. We went up to Christ Church and we would see her on Sundays. And then when we went to the reunions we kept in touch. Then when I retired, she asked me if I would go down there with her. When she came back here I stayed with her as her secretary; then she would go to Boston and when she came back here I would be her secretary again. It was just like a vacation to me.
Monigle: We haven't said one word about your 41-year working career. You went down to the DuPont Company?
Beacom: I graduated from Alexis I. du Pont School in June 1908, age 17 years; and graduated from Beacom College in June 1909, and went to work for the DuPont Company December 7, 1909 at thirty-five dollars a month. I went through business school in nine months. I started as a secretary in the mail room and then I was transferred up to accounting and I quit the secretarial work. I was in accounting, and one of the men who worked there was transferred to New York. When he came back as Control Manager some of his girls didn't come with him and he asked me to work with him in photo products and that is where I worked until I was pensioned. His name was Mr. A. L. Koester. He was retired from the Company in 1946 and died in 1964. I was retired while Mr. Sam Baker was manager.
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