Interview with Louise F. Poole, 1974 March 4 [audio]
- Moving to Wilmington in 1918; Poole family genealogyKeywords: Bancroft, William P. (William Poole), 1835-1928; Conestoga wagons; Genealogy; Poole, William, 1764-1829; powder wagons; Shaw, Robert (American etcher, 1859-1912)Transcript: Ward: This is an oral interview with Mrs. Edward Poole, Methodist Country House, Kennett Pike. She has lived in the Wilmington area for many years and knows a great deal about many of our older Wilmington families.
Ward: Mrs. Poole, will you tell us where were you born and when you first came to Wilmington?
Poole: I was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1883.
Ward: When did you first come to Wilmington?
Poole: I came to Wilmington in 1918 to live, although I have known Wilmington since about 1907 when I was married.
Ward: What was Wilmington like when you first came here?
Poole: When I first came to Wilmington, the DuPont Company was just expanding. It was at the time that a great many outsiders were coming, employed by the DuPont Co. and those of us who were not Du Ponters, we felt like strangers, although my husband did come as a DuPont employee. But very shortly after we came the war ended and those recently employed men were discarded, my husband being among them.
Ward: What department was he in, Mrs. Poole?
Poole: He was a ballistic engineer at the Experimental Station. The Poole family were an old Wilmington family. I had been told that there were eight William Pooles in succeeding generations except that my husband was a break in the line, he having been named for his maternal grandfather, Edward Gilpin.
Since that time there are three William Pooles now living. My oldest son, who is an attorney here in Wilmington; his son, who now is in the Boston area about to go as a full professor at the college in Providence [Brown]; and his twelve-year-old son. All William Pooles. They are each one the oldest of his generation. The earliest William Poole of whom I have knowledge died in 1829. His home had been located where now the water works are, I think that's at the foot of 14th Street I believe. The house was on the road by which the DuPont Company sent their powder in the old Conestoga wagons toward the west and other parts of the country.
One interesting thing about that is an etching made by Robert Shaw. Robert Shaw, as you perhaps know, made etchings of a great many Delaware historic landmarks. He was a personal friend of my father-in-law, who was the fifth William Poole. He did an etching of that old house and made only two copies of it - one for himself. I do not know what happened to that one. The other one was made for my father-in-law and it is now owned by my son, Edward Gilpin Poole, Jr.
This William Poole had a family of ten children. His wife was named Sarah Sharpless, so the Poole family history is included in the Sharpless genealogy which was published in two volumes a few years ago. They must have a copy of it out there. And any information which I give could be verified in that Sharpless genealogy. Through the descendants of that William Poole, who was a silversmith and later a miller, hence his home right on the water.
Ward: Is the house where he lived still standing?
Poole: Oh no, I do not know when that house was demolished but it stood where the -- I forgot to tell part of the Shaw etching. Turn that off a minute. [Audio cuts out.] In the lower right-hand corner of this etching there is a tiny etching of a Conestoga wagon, there because at one time, I do not know the date, but at one time one of those powder wagons blew up right close to this Poole house, and that is the reason that Robert Shaw put that little mark there. Through that original Poole, the one who died in 1829, our Poole family is related to William Bancroft, who was William Poole Bancroft, a long-time Delaware citizen. Miss Alice Smythe, do you know her name?
Ward: Yes, indeed.
Poole: ...and Annie Poole Pyle, the wife of Howard Pyle. They all were descendants of that original Poole as I shall call him. His son was the only one of the Pooles, as far as I know, who had a middle name. He was William Shipley Poole and, of course, that's another Delaware name. He was married twice. By his first wife, one child survived; the others died in infancy of what they called consumption. His first wife was Sarah Mendenhall, which is where the Mendenhall family comes in. His second wife was Sarah Sharpless. I'm wrong on the names. Both those wives were named Lydia; I've made a mistake there. By his second wife there were two children, a daughter Lydia and William Poole, my father-in-law. Lydia died when she was 17 years old so that my father-in-law was the only male of that generation. I don't know anything more about William Shipley Poole.
- Father-in-law William PooleKeywords: early automobile ownership; Fountains; Poole, William, 1855-1918; Ursuline Academy (Wilmington, De.); Wilmington toll roadsTranscript: Poole: My father-in-law was a very modest man, well known in Wilmington; to me, one of the finest men I have ever known. In Rodney Court, there is a tablet in his honor in the northwest corner that is put there in remembrance of his work with the old Fountain Society. Do you know anything about that?
Ward: Yes, I have heard of that.
Poole: I tried to track down the various fountains that were in existence but my memory has failed me. There were five or six of them. I think there is still one in existence at the foot of Van Buren Street and the Park Drive. The one that I remember most distinctly was at the junction of Pennsylvania Avenue and Delaware Avenue. Several years ago when that was dismantled the city or state was ready to just destroy it completely, but Mr. William W. Laird rescued it and as far as I know he has it somewhere on his property.
My father-in-law was also interested in the old toll roads around Wilmington and one of my earliest recollections before I was even married; I visited here and he hired a horse and buggy and took me with him over the Concord Pike and I think the other was the Kennett Pike, gathering the tolls from these two roads. I remember distinctly coming down McKee's Hill and seeing the lights of Wilmington if we got back early in the evening -- seeing the lights of Wilmington across the river and I was always impressed by that sight. I once knew the location of a great many of these toll houses. Some of them I think are still marked historically - I can't remember them myself anymore. Father Poole was also very active in the 4th and West Friends Meeting and in the Friends School. My husband graduated from the Friends School in 1900.
Father Poole by profession was a pharmacist, having graduated from the Philadelphia School of Pharmacy. He was for a long time manager of what we call the old Belt Drug Store at the corner of 6th and Market Streets. After that store was sold, for a time he worked for what was then the Security Trust Company here in Wilmington, later absorbed by the Equitable Trust which is now called the Bank of Delaware, which I believe was the original name of that institution. He also acted as financial advisor for several people here, including a Mrs. Grant who at that time lived in a big house on the property which is now occupied by Ursuline Academy. I don't know whether you knew that house or not? At that time my young family -- we were living in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, and I remember Mrs. Grant lending him her chauffeur to bring him and his wife to see us at Lansdowne in an automobile, one of the first automobiles that I remember. I remember the letter that he wrote after his return. "We returned home at the rate of 20 miles per hour, entirely too fast." [Laughter]
- Her husband's mother's family, the Gilpins; her husband's work as construction engineer for Wilmington Institute Free Library; her eldest son's involvement on local boardsKeywords: College trustees; Gilpin family; Poole, William, 1908-1997; Wilmington Institute Free Library (Wilmington, Del.)Transcript: I was married in 1907 to the son of this William Poole. His mother was Sue Gilpin, daughter of Elizabeth and Edward Gilpin. She was the eldest of four daughters, all of whom lived in Wilmington. The second daughter, Bertha, married James Watson Phillips. Now he was connected with the Phillips-Thompson family. I forget just what business they were in but the name is familiar to Wilmingtonians, and he was a bridge designer at Edgemoor. The next one was Anna Gilpin Hazard, married to Vincent Hazard of West Chester. He was a designer of paper mill machinery with the old Pusey & Jones firm. The youngest one, Meta Gilpin Kent, was well known in Wilmington. Her husband was president of the J. Jacob Shannon Hardware Co., 1744 Market St. in Philadelphia, where he commuted day after day all the time he lived in Wilmington. Mrs. Kent was one of the founders of the New Century Club;
- Gilpin family and their connections to other local Quaker familiesKeywords: Genealogy; Gilpin family; Hazard, Willis Hatfield, 1866-1950; Quaker families; West Laurel Hill Cemetery (Bala-Cynwyd, Pa.)Transcript: Ward: Can you tell me something more about the Gilpin family?
Poole: The Gilpin family, I think, originated in Philadelphia, although my husband's grandfather Gilpin, I think, had lived in the Chadds Ford area. When I knew them they lived at 917 Washington St. here in Wilmington. Grandfather Gilpin died just a few months before I was married. As I mentioned, there were four daughters. The youngest of them, Mrs. Kent, and her husband lived with her mother until her mother's death. The Gilpin family cemetery plot is in the West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. Now one thing that has interested me particularly there is that the cemetery includes quite a large acreage which had once been the farm of the Dickson family, and the Dickson family are connected with my family. I don't know if that's interesting or not? Vincent Hazard's brother, Willis Hazard, was, I believe, a Harvard graduate, and he was a linguist and had studied some of the ancient languages and I believe had helped to decipher some of the old hieroglyphics that had been found in papyrus tablets, and so on. He did not live in Wilmington; he lived in West Chester. The Gilpin family was also connected with the Robinson family here in Wilmington. You may remember John Robinson who taught manual training in the old Wilmington High School on Delaware Avenue for many, many years. His daughter-in-law, Helen Ryle Robinson, daughter of Dr. Ryle, an old physician in Wilmington, is about my age and lives in the Plaza now.
Ward: What was his occupation through the years?
Poole: Her husband was with the DuPont Co. I forget which branch he was in. I hate to say because I'm not too accurate on some of these things. But they have one son who I think still lives in Wilmington whose name is Gilpin Robinson so there's that connection there. The more I go into this family history, the more I feel that so many of these old Quaker families are somehow or another all intertwined. They are.
Ward: It seems like it, doesn't it?
Poole: It does. And I'm finding one after another -- that Robinson connection I just thought of this morning.
Ward: Who was the next in the line of the Gilpin family?
Poole: They lived in West Chester, the Gilpins. Now Vincent Gilpin was a very prominent man in West Chester, but I don't know that it is necessary to put him in although he was known here in Wilmington. He was a first cousin - his mother was a Gilpin and he has been dead for some years -- but he was very active in West Chester. He did writing for sports magazines and he was a great walker and he was extremely active in everything in West Chester. We knew him very well and his widow is still living in West Chester and very active. I have been trying to go over things…things slip out of my head these days.
- Where she has lived since moving to Wilmington; anecdotes from her volunteer work with the Traveler's Aid SocietyKeywords: Country House: Wilmington Retirement Community; Desertion and non-support;Retirement communities; Runaway children; Segregation; Travelers' aid societiesTranscript: Ward: When you came to Wilmington in 1918, what was it like?
Poole: When I came to Wilmington in 1918, it was in the midst of the war and we couldn't find any house except the one which we took I'm not going to even tell where it was, which I disliked heartily -- I didn't like the neighborhood, I didn't like the neighbors, but it was the only place we could find and I lived there until my husband's death in 1937. My son Bob, who now is in Taiwan, was determined that I must make a change and he helped me hunt a home and I bought a new house on 32nd Street opposite the Park -- do you know the Park over there? I just loved it over there. After a short time, I think I only lived there two years, and the last of my children went to college, and I didn't feel I could keep the house itself so I went into an apartment on 1409 Delaware Avenue where I lived for a number of years. By that time my daughter was married and had a hundred-acre farm in Chester County. Her children were all fond of horses, and she wanted a place where they could have horses and ride and I finally built a little cottage on her property where I lived for about five years, then came back to Wilmington to another apartment on Delaware Avenue, by that time having made arrangements to come into the Country House as soon as it was open. I have been here since the place opened, almost 14 years ago.
Ward: Other than taking care of your family, which I know is a big responsibility, what have been your interests over the years?
Poole: Well, I taught for two years, three years before I was married, and I did volunteer work after my husband's death. I was on the board at the YWCA. I was active in Westminster Church. I had been president and secretary of the Women's Association and various other things, and during the war one of the most interesting things I did was to act as a volunteer for the Traveler's Aid when the Traveler's Aid was located down in the railroad building and we volunteers stood at the desk outside at the foot of the steps and that was one of the most interesting experiences I ever had.
Ward: Do you recall some of the most interesting things?
Poole: Yes, I could tell you some. [Laughter] We had varied experiences there. Some happy experiences and some very pathetic. I remember at one time a young service man came in, handed me a dollar and said, "My buddy wants to send one rose to his mother. Will you buy it for me and see that it is sent?" Another experience was of a woman who came in unkempt, scraggly toothed, looking utterly disreputable, stopped at the desk and she said, "Will you tell my husband if he stops here I have gone to New York?" I said, "Well, who is your husband?" And she rattled off some unpronounceable name and I said, "Spell it for me." She said, "I can't spell it, I've only had it for an hour." That was the end of that episode. We had many requests for places to stay in the city -- sometimes for just some place to get a meal. At one point I remember two service men, one white and one negro, stopped at the desk and said, "Can you tell me any place where we two can sit down together and have a meal? We have been buddies for years in the war and now we can't find a place in this city where the two of us can sit down together to eat." That made me cry almost.
Ward: Were you able to find a place for them?
Poole: No, I couldn't tell them any place they could go where they could both eat. Of course now you could, but at that time you couldn't. We were often asked for lodgings for one or two nights. I remember one day a man came in and asked me for a place to sleep for the night. I called the Hotel du Pont and they immediately said they had no room. Not long afterwards -- a very few minutes afterwards -- came a British naval officer with all these decorations asking for a place to stay. I again called the Hotel du Pont - maybe this oughtn't go it - and I said I have here a British naval officer hunting a place to stay tonight. "Why certainly we can accommodate him." I don't know if that ought to be told or not. [Laughter] You think it should or shouldn't?
Ward: Yes, I think so. I'm sure it happened.
Poole: It did happen. Oh, there were lots of interesting things. One time a lovely looking young woman came in with a beautiful baby girl, probably about two years old. Tastefully dressed -- beautiful in every respect. She was hunting her husband who had left her and she was trying to follow him. I don't think she ever found him. I think he just walked off. Oh, there were lots of interesting things during that time. We came across many instances of runaway children. Station police brought to us. Of course we at this outer desk didn't handle any cases of the kind - we just referred them to the workers who were back in the other rooms. That was awfully interesting. That was about all I did.
- Her son Robert's work with the United Nations, work with children in New York, and teaching in TaiwanKeywords: Civil service; College teachers; Social work with youth; United NationsTranscript: Ward: What are the most positive things that you think happened from that time until now?
Poole: The most positive things? Well, let me think. Of course I was so tied down with my children. I never traveled; I couldn't afford it. My children are doing the things now that I wanted to do myself, and of course that's to me now more valuable than if I'd done it myself.
My son Bob has had most interesting experiences. He is the one who is now in Taiwan. He worked under the U.N. for a number of years. He is a widower. He was three years in Turkey, three years in Taiwan, two years in South Korea, all under the U.N. He came back to the States planning to stay back here. He got a fine position in New York City which suited him exactly with an agency that had been established by Eleanor Roosevelt many years ago and was privately financed working in the slums of New York with children, and he was living in Peekskill at the time. He had to leave early in the morning and he got back late at night, and it was just too strenuous so he had a request to go back to Taiwan to teach. So finally that is what he did and is now doing; he's teaching in a university in Taiwan.
Ward: What does he teach?
Poole: He is teaching, I think for the most part, young Chinese who want to come to this country. He is teaching English, drama and literature.
Ward: Isn't that a nice combination?
Poole: He wrote me recently of his experiences in teaching drama. I'll think of the name of this play - "Our Town" - the students loved working with that and doing that. There are one or two others that they enjoy. They could find no fun in "Arsenic and Old Lace." [Laughter] I don't know how long he is going to stay over there.
Ward: You mentioned your other son who was a Rhodes Scholar...
Poole: That's Bill, he's the oldest one.
Ward: What would you say was the greatest impact that experience had for him?
Poole: Well, I told you all that. I told you he was the one who was interested in all these other things. He's very active in all community affairs in the city of Wilmington. Always has been. Works with all these education institutions - he never says no to anything he's asked to do. He has interesting family.
- Interest in archeology and her Quaker philosophyKeywords: Archaeology; Excavations (Archaeology); Israel--Masada Site; Quakers; Quakers--Conduct of lifeTranscript: Ward: I see you have a number of interesting pictures here.
Poole: Well, I'll tell you. I have given away every bit of bric-a-brac and I only have all my rascals here. [Laughter] I can't see them but I know they are here. That is Bill over my bed. That's my oldest son.
Ward: What would you say has been your philosophy of life?
Poole: [Laughter] My philosophy of life? I dare hardly talk about my philosophy...is this turned off?
Ward: No, it's on.
Poole: Well, turn it off.[Audio stopped and begins again.]
Ward: You mentioned the Quakers, Mrs. Poole. What do you feel is the contribution that they have left?
Poole: I went to Swarthmore College, graduated in 1904. It was there that I met my husband. I was particularly influenced there by Dr. Jesse Holmes who taught Philosophy and Biblical literature and what else - not religion - well history and literature. I first through him gained my first interest in archeology. He told us then of the excavations of the old city of Troy in which - the name has just slipped me - a man who was then employed by the University of Pennsylvania was engaged - oh he's well known, darn it - and from that time on I became more and more interested in the developments of and really of the beginnings of mankind. One of the first books that I had - my books for the blind - was the Masada. Now the Masada was a natural fortress on the west side of the Dead Sea not too far from where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. King Herod had built a palace on top of that which was almost impossible to reach - the slopes of the hill were so steep - recent excavations there have brought to light many things. After Herod was gone, that palace was occupied by the Essines, which was a branch of the Jews to which John the Baptist belonged, and they were there until the time of the Romans. When they realized that the Romans were coming in they made a pact that they should really murder each other; they would rather die than be taken over by the Romans. There had been left there a great many fragments of papyrus and various other records, Biblical records, and the Romans tried to destroy everything but after they had left they found there were fragments, many of which have been pieced together somewhat -- and they found parts of the books of Genesis, Deuteronomy, the Psalms and so on. All these things have interested me and still interest me.
Ward: You were going to tell me about the philosophy of the Quakers that you have gained from?
Poole: An expression that the Quakers use is the Inner Light -- which is the same as God Within -- and I think that is the way I live by, and as far as the teachings of the New Testament there is one sentence which to me sums up the life and teachings of Jesus. That is, "He went about doing good." My creed is very simple. That's it.
- New Sharpless family genealogy; life at the Country House retirement communityKeywords: Country House: Wilmington Retirement Community; J.E. Rhoads & Sons, Inc.; retirement communities; Sharpless familyTranscript: Ward: That's fine. You were mentioning some of the wonderful people who live here. You were telling me about the Sharpless family and that record. Where can we find that?
Poole: Recently there has been published a new genealogy of the Sharpless family. It is in two big volumes. It was underwritten by Philip Sharpless whose family was of the Sharpless Separator business in West Chester. He now lives in the Philadelphia area. He was a pupil of mine in the West Chester Friends School years ago. He did a great deal of the work himself and, as I said, he underwrote the expense of it and there are copies of that many places. The Rhoads here have one; my son has a copy of it; I'm sure the public library has copies of it.
Ward: Does Mr. Rhoads live here in this wing?
Poole: Yes. He is of the old Rhoads Belting Company which is the oldest business in Delaware still run by the same family, and he still goes down every day. He's 90 years old, too. He's my age. He's really an amazing person. He's very straight. Walks - he's much more active than I am.
Ward: Are there any other of the old Wilmington families here that you think of?
Poole: Well, Miss Tatnall, Miss Swayne...oh, I know there are a number of them. At the moment I just can't think of any of them. But I know there are a great many of the Wilmington people here.
Ward: Well, perhaps we could go through the directory and find others.
Poole: It's a very interesting group of people in this house. To me this is just an ideal place for retirement.
Ward: It certainly sounds like it. Everyone seems happy.
Poole: Well, it's a challenging place; there's always something to keep your minds active. In our infirmary -- you see we have a new infirmary which just opened a year of so ago. As a matter of fact I was down there just for nine days - the first time I've been there since I've been in the house in the 14 years, and it is just beautifully managed and run. They have RNs for every period of the day, Medicare, and we have two Wilmington physicians who take turns being in attendance here, and they are always on call when they are not here: Dr. Barnhart and Dr. McKelcan.
Ward: I think a lot of people have a dread of growing older and I think you make it sound, as you say, like a challenge to be here.
Poole: Well I often think of something that Mr. Vigneulle said - he's the one who leads the men's chorus - at the close of one of the concerts a while back he said, "When I came here I didn't come here to die; I came here to live." And I think that is the theory on which most of us work.
Ward: Well, I think that certainly is a positive attitude so perhaps that will be a good place to stop our interview. I certainly do appreciate your time Mrs. Poole; it has been most interesting talking to you.
Poole: Well, I'm not as spry as I once was. [Laughter]
Ward: Now tell me the number of daughters and sons and grandsons.
Poole: I have four sons and one daughter. I have fourteen grandchildren - eight grandsons and six granddaughters - and I have nineteen great-grandchildren.
Ward: How many of those have the Poole name?
Poole: Let me think...