Interview with Clement Hoopes, 1969 July 3 [audio]
- His father's work history as superintendent of the Hagley powder yard; his family's home in what is now called the Belin House; his father missing an explosion while having his horse shod on Christmas Eve in 1917Partial Transcript: Wilkinson: The following is a recording of an interview held with Mr. Clement Hoopes, on Thursday, July 3, 1969, at the Eleutherian Mills Historical Library in the Conference Room. Present at the interview were Dr. Norman Wilkinson and Mr. John Scafidi.
Hoopes: My name is Clement L. Hoopes and I'm coming 62 and I've lived around the Brandywine for a long time. The Hoopes family were originally Quakers that came from West Chester and I'm now going the full circle because Hoopes of West Chester went to Philadelphia and then my father came from Philadelphia to Wilmington to the DuPont Company. I have now bought a farm in Kennett Square which is near London Grove Meeting where I now go back to so I have almost made a full circle and if I'm buried in West Chester it will be achieved. My father was with Hoopes & amp; Townsend Iron Nuts and Bolts until he got double pneumonia from hot and cold rooms where he was General Manager, in Philadelphia, down on Buttonwood and Broad, and from there he came to Wilmington and into black powder and he was assistant superintendent of the Yard in 1916 and when Mr. Rodney Wilson died he was General Manager or General Superintendent, whichever the phrase was, through '17, '18 and '19.
Wilkinson: How did he get into the black powder business from his former line of work, do you know?
Hoopes: Merely that he knew management and men and it was mostly management of men and production. The actual making of powder was already taken care of through specialists in Wilmington and he had friends in Wilmington. That happened the way so many things happen.
Wilkinson: What was his own background, education, etc.?
Hoopes: He had gone to Haverford and his father and grandfather and great-grandfather had the Hoopes and Townsend Nuts and Bolts so there was never any choice. It was just lucky the place was sold or I'd have been in it.
Wilkinson: Then his period of superintending the Yard is from about '17 to '20?
Hoopes: Things slowed up in '19 after the war was over and it was a housekeeping job and he went back in Wilmington in the offices. I think the peak was '17 and '18 and the peak particularly in '17 because I don't think there had ever been a three-shift workday. Three shifts within 24 hours and that was all. The transportation for that was not done neatly as it would be done nowadays with buses, etc., but it was the old Rising Sun trolley which came out the Kennett Pike and passed Mr. Lammot du Pont's old gray castle, and swung in through back of the Copelands' on that trestle and came out and came up by the Carpenters' - I mean it swung, it didn't go all the way to the Carpenters and it was a Toonerville Trolley, truly, it swayed. It ended down by the gates...Just where the DuPont Record library is. On that level. The Hall of Records. It was just exactly where it stopped and I used to walk from the yellow house which is down back of the hill from Christ Church and across the woods and down over that way. It gave one a great feeling of independence.
Wilkinson: Where was your home?
Hoopes: The yellow house back of Christ Church which I think is not inhabited now but the Creightons were the last people to live there.
Wilkinson: We call it that Belin house. You call it yellow. If I'm thinking of the same thing it's a big white frame structure right opposite a little stone building that used to be the Hagley Office.
Hoopes: It used to be yellow with green shutters and the Hagley Office was where my father's office was and that was the best commute anybody ever had. Right across the road and then there was a barn opposite that where part of it was a garage and then there was a mare because rather than using a jeep in those days you had a horse. My father used to ride so he resumed riding and went up and down the yard that way and the grinding mill, on Christmas Eve, 1917, blew up killing 33 men - which was the biggest - and he would have been there had not the mare conveniently been having a shoe put on over at the blacksmith shop toward the church. There was a row of houses of which there are only about two left now that ran from the church over to the road which Henry Silliman's had blocked up, you would come straight down that road from Henry Silliman's straight to the office. That was a great hill for sledding and the houses that came from the church to that road were called Squirrel Run, and it had a stream that ran down to what I call the yellow house and my brother and I got typhoid because of that. They cared less about pollution if possible then. The old theory of the flowing stream didn't work. The house that I thought that you were thinking of goes straight up the hill between that barn and the little square office up the hill to one of the really grand houses that I'm ashamed to say has been disregarded and gone. I think Mr. Belin du Pont later on did take some of the pillars and some of the woodwork out of it. It was his mother's family home - the Bradfords - and it was a Gone-with-the-Wind type of house.
Wilkinson: When we came here it had been abandoned and I think it had been vandalized. Mr. H. B. then had it torn down a few years after that. Right up back of the old Sunday School, back of the old Hagley Office.
Hoopes: You approached it by going down Deans' driveway and circling and there used to be a lovely little road that went down there. All filled in. But that was a lovely house and had a spiral staircase and a grand entrance hall and you know, all the Gone-with-the-Wind.
Wilkinson: The photographs don't do it justice then, because it looks like a ghost house that has long been abandoned.
Hoopes: Is any part of it still there?
Wilkinson: As far as I know the whole thing has been leveled. Just underbrush and so on.
Hoopes: I asked Belin once if there were any timbers left from it and he said he didn't think so.
Wilkinson: I'm not sure what happened to the material.Keywords: Du Pont, Henry Belin, 1898-1970; Explosions; Gunpowder industry; Hill; Hoopes & amp; Personnel management; Townsend Iron Nuts and Bolts; work history; Workers
- Damage to his family's house from explosions; his father's daily routine and work responsibilities; walking in the yards with his father or the guardsPartial Transcript: Wilkinson: Well now, your father was superintendent for these three or four years. One incident that stands out is your recollection of this explosion - Christmas Eve,'l7, is it?
Hoopes: Christmas Eve, '17.
Wilkinson: Are there other aspects of your father's working here that you think are worth remembering?
Hoopes: Well, I remember two other occasions when we were blown out of the house. One was very close, January or February of that year and the next was the following year in which so many windows were blown out and in one case plaster fell that we would move out long enough to have it repaired. Mother lost a great deal of china which upset her. It did lots of silly things like breaking a cellar window - it would lay it out that way, unbroken on the ground and a swinging dining room door which you would think would just swing would blow flat - right off the hinges. On one occasion, a moment of drama I guess, which mother said taught her that one should never talk into the telephone unless talking to the person, that she called after she heard the explosion - she was at some church or garden club meeting in town. The colored maid that we had at the time said, "My God, what will I tell her." She thought of course that my father was dead. Not at all. A big china bowl was broken.
Wilkinson: Well now, if it is the same house that I have in mind, years ago a double row of trees was planted all around it by a former occupant named Collison. Does that name mean anything? He was a bookkeeper, I think, that occupied that house. And the theory was that that double row of trees acted as a buffer and reduce the shock. Is this correct?
Hoopes: Yes, it's true. The trees were there. Of course there was another wing that was added out to the house and that was sort of a reinforced room. It had a double wall. I don't know whether they thought it was going to be a bomb shelter or not.
Wilkinson: Applying the mill construction idea over to housing. Do you recall anything of your father's day by day routine? What hour did he rise?
Hoopes: I think he went across the road about 8:30 or maybe 8:00. I would be going to school by 8:00 myself and spent a certain amount of time in the office, and then he would get on his horse and ride down to the Yard and check this and that and then he would get a message to come back to the office and so he would ride up to the office again and I thought at that age it was a great job.
Scafidi: Did his horse have to have any special shoes?
Hoopes: Good question. Yes, he had leather shoes and you'd have to drive them in with nails still. They were blunt ended nails and now of course you could use a kind of paste that some of the Amish use for driving horses. But there were nails in the leather shoes but some means was taken about that. It wasn't the spark struck off by the steed in his flight - not like the ride of Paul Revere.
Wilkinson: Nowadays there are also plastic horseshoes aren't there, for race horses, as I understand. We are always interested in knowing as much as we can about operation of the milling system and so on. Is your memory clear enough to tell us anything of what was going on in specific buildings? You were a boy of course.
Hoopes: I was only 7 or 8 but I remember they used the race and they used the mill wheel. Details I can't tell you.
Wilkinson: By wheel are you speaking of the old style wooden wheel or the metal turbine?
Hoopes: Metal turbine.
Wilkinson: We assumed the wooden wheels had gone out by the end of the century.
Hoopes: This was after all well into the century.
Scafidi: Were you ever allowed into the yards? Or did you sneak in?
Hoopes: Yes, both. Occasionally I went with my father or with a guard and I was very pally with all the guards and they lived in what later was Mrs. Crowninshield's house which was the guards' barracks. It had been somewhat deserted before that and was a fine big gray building but they had it fixed up like an Army barracks, with a bugler and an officer of the day and all the works and I remember after this Christmas blow walking around with one of the guards in the snow and bits of men were hanging in trees and of course at the age of seven this was kind of like the Black Arrow; it was great and had no revulsion whatever.
Wilkinson: Was your father superintendent of the entire operation or of the Hagley Yards?
Wilkinson: Who was in a comparable position upstream, do you know? This property here, the Upper Yard? Any names come to mind?
Hoopes: Well, Mr. Wilson preceded him - Frank, who lived in the old Belin du Pont house.
Wilkinson: He was in charge of the Upper Yard?
Hoopes: He was before my father and I think that he was in charge of all and then eventually being in charge meant going back into the DuPont Building. But I think physically on the spot my father was in charge of it all and could call back. He was the actual one here in '17 and '18.
Wilkinson: There was a telephone system as we understand in the Hagley office right opposite where you lived. Let's say your father was down in one of the mills or in the yard proper and he had to be reached. What method of communication was there?
Hoopes: Well, what you did was you phoned any of the buildings and then asked them to tell him or have someone wave him down.
Wilkinson: There were no phones in individual producing buildings along the creek edge were there?
Hoopes: Only in a couple. I remember that being discussed and I now can't remember what buildings they were in. But they were in two or three.
Wilkinson: Now when you were speaking of the yellow house I was thinking of a building that is still painted yellow stucco on Hallock du Pont's property right near where his wife has her kennels and that has often been mentioned by other people as an office also. It used to be the home of the miller who ran the old barley mill before your time.
Hoopes: Well, Mr. Wilson lived there when he was superintendent and then I think it became a residence for a group of men involved in the management end of the company, perhaps in town, younger men. Sort of a boarding house.
Wilkinson: The big building right inside our gates used to be the old Machine Shop. Do you recall anything of its operation?
Hoopes: Only that it was an office building of some kind. I can't fully remember but I think it was production and office.
Scafidi: Something like a designer's office?
Wilkinson: Then what is the present Hagley Museum building was still making metal kegs? Did your father have supervision of this or was this under someone else?
Hoopes: To the best of my knowledge, '17 and '18 I think Connable and Wilson were involved. Then at the end of the war he was in charge of all that was out here and Mr. Lammot du Pont whom he had known well was, I think, at that point in charge of black powder - entire operation of black powder - and though there may have been a chain or two of command. Old John McCoy, Brel's father, was involved in that, or there were times when Mr. du Pont used to come out - he was that kind of a guy - pipe in mouth out looking around.Keywords: African American women household employees; Belin House; Black arrow (Stevenson, Robert Louis); Connable, Frank; Du Pont, Lammot, 1880-1952; Explosions; Gunpowder industry; Mills and mill-work; Personnel management; Telephone; Wilson, Roger
- Childhood pastimes and his childhood hero Joe McGilligan; his education beginning with Wilmington Friends School; his family keeping chickens, pigeons, and a gardenPartial Transcript: Wilkinson: We would be interested in some of your boyhood experiences as well as these working experiences. You spoke of walking to get certain places - what other kind of boyhood experiences do you recall? You swam in the creek?
Hoopes: We swam in the creek, we used to go on camping trips up through that area near the Bradford house, and we used the Bradford house as a spy system during the war and we played all the kinds of games you could in the woods with an old house. Squirrel Run, the houses up above, had some boys I used to play with and Christ Church in those days was smaller - didn't have a balcony, didn't have the new chapel and didn't have the parsonage. That was not there nor was that magnificent parking lot nor was it needed because there was about 14 people in church sort of like the old Sir Roger de Coverly operation and old Parson William Laird, who was Chick Laird's grandfather, no great uncle who was a brother of William Winder Laird, was the minister at that time, and he asked rather candidly what explosion blew religion out of the du Pont family.
Wilkinson: Did he get an answer?
Hoopes: Never got an answer. And all of them, the brothers - I only saw Pierre at weddings. I think Irenee would go occasionally, Lammot would go Easter and so his remarks were well taken.
Wilkinson: The Francis Gurney side of the family seems to be the one closest to retaining its faith in the church. I know he was an ardent churchman. I'm not sure if Francis I., his son was. But the women's side of the family maintain that.
Hoopes: As a matter of fact Edmund is one of - I think he is a Junior Warden now - he's involved very much.
Scafidi: Was there any Protestant-Catholic cleavage between the kids from St. Joe's and their parents and the kids from Christ Church and their parents?
Hoopes: Only that it was mentioned and medallions were found around the necks of men who were killed and, no, it was that lovely old up to 1920 turn of mind that was emphasized in George Apley that the Catholics were the lower classes.
Wilkinson: Well, by these years I assume that the work people and the people living in the local community were mostly Italians. Is this true?
Hoopes: There were a lot of Italians. And there was a lot - there were a great many Irish and Scotch too. There was a wonderful Scotsman named Joe McGilligan and he carried the mail and also exercised my father's horse occasionally and fed him, and he had a great way with the girls in the kitchen and was a great hero of mine. He used to take all the mail over to Montchanin and one bright day he vanished with the paychecks for something like three weeks and they never found him and I was always secretly pleased.
Wilkinson: He had been underpaid, had he? Does the name Alec Burns in that same category of workmen mean anything to you? He may have been earlier. He seems to have been a similar type of character.
Hoopes: Did he go off with something?
Wilkinson: No. He was an expert gardener.
Hoopes: This one had a red mustache and was well set up and the cook liked him and he was always getting extra food, and he used to tell me stories and I wandered around with him. At one brief point we had a pony and I used to ride with him but he was much the most interesting, charming guy I knew, much better than some of the dull bookkeepers.
Scafidi: Were there a lot of old men around, half cripples, or people who had been hurt in the mills, town characters?
Hoopes: I only knew one who had been crippled and lived up in Squirrel Run but they all seemed very young and vigorous.
Wilkinson: Where did you go to school?
Hoopes: I went to Friends School in Wilmington - 4th and West - and this trolley very happily ran all the way to the corner of 8th and West. Public transportation was much better then than now. As were trains and everything, I guess. I wish we had never gone beyond either the balloon or the bicycle.
Wilkinson: You finished Friends School - was that 8th grade or 12th grade or how far did it go?
Hoopes: I went through, I guess, the 9th grade. and then I had three years at the Hill School at Pottstown and then I went to Princeton.
Wilkinson: Getting back to your boyhood here. Do you have any recollection of the nature of the farming operations, the gardens and what was being grown, orchards, etc.?
Hoopes: My father was very interested in vegetable gardens and then my mother expanded it to a typical flower garden kind of thing and then we kept chickens and pigeons. That big field opposite the office where there was a path and a turnstile that swung over toward the Hall of Records and there were big wooden steps that went down. There was lot of pasture land that was not used that could have been used and I used to think later on wouldn't it have been nice to have sheep on there? They would all have been killed in the explosions or something.
Wilkinson: Well, Mrs. Crowninshield, as you may know, had sheep but that was later.
Scafidi: Where did your father get feed for his horse?
Hoopes: Oh, I think that was plain boughten feed and where he got the hay I'm not sure. I just don't know where he got it. It was like manna from heaven, at that age, it just came.Keywords: Boys--Social life and customs; Children--Social life and customs; du Pont family--Religious life; public transportation; Quakers--Education; Theft
- Discussing location of E.I. du Pont's restored original garden, the DuPont office buildings, and other nearby structures; use of Eleutherian Mills residence as a clubhouse and later guards' barracks during World War I; his impression of Victorine and Antoine FosterPartial Transcript: Wilkinson: We're restoring the old garden in front of the du Pont residence, Mrs. Crowninshield's home - the one that was there for about 90 or 100 years and abandoned sometime around the turn of the century.
Hoopes: She worked a Roman garden out back.
Wilkinson: That was hers, behind the house. No, we're going back to E. I.'s original garden out front which has been grassed over and made meadowland and we're a little vague as to what it looked like, what was going on there, roughly from 1900 to through your early period of living around here. This is right opposite the barn, across from the barn.
Hoopes: Well, I remember there being hummocks of paths and there were garden beds; I vaguely remember that but it was grown up pretty well. What about the little stone house where the road forks to go to Christ Church and Henry Silliman's? That I had always heard was the original office.
Wilkinson: The original office is right in front and slightly to the north of Mrs. Crowninshield's house. Do we have that chart, John?
Hoopes: That's about where I mean. We used to pass it on the road.
Wilkinson: Here's the Crowninshields' house and this was when it was a workman's clubhouse in the 1890's. Here's the big barn - the garden I'm speaking of is over here.
Hoopes: Where is the road to Christ Church?
Scafidi: I guess you could go that way, but the present road is up here.
Hoopes: Where is the graveyard? All right, go down this road and right about there, there was a little old stone house which I gave Brel McCoy an old photograph of one when he was first made vice-president and it's right in here.
Scafidi: We understand that for a while they had barracks up here in World War I besides the house.
Hoopes: There was. There was one shed with tarpaper which was an overflow. I do remember that. But I didn't remember it as being a very big building.
Wilkinson: [looking at map] - This is the First Office, the little stone structure and the Residence is just back here.
Hoopes: No, no, which was Mrs. Crowninshield's guest house? No, I'm not referring to that.
Wilkinson: You're not referring to Mrs. E. Paul du Pont's home which was the second office when the company moved its headquarters from here just opposite the cemetery, a building called the Second Office?
Hoopes: Where is a picture of that?
Wilkinson: Well, I'm sorry we don't have it because it is not on our property.
Hoopes: I always think of Mrs. Paul du Pont's big yellow house as quite big.
Wilkinson: It is. It was a bigger office - that's why they moved from this little one. They needed more space.
Hoopes: This was supposedly so old that it had been an office for Pierre Samuel.
Wilkinson: The original P.S.? The Silliman house, Hagley, date 1795, Jacob Broome had built and occupied and then du Pont bought it for one of his daughters, Eleuthera, but the present occupants are the Sillimans. To the best of our knowledge that has always been a residence.
Hoopes: At the fork, you go down here to Henry Silliman's and this way you go to Christ Church and right here in that field - I guess it was torn down when the Deans put a driveway in.
Wilkinson: It isn't a little building that also known as the Cannon House? There is a little structure where they used to test eprouvettes.
Hoopes: That could be it.
Wilkinson: That's gone. That was on Deans' property.
Hoopes: That's what I was thinking of.
Wilkinson: But it was your recollection that it was once identified as an office? Well, we have pictures of it but it looks like a tiny little shed, stored powder and other things in it.
Hoopes: This was stone.
Wilkinson: We're talking about two different things. This is new to us.
Scafidi: Do you know of any available photograph or picture that we could take a look at or borrow from somebody?
Hoopes: I will see if I can borrow it from Brel McCoy if he's still got it. Let me approach him. Maybe it would be embarrassing to him if he didn't have it. [laughter]
Scafidi: If there is anything that is a mystery to us it is always good to find out.
Wilkinson: I'm not so sure whether this is going to fix it or not but this is the barn again. This is the field area that we are speaking of, here is the First Office, Crowninshield Residence, now what you are speaking of is off here some place?
Hoopes: What's that?
Wilkinson: That's our little gatehouse. Just to control the flow of traffic. Here are our entrance gates. You're speaking of something down here on the road to Christ Church. Well, if you have any evidence or knowledge of it we will be interested in it.
Scafidi: There is another thing that's a slight mystery. On the Residence, Mrs. Crowninshield's house, was there a frame wing, this outline here, was there something attached to it? We know now it is just this basic structure.
Hoopes: What is this connecting?
Wilkinson: Well, it looks just like a walkway, doesn't it? A covered over tunnel or causeway.
Hoopes: I don't think so. She used the cellar a great deal for Sunday lunches and that kind of thing with two pronged forks that you tried to eat beans with. [laughter]
Wilkinson: Well, the story of this as we have picked it up from various sources that after a bad explosion in 1890 the house had to be abandoned. For about three years it lay idle then Francis Gurney had it fixed up as a Workmen's Clubhouse and along with that they built this wooden wing - on the downstream side - where they had pool room and bowling alley and library and kitchen facilities, shower, on so on. This is what we think all of this was. But we don't know how long it survived. Did it survive through World War I up until about '20 or so?
Hoopes: I don't know whether you are putting the idea in my head but there was some sort of an extension in there but I thought it was all a part of the barracks. I hadn't realized it was anything different.
Wilkinson: Well, the barracks may have been necessary to make use of that and more than likely...
Hoopes: You mean it was an overflow the way this piece up here...
Scafidi: When it was a clubhouse they had rooms that they made into barber shops, it just seemed to be a community center that they built. This we've heard was an overflow of that. I suppose it had recreational facilities.
Hoopes: This had been empty, I heard, for a long time up until World War I.
Wilkinson: The family moved out in 1890. Mrs. Henry du Pont and her daughter Evelina. Did you ever meet Evelina?
Hoopes: I did indeed. A great old girl.
Wilkinson: She lived to be 98.
Hoopes: I knew Mrs. Foster better, who would be her sister. You know where she lived? On Kirk Road.
Wilkinson: Now the Evelyn du Pont home?
Hoopes: Yes. No, it was a big stone house which I think they tore down and rebuilt but there is still a gatehouse.
Wilkinson: As you turn right off Kirk Road?
Hoopes: A little more Gothic atmosphere which her house had.
Wilkinson: We're forever grateful to Mrs. Foster because of this garden restoration. She is our best source of information. She drew a sketch of it in the 1920's remembering it as it was in the 1880's, a quite detailed sketch, and she also wrote an account, 2 page, 3 page account of her recollections of the garden.
Hoopes: Did she keep a diary?
Wilkinson: We haven't, as I recall, come across a diary but we do have this account and we have excavated the site of the garden archaeologically and we have found the things that she said were there, the well, the cold frames, the greenhouse, the location of the paths, and so on.
Hoopes: Old Mr. Foster, Lenty Foster, had a white mustache and never read anything but the New York Times. He said, "Oh, is there a Wilmington publication?"
Wilkinson: He was from other parts. Antoine Lentilhon Foster and you called him...?
Hoopes: He was known as Lenty and really he looked, as I remember - being read at that time Little Lord Fauntleroy - and he looked like old Cedric the Duke. I think he was New England and American, but he wore a white stock and he had white cuffs and he fitted the old tradition very well.Keywords: Barracks; Du Pont, Eleuthere Irenee, 1771-1834; Du Pont, Evelina, 1840-1938; Eleutherian Mills (Greenville, Del. : Dwelling); Foster, Antoine Lentilhon, 1847-1928; Foster, Victorine du Pont, 1849-1934; historic preservation; maps; restoration; Workmen's Clubhouse
- Recollection of toll houses on Kennett Pike; impression of Evelina du Pont; his involvement with the Commissioners of the Brandywine Battlefield ParkPartial Transcript: Wilkinson: Did you know old Colonel Henry A.?
Hoopes: I used to see him in his carriage - the Kennett Pike used to have a dirt strip on the side for those few that still drove carriages - you could see him in the back with curtains only half way breezing to town.
Wilkinson: The Kennett Pike Association is interested in the history of the turnpike and...
Hoopes: I remember the tolls. The first toll was just after you passed the Alexis I. du Pont School and that little bridge, near Breck's Lane.
Wilkinson: Someone has said that the little house near Buck's Tavern, still standing as the office of the Kennett Pike Association. That tavern is torn down. Someone has said they are pretty sure that was an old toll house.
Hoopes: That was the second.
Wilkinson: You can remember that as a toll house?
Hoopes: I remember, yes.
Wilkinson: Right there at Buck Road. From Breck's Lane to Buck Road...
Hoopes: No. I was thinking further out. The road that - what is the road that goes down to John McCoy's, after you pass Fairville? At the foot of that hill.
Wilkinson: The road that goes to McCoy's is Snuff Mill.
Hoopes: I'm not thinking of C. B. I'm thinking of his brother, John, the painter. It's the same road that goes down to Alfred Bissell's teahouse. After you pass that little community of Fairville up the hill and go down at the bottom of that hill before you come to Mendenhall Station. Right in the flat down there.
Wilkinson: We have been told that there is a toll house out near the entrance to Winterthur. You are putting it much farther out of course, when you say that. Well, I assume there are some maps that will help us.
Hoopes: It is vague but I do remember the first one. Definitely at Breck's Lane.
Wilkinson: Well, then coming from the center of town out you paid no toll up to that point?
Hoopes: No, that was the first. It was still a pike - it is not very far from the Felix and the Ernest du Pont's and where the Alexis I. du Pont School is now was just a field so there was still enough community that far.
Wilkinson: I get it. You are getting out into the country once you get past Breck's Lane. You've touched on a number of people that we'd like to know a great deal more about. Let's go back to Miss Evelina. Can you fill in and give us any of the personal remembrances of her in any special way?
Hoopes: She was sort of a Jane Austen type and I used to see her in church, and she was bonneted and shawled and I remember having gone there with my mother to tea a couple of times and she had the best kind of cake.
Wilkinson: She was living in the red house at the corner of Kennett Pike and Kirk Road and...
Hoopes: She lived there for quite a long while and she had a companion whose name I can't remember - a couple of companions - and then it seems to me several bright young men in the DuPont Company boarded with her several years and that was considered a special honor to be able to board there, probably because of the cake. [laughter]
Wilkinson: Was Creighton the name of the companion?
Hoopes: Yes, Nelly Creighton, who lived in what I still call the yellow house, was Howard Pyle's daughter and now still teaches bridge to a lot of people. She was involved with Gertrude Brinckle in a lot of things. Gertrude Brinckle, you know her, Howard Pyle's secretary and model before he died, 1911.
Wilkinson: Have you read "The Brandywine Tradition"?
Hoopes: Yes, I have. I have a great interest in it because I'm one of the Commissioners of the Brandywine Battlefield Park and we have put in more furniture that Harry du Pont dragged out of the Washington House because of his feud with Gov. Lawrence and I have put it in - I'm involved since I left government - a wax museum in Washington. We have Lafayette, Washington, a serving maid, a rather titillating serving maid serving Lafayette some sherry. We have a guard, we have a Tory spy under the hay in the barn.
Wilkinson: These are all put back into the Brandywine Battlefield buildings?
Hoopes: I gave some of them and we managed to dig up some money to buy the others, and we have a Hessian prisoner in the ice house.
Wilkinson: I think I've seen him. I don't recall the others.
Hoopes: And I'm still having a feud with Titus Geesey [deceased 12/8/69] who says that you shouldn't have dummies in a museum. Nancy Reynolds, who is very good on all this, pointed out to me the April 1967 issue of ANTIQUES written by the assistant curator of the Metropolitan, who said that old furniture and old settings, decorative material, was greatly enhanced by figures well dressed to the period so I sent that issue, marked, to Titus.
Wilkinson: What would he have substituted, living guides, living people?
Hoopes: No, he thought they should be left out all together.Keywords: Battlefield of the Brandywine Park (West Chester, Pa.); Delaware Route 52 (Delaware); Du Pont, Evelina, 1840-1938; Du Pont, H. A. (Henry Algernon), 1838-1926; Kennett Pike Association; museums; Toll roads
- His mother driving a Maxwell automobile; being snowed in during the winter; his family's African-American maid and discussing the possibility of other African Americans living or working near the powder yardsPartial Transcript: Scafidi: When you were out here as a boy how often did you get into Wilmington?
Hoopes: Every day, well, I mean school days.
Scafidi: But I mean on a special occasion or shopping trip?
Hoopes: One wanted to stay in the country. I know that my mother who died in '63, and she was 86 then, she did in 1916 and 1917 in an old Maxwell what all the current wives are complaining about doing, hacking around driving children everywhere. I do remember with great interest being snowed in and being snowed in was really being snowed in. Down that narrow little road which Henry Silliman has blocked which was great sledding but a lot of snow, and I remember setting out for Chestnut Hill, between Germantown and Chestnut Hill, Ambler, where my grandfather lived, on a Christmas morning with chains and two shovels and a little container of ashes. Prepared for anything.
Wilkinson: Winters have become more moderate over the last 30 or 40 years?
Hoopes: Well, I've been snowed in badly between Unionville and Kennett Square, and where once I got out to New York on horseback - he's a big gelding and he could hardly step through the snow and I noticed with great interest in a diary of Washington's that we have up in Chadds Ford that he complained in his diary, which lots of people were doing the last winters, of too much wind, no snow, it was killing the trees and plants and this was written about how the wind was dreadful in Mt. Vernon and that it was a shame. But in early February there was another item that said the snow was so deep he could barely get to church by breasting it with a tall horse.
Wilkinson: I would still like to stay a little longer with your growing up around these parts. Get more of your own activities and your associations you had. Did you associate with any members of the du Pont family? Were they playmates?
Hoopes: Felix I grew up with and young George, who is Paul's child and I saw a lot of Louisa Carpenter, whose name was later mentioned, remember, she was such a pal of Libby Holman's.
Wilkinson: Yes, it is a big family and to keep them all pegged is a big problem.
Scafidi: Is there anybody you didn't associate with?
Hoopes: Oh no, we were great mixers, my brother and I. Great mixers. But there weren't - we don't want to get into the Negro situation - there weren't any Negroes that I remember working in the plant. There weren't any along Squirrel Run and we had an Irish - yes, we did have a Negro woman for a while, who my brother poured a pitcher of water over the stairwell on, who was half Indian.
Wilkinson: From lower Delaware? There is a Moorish settlement there.
Hoopes: No, I think she came from the Carolinas. I'm almost sure she came from the Carolinas.
Wilkinson: Your comment is interesting because we just have a little initial report done on the Negro as a worker in this community, the mills, and also tried to get a picture of Wilmington and...
Hoopes: Squire Cheney, whom I have a model of in the Brandywine and who was really a great savior of the country - I wrote an editorial for the Daily Local News which they wouldn't print in which I said change the name of Cheney College to King College, never! He saw the British movements and knew that Sullivan's information was wrong and realized British troops would soon be right up by the headquarters and he galloped across a couple of fields, taking a couple fences - a patriotic Quaker - and had great trouble persuading Washington that he wasn't about to be surrounded. Finally they all rode off together and just got away. There are all kinds of theories that the Cheney family had Indian blood, and Bart Anderson said that my figure looked as though it had Indian blood and I said this was unintentional. The man who made it in Washington had no idea the Cheneys ever had Indian blood. "Look at it." That's very interesting that Bart felt that way.
Wilkinson: Well, on this matter of the Negro locally, we have found no record of him working in the powder mills or locally in textile or paper mills. The only reference is about 1914 or so that there may have been one working or living around the cooper's shop on Breck's Lane. Does that...And we have one group photograph of a number of Brandywine workmen and there is one Negro in there. You can clearly identify him. We checked company records but of course they didn't indicate on the payroll records who was Negro and who was white.
Scafidi: It was Mr. Lickle who mentioned that he remembers working here as a college student or just after college.
Hoopes: Bill or Dan?
Wilkinson: Charles Lickle, the father...
Scafidi: He mentioned that he remembered Negro women working, packing cartridges or fuses or something of the sort, for a while.
Wilkinson: During World War I, I guess, when the manpower shortage Negro women were hired and apparently did pack or press pellet machines.
Hoopes: But the more I think about it there were a lot of Italians, and I remember very big heavy, stocky, garlicky figures hanging on the trolley and they had summer trolleys in the summer then and my mother used to say, "Don't hang on the outside," which of course I always would.Keywords: African American women household employees; blizzards; Maxwell automobile; snow storms; Squire Cheney; Street-railroads
- Discussing the location of Free Park (Flea Park) and Squirrel Run neighborhoodsPartial Transcript: Wilkinson: When you lived in that house that you call the yellow house and we call the Belin house, were there up the hill between you and Christ Church houses that were known as Flea Park? Were they existing in your time?
Hoopes: Maybe that is what I call Squirrel Run.
Wilkinson: Well, Squirrel Run is over close to Barley Mill Road. At one time they were an ell shape; some houses came down that road and others went across what is now our orchard. Of course it wouldn't show here.
Scafidi: I think the real name was Free Park.
Wilkinson: It started out as Free Park because the houses were company houses and company people occupied them but...in time it came to be called Flea Park.
Hoopes: You know the lane that runs across to Silliman's road, I mean the lower end of that road, from Christ Church, that is what I call Squirrel Run.
Wilkinson: Now, this is the road coming up from the powder yard up to Christ Church which is up here.
Hoopes: Wait a minute, this is Silliman's road?
Wilkinson: No, this is the creek. Here is the creek, here are all the mills, Hagley, here is the road.
Hoopes: I'm with you and the gates were right here. This is what I was going to talk about. There were houses down along here - big stone houses and sort of with different levels, and we used to play in those. They were abandoned.
Wilkinson: Well, now we have one of them. Mr. H.B., who owns this side of the road, turned it over to us and we put it in a standby condition hopefully to refurbish it as a workman's home at some time. This is presently a garage but it may have been a stable.
Hoopes: Maybe the old barn I'm talking about...if that is the office...all right, this is the stable that I'm talking about.
Wilkinson: Your house was here?
Hoopes: This is the house and then there was a road that went up the hill to the Bradford house right up there.
Wilkinson: That's all closed over, grown over. Now, Free Park - Here's Christ Church - Free Park was somewhere between your house and the church property.
Hoopes: That was what I called Squirrel Run. This is very interesting and I am recalling a lot of things. Let me brood. I wonder if I can find any old pictures.
Wilkinson: We are interested in any type of memorabilia that covers this area, any kinds of scenes even though they may be just landscapes. Prefer things with people.
Scafidi: Even so far as pay vouchers or things like that. Some people find the weirdest things in their attics. If you run across any sort of thing that can be photo copied.
Wilkinson: Talking about pay, wages, salaries, and so on, would you be averse to telling us what kind of a salary your father made as superintendent of the yard?
Hoopes: I wouldn't have the vaguest idea. Up until the time he died I never knew. That was the George Apley idea - now you say to your children, such and such, and so and so, and of course I'm not made of money and you can't do that. But I think then it was a hush-hush - money was rather an ugly subject, why, I'll never know.
Wilkinson: The Victorian genteel approach to such matters, I guess. It's crass. I'm sure we would like to talk with you again.
Hoopes: Well, let me do a little brooding and see if I can dig up a little material.Keywords: Christ Church Christiana Hundred; Free Park; Squirrel Run