Reading a selection from "A Valley Dear to My Heart"
Synopsis: Hayward reads an autobiographical essay called "A Valley Dear to My Heart." In it she describes the Brandywine Valley and Her childhood. She talks about the Brandywine, Henry Clay village, her secular and religious education, father's work, and Alfred I du Pont. She writes about Alfred I.'s social activities with the du Pont workers. She talks about leisure time and contrasts it with explosions at the powder yards. She talks about her sibling that died as a child. She talks about daily routines and chores and some of her prized childhood belongings. [There is an issue with the recording and a portion of the essay is recited out of transcriptFull order.]
Keywords: Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Brandywine Valley; Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Christmas; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; DuPont Experimental Station; E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company; Explosions; Free Park (Del.: Village); Hagee's tavern; Hagley Community House (Breck's Mill); Hagley Yard; Henry Clay (Del.:Village); Montchanin (Del.: Village); Mt. Salem United Methodist Church (Wilmington, Del.); Quality control; Rockford Tower (Wilmington, Del.); Rokeby (Greenville, Del. : Dwelling); Sledding; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); St. Amour (Wilmington, Del. : Dwelling); Swamp Hall (Henry Clay, Del.: Dwelling); Tancopanican Band; Wilmington, Del.
Transcript: Myers: We're going to depart just a bit now from the interview that we've been doing, and allow Mrs. Hayward to record for us on tape some of her memories of her life on Blacksmith Hill at the Hagley Foundation.
Hayward: A Valley Dear to My Heart
A valley dear to my heart is the Brandywine Valley. It is that portion of the valley beginning at the Upper Falls of the Brandywine River in the Upper Hagley Yard, and the Lower Falls near Breck's Mill. Three lanes converged at the Village of Henry Clay. The Barley Mill Lane began at Kennett Pike near St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church and extended to the Centennial Gates, the entrance to the E.I. du Pont Powder Works. The next Lane called Breck's Lane also began on Kennett Pike near the Alexis I.du Pont's school and ended in the Village of Henry Clay at Breck's Mill, and the third lane is the Rising Sun Lane which started at Kennett Pike at a point where one of the old du Pont mansions, St. Amour, once stood, and ended at what used to be the old covered bridge leading to the DuPont Experimental Station. I became a part of the Brandywine Valley on the day I was born at 1926 Rising Sun Lane on February 24, 1900. A brother had already preceded me and was 21 months older. He was born in the same house. Early that summer, my mother and father had moved to a small village called Squirrel Run. Squirrel Run is no more. It was a quiet peaceful village very close to the powder yards. A small stream, a tributary of the Brandywine River, divided the village. It was in this small stone house at Squirrel Run that I have memories of my first Christmas in 1901. I was not yet two years old. My parents had a picture taken of our Christmas tree, Christmas yard and our new toys. I have the picture now. Early in the spring of 1902, my parents moved to the Charles I. du Pont house in Henry Clay village. The house is still standing and faces the quiet Brandywine River. My entire childhood was spent in this home. Shortly after we moved there, they began building the stone wall which stretched from the centennial gate to the falls at Breck's Mill. This was a great improvement to the village and it was safer for the children of the village. This wall was built around 1904 as I recall. One of the first memories I have of this part of the river was when in the spring of the year men came and would cut the branches of the willow trees growing by the river. The branches were stripped and then burned into charcoal to be used in the making of black powder. The road from the Centennial gates to Breck's Mill was called Main Street. The address of the Charles I. du Pont House was 161 Main St. Henry Clay, De. North of our home and located further up the hill were four row houses called Pigeon Row. On the same level as the Charles I du Pont home where we lived and a little north of Pigeon Row were four row houses called Long Row. South of the Charles I. House was a two-story frame house built on the road's hillside. My impression of this part of the valley grew on me day by day, and it's beauty left an indelible imprint on my life. Directly in front of my home flowed the River. It seemed always beautiful any time of the year. From the first days of early spring, I could hear the croaking of the frogs on the river bank to the cold winter days when it was often solidly frozen over, it was always fascinating.
The sparkling falls at Brecks Mill was always my delight. Between my home and the falls was a small niche carved out of the stone in the shape of the seat. It was really for people to step on and then descend on pieces of rock coming out of the stone wall, like a stall stone stairway in order for them to get to the river's edge to take a boat across the river in summer or to reach the river for skating in the winter. Most of the time, no one used it except myself, and I only used it as a sort of retreat when I wanted to live alone. .On the little seat of the stone wall, which incidentally is still there, is where I sat and indulged in daydreams of my prince charming and what I wanted to be when I grew up. The place itself invited fanciful or serious thinking. As the weeping willow trees so near seemed to be like bright green fountains pouring their beauty into the drowsy water below. As a little girl, a kind of sweet peace always indulged me there.
In back of my home was a beautiful stretch of woodland called Miss Mary du Pont's woods. In the woods were sycamore and oak trees and the tall poplar trees, large gray rocks to play on and the many varieties of wildflowers. It was where I first saw the quaker lace and the brandywine bluebells and the may apple with its one blossom and the waxen white flower of the bloodroot as well as the jack-in-the pulpit and the shy white and purple violets. Beyond the woods towards Breck's Lane was Rokeby, the estate of Miss Mary du Font and her brother, Charles I. du Pont, Jr. At the back of this house was a large field which you could enter from the railroad tracks through a turnstile; Further on, another turnstile which had three wooden steps leading to a small platform on the top of the fence with convenient handrails. When you got to this platform, you descended three wooden steps on the other side of the fence leading to a pathway to Breck's Lane. I was always fascinated by these turnstiles. That field was my favorite field, because in the spring of the year, beautiful golden buttercups and large white daisy lifted their heads from their grassy beds. I reveled in picking large bunches for my mother or to take to school to my teachers.
When I was 5 years of age, I was sent to kindergarten at the Alexis I du Pont School. Thus began enjoyable school days for us. I loved the school, with the architectural design and the imposing entrance, with the oval garden of flowering plants in the front, the lilac bushes to the side of the school and the curving wide driveway which led out. to the Kennett Pike. This was the only school I attended until I graduated from the first, four-year high school class in 19 and 18. My school days were so memorable. Under the devotion of fine teachers and Mr. Warren J. Yeger, principal of the school. He was the principal all the while I went to school there. I had great respect and admiration for Mr. Yeger. There were many pleasant and interesting routes to take to school. by favorite route was to leave my home, go down the road until I came to Breck's Mill. Then I would turn right, go up Breck's Lane, past the charming and comfortable homes of stone and frame and turn into a little lane opposite Swamp Hall, the mansion home of Mr. Alfred I.du Pont. Going down this little woodsy lane, I crossed the small bridge over my favorite brook in this area and then, went past the ruins of the old Rokeby Barley Mill, which burned in 1906. Soon I was walking the railroad ties that led to the side of the school. There was another turnstile' I went through, and then I was on the school grounds. What dear delightful school days I experienced in the valley of Alexis I du Pont School. I'm so proud of my diploma, which I received on June 25, 1918, when I graduated in the new auditorium which had just been built as an addition to the school. My diploma was signed by Mr. Warren J. Yeger, principal, Mr. John Connelly, president of the school board, Mr. W.W. Laird, clerk of the board, and Mr. Ernest du Pont, director of the board. My diploma was signed...it was a beautiful diploma, and my parents had it framed for me with the ribbon of blue and gold that was around my diploma when I received it. The picture of the school was on it. To this day it hangs in the bedroom of my home along with the framed picture of the 1918 class: 4 boys and 8 girls. One of the boys in the class was my older brother, Wilmer D. Jones.
One of my daily trips each day, except Sunday, was when I left my home, went down the road past Breck's Mill, followed the turning in the road to the left, went past a group of humble homes with lovely little gardens in front. The back yards of these homes extended down to the banks of the Brandywine River. On the other side of the river was Walker's Mill. My grandmother, my uncle and his family lived in one of these homes. I was on my way to the post office to get our mail. The post office was in our only grocery store at the time. It was situated by Hagee's tavern, and was run by Mr. and Mrs. Cavanaugh. When I received our daily mail, I would purchase some groceries for my mother. Each Sunday my father took me to Mt. Salem Methodist Church and Sunday School. We would go through the village and then up Rising Sun Lane. Halfway up the hill we would turn to the left off the lane and went up a long flight of cement steps and reached Rockford Park, where stood the high Rockford Water Tower, majestically overlooking the park. Often after Sunday School, my father would take my brothers and me to the tower, and we would climb the wide and winding stone steps inside the tower, and finally after the long climb, suddenly passing me to the top of the stairs, we could see the huge inside of the tank, filled to the brim, looking so black and foreboding.
We took a hasty look, fearing afraid of looking into the dark depths of the tank. Soon we were at the highest part of the tower, which was a real observatory, and we could see a portion of the city of Wilmington and all the landscape of the beautiful valley below. Mt. Salem Methodist Church is located at the edge of Rockford Park. It faces 19th St. and Mt. Salem Lane. I was baptized in this church and later at the age of 10 years joined this church. I've always felt deeply grateful that I was given early spiritual training in this church. My parents took me regularly to church and Sunday School. It was a happy period in my life, for I had ministers and teachers of sterling character who taught me. This early spiritual training, I always thought, gave me direction in my life, moral content and a sense of reverence for what was good and sacred. On Sundays I was not allowed to run and play, but there was a lot we could do: put puzzles together, and play with my ball and jacks. The Sabbath was to be observed quietly with reverence. Often on Sunday evening my father, the neighborhood violin teacher, taught my brother and me the lovely hymns of his church and other tuneful melodies.
When I was born, my father had already worked for ten years with the DuPont Company. He began work on May 22, 1890. He said he worked as a common powderman in the Upper Yards in practically all the mills. Then he became a finisher of brown prismatic powder and took charge of the prismatic presses in the lower yards of the powder plant. Later he was assigned to the powder testing bureau and worked directly under Mr. Alfred I du Pont in the laboratory in the Lower Yards and in the Experimental Station at the bridge. He tested the black powder for moisture determination, specific gravity and gravimetric density and analysis of sporting and blasting powder. He was in the service of the DuPont Company for 37 and one half years. During his years of service with the company, my father, Mr. George W. Jones, Sr., and my uncle, Mr. Ebben T. Jones, were both charter members of the Tancopanican Orchestra. Mr. Alfred I du Pont organized and conducted this orchestra, first at the Brandywine Club at Eleutherian Mills and later at Breck's Mill. Tancopanican was an Indian name associated with the Brandyinwe.
Many times during the summer when I was not in school I took my father to have lunch at the laboratory. I would leave home and go through the village of Squirrel Run. Soon I would cross a narrow footbridge over the fast-moving stream, and then I would climb the long hill, which at intervals had wood steps firmly tucked in the hillside. On one side there was a high board fence which separated the village from the lower Hagley powder yard. It was so high, you could not see over it. When I reached the top of the hill, I crossed an open field, which had a well-worn pathway. Soon I was within sight of the stately Christ Episcopal Church. All the du Pont families, along with the other families in Free Park, Montchanin and the surrounding countryside attended Christ Church. I would pass the church and then enter Free Park, often called Flea Park, ambling past the small but tidy homes, and then I'd turn right at Broad Meadow, and soon I saw the upper yard gates to the powder works. I remember walking past the saltpeter refinery and soon I was at the laboratory greeting my father. He was always appreciative of the long walk I'd taken to bring him a hot lunch. Often my older brother accompanied me. In autumn, my mother used to take us over the same route, but we did not go to Free Park. Instead we went to a small section off the road to a place called the Sand Hole. Here when I was a child were the chestnut trees, the walnut and hickory trees. We gathered nuts. We had great fun collecting the nuts for the cold winter days. Near the sand hole was the du Pont cemetery. Another walk I loved to take was through the village and walk through the covered bridge over the Experimental Station. When I turned left and was at Walker's Bank near Walker's Mill--it was a woolen mill at the turn of the century--many comfortable homes were on this side of the river. Each home seemed nestled into the hillside. It was so picturesque. One of my schoolteachers lived in one of the homes, and I would visit her and some of my other school friends. Only the Walker's Mill homes remain today. It was great fun in winter when the river was frozen and there was ice skating there. My father loved ice skating especially on his beloved Brandywine. My younger brother, who was born in the Charles I du Pont home in 1903, also loved the valley. One of the captivating things we often did, we climbed to the roof of our shed, which was connected to the home by a breezeway. We'd call our names loudly, and our voices going over the water would bring back our names in an echo of our names as we called them. My younger brother George said we lived in "Echo Valley." That was one of our thrilling past times.
Intermingled with the joys of our childhood, I must record some of the shadows that would come over our lovely valley when an explosion in the mills occurred. Explosions at the powder mills were costly in lives and damage to the mills and the workers homes. I remember the tremor one would feel prior to the awful explosion, the loud noise roaring and rumbling through the valley. Large masses of black smoke would hang ominously in the sky, and one could sometimes locate the mill by the position of the black smoke. I remember when we were in school when an explosion occurred, the whole school was dismissed. I remember we all walked solemnly home, each wondering if his own dear father may have been killed. Sadly enough, we soon learned that one of our friends was without a father. A gloom soon settled over the valley when this happened, and sorrow deep and painful seemed to be felt by every family. There was an explosion when I was 15 years of age that took the lives of 31 people. My beloved father, who ran all the mills, was miraculously saved, although he had many close calls.
My beloved family, when we lived in the Charles I. du Pont home, consisted of my mother and father, my older brother, myself, a younger brother, and for a little while, a baby sister Beatrice, who was born there in 1907. The first great sorrow of my life came when she died in the spring of 1909 in the home. The following February, one day after my 10th birthday, I had another baby sister. She was born February 25, 1910, in the Charles I. du Pont home. My parents named her Clara. This baby brought us all so much joy, and the sadness that pervaded our home after the death of Beatrice seemed to be overlain with new life once again, and there was a kind of gentle healing.
In the house we had oil lamps, no running water, and no bathroom facilities. My mother was at home all the time. She baked about 10 delicious loaves of bread about twice a week. The flour barrel in the corner of the kitchen wasfilled to the brim every fall. Sugar came in strong cotton bags. Five pounds in a bag. When the bag was empty, my mother would bleach the letters off the bag and make me little handkerchiefs for school. They were hemmed in feather stitching around the hem in blue, pink or yellow cotton. She also embroidered the initial "E" in the corner. I prized these sugar bag handkerchiefs so much. For Christmas I would receive one or two handkerchiefs with lace around the side. These handkerchiefs were used only on Sunday. When we went sleddingon Breck's Lane, speeding under the trestle bridge, nothing gave us more joy and thrills. We would sled after school hours until dark, and always came home to a nice warm supper like hot vegetable soup or ham and dried bean soup. It was always delicious and satisfying. Coffee was ground for each meal in a little coffee grinder. My dad made my mother her first potato masher from an old railroad tie. It was a common thing and well used, and it felt the touch of loving hands for many years. To me it is replete with patience, courage, contentment and love as it hangs as a decorative piece in my kitchen today.
Christmas time seemed the best of all seasons. There was a kind of magic about it. We had a large Christmas tree, brightly trimmed with beautifully colored balls and tinsel ice. Underneath the tree was a yard with a little home. Miniature figures of ducks on a pond. The mirror from the kitchen served as a pond with artificial grass around it. Also there was a stable with tiny horses, sheep and cows. At Christmas I always received a new doll--usually a German bisque doll. My old dolls were not discarded, but given new dresses and shoes. To this day I have my original doll coach with the doll that came with it, as well as about six other dolls I received at various Christmases. I have my little cast-iron stove, my tea table, my rocking chair and other small toys, all of which were a part of my childhood treasures.
This story about my life in the Brandywine Valley and especially that part of it spent in the Charles I du Pont home, gives some glimpses of my happy childhood. The valley was an idealistic place to spend one's childhood. It offered a natural charm, an entrancing beauty and a tranquil way of life. I seemed always to be at peace with my surroundings. My unforgettable years in the valley stretched from 1900 to 1916 when we moved to a new home in the highlands of Wilmington, Delaware, and I began my life as a young adult. Blessings untold were mine and to this day my heart overflows with gratitude and precious memories.
Ethel Louella Jones Hayward, August twenty-third, 1983.