Interview with George Macklem, 1984 April 13 [audio]
- Family genealogy and history with DuPont Co. powder yards; anecdote about his grandfather's quick temperKeywords: American Civil War (1861-1865); Child abuse; Genealogy; Gunpowder industry; Machinists; Pusey and Jones Company; Runaway teenagers; Settlement House (Wilmington, Del.)Transcript: Frazier: This is Chris Frazier, an interview with George Macklem at his home, 1908 Orleans Road, Arden, April 13, 1984. George, you have something that you have worked up about your genealogy.
Macklem: A little bit, yes, my great— grandfather was John Macklem, John W. Macklem, they called him Old John Macklem. He was a driver, a mule team driver for one of the powder wagons. He was born in 1829 at Crossroads, Delaware, which is down where the Louviers Plant is down near Newark. His people were farmers. As far as we know, they came from Scotland in the early 1700's. His son, he had three sons, all of whom at one time were associated with the powder works. They were all born — most of them were born in Squirrel Run. They were — the three were - uh, here we go again. He had three sons and a daughter, James who married Jane Kelley, and he was James W. and they called him William, they called him Willy, in fact, and he was one of the first clerks of the DuPont Company, and he worked out of the office up next to the mansion.
Frazier: The first office, they call it.
Macklem: Yes. And he had a brother, George Andrew, who married a woman, the last name was Watmou, W— A-T-M— O— U, Sadie Watmou, she was from - she was born in Rockland, now whether she had any association with the Company or not, I do not know. He was a machinist by trade, he learned his trade at the DuPont Powder Mills. He worked eventually in paper-making machinery at Pusey and Jones in Wilmington, and in 1911 he went to Boyd, Wisconsin, and established his own company for the manufacture of paper— making machinery.
He wanted my father, who was a machinist, to go with him, and my mother had the responsibility of an aged father and aged mother who would not go, so we didn't. So a few years ago my wife and I took a trip to the west coast and I made a point of stopping at Wisconsin. We had had no contact with these people at all.
Frazier: No contact.
Macklem: No, so I looked in the phone book in the Holiday Inn and there was a James E. Macklem there, so I called him up, and I said, "I'm George Macklem, I'm from Wilmington, Delaware, and I think we may be related." He said, "We sure are, you're George Andrew Macklem?" I said, "Yup." He said, "You're named for my grandfather and I'm named for yours." [Laughs] But that's what happened to the Macklems.
The other one was my grandfather, who was James Edgar Macklem. He was born 1862 in Henry Clay, and he died in 1894. There's a question here - I had never heard how he died. I had the impression he died from pneumonia or something like this. Uncle Willy, in a family write— up that he passed out, said he died as the result of an explosion. I haven't been able to pinpoint this at all. He was married to a Jane Kelley, who was also from Henry Clay. She later remarried a man named Cavanaugh. She had a son and a daughter, my father and my Aunt Mary. My Aunt Mary was a registered nurse and worked in the Settlement House in Wilmington for years. My father learned his trade as a machinist at DuPont, Machine Shop, the Machine Shop on Barley Mill Road and down along the creek.
And he worked for quite a few years there, and then he worked for the Artillery Fuse Company in Marcus Hook; he worked for Pusey and Jones, and then he went back and went to work in DuPont Shops down on Maryland Avenue. He was Assistant Superintendent when he died there; he died in 1937.
My mother's people, her maiden name was Watson, her father was Bennett Watson. They called him Benjamin, I noticed on the pictures we found. That's not correct, his name was Bennett. He was from down in lower Delaware, and during the Civil War his father and his brother served in the Civil War, two of them. And his father and his brothers either died in the war or were killed in the war, and his mother was not able to care for the rest of the family, and she bound him out to an uncle who had a store down near Delmar, who imposed on him...hard physical labor and verbal abuse and whatever and never gave him any education, so when he was about fourteen years old, he ran away. He came up to Blackbird, and he worked on a farm in Blackbird and then he came on up, a little further up state, and he heard they were hiring at DuPont's, and he went out there and he got a job as a powderman, and he worked there the rest of his life. He was good. We had, I don't have them any longer, they were destroyed in a flooded cellar when we lived on 7th Street. We had patent papers for patents, improvements of powder machinery that he had devised.
Frazier: Oh, that's too bad those were lost.
Macklem: Yes. He taught himself to read and write, with the Bible, he didn't swear, he didn't drink, he had a very bad temper [laughs]. I can recall an incident when we were kids, my brother and I, we were living at 915 West 7th then, which is where the freeway is. We were attending school at 28th School which is right one block up at 8th and Adams. We went home for lunch — well my grandfather was bald headed, really he was an amiable guy, when I say he was bad tempered, he was quick, you know, and he was a little guy, much smaller than my mother or any of the rest of us. And we had these old-fashioned kitchen cabinets in the kitchen, and he stood up and hit his head on the kitchen cabinet, the door was open. Not being able to swear, I guess, was a deterrent - he stood there and he rubbed his head and he put his hands up and he grabbed the kitchen cabinet door by the side and by the bottom and pulled it right out and walked over and threw it out the back door, and never said a word. [laughs] But he was quite a person, as I said, he taught himself to read, he liked music, so he made himself a flute and he played it. And my mother said he used to waken at four or five o'clock in the morning and he'd be up, had his breakfast before he went up to the yard to work, and he'd be up in the back room playing his flute, you could hear him.
And my mother, her people were Scots, Lecraig. I'm not even sure what their background is. Old John Macklem's wife, incidentally, was Mary Crozier, she was Scots. She was born in Chester County, but her people came from Scotland, they were Scottish Presbyterian ministers, two or three of them. My mother's people — I think my mother's, my grandmother's mother, whose name was Lecraig, died, and the father, I believe, was killed in the powder, leaving my grandmother, who was the oldest child, with three sisters and two brothers. She married my grandfather and he took care of the whole family. Raised them as his own. So we had a fairly close family tie there.
- Visiting his grandmother's house on Breck's lane as a young child; his mother's stories of the area, including his grandfather tricking those who tried to tip over the outhouse on HalloweenKeywords: Barlow family; Children--Social life and customs; Jim the General; Outhouses; penny candyTranscript: Macklem: When I was a child, we lived at — I was born at 207 Rodney Street in Wilmington, later we lived at 915 West 7th, but when I was a very young child, my grandmother still lived out in Henry Clay. Her name then was Jane Kelley Macklem Cavanaugh, she married a man named Cavanaugh. She lived in a house which is still standing, although it has been considerably altered. If you come down Breck's Lane, facing the creek, to your right there's a small run, and her house was the house right on the side of that run, that is the side away from Breck's Lane. Had a house and a barn, big barn with a marvelous sleigh, where my brother and I used to play in the back. At one time after her husband, her first husband's death apparently, she operated a store, a grocery store sort of, and a post office. Because when I was real young my father delivered the mail up there, that sort of thing.
Frazier: What was the location of that?
Macklem: Right at that place, there was a side room on the run side. Now my mother was born on Breck's Lane, right under the railroad trestle. As you look up the Lane on your left, there are a few houses. I've seen photographs of them, and she was born there. Then later they moved, lived in a house approximately - there were two houses below road level sort of, although they had a second floor that came out in the road, approximately where the parking lot is below Breck's Mill, right down along the creek.
They must have moved around some because her sister, my Aunt Elizabeth, Elizabeth Watson, was born in Chicken Alley, and we used to kid her about it, it's not a real pleasant name, you know, and she was a lady full of dignity and all that sort of thing, so she got quite upset about it. She was born there, and there were a number of children — my mother, my aunt, an uncle, or a brother Herbert, and another sister who died quite young. They were, for the most part, Presbyterian and Methodist.
The burials in the family are all in Mt. Salem Cemetery. So as I say, we used to go out to my grandmother's, we went out on the streetcar, there was a streetcar that went out 6th Street, and out through the Flats, and out Delaware Avenue, and not the present one that goes up to Rising Sun, but this one went down through Bancroft's Banks and down below Rockford Park between the Bancroft property and Rockford Park, and ran up along the Creek side all the way up to - I'm not even sure where the turntable was, although I remember it, but it must be somewhere up around Barley Mill Lane.
Frazier: I talked to Ella Fitzharris, she lives on Breck's Lane, and she recalls riding the trolley car in that location.
Macklem: Yeah, it was quite an experience. Of course we were kids, we loved it.
Frazier: She also said there was like an athletic field at the top of Breck's Lane where everybody played softball.
Macklem: Yeah, yeah.
Frazier: Do you remember that?
Macklem: Vaguely, what I remember most about Breck's, two things — we made friends with a family named Barlow who lived on Breck's Lane, and I don't think they were associated with the powder works. I know the oldest son had an arm amputated in an accident at Walker's Mill, which was a textile mill across the creek — it impressed me as a kid.
Frazier: I'm sure it did.
Macklem: And the idea of being even possible to lose your arm in an accident while you were working, just - I guess we hadn't been exposed to that sort of thing, in spite of we knew the powder works were dangerous, sure people got killed there, but this was not as grave a concern for us.
The other thing I remember was going up beside the trestle, in fact going across the trestle when we could get away with it, and coming out on Miss Mary's field, which was up approximately where the Columbia Gas Works is now, Columbia Gas office. Mainly I guess I remember because I was afraid of those flaming cows [laughs]. I was a city boy and I didn't know from cows at all and they scared me, they were big you know.
But we had a lot of fun out there. We used to - oh, we went fishing, we went all over the Hagley Yards, we were in every nook and cranny that the watchman couldn't drive us out of. Of course we swam, there was a little bit of a beach down further, between Breck's Mill and the covered bridge.
Frazier: Yes, I've heard about that beach, what was it called?
Macklem: Can't remember now. An interesting little, to me I thought it was kind of an amusing little antidote, and when my mother lived out on the creek side, below the road level, they had outhouses, of course they all did then. And the favorite trick at Halloween time particularly, was for the young men to come over and upset them, particularly if they could catch somebody in them. But in all events, my grandfather, ingenious type, and slightly malicious, got his son to help him and they moved the outhouse back about ten feet toward the creek. And these guys came down to upset it, two of them stepped in the cesspool. My mother said they stood up on the road and cursed Bennie Watson for hours [laughs]. He enjoyed it. He was the type - the only other old that I can remember recalling them talking about — oh there were lots of them, but the only one that strikes my mind was a man they called Jim the General, a general in other words. Now he could have been a war veteran of some kind, but the Scots and the Irish both are great for hanging knick— names on people, and he, as an award as a retirement, acquired a watch, and one difficulty, he couldn't tell time, he couldn't read. So the bunch of Irishmen teased him, and they'd say, "What time is it?" He'd take the watch out, and hold it up and show it to them and he'd say, "Who'd think it was that time of the day."
Another thing I recall my mother saying, they used to go to Miss [Dad?]'s store; she had penny candy.
Frazier: Where was that?
Macklem: And I think that was near the Frizzell's Store, at the foot of Breck's Lane, I'm not sure of that. Apparently a lot of people opened front— room stores, just as they do even today in England and Scotland.
Macklem: But my mother, I remember, said she complained about the number of pieces of candy you got for a penny, only one for a penny, you know. And Miss Dad said, "Plenty's one for you."
- Irish Protestants in the area; building of Rockford Tower by Italians; his Aunt Jane's second sightKeywords: Alcohol; Extrasensory perception; Foreign workers; Green Hill Presbyterian Church; Mt. Salem United Methodist Church; Rockford Tower (Wilmington, Del.); Scots-Irish; Ulster ScotsTranscript: You mentioned, it may not be a good day for the Irish Day - it strikes a sore point in a way. I'm not — it's not my intention to depreciate the capabilities and the number of the activities of the Irish there, but they weren't all green, there were a lot of Orange Irish down there. And a lot of Scots.
Frazier: A great many of them came from the Donegal area which I think is Northern Ireland.
Macklem: Northern Ireland, yeah. A lot of them were what, well says my genealogical research I found out - they called them Ulster Scots. There are Scots who were displaced from Scotland that went through Ulster County and stayed maybe a generation, maybe even less, and they came to America. And they felt just as strongly about it — well witness Green Hill Presbyterian Church, Mt. Salem, and, you know, they was - besides Christ Church. My great— grandfather, James Macklem, I found out had been a member of Ebenezer Church down near Newark. He was later, apparently, a member at Christ Church because I know my father was confirmed at Christ Church. My mother was baptized in Green Hill, and so were most of — although I think one of her, her younger sister was baptized at Mt. Salem. And Mt. Salem, of course, had the big cemetery. The original plans for Mt. Salem I have seen, and it's fairly extensive, but it originally went all the way out to the Pike, and they had planned massive gateways there and all that.
Another thing, an incident my mother recalled, she was young when they built Rockford Tower.
Macklem: They imported labor, they were Italian, and they lived in the carriage sheds of Mt. Salem Church, which I always thought was kind of interesting, you know, and they were very frightened of them; they were very foreign and these people weren't used to foreigners in that sense, you know, a foreigner being someone who spoke a slightly different language than you, if nothing else.
Frazier: That's right, yes.
Macklem: But I thought it was kind of interesting because there were a number of Italians out there in the Banks who worked in the yards. And yet, that they should be so afraid of these others, it was always a source of surprise to me.
Frazier: Perhaps they didn't speak English.
Macklem: They probably didn't, no. I've had some experience with that. I served my time in the Army in... and I learned to speak pretty good Italian, and it's a lot of fun. But I know what it's like to go into a place where people do not understand at all. I just learned because I like the idea of knowing people...
Let's see, what else? Another incident I recall from out there which had nothing to do with the powder mills, Mary Macklem, the son of Old John Macklem, married a man named Lewis C. Henvis and they had five children — John, Margaret, Esther, Susanne and Edmund. At least one of them became a Methodist minister, but the one I'm familiar with was Margaret Jane Henvis. We called her Jane, until I did the genealogy I never knew her first name was Margaret. She had been a school teacher, she was a real brain, she was writing a heroic poem about the American Revolution on the model of [D?]
Frazier: Oh yes.
Macklem: She was an educated woman, and talented, but she was born with a caul, so she had second sight. And we encountered examples of it. To me, an amusing incident, I don't know whether you want this sort of thing of not?
Frazier: Yes, yes.
Macklem: We had a young German fellow who lived with us, Carl [Albright?]. We had very little contact with Jane, just occasionally. I have a feeling that there may have been discord between my father's mother, who naturally he supported, and the other brothers of his father. Because we had very little contact with them. Jane was of that same group, but in all events, we had a young jeweler living with us.
Frazier: Well, you were about to tell me about Jane's second sight.
Macklem: Yeah, well this young jeweler lived with us, and he lost a piece of jewelry. So he was talking about it you know, and Mother said, "Why don't you go see Jane Henvis." And Dad said, "You don't want to send him out there." And she said, "Well, let him try." So he went out, and she lived out on West Street near 29th. And he walked up and knocked on the door, and she came to the door. She said, "I don't know why Essie Watson sent you out here. All you have to do is look in the back of the bureau and you'll find it." So he stayed and talked to her, he went home, he took the drawer out out the top of the bureau, there was the piece of jewelry right in back — weird.
The best thing I recall about her, and I had a lot of fun with her, incidentally, we got along very well. We were kids playing around my Grandmother's and she happened to be there on a Sunday afternoon, and close to dinner time I guess, and I went dashing in and I said, "What time is it?" Aunt Jane says, "There's a clock right there." I said, "I can't tell time." She said, "A big boy like you and you can't tell time?" I said, "My brother's two years older than me and he can't tell.” "You get your brother and bring him in here, it's time you learned to tell time.” She sat us down at the kitchen table, and they had one of the old clocks up on the shelf, an individual shelf, and we learned to tell time [laughs]
But she was a super person, I had a lot of fun with Aunt Jane.
Frazier: You must have...
Macklem: A lot of odd things strike me. These people were basically Scotch. She took care of Old John Macklem, the powder man, the powder driver, until his death. And yet he had living sons and daughters. Since then, apparently he took a drink occasionally.
Frazier: Like Scotsmen will.
Macklem: Like Scotsmen will, and yet the others, apparently, this was a thing that turned them off. This guy, I talked to him, Beloit, he said his grandfather refused to deal with the man because the man had sent him a gift of a case of wine for Christmas, and he scratched him right off his list. So I can't figure how they went teetotal, but apparently they were hardnosed enough that when they went, they went all the way.
- His grandfather Bennett Watson's friendship with Alfred I. du Pont and hospital vegetable garden; attending various churches; his changed opinion of the wealthyKeywords: Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Iré né e), 1864-1935; Perpetual motion; Rich people; Rolls-Royce automobile; Social conflict; Vegetable gardening; Working class; Working class--Religious lifeTranscript: My grandfather was retired from DuPont, and I'm not even sure when, that's my Grandfather Watson, Bennett Watson. He was blind in one eye; he lived to be 80 some years old, 87 or something like that. His daughter, Elizabeth, lived to be 94, my mother lived to be 89, and she died as the result of an auto accident, so they were a long-lived crew.
My grandfather thought the sun rose and set on Mr. Alfred, there was nobody in the world like Mr. Alfred. Mr. Alfred used to have a boat trip 0n the Wilson Line boats for the pensioners, a big party where I presume they had a buffet or whatever, had a general good time. And Granddad always went.
One of my most impressive memories as a child was — we lived at 915 West 7th then in Wilmington — at Christmastime, a Rolls Royce would pull up in front of the house, and the chauffeur would get out and come in with a big basket of fruit and bread at Christmastime. It is, it impressed me, you know, the whole ideas of a chauffeur and the Rolls and the fruit, you know. And also there was a lot of times many of the fruits were those we didn't normally have, and we weren't very familiar with it. But he thought there was no one quite like Mr. Alfred. I think in the accident in which he lost the sight of his eye, Mr. Alfred was involved in the same accident, and they sort of - well, a life-threatening situation makes a bond.
Macklem: And I think this was part of the problem, but he thought he was a super person. He had another quirk, and I've found out since then that he was not alone in this, but he thought he could invent a perpetual motion machine. And from the time I can remember, he worked either in the alley beside our house or in the shed in the back of our house on a perpetual motion machine. My father had a metal tank made for him and it was something involving water supplying the motion by going from one cup to another, that sort of thing. And he was convinced that it would work, he worked on it — oh, a long time.
He also was a dedicated farmer, and oddly enough I don't think either my brother or I do it; my brother does some, he lives in Oregon. When we were kids we lived at 7th and Jackson, he grew some in the backyard, we had a small backyard. So up on Jackson Street between Park Place and Delaware Avenue there was a hospital, a private hospital, faced on Delaware Avenue and it had an ambulance entrance on Jackson Street, and had quite a large lot beside the ambulance entrance. And he got permission to go in there and he cultivated that lot and grew vegetables up there and all that sort of thing.
Frazier: Was it large?
Macklem: Not large, but it was — I'm guessing — a hundred foot by sixty foot. He got a lot of vegetables out of it. He enjoyed it thoroughly.
Frazier: I'll bet he did, yes, brought them home, yes.
Macklem: Yeah. He was a real little guy and he used to kid us a lot, he was a lot of fun to be with, he really was. In spite of his quick temper. I'm very proud of him, like him really. I've done enough going around now that I've met a lot of people, and this is literally pulling yourself up by your boot straps. He did a lot of things that I don't find particularly, his insistence on formal fundamental religion, for example, I don't agree with at all, but he was convinced of it.
Frazier: I think that went with the times, don't you?
Macklem: I think it did in a way, but my Dad wasn't this way. Of course he was raised Episcopalian, which made a difference too. I was raised Presbyterian. When I married, I married a Lutheran and when we started getting ready to have a child - my wife had been very active in her church, and I had not been, and I thought both parents should go to one church, so I became a Lutheran and I enjoyed it. But it, again, is a religious belief that gives you some latitude.
Macklem: Pre sort of believer idea, you know, you're not damned because somebody says you are damned but because of what you do yourself, you know, and this I guess is something that was not characteristic of the people of southern Delaware. There are a lot of Baptists.
Frazier: Who are Evangelical.
Macklem: Yeah, Fundamentalists, I don't — see in the Lutheran Church, it's an Evangelical church.
Frazier: Nor the Presbyterians.
Macklem: It is, the Lutheran church is by title Evangelical, because Evangelical means Bible preaching. But this is the extent of it; you still do your own interpretation. Zion Church where I joined originally was a German church. Zion Evangelical Kirche - Zion Evangelical Church.
Frazier: That's on Lancaster?
Macklem: Yes. We are presently members of Good Shepherd out here. My wife and I have been to Scotland and we liked it a lot. I never did any genealogy there at all.
Frazier: Never found where your relatives lived?
Macklem: I think the rumor has it they came from Paisley. Some of the family, in fact, worked for Bancroft Mills. Paisley's a cotton, producing a various source — it's logical that they would come from Paisley out here, some of them.
Macklem: And my Aunt Elizabeth worked in the Bancroft Mills for many years, until she became of an age when she was able to go away from home, and then she worked as a maid, as a kitchen — a parlor maid, and as a child's nurse for well— to— do families. A lot of du Ponts. When we were kids we called them Big Bugs, the people of wealth and position. Of course it was a different story then, I don't have quite the same attitude for the executive level people now, because they're different people. Most of these, or many of these people are executive level by reason of training.
Frazier: Well the Company is much bigger.
Macklem: Yeah, but the individuals themselves are there by reason of training, by reason of schooling. And many of them are so highly specialized that I feel I can deal with one on an equal basis, and I serve on the committee for the Council of Churches for my own church with no qualms at all. Of course I'm quick enough, I've been blessed with a quickness of mind, so I can relate with these guys, and then I can make my position felt. Of course this is a Scottish characteristic.
But my daughter is a very active member of the English speaking union and she has been overseas a number of times, mostly to Scotland and Ireland and England. We haven't been to Ireland yet.
- Playing Taps at the cemetery on Memorial Day as a Boy Scout; remarks on past and present religious tension amongst Catholic and Protestant Irishmen; his work as a printerKeywords: Boy Scouts of America; Company; E.I. du Pont de Nemours & amp; Ethnic conflict--Religious aspects; family recipes; Hercules Powder Company; Irish Day; Social conflict--Religious aspects; The Troubles; Trinity (Uris, Leon); Wilmington Morning NewsTranscript: Maybe this touches on what I — one of my early memories about the DuPont Bank besides the ones associated with my family. My brother and I were always Boy Scouts. I played the drums and he played the bugle, and on Memorial Day we used to go down to the P.O.S. of A. Hall, I think this was something like the Patriotic Order of the Sons of America, or something like that. It was on 7th Street between Washington and West on the south side of the street. These guys got all gathered up in a very ill-fitting representation of a Civil War uniform, Union uniform, and made up a firing squad. And we went to the various cemeteries around, early on Memorial Day morning and played Taps and marched into the cemetery and fired a salute over the graves of the soldiers. And one of the — two that I remember most — three I remember most clearly are Green Hill, Mt. Salem and St. Joe's, and we went there for a number of years...
It was a lot of fun, you know. Actually I think that it was good for us. I think we had a lot of pride, we felt we were somewhat different from the others because our people worked for the Company.
Macklem: We had some vicarious prestige, I guess, you know. We did quarrel on the basis of religion, which is something which makes me sympathize with both the I.R.A. and the Orangemen in Ireland right now. It would be easy to do this, I think easier than we realize, you know.
I went to school with a man named, a boy named Tim Casey. We got along reasonably well, you know, school friends, and all...We were teasing him one day about the priest, and he said, "George, you're wrong. If he put out his hand, he'd strike you dead, but he won't do it because he's too good a man. Of course I don't expect you to understand this." I said, "What do you mean?” He said, "Well, your father and mother aren't even married." That's when I hit him [laughs]. But this was an attitude that was prevalent — what's this, fifty years ago, you know.
Macklem: We've come a long way.
Frazier: We have in this country.
Macklem: Yeah. I think they're coming some over there, too, but they have three hundred years of...
Frazier: It's a tragedy, you know, a tragedy.
Macklem: Well, and then part of it - for example, this has nothing to do with the times — England has an Army Act, I don't know whether you are familiar with it or now, where each year the Parliament has to pass a resolution permitting the standing of an Army, and this is all from Cromwell's when the Army took over and ran the country. So now they have to pass this resolution to make sure the Army doesn't do it again.
Ireland was settled by — not entirely — but Northern Ireland, many of the people got the land there from Cromwell's soldiers. They weren't an easy gang either. I read a book called "Trinity", not quite so proud of being an Orangeman after that, you know.
But I find myself even in spite of that, feeling - I'm gonna work at Irish Day, but I still find myself feeling slightly on edge about it, this is ridiculous, you know, here I'm educated and...
Frazier: Goes back to your childhood.
Macklem: Yeah, it's there, what's bred in the bones I guess. I'm going to — if we have it, I will be selling the cookbooks.
Macklem: And my daughter has three or four recipes in there.
Frazier: Oh, good.
Macklem: From my grandmother — from my mother, her Grandmother Watson, who Barbara was fortunate enough to know rather well. So she submitted I think five or six...so we are very pleased, very proud of her. As you probably can tell that I have one daughter, no boys, no sons, and I'm very proud of.
Macklem: No, she's not married, she had a difficult time in college, man she went with for four years decided to marry somebody else before graduation.
Frazier: Oh, that's too bad.
Macklem: I think it left a mark. You just say to yourself, better now than — rather then than five years afterward. [inaudible]
I am by trade a printer, I learned my trade on the "Morning News" and I worked on the "Morning News” until I went in the Army, when I came back out I worked there for a year or so, then I went with Hercules in their printing plant, and I worked there for almost thirty years. I'm retired, and I've had a few heart attacks and I have some emphysema, but I'm really happy. I like - I really enjoy going out to Hagley. A lot of it I find I'm not physically able to handle; I can't walk, particularly up grades or any distances.
Frazier: You haven't been up Blacksmith Hill then?
Frazier: Oh, that's too bad.
Macklem: Well, I'm hoping to be able to work out there, when I've been trained.
Frazier: Yes, well you can drive in...
Macklem: Then I can drive up there. It's no problem — well I can manage to do it probably, I just don't like — I sort of allocate my strength, you know [laughs].
- Playing in the powder yards after they had closed; working at the Experimental Station beginning in 1938; his brother's career as a commercial artist; posing for illustrator Gayle HoskinsKeywords: Abandoned buildings; Artists' models; Commercial artists; Company. Experimental Station; E.I. du Pont de Nemours & amp; Hoskins, Gayle (Gayle Porter), 1887-1962; Illustrators; Schoonover, Frank E., 1877-1972; Wilmington Academy; Wyeth, N. C. (Newell Convers), 1882-1945Transcript: Frazier: When you were younger, and running all over the powder yard with your brother, what do you remember from that time about the...
Macklem: The buildings...
Macklem: We were always amazed that many of the buildings that we could get access to, they were only three sided.
Frazier: Because of the...
Macklem: Because the wooden sides had been disposed of or collapsed or whatever.
Macklem: That's the main...
Frazier: Now what time period would this have been, what years?
Macklem: Let's see, I was born in 1918, so it would be 1927 to 1932.
Frazier: After the mills had closed?
Macklem: Oh yeah, they were closed before I was born, or just about the same time. We used to go out to - we lived at 7th and Jackson, 91507, and my brother and I many times went out there by ourselves from there and we walked out. You went over Van Buren Street and up the south side of the Brandywine, across the swinging bridge, and then to your left, up past the paper mills, up the hill and across the top of a quarry up there, and through a woodland tract that brought you out on what is now where Augustine Road came out before they just did the reorganizing. At that time the upper part of the present Experimental Station was the Country Club, and we went down there and across the covered bridge. We did that many times. It was a ball, you know.
I worked at the Experimental Station myself in 1938. It was after my father had died. I was the only one working. When I was working down at the shops I had hoped to go to the Charles Morris Price School of Advertising. But my brother was in art school on a scholarship, and it didn't seem right that I should pull him out of that, so I worked and he didn't. I worked out there among other things. I was laid off at the Shops - laborer, plumber's helper, a steel worker's helper, whatever had to be done. I worked on the first Nylon building at the Experimental Station. And it, in itself wasn't all that — it was hard work - God, I can remember going up Rising Sun Hill and getting on a streetcar at the top of that hill and riding home and going to sleep between there and Jackson Street you know [laughs]. I worked with a 20-pound sledge eight hours a day and that takes it out of you — didn't hurt me though.
But I met a lot of good people, had a lot of fun there, lot of ornery characters. Met a boy named Millard Selby, I worked with him down at the DuPont Shops and he was just about as ornery as you can get. He's in business now. They gave us a job, we had put the steel up, and they gave Millard and I spray guns, go around and paint different sections of the steel. The first floor had a rough flooring on it so they could use the basement, and everybody used to put their lunches down in the basement. Millard and I got down and lined up all the lunch boxes up and painted them all red [laughs]. But this is, I think, a typically DuPont Banks attitude you know. Be as ornery as you can without inflicting wrong.
I guess I don't really have too much to tell you about association with DuPont. I'm sorry I don't have — in fact I don't even have - I may have more, my brother has some records of the family. My mother gave him the family Bible because he was the oldest son, and this includes a fair amount of record about her, so I may have a little more that I could add to this later, I'm not sure at all. I know he should have some of the photographs too.
Frazier: He lives in Oregon?
Macklem: Lives in Oregon, he moved out there about five years ago. He hasn't lived in Delaware since before the war, World War II. He's a commercial artist, lived in New York for a long while and did textile design for Leacock and Son, big textile outfit, and then he went to Florida, and did commercial art, and then he went to California and did commercial art, and decided he missed the change of seasons and came back and lived in Connecticut, Lakeville, Connecticut, where he worked out of New York on contract. The first year they were in Connecticut, they had 117 inches of snow and the following year he went to Florida again.
But he's a very competent artist, he has done - while he was in Florida the final time, he did murals for the Morrison Cafeterias, dozens of them and got paid very well. And since going to Oregon, he thinks he's gone to the Promised Land. Of course he's had a cold ever since he got there.
Frazier: Rains all the time.
Macklem: Sure does. I was out there in the Army, out in that Oregon desert, snow and the rain, I don't know why they call that a desert. It's a wasteland, that's why they call it a desert [laughs]. He's good, he's a very competent artist. He studied at the Wilmington Academy. It was down in the old Marine Flower Mills down at 18th and Market, with Byrant Burnt and all that group. N. C. used to come down and — a lot of critique and Frank Schoonover came in — N. C. Wyeth.
Frazier: Must have been interesting.
Macklem: There was a very — a different group. It was an artists' group in the purest sense of the word, by no means a school.
Frazier: Oh, they were hell raisers too, weren't they, the group of artists?
Macklem: Oh, they were, they had a lot of fun. I knew some of them because I used to pose for them, I got fifty cents an hour. Gayle Hoskins, we lived on Broom Street at Shallcross Avenue. He did western stories in magazines and that sort of covers by the hundreds. We'd go up and sit on the saddle over a wooden horse and he'd paint you.
Frazier: Fifty cents an hour?
Macklem: Fifty cents an hour, and that was a lot of money, after all I swung a sledge for forty-five.
- His mother getting disciplined as a child at school; his connection to John William Macklem; his grandfather and brothers founding the DuPont LodgeKeywords: DuPont Lodge; Freemasons; Genealogy; Granite Lodge; Macklem, John W., 1867-1948; School children--DisciplineTranscript: Macklem: My mother's piano teacher lived on Broom Street at Levering and I cannot recall her name, but maybe in the notes, like I said, that my brother has — my father first attended the Old Yellow Schoolhouse at Barley Mill Lane and Route 100, which has since been torn down fairly recently. My mother attended all these — the Alfred I. School on Kennett Pike near Breck's Lane, and my father finished there. They both graduated there. My mother — I recall a tale my aunt told us - they used to go out to the playground - apparently I took after my mother - I can't walk across the street without getting dirty - and she came in pretty tousled and dirty and she didn't always get as well washed up as she should, and the teacher sent her out to get a basin of water, and brought it up and put it in her lap and washed her hands, make sure she could do it properly. This was in front of the whole school, very humiliating.
Frazier: Oh, yes.
Macklem: So my mother went and got the basin of water and took it back and washed her hands and picked the basin up and dumped it into her lap [laughs]. So she was a free spirited...
Frazier: Oh, that's wonderful.
Macklem: But you know... [Tape is switched] I don't really know that much about him. I knew him.
Frazier: His name?
Macklem: His name was John William Macklem.
Frazier: And his position?
Macklem: And he was - I'm not even sure — a clerk is the best I can say, but I'm sure it was something more than that before he finally...
Macklem: He married a woman named Emma Kelley and she was born, as far as I know, the only thing I have is Brandywine, Delaware. They had five daughters - Ethel, who is still living, and the only one that is living, Marion, Francis, Margaret — oh, excuse me, and Amy. Amy married a man named, Rohrer I think — in all events, he was — the man she married was an uncle of Charles Parks, the sculptor.
Frazier: Oh, yes.
Macklem: She still lives, lives in Newark.
Frazier: Perhaps she would be available for an interview?
Macklem: She may at that, I've been trying to get down to see her, and every time I call she hasn't felt too well.
Frazier: And what is her full name?
Macklem: I'll have to look it up, I don't have it here. Ethel Macklem, the other daughter, I met with her several times and she is senile to the extent that she can't really remember or recall. I was hoping to get some family background, but let me try with Amy and if she has anything why...
Frazier: That would be fine.
Macklem: He and his two brothers, my grandfather and my great uncle, formed a Masonic Lodge in the Brandywine, which is now in the Granite Lodge in Wilmington, DuPont Lodge. They were three of the founders. They were three of the Masters. This is another thing that makes me think that there may have been some quarrel between my grandmother and her two brothers— in— law, because my father was never a Mason, and I think it would have been natural for him to be one, had there not been some difficulty there. I am a Mason, I'm a member of DuPont Lodge incidentally.
When I went into DuPont Lodge, I had to get a signature. So, a man suggested that I go see a fellow named Leonard Perks, who was at that time the Manager of the Grand Opera House building. He had gone to school with my Father, his name was Leonard Perks and he was from the DuPont Banks, up the creek, and a real nice guy. And he had a lot of memorabilia in the office there. I often wonder what ever happened to it because I'm sure a lot of it was associated with DuPont Lodge and with the du Pont family. I have no idea what happened to that.
The fact that my association with a lot of things was interrupted by the war put me at a dis...for example, Jane Henless died...no, Len Perks didn't die, but I didn't have any contact with him. I often wondered, fruitless wonder — let's see, I have a couple of books of Old John Macklem's, Uncle Willey we called him, like a formal report which he has made notes in, his own opinion on certain circumstances.
Frazier: I think the Museum would be interested in seeing those.
Macklem: They might be at that. And I have a copy of his history of DuPont Lodge. The Lodge, incidentally, is still in operation. It's part of the Grand Lodge of Delaware.
- Connections with other members of the Macklem and Kelley familiesKeywords: Families; GenealogyTranscript: A lot of this material that's in here that I have on our family - my wife attended a meeting of Lutheran women in Easton, Maryland, and a woman came up to her after the meeting, and spoke to her, "Is your name Macklem?" She said, "Yes." She said, "My maiden name's Macklem."
Frazier: Oh, that's not a common name.
Macklem: No, and she was from up around Chichester up in Pennsylvania. And so she had this material, which is interesting, but it's four pages of material with no dates. It says, "John Macklem, son of Sarah Macklem married Jane Montgomery, daughter of Christian Montgomery, her children were..." No dates, this was pre-Revolutionary, but it's been interesting.
Macklem is a fairly common name, apparently, not common, but apparently according to what I have from the Ulster Society, Macklem, Maclin, and a number of others were the same name. There are a lot of them in Canada, I've got material from inquiries about my name from a Macklem group in Canada and I got a letter from a guy at Birmingham University. He wanted to know about a Samuel Macklem, from the early 1800's. Well as far as I can see, the only Samuel Macklem was a brother to Old John Macklem, and that would be too late, because John, I know, was born in 1829.
But I went down to the Old Town Hall and looked up some records — a Samuel Macklem married a Rachel McDonald in Asbury Methodist Church in 1813. So I wrote this Macklem — he said he had been able to track them out to Ohio someplace, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the reason his name doesn't show up here is because he became a Mormon. They had scratched him off the list, you know what I mean.
Frazier: Yes, that could be.
Macklem: The guy sent me a tremendous wealth of material about the Macklems. He sent me 15 zeroxed pages, all about the Macklems, the Macklems in Ireland, the Macklems in Canada, the whole smear, you know, and a lot of other records.
Incidentally, a contribution to my studies, was made by my daughter — she had a very severe back operation at the University of Pennsylvania and was unable to work for quite a while. And she had to exercise, she lived in Newark at that time, so she used to drive out and park at the cemeteries and walk around the cemeteries and she found all sorts of Macklems out there. Out in Millcreek Hundred, Christiana Hundred.
Frazier: It's interesting.
Macklem: But since I've been able to [?] over at church, it's not odd because they lived out around there. John Macklem was a very nice person, I liked him a lot. Two of the daughters that I knew reasonably well, they were all older than we were. They were very conscious of their position.
Frazier: Where did he live?
Macklem: When he died, he lived in an apartment house on Jackson Street right off Delaware Avenue, and previous to that he had lived on 18th Street right below Mt. Salem Church — over the bridge as we call it, out the Boulevard area, out in there.
Macklem: He apparently enjoyed a fair amount of success, both financially and position. As I say, I've always regretted that we weren't close, but most of the time when I met a person, it was a fringe thing, you know. I met a guy named Mike Kelley one time, and my Grandmother's name was Kelley and Mike Kelley turned out to be a descendant of her sister, or her brother. His name actually was Carlisle Kelley; he was killed, he died, rather — accident is what killed him.
Again, it was not a family association. George Kelley at one time had a band here in town, was a brother of Mike Kelley. I don't think I ever met before. I went to school with his son and we knew we were related and I don't think either one of us ever mentioned it. So I think there was a lot of really bad feelings. Of course the Irish and Scots both are good at holding grudges, carry them around and sort of nurse it, you know. I don't think it hurt us. I think now, that we would have been better had we had some close association.
Macklem: I try to impress this on the kids now. I said, make records, make tapes, write up everything you can because some day, my nephew in Florida, my brother's boy, his oldest boy - he has five kids. Three of the five, I would say, are above average intelligence. One of them is going to have the inclination here, or one of their children is going to have an inclination to find out something about their family.
Frazier: Yes, that's right.
Macklem: They're going to be a breed of giants, he is six, five; his wife is six, two [laughs]. They're nice kids, though. We saw them when we were down there last month, visited my brother— in— law and sister— in— law...[inaudible].
- Information on the death of his grandfather, James Edgar Macklem, and the family of John William Macklem's mother; his father's job and death; more details on visits to his grandmother's house on Breck's LaneKeywords: Crayfish; Explosions; Fathers--Death; Great Depression; Henry Clay (Del. : Village)Transcript: Frazier: Now, going back to George, or John...
Macklem: John? Well, he wrote this, for example, and he says that James Edgar Macklem, that's my grandfather, was killed in a DuPont powder explosion, was a supervisor and was near a powder magazine when it exploded.
Frazier: What was the date?
Macklem: Well, he died 17th of March, 1894, and I can't find any explosion around that time, so I don't know.
Frazier: Unless he was injured for a while before he died?
Macklem: That's the only thing I can figure, yeah. And apparently I can't find Company records that support it either, any of this. But Uncle Willy had a lot of information, particularly about his mother, which I didn't know at all. She was a Crozier, and I think something to do with the same Crozier's who were up here...
Macklem: Chester. Her father and mother emigrated from Paisley and from Kennedy and they had a vast number of children, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven of whom were born in Scotland and one, two, three, four, five of whom were born in the States. They had one killed in Antietam, one who drowned in the Delaware River. Apparently the Macklems did serve some. There was a Macklem killed at the Battle of the Wilderness. According to family legend, Old John Macklem, the Old John, that is the father of — the grandfather of the John Macklem who drove a powder team, served in the Revolution; I have not been able to confirm it yet.
Aside from that, I don't have a lot about Uncle Willy. He was a very reserved person, but a very pleasant guy. The only one of the family who appeared when my father died, which impressed me.
Macklem: I wasn't a kid, 1937, and I thought it was weird. And he came over one day, came around and made a very formal call, a very proper call, and yet a very friendly. He seemed very pleased when my brother and I shook his hand...[inaudible].
Frazier: Well when did he die?
Macklem: He died in 1948. I went to see him after I got home from the Army. At that time, when I got out of the Army I bought a house at 911 West 9th Street and I lived there until the freeway was threatening for the second time around...
Frazier: What was your father's job?
Macklem: He was an assistant superintendent of the DuPont Shops, Machine Shop, he was a machinist, a good one. Died of a heart attack, coronary thrombosis, 1937. I've always sort of felt that he — one of the reasons was that he worked with men 25 or 30 years and during the Depression, he had to lay them off. These were fellows that he knew, he knew they had children, he knew the whole thing you know. It really tore him up. My mother said many nights she'd wake of an evening and see him in the chair.
Frazier: Hard times. Is there anything else you remember about visiting your Grandmother on Breck's Lane that you would like to relate?
Macklem: Nothing really that I can recall. I can remember, oh, playing in the barn was fantastic - I didn't like the...
Frazier: Now where was the barn?
Macklem: Right up in back of the house. Oh, the house next door had a spring down in the lawn in the front, we weren't supposed to go there because the lady got upset about children. I can remember catching crawfish down in the run. Can you imagine two boys in their Sunday best with tins cans and go down and turning over stones and finding crawfish?
Frazier: I didn't know crawfish were in these waters.
Macklem: Yeah, they were then at least.
Frazier: They were then?
Macklem: Yeah, all we did, we carried them around in jars until they started to smell a little bit [laughs]. I can remember catching a garter snake beside the barn. I can remember, there was a small steam engine we were allowed to play with. It would actually make steam and the wheel would fly.
Frazier: Where was this?
Macklem: My Grandmother's, it was apparently something from my father or my uncles. There were copies of "Chatterbox", a bound magazine type book for boys - that's about it.
Frazier: How many rooms did she have?
Macklem: I can recall — of course there was the big room which was the old storeroom. And then there was a living room and I guess they probably sacrificed a dining room for the storeroom.
Frazier: For the storeroom.
Macklem: But the kitchen was quite large and you ate in the kitchen. And there were three or four bedrooms upstairs. I don't even recall if she had inside plumbing. I know they had an outhouse, which always turned me off. It's ridiculous, you know, I mean I wasn't that much of a city kid, but I'd never been exposed to it until we went out there, you know.
I enjoyed the ride on the Toonerville Trolley out there. It bucketed along. We also used to spend a lot of time up in Rockford Park, up on those rocks.
Frazier: Do you remember the Seitz girls, as they were called, or are you too young for that?
Macklem: Probably too young.
Macklem: The only person I recall out there in later years, I took my mother out to see a lady who lived on Rising Sun Lane, right where the trolleys turned, buses now, I guess. And I can't even recall her name, but she was a fascinating person to me. At that time I had been reading some about the Haitian Revolution...War of 1812 [inaudible]. And she had a memorial paper there of the man who lived the Marines in the Shores of Tripoli. And apparently there was a relationship there, a family relationship of some kind — isn't that strange, I can't even recall her name. My wife may recall it, or it may appear in those notes that my brother will send me eventually. I've got some pictures of my great— grandfather and my grandfather, including one of my great— grandfather with the powder wagon.
Frazier: Oh, that would be interesting.
Macklem: I sent one to my brother, hoped to be returned and respond to the other things, and he never sent it. These are just Photostats, but I have the original pictures too. That's Old John Macklem.
Frazier: Now the Museum hasn't seen, have they?
Macklem: They have them, that's where I got them. That's Bennett Watson. And this is John Macklem with his powder wagon. His beard was red — reddish, you know. When I was in Italy the second winter, I quit shaving and my beard came in red. Pizons used to call me Barba Rosa, which means Red Beard.
Frazier: Yes, family trait.
- Final details on his childhood visits to Henry Clay and adventures in the closed powder yardsKeywords: Bancroft Mills; Button Hill; Children--Social life and customs; Henry Clay (Del. : Village)--Buildings, structures, etc.; Joseph Bancroft & Sons Co.; powder yardsTranscript: Macklem: I'm sorry I don't have more information, truly.
Frazier: Well, anything you can remember of the area when you were a boy that kinda stands out in your mind, might be interesting.
Macklem: I can remember going down over the wall, and there was a very shallow bank along the Brandywine right above Breck's Mill, and going down there to go fishing. You know how it is when you're a kid, everything is an adventure, particularly in a completely strange area.
When I was a kid, Sam Frizzell's Store was not there. The houses where my mother lived, across the creek, were not there. There were a few houses on the creek side of the road. I'm not even sure if they were houses or storage, but they were on the creek side.
We never got awfully friendly with a lot of the kids, we didn't spend that much time there, you know. When we were there it was usually on a Sunday. And then later, why...[inaudible].
Where do you live, by the way?
Frazier: Twin Oaks, which is off of Weldin Road.
Macklem: Oh yeah, you knew Fraziers who lived at Bellwood when we lived there - he was a character, nice guy, but a real alphabetic scholar.
Frazier: Well, anything else you remember of the powder yards or — you said you played around there?
Macklem: We played around there, but it was just — you know — the idea of these massive stone buildings, which impressed us, you know, the gates, we sometimes had to climb, and sometimes had to work our way around.
Frazier: Was it closed?
Macklem: Sometimes they were and sometimes they weren't.
Frazier: Guards there?
Macklem: It seemed to me there was a watchman who would be there who we avoided or thought we should avoid, you know, that sort of thing. The tracks were there, some of them, tracks where they pushed the powder from one mill - they had like a little terminal, almost like a railroad carts, we didn't know what they were, but the whole idea — I remember crossing the trestle, which was a big adventure because we did see trains go over occasionally.
I remember going up as far as the big house. I don't even recall if it was occupied or not, it was a very clandestine adventure when you did something like this you know. I remember cutting some flowers up there and taking them down to my mother. She couldn't make up her mind whether to spank me for cutting somebody else's flowers or thank me for the flowers.
I remember going up on the bank up behind where Wanamaker's is now later on and picking daisies by the armful and taking them home. Also Button Hill. They used to make paper, paper mills there, good paper and they used cloth and they'd cut the buttons out and they'd have a big number of buttons up there as high as this house [laughs], but that had nothing to do with the powder yards.
Some of my people did — a number of our people did work at Bancroft's, Bancroft Mills. Even when I was a young man, they lived in town here, many of the men lived out Riddle Banks, you know, out on Riddle Avenue.
Macklem: And in Forty Acres, but some of them, I remember - I guess he was married to my grandmother's sister, they lived at 3rd and Madison. He used to walk from 3rd and Madison to Bancroft's and back every day [laughs].
Frazier: Oh my, that's a walk.
Macklem: Yeah, he didn't think anything of it either. 'Course I served papers from Market to Clayton on 7th and 8th. I knew the town very well. Les and I did enjoy going out there, going out to Grandmother's, but things — it was an adventure to a kid, and a lot of the things you do when you're children, a lot of the things we did when we were children, are clandestine because you're doing things that you weren't specifically told not to do, but you knew damn well you shouldn't be doing them, really.
Frazier: Yup, right.
Macklem: But I do remember a lot of good times. We used to go up along where the trolley tracks ran along the Brandywine. They came out right below the crossover bridge at Rising Sun Lane, and we had a cave and we used to climb up the rocks on the side. When we were kids they called them Will's Rocks, rocks below the Tower. Apparently at one time there had been a hermit there or something, I haven't found any other reference to him, they called them Will's Rocks. I often meant to look at the Montgomery books on Wilmington to see if she had anything to say about it.
I'm sorry that — the second marriage of my grandmother resulted in two more children, Jane and Robert Cavanaugh. Bob Cavanaugh became a millwright finally, he was a pattern maker, he never worked at it a lot, he didn't like it I think. He was a super — a very, very good athlete — tried out for the Philadelphia leagues, he played semi-professional basketball, he was black Irish, he was a Quaker and he had a bad temper...
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