Previous Posts

2015 (8)
  • 10/24/2015 -- Beginnings….
    It is time to open this blog to interested parties. The main static pages will be continually added to, especially the pages under the Milton News heading, which we are continually adding to as we complete transcriptions of the weekly columns. Additional stories and biographies about Milton people are coming as well. Since the site […]
  • 10/24/2015 -- Retiring the Debt
    In 1906, the little building that had housed the Milton Methodist Protestant congregation since 1857 received a major makeover. Workmen extended the rear (west) wall of the building 12 feet to create an apse for the chancel, and the the stained glass windows that were delivered in 1901 were finally installed. Interior improvements and a […]
  • 10/25/2015 -- Sexism and Racism in the Early 20th Century Press
    I feel compelled to call readers’ attention to the advisory I have permanently posted under the Milton News heading. Small town as well as big city newspapers of the early 20th century were sensationalist and reflected the views of their white male editorial staff, journalists, and readers. This is as true of the Milford Chronicle […]
  • 10/27/2015 -- The Sunday School girls
    The rightmost window on the east wall of the Lydia B. Cannon Museum was funded by a class of Sunday School students.
  • 11/02/2015 -- The Fire of August 12, 1909
    The destructive fire of August 13, 1909 was reported by many newspapers across the country, but not always with the facts straight.
  • 11/08/2015 -- Dona’s Album: Part 1 available
    Fredonia Clowes Wilson and her circle of friends
  • 11/10/2015 -- John Magee’s Barber Shop
    John Magee was one of Milton's several barbers.
  • 11/18/2015 -- The Beginnings of Milton’s Garment Industry
    We are fond today of the alliterative “four B’s” as a succinct statement of Milton’s industries, past and present: Boats, Beans, Buttons and Beer. Unfortunately, this nifty mnemonic doesn’t include an industry that was a year-round employer of Milton’s people, especially young women, and contributed a great deal to the local economy: the garment industry. […]
2016 (41)2017 (22)
  • 01/07/2017 -- A New Look For The Blog
    The blog has new look as of today; the rather wordy home page has been replaced with a much more visual presentation, focusing on the posts. There is a new item on the menu bar, ABOUT THIS BLOG, which is a short guide to what the menu bar points to. Everything else remains the same […]
  • 01/08/2017 -- Films: Sailing Ships in Rough Seas
    Old film footage of sailing ships in rough seas: a schooner and a clipper.
  • 01/23/2017 -- John Sudler Isaacs (Part III)
    John S. Isaacs took a risk in growing chickens and buying a majority stake in a poultry processing plant. The risk paid off handsomely.
  • 03/03/2017 -- “Paradise Frost” – What Are We Looking At?
    Close examination of a photograph identifies the precise location from which it was shot.
  • 03/11/2017 -- Opium, Cannabis, and Other Victorian Wonder Drugs
    Late 19th century America was, according to one write, a "drug fiend's paradise" with an amazing array of legally obtainable, non-prescription opiates for pain relief and cannabis-infused cough syrups. In this post, a sampling of the Milton Historical Society's medicine bottle collection helps us learn the story.
  • 04/12/2017 -- All Aboard?
    A look at the story of this particular photograph of the Milton train station.
  • 04/21/2017 -- The Seven Wise Men
    The Improved Order of Heptasophs (I. O. H.) was one of the many fraternal organizations that were organized in the 19th century, and was active from 1878 to 1917. The word “Improved” in its title indicated that it was a spinoff from another organization, in this case the Order of Heptasophs. The schism occurred over […]
  • 06/01/2017 -- Murder Most Foul on the Broadkill, Part I
    On March 19, 1897, the well-dressed corpse of a woman was found in the Broadkill River, near Vaughn’s Landing, by Milton residents John Robinson and William Magee. One account told of them finding the body upright, head and shoulders above the water, feet planted firmly in the mud, eyes staring vacantly. Another account said that […]
  • 06/04/2017 -- Murder Most Foul On the Broadkill – Part II
    Guilty Until Proven Innocent Even before Mary Gordy’s body had been positively identified by her sister, virtually everyone directly connected with the case, as well as many more who were not, were certain that James M. Gordy was the murderer. The coroner’s jury[i], whose main purpose was to determine whether there was evidence sufficient to […]
  • 06/06/2017 -- The Harbor
    Read the story of the launch Avarilla, shown in the harbor photograph at right.
  • 06/25/2017 -- A Grand Time For All
    On August 7, 1908, a special excursion to Rehoboth by rail, for Governor’s Day, was wall-to-wall “with all sizes, classes, conditions and color indigenous to a Delaware community,” as David A. Conner reported. The railroad sold 320 tickets from Milton station alone, for a total of $128.00. Milton people were always fond of excursions by […]
  • 06/27/2017 -- A new search engine
    This is a purely informational post for those of my readers who use the blog itself on the Internet, rather than the Facebook portal. You may notice a couple of changes today. The rather large search bar that was located below the page banner is gone; it has been replaced by a new search mechanism […]
  • 07/01/2017 -- And you thought corsets were bad…
      In the Milton news letter in the Milford Chronicle of October 21, 1910, correspondent David A. Conner describes a rather spectacular fall taken by a certain Miss Laura Gamble, a visitor in town. She was making her debut in a hobble skirt, and fell headlong from a porch, to her great mortification. I decided […]
  • 07/14/2017 -- A baby linked to Delaware history
    The story of Lillian Lewis Postles, her ancestors and descendant, is on a continuum of over three centuries.
  • 07/30/2017 -- Milton’s hidden railroad bridges
    Railroad buffs and everyone else can read about two hidden railroad trestle bridges along the abandoned track between Federal Street and Route 30 in Milton.
  • 07/31/2017 -- Satellite View: Milton’s Hidden Bridges (addendum)
    Satellite imagery of the two hidden bridges in Milton
  • 08/29/2017 -- The Milton Camp Meetings , Part I
    This post is about the history of the Milton Camp, sometimes called Lavinia’s Camp Ground, Lavinia’s Grove camp, or Lavinia’s Wood camp. Because of the camp’s long history and many areas of interest, I am dividing the article into two segments. Part I will look at the history of the camp and the social drivers […]
  • 10/01/2017 -- New Wine In An Old Bottle
    The latest business to open at 108 Federal Street in Milton, DE occupies a historic building with an interesting past.
  • 10/13/2017 -- Charley, David and Etan
    Reading a casual remark by David A. Conner in the Wilmington Evening News Journal of December 5, 1910, I was set off on a line of inquiry that encompassed two events over 100 years apart; both had astonishing similarities in how they unfolded, and both would permanently change the behavior of American parents with respect to […]
  • 10/31/2017 -- Romantic notions of a cruel disease
    Tuberculosis, or "consumption,"was once the leading killer in the U. S. and Europe. It was also considered a source of creative drive among artists, writers, and musicians. For an Indian River Hundred family, it was simply a devastating series of blows.
  • 11/05/2017 -- The House That Hats Built
    In 1909, there were at least two millinery shops in the town of Milton. One was on Union Street, north of the Broadkill River, run by Lydia Fearing since 1882. The second was also on Union Street, just north of the river, at number 129. The latter was owned and operated by Eva K. Smith […]
  • 12/08/2017 -- A Cold War Casualty From Milton
    Capt. Edward J. Connard, USAF, died during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962,
2018 (7)
  • 01/01/2018 -- Federal Street, Winter Scene
    A photo reveals lower Federal Street the way it once was.
  • 01/02/2018 -- Seven Thousand Shaves
    William Henry Mears (1852 – 1938) was born in Philadelphia, died in Maryland, but lived the greater part of his life in Milton, where he operated a barber shop on lower Federal Street for 47 years. His father Robert Mears, a native of Virginia, was a sailor; William’s sedate profession was far removed from the […]
  • 05/01/2018 -- The Mansion Farm Inn – Part 1:
    Once again, a historic old building in the Milton area has changed hands and is finding a new business purpose: the Mansion Farm Inn, a 19th century farmhouse with a long history. Much of that history is closely tied to the Robbins family, one of the oldest that settled in lower Delaware. The house was […]
  • 05/27/2018 -- New Market – All But Vanished
    There is no shortage of “ghost towns” in Delaware. Between Ellendale and Greenwood alone there are three – Banning , Owens Station, and St. Johnstown –  that were once stops on the Queen Anne Railroad, and which disappeared after the railroad failed. There are other such places across the state, but for the most part […]
  • 07/21/2018 -- John Coard Hazzard and his map of Milton
    A carefully hand-drawn and -lettered “Draught or Map” of the town of Milton hangs in a frame in the Town Hall on Federal Street. It is over 40 inches tall and 30 inches wide, and as a consequence is filled with a huge amount of detail about land ownership, improved vs unimproved lots, physical features, […]
  • 08/14/2018 -- Honeymoon From Hell: William and Mollie’s Story
    Milton has had dozens of sea captains that established themselves there in the 19th century. They pursued their profession as the town’s shipbuilding industry rose to its zenith and long after it began its inexorable decline, well into the 20th century. In previous posts I have written about Capt. Charles Franklin Lacey (Captain Lacey’s Narrow […]
  • 11/25/2018 -- The Butcher of Union Street
    No, the title does not indicate that this is a local horror story; it’s just clickbait, but literally true, and I couldn’t resist. On November 21 of this year the Cape Gazette ran a story about a Milton homeowner who received approval from the town’s Historic Preservation Commission to raise his house 32 inches and […]
2019 (5)
  • 04/03/2019 -- Compass Rose Windows See The Light Of Day
    When I first photographed the stained glass in the Lydia B. Cannon Museum, I was a bit frustrated in not being able to get close enough to any of the four compass rose windows for a decent shot. While they are visible from the outside, like most stained glass of their time the compass rose […]
  • 05/23/2019 -- Russia On The Broadkill
    “An act was done in Milton on Sunday morning the like of which was never done before in this town.” So begins a paragraph by David A. Conner in his November 12, 1915 letter to the Milford Chronicle. The usually prolix correspondent was for once seemingly at a loss for words. What was the “act” […]
  • 08/10/2019 -- The Milton Times
    I have often stated that my primary source of information about the life of the town of Milton in the early 20th century was David A. Conner’s Milton News letter in the Milford Chronicle. Thanks to a project undertaken by the University of Delaware in the 1980’s, with the support of the National Endowment for […]
  • 10/23/2019 -- Twentieth Century Fox
    The ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote, touched the lives of nearly every man and woman in the country. Delaware, Sussex County and Milton were no exceptions; the amendment was hotly debated here, and opposition was as fierce as the support for its passage. In […]
  • 12/19/2019 -- The Samuel Shapiro Story
    Part 1: Beginnings In a previous post I looked at the relatively brief Milton sojourn of the Hankin brothers, Aaron and William, who ran a haberdashery from about 1913 to 1918 in the Chandler building on Union Street, now part of the Milton Library. The brothers were of interest to me because of their origin— […]
2020 (7)
  • 01/06/2020 -- Young, lovely, ill-fated: the Atkins sisters
    My first project in Milton historical research was to tell the stories of the people whose names appear in the stained glass windows of the Lydia B. Cannon Museum. The windows were installed during a big renovation of the building in 1906, which was then the Milton Methodist Protestant church and renamed around 1939 as […]
  • 02/06/2020 -- Portrait of a Yankee on the Broadkill
    Once again, an extraordinary bit of luck has provided the Milton Historical with another portrait of one of the people named on the stained glass window of the Lydia B. Cannon Museum. In this instance Ms. Ellen Graves of Lewes contacted us to let us know she had a cabinet card portrait of William G. […]
  • 02/07/2020 -- The Welch Family
    I have written about J. B. Welch before (follow this link to read his full story). He was a druggist, jeweler and watch repairman, but his avocations of poet and composer were his true passions. To this day, I receive communications from descendants and others who have kept the sheet music to some of his […]
  • 03/24/2020 -- A little nonsense now and then…
    This morning I sat down and tried to return to writing for this blog, ready to produce some “serious” content. Of course, the consequences of the arrival of covid-19 – business shutdowns, millions potentially or actually out of work, bogus shortages of certain consumer goods, and the threat to the health and even the lives […]
  • 09/24/2020 -- What’s In Your Wallet?
    Even the most opaque historical “mystery” can offer clues to its meaning, if one takes the trouble to look carefully. Such is the case with the Philadelphia Album, a Victorian-era collection of portraits in tintype, carte-de-visite and cabinet card formats that I first ran across and catalogued in 2016. All but one photo in that […]
  • 10/19/2020 -- The House that Welch Built
    Among the nearly two hundred 19th century homes in Milton is 205 Union Street, built in 1896 and occupied for many decades by the Welch family. John Baynum Welch operated a drug store there, and his descendants continued to operate it into the 1980’s. I am very fortunate to have just run across a photograph […]
  • 10/20/2020 -- Another Window Gets A Face
    Finding photographs of the People Of The Windows is proving to be a task that will take years to complete, if ever. That is why, whenever a new photo surfaces, I can be heard whooping with joy clear down to Broadkill Beach. A couple of days ago, David Partridge provided me with a photographic portrait […]
2021 (23)
  • 01/29/2021 -- The Star-Crossed Marie Thomas
    In the definitive work on Milton’s shipbuilding history — Ships and Men of the Broadkill, by Capt. T. C. Conwell — 64 ships out of about 250 that were built in or docked at Milton bear women’s names. By and large, these are not names out of any mythological canon or an owner’s whimsy; no […]
  • 02/02/2021 -- Florence Creadick and her namesake
    It turns out that Capt. T. C. Conwell’s 1966 self-published book, Ships and Men of the Broadkill, is not only a treasure chest of great information about the subject in its title; it is also launching me down dozens of different rabbit holes in search of the stories behind the stories. The last post about […]
  • 02/09/2021 -- A Finnish Name on a Milton ship: the Elizabeth Sinnickson
    Once again, a casual inquiry into local history has morphed into something quite unexpected. The inquiry in question concerns the name given to a Milton-built vessel, the Elizabeth Sinnickson, a three-masted schooner constructed ca. 1867. As with my previous posts on Milton-built ships, the story begins with the shareholders of record, most of whom were […]
  • 02/22/2021 -- Grace Church in wartime
    History detective investigates an old photograph The above is a photograph of the interior of Grace UMC (United Methodist Conference) Church, today the Lydia B. Cannon Museum. It is among the dozens of prints in the Delaware Public Archive’s Zebley Collection of photographs of Delaware churches. While the Milton Historical Society has a similar print […]
  • 02/28/2021 -- The House That Went Missing
    William and Lydia Fearing’s House on Union Street In the spring and summer, the flower garden at the northeast corner of Union and Chandler Streets is a delight to stroll by, practically exploding with exuberance. Decades ago, probably until the early 1960’s, there was a house on that spot, next door to the Welch family’s […]
  • 03/15/2021 -- Honoring The Ultimate Sacrifice
    In a previous post, I made note of the Blue Star banner that was hanging over the Milton Grace UMC Church’s chancel. There were only two gold stars on this banner, signifying two men who had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during the Second World War. The number of gold stars would grow […]
  • 03/16/2021 -- Honor Roll: William Yeates Conwell, Merchant Marine
    In my previous post, I provided an overview of the American Legion Honor Roll of 1949. First installed in front of the Post building on Rt. 16, the tablet was moved to the front of the Lydia B. Cannon Museum on Union Street sometime between 2005 to 2006, when the Museum was extensively remodeled. Today […]
  • 03/18/2021 -- Honor Roll: Joseph T. Winn Jr., Merchant Marine
    This post is about Joseph T. Winn Jr. (1923 – 1943), the second Merchant Marine seaman to lose his life to a U-boat attack. Joseph was not a native of Milton, nor of Delaware; he was born in Pinal, Arizona, to Joseph T. Winn Sr. and Marcia Darlington Lovett Winn. Marcia was a native of […]
  • 04/13/2021 -- Honor Roll, Franklin K. Edginton, USN
    The Honor Roll stories continue with that of Milton resident Franklin Kenneth Edginton (3/14/1921 – 6/1/1944). Among the men on the honor roll, Franklin is the only one to have served aboard a submarine, a dangerous assignment for which he volunteered. There was nothing in his family background that could explain that decision, or at […]
  • 05/16/2021 -- Honor Roll – Pvt. Charles Madjarosy
    The latest post in the Honor Roll series is the story of Private Charles Madjarosy (1924 – 1944), killed during WWII on December 5, 1944. It is multilayered, extending beyond his brief life to include immediate family members long since deceased, the transmitted memories of his living descendants, artifacts and personal effects returned to his […]
  • 05/22/2021 -- Honor Roll – Corporal John E. Johnson
    John E. Johnson (1/19/1911 – 3/5/1945) resided in Ellendale, Delaware, at the time of his induction into the Army. The son of Milton farmer Lemuel Johnson and Elizabeth Roach Johnson, he farmed for a time, but by 1943 he was employed as a truck driver for a chicken wholesaler in Milton. At the time of […]
  • 05/25/2021 -- Honor Roll – Private William Short Marvel
            The son of Albert Marvel and Minnie Carey Marvel, William Short Marvel (2/26/24 – 7/31/44) was descended on his father’s side from a family with roots in Sussex County as far back as the mid-18th century, when Thomas Marvel, Sr. moved there from Maryland. Thomas’s father John was the first of the line to […]
  • 05/25/2021 -- Honor Roll – Seaman 1st Class Reuben Donovan
    Son of farmer Enoch Donovan and Martha K. Steelman, Reuben Donovan (5/24/1915 – 4/6/1945) grew up on a farm between Milton and Georgetown. He married Phoebe Coffin sometime around 1940; it was her second marriage, and the youngest of her children became Reuben’s stepson. By the time Reuben was called up by the draft he […]
  • 05/31/2021 -- Honor Roll – PFC Gilbert Burton Bryan
    The son of William Hazzard Bryan and Lillian Mae Burton of Milton, PFC Gilbert Burton Bryan (3/25/1925 – 3/28/1945) served with Company G, 317th Infantry, 80th Infantry Division, U.S. Army during World War II. He resided on Route 1, somewhere either on the Lewes or Milton side, prior to the war. He enlisted in the […]
  • 05/31/2021 -- Honor Roll – Private Franklin Gilbert
    Private Franklin Gilbert (12/23/1925 – 12/13/1944) was not a Milton native, but had lived in Milton throughout his teen years and attended Milton High School. He served in Company C, 311th Infantry, 78th Division, U. S. Army during World War II. The clipping above, from the Wilmington Morning News of March 27, 1945, contains the […]
  • 06/01/2021 -- Honor Roll – Private Robert Layton Short
    Robert Layton Short (1924 – 7/2/1944) was the son of Gardner E. Short and Flossie C. Carmean of Milton. In 1940, at the age of 16, he was already at work at the Draper Canning Factory in town. Inducted in February of 1943, he was sent to England in 1944 prior to D-Day, the Invasion […]
  • 06/01/2021 -- Honor Roll – Epilogue
    When I began the series on the men whose names were engraved on the American Legion Honor Roll plaque in front of the Lydia B. Cannon Museum, I was not intending to complete work on it in time for this year’s Memorial Day commemorations. It was to be a long-term project, perhaps over a period […]
  • 07/08/2021 -- Flowers, trees and a shipbuilding family
    Two generations of the Davidson family of Milton had shipbuilding in their DNA. Cranking out ships Between 1875 and 1894, Cornelius Coulter Davidson (1827 – 1917), who went by the initials “C. C.”, built a total of 14 vessels, including an unusually long sail-steam hybrid, the Martha E. McCabe, and his largest, the Florence Creadick, […]
  • 08/22/2021 -- Thirty Seconds Over Milton: Aerial Views, Old and New
    As some of you may already know, in mid-September the Milton Historical Society will open a new exhibit, “Milton’s Hottest Summer: The Great Fire of August 13, 1909.” The photographs of Dr. W. E. Douglas, taken before and after the fire, are a hugely important part of the exhibit. Dr. Douglas, an amateur shutterbug, took […]
  • 11/13/2021 -- The Douglas Legacy
    There is no doubt that Thomas Hicks Douglass (1857 – 1933) and his son Dr. William Elbert Douglas (1885 – 1961) left their mark on Milton, and it is worthwhile to revisit their stories. There are no buildings, monuments or plaques commemorating their lives, and their accomplishments are thus obscure today. This post is dedicated […]
  • 11/16/2021 -- Prime Hook, Politics, and ….turkles?
    I can’t remember who first told me about Milton people using the work “turkle” in place of “turtle.” I allowed myself to be persuaded that “turkle” is a word unique to Milton dialect, if there really is such a thing as a Milton dialect. Today, I’d like to set the record straight (at least in […]
  • 12/02/2021 -- Another 30 Seconds Over Milton
    More aerial photos of Milton have come to light, courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives. These come from a flight made around 1970, although it is unclear whether this was via a small plane or a balloon. The photo I have chosen for this post displays the downtown area just east of Mulberry Street and […]
  • 12/26/2021 -- Jints and Hannah
    The photo of the enslaved woman Jints and the toddler she cared for, Hannah Stockely (1858 – 1920), is of special significance to anyone interested in the history of the Broadkill Hundred. This is the only known photograph of any enslaved person in Delaware; the names of the subjects are known; and the apparent age […]
2022 (3)