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Andrews Lake - Tragedies and a Gruesome Legend

The area of eastern Kent county where Andrew’s Lake is now, is part of a large tract of land once called "St. Collom," was taken up on a warrant in 1681 by Benoni Bishop and surveyed to him December 10, 1684, for fourteen hundred acres. The Indian rights in these lands he bought of Saccarackett, January 5, 1682-83. The lands were partly sold by him, and the remainder passed to two stepdaughters and, from their descendants, to Zachariah Goforth, William Carpenter, Vincent and Jonathan Emerson and others.

Zachariah Goforth, who owned the land in "Johnny Cake Neck," known as “Goforth's Landing,” (on the site of the present bridge on Frederica’s lower Market Street), was the first purchaser, and bought part of "Bishop's Choice." On March 2, 1769, Goforth bought forty-eight acres of land, part of St. Collom, lying in "Johnny Cake Neck," adjoining "Johnny Cake Landing." It formerly belonged to Samuel Hues, and descended to him from his grandfather, Samuel Mott, who had previously purchased from the said Goforth four hundred acres, part of St. Collom, to which he gave the name of "Mott's Field."

"Johnny Cake Neck" includes all of St. Collom and part of Bishop's Choice. It lay west, northwest and southwest of Frederica, and extended from Murderkill Creek on the southwest and south to the Northwest Branch and Bishop's Branch on the north.


In the mid to late 18th century Peter Goforth built a home along Pratt’s Branch and in 1792 the property was purchased by Michael Hall Bonwell. Mr. Bonwell was said to be the sole builder of grist and sawmills below Wilmington and the Bonwell house soon became the nucleus of a group of mills called the “Leamington Mills.” The Murderkill Hundred map of 1866 indicates that the Bonwell mill was a grist mill, but many grist mills also contained a bark mill as a means of income during the off-season. It appears that this was the case with the Bonwell mill. A bark mill was used to grind tannin rich oak bark into a fine powder, called tanbark, which was then sold to tanneries to be used in tanning hides.

Bark Mill - wikipedia

Bark Mill - Pintrest




The Bonwell House - National Register of Historic Places reference No. 73000493[1]

The Bonwell House has a very gruesome local legend attached to it, known as

“The Fence Rail Dog.”


The legend relates that old “Quaker Bonwell,” who lived in the brick house by the pond, once got mad at a ‘negro’ boy working in his bark mill and, in a fit of anger, beat him to death and then ground his body up in the bark mill. Apparently this was no secret, but nothing was ever done about it by whatever authorities there were at the time.


According to the legend, Bonwell was so cruel that when he died, his white neighbors refused to have anything to do with the body, they wouldn’t even lift a finger to bury the man. But the blacks in that district, in order to make doubly sure that the restless spirit of old Bonwell wouldn’t roam the countryside, gave him a Christian burial.


Even at that, the story goes, the ghost of Bonwell still haunts the Rt 12 area just west of Frederica in the form of a dog as tall and long as a fence rail, with flaming red eyes the size of dinner plates and a great bushy tail arched over his back.



Bonwell's Mill can also be found in various newspaper articles spelled: Boonwell’s Mill, Boswell’s Mill or Bonawell’s Mill.


On September 1st, 1852 , John S. Kersey and his wife Susan bought the property from George Bonwill (the spelling keeps changing) for $5,500.00. This would be equal to about $150,000.00 today, a princely sum. The deed describes the boundaries of the property but never mentions how many acres there were, but it does say that it includes "a Water Grist Mill, saw mill and bark mill, commonly called and known as "The Semington Mills." The spelling here differs from the earlier account: (Lemington - Semington?) Perhaps the mill was named after the mill in Semington, Wiltshire Country, England.

The deed stated that George Bonwill had bought the property from his father Michael Bonwill's estate and that he had purchased it in 1799 from one Jediah (sp?) Rowland.


Newspaper articles thereafter refer to it as Kersey's Mill or Kersey's Pond until at least 1942. I could not determine where the "Andrew's Lake" name came from. Readers? Leave a comment below.


The Morning News - 28 Feb. 1890

Another newspaper article tells of the 1875 accidental drowning of a "46-year-old lad" who "was drowned in Kersey's mill dam, near Frederica, on Saturday evening last. The deceased left his home on said evening with his fishing tackle, and either fell in accidently, or was drowned while taking a swim. His body was not recovered until Monday morning when the miller hoisted one of the gates." (The Evening Journal, 28 Feb. 1875)


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Sources: (https://www.dgs.udel.edu/delaware-1868-hundreds-maps).

http://delmarhistoricalandartsociety.blogspot.com

https://coffeehousewriters.com/delawares-fence-rail-dog/

Newspapers.com - The Morning News, 2 Oct. 1948,

Newspapers.com - The News Journal, 31 Oct 1942

Pomeroy and Beers Atlas of 1868

Ancestry. com


An interesting statistic:

In 1900 there were 83 operating flouring and grist mills in Delaware, up from 56 in 1890 and only 30 in 1860.

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Ed. Note: This post is a bit shorter than normal because I have had difficulty researching the history of Andrew's Lake and McGinnis' Pond. Some of the information on the ownership of "Kersey's Mill" I literally just found in the past hour.





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