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History of Delaware, 1609-1888

In 1790 Simon Kollock erected what is now known as the Cloak grist-mill, on Little Duck Creek, near the Seven Hickories. This mill was run until 1886 by descendants of Ebenezer Cloak, who purchased it in 1824. Near the Cloak mill is another old mill known as Malcolm's Mill. It was built by Thomas Alexander in 1806 and has been used as a grist mill, a carding mill and saw mill. at various times in its history. Samuel Murphy built a mill a mile or so above the Casperson mill on Little Duck Creek in 1832 which passed through the same vicissitudes as Malcolm's mill. Phosphate factories, canning establishments and plants for the evaporation of fruit exist in various parts of the Hundred. [Ed. Note: This would be the two mills above Garrison's Lake. See my post from April 29th.]

The old Griffin grist-mill, on Duck Creek, is perhaps the oldest grist-mill in the Hundred. It was operated by members of the Griffin family, in whose hands it remained until 1820. David S. Casperson purchased it in 1859, and after running it a year he was killed by his neighbor, George Buchanan, in a dispute over the boundary line of adjoining properties. It was known for years as Casperson's Mill, and was located a mile and a-half above Clayton, but has now [1888] disappeared.

Source: History of Delaware, 1609-1888, Volume I, by J. Thomas Scharf

History of Delaware, 1609-1888

Among the early settlers in Duck Creek Hundred was Francis Whitwell, to whom one thousand acres was warranted in 1675, located in Whitehall Neck, and the name Whitehall is supposed to have been given by Whitwell to the home which he established there. Five years later Whitwell and John Richardson were granted two thousand acres in the western part of the Hundred. Another early settler was Nicholas Bartlett, and Jacob Allee, prior to 1760, was granted three tracts in this Hundred aggregating nearly eight hundred acres. William Frampton, John Hillyard and Simon Irons were also early settlers and large land owners. William Shurmer had warranted to him one thousand acres called Gravesend. This land afterward came into the possession of William Green and Francis Barney, and later part of it was owned by Benjamin Shurmer, and on the latter tract was laid out the first town in the Hundred, the town being known at that time as Duck Creek. This town has now sunken into insignificance, and has for many years been known as Salisbury. It is on the Kent side of Duck Creek. In early days it was a flourishing hamlet, with several stores, a blacksmith shop, a Friends' meeting and an Episcopal church. The town was laid out by Benjamin Shurmer prior to 1718. The name Duck Creek, as applied to the town, seems to have continued but a short while, as the village was called Salisbury as early as 1718.

Less than a mile below this original town the main State Road crosses another main road running east and west, and this point for many years was called Duck Creek Cross Roads, and the laying out of a town at this latter point seems to have sounded a death knell for the original town, for Duck Creek Cross Roads grew rapidly, and in course of time assumed the more dignified name of Smyrna. The old brick store-house still standing at the southwest corner of the roads in Salisbury was for a generation and more occupied by Silas Spearman. His descendants have lived in and about Smyrna until within a few years. The grist-mill which for many years has been known as the Denney Mill, just across the creek in Blackbird Hundred, was operated for many years by Robert Holding.

Source: History of Delaware, 1609-1888, Volume I, by J. Thomas Scharf

Ed. note: The millers house in Duck Creek was known as "The Lindens," although it is unclear exactly where the name originated.

The Lindens, with its gambrel roof is an example of the style popularly known as "Dutch Colonial.” This pre-revolutionary house was built by the owner of the adjacent grist mill in 1765.

Founded by 1705 where the King's Highway forded a navigable creek, Duck Creek Village was the oldest settlement in northern Kent County. By the Revolution it had three churches. Later, the creek silted up and nearby Smyrna became ascendant. Nothing survives of the churches but their graveyards, and the village vanished except for an 80 × 100–foot gristmill and a miller's house [The Lindens]. The mill (1820s and later) was dilapidated when recorded by historians in 1981 and was subsequently razed. The dwelling, a brick gambrel-roofed structure four bays wide, was threatened with demolition by the highway department in 1960, but the state archives department rescued it. A marbleized dado inside is rare, although Brook Ramble has one, too.

Source: Society of Architectural Historians

"The Lindens" - Library of Congress

"The Lindens" - Delaware Public Archives

Enoch Hilyard was endentured to Robert Denny, proprietor of “[Linden] Mill,” about 1840.

Duck Creek Hundred has never been noted as a manufacturing or industrial region. Its rich meadow lands and many streams tend more to agricultural and pastoral pursuits. However, the water-power of the many branches and tributaries of Duck creek was utilized and on Green's branch at Salisbury were situated, perhaps the oldest mills in the county. They are located on the "Gravesend tract" and as early as 1717 Richard Empson conducted there, "grist mills, bolting mill, saw mills and other improvements" as disclosed by the old records. [Source: History of the State of Delaware, vol. II, by Henry C. Conrad, 1908]


History of Delaware, 1609-1888

On November 13, 1751, Thomas James sold to Andrew Peterson, millwright, thirty acres of land and a grist-mill adjoining the meeting-house and burial-place (Holy Hill). The thirty acres were probably on both sides of the stream. The mill remained in the possession of the Peterson family many years, and then was purchased by William Sharp and known as Sharp's Mills. Sharp was unable to retain the mill, and it again came into the possession of the Petersons and became the property of Mrs. John C. Corbit, to whom it now belongs. For the past ten years it has been operated by J. B. Webb. The mill is run by water-power, and the grinding is done by burrs. It has a capacity for grinding eighty bushels of grain per day.

Source: History of Delaware, 1609-1888, Volume I, by J. Thomas Scharf

What is now called Lake Como was first owned by Thomas James, who sold it to Andrew Peterson in 1751, over 270 years ago. It was owned by that family for many years, until it was sold to Mr. William Sharp. It soon returned to the Petersons, and they sold it in the mid-1870s to Mrs. John C. Corbit, of Odessa. Her miller, beginning about 1878, was Mr. John B. Webb, and in 1919 Mr. Webb bought the mill and the lake from Daniel C. Corbit and he was the owner/operator for the next nineteen years. After being involved in operating the mill for about 60 years, J. Frank Webb sold the millpond, Lake Como, to the Town of Smyrna in December of 1938. Lake Como has belonged to the town of Smyrna has ever since.

The Lake Como dam has always been prone to washing out, but it has been no different than most other mill dams everywhere else. Until the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife took over most dams and lakes, the spillways were not able to withstand very heavy waterflows. The following newspaper clippings cover four dam wash-outs at Lake Como over a 68 year period, but the problem was common with most dams.

Smyrna Mill and Waterworks 1913 - (It looks like this was taken from downstream) - Delaware Public Archives
Smyrna Mill-Pond - March 26, 1867 -Delaware State Journal
Smyrna Mill - Feb. 14, 1884 - Delaware Gazette and State Journal
TWO DAMS BREAK...- Aug. 15, 1919 - The Evening Journal
LAKE COMO...- Aug. 29, 1919 - The Evening Journal
SMYRNA MAN BUYS...- Oct. 31, 1919 - The Evening Journal
SMYRNA MILL DAM...- Nov. 1, 1919 - The Morning News
SMYRNA MILL DAM ROAD...- Jan. 9, 1920 - The Evening Journal
Lake Como Drained - Nov. 12, 1932 - The News Journal
Flood Damage below Lake Como (looking East) - Sept. 1935 - Delaware Public Archives
Flood Damage below Lake Como (Looking South) - Sept. 1935 - Delaware Public Archives

I'm sure these two previous pictures were taken after the 'Great Labor Day Hurricane' of 1935, that did severe damage to the entire Mid-Atlantic area.

Buy Lake Como - Oct. 3, 1938 - Smyrna Times via The News Journal

Buying Lake a Wise Move - Dec. 22, 1938 - Smyrna Times via The News Journal
Smyrna Roller Mill, Smyrna, Del - Delaware Public Archives

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