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The Mill at “Damascus” in Red Lion Hundred and the End of the Line.

This large tract has, since the purchase of John Cocks, in 1700, been known as "Cocks Neck," a name still familiar to the residents of Red Lion Hundred. Augustine Cocks died soon after his father, and November 20, 1730, his executors sold his share to Jacob Gooding.

The first land purchased by Lawrence Higgins, the first settler, was on the lowest point of Cocks' Neck, bounded on the south by St. George's Creek, and on the north by Dragon Run, and afterwards the land owned in 1888 by John C. and Anthony Higgins. On this latter place he built a house which was standing in 1840 and bore the words: "Our Grandfather's Log Cabin, a Whig of '76." It was soon after torn down.


Jesse Higgins, the eldest son of Lawrence Higgins, was born in 1763. Soon after arriving at man-hood he purchased a farm adjoining his father's, and built a residence within three hundred yards of an old landing for vessels at the head of navigation on St. George's Creek (The headwaters of St. Georges Creek were NW of present-day Lums Pond, and the creek flowed east into the Delaware River just south of the present-day mouth of the C&D Canal. The eastern half of the canal was created by deepening this creek)


This landing was a great convenience to the people in this vicinity and afforded the only outlet for water conveyance to Brandywine Mills or Philadelphia for more than one hundred years previous to the permanent enclosure of St. George's Creek.


On October 16th, 1719 Sheriff Rowland Fitzgerald sold the property of Henry Hanson, adjoining the Higgins properties, to Samuel Griffith. Griffith sold the property, by then known as “Damascus,” to Isaac Cannon in November, 1724.


On February 19th, 1790, Sheriff Thomas Kean sold “about one hundred acres, be the same more or less whereupon was a water grist mill” on Dragon Run, owned by Jacob Cannon, to Jesse Higgins for seven hundred thirty-two pounds to settle a debt that Cannon owed. The grist mill was located, ”on the road from the Red Lion [tavern] to St. Georges. . That part of the road is present day Rt 13, and Dragon Run is about equal distance between Wrangle Hill Road (Rt 72) and St. Georges.



Jesse had first married a [unnamed] niece of George Read, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Jesse Higgins early became a widower, and then married Mary Witherspoon.


Jesse Higgins' daughter, Susan, married Henry Fromberger, and their daughter, Susan Maria, married Thomas M. Rodney, son of Caesar A. Rodney, and by this domestic tie further cemented the friendship of the previous generation.


Jesse Higgins lived at Damascus, a mill-seat on the Dragon, one mile north of St. George's. He was a man of intellect and deep research, a logical and impressive public speaker, and probably the most influential man of his day of the laymen of the Jefferson Democrats. He was often invited to become a member of the bar, but in his settlement of Dr. Bouchelle's estate he had to bring and resist law-suits, and was thus involved in litigation. He conceived a strong antagonism to the profession of the law, believing that ''an honest man could not be a good lawyer."


After the death of Jesse Higgins in 1810, “Damascus” passed into the hands of his son-in-law, Henry Fromberger in 1818 for $5,000. Shortly afterwards the dam broke and was never repaired. "Damascus" was owned in 1888 by a Mrs. George H. Smith.

Jesse's brother, Anthony Madison Higgins, built a brick house called "Fairview" on the paternal estate in 1822. A. M. Higgins never lived there; however, because he gave it to his eldest son. In 1880, Fairview came into the possession of John Clark Higgins, the grandson of Anthony M., a gentleman farmer, importer and breeder of Guernsey cattle, leader of the Delaware Grange and later United States Consul to Dundee, Scotland. The former engaged Frank Furness, a Philadelphia architect, to enlarge and improve the house during the year 1885 to 1886, by adding a shingled third story, four notable corbeled chimneys, and a rear addition. Fairview is the only domestic structure in Delaware known to have been designed by this prominent architect.

"Fairview" - Google Earth

"Fairview" was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982


Sources: The History of Delaware - 1609-1888 - J. Thomas Scharf History of the State of Delaware – by Henry C. Conrad - 1907

National Register of Historic Places - N-5048 - Fairview

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NO MORE OLD MILLS IN DELAWARE TO REVIEW

This post wraps up my over-view of the old mills that were, or in a few cases, still are in Delaware. It has taken me two years of research and I'm sure it could have been more detailed, but I was trying to post a new mill review every week or two.


I started with the seven or so mills on the Mispillion River watershed, which flows down through Milford, and this included Abbotts Mill. I then worked my way down the eastern side of Sussex County and then we traveled up the western side, on the Chesapeake Bay side of the Peninsular Divide.


Then in December of 2021 I started up through Kent County, beginning with the mills in the Harrington area. As I made my way up through the Dover area, I learned that the mill on Silver Lake was once owned by a William Shakespeare, but not the William Shakespeare.


After finishing Kent County in Smyrna, I started through New Castle County with seven mill that were once in Blackbird Hundred. I then learned that the town of St. Georges isn't in the hundred of the same name, they are separated by the C&D Canal. Hmmmm? Moving further north, I thought we would never get out of the aptly named Mill Creek Hundred. There were once literally hundreds of mills in Mill Creek Hundred, but only a couple of mills in Red Lion and the neighboring New Castle Hundred.


I did a great deal of the research online at home, and it's amazing what one can find if one just keeps digging. Two sources that were a big help in filling in details were Newspapers.com and Ancestry.com. Both are available only by subscription.


I'll now concentrate my blog back to where I started it in December of 2020: Abbotts Mill and the Abbotts Mill Nature Center. Each week I'll share photos of flora and fauna (plants and critters) that can be found around our 376-acre piece of the Milford Millponds Nature Preserve.


Sunset from Abbotts Mill Nature Center - 2/23/2023 - Mike Rivera

If YOU take a picture of something interesting that you'd like to share, send it to me with a paragraph-long description to: snchilders3@gmail.com. If you want credit, don't forget to include your name and where you took the picture. We'll try this for a while, but if I get too many wackos, I'll have to end it.

SC

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