The Welsh Tract: Iron Hill, Pencader Hundred and the remainder in Cecil County, Maryland
“The Welsh Tract is a large tract of land, the greater part of which is in Pencader Hundred, and the remainder in Cecil County, Maryland. Settlers were upon the land in 1684, and were driven off by George Talbot, the Governor of Maryland, who claimed the land as within his territory.
The distinguishing feature of the tract is Iron Hill, which was known by that name in 1661, and is mentioned in a letter from Vice-Director Alexander D. HINIJOSSA, May 15th, as being the place where four Englishmen were murdered by the Indians in April preceding. It is evident that iron ore was then known to be at the place in considerable quantity; hence the name.
A Welsh settlement had been made in what is now Delaware, Chester and Montgomery Counties, Pennsylvania, and on the 13th of First Month, 1684, William Penn granted to the settlers 40,000 acres of land which was known as the Welsh tract. A number of them, attracted in part probably by the iron ore in the Iron Hill and vicinity, sought this locality and petitioned Penn for a tract of 30,000 acres, which was granted October 15, 1701, to William DAVIS, David EVANS, and William WILLIS. The grant stated that they were to have ‘thirty thousand acres if there be so much vacant in the place hereafter expres-sed; that is to say, behind the town of New Castle westward, extending northward and southward, beginning to the westward seven miles from the said town of New Castle, and extending upward and downward as there shall be found room by regular strait lines as near as may be.’ A few settlers were upon the tract at the time of purchase and had made some improvements, but without any show of title; they were soon disposed and the Welsh immediately after survey began to locate upon the land.
Soon after the survey was completed, John WELSH selected 561 acres, and a little later 530 acres. Of the latter, he sold 500 acres, August 17, 1727, to Thomas LEWIS. Another part of this land was sold to James SYKES and by his executors 281 ¾ acres was conveyed to Robert FARIES on February 16, 1730.
Robert FARIES was a native of Ireland, who came to this country and purchased land in Red Lion Hundred. After his death in 1749, the above mentioned tract was inherited by his son, William. In the following year, William FARIES purchased from Henry WHITESIDE a tract of land containing 113 acres. In 1760 he died intestate, leaving two sons and a daughter—Jacob, Samuel and Margaret. In 1770, Jacob purchased his brother’s portion. He also purchased several other tracts adjoining his land. He died September 1, 1818, leaving seven surviving children. The property was next owned by Jacob, Jr., who procured it by descent and purchase. The next owner was William W., who obtained possession after the decease of Jacob FARIES, Jr. D. D. FERRIS is the present owner [transcriber’s note: in 1888] of nearly all the land above mentioned.
One of the first to choose was James JAMES, who selected Iron Hill and northward to the Christiana Creek, embracing 1,244 acres of land. A deed was granted by [William] DAVIS, EVANS and WILLIS, June 27, 1702, and confirmed by Penn February 21, 1703.
Thomas JAMES took up 1,250 acres by a deed dated October 8, 1762, and David PRICE 1,050 acres, deeded June 5, 1702. John MORGAN took 1,030 acres April 22, 1702, and also 1,023 acres on the head-waters of Dragon Creek nearly to the boundary of Red Lion Hundred, and John THOMAS took 632 acres, March 16, 1702. John GRIFFITH took up 222 acres, William JONES 1,368 acres, and in 1702, 1,379 acres. Howel JAMES took up 1,040 acres and Philip JAMES 525 acres the same year.
Howel JAMES, by his will bearing date August 17, 1717, devised 250 acres to his son, Howel, and 200 acres each to his other sons, James and Philip. James sold his portion to his brother, Philip, May 12, 1735. Philip conveyed 200 acres on which a mill was located, to John JONES, bolster, of Philadelphia, May 10, 1737, and 210 acres lying on the north side of Christiana Creek to Samuel ALLEN, November 8th, of the same year. Among other things devised by Howel JAMES, Sr., to his wife, was an annuity of ten pounds to be…” [End of P:949]
[Start of P:951] “…paid out of his mills and plantation. Some difficulty arose concerning this, and Alexander HAMILTON was consulted. His opinion was as follows: ‘I am of opinion that the devise of Howell JAMES of ten Pounds to his wife, Phebe, to be layed out of his mills and plantations in such proportion as in the said Will hereunto annexed is directed, and to be paid yearly, is a good devise to Phebe for her life. But she cannot arrest the possessor of the mills or Land for the money, the same being a charge against the Estate and not against the person of the heir or possessor of the mills and Land.’ ‘A. HAMILTON.’ ‘Philadelphia, Mary 13, 1726.’ “
John WATKINS and many others selected lands from the Welsh tract. One hundred and sixty-seven acres of the land of John WATKINS passed to David WILLIAMS, August 6, 1736; Thomas JOHNS, November 10, 1729, bought 1,156 acres; Philip JAMES sold to Francis LAND, January 6, 1729, 400 acres on the southeast side of Iron Hill; David EVANS, November 15, 1723,-sold to John EDWARDS, 450 acres in two tracts, and the next day 300 acres to William REESE. Before 1736, David EVANS removed to Cape Fear, North Carolina.
In a deed to his son, Samuel, dated April 10, 1726, he conveyed to him 200 acres, ‘whereon I have lived, formerly of Pencader, now of Cape Fear, North Carolina.’ April 21, 1738, Solomon and David EVANS unite in conveying 594 acres of land to Thomas EVANS, the 200 acres formerly conveyed to Solomon being part of the original tract.
A part of the James JAMES land came to his son, Samuel, by deed of gift, June 3, 1723, on which soon after he built a forge, and by his success, and the fact of there being plenty of ore near at hand, interested the leading iron-masters of Pennsylvania to the locality to such an extent that on October 25, 1725, an octopartite agreement was drawn up and signed by Samuel JAMES, millwright; Reese JONES, tanner, of Pencader; Samuel NUTT, of Chester County, ironmonger; Evan OWEN and William BRANSON, merchants, both of Philadelphia: Thomas and John RUTTER, smiths, also of Philadelphia; and Caspar WISTAR, brass-button maker, also of the same city. These men formed a company, each holding an eighth interest for the purpose of erecting a furnace to be known as the ‘Abbington Furnace’ and to purchase lands in connection with it for the use of the furnace. They made arrangements for the purchase of over 1,000 acres of land in the vicinity, and on one acre and three-quarters of it on the bank of Christiana Creek, which was purchased of Samuel JAMES, and conveyed by deed to Evan OWEN and William BRANSON on May 28, 1726, they erected the furnace and a forge, which were called ‘Abbington Iron Works’.
At the time the deed for the furnace lot was made out, the eighth parts had been divided into sixteenths, and John LEACOCK, William FISHBOURN, Edward BRADLEY, and William MONINGTON were partners in interest in the Iron Works Company. On October 21, 1727, Gabriel GOULDNEY, of Bristol, England, became the purchaser of one-sixteenth interest, and from the deed of conveyance made at that time, the above-recited facts are obtained. It is not ascertained how long the works were maintained by the company, but probably not for many years. It was continued by Samuel JAMES until 1734, when, upon a judgment obtained against him in the February term of court that year, his property was ordered to be seized and sold. The sale was made by Henry NEWTON, sheriff of New Castle County, September 18, 1735, to Abraham TAYLOR and John WHITE, the owners of the judgment. The property is then mentioned as the Forge commonly called Samuel James’, with all the tools and utensils of the same, a lot of blacksmith tools, and also the one-eighth interest in the ‘furnace commonly called or known by the name of the Samuel James of the ‘Abintinton Iron Works ’together with the eighth part of land, tenements and appurtenances belonging to the furnace. It does not appear that the forge or furnace was continued by the purchasing parties, but it is still mentioned as such when sold by the sheriff January 4, 1768, to Andrew FISHER (MILLER). The land on which the furnace was situated is now [transcriber’s note: year 1888] owned by William McCONAUGHEY. A part of the old wall and a heap of cinders on land now owned by COOCH Bros. marks the site of the old forge.
A short time after purchasing this property, FISHER erected thereon a grist-mill and a saw-mill. This, after his death, passed into the hands of his sons, John and Samuel. The mill property and 45 acres of land was sold August 19, 1808, to Thomas BRADLEY, and May 23, 1810, to Alexander FORESTOR. In both of these cases the property came back to the grantors, and in 1815, vested solely in John FISHER. On the 11th of April of the same year he conveyed this estate to Jacob TYSON. Since that period the mills have been successively owned by William SHAKESPEARE, Azariah SMITH, Thomas BRADLEY, and Joel P. WOODWARD. In 1863, the overshot wheel was replaced with iron wheels and the old saw-mill torn down, and a department for sawing arranged in the space formerly occupied by the overshot wheel. The grist-mill was a two-and-a-half-story building, forty by sixty feet, with a capacity of twenty-five barrels per day. The capacity of the saw-mill was 200,000 feet of lumber per year. In July, 1883, the mill was burned and it has never been rebuilt.” P:951.
Source Citation and Source Information:
History of Delaware: 1609-1888. Local History. John Thomas Scharf. Published by L. J. Richards, 1888. Item Note: V. 2. Original from Harvard University. Digitized January 29, 2008. PP:949-951.
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