Effort to save NCCo home leads to local history gathering
By ROBIN BROWN, The News Journal
Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2008
In a bygone era in Brandywine Hundred, dairy farms and crops stitched a green patchwork landscape where homes, stores and amenities later grew.
The land of three longtime farms now serves the area's estimated 84,000 residents as Talley Day County Park, home of the Brandywine Hundred Branch Library. In the woods behind the library, across from the basketball courts, stands the historic but deteriorating Day Talley stone house, named for two of the farm families also honored by the park's naming.
Efforts by County Councilman Robert S. Weiner to save the house sparked another preservation effort designed to make history.
And you're invited.
Members of families that once grazed cows on the green hills or worked the rich soil are gathering to share their memories and family stories -- including "the last surviving Day" -- at a rare oral history forum to be recorded for future generations, kept in the library and sold at cost. The free, public forum starts at 10 a.m.
For featured guest John "Jack" William Day Sr., the event is something of a homecoming. The 79-year-old grew up in another Day family house that stood where the soccer fields are.
"In 1786, Francis Day purchased the land from Jasper Paulson, which was part of the Manour of Rockland, Delaware," he said. "The land, 100-plus acres, went from the Shellpot Creek to where Heatherbrook is now, or the back of Brandywine High School."
"My grandfather, John Boyce Day, was born in the Day Talley stone house," he said, adding, "It was built in 1847." He hopes it won't be lost.
After Weiner nominated the house for the county's resident curatorship program, recruiting live-in caretakers for historic buildings, Day contacted him through his daughter, Sharon Day Lynch, who works at the same law firm as Weiner and -- ah, Delaware! -- they've known each other for decades.
Later conversation with Day inspired the forum, which Weiner aims to be a celebration for history-buff residents and a chance for others to get acquainted with a little-understood area where heritage and historic assets are a priority.
"We have a proud history that goes back to the 1600s," Weiner said, "but because we're not incorporated, we don't get much attention."
Part of what makes oral accounts so enchanting is how the stories breathe life into historic events. Take a Day family story, for example:
"John Day, my great-grandfather, was building a house at 1306 Foulk Road in 1863 when Army recruiters came to take him off to fight in the Civil War," the descendant said. He was less than eager to trade tools for weapons. So, he says, "John Day hid in the well."
Others invited to share recollections include park family namesake Tom Talley, artist Tom Bullen, who has drawn many historic buildings in the area, and Magistrate James Hanby Sr., whose family lived in the area for generations. Garet C. Forwood Gunther of San Diego, a member of the Grubb family, will share the history of his family and the former Forwood School. The forum also will honor the Streed family, which had the third farm that became the park.
LINKS TO LEARN MORE
• Learn more about the state’s “hundreds” in the earlier Delaware Backstory entry "Shedding light on the mystery of the history of the 'hundred.'"
• Brandywine Hundred is also home to the highest point in Delaware, learn more in "The backstory on Delaware's highest point."
• The Blue Ball Barn, one of Brandywine Hundred’s noted historic sites, opened less than a year ago after massive restoration and renovation.
• The Web site of Talley Day Park’s Bark Park offers pet pictures and postings of smart dogs in the news.
• Claymont Renaissance Development Corporation
• New Castle County Councilman Robert S. Weiner
• Brandywine Hundred Branch Library
• Friends of Brandywine Hundred LibraryWrite to robin brown at The News Journal, Box 15505, Wilmington, DE 19850; fax 324-5509; call 324-2856; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Councilman's upcoming oral history effort is not his first
The potential value of an oral history forum set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Brandywine Hundred Branch Library was not lost on its organizer.
He recorded an oral history of his own family some three decades ago.
New Castle County Councilman Robert S. Weiner said that knowing how much his family’s oral history has meant made organizing the first-time forum at the library more meaningful.
Weiner’s family arrived in 1892, he said. His was the Feinberg family, known for its shop, Feinberg Furniture on Market Street in Wilmington.
His own grandparents came to Delaware because of a suggestion from “Mr. Feinberg, my grandfather’s cousin,”he said.
“He said, “Come on down from New York City ... open a Jewish delicatessen.”
And they did.
They opened their deli on Seventh Street, around the corner from the furniture store, between King and Market streets.
His grandparents also taught the trade -- including sandwich-making some say never has been equaled -- to their business’s subsequent owner.
And for more than a generation, the now-closed business was Gamiel’s, a beloved city spot where all guests got soup and pickle slices with sandwiches.
Weiner says one of his earliest and most-vivid childhood memories came from their deli.
“I remember climbing up the big pickle barrel,” which those old enough will remember was a fixture in the place.
He also recalls fishing out -- and eating -- “pickles as big as my 3-year-old head.”
Now, decades after his own family history project, Weiner is following the example of the Claymont Historical Society in trying to preserve past generations of Brandywine Hundred residents’ stories.
With many members of the region’s founding families now in their elder years, Weiner said, it becomes more and more important to record their recollections “before they are gone.”
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