Brandywine Banks

By | 4 May 2013

This site is dedicated to a family that came from Ireland to Wilmington, Delaware in the early 1800’s and found employment at Eleutherian Mills, the du Pont family business located on the banks of the Brandywine Creek. The du Pont fortune grew from the manufacture of gunpowder at these mills starting in 1802. This history traces my wife’s paternal line, surname Toy, back to Daniel Toy who was the first to arrive in America, and from there back to the Toys of northern Ireland and Scotland.

Compared to my father’s Nanticoke River family, the Toy family research is easy (in genealogical terms). The du Pont Irish have been the subject of several books, the du Pont company has a wealth of historical documentation that is readily accessible, and the Toy name appears quite frequently in the history of Delaware. I also benefit from two genealogies completed by family members over the years and an extensive collection of photographs, oral history and other artifacts passed down through my wife’s family.

The first few generations in Wilmington made their living working as powdermen for du Pont or benefitting from the local economy of the powder mill communities of Henry Clay Village and Wilmington. In addition to Toy, the surnames in the family line include Coyle, Curran, Dever, Marley, McCullion (numerous spellings), McElwee, O’Neil, and Ward. A bit Irish, wouldn’t you say?

BridgitThis photograph of Bridget McCullion Toy is, I believe, the oldest photograph we have for this branch of the family. Bridget was born in County Tyrone Ireland in 1828, arrived in the United States in 1846 and married James A Toy, second youngest son of Daniel Toy, in 1851. She was his second wife. It seems it was difficult to raise a family in the time and place in which she lived. James and Bridget had eleven children but only six survived past the age of one. Bridget died in 1897 and is buried with James at the cemetery of St. Joseph on the Brandywine in Greenville, Delaware

Based on information on the reverse of this picture, the photograph was taken by Abram P Beecher, a Wilmington Beecher LogoPhotographer working at 315 Market Street. He appears in the 1889 Wilmington City Directory. I believe this picture was taken in the late 1870’s, when Bridget would have been in her forties.  The back of the photo also contains a number of pieces of advertising that I  found interesting, particulary this one that claims “instantaneous process used exclusively”. You can click on either picture for a larger image.


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