Whenever possible, I like to go beyond the events and dates of genealogy and learn a bit more about how and where my ancestors lived.
This particular bit of research starts with the Brandywine Banks inset found in the Pomeroy and Beers 1868 Atlas of Delaware. Included in this map, and show at left, is the Henry Clay area that includes the E.I. DuPont Powder Mills, which directly and indirectly provided a livelihood for the Toy family for many years. If you look closely (click for larger image), you can see the ‘J. Toy Hotel’ identified, which was run by James A. Toy, son of Daniel and Rosanna Toy. If you look even more closely, down and to the right of the hotel, you see an annotation for ‘Miss Toy’. The question is, which Miss Toy is this? Rosanna was still alive in 1868, but she would most likely been referred to as Mrs. Toy.
The second piece of the puzzle comes from the Hagley Museum Library. During a recent visit to the library, I was shown a map completed by Hagley in 1980 that identifies the buildings in Henry Clay Village using the dwelling numbers from the 1870 US Census for Christiana Hundred.
Looking through my database of Toy family members I find several with records in the 1870 census. Here I find dwelling unit 771 occupied by Rosanna Toy and her granddaughter Martha. Martha was the daughter of James A Toy and his first wife Ann Curren (or Curran). Martha was 22 or 23 at the time of the census. She doesn’t marry John Doran until 1879, so she would certainly qualify as the ‘Miss Toy’ shown in the Pomeroy and Beers Atlas. It’s interesting to note that Rosanna, not Martha, is recorded as the head of house in the 1870 census. It’s possible that this house is where Rosanna and Daniel lived during the time he worked as a powderman at the DuPont mills.
Time for a drive-by with my wife and brother-in-law (both Toys) as well as my sister-in-low (surname Brown and the subject of future research). I’m generally familiar with this area, but I’m hoping that the “School House No. 23” shown on both the Hagley and Beers maps will be a landmark that will help me find the right street. When we arrive at what I believe is the right location and walk the neighborhood there is only one large structure that could be a schoolhouse, but it doesn’t appear large enough to have been a school.
We’re noticed peering at the house and strike up a conversation with a gentleman who tells us the house is currently unoccupied. He is there doing some general maintenance and cleanup for the owner, and says we’re welcome to come inside and look around. Once inside, the place looks even less like it had been a school – rooms were too small and you can see where past renovations had actually removed walls to create more space. On the other hand, there are some unusual accent pieces in the main living area; several very small school desks.
On the outside of the building we notice some sort of engraving in a concrete plaque embedded in the wall near the peak of the house. It was too worn and too far away to be read from the ground, but I did take several photographs of the plaque in hopes of deciphering it later. Enlarged on the computer and enhanced to increase contrast, the lettering is still hard to see but if you stare long and hard enough, you can make out the words:
District N 23 & 75
We had the right place! Looking again at the Hagley map, dwelling unit 771 would be three units away. The photograph below is what I found at this location. I believe that Rosanna (and perhaps Daniel) lived on the right side of this duplex. The right side has gone through several renovations and I believe that the original façade was more like the unit on the left. I still have a bit more work to do to confirm my suspicions, but it was all in all a good weekends work!