Friday, December 02, 2005

Wilmington's Riverview Cemetery

I have always enjoyed cemeteries. They are often quaint, peaceful, and evocative. There are so many stories in a cemetery that are long lost to memory.

On an extended business trip to a small town in western Pennsylvania years ago, I spent my weekends exploring old cemeteries where generations of Welsh coal miners and steel workers were interred with their families. Some years later, I photographed cemeteries in Philadelphia and New Jersey, studying the Victorian symbolisms on the tombstones. I wrote a lengthy article for the Sunday magazine of the old Philadelphia Bulletin.

Genealogical research on the families of my wife and I has taken us to the Civil War burial ground in Wilmington, North Carolina and to almost forgotten cemeteries in the Ozark Mountains of southeast Missouri. One was a simple farm burial plot in a pasture full of cows.

Therefore, I was pleased to see a book is available on Riverview Cemetery in Wilmington, Delaware, titled Riverview Cemetery: Reading the Stones - A Collection of Memories from the First State. The author has gone after the human stories as well as details of the site. Written by Dr. Lee Anderson, a psychologist in local practice for many years who often does grief counseling, it can be bought by going to the Web site

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Genealogical and Historical Books and Reprints

Two firms in our region are excellent sources of new and reprinted genealogical and historical books — Willow Bend Books in Westminster MD and Colonial Roots in Lewes DE.

Willow Bend Books closed its "brick and mortar" store October 1, 2005, and will now sell online, by phone, or by mail.

Colonial roots still maintains its store at 217 Schley St., Lewes DE (Wed. thru Sat. 10-5) where used and rare books and maps are also offered. In addition, they sell online, by phone, or by mail. Their recent 94-page catalog covers Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. It includes seven pages of Delaware books, including the reprint of Scharf's History of Delaware with the added index.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Trolley Honeymoon from Delaware to Maine

One of the high spots of Delaware book collecting is a little volume by Clinton W. Lucas titled A Trolley Honeymoon from Delaware to Maine. In the decades after 1890, the trolley-car was the great technological innovation. It was like computers and cell phones today. Trolley companies sprang up everywhere. Soon half the country was linked with interconnecting independent local trolley lines.

A pair of Delaware newlyweds decided to honeymoon by taking trolleys from Delaware to Maine. They wrote a 125-page book about the experience. Though the book is undated, it was published in 1904 by the M. W. Hazen Co., New York. Here is a quotation from the book.

"If William Penn founded the Quaker city, God made its suburbs – a fair countryside that now passed before us in dissolving views, as our car at quickened speed plunged on to Willow Grove:

'Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures
As the Land skip round it measures.'

"We trolleyed past lawns and meadows, stately villas and trim gardens, old wayside inns and ivy-covered churches lodged under the spreading trees; here a classic gateway with Ionic peristyle; there an ancient mansion half-hidden behind high walls of solid masonry; a wide stretch of green fields in the foreground; a background of woodland; winding country lanes deep in shade; and last but not least a valley sweeping northward and disclosing in far
perspective green hills with a bluish haze …"

'A shady road with a grassy track;
A car that follows free;
A Summer’s scene at early morn;
A nickel for a fee.' "

I have never seen a copy of this book. There is a record that one was sold at Wilson's Auction in Lincoln, Delaware, in April 1990 for $210.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Delaware; A Guide to the First State

In the 1930s a number of state books were written under the auspices of the Federal Writers Project. One of the first was Delaware: A Guide to the First State published in 1938. It is a favorite Delaware collectible. A number of editions were published, and their sometimes confusing history is covered in an article on the Collecting Delaware Books Web site.

The Delaware Heritage Commission has announced it will reprint the 1938 edition. It is slated for release this fall.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Delaware Place Names

History buffs, genealogists, and the just curious can enjoy browsing Delaware Place Names published as U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1245 in 1966. It had six authors, none of whom are otherwise known in Delaware letters. The 124-page book is usually seen in paperback. It lists towns, settlements, rivers, creeks, marshes, beaches, hills, harbors, and other geographic features that have names. Not unexpectedly, the word "mountain" does not appear in the glossary.

For each feature, a description and location are given, including latitude and longitude. For dwelling places, populations and political importance are noted. The origin of a place name is given if it is known, and the authority is cited. Some of these name origins are interesting.

In New Castle County today, Bear is a postal designation that stretches between the cities of New Castle and Newark and from I-95 almost to the C&D Canal forming ZIP codes 19701 and 19702. Originally Bear was just a settlement of 75 about 2.6 miles south of Christiana. It was named for Bear Tavern, used from colonial times to 1845. Later, the railroad had a Bear Station. Newark was once a 1,000 acre tract settled by Quaker Valentine Hollingsworth in 1688. He called it New Worke. He gave a small piece of land for a meeting house which was named Newark. Christina River was named on a 1655 map for Queen Christina of Sweden. Somehow the village got changed to Christiana.

Kent County's Dover was named by William Penn in 1683. It did not become Delaware's capital until 1777. Smyrna was Duck Creek but was renamed in 1806 for the Turkish city. The book gives no explanation. Harrington and Townsend were named for 19th Delaware political figures. Before the railroad in 1850, Townsend was a black community called Charleytown.

In Sussex County, Georgetown was planned in 1791 as a county seat exactly in the center. It was named for George Mitchell who supervised the layout. Lewes received its name from a borough in Sussex County, England, but the book gives no explanation of the names Seaford, Laurel, Bridgeville, or Dewey Beach or of the unusual spelling of the biblical Rehoboth. However Selbyville was named after its first postmaster. Delmar was founded in 1859 by the Eastern Shore Railroad. The name, of course, derives from it straddling the Delaware-Maryland border.

The book is not easy to find and is sometimes pricey.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Mystery Delaware Marine Artist

Alexander Charles Stuart 1831-1898 was an artist working in Wilmington, Delaware, who largely painted marine scenes. He is also a man of mystery. In 1956, a distinguished committee assembled about 100 of his paintings for a 10-day exhibit in the old John Wanamaker store. One of these paintings, titled S.S. Republic, is shown at the right. It was borrowed from the Brandywine Room of the Hotel du Pont.

Betty Burroughs and William P. Frank, members of the committee and beloved News-Journal reporters, researched a 16-page pamphlet for the exhibition. They admit that much of the biographical information is conjecture. I will summarize it below.

Stuart was born in Scotland and educated in both medicine and draftsmanship in Scotland and England. He joined the English navy and sailed the world as a seaman. Around 1861, he showed up in the U.S. and joined the Union Navy. He may have served on the ironclad Monitor in the engine room during its battle with the Merrimac. After the Civil War, he settled in Chester, Pennsylvania, married, and raised a large family. By the 1880s, he was working for shipbuilder Harlan and Hollingsworth in Wilmington as a draftsman and artist. He illustrated a semi-centennial history of the company in 1886. Stuart is also listed as an artist with a local studio in Wilmington city directories, but his home was listed as Chester. In later years, the studio was used by Frank E. Schoonover and Stanley M. Arthurs. In the 1890s, he deserted Wilmington. One story has him practicing gynecology in Eustis, Florida. Just before his death in 1898, he was living with a daughter in Camden, New Jersey.

The exhibition booklet, simply titled Stuart (1831-1898), includes more information including two letters to his children by him. But here is additional information about him from several online indexes of artists —

"Stuart was a marine painter whose work is owned by Atwater Kent Museum,Phila.; Delaware Historical Society; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Mariner’s Museum; Mystic Seaport Museum; US Naval Academy; and the Museum of the City of Mobile, AL. In 1860 he was living in NYC with his wife Dora, a Texan, and their two children. He served in the US Navy from 1863 to 1866, then spent the rest of his life along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Camden, Chester and Wilmington, where he painted ship portraits. He worked for shipbuilders. He was known to be a heavy drinker, and an 1884 newspaper from Eustis, Florida even carried his advertisement as a gynecologist. He signed his worked simply Stuart and sometimes used a monogram of an anchor conjoined with an S. He is listed in Falk's Who Was Who in American Art."

This confirms the Burroughs and Frank biography but they never mentioned the drinking, either because of ignorance or delicacy.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Sometimes collectors need to settle for a facsimile or reprint of a book, especially when the original is costly or hard to find. History and genealogy researchers are often quite satisfied with these substitutes.

One good source of reprints is Heritage Books, 65 East Main St., Westminster MD 21157-5026. They list about 12,500 reprinted books from many publishers of all states including Delaware. Several thousand were reprinted by Heritage. They were, for instance, the publishers of the latest reissue of Scharf's 1888 History of Delaware. It is now out of print and auction prices are approaching those of the original because it has a far superior index.

Heritage books and its subsidiary Willow Bend Books issue regular catalogs. However, you can see their stock at