Kaolin's name, and its claim to fame, came from the clay works located there in the 1800s. On January 5, 1858, a discovery of "Virginia Clay" was reported in New Garden Township, located only a few yards from the Delaware line. Until then, the area was only identified as New Garden, although it could be said to have been part, of the big area known as "Buenos Ayres" prior to 1860 - a section south of Starr Road and West of Sunny Dell Road. Newark Road did not then extend below Route 41. There were merely scattered farms surrounding an old inn that was built on the road from Gap to Newport during the Eighteenth Century.
Isaac Allen petitioned Benjamin Franklin for permission to build an inn or public house in New Garden Township and said there was no other for twenty miles in either direction along the road. The original structure was a small cabin built of dove-tailed logs, said to have been of Swedish construction, and dating from the early 1700s. Beams were marked off with Roman numerals. Two wings were added to the building later and the whole was plastered over, disguising the little cabin inside. The East wing bore a date stone marked 1773. Little else is known of its construction or of early events there.
The first name found for it is "Allen's Tavern;" and the first news of it is from the Revolutionary War when it was said to have been used by American rebels as a hospital during the Battle of the Brandywine for a day or two. The British who encamped nearby were probably sore of foot, and sick of stomach, from their long sea journey and march here. Maybe they commandeered it for their weary marchers. There are numerous cases on record of various illnesses suffered by the British and Hessian troops as they trod from one place to another, overdressed and unaccustomed to areas. It is easy to imagine their discomfort as they marched from Elk Creek on a warm day in September with woolen uniforms, heavy boots and belts, toting arms and knapsacks, and wearing their plumed woolen hats, or brass-visored ones in the case of the Hessians.
The reason usually given by a petitioner who sought to operate a public house was a desire to provide accommodations of travelers, but most inns were supported by the local community. Travel was infrequent in the 1700s but strong liquors were used extensively. The number of public houses in the County was much greater then in proportion to the population than it was a hundred years or so later. As Quakers became aware of the hazards of rum drinking, they discouraged not only its sale but the construction of more taverns. "Allen's Tavern," however, survived for many years. Constables' returns for 1783 and 1784 reported Isaac Allen as a "Retelor of Spiritous liquers by the small measure," and James Allen from 1784 to 1787. Each presented claims for damages suffered when the British army stayed nearby. Constables' returns were not accurate reports of owners but of innkeepers. In some cases licenses were renewed without formal petition when the same person continued at the same place.
James Allen changed the name to "The Sign of the Conestoga Wagon." John Tomlinson purchased the property in 1788 and continued for ten years. His petition in 1792 read:
"Know all men by these presents that I John Tomlinson (am hold) and family Bound unto Thomas Mifflin, Governor of the commonwealth of Pa. In the sum of one hundred pounds current money for the commonwealth To be paid to Thomas C. Thomas his successor or assign to and for the use of the Commonwealth to which Payment will and truly be made. I do bind myself my heirs, Executors & Administrators firmly by these presents. Sealed with my seal dated the 23rd day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Ninety two.
The condition of the above Obligation is such that whereas
the above John Tomlinson has obtained a recommondation from the Judge of
Chester Co. to the afore named Thomas Miffiin for his license to keep a Tavern
in the Township of New Garden. If therefore the said John - after having
obtained t license shall during the continuance there of be of good behavour
and shall observe and keep all the laws and ordinances which are & shall be
made relating to Taverns within the commonwealth then the above obligation be
void. Otherwise to be and remain in full force and virtue."
(signed) Jno. Tomlinson
Tomlinson was succeeded by George Chandler in 1801 when the name was changed to "Chandler's Inn" and used until 1818. Various innkeepers served in intervening years - Brinton Walter from 1809 to 1817, and Jacob Taylor in 1818 and 1820. Taylor bought the property in 1823 and changed the name to "New Garden Inn." The sign bearing this name hangs at the Chester County Historical Society museum. It is round, painted black with a yellow star in the center and with yellow lettering around the edge.
An incident reported by John Lamborn to the "Daily Local News" when he was 81 years furnishes a view of the area and its people:
"He referred... to the accidental death of a stranger near his father's farm house. It was seventy years ago, soon after the opening of the Newport turnpike and when produce of all kinds was conveyed from Lancaster county to Newport and Wilmington... One evening after dark, Adam Musketeer and his son, Adam, Lancaster county farmers were driving down the pike with a four-horse team (and) three hogsheads of whisky... hurrying to reach the New Garden tavern for the night, but in the darkness they drove off... the little bridge spanning the stream near Townsend Wickersham's and the wagon was overturned.
The father was in the front of the wagon and went out with the load. The son called him but got no response. He then set off in the gathering darkness for aid. The first house he reached was the tenant house on Josiah Lamborn's farm... occupied by Isaac Hutchison, a colored man, who refused to open the doors or believe the man's tale, having always before him a wholesome fear of kidnappers. The man then went to the Lamborn farm... aroused Mr. Lamborn who hastened to the rescue. Procuring lanterns, they reached the scene of the accident and found the elder Musketeer lying dead under one of his hogsheads of whiskey. Mr. Lamborn placed the body on his horse... bore it to his house where an inquest was held the next morning.
Kind neighbors did all they could for the stricken son, some of them going on ahead and preparing the man's family for the sad news. The storekeepers at New Garden, Kaolin and at the cross roads where Charles Starr's greenhouses now are, each took a hogshead of the whiskey and sold it, as was the custom in those days."
Joel Baily was tavern keeper in 1821 when Taylor served as storekeeper .and, apparently, operated as such for many years. The next record lists William Jones in 1841 as innkeeper. He ran it on temperance principles for a short time - unsuccessfully - and offered it for sale in 1852 in order to "retire from public life." By then it was the site of large livestock auctions and claimed as one of the best cattle stands in the County. Conestoga wagons that traveled the turnpike made it their stopping place, probably because it was located just above the last tollgate before entering Delaware. General elections were held there; the United States mail changed horses there. Contests were held in the yard between wagon owners with as many as eight or ten wagons competing. Each, drawn by five or seven horses, would have a rock placed in front of its wheels to see which team could pull a wagon over it first. Wagoneers were lusty, hard-drinking, swearing men who found many means of relieving the boredom of their travel. Undoubtedly many a young New Garden boy found an excuse to visit the tavern to hear their entertaining tales.
Reuben Walton purchased the inn in 1855 from Charles Yerkes who only had it a short while. During Walton's ownership, a wagon was stolen from a shed along with a trunk and case of dry goods. Walton and nearby residents followed wagon tracks in the snow to Penningtonville. From there the driver ran across fields where he was pursued by dogs until caught. He was tied up, returned to the hotel for a hearing, and committed to prison. Twice more the old inn was listed for sale, once with a very descriptive newspaper ad:
"A two story stone hotel, 70 x 33', cellared, porch back and front, one-storied frame kitchen, plastered in and pebble-dashed outside; stone foundation to which is attached a frame summer kitchen, weather-boarded, stone foundation and containing fireplace; well of water and pump at kitchen door; large Frame Barn, weather boarded; stone stabling; large frame shed attached to one end on stone wall, stone bridgeway and dormer; barnyard enclosed by stone wall with shed along one end; well of water and pump in barnyard; corn crib; carriage shed about 75' long; frame carriage and wood house; chicken house, hog house with 1oft overhead; stone blacksmith shop; ice house with frame smokehouse overhead; platform cattle scales; 2½ A. of young apple orchard and fruit trees of different kinds and shade trees in front of house."
The sale included 101½ acres of land; the barn bore a date stone of 1798. Allen Chandler purchased it in 1862 but offered it for sale the next year. He reported, "The steeples in the borough of West Chester are in full view with the use of a glass." Chandler continued as innkeeper until replaced by Lewis Springer in 1865. For seven years no keeper was listed, but on April 17, 1869, the "hotel of Thomas Foote in New Garden township was burglarized." The next year, "New Garden Inn" was offered at public sale to settle the estate of Thomas Foote deceased.
William Lewis Gilbert was the next recorded owner and passed it on to his daughter, Sarah, when she and her husband, John Schrader, moved from Wilmington to Kaolin about 1882. It was not maintained as an inn and remained in the Schrader family for forty years. From 1896 to 1901 it served as Kaolin Post Office. The Quill family purchased it in 1922 and kept it many years. It finally deteriorated and was demolished during the 1960s, but the original log structure around which other parts of the building were erected was dismantled and rebuilt near Chadds Ford. It is now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Gary Marine of Talley Ho P1ace off Heyburn Road, so skillfully rebuilt that you immediately feel a tug of the past as you view it. A stone removed from the inn and imbedded in the log cabin wall bears an inscription reading:
(The initials may be incorrect, for the stone is very worn and difficult to read.)
Although newspapers reported the clay discovery in our Township as the only deposit of this material in the United States, just such clay was taken from pits in Delaware and used by potters many years earlier. It was commonly known as China clay, but they called it Virginia Clay. By 1858, clay mining and its subsequent business of brick making had developed into a profitable enterprise. It may be that this operation of Hamilton Graham's was one of the first to prosper to any great extent.
The farm on which the discovery was made was owned by Israel Hoopes. He was aware of clay deposits, but preferred farming and did little to develop the mining business. Enough was excavated to determine that it was really China clay, and some was sold and used to manufacture Tucker China between 1825 and 1838. This highly prized, true porcelain was made in Philadelphia. The pieces from local kaolin are identified by their greenish cast, and collections of this fine ware may be found in the White House, the Pennsylvania Governor's Mansion, locally at the Chester County Historical Society museum, and among other collections. In addition to tableware and tea sets, vases, beakers, plaques, perfume bottles, etc. were made. Israel Hoopes had a set of dishes made from his clay, probably by one of the Tucker brothers at their kilns along the Schuylkill River. When Israel Hoopes died his son, Isaac, obtained possession of the farm and among other improvements built a kiln in order to fire bricks. Earlier attempts at development were hampered by shipping problems, for it was difficult to transfer heavy clay in wagons over poor roads to river ports from which shipments were made. By the mid-1800s, however, the railroad was running through Toughkenamon on its route from Philadelphia to Baltimore and hogsheads of clay and shipments of bricks were carted there. Isaac Hoopes had hired Hamilton Graham, a mining consultant, particularly to develop the brick making operation. Graham soon recognized the high quality of New Garden clay and encouraged its sale to the many potteries in and around Trenton, New Jersey. Graham first became a partner of Hoopes, then sole owner, but took another partner later.
China Clay or Kaolin, a word derived from the Chinese word, Kao-ling meaning high ridge, is a pure white, soft clay usually of low plasticity. In its pure form that stays white when fired, it is used in the manufacture of fine porcelain and china while impure varieties are used in pottery, stoneware, and bricks. Decomposed feldspar is its chief constituent. Graham said that his vein extended three or four hundred yards in length, to a great depth, and had feldspar in a solid state at the upper end of the valley. No water veins penetrated the excavation which was then sixty feet deep. Clay was removed, passed into two steam driven mills and forced through a long channel in order to wash out the sand, then dried by a stove or other artificial heat in lumps of convenient size for shipping. It was purchased for a cent a pound by pottery manufacturers who purchased hundreds of tons yearly. Approximately 150,000 fire bricks were purchased for use in foundries and other places where high heat-bearing surfaces were required.
Graham, as the surviving partner of the firm of Graham and Bernard, advertised the business for sale in August 1858. He is said to have feared the outcome of the Civil War on business, and wanted out. Sale of the "Fire Brick and Clay Works" included eight mules and wagons and a steam engine as well as the unexpired lease on "an inexhaustable bank of Porcelain Clay - the lease to run six years from October next." It went to Charles Lenning of Philadelphia for forty or fifty thousand dollars, who in turn sold it within a few short weeks to the American Kaolin Company for almost $100,000.
American Kaolin Company was established by Howard Spencer of Philadelphia in 1856, but little was written of it for several years. The Directors in 1865 were Howard Spencer, W. M. B. Hartley, Charles D. Knight, Thomas Graham and John F. Sheaff. Mining was pushed vigorously as new deposits opened next to old ones. A rich vein was found on the Alfred Yeatman property and developed into a large operation. A row of twenty company houses and a store were built there. William Foote, Jr., of Mill Creek Hundred, "a whole souled Union man and well worthy of patronage," opened for business. A Post Office was established on December 8, 1868 when the area became officially known as "Kaolin." Foote served as the first Postmaster. He offered his business for sale within a few years and became very upset by an ad placed by the new buyer. He wrote to the "Village Record" stating:
"Observing a statement in an advertisement over the signature of James Mendenhall, Sr. in last week's issue of the Record to the effect that I am about to sell out my stock of store goods 'Intending to move West.' I hereby publicly inform my patrons and others that the above statement was made by him entirely without my knowledge or by my authority."
This old store building is now a residence located across from the building presently used by Richard Crossan. It was for many years a gathering place in the community. A cooper's shop was located across the turnpike from the "New Garden Inn" while a tannery was at Southwood, and William Holmes operated a saddlery nearby.
The first mines of Hamilton Graham, at times called White Clay Quarries, were almost mid-point between Newport-Gap Pike and Broad Run Road. The Yeatman discovery was nearer the Turnpike, and the row of houses built there was known as Dutch (Deutsch) Row because of the Pennsylvania-German workers who first occupied it. Later, it filled with Irish immigrants who became the principal quarry workers. When the Wilmington and Western Railroad began operating the station at Southwood near the brick making kiln became the chief shipping point for clay and bricks bound for other areas of the country.
Business and profits increased. Five thousand bricks a day were produced. One shipment of 30,000 to Richmond, Virginia, represented the largest of any of the works along the railroad line. Other large shipments went to Chester, Coatesville, and to manufacturers in the Connecticut River Valley for new rolling mills under construction. Temporary suspension of many of the iron works throughout the country in 1874 gave proprietors an opportunity to rebuild cupolas and furnaces and increased the demand for firebrick. They were a costly article, selling at $45.00 to $75.00 per thousand, and heating furnaces in some of the large works required over 50,000 bricks in construction, "making a single heating furnace cost as much for the brick alone as would buy a good Hockessin Valley farm." (Based on the highest cost, this farm would have sold for about $3250.00. Today, based on a local manufacturers cost quote, it would be worth $21,000.00 - if you could find it!)
Hamilton Graham returned to clay mining at an undetermined date after his sale to Lenning, perhaps when the lease expired on the original mine. He and his sons had extensive holding in Hockessin, also, and his name is synonymous with kaolin throughout the area. It appears that he and American Kaolin worked side-by-side. Graham built a large home and extensive stables in Kaolin. With over thirty rooms his home provided employment for many of the wives and daughters of the quarry workers. His stables were widely known, and its maintenance and care of his fine string of horses and carriages provided employment to many other men. This house was last owned by members of the Michael Lafferty family, but burned in the 1960s. The stable is being reconstructed for other uses by St. Anthony's R. C. Church of Wilmington, now owners of the property.
American Kaolin Company built a horse railroad from its quarries to the Southwood station to substitute for its expensive teams. Work in the clay pits was hazardous for few safety precautions were taken. Men descended to working levels in buckets hooked to mule teams. Clay and debris were removed in the same manner. One local man, Andrew Brandenberg (Brandenberger), was injured when struck by a falling timber from an old building which he was tearing down. Dr. Benjamin Thompson tended him and it was said that his case was considered a hopeless one, unfortunately, for he was a day laborer and the sole support of a large family. (A later member of the Brandenberger family said that Andrew Brandenberger must've recovered, for he remained at the quarry and in the Landenberg area for many years, but another male family member lost a leg while working at the quarry.) The operators suffered a severe hardship in 1878 when many of the mules died and others fell seriously ill from disease. Dependence on the mules was great.
Sometime during 1880, workmen digging in one of the pits noticed a soft spot in the bottom. One of them drove his shovel into it and a stream of water gushed up, forcing the men to flee within a very few minutes. Pumps proved unequal to the task of halting the flow and excavating ended. This particular mine closed.
Discoveries of kaolin were made on surrounding farms for many years after excavating first began. The one on the farm of Peter Marvel was very large and about 1884 this farm was purchased by Joseph Graham and Thomas H. Marvel. It adjoined the kaolin works formerly occupied by Hamilton Graham, Sr. Joseph Graham, the eldest son of Hamilton Graham, had sold his coal and lumber business in Coatesville and moved near Hockessin about seven years earlier to manage his father's business. A house was built for him in New Garden of the local brick when he married the daughter of a neighbor, Evan Brown. Graham, Sr. sold his works to American Kaolin Company in 1885, and seems to have retired from the business then.
Joseph Graham and Thomas Marvel operated at the Peter Marvel farm under the name of Graham Kaolin Company of New Garden Township, chartered on March 30, 1886 with a capital of $48,000.00 and the following directors: Jesse B. Kimes (or Kerns) of Philadelphia; John J. Gheen and R. E. Monaghan of West Chester; George C. Kerns of Slatington, and Graham and Marvel. They employed about 75 men at the beginning of this operation. Marvel was of the opinion that the very pure vein ran all the way to the Susquehanna River! Hamilton Graham had, undoubtedly, been aware of the kaolin in Marvel's meadow for it was natural to assume that the rich vein on his property would extend into his neighbor's land.
Marvel was probably deterred from selling by the unsightly outbuildings and derricks that were erected when shaft mining began, as well as by the pits and piles of waste nearby. Of Peter Marvel, the "Kennett Advance" reported in an undated article:
"For a number of years before he sold his farm in New Garden, Peter Marvel knew that kaolin lay rich under the sod of his meadow, but he would not listen to proposals for its development. He was a farmer of the old school with as much pride in his profession as the lawyer or doctor in their caning. He loved a pair of sleek oxen, straight fences, a well Ordered barn, and well tilled fields. 'That is all the Meadow I have,' he said to the importunities to prospect for clay, 'and I will not have it disfigured...' and that was the final word until he became so... advanced... that he could no longer follow actively the operations of the farm. Then he sold the property and turned his back upon it nor returned to see his beloved meadow in a state of upheaval. The acre or two which formerly pastured a few cows has yielded much money since Peter Marvel's day, but it is doubtful if it has yielded as much in satisfaction as it did to the sturdy old transplanted Delawarean who loved to sit on his door step in the summer evenings and look across his fertile acres, and relate reminiscences of the Saulsbury boys and their part in Delaware."
Joseph Graham moved to Coatesville a month after the company was chartered, but continued his connection with it. His property was occupied by a farmer and engineer of the works. This site, Broad Run Kaolin Works, employed 55 men by 1887 who worked night and day. Clay was shipped from Eden Station of the railroad.
Howard Spencer moved into the aforementioned large house of Hamilton Graham's. His son, Graham Spencer, was the actual operator in later year. He went to Philadelphia in 1889 and hired fifteen Irishmen to work in his mines, paid their fare to Kaolin, and gave some of them new shoes, etc., but most worked only a day or so and left for parts unknown. Spencer then went to the City and hired fifteen Italians, and said, "They are now hard at work digging kaolin." Additional operations opened at many sites near Landenberg and Kaolin. Some were handled by Golding Company; others by Peach Kaolin Company. Test borings made stealthily at night confirmed the location of clay veins on the McIntire property, but they were developed with difficulty. The family was angered by the test borings and although many offers were made for their land which adjoined Spencer and Marvel, they steadfastly he1d to it. It was not until 1893 when the last McIntire, Eliza (Lizize), died that her heirs sold the property and development began. Clay from that site went to Hockessin for the owners did not set up a washing operation there.
The various clay works continued for an undetermined number of years. Graham Kaolin still made bricks in 1902; the kiln of Spencer's at Southwood was purchased by James R. Miles about 1912 and converted to a mushroom plant that later burned. The first flooded pit provided good swimming with picnicking nearby as "Lake Kaolin" for many years. Feldspar was removed from the Lafferty property into the 1930s, probably in its solid form, and shipped out for use elsewhere. Peach Kaolin was still operating after 1914. The lake which developed on the Marvel property became the site of small vacation houses. Kaolin Post Office closed in 1925. The sale barn of Raymond O'Neal, a well-known local auctioneer, was destroyed when the cloverleaf was built at Route 41 and Limestone Road in the mid-1930s. One by one the old landmarks disappeared.