While the exact origin of Auburn as the name for the northern portion of Auburn Valley State Park is undocumented, history seems to point to its origin being with Thomas Lea, who took over ownership of the Garrett Paper Mill in 1813. Marshall Brothers Paper Mill started as the Garrett grist and saw mill in in the early 1700s, then became a paper mill around 1790 before becoming a textile mill after Lea’s purchase in 1813. Lea followed the practice of naming his mills, and he chose Auburn, perhaps in connection with the Leni Lenape Indians of the area, as the name for the textile mill. Lea sold the mill to a Pusey who sold it to a Clark from whom the Marshalls purchased it.
Back in 2013, we asked a question related to where the name Yorklyn originated. Since that Q&A, new research has uncovered additional information of interest. The names of many Delaware communities, towns, and cities stem from prominent individuals. Wooddale for Alan Wood, Marshallton for the Caleb and John Marshall families (Israel’s uncles), Faulkland for the Foulk family (since there was a related branch of the Foulk family in Brandywine Hundred, to avoid confusion, the “o” was changed to “a” with “land” added by the railroad when they placed a station in that area). Census records do not reveal any northern Delaware families named Yorklyn from which the name could have been derived. Some have speculated that Yorklyn is a composite of “York,” a male name of English origin, and “Lyn” of Spanish and English origin given to males or females and that these individuals might have been related to the Garrett family.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Yorklyn was spelled multiple ways in print publications, including local Delaware and Pennsylvania newspapers. Two of the more prominent spelling variations serve as the title for this Question of the Month. In the U.S., Yorklyn is hardly a popular name for a town, city, or otherwise as Delaware’s Yorklyn is one of only two such census-named areas in the U.S. The other Yorklyn is a 0.45-square-mile area in York County, Pennsylvania, east of the town of York (Yorklyn, DE is 0.14 square miles in area). Franklin is the most popular U.S. city name (31 occurrences) with Clinton and Washington tied in 2nd place (29 occurrences each). The third most popular U.S. area or city name is Arlington (28 occurrences) according to Wikipedia.
Many of the Delaware stations built along the Wilmington & Western Rail Road in 1872 were named for the area where they were placed (Wilmington, Kiamensi, Greenbank, Mt. Cuba, Ashland, Hockessin, Southwood). The rest were named as a derivation or other associated with individuals prominent in the railroad’s founding and early financing (Marshallton, Faulkland, Wooddale). Yorklyn is the one station name that doesn’t fit the naming pattern.
William E. Garrett, owner of the snuff mill who supported the early railroad as a Director, stockholder, and land grantor, lived in the area then referred to as Auburn. While Garrett and his wife never named their offspring Lyn or York, he was asked to suggest one or more names to the railroad Directors for consideration as the name for a station to be constructed near the Garrett snuff mills. What was the thinking behind William Garrett offering Yorklyn as his only suggestion?
We recently uncovered what is probably the best documentation for how the name Yorklyn came about. As early as 1905, the phrase “first draft of history” was cited in text, but it was Phil Graham, Washington Post owner and publisher, who made the phrase “The First Rough-draft of History” famous by using it in various speeches and writings. While newspapers are not always accurate in published information, they do provide a foundation upon which history can be documented and are effectively “the first rough draft of history.” The newspaper clipping shared below, from the August 11, 1873, Wilmington Daily Commercial newspaper explains how Garrett’s daughters came to suggest Yorklyn.
The “Marshall’s paper mills” referred to above, while it was a single mill, references Thomas S. Marshall’s Homestead Mill at the joining of the east and west branches of the Red Clay Creek in Kennett Township, PA. This is the original Marshall paper mill before Israel and Elwood Marshall, Thomas S.’s sons, purchased the burned-out Clark woolen mill to convert it into a modern paper mill in 1890. William T. Moore opened the U.S. Post Office at Yorklyn Station on June 13, 1873. Thus, the article above may be considered a “first rough draft of history’ in its accuracy!
The Wilmington Daily Commercial was published from October 1, 1866, until March 31, 1877. More commonly referred to as the Wilmington Commercial, it became the first daily paper published in Delaware. It was founded by Howard Jenkins and Wilmer Atkinson, who became Wilmington residents specifically to publish a daily newspaper. Selling their paper for 2 cents a copy initially, they used steam-powered presses to quickly print and distribute the latest news and gossip. Jenkins & Atkinson were among the first to sell newspapers on Delaware trains, thus expanding their circulation well beyond Wilmington’s city limits.
On January 3, 1867, Jenkins & Atkinson published a weekly edition titled Delaware Tribune. On September 4, 1871, the first issue of Every Evening was published by the Wilmington Commercial’s former city editor William T. Croasdale, who had struck out on his own to publish a competing newspaper. The two papers eventually merged to become the Every Evening and Commercial on April 2, 1877, with only the April 1, 1877, issue being named Every Evening, Wilmington Daily Commercial. Eventually, through additional mergers of Wilmington newspapers, the Evening Journal merged with Every Evening, Wilmington Daily Commercial. Over the decades the Evening Journal absorbed other Wilmington area newspapers, thus becoming Delaware’s prominent newspaper. The Evening Journal is published by Gannett Company, Inc., which, as of November 2019, is the largest newspaper publisher in the U.S.