Winding Through History on the Brandywine
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Everything in Delaware winds. Driving from the airport in Philadelphia, I turned off the freeway onto a state road and headed towards Hockessin, DE. It felt like I had entered a land of make-believe.
Even state highways were paths through a deep, mysterious forest. And water showed up at almost every bend.
The day after I arrived, mom’s cousin Hal suggested a drive to the historic district of Wilmington. He knows I love historic buildings and babbling streams. This spot along the Brandywine was the perfect stop.
You can never say corner in Delaware, it seems. Points are obliterated in curves, drown in the gurgling streams. How could this pastoral scene be part of the 9-11 Battle in 1777?
Mr. Dylan Duck stands on his rocky lookout over the Brandywine surveying his family activities. Donovan and Dana Duck discovered something fishy in the Brandywine.
The twenty-mile lower stem of Brandywine Creek winds lazily around the historic district of Wilmington, DE. Maybe Dylan’s ancestors watched for Redcoats.
Possibly Dylan’s ancestral family watched Peter Minuit who founded New Sweden in 1638 along the Delaware River and inland to the Brandywine. He died in a hurricane on his return trip, but his colony remained. I can imagine the Swedes lounging with their feet dangling in the stream sipping a mug of home brew on a beautiful September day after harvesting crops all day.
Gossip Along the Brandywine in 1644
Overheard by Dylan Duck I
“This here is mighty fine wine, you’ve made, Peter.”
It’s not wine. It’s brandy, Beatus. Made from this gurgling stream right here. It’s the water that makes it tasty.”
Brandy? Wine? Whatever. It is delicious. ” Abram added.
“Sounds like a good name for this river to me, Brandywine,” Beatus said.
Don’t tell that old Swede, who built the grain mill, Andreas Brainwende. He thinks this stream is his, and we should call it the Brainwend River after him,” Peter said.
Brainwend, Brandywine, his hearing’s so bad, he won’t know the difference.
“You got the water in just the right place, didn’t you, Peter?” Abram said.
Yeah, a couple miles from here the creek pours into the Christina River,” Peter told them. “Ah the beautiful Christina, named after our queen. She’s a spoiler.”
“Yeah, she looks sweet, but looks are deceiving, so I hear.”
“Shhh, you two! Someone might be overhear you. You don’t want to mess with our governor!”
“I’m talking about that brakish water two miles yonder at the confluence of the two rivers. Christina’s waters would make a brandy that even you wouldn’t drink, Abram,” Beatus said
“You don’t think much of my tasting skills, Beatus?”
“Not so much.”
“OK, fellows, better finish it up here before you get us in trouble. The wives will wonder where we are.”
Hey, Marsha,” Hal called interrupting my reverie. “Haven’t you seen ducks before? What are you doing?”
What looks like placid waters now, once powered grist and gunpowder mills. Mills fueled the industrial era before the onset of steam-powered machinery. The DuPonts made their fortunes here. Ah, this was the place to learn history.
Ah, this was the place to learn history.
I could see that it was no wonder why many nineteenth century builders used stone to construct Wilmington buildings along the Brandywine. Mmmm, I wanted to put my toes in the cool water and feed the ducks, sip some wine and…
“Marsha,” Hal called again. “What is so interesting down there? Come up here. I want to show you something about this old post office building.
How do you ignore a 91-year-old retired engineer who was tired of Dylan and Donovan, the dark-feathered ducks, and wanted me to move on to something more mathematical? More than likely he wanted to go home and eat, my stomach reminded me that it was getting late.
“Did you notice the way the sun is casting a shadow on this stairway of Breck’s Mill?”
Hal scores again – something I would not have noticed without him.
The shadows had crept up on me as time swirled dreamily down the stream. But the sun was dipping in the sky. Strawberry-rhubarb pie in the fridge was beckoning us to come back to the 21st century and go home for dinner.
What wonderful, lazy afternoons do you remember sitting by a gentle stream, or lovely lake, waterfall, or even a water fountain?
Does water make your mind wander, too?