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Picture courtesy of Cayuga Museum
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Harriet Tubman
"The Conductor"
By Carl A. Pierce
(click picture to enlarge)



K.A. Pippin

The white farmhouse has history, now houses ‘Hannah’.

Most Department of Correction buildings look pretty much alike.  The White Farmhouse, on road #485, adjacent to the Delaware Correctional Center (DCC), is the exception.  The White Farmhouse or Clearfield Farm was accepted on the National Register of Historic Places on May 20, 1973.

In September, 1754, Issac Norris of Philadelphia and Issac England of New Castle County were granted a tract of 1,008 acres in Blackbird Hundred on the northside of Duck Creek.  The plantation was called “New Briston”.”  Issac England’s grandparents Joseph and Rebecca England had received confirmation of the patent from William Penn on May 19, 1701. Governor Edmund Andros had granted the original patent to Captain Edmund Cantwell on March 25, 1676.

David Clark bought “New Bristol” from Issac England in 1755, at the highest point of “New Bristol”; Clark erected the brick plantation house.

David Clark came from northern Ireland and settled first in the Pequa Valley, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  He then moved to Rothwell Landing, north of Smyrna Landing on Duck Creek.  Here he became a farmer and joined the militia.  David Clark died on September 2, 1766, at the age of 57 years.

David’s son William Clark inherited the land. He was a militiaman during the Revolutionary War.  He served seven years in the Delaware State House. Captain William Clark raised a Company of 75 men from the neighborhood and led them at the Battle of Monmouth in the Revolutionary War.

The Battle of Monmouth occurred on June 28, 1778, at Monmouth, New Jersey.  It was a blistering hot day.  Scores of soldiers collapsed or died from sunstroke.

British General Clinton had decided to move his Base of Operations back to New York.  General George Washington attacked Clinton at the Monmouth Court House.  Holding the field, the Americans were able to claim victory.

At the Battle of Monmouth, Captain William Clark lost 40 out of his 75 men.

William’s son John Clark became the third owner of “New Bristol.”  John was born at “New Bristol” on February 1, 1761.  In late 1784, John married Sarah Cook.  Sarah was the daughter of Governor John Cook and Elizabeth Collins Cook, who was the sister of Governor Collins.  John Cook and his wife Elizabeth were first cousins.

John Clark spent his adult life as a public servant.  He was a justice of the peace, a colonel in the militia, and a chief magistrate of Delaware.  In 1766, he was a justice of common pleas.  In 1771, he was a justice of the peace.  From 1775-1779, Clark was the Sheriff of New Castle County.  He served in the State House in 1798.  He was the State Treasurer in 1802 and 1805.

In 1816, John Clark ran against Manaen Bull of Laurel for Governor of the State of Delaware.  Clark won the race by 4008 votes to 3517.  Governor John Clark resided at “New Bristol.”  After serving as Governor, John Clark was named President of the Commercial Bank of Smyrna.  As a banker and guardian of his 2 grand-daughters, Clark left “New Bristol” and moved into the town of Smyrna. 

Shortly thereafter on August 14, 1821, John Clark died.  He was buried on Holy Hill, in the Presbyterian churchyard, over-looking Lake Como.  The Presbyterian Church stood there until 1846.  John’s father and grandfather were buried in the same plot.  Today a rather large bush of poke berries canopies the plot.

John Clark’s wife and daughter are buried in the same plot at St. Peters, the Episcopal cemetery.  His wife Sarah died December 12, 1790.  His daughter Mary died at 24 years on February 25, 1811. 

Mary Clark had married Pennell Corbit of Odessa.  Pennell was the son of William Corbit, a Quaker tanner.  Pennell and Mary were married on October 22, 1807, by Rev. William Pryce.  Pennell and Mary had 2 daughters: Sarah Clark Corbit (1810-1871) and Mary Pennell Corbit (1812-1875). 

The orphans came to live with their grandfather at “New Bristol” or the “Governor Clark Farm” when they were 9 and 11 years old.  The Governor’s housekeeper Melcah was involved in the girls’ raising. 

After Clark died, Daniel Corbit became guardian of the girls, who were now 10 and 12 years old.  The children then went to live at the Corbit home in Cantwell Bridge, the present day Corbit-Sharp House in Odessa. 

The eldest granddaughter of John Clark married Anthony Higgins.  An issue of this marriage was Anthony Clark Higgins, who became a U.S. Senator.  Another grandson of John Clark was John Clark Higgins.  This descendant was the U.S. Consul to Dundee, Scotland

“New Bristol” or the Governor Clark Farm came to be called Clearfield Farm.  Architecturally, the plantation house is a rural Georgian, based upon the Virginian “big house-little house” plan.  The white-washed brick in Flemish bond is stately but restrained.  Its grace lays with its simplicity.  Facades are symmetrical and accented with classical details. 

The house is a 4 bays wide, 2 ½ storeys, and 1 room deep.  There is a stretcher belt course below the second storey windows.  Wrought iron shutter dogs are present.  There is a transom over the front door which is set off-center.  Chimneys are at the north and south ends of the house.  There age 2 fluted dormer windows in the front and 1 fluted dormer in the back of the house.  One small window is on the south side of the house. 

The house has a Center Hall design. The south parlor was used as a library or study.  The original raised paneled front door has an iron case lock and brass knob.  Original chair railings, beaded door-frames, floors, and 6 over 6 blownglass, deep-set windows are present in the downstairs.  There is an added Victorian fireplace mantel in the Dining Room. 

The main stairway is unusual in that the single incline separates into two paths.  The north staircase is the original while the south staircase is a Victorian addition.  Originally, there was an upstairs hall. 

The house had 2 bedrooms.  The south bedroom originally had a fireplace.  The front bedroom has the original mustard color trim and random width floors.  Pegboards and built-in-storages are present. 

There is a winding box staircase that goes to the garret or attic.  The attic is finished in plaster over lath with beaded tongue-in-groove floor decking.  Originally, a back staircase had gone to the attic. 

The original basement had a brick floor, walls, and support arches at each end.  There are built-in-shelves in the brick.  The windows are 5 light casements.  At the south end of the cellar, there is a brick vaulted room.  Originally, there was a door to this arched underground room. Iron pegs are present on the walls. 

A wood frame addition to the main house was added in the 1840’s.  This addition included a summer kitchen, replacing the original kitchen.  A covered walkway led from the summer kitchen to the main house.  Servants’ quarters were upstairs over the summer kitchen.  The walls of the servants’ wing were whitewashed plaster.  There is an inside transom “to borrow light” for an interior bedroom.  Floors are random width pine. Windows are 3 over 6 panes.

There is an 1880’s addition that forms an “L” with the summer kitchen and the main house.  At the back of the house, a 1930’s addition was erected. 

During Governor John Clark’s occupancy, the house was decorated to reflect the wealth of its owner, who wore engraved gold sleeve buttons.  In the back room below the stairs, the Dining Room, there was a mahogany side board, walnut dining table, and a waiter. The kitchen and cellar had pine tables and cupboards. The garret had a spinning wheel.  Muslim curtains would have been at the bedroom windows.  The John Clark household also included:  6 windsor chairs, 1 arm chair and desk, 1 8-day clock,  1 tea chest, Delaware Law Books, 1 writing desk and 1 liquor case.

The John Clark property was landscaped with boxwoods and cherry trees that lined the drive.  Women and children would come from Smyrna to gather the fruit.

Other prized possessions of John Clark included:  a violin, a walking stick, and his father’s sword.  The sword with its silver hilt, was probably presented to Captain William Clark at the time he raised his Company.  The sword was the weapon that killed a British soldier at the Battle of Monmouth.  The sword was “misplaced” at the time of John Clark’s death.

Since John Clark, the owners of Clearfield Farm have included:  Helen Duer Councill of Byrn Mawr, Pennsylvania, who was a cousin of John Clark Higgins, a Mr. Kennedy, a Mr. Schuster, and T. Coleman Cauffiel.

The current owner, the Department of Correction, has furnished Clearfield Farm quite differently.  The house is essentially vacant except for the basement.  In the basement, prison cell locks are nestled in the arch supports.  Leaning against a basement wall, a grey, splintered wood pillar rests.  It is the “Delaware Bride”, “the Cat’s” “the Red Hannah”:  the New Castle County Whipping Post, abandoned in 1971.  The last person to receive a whipping was a white, 30-year-old-male.  He received 20 lashes for breaking and entering.  The date was June 16, 1952.   

K.A. Pippin is an author and began her research of Clearfield Farm while on staff at DCC. She requested the historical marker at the site in 1989 to identify the significance of Clearfield Farm and the Underground Railroad.  She later identified the town of Smyrna, the Brick store and other sites in the state for NPS Underground Railroad Special Resource Study 1995.  

* Clearfield Farm is not open to the public. 

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