Markers unveiled at Magnolia site
Attending Thursday's marker dedication at the Motherkill
Friends Burial Ground and Meeting House in Magnolia are,
from left, State Archivist Russell McCabe; Allen McIlvain,
of Dover; Eagle Scout Jonathan McIlvain, who built the steps
behind the group for the site; JoAnn McIlvain; and Mike
Richards, of Camden Friends Meeting House. Also unveiled
Thursday was a marker, right, for Colonial-era abolitionist
Warner Mifflin, who is buried in the cemetery. Delaware
State News/James Pernol
By Kate House-Layton,
Delaware State News
MAGNOLIA - People have driven
past a cemetery on U.S. 113A just north of Magnolia every day
Maybe they blinked as they
passed it and missed it.
Or perhaps they wondered what
lay beyond the tall grass and bramble.
There shouldn't be much to
On Thursday, the Motherkill
Friends Burial Ground and Meeting House, which also is known as
the site of the Murderkill-Motherkiln Friends Meeting House, was
recognized and dedicated by the state archives.
The ceremony was prompted by the
completion of a new set of steps to the cemetery.
The concrete steps were built by
Jonathan McIlvain, 16, of Dover, as part of an Eagle Scout
Sen. Margaret Rose Henry,
D-Wilmington, sponsored placing two blue state historical
markers on each side of the steps.
"I'm sure there's some of you
here who have driven past this site over the years who have
wondered, what is that?" State Archivist Russell McCabe said,
his voice competing with roars of C-5 engines, the grumble of
traffic and the moan of a firehouse siren.
The dedication ceremony was
recognized those who helped make the site what it is today as
well as its history.
"It's my pleasure to be here
today to recognize what I think is some pretty significant
history," Mr. McCabe said.
The cemetery and the meeting
house that once stood there have had several names.
Mr. McCabe and Michael Richards
of Camden Friends Meeting House said it once was called the
Murderkill, but the Quakers later changed it to Motherkill and
later to Motherkiln.
The name is said to have several
"Kill" or "kiln" derive from the
Dutch word for river.
The Camden Friends Meeting House
now owns the site.
The earliest burial at the site
is dated 1769 and the latest is 1834.
Part of what makes the plot
meaningful to Mr. McCabe and others is the presence of its most
prominent resident, abolitionist Warner Mifflin, who died in
Mr. McCabe said a marker
recognizing Mr. Mifflin gives some "long overdue recognition to
an individual who has been under-recognized as far as Delaware
history and heritage is concerned."
Mr. Mifflin was a native
Virginian from a slaveholding Quaker family who came to Delaware
as a young man.
He freed his slaves in 1774 and
1775 and later became a leader in the abolitionist movement
before the Civil War.
One of his achievements was
convincing the Virginia legislature in the 1780s to provide
better legal avenues for slave owners to release their slaves.
"In a direct way, Warner Mifflin
was responsible for the freedom of African-Americans all over
this country," Mr. McCabe said.
More than an abolitionist, Mr.
Mifflin was an advocate for human rights and was criticized for
it, Mr. McCabe said.
"He's one of the lesser-known
and yet outstanding Delawareans we know," he said.
Mr. Richards also acknowledged
Charles C. Caplinger, who before his death in 2002 took the
initiative to clear the cemetery and keep it mowed.
He also researched the cemetery
and built a wooden sign with the names of those buried there.
"Had it not been for him, I
don't think any of us would be here today. This ceremony would
not be taking place," Mr. Richards said about Mr. Caplinger.
"Most people didn't remember
there was a cemetery here and he thought it was a shame that it
was so overgrown."
Mr. Richards also recognized
Cheryl White of Magnolia, who extensively researched the
cemetery and arranged for a new sign at the site.
Ms. White commissioned Brandan
Bradley, a Polytech High School student at the time, to replace
Mr. Caplinger's weather-beaten wooden sign with a metal one.
Mr. Richards said the new steps
and markers acted as a renewal for the cemetery.
"I think you could say that," he
said. "It's gotten us to really take an interest in it.
"This gives us an impetus to
keep it up and take care of it."
Mr. Richards said Camden Friends
does not have a trust fund for the upkeep of the site, but he
hopes one will be started to help with maintenance.
Camden Friends member Ralph
Johnson of Frederica said people don't hear much about Quakers
anymore, but at one time, a large number of meeting houses were
in the area.
Some have survived, he said,
Camden Friends member June
Satterfield of Smyrna said she was impressed with the
recognition of Mr. Mifflin as a great patriot who acted as a
voice of dissent in his time.
"And yet he represents certainly
what we all cherish today and feel, that is love of humanity and
love of country," she said.
Ms. Satterfield said she thought
the steps were a good way to invite visitors to see what is in
Simon James, 11, of Leipsic, a
young Friends member, said he liked the small, simple
gravestones in the cemetery.
"One of the great things about
these projects for us at the archives is seeing them to their
completion," Mr. McCabe said.
"The beautiful thing about this
is it's going to continue to educate people for years to come."
Staff writer Kate House-Layton
can be reached at 741-8242 or