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“Five Stories” explores the lives of people who lived and worked at the John Dickinson Plantation

Written on: April 26th, 2017 in Events Exhibits Historic Sites Museums News

The John Dickinson Plantation, located at 340 Kitts Hummock Road in Dover, Del., is currently featuring “Five Stories,” a series of descriptive panels that explore the lives of a variety of people who lived and worked on the farm of John Dickinson, one of the founding fathers of the United States, signer of the U.S. Constitution and “Penman of the Revolution.”

Historic-site interpreter Chris Merrill standing in front of a section of “Five Stories.”

Historic-site interpreter Chris Merrill standing in front of a section of “Five Stories.”

Between 1740 when Samuel Dickinson, a wealthy Quaker tobacco planter and merchant of Talbot County, Md., moved his family to the site on Jones Neck, southeast of Dover, Del., to John Dickinson’s death in 1808, more than 200 people were deeply connected to the plantation including Dickinson family members, tenant farmers, tradesmen, free blacks, indentured servants and enslaved individuals. “Five Stories” looks to bring some of their experiences back to life.

Section from “Five Stories.”

Section from “Five Stories.”

During its first iteration, which opened in February 2017, “Five Stories” provides information on the lives of family patriarch Samuel Dickinson; Dinah, an enslaved woman owned by Samuel who was later manumitted by John Dickinson; Mary Norris Dickinson, John’s wife; William and Deborah White, tenant farmers at the site; and John Furbee and his brother Peter Patten, free-black men who rented farmland from John Dickinson. Following are images of the five descriptive panels:

samuel-panel-1-20-17

dinah-new-panel

mary-dickinson-panel-2

white-panel

furbee-patten-panel-1-20-17

Aside from the Dickinson family itself, information on the people associated with the site is extremely difficult to find. However, thanks to painstaking research by historians, archaeologists and Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs staff members; as well as scholarship conducted under the auspices of the Friends of the John Dickinson Mansion, details about the lives of the plantation’s people have been mined from a variety of places including, among others, the Delaware Public Archives, Delaware Historical Society, University of Delaware and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. While important information has been gleaned from likely sources such as maps, letters and diaries, it has also been found in more mundane places such as probate inventory, account-book records and bills of sale. As additional information is uncovered through research, new panels will be created that tell the stories of other people who lived and worked at the plantation.

The installation of “Five Stories” is the latest in a series of improvements that have taken place at the plantation’s visitor center since 2010. Originally constructed in the late 1980s, the visitor center is located in a replicated 18th-century-style barn whose interior is infused with the scent of fragrant, undressed wood. Improvements that have taken place in recent years include extensions to the right- and rear-sections of the building, the addition of several windows, upgrades to the restrooms and additional steps that have brought the facility more fully into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Historic-site interpreter Chris Merrill standing in front of the John Dickinson Plantation visitor center.

Historic-site interpreter Chris Merrill standing in front of the John Dickinson Plantation visitor center.

Operating hours at the John Dickinson Plantation from April 1 through Sept. 30 are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. From Oct. 1 through March 31, operating hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tours begin at the plantation’s visitor center followed by exploration of the mansion house, log’d dwelling, smokehouse and other outbuildings. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-739-3277.


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