While digging up some historical records on a property in Cecil County, I discovered a large body of helpful online maps published by the Philadelphia Free Library. This urban institution has substantial online collections, including a large holding of maps.
The resources that helped with my investigation was the Hexamer General Survey collection. Between 1866 and 1895, Ernest Hexamer sketched out detailed plates on nearly 3,000 industrial and commercial properties in the Greater Philadelphia area, including Delaware and Cecil County. These meticulous illustrations included breweries, textile mills, printers, car works, dye and chemical plants, planning mills, and much more. The renderings were created for fire insurance underwriters and are similar to the Sanborn Maps, which are available for many Delmarva communities.
Hexamer was a German immigrant, according to the blog, Hexamer Redux. “He began his career creating insurance maps in New York City. In 1856, he moved to Philadelphia and established the fire insurance map business in the city.”
For researchers there are a number of fascinating local industrial plates, depicting the larger mills and industrial facilities. A highly detailed plate shows the landscape of the McCullough Iron Works in North East, and includes descriptive information about fire protection. Other companies include the Providence Mills owned by William H. Flitcraft & Company and William Singerly; The Shannon or Stone Chase Mill; the Octoraro Mill; West Amwell Mills and more. Several of the larger manufacturers have products that were updated periodically.
In addition to floor plans similar to architectural drawings lots of additional details are provided. There are notes about the construction, fire protection, occupancy, and other elements of interest to an insurance carrier. Many include perspective sketches of the actual building, which is great.
This will be a valuable resource for many Cecil County researchers. In the age before electrification the county’s creeks provided the source of energy and there were many mills situated on the banks of the streams.
Thank you Philadelphia Free Library for making this excellent resource available digitally.