Arboria inspirations (3): Farms and what they become

Fictional Arboria Park, like its real-life counterpart Rodney Village, is surrounded by two farms. The Park is built on part of the Ramsey farm and orchard along a creek. Also to the west is another farm that, in the course of the story, becomes the housing development Oakley Estates.

In real life, the Kesselring farm was to the west of Rodney Village, just outside the city of Dover. After we moved out of the Village, our new house in an Oakley Estates-type development was directly across from the Kesselrings’ farmhouse. A new elementary school, which opened the year we moved, had been built on the edge of the Kesselrings’ land. One day my mother was walking our dog near the school and paused to admire a patch of daffodils. Mildred Kesselring happened to be working in her garden that day, and she and Mom got to talking. This led to a lifelong friendship. The incident was the inspiration for Stacy meeting Mrs. Ramsey in 1987 when she stops to admire her azaleas.

Another farm, long owned by a family named Howell, was across a creek to the south called Howell’s Branch, where my husband and his brother had their first nautical adventure in an old rowboat. Elizabeth Howell Goggin did not want her land developed after her death. So, like Mrs. Ramsey in the book, she donated it to the county for parkland.

Mrs. Kesselring was also determined not to lose any more of their family’s land for development unless it was for a positive purpose like the school. Her son has tried to be true to her wishes, selling land only for a Boy Scout camp and a recreation center.

He may also have thought doing so would protect the rest of the farm from the road being proposed to connect the growing west side of Dover to the highway. In the State Department of Transportation study of the area, the historic farm and the school were noted as impediments to placing the road near my family’s house. The lovely Brecknock Park on the Howell property blocked it from being built further south.

So the only viable route (according to the highway planners) was behind the Kesselring farm and through the edge of Rodney Village. Houses along the creek were demolished, and the road is still being worked on. Here is what it looks like now:

Brecknock Park contains a playground, athletic fields, and some lovely trails along the creek:

Here is Mrs. Howell’s old house, and some of the farm’s outbuildings.

Here is another old tenant house on the property:

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This was an old mill along Howell’s Branch. It could have been the Ramsey cider mill that burns down in the 1950s:

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Here you can see the remaining Rodney Village houses beyond the trees and the road under construction. This could be where Stacy and her friends run across the creek in 1963 after being scared away by Mrs. Ramsey, whom they believe is a witch:

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3 thoughts on “Arboria inspirations (3): Farms and what they become”

  1. Mrs Goggins shot the rock salt gun! “YOU BOYS get out of that stream”, she yelled from the knoll along the steam in the wooded portion. We had heard all about her but now there she was, they were talking the truth! She seem too old a lady to be even walking in those woods. My mind suddenly became connected to my mouth and blurted out far louder than I even expected, “Why are you so mean?!” She yelled, “I am just so scared one of you kids will get hurt, its not safe in there.” We quicklybwaded further along and didn’t listen. We emerged the other end crossed Kesselrings field to avoid her but that day changed it all. Mrs Goggins wasn’t mean, heck she was just like our own moms. Later in life as I was 2000 miles from land laying in my bunk at sea, that day crossed my mind as I now waded around the entire planet. It was the Mrs Goggins of the world who build our nation, I sure was blessed to even speak to her even if it was as disrespecting child. Lots of tales to tell indeed.

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    1. Yes! I heard similar stories when I was a kid. I never went over to her property, but we moved across the street from the Kesselrings and we knew them so I went over that way a few times. The Mrs. Goggin stories sometimes got exaggerated by kids into her being a witch, so I used that in my book where the kids think Mrs. Ramsey is one, only she is doing the same thing Mrs. Goggin did, trying to keep kids from getting in trouble! Thanks for sharing the story.

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