Between 1813 and 1815 Joseph B. Sims, a Philadelphia
merchant, built a cotton spinning mill and four two-story workmen's dwellings at
Rising Sun on Brandywine Creek, in Brandywine Hundred, on land purchased from
The mill was name Simsville Cotton Factory, and the row of
small back-to-back stone houses was called Simsville. Workers had to live close
to the mills for in those days public transportation was unknown and mill
workmen could not afford horses and carriages.
As soon as it was completed, the Simsville mill was leased
to John Siddall & Co. for the manufacture of "cotton yarn, muslin,
check, and plaid." In 1820, according to the U.S. Census for that year,
Siddall employed 61 persons and processed about 1500 pounds of cotton per week.
But the competition from imported British goods, combined with severe damage
from one of the periodic freshets that flooded the Brandywine, forced him out of
business in 1823. His machinery was sold at public auction and Sims advertised
the mill for rent or sale.
As the mill increased its operations under a succession of
lessees from the 1820s to the 1860s, more banks of dwellings were erected to
house the growing number of employees. The name "banks" was commonly
used to describe rows of homes erected against the bank or slope of a hill.
Farther upstream at the Louviers Woolen Mill was Charles' Banks which housed
some of the Upper Yard of the Du Pont Company's powder mills were workmen's
homes known as the Upper Banks.
The Du Pont Company acquired the Simsville Mill and houses
on November 15, 1840 when Alfred du Pont, who had succeeded his father as head
of the company, bought the property at a sheriff's sale.
Some time in the late 1840s the mill came to be known as
Walker's Mill and the dwellings as Walker's Bank houses because a Joseph Walker
leased the property from this time until about 1880. Though other names have
been given to this small textile manufacturing community, the Walker name has
persisted to identify both the mill and the banks of houses.
In 1881 Barlow & Thatcher took over the operation of
the mill for the manufacture of fine cotton yarn. From about 1904 until sometime
in the 1930s it was run by Hodgson Bros. It then became a storage facility for
the Du Pont Co., who gave it to the Eleutherian Mills - Hagley Foundation in
1955 for use as an exhibits laboratory.
Boatman, Roy, "The Brandywine Cotton Industry"