By Terry Rogers
Peter Foster Causey was Governor of the State of Delaware from 1855-1859 and was a delegate to the Whig National Convention in 1839. In the late 1840’s, secret anti-immigration groups began to form, and these groups collectively became known as the “Know Nothings”. This name was given to them due to the reluctance of their members to discuss what their organization was about. When asked, they often replied “I know nothing.” These groups eventually became the American Party which advocated a 25-year residency requirement for citizenship and required that political office could only be held by natural born citizens.
Governor Causey was the son of Peter and Tamzey Causey and was born in Easton on January 1, 1801. When he was a small child, the family moved to N. Walnut Street in Milford, Delaware where the elder Mr. Causey started a mercantile business called Peter F. Causey and Son on the corner of Walnut Street and Front Street. When Governor Causey completed his education at the age of 16, he went into business with his father. At the age of 17, he began travelling to Philadelphia by stage to purchase merchandise to sell in the store.
In 1820, he began mining ore on land he owned in Nanticoke Hundred, and in 1825, after the death of his father, Governor Causey started his own general store, purchasing and selling grain, wood and lime. He was married to Maria Williams, and they had 6 children, William F., Marie E, Sally Maria, Peter Foster, Jr., John W. and Robert H. Eventually, Governor Causey purchased 2 saw mills, a tannery, Haven Flouring Mills, Milford Mills and Marshall Mills.
In 1840, he left the mercantile business and went into land ownership, obtaining 1500 or more acres, which he divided into lots. While he served as governor, his children ran his business interests in Milford.
Governor Causey came into possession of the Causey Mansion, which was built for Levin Crapper in 1763. It was the home of another Delaware Governor, Daniel Rogers. In 1855, Governor Causey completely remodeled the home in the Greek Revival style that stands today. In 1850, the United States Census shows that the home was inhabited by Governor and Mrs. Causey, and 4 of their children, William, Peter, John and Maria, along with 8 servants. The 1870 census shows that only Elizabeth and John were at home. Governor Causey died in 1871, and this is evident by the 1880 census which shows that Marie, a widow was living in the Causey Mansion with her son William F and his wife, Annie, and their children, Annie, Trusten, Foster, Maria and Mildred.
Interestingly, the Causey Mansion is not the only Causey home still standing in Milford today. Across from the Mansion, facing what is now Causey Avenue are the Plaza Apartments. This building was not always apartments, but at one time, was the home of Peter Foster Causey, Jr. and his wife, Jennie. This 3-story, center-hall frame building is built in Italianate style, and has a hip roof with decorative brackets. The home originally had a projecting bay on the west side and a massive rear wing. Decorative touches that are still evident are the wrought iron posts on the porch and the cupola on the roof. The 1880 census shows that Peter, Jr. and Jennie lived in the home with their 5 children, Virginia, Elizabeth, Peter, Jennie and Edward, and that Clary Hughes, who is shown as an “adopted” daughter also lived there. Two servants, Dansville Lewis and Josephine Bradley are also listed on that census.
Peter Jr. was born in 1839 When his father died in 1871, Peter became the owner of the Old Red Mill, which was a Milford landmark for many years. The mill was purchased by Governor Causey from his brother-in-law, John Darby, when Mr. Darby ran into some financial hardship. The mill was destroyed by fire in 1875. The mill was rebuilt and operated by William R. Hitchens from 1921 until 1942. In 1945, the mill was dismantled by Hallett Vinyard to make room for his fuel oil business.
In 1910, the census shows that Peter Jr.’s wife, Jennie had died and he was living with his daughter, Elizabeth Jenkins, who was also widowed. Her two daughters, Elizabeth and Francis were living with them. Elizabeth had married Thomas Jenkins in 1891, and he apparently died in 1910, but there is no record of how he died. In 1900, Thomas and Elizabeth were living with their daughters in Easton, Maryland.
In addition to the Plaza Apartments, The Causey House is still standing as well. This home, which is located behind the Causey Mansion, facing Walnut Street, is a 2-story, offset center entrance home. The brick building with a hop roof with a small Palladian window and a massive entrance surrounded by fluted columns stands stately high above the street. An office entrance has been added to the side of the home.
In 1880, this was the home to Robert and Maria Causey Williams. Robert and Maria were married in 1872, and, in 1880 had two children, Foster C. and Marie. The 1900 census, however, shows that Robert was widowed and living with Foster, Marie and another son, Rynear. There is no record of how Maria Causey Williams died, however.
The political connections did not end with Maria’s father, however, Robert and Maria’s daughter married Ruby Ross Vale. The couple are listed on the 1910 census living in the Causey House with Robert Williams, along with their daughters, E. Marie and Grace. Ruby Ross Vale was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1874. Mr. Vale was a school principal and lawyer. In 1912, he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention and was a member of the Committee on Rules and Order of Business.
The Causey’s have a detailed and interesting history in the city of Milford, and the fact that their homes have been preserved and are still standing are a testament to their legacy for this town.