Joseph Tatnall, Sr. (1740 - 1813)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: DE, USA
Death: Died in DE, USA
Occupation: miller & banker, Miller, banker
Managed by: Scott Fleischer
Last Updated:

About Joseph Tatnall, Sr.

Joseph Tatnall was an influential citizen in Wilmington and the Brandywine Village flour mills were a significant source of flour for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Although Tatnall was a Quaker, he was a supporter of the Revolution. In the summer of 1777 the British, under the command of General Sir William Howe, invaded Delaware and Pennsylvania from the Chesapeake Bay with a force of 17,000 men. General Washington stationed his troops in the vicinity of Wilmington and General Anthony Wayne made his headquarters at Joseph Tatnall’s house where Washington and his staff attended meetings.

Joseph Tatnall House

It is presumed that it is Brandywine Village where Washington and the Marquis de LaFayette first met Joseph Tatnall. Tatnall is said to have told the General, “I cannot fight for thee, but I can and will feed thee.” He also allowed Washington to secure the upper millstones from the mills and hide them from the British. The Battle of the Brandywine took place on September 11, 1777. The noise from the battle could be heard in the Village and the residents anxiously awaited the outcome. The victorious British would return to occupy Brandywine Village until December 1777.

The Brandywine mills reached the height of their importance following the war. European travelers came to the Village and described the village as the “largest of new world flour milling communities.” In 1820, the Marquis de LaFayette returned to Brandywine Village and Joseph Tatnall caused a cupola to be built on a public building so that bells could ring out for his visit. The Academy is home today to AIA of Delaware and the Delaware Architecture Foundation.

The millers of Brandywine Village were good businessmen and built upon the significant milling improvements developed by Delawarean Oliver Evans in the 1780s. Their mills were a model of efficiency and heralded the industrial revolution minimizing labor and maximizing efficiency. Accounts of the village in 1796 claimed twelve mills at the Brandywine Bridge capable of grinding 400,000 bushels of grain per year. By the turn of the century more men were employed as boatmen or coopers then by the mills in Brandywine Village. To further secure their trade position, between 1808 and 1815 a series of five improved toll roads were built stretching out from Wilmington like the “spokes of a wheel.” Three of these, the Lancaster, Kennett and Concord Pikes, reached the rich farmlands of southeastern Pennsylvania. It would seem that all was well for the next century of success.

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Joseph Tatnall, Sr.'s Timeline

1740
September 6, 1740
DE, USA
1765
January 31, 1765
Age 24
Bucks County, PA, USA
November 27, 1765
Age 25
1770
July 28, 1770
Age 29
Wilmington, DE, USA
July 28, 1770
Age 29
Wilmington, DE, USA
1772
August 6, 1772
Age 31
Wilmington, DE, USA
1775
April 9, 1775
Age 34
Wilmington, DE, USA
1777
March 26, 1777
Age 36
Wilmington, DE, USA
1779
September 13, 1779
Age 39
Wilmington, DE, USA
1782
June 20, 1782
Age 41
Wilmington, DE, USA