The State of Delaware is one of the original thirteen States of the American Union, and, though next to the smallest in area, and least in population, possesses annals not surpassed by those of any other State in topics of varied character, romantic incident and instructive lesson. Nor does her early history relate alone to those confines which now limit her territory. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania all partake, to a greater or less degree, in the interest of her peculiar story. The early adventure of discovery and settlement; the struggle with barbarism, and the subjugation of a rude soil; the contrast and blending of European with American life; the transfer of old institutions; the intermingling of races; the progress of commerce; the establishment of churches and schools; the triumph of freedom of conscience over bigotry; the development of principles of self-government within, and the action of encroachment and conquest from without; the relations of Delaware with Sweden, Holland and Great Britain; of the people with the proprietary of Pennsylvania; the attitude assumed towards the Dutch of New York; her position before and during the American Revolution, were all peculiar, and in the highest degree instructive to the student of the present as well as of the past.
At every period of the country's history Delaware has been among the first in patriotism and among the earliest in all that related to national defense. "The three lower counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex, on Delaware," were represented in the Continental Congress which assembled at Philadelphia, on the 5th of September, 1774, and from that day to the present, the people of the State have been among the foremost in all that led to the prosperity and progress of the whole country. No state has exhibited stronger affection for the Union, made greater sacrifices in war or pursued a more judicious policy in the accumulation of wealth. Her position has commanded respect, and her integrity is beyond reproach.
It is surprising that Delaware, with a past so illustrious, so full of interest, and in many respects unique, should have no proper history. Not only aliens, but even her own sons, have been very imperfectly informed of her true history, and, as a consequence, she has been denied the meed of honor both abroad and at home.
It is the aim of the present work to give the history of Delaware with accuracy and intelligence, omitting nothing that will contribute in any degree to illustrate its origin and growth, its national importance and its peculiar local features, to paint a portrait of the State as it was and as it is, in which every lineament shall be truthfully portrayed and represented with life and vigor enough to make its fidelity acknowledged by all. If these objects can be attained by zeal, sincerity and faithful, patient and exhaustive research, the author and his co-laborers have no fears of the reception which awaits their formidable undertaking.
The State of Delaware is situated between 38° 28? and 39° 47? of north latitude, and between 74° 56? and 75° 46? of longitude west from Greenwich. Its physical boundaries are on the north by the State of Pennsylvania, Delaware River and Bay; on the south by the State of Maryland; on the east by the Delaware River and Bay, from a point twenty-four miles from its northern boundary by a line of low-water mark on the Jersey shore, thence to the radius of twelve miles north of New Castle; on the west by the States of Maryland and Pennsylvania to the periphery of the circle drawn in a radius of twelve miles from the court house at the centre of the town of New Castle, commencing at low-water mark on the shore of New Jersey north of New Castle, thence extending over the Delaware River, and following its circumference until it again touches the shore of that State south of its radius of twelve miles from New Castle. Sole jurisdiction is given to the State of Delaware over the Delaware River and Bay by this circular line of boundary, from low-water mark on the Jersey shore, about a mile north of the mouth of Naaman's Creek on the Delaware State side, for twenty-four miles southward, nearly to where Silver Run enters the Delaware River. Within the circular boundary are Pea Patch and Reedy Islands, on the former of which Fort Delaware is situated, and upon the latter a light-house. The jurisdiction of the State below the circle extends to a line running down the middle of the Delaware Bay as far as Cape Henlopen; thence along the Atlantic Ocean to Fenwick's Island, in about 28° 20? north latitude. The southern line runs westwardly thirty-four miles, three hundred and nine perches, to the exact half of the distance between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay; thence by a right line nearly due north at a tangent until it reaches the western part of the periphery of the circle, twelve miles from the court-house at New Castle.
The length of the State is ninety-five miles; at its southern boundary the width is thirty-five miles; at Cape Henlopen the width is about twenty-five miles, which diminishes, by the water-line of the bay, until, at Red Lion Creek, in New Castle County, the width of the State is not over ten miles, while at its northern end its width is twelve miles, being the radius of the New Castle circle.
The line which divides Delaware from Maryland, starting at the Atlantic Ocean, running due west for a distance of thirty-four miles, turns at right angles due north to the tangental point on the New Castle circle, which was run by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in 1763, and is known as "Mason & Dixon's Line."
Each of the three counties extends across the State from the ocean, bay or river to the dividing line between Delaware and Maryland, New Castle being divided from Kent by Duck Creek and a line running due west to the Maryland line; Kent is divided from Sussex by the Mispillion Creek and the Tan Trough Branch; thence by a line southwesterly to a small branch of Nanticoke, down this branch to the beaver dam, and thence by a line due west to the Maryland line. Sussex comprises all south of the last-described line to the boundary of Maryland.
The topography of the State may be said to consist of rounded hills in the northern part, which rise at no point over five hundred feet above the sea-level; this elevated portion of the State extends southward to White Clay Creek, and reposes upon a substratum of rock. South of White Clay Creek the State is level, and nowhere elevated more than seventy feet, which only occurs on the sandy table-land ridge which passes through the State. In this table-land most of the rivers and streams have their sources. One of the most notable features of the State is the Cypress Swamp, on the southern line between Delaware and Maryland, and lying in both States. This swamp abounds in trees, mostly cypress, and game of all kinds is to be found in its recesses. Below its surface are found immense trunks of trees, the remains of giants of the forests, which, perhaps, sunk beneath the waters in years long past. These trunks are raised and made into shingles, and find ready market and reward for the labor bestowed upon their conversion.
The soil of the State is fertile, and has long been celebrated for its wheat, its fruits and vegetables; while the clearing of its forests cut away the white and black oak, yellow pine, cypress, tulip, poplar, Spanish oak and gum, which once covered the whole State.
Its principal rivers and streams are the Delaware River, which for twenty-four miles forms the eastern demarkation; Naaman's Creek, enters the Delaware about a mile south of the northern line; Shelpot Creek flows into the Brandywine, and thence, with the Brandywine, which crosses the State, enters the Christiana within the limits of the city of Wilmington, about one and a half miles from the Delaware, into which it empties its waters; the Brandywine is navigable for about two miles for sloops and schooners. From the head of navigation, the Brandywine is a rocky stream with several falls, which afford excellent water-power. The Christiana rises in Maryland, and flows through the State into the Delaware at Wilmington and has depth for vessels drawing fourteen feet. Red Clay Creek, Mill Creek and Bear Creek are streams flowing into White Clay Creek. These were once navigable, but are now valuable only for water-power. Red Lion Creek has been dammed up. St. George's Creek now empties a portion of its waters into the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal, and the remainder through a new channel into the bay. St. Augustine and Silver Run are small creeks which discharge their waters into St. George's Bay below Reedy Island. Appoquinimink Creek is navigable for sloops from Odessa to the Delaware, a distance of about seven miles, and for steamboats to Thomas' Landing.
Blackbird Creek, flowing due east and north until it empties into the Delaware Bay, is navigable; Duck Creek, which divides New Castle from Kent County is navigable for seven or eight miles, to Smyrna, and to Hay Point Landing for steamboats of twelve to fourteen feet draft; it reaches the Delaware Bay through a channel, called the "Thoroughfare," at a point north of Bombay Hook. Little Duck Creek is navigable for sloops to the town of Leipsic; Dona River connects with the Little Duck Creek and enters the bay below Little Bombay Hook. Dona and Little Duck Creek form Kent Island, a large marshy island, several miles in extent. Mahon River is merely one of the outlets of Dona River, which has forced a passage through the marsh, and flowing southerly for four miles enters the Delaware. Kelley's Island is formed by the conjunction of the Mahon and Dona Rivers. Port Mahon is esteemed the best harbor for coasters on the Delaware. Little Creek is navigable, as far up as Little Creek Landing, about three miles from its mouth, for sloops and small schooners.
Dover, the capital of the State, finds an outlet for its commerce to the Delaware by a very circuitous route through St. Jones Creek, a distance of thirty miles. It is navigable as far up as Dover for vessels and steamers of two hundred tons burden.
Murderkill Creek enters the bay below the mouth of St. Jones Creek, and up its navigable waters commerce finds its way to Frederica. Mispillion Creek affords navigable facilities to Milford by large sloops, schooners and steamboats. Cedar Creek, though small, is navigable from the Delaware, into which it flows. Draper's, Slaughter's and Primehook Creeks are small streams entering the bay between the mouths of Mispillion and Broadkiln Creeks. Broadkiln is navigable for sloops and schooners to Milton, about twelve miles from its mouth, and flows into the estuary of Lewes Creek, about two miles from the Delaware Bay. Lewes Creek is about six miles long and empties into the bay; its navigation was destroyed by the "Great Storm," which washed sand of the ocean into the creek and in this way destroyed its mouth for navigable purposes. Canary or Mill Creek affords navigation to Lewes Creek and from there to Broadkiln, and Wolf Creek and Old Creek fall into it near Lewes.
A narrow ridge of sand separates Rehoboth Bay and Indian River Bay from the Atlantic Ocean, while Indian River Inlet is a passage, torn by storms, through this ridge for the waters of the two bays to the ocean. This inlet rarely contains more than a few feet of water, and after a great easterly storm is closed by sand washed into it from the ocean; but soon the dammed up waters of the bays break again for themselves a passage to the ocean. These large bays have each a surface of twenty-five miles, but their depths rarely exceed four or five feet. The most northerly of these bays is Rehoboth, which, nearly square in shape, extends parallel with the ocean, from which it is separated by the ridge. Line Creek, Middle Creek, Herring Creek and Guinea Creek empty into Rehoboth Bay. Long Neck, a narrow sand bar, separates these last-mentioned creeks from Indian River Bay, while the "Burtons marshy islands, called on old maps Station Islands indicate the changes that have taken place in these waters. Indian River Bay is about eight miles long and from two to four broad; it fronts the Atlantic Ocean for three miles, and is separated only by the narrow ridge mentioned above. Millsboro is on Indian River. Pepper Creek, Vine Creek and White Creek flow into Indian River.
Fresh Pond and Salt Pond are two ponds a few miles south of Indian River the former is about half a mile in length and two hundred yards wide, and is from twenty-five to thirty feet deep. It has apparently no outlet or streams flowing into it, and contains but few fish. It is separated from the Atlantic by a ridge of sand not more than an eighth of a mile wide. The other, Salt Pond, is about the same size and situated about three miles south of it, and it is also without visible outlet. Its water is salt, and even more so than that of the ocean.
Assawaman Bay is formed by Jefferson Creek, and is long and shallow, about seven miles long and from one to one-half a mile broad, and from three to five feet deep. It is separated from the Atlantic by Fenwick's Island, a long narrow cape and ridge of land which extends in length twenty-three miles.
The streams which flow into the Chesapeake Bay and take their rise in Delaware, are the Nanticoke, the Broad Creek and the Pokomoke. Seaford finds water communication with the Chesapeake Bay down the Nanticoke. Portsville is reached by Broad Creek, and the Cypress Swamp is reached by the Pokomoke. Back Creek, the Bohemia and the Sassafras, in New Castle County; the Chester, the Choptank and the Marshy Hope, in Kent County; and the Wicomico in Sussex, all take their rise in the sandy Ridge of Delaware and discharge their waters into the Chesapeake, they all belong more properly to Maryland than to Delaware.
The lines of railroad in Delaware reach every locality and give the people every facility of transportation. The State has over three hundred miles of railroad, and the respective companies are treated more fully elsewhere in another chapter.
The waters of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays are connected by the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, navigable for coasting vessels and propeller steamers. This canal extends from Delaware City, forty six miles below Philadelphia, to Chesapeake City, on Back Creek, a navigable branch of Elk River, in Maryland. The canal is thirteen and a half miles in length, sixty-six feet wide at the top and ten feet deep. It has two tide and two left lift locks, and is located four miles through a deep cut ninety feet in depth; it was completed in 1828 at a cost of two million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and has since proven a source of incalculable value to the producers of the surrounding country in furnishing an outlet to the markets of the large cities.
A ship canal has been contemplated for many years between the two bays, for which a company was chartered by Maryland and by Delaware, and the line located from the Sassafras River to the Delaware Bay. Beyond securing the right of way nothing has been done. Salem Creek and the Delaware River have been connected by a canal.
Delaware is an agricultural State; a part of it is in a high state of cultivation. Beside wheat, Indian corn and other grain, peaches are grown in immense quantities and sent over the country: small fruits are also raised for transportation. In the northern part of the State are numerous manufactories. Wilmington is the principal centre of industry. New Castle, also, has important rolling-mills, and cotton and woollen factories. On Brandywine Creek are some of the finest flouring-mills in the United States, to which vessels drawing eight feet of water can come. The foreign trade of the State is effected chiefly through Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York; so that its direct foreign trade is very inconsiderable.
SOURCE: Page(s) 1 - 4, History of Delaware, 1609-1888, Volume One by Scharf, Thomas J., Philadelphia; L.J. Richards & Co., 1888