The History of Delaware is fascinating, with towns that have been traded as colonies as far back as the early 1600s. Did you know how these dozen towns got their start?
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1. New Castle
New Castle was originally Fort Casimir, founded by the Dutch in 1651. Shortly thereafter, the Swedish seized the settlement and changed the name to Fort Trinity, and once the Dutch conquered it again in 1655, the area was named New Amstel. As "New Amstel" continued to grow, the street grid that you find in Old New Castle began to take shape, and the foundation for the Green was laid. The town got its name when the English seized the entire colony, in 1644.
Smyrna was originally called Duck Creek, but it took on its current name in 1806. It was the most important shipping spot between the ports of Wilmington and Lewes, and brought much needed supplies like grain, lumber and produce to Kent County. As the shipping industry sank in the late 1800s, the town grew to be an agricultural center, as it remains today. There are well over a dozen historic buildings from this time period that are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Wilmington is the former site of Fort Cristina, the first Swedish Settlement in the new world. They landed in an area now known as the Rocks in 1609 and began to settle at this important port location. In 1654, the Dutch seized the entire settlement, and WIlmington was handed back and forth until the British took over in 1664.
4. Rehoboth Beach
Rehoboth Beach was founded as a resort town in 1873, for the Methodist Episcopal Church of Wilmington. In 1891 the town was incorporated as Henlopen City, and quickly renamed Rehoboth Beach. It has since become one of the top beach destinations in the United States, and was the site to the world's first beauty pageant.
Odessa's historic district will take you back to the mid 18th century, when the town was founded as Cantwell's Bridge. It was an important post town close to the Delaware Bay and it was the origin for many agricultural and leather exports at the time. The town suffered when the railroad was built through nearby Middletown, and was renamed Odessa shortly thereafter.
Lewes was one of the first settlements in Delaware, and is widely regarded as the oldest town. It suffered from quite a history - having been burned down and rebuilt several times, much like the Swamp Castle in Monty Python's Holy Grail. Lewes' history is so fascinating that we've covered it in
its own piece, here.
Newark got its start when Scots-Irish and Welsh settlers chose the spot in 1694. The town was taken over by the British in 1758, and that is when it was fully incorporated. Newark's focus has always been education, with the Francis Allison grammar school moving to the town in 1765, renaming itself the Newark Academy. Now, Newark is a bustling college town.
Delmar is a railroad town, established in 1859 as a loophole to connect railroad between Maryland and Delaware. Each state's railroad charter only allowed for tracks to be laid in their own state, so the border town was established as to not break charter.
Bowers Beach was founded by Francis Whitwell in the late 1600s as 800 acres of coast town along the Delaware Bay, between the St Jones and Murderkill Rivers.The land changed hands a few more times, and in 1734, John Bowers purchased what remained - 420 acres. The name Bowers Beach was taken up in 1735, and the town was finally incorporated on March 9, 1907.
10. Fenwick Island
Fenwick Island, though not actually an island, has been an important Delaware town for centuries. In fact, local legend tells of the spots in town where pirates buried treasure and hid from the law. The town was finally incorporated in July 1953, making it one of the newest towns in the state.
Georgetown was established just to be a central governing town - at a time when most of Sussex County was swamp. In 1791, the Delaware State Senate purchased 76 acres to form this town, laid out a 100x100 yard square, and began building a circular town one mile in diameter from the square. The way the town was laid out, Georgetown is basically "sixteen miles from everywhere" in Sussex County.
Another administrative town, Dover, was founded by William Penn in 1683. The town was officially planned in 1717, and Dover became the capital of the state in 1777. The city's historic Green has been the location of many important patriotic events, from the revolutionary war to present day.
How many of these fascinating histories did you already know? For more Delaware history you may not have known, check out
these obscure facts.