The early history of Delaware is one of conflict between Dutch and English forces, with the Swedes playing a lesser role. The Dutch claim to the area was established in 1609 by Henry Hudson when he sailed into Delaware Bay in his search for a Northwest Passage. Argall named one of the headlands for the Virginia Governor De La Warr, a name later contracted and applied to a river, a bay, a Native American tribe and the colony as a whole.In 1623, the Dutch West India Company began its involvement in the New World and clearly demonstrated a preference for trading ventures over settlements. Former governor of New Amsterdam, Peter Minuit, received Swedish support in 1638 to establish Fort Christina in New Sweden, a fledgling colony (near Wilmington).
Dutch interests in the area were advanced in 1651 when Peter Stuyvesant of New Amsterdam built Fort Casimir (near New Castle). Three years later, Swedish forces staged a surprise attack and took the fort, only to lose it back to the Dutch in 1655 when Stuyvesant captured all of New Sweden.
Dutch control in Delaware lasted only about 10 years. The Duke of York (later James II) took the entire area, including the New Netherland, in 1664. A brief Dutch return to power in 1673 was important primarily because the "three lower counties," today New Castle, Kent and Sussex, began to be regarded as an area distinct from neighboring ones.
In 1682, the Duke gave the three counties to William Penn, which provided his colony with Atlantic Ocean frontage. Many residents resented the change because they regarded Pennsylvania as a bed of radicalism, but they were mollified by Penn's decision to give the three counties equal representation in the assembly. As Pennsylvania grew, the counties feared loss of influence. Penn responded in 1701 by granting them a new charter authorizing the institution of a separate assembly. The first assembly met in 1704, but the area remained under the Pennsylvania governor's control until 1776.
Penn and Lord Baltimore of Maryland disputed over Delaware's boundaries for years. In the 1760s, the boundaries were surveyed by the English scientists, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.
See also early history of Pennsylvania.
The colony of Delaware
The Dutch founded the first European settlement in Delaware at Lewes (then called Zwaanendael) in 1631. They quickly set up a trade in beaver furs with the Native Americans, who within a short time raided and destroyed the settlement after a disagreement between the two groups. A permanent settlement was not established until 1638—by Swedes at Fort Christina (now Wilmington) as part of their colony of New Sweden they reputedly erected America’s first log cabins there. The Dutch from New Amsterdam ( New York) defeated the Swedes in 1655, and the English seized the colony from the Dutch in 1664. Thereafter, except for a brief Dutch reconquest in 1673, Delaware was administered as part of New York until 1682, when the duke of York (the future James II) ceded it to William Penn, who wanted it so that his colony of Pennsylvania could have access to the ocean. Though Penn tried to unite the Delaware counties with Pennsylvania, both sides resented the union. In 1704 he allowed Delaware an assembly of its own. Pennsylvania and Delaware shared an appointed governor until the American Revolution. Only in 1776 did the name Delaware—deriving from Thomas West, 12th baron de la Warr, a governor of Virginia—become official, though it had been applied to the bay in 1610 and gradually thereafter to the adjoining land.
During the Penn family’s proprietorship, members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) came to the northern part of Delaware because it was close to Philadelphia and offered good farmland. Quaker merchants established the town of Wilmington in 1739. Another group of newcomers were the Scotch-Irish, who brought with them their Presbyterian religion and an emphasis on education. In 1743 Francis Alison, a Presbyterian minister, established a school that became the foundation for the later University of Delaware. Southern Delaware was populated largely by English, many coming from nearby Maryland, and by Africans, who were introduced as slaves to clear the land and work the farms. Toward the end of the 18th century, itinerant Methodist preachers found many converts among both black and white inhabitants of southern Delaware.
By the middle of the 17th century, the Realm of Sweden had reached its greatest territorial extent and was one of the great powers of Europe. Sweden then included Finland and Estonia, along with parts of modern Russia, Poland, Germany, and Latvia under King Gustavus Adolphus and later Christina. The Swedes sought to expand their influence by creating a plantation (tobacco) and fur-trading colony to circumvent French and English merchants. [ citation needed ]
The Swedish South Company was founded in 1626 with a mandate to establish colonies between Florida and Newfoundland for the purposes of trade, particularly along the Delaware River. Its charter included Swedish, Dutch, and German stockholders led by directors of the New Sweden Company, including Samuel Blommaert.   The company sponsored 11 expeditions in 14 separate voyages to Delaware between 1638 and 1655 two did not survive.
The first Swedish expedition to America sailed from the port of Gothenburg in late 1637, organized and overseen by Clas Fleming, a Swedish admiral from Finland. Flemish Dutch Samuel Blommaert assisted the fitting-out and appointed Peter Minuit (the former Governor of New Amsterdam) to lead the expedition. The expedition sailed into Delaware Bay aboard the Fogel Grip and Kalmar Nyckel, which lay within the territory claimed by the Dutch. They passed Cape May and Cape Henlopen in late March 1638  and anchored on March 29 at a rocky point on the Minquas Kill that is known today as Swedes' Landing. They built a fort in Wilmington which they named Fort Christina after Queen Christina. 
In the following years, the area was settled by 600 Swedes and Finns, a number of Dutchmen, a few Germans, a Dane, and at least one Estonian,  and Minuit became the first governor of the colony of New Sweden. He had been the third Director of New Amsterdam, and he knew that the Dutch claimed the area south to the Delaware River and its bay. The Dutch, however, had pulled back their settlers from the area after several years in order to concentrate on the settlement on Manhattan Island. 
Governor Minuit landed on the west bank of the river and gathered the sachems of the Delawares and Susquehannocks. They held a conclave in Minuit's cabin on the Kalmar Nyckel, and he persuaded them to sign deeds which he had prepared to solve any issue with the Dutch. The Swedes claimed that the purchased land included land on the west side of the South River from just below the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, and coastal Maryland. Delaware sachem Mattahoon later claimed that the purchase only included as much land as was contained within an area marked by "six trees", and the rest of the land occupied by the Swedes was stolen. 
Willem Kieft objected to the Swedes landing, but Minuit ignored him since he knew that the Dutch were militarily weak at the moment. Minuit completed Fort Christina in 1638, then sailed for Stockholm to bring the second group of settlers. He made a detour to the Caribbean to pick up a shipment of tobacco to sell in Europe in order to make the voyage profitable. However, he died on this voyage during a hurricane at St. Christopher in the Caribbean. The official duties of the governor of New Sweden were carried out by Captain Måns Nilsson Kling, until a new governor was selected and arrived from Sweden two years later. 
The company expanded along the river from Fort Christina under the leadership of Johan Björnsson Printz, governor from 1643 to 1653. They established Fort Nya Elfsborg on the east bank of the Delaware near Salem, New Jersey and Fort Nya Gothenborg on Tinicum Island to the immediate southwest of Philadelphia. He also built his manor house The Printzhof at Fort Nya Gothenborg, and the Swedish colony prospered for a time. In 1644, New Sweden supported the Susquehannocks in their war against Maryland colonists.  In May 1654, soldiers from New Sweden led by Governor Johan Risingh captured Fort Casimir and renamed it Fort Trinity (Trefaldigheten in Swedish). [ citation needed ]
Sweden opened the Second Northern War in the Baltic by attacking the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Dutch sent an armed squadron of ships under Director-General Peter Stuyvesant to seize New Sweden. In the summer of 1655, the Dutch marched an army to the Delaware River, easily capturing Fort Trinity and Fort Christina. The Swedish settlement was formally incorporated into Dutch New Netherland on September 15, 1655, although the Swedish and Finnish settlers were allowed local autonomy. They retained their own militia, religion, court, and lands.  This lasted until the English conquest of New Netherland, launched on June 24, 1664. The Duke of York sold New Jersey to John Berkeley and George Carteret to become a proprietary colony, separate from the projected colony of New York. The invasion began on August 29, 1664 with the capture of New Amsterdam and ended with the capture of Fort Casimir (New Castle, Delaware) in October. This took place at the beginning of the Second Anglo-Dutch War. 
New Sweden continued to exist unofficially, and some immigration and expansion continued. The first settlement at Wicaco began with a Swedish log blockhouse located on Society Hill in Philadelphia in 1669. It was later used as a church until about 1700, when Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church of Philadelphia was built on the site.  New Sweden finally came to an end when its land was included in William Penn's charter for Pennsylvania on August 24, 1682. [ citation needed ]
Hoarkill, New Amstel, and Upland Edit
The start of the Third Anglo-Dutch War resulted in the Dutch recapture of New Netherland in August 1673. They restored the status which predated the English capture, and codified it in the establishment of three counties: Hoarkill County,  New Amstel County,  and Upland County, which was later partitioned between New Castle County, Delaware, and the Colony of Pennsylvania.  The three counties were created on September 12, 1673, the first two on the west shore of the Delaware River and the third on both sides of the river. [ citation needed ]
The Treaty of Westminster of 1674 ended the second period of Dutch control and required them to return all of New Netherland to the English on June 29, including the three counties which they created.  After taking stock, the English declared on November 11 that settlements on the west side of the Delaware River and Delaware Bay were to be dependent on the Province of New York, including the three Counties.  This declaration was followed by a declaration that renamed New Amstel as New Castle. The other counties retained their Dutch names. 
The next step in the assimilation of New Sweden into New York was the extension of the Duke's laws into the region on September 22, 1676.  This was followed by the partition of some Upland Counties to conform to the borders of Pennsylvania and Delaware, with most of the Delaware portion going to New Castle County on November 12, 1678.  The remainder of Upland continued in place under the same name. On June 21, 1680, New Castle and Hoarkill Counties were partitioned to produce St. Jones County. 
On March 4, 1681, what had been the colony of New Sweden was formally partitioned into the colonies of Delaware and Pennsylvania. The border was established 12 miles north of New Castle, and the northern limit of Pennsylvania was set at 42 degrees north latitude. The eastern limit was the border with New Jersey at the Delaware River, while the western limit was undefined.  In June 1681, Upland ceased to exist as the result of the reorganization of the Colony of Pennsylvania, with the Upland government becoming the government of Chester County, Pennsylvania. [ citation needed ]
On August 24, 1682, the Duke of York transferred the western Delaware River region to William Penn, including Delaware, thus transferring Deale County and St. Jones County from New York to Delaware. St. Jones County was renamed Kent County, Deale County was renamed Sussex County, and New Castle County retained its name. 
Historian H. Arnold Barton has suggested that the greatest significance of New Sweden was the strong and lasting interest in America that the colony generated in Sweden,  although major Swedish immigration did not occur until the late 19th century. From 1870 to 1910, more than one million Swedes arrived in America, settling particularly in Minnesota and other states of the Upper Midwest. Traces of New Sweden persist in the lower Delaware Valley, including Holy Trinity Church in Wilmington, Delaware, Gloria Dei Church and St. James Kingsessing Church in Philadelphia, Trinity Episcopal Church in Swedesboro, New Jersey, and Christ Church in Swedesburg, Pennsylvania. All of those churches are commonly known as "Old Swedes' Church".  Christiana, Delaware is one of the few settlements in the area with a Swedish name, and Upland survives as Upland, Pennsylvania. Swedesford Road is still found in Chester and Montgomery Counties, Pennsylvania, although Swedesford has long since become Norristown. The American Swedish Historical Museum in South Philadelphia houses many exhibits, documents, and artifacts from the New Sweden colony. 
Perhaps the greatest contribution of New Sweden to the development of the New World is the traditional Finnish forest house building technique. The colonists of New Sweden brought with them the log cabin, which became such an icon of the American frontier that it is commonly thought of as an American structure.   The C. A. Nothnagle Log House on Swedesboro-Paulsboro Road in Gibbstown, New Jersey is one of the oldest surviving log houses in the United States.  
The settlers came from all over the Swedish realm. The percentage of Finns in New Sweden grew especially towards the end of the period of colonization.  Finns composed 22 percent of the population during Swedish rule, and rose to about 50 percent after the colony came under Dutch rule.  A contingent of 140 Finns arrived in 1664. The ship Mercurius sailed to the colony in 1665, and 92 of the 106 passengers were listed as Finns. Memory of the early Finnish settlement lived on in place names near the Delaware River such as Finland (Marcus Hook), Torne, Lapland, Finns Point, Mullica Hill, and Mullica River. 
A portion of these Finns were known as Forest Finns, people of Finnish descent who had been living in the forest areas of Central Sweden. The Forest Finns had moved from Savonia in Eastern Finland to Dalarna, Bergslagen and other provinces in central Sweden during the late-16th to mid-17th century. Their relocation had started as part of an effort by Swedish King Gustav Vasa to expand agriculture to these uninhabited parts of the country. The Finns in Savonia traditionally farmed with a slash-and-burn method which was better suited to pioneering agriculture in vast forest areas. This was also the farming method used by the American Indians of Delaware. 
Exploration and Settlement of Delaware - History
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Made up of just three small counties, Delaware (formerly New Sweden) attracted much attention, greed, and strife in the 17th and 18th centuries. Delaware sits in a desirable and strategic location at the mouth of the Delaware River on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay.
Delaware struggled for its place on the colonial map, but it was a colony destined for mighty deeds. When the time came to fight for independence of the thirteen colonies, Delaware boldly answered the call.
Learn more about the state of Delaware.
Before the arrival of the first European settlers, the Delaware River Valley was inhabited by a group of American Indians called the Lenni Lenape, which means "original people." Renamed the "Delaware" by European settlers, the Lenni Lenape tribe was comprised of three large groups settled between southern New York to northern Delaware. The southernmost group lived along the northern part of present-day Delaware. The Nanticoke people lived in southwestern Delaware along the Nanticoke River. The Minqua came from Pennsylvania to trade furs along the Delaware River.
Learn about the native inhabitants
of Delaware, the Lenape Indians.
DID YOU KNOW?
On December 7, 1787, Delaware
was the first state to ratify the
U.S. Constitution and join the union.
Click to read more Delaware firsts.
The Spanish and Portuguese are believed to have made explorations of the Delaware coastline in the early 16th century. Henry Hudson, an English explorer hired by the Dutch East India Company, discovered what would become known as the Delaware River and the Delaware Bay in 1609. He did not explore the area, however. One year later, Captain Samuel Argall—the same Englishman who had kidnapped Pocahontas—was blown off course and sailed into the Delaware Bay. He named a point of land on the western shore Cape De la Warr, in honor of Thomas West, Lord De la Warr, the first governor of the English colony of Virginia. The Delaware River and Bay were first explored in depth by Captain Cornelius Hendricksen. In his journal, Hendricksen recorded trading with American Indians for various types of furs and hides, including sable, otter, mink, and bear.
In 1631, the first European settlement was attempted when the Dutch West India Company, in partnership with a Dutch merchant captain named David Pietersen de Vries, established a tobacco-growing and whaling industry at Zwaanendael near the present town of Lewes. Within the first year, the settlement was destroyed and its inhabitants were massacred in what is believed to be the result of a dispute that began over the theft of a tin plate bearing the Dutch coat of arms.
The Kalmar Nyckel, the Tall Ship of
Delaware, set sail from Sweden
in 1637 carrying 24 passengers to
establish the first permanent
settlement in the Delaware Valley,
Unlike most English companies, the Dutch West India Company hoped to expand trade rather than set up colonies. In contrast, in 1637, Swedish, Dutch, and German stockholders formed the New Sweden Company to establish a colony. Several of the members of the Dutch West India Company offered their services to the New Sweden Company. One of them, Peter Minuit, the former Director-General of New Netherland, led an expedition of settlers from Sweden and set sail in late 1637 on the Kalmar Nyckel and Fogel Grip.
They arrived in March, 1638, and the expedition built a fortified trading post on the site of present-day Wilmington. It was named Fort Christina in honor of Sweden's 12-year-old queen. Minuit secured a deed from the American Indians for the land extending north from Bombay Hook to the Schuylkill River, which flows into the Delaware River at what is now Philadelphia. The territory was named New Sweden.
More than a dozen expeditions arrived in New Sweden over the next 17 years, bringing Swedish, Finnish, and Dutch emigrants, as well as supplies. Additional land was purchased, and the colony spread to both sides of the Delaware River.
New Sweden prospered during the governorship of Johan Björnsson Printz (1643–1653). The settlers built forts, mills, and houses up and down the Delaware River. Trade with local American Indian groups flourished, and many colonists planted tobacco.
DID YOU KNOW?
Log cabins were first introduced in
America by the Swedes in Delaware.
In 1651, the Dutch West India Company attempted to gain control of New Sweden, believing that the company still held rights to the area. Peter Stuyvesant, governor of New Netherland, led Dutch troops in building Fort Casimir at present-day New Castle. Under the administration of the colony's last governor, Johan Rising, New Sweden captured the fort in 1654. Stuyvesant returned in greater numbers the following year and took back the whole territory, including the fort. This act effectively ended Swedish influence and participation in the colonization of North America.
The English and the Dutch were in constant competition with one another over trade and colonies in North America. These tensions eventually led to a series of wars between them, which were fought between 1652 and 1674. In 1664 England took over all of New Netherland and the Dutch possessions in the Delaware Valley. This prompted the Second Anglo-Dutch War, which resulted in England's possession of the Dutch territories in 1667. The Duke of York annexed Delaware, and for 18 years it was governed by England as part of the colony of New York (formerly New Netherland). Swedish and Finnish inhabitants were allowed to retain their lands, practice their own religion, and be governed by their own court system. Settlers from England and from surrounding English colonies moved to Delaware, causing the population to increase rapidly.
Read about William Penn,
founder of Pennsylvania and
proprietor of Delaware for a
In 1682, William Penn, a Quaker who founded the neighboring Pennsylvania colony, requested lands from England for a sea route to Pennsylvania. The Duke of York consented and granted Penn all the land between New Castle and Cape Henlopen, which included most of what is now Delaware. Delaware then came under the proprietorship of Penn, but it was administered separately from Pennsylvania as a distinct entity called the "three counties of Delaware" or the "Lower Counties." Charles Calvert, or Lord Baltimore, had founded the colony of Maryland and argued against William Penn, claiming the land along the Delaware River for himself. His claim was denied by England, which prompted a long-running dispute between Penn and Baltimore (and later generations of influential people in Maryland and Pennsylvania) over boundary issues. The argument over the Maryland-Delaware boundary was finally put to rest in 1769 with the demarcation of the Mason-Dixon line.
Penn signed a peace treaty with the Lenni Lenape in 1682, and no further conflict occurred between American Indians and the Delaware settlers until the French and Indian War in 1754. Many of the Delaware Indians had moved west in an attempt to stay ahead of white settlement, and most of them already lived in Ohio by the time the French and Indian War broke out along the coast.
The people of Delaware wanted independence from the strong influence of Pennsylvania's large population of Quakers. The Quakers, or Society of Friends, was a religious body that dominated Philadelphia, and the people of Delaware feared the rapid economic growth of the Pennsylvania colony. They were equally unwilling to become the property of Lord Baltimore and Maryland.
Finally, the establishment of a separate assembly was granted to the people of Delaware. The town of New Castle hosted the first assembly meeting in 1704, serving as Delaware's capital. While the assembly passed laws and made decisions about the economy and government in Delaware's three counties, the colony was still technically under the authority of Pennsylvania's governor.
Learn more about the 1999
Explore facts and symbols
Delaware was the deciding state in whether or not to declare independence from Great Britain. History was made when a delegate named Caesar Rodney rode his horse from Delaware to Philadelphia to cast Delaware's vote in favor of independence from Great Britain. Riding through thunder, lightning, and a heat wave, Rodney's act of courage is depicted on the commemorative Delaware state quarter issued by the United States Mint in 1999.
Pennsylvania and Delaware
William Penn founded the Pennsylvania Colony in 1681 and brought over Quaker dissidents from England, Wales, the Netherlands, and France.
Examine the religious and social factors that shaped the establishment of the Pennsylvania and Delaware colony
- William Penn founded the Province of Pennsylvania, also known as Pennsylvania Colony, in British America in 1681 by royal charter.
- The land comprising Delaware was first controlled by the Swedish, then the Dutch, and finally the British in Pennsylvania.
- The Lenape and Susquehanna occupied the land prior to colonization.
- The Charter of Privileges mandated fair dealings with American Indians. Quakers initially interacted respectfully with the Lenape and Susquehanna however, future quests for land by the British government led to violence and hostility.
- Quakers were the primary settlers of Pennsylvania. The Charter of Privileges extended religious freedom to all monotheists, and the government was initially open to all Christians.
- Quakers: Members of the Religious Society of Friends, also called the Friends’ Church.
- William Penn: An English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony, and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- Lower Counties: Another term for Delaware Colony in the North American Middle Colonies from 1682 until 1776.
The Establishment of Pennsylvania and Delaware
In 1681, William Penn founded the Province of Pennsylvania, also known as Pennsylvania Colony, in British America by royal charter. Penn received the charter for Pennsylvania from Charles II and brought over Quaker dissidents from England, Wales, the Netherlands, and France. The colonial government, established in 1682 by Penn’s Frame of Government, consisted of an appointed governor, the proprietor, a Provincial Council, and a larger General Assembly.
The Birth of Pennsylvania, 1680: William Penn, holding paper, standing and facing King Charles II, in the King’s breakfast chamber at Whitehall.
Between 1669 and 1672, Delaware was an incorporated county under the Province of Maryland. The Mason-Dixon line is said to have legally resolved vague outlines between Maryland and Pennsylvania and awarded Delaware to Pennsylvania. Delaware Colony became a region of the Province of Pennsylvania, although never legally a separate colony. From 1682 until 1776, it was part of the Penn proprietorship and was known as the Lower Counties. In 1701, it gained a separate assembly from the three upper counties but continued to have the same governor as the rest of Pennsylvania. Delaware, however, would eventually prove too independent, leading to the ultimate separation from Pennsylvania and unique pioneer status as America’s first state, tied to neither province’s destiny.
William Penn had asked for and later received the lands of Delaware from the Duke of York. Penn had a hard time governing Delaware because the economy and geology were largely the same as that of the Chesapeake, rather than that of his Pennsylvania territory. He attempted to merge the governments of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Representatives from both areas clashed and, in 1701, Penn agreed to two separate assemblies. Delawareans would meet in New Castle and Pennsylvanians would gather in Philadelphia. Delaware continued to be a melting pot of sorts and was home to Swedes, Finns, Dutch, and French, in addition to the English, who constituted the dominant culture.
Sussex County, Delaware - History - European Settlement
Sussex County was the site of the first European settlement in Delaware, a trading post named Zwaanendael at the present site of Lewes. On June 3, 1631, Dutch captain David Pietersen de Vries landed along the shores of the Delaware to establish a whaling colony in the mid-Atlantic of the New World. The colony only lasted until 1632, when De Vries left. Upon returning to Zwaanendael that December, he found the Indian tribes had killed his men and burned the colony. The Dutch then set about settling the area once again.
Although the Dutch and Swedes returned to resettle the Delaware River region as early as 1638, much of the Delaware Bay area south of what is today the city of Newcastle remained unsettled until 1662, when a grant of land at the Hoernkills (the area around Cape Henlopen, near the current town of Lewes) was made by the city of Amsterdam to a party of Mennonites. A total of 35 men were to be included in the settlement, led by a Pieter Cornelisz Plockhoy of Zierikzee and funded by a sizable loan from the city to get them established. This settlement, established in 1663, was organized in part to threats from the English colony of Maryland to the west beginning to assert its own rights over the area. The timing of the settlement was terrible, as the English wrested New Netherland from the Dutch in 1664, and they had the settlement destroyed that same year with British reports indicating that “not even a nail” was left there.
Settlement in the area after the English kicked out the Dutch was slow. The Swedes and Finns that had settled in the area from the days of New Sweden had generally welcomed the English and were allowed to stay the few Dutch found in the area were rounded up as prisoners and sent to Virginia as slaves. Lord Baltimore also encouraged Marylanders to move east to settle the area. But the land was far removed from other, more established settlements and did not appeal to many new settlers. It was also becoming a tempting wilderness for pirates to hide out from authorities and regularly pillage the settlers for supplies.
The Dutch briefly recaptured the territory in 1673 as part of the Third Anglo-Dutch War. At that point, they established courts in the town of New Castle and at the Hoerkill at the southern end of the territory, effectively creating two counties out of the territory. After the war concluded in 1674, the Delaware territory was again returned to the English, at which point it was placed under the control of James Stuart, Duke of York. In 1680, the Duke reorganized the territory south of the Mispillion River as Deale County with the county seat at New Deale (modern-day Lewes) and created a third county, St. Jones, out of the Delaware territory between the Mispillion River and Duck Creek. In 1682, English King Charles II awarded the Delaware territories to William Penn in settlement of family debts, and Penn reorganized all three Delaware counties: Deale County become Sussex County, and St. Jones County became Kent County, in recognition of Penn's homelands in Sussex County, England. He brought two hundred people over from Sussex, England as colonists. The town of New Deale was also renamed Lewistown (today known as Lewes). At this time, Penn also claimed that the Delaware territory extended as far south as Fenwick Island. The 'Three Lower Counties' (Delaware) along Delaware Bay moved into Penn's sphere of settlement and became the Delaware Colony, a satellite of Pennsylvania.
But the boundary disputes continued between Pennsylvania and Maryland. Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore and William Penn both claimed the land between the 39th and 40th parallels according to the charters granted to each colony. Whereas Penn claimed the Delaware territories extended to Fenwick Island, Calvert claimed the Colony ended at Lewes with all the land south of the settlement belonging to Somerset County.
In 1732 Charles Calvert signed a territorial agreement with William Penn's sons that drew a line somewhere in between the two colonies and also renounced Calvert's claim to Delaware. But Lord Baltimore later claimed that the document he signed did not contain the terms he had agreed to, and refused to put the agreement into effect. Beginning in the mid-1730s, violence erupted between settlers claiming various loyalties to Maryland and Pennsylvania. The border conflict between Pennsylvania and Maryland would be known as Cresap's War.
The issue was unresolved until the Crown intervened in 1760, ordering Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore to accept the 1732 agreement. As part of the settlement, the Penns and Calverts commissioned the English team of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon to survey the newly established boundaries between the Province of Pennsylvania, the Province of Maryland, Delaware Colony and parts of Colony and Old Dominion of Virginia.
Between 1763 and 1767, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed the Mason-Dixon line settling Sussex County's western and southern borders. After Pennsylvania abolished slavery in 1781, the western part of this line and the Ohio River became a border between free and slave states, although Delaware remained a slave state.
In 1769 a movement started to move the county seat from Lewes to the area then known as Cross Roads, the present day site of Milton. The current county seat of Georgetown was settled upon on January 27, 1791 after residents in western Sussex County successfully petitioned the Delaware General Assembly to move the county seat to a central location as roads at the time made it too difficult to reach the county seat in Lewes. Georgetown was not a previously established town and on May 9, 1791, the 10 commissioners headed by President of the State Senate George Mitchell negotiated the purchase of 76 acres (310,000 m2) and Commissioner Rhodes Shankland began the survey by laying out "a spacious square of 100 yards (91 m) each way." Eventually the Town was laid out in a circle one mile (1.6 km) across, centered on the original square surveyed by Shankland and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Georgetown was named after Senate President George Mitchell.
Sussex County has been known by several names over the years including Susan County, Hoorenkill or Whorekill County as named by the Dutch prior to 1680 when Kent County broke off, Deale County from 1680 to 1682 after being taken over by the British under James Stuart, Duke of York prior to signing over to William Penn, and Durham County when claimed by the Lords Baltimore during the boundary dispute with the Penn family.
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Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site
THE only part of the present county which is claimed to have been occupied by white settlers at a date prior to the Fort Stanwix treaty is a small settlement on the East branch of the Delaware river in the present town of Middletown. In the year 1762 or 1763 a small band* of adventurers of Dutch extraction set out from Hurley in Ulster county to explore the lands on the East branch of the Delaware.
(* I am indebted to a communication from Dr. 0. M. Allaben, in Gould's History of Delaware County, for this account of the Middletown pioneers.)
They ascended Shandaken creek, crossed over the mountains forming the divide between the tributaries of the Hudson river and the Delaware, and found themselves in the beautiful valley of the East branch. To their great surprise they found here evidences of a deserted Indian village, which they afterwards learned was called Pakatakan and even traces of European settlements at several places. These latter were doubtless left by the hardy trappers and traders who had forced their way hither in search of beaver skins, and had found at least two homes of the beaver near this place.
The hardy adventurers from Hurley took up farms along this valley, and having made some hasty preparations went back for their families. They obtained warranty deeds for the land from Chancellor Livingston one of the heirs of Johannes Hardenbergh the owner of this tract. The price paid was twenty shillings an acre and the deeds bear the date of 1763. The names of these first settlers, so far as they have come down to us, were the brothers Harmanus and Peter Dumond, Johannes Van Waggoner, Peter Hendricks, Peter Brugher, and Messrs. Kittle, Yaple, Sloughter (now named Sliter), Hinebagh, Green and Bierch. Their farms were chosen along the banks of the East branch, and the vicinity. The settlers were driven off* by the Indians in the Revolutionary war (1778), and the buildings and improvements were destroyed. But soon after the war they returned and resumed their abandoned farms.
The first settlements in both Sidney and Harpersfield took place about the year 1770 and both in like manner were interrupted by the disturbances of the Revolutionary war, which shortly followed. The pioneer of the former of these settlements was Rev. William Johnston a Presbyterian clergyman born in Ireland, and who had resided several years previous to his removal to the Susquehanna valley in the neighborhood of Albany. Mr. Johnston and his son Witter Johnston journeyed by Otsego lake and thence down the Susquehanna, stopping finally at the beautiful flats which are now called Sidney. Here they found a few scattered but friendly Indians, belonging to the Housatonick tribe, which at this time were subject and tributary to the Six Nations. They selected a farm of 520 acres bordering on the river, which was a part of a land patent belonging to Banyar and Wallace, of which they bought the fee simple. In the Revolutionary troubles which soon came on Wallace took the tory side, and his property which the Johnstons had bought, but had not paid for, was confiscated and became the property of the State. On the recommendation of the governor, however, the Johnstons on payment of the balance still due were confirmed in the title to the land they had bought.
The Johnston family occupied their now home in the year 1773, and were followed by other families who soon made a thriving and attractive neighborhood. They were named Sliter, Carr, Woodcock and Dingman. The Sliters intermarried with the Johnstons and in the troubles of the Revolutionary war took with them the patriotic side. But the others became tories and are lost sight of, except that Carr afterward is said to have erected the first gristmill in this vicinity, upon Carr's brook which empties into the Susquehanna a few miles above the Johnston settlement.
In 1777 during the Revolutionary war the Johnston settlement received a visit from Brant and a band of Iroquois Indians. The Susquehanna valley was a frequent resort of these fierce warriors and all the scattered Indians of other tribes which wandered through the region between the Susquehanna and the Hudson were tributary to the Iroquois. Brant and all the Six Nations had made a treaty with the British through Sir William Johnson and had embraced the tory side in the pending controversy. He came with a band of about eighty men. The white settlers held a conference with the redoubtable chief, who announced to them his ultimatum. He gave them eight days in which to leave their homes after which everything would be at the mercy of his followers. If any of the families chose to declare themselves British partisans, he promised them protection and permission to remain in their homes. Under this urgent alternative Mr. Johnston and the other whig families took leave of their little possessions and hurried to Cherry Valley. They were there when the little village was burnt by the Indians in 1778 but the family escaped in time from the massacre, and one of the sons was in the fort which withstood the efforts of the savages to burn or take it.
After the war was over the fugitive families returned in 1784 to their homes at Sidney, and resumed the peaceful and prosperous life which has made Sidney one of the most attractive of all the towns in the county.
It remains to say something about Harpersfield, which is the only other part of the county which was settled by white people before the Revolutionary war. The founders of Harpersfield were a family of Harpers, whose ancestor James Harper migrated from Ireland to Maine in 1720. After successive migrations of the family John, a grandson of the Irish emigrant, settled in 1754 at Cherry Valley in New York. A son of this John named John Jr., was the founder of Harpersfield, and his son, also named John, and was the noted Colonel Harper who was so conspicuous in the border ways of the revolution.
In 1767 the Harpers obtained from the Colonial government permission to obtain from the Indiana a tract of land containing 100,000 acres not before purchased, situated near the headwaters of the Delaware river. After this transaction was complete the Harpers received from the government a deed of the land in 1769. Two years after this, in 1771, Colonel Harper established his family upon this tract and proceeded to divide it into suitable farms for settlement. A considerable number of families from Cherry Valley and old friends from Now England soon after joined them, and the place took on an appearance of prosperity. The first settlers however were subject to some severe trials from the want of food for themselves and their cattle. Their nearest neighbors were thirty miles off at Schoharie, and for gristmills they were compelled to go down the Schoharie creek to the Mohawk. In 1775, however, Colonel Harper erected a gristmill for the convenience of his neighbors. The whole tract was heavily timbered, mostly with maple and beech, and the making of maple sugar was one of the chief early industries. The lands covered by hardwood are always more easily cleared than those covered by pine or other evergreens. The rich and varied farms of Harpersfield came rapidly into conditions of fertility and were soon able to support a widespread and prosperous population.
But before the settlement could attain this condition of prosperity, it was compelled to go through a period of trial during the Revolutionary war, which left its impress for a long time upon its inhabitants and its growth and progress. It was in the summer of 1777 that the approach of Brant and Butler with a band of Indiana and tories made the Harpersfield settlers realize the danger of their position. Some fled to Schoharie and some went back to New England. So that from that time to the close of the war Harpersfield was almost deserted. Occasionally some of the fugitives came back from Schoharie to look after their possessions. Thus in the spring of 1780 Captain Alexander Harper and a number of others went to Harpersfield at the usual sugar making season. Brant and his party of Indians surprised and captured them. Some were killed and scalped, while Harper and several others were carried by a long and tedious march to the British fort at Niagara. There they remained as prisoners in circumstances of fearful misery until the close of the war. Others were taken as prisoners to Quebec where they were kept until under the treaty of peace they were set at liberty.
After the establishment of peace most of the families returned to their homes, which however had been in many cases desolated by the Indians and tories. Other settlers rapidly joined these pioneers, attracted by the sturdy character of the founders, and by the liberal terms on which they could secure farms on which they might settle. From that time down to the present Harpersfield has continued to be one of the most thriving and prosperous of the towns in the county.
The period following the war was everywhere active in emigration. The soldiers who had spent many years in fighting for their country had lost that attachment to their homes which made abandonment difficult. They had learned of hundreds of places where they could find farms to be taken up and homes to be established. Many of the officers of the army received in lieu of pay which was due to them grants of land from which they expected to realize abundant profits. They did not foresee the times when the fertile Genesee country, and the rich valleys of Ohio would be speedily in demand. But they eagerly accepted the proffered lands still unoccupied in the eastern portions of New York. Poor old General Steuben who had performed such noble service for his American friends, was rewarded with a township named after him in the rough regions of Oneida county. Baron DeKalb was in like manner rewarded with an equally fertile tract of land in St. Lawrence county.
Much of the land in Delaware county had been granted in various tracts before the breaking out of the war. The year 1770 seems to have been amazingly prolific in Delaware county patents. In the note* appended will be found the patents granted in Delaware county by the English Colonial government.
(* List of patents granted by the English Colonial Government, in Delaware county. Hough's Gazeteer, p. 48:
Babington's Patent, 1770, 2,000 acres, Charles Babington.
Bedlington Patent, 1770, 27,000 acres, John Leake and others.
Clarke's Patent, 1770, 2,000 acres, James Clarke.
DeBernier's Patent, 1770, 2,000 acres, John DeBernier.
Franklin Township, 1770, 30,000 acres, Thomas Wharton and others.
Goldsborough Patent, 1770, 6,000 acres, Edward Tudor and others.
Hardenbergh Patent, 1708, --, Johannes Hardenbergh and others.
Harper's Patent, 1769, 22,000 acres, John Harper, Jr.
Kortright Patent, 1770, 22,000 acres, Lawrence Kortright.
Leake's Patent, 1770, 5,000 acres, Robert Leake. Forfeited by attainder.
McKee's Patent, 1770, 40,000 acres, Alexander McKee and others.
McKee's Patent, 1770, 18,000 acres, additional, Alexander McKee and others.
Prevost Patent, 1770, --, James Prevost.
Strasburgh Township, 1170, 37,000 acres, John Butler and others. Forfeited by attainder. Walton's Patent, 1770, 20,000 acres, William Walton and others.
Whiteboro Township, 38,000 acres, Henry White and others. Forfeited by attainder.)
Subsequent to the formation of the State government many tracts were purchased from the State, by land speculators who generally sold but sometimes rented to settlers the farms which they undertook to clear and cultivate. The largest of these tracts was in the western angle of the State, and occupying a region owned by the State of Massachusetts. The two states settled the question of jurisdiction by an agreement that the price of the lands when sold should go to Massachusetts, but that the whole tract should belong politically to the State of New York. The land was in 1791 sold by the State of Massachusetts to Phelps and Gorham but on account of their failure to fulfill the contract, it was resold subsequently to them together with a number of other purchases. Almost all the contents of the counties of the State west of Cayuga lake were included in this territory. Another large tract is usually called the Macomb purchase, situated in Franklin, St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego and Herkimer counties. The lands included in these later purchases were usually sold in fee simple to the settlers while much of that in Delaware county, such as the Hardenbergh patent, the Kortright patent, the Livingston patent, the Verplanck tract, etc., were granted on lease.
The settlements formed in the various towns will be detailed in the town histories given below. The pioneers were of varied nationality, and in this respect were a fair sample of the mixed population throughout the State. From Kingston came the Dutch and Palatine Germans and a few of the Walloons, who settled in Middletown along the East branch of the Delaware. The same classes of emigrants had settled the Schoharie valley and thus formed a continuous belt of low Dutch pioneers from Albany up the Mohawk river, thence up the Schoharie creek to its headwaters and. then down the East branch of the Delaware, meeting the little body of Dutch pioneers who had broken through the mountain barriers from Kingston. It is needless to say that these emigrants were industrious, intelligent, and conservative. Like their European ancestry they sought as places of settlement low lying lands, bordering the picturesque streams which abounded in the new continent. There were no considerable number of these Holland emigrants who came into Delaware county. The lands were opened up to settlement too late to take advantage of the Holland period of New York history. This period ended in 1664 when the Dutch possessions in. America were by treaty transferred to England. After that time a few emigrants came from Holland to New York, and the only Dutch pioneers into Delaware county came from the older settlements of the same nationality in other parts of the colony.
The great mass of the early settlers in Delaware county were from New England. They had already learned that the bleak hills where they had at first made their homes were by no means the fertile and productive regions they had anticipated. From the earliest times there was a continuous stream of emigration from the colonies and states of New England, first into eastern New York, then into western New York, and still later into Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and farther west. There was a time, just subsequent to the Revolutionary war, when many of these restless and adventurous New Englanders sought homes near the headwaters of the Susquehanna and the Delaware rivers. The immense town of Franklin which at its organization contained thirty thousand acres of land was largely settled by New Englanders. Sluman Wattles the first settler came thither from Connecticut in 1785 accompanied by his brothers and sisters, and followed by numerous friends who rapidly built up a thriving and intelligent community. The town of Walton was a part of Franklin until 1797, and it too was largely settled by families of New England origin. Dr. Platt Townsend came hither from Dutchess county and brought with him a number of friends from Long Island who like himself had first migrated from Connecticut. This auspicious beginning led many other New England families who were seeking new homes to come into the valleys of the Delaware and the Susquehanna.
Another notable company of colonists came in 1789 consisting of twenty heads of families and two single men from Fairfield county, Connecticut. They were exploring the wilderness in search of a suitable place in which to settle. They came from Catskill and after a long journey reached the head waters of the West branch of the Delaware. Here they found a friend in an old settler named Inman, who aided them to find lands on which they could settle. Part of them located in the present town of Roxbury, which then was the town of Stamford the others found homes in what still bears the name of Stamford in Rome's brook. This has continued to be a most thrifty and prosperous settlement,* and to this day bears the marks of the pioneers who founded it.
(*The names of this company are given in Gould's History of Delaware County as follows: Josiah Patchin, Captain Abraham Gould, Colonel John Hubble, Aaron Rollins, Isaac Hubble, Talcott Gould, Isaac Gould, George Squires, Walter and Seth Lyon, John Polly, Stephen Adams, Peter and Ebon Jennings, Joseph Hill, and one by the name of Gibson. The two unmarried men were David Gould and David Squires. See p. 197.)
The Scotch immigration into Delaware county was principally of a later date. A few came to the region about the time of the Revolution. John More was a Scotchman who came into the country and founded Moresville in 1786. Kortright, so named from Lawrence Kortright who purchased a patent of twenty-two thousand acres from Colonel Harper, was settled principally by immigrants from the north of Ireland and from Scotland. The patent was purchased in 1770 and the settlement, began from that date. But the great mass of the settlers came in during the first twenty years of the present century.
Andes received a large contingent of Scotch immigrants. These were not however the first settlers, who were of Dutch ancestry and came from the Hudson river counties. But a large number of Scotch families came in at various times and settled the Cabin Hill region and some of the valleys towards Bovina. It was this same movement which led many of the same nationality to invade the rough regions of Bovina. They had been preceded in this movement by Elisha B. Maynard a New Englander, who was the first settler, in 1792. But the hardy Scotch crowded into the lands on the headwaters of the Little Delaware, and made the little town, when it was organized in 1820, almost their own. The town of Delhi in like manner contains many families who by ancestry are Scotch. This is especially true of the mountainous region rising from the Little Delaware on the southwest. The section is still called the Scotch mountains from the fact that the greater part of it was settled by Scotch families. It will be observed that in all these settlements of the Scotch, they have chosen the hills and uplands in preference to the fertile valleys. This was partly owing to the fact that they came into the county at a later date when the richer lands along the rivers had been already taken up. But, besides this, and besides their general poverty which led them to select cheap lands, we must attribute their choice of hilly lands to their predilections founded upon the clear mountains from which they came, and for which they retained such fond memories.
It may be said in conclusion that wherever they settled the Scotch proved most thrifty and successful farmers. They were without exception intelligent and religious and lost no time in providing for themselves and their children churches and schoolhouses, such as they had been accustomed to in their old home. As a consequence no parts of the county are more prosperous and progressive than those that have been settled by the Scotch and which are still occupied by their frugal and industrious descendants. Index to Centennial History of Delaware County
Wilmington: Wilson & Heald, 1846. Octavo. Item #026083
312 pages, four plates, 2 plans, folding detailed map at end showing the settlements of the Dutch and Swedes. Not only was this the first history of Delaware but Ferris resolved problems on some of the troublesome names. The name of the island was called Matineconk or Tiniconk, he goes on to note the changes and the development of the first regular trail. He then shows how the settlements of the Swedes developed (note the excellent folding map) and the role of William Penn and then he goes into great detail on the ecclesiastical affairs of the Swedish Church. Just as the rise of Yellow Fever devastated Philadelphia in 1793, even so it was the case in Wilmington. The errata is on the verso of page xi giving the reader the most complete and accurate early history of the state. A very nice copy bound in publisher's brown embossed cloth, spine lettering gilt, some light scattered foxing to plates, text very clean with just a hint of scattered foxing. light wear to corners, previous owner's name in pencil. [Howes F97].
The First State (Official)
Delaware was the first state to ratify the United States Constitution in 1787. There is only one First State and Delaware is it.
"The First State" became the official State nickname on May 23, 2002 following a request by Mrs. Anabelle O'Malley's First Grade Class at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School.
The Diamond State
This nickname for Delaware is echoed in the State Flag. The buff colored diamond serves as a frame for the state Coat of Arms. This nickname originated with Thomas Jefferson who compared Delaware to a diamond small but very valuable. According to the Delaware Government Information Center, Thomas Jefferson described Delaware as ". a 'jewel' among states due to its strategic location on the Eastern Seaboard."
The Blue Hen State
This historical nickname, sometimes Blue Hen Chicken State, originated during the Revolutionary War. According to W.A. Powell's History of Delaware, 1928, the story traces back to a Captain Caldwell from Kent County who carried with him a pair of fighting game cocks. These chickens, descendents of a famous Blue Hen, were well known in Kent County for their superior fighting qualities. It is said that upon seeing these game cocks fight, one soldier cried "We're sons of the Old Blue Hen and we're game to the end" comparing the fighting prowess of the chickens to the fighting prowess of the Delaware soldiers. These regiments from Kent County became known as "Blue Hen's Chickens." This name was soon applied state wide. In 1939, the Blue Hen Chicken was adopted as Delaware's official State Bird.
The Peach State
In the 1500s, the Spanish brought peaches to Delaware. By the 1600s, peaches were so plentiful in the state that farmers used them to feed their pigs. Supported by the Delaware Railroad in the early nineteenth century, Delaware became the leading producer of peaches in the United States. Almost 6,000,000 baskets of peaches were shipped to market in 1875, Delaware's peak production year. Many problems beset peach farmers throughout the latter part of the century. The peach blight, called the "yellows" forced the collapse of the industry and, in the early 1900s, many peach farmers faced bankruptcy.
The Corporate Capital
Delaware has been called the "Corporate Capital" because so many corporations have incorporated in the state because of its business-friendly law. According to the Delaware Division of Corporations (2002), more than 308,000 companies are incorporated in Delaware. This includes 60% of the Fortune 500 and 50% of the companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
A new nickname developed to promote the state's contributions to the nation and its natural beauty.
Refers to the first permanent settlement in Delaware in the present day Wilmington. Delaware was under Swedish rule from 1638 to 1655. The first Swedish settlement was at "The Rocks," on the Christina River, near the foot of Seventh Street. The Christina River was named after the young queen of Sweden as was the fort that was built.
Uncle Sam's Pocket Handkerchief
This obscure nickname probably refers to the small size of Delaware.
Delaware has also been called "The Chemical Capital" and the "Home of Tax Free Shopping."
Settlement and Exploration
Some judgments can be made on the valley from Fremont’s descriptions, from the experience of the Mormon pioneers, and from later explorations such as those by Howard Stansbury and John Wesley Powell. The deposits dropped by Lake Bonneville and by mountain streams provided fertile soil for Euro-mountain streams provided fertile soil for Euro-American agriculture, and the growing season proved ample for temperate region crops. Abundant native grasses provided feed for herds of cattle and horses. Clay beds supplied adobe for their early building, and sufficient trees grew in the mountains and canyons to provide lumber for later construction. The nearby mountains also husbanded sufficient water for agricultural, manufacturing, domestic, and commercial activities. The people found ample supplies of minerals such as salt and coal. In addition, because the Utah settlements were at the crossroads of the principal overland routes to California, the Wasatch and Oasis Fronts became an increasingly attractive commercial location.
However, contrary to another bit of folklore, the Mormons did not tame an uninhabited or unexplored wilderness. Since the time of Rivera, Dominguez, and Escalante, the Spanish and Mexicans had explored and traded in the region. The Mountain Men’s rendezvous had been held here even before forts were built by Robidoux and the Taos Trappers. Fremont and others had described the region. Miles Goodyear had settled Fort Buenaventura at Ogden, probably the first continuously occupied site in the Great Basin.
On July 26, a group of pioneers exploring in southern Salt Lake Valley met a mounted party of about twenty Utes who wanted to trade with them. Shoshonis from the north and Gosiutes from the south and west also frequented the Salt Lake Valley. In the fall, the pioneer party that remained in the valley found that the Gosiutes loved to bathe in the mineral waters of warm springs north of the city. Moreover, the Gosiutes taught John Taylor and other Mormons to harvest sego lily and other roots and sunflower seeds and to make a meal and cakes of ground crickets mixed with honey. The instruction in harvesting roots came in handy during the winter and early spring of 1848 when food was scarce, but the cricket cakes never seem to have tempted the palates of Euro-Americans.
Though the Mormons traded with and learned from the Indians, they also disrupted Native American life. They affixed their permanent settlements to Native American lands and carried diseases against which the Indians had little immunity. The Gosiutes who came to warm springs in the fall suffered from measles, and other Indians died from smallpox. Even though the Indians already inhabited the region, the Mormons did not recognize their title to the land. Brigham Young told the settlers that they must neither buy nor sell land, insisting that the land belonged to the Lord and that it could only be distributed by the priesthood and then only on principles of stewardship. Since The Book of Mormon tells the Mormons that the Indians belong to the House of Israel, they expected the Native Americans to convert to Mormonism and join them as stewards in building God’s kingdom.
As they went about the task of building their new kingdom, the pioneers essentially faced three problems: first, they had to establish a base settlement for growing crops and building homes for themselves and those who followed second, they wanted to find other sites for towns for the thousands who would follow and third, they needed to make arrangements to guide the remaining Saints from Winter Quarters and Kanesville to Utah.
Understanding the task ahead of them, they immediately began to plow and irrigate farms, cut timber and make adobes, and build temporary housing. Even before Young had entered the valley, Orson Pratt and his party had begun plowing and planting in the easily worked sandy loam, and they dammed City Creek and began to irrigate the newly planted fields. Mormon missionaries had seen irrigation in Italy and the Middle East, and members of the Mormon Battalion had watched the Mexicans and Pueblos irrigate in New Mexico and California, so they understood how to dam streams and channel water in ditches to irrigate the crops. Even though they had started very late in the season, the Mormons continued planting crops throughout the remainder of July and into August. Crews built a road up City Creek Canyon to reach trees to supply lumber for homes, barns, and fences. Establishing a fort for protection against the Indians at the site of Pioneer Park near Third South and Third West, they constructed twenty-nine log cabins. Since trees were scarce and expensive to harvest, they located deposits of clay, opened pits, and manufactured adobes from which they build most of their homes.
Shortly after Young arrived, the Saints began to lay out Salt Lake City, using a pattern that they would follow in subsequent settlements. Commencing at the southeast corner of Temple Square—currently South Temple and Main Street—where Orson Pratt established the base line and principal meridian for subsequent surveys in most of Utah, the pioneers marked out the city in ten-acre blocks. Brigham Young said that he wanted to be able to turn a span of oxen around without backing them up, so they left room for streets to be forty-four yards wide.
Since they planned a community for Saints rather than a subdivision for speculators, they subdivided the blocks into one-and-a-quarter-acre town lots. The leaders followed Joseph Smith’s plat of the City of Zion rather loosely and invested Salt Lake City with a suburban character. Each resident owned a town lot, and using the New England and European pattern, they situated the large farms outside the city. On their lots in the city, the people built barns, sheds, wallows, and coops for domestic animals, and they planted vegetable, fruit, and flower gardens. They dug ditches to coax the mountain streams down each side of the street so the people could divert water for irrigation and household use.
To add to the information they already had about this region, the Mormons sent out several exploring parties. Brigham Young led a party on a circuit around the Salt Lake Valley in late July Albert Carrington took two others to the Point of the Mountain in southern Salt Lake Valley, near the present site of the Utah state prison and Jesse C. Little, Samuel Brannan, and James Brown led a contingent northward along the valleys near the Great Salt Lake into the Bear River Valley. Brannan and Brown then turned west to California while Little threaded his way through the Bear River gorge into Cache Valley in northern Utah. Later in the year, Parley P. Pratt led a party south into Utah Valley, westward across the divide into Cedar Valley, southwestward into Rush Valley, and northward to Tooele Valley before returning around the north end of the Oquirrhs to Salt Lake City.
In late August, Brigham Young and a large party consisting of all the Twelve, except Parley P. Pratt and John Taylor, who had not yet reached the valley, left for Council Bluffs to prepare for the succeeding season of immigration. Young chose John Smith, the uncle of Joseph Smith, as stake president to govern the settlement in his absence. Smith exercised both ecclesiastical and civil authority with two counselors and a high council of twelve. In general, all those in the valley, including Pratt and Taylor after they arrived, recognized the authority of Smith and his colleagues in civil affairs.
Settlers continued to pour into the valley throughout the summer and fall of 1847. By winter, nearly 2,000 persons had reached Salt Lake City. Some 16,000 remained in Kanesville and Winter Quarters, but most of them joined the others in Utah by 1853.
The Cushetunk Settlement
In the early 1750s, North America was still mostly an uncivilized place, and while open warfare between the British and the French in their struggle to control the new continent was still a few years away, the growing tension between the two great powers and the unhappiness of the displaced Native American tribes made it a hostile place, as well.
While the upper Delaware valley was still a rugged frontier wilderness, western Connecticut was becoming overpopulated and farmland there was becoming scarce. Some of the Connecticut residents who were feeling squeezed out of their home colony began to form companies for the purpose of purchasing lands elsewhere. The Susquehanna Company, formed in 1754, was one such group, consisting of about 600 men from what would become the Nutmeg state. These men purchased from the Iroquois confederacy a large tract of land along the Susquehanna River, paying the Natives mostly with whiskey.
Another group, calling itself the Delaware Company, and led by hardy men named Skinner and Thomas and Tyler, purchased of the same Iroquois nations a tract of land adjacent to the Susquehanna purchase and running eastward to the Delaware River. By 1757, this group had formed a small settlement on the new property. The place became known as Cushetunk.
Within a few years, the Delaware Company was soliciting additional settlers through a prospectus that claimed they had established three separate communities, each extending ten miles along the Delaware River and eight miles westward. These new communities consisted of thirty cabins, three log houses, a grist mill and a saw mill. Because of the hostile nature of the frontier at the time, Cushetunk was surrounded by a stockade for protection, and looked every bit as much a fort as it did a peaceful community.
The protection of the fortification was largely unneeded until the uprising of the Delawares following the death of the elderly sachem and self-proclaimed king, Teedyuscong under mysterious circumstances in April of 1763. Avenging war parties under the command of Teedyuscong’s son, Captain Bull, swooped through the Wyoming Valley and into the Delaware Valley, attacking every settlement along the way. The riverfront community at Ten Mile River was destroyed, and the 22 or so inhabitants massacred. The warriors then made their way upriver to Cushetunk, at one time a revered place where their ancestors had held green-corn dances and dog festivals, and ballgames, and where, according to some legends, their sainted chieftain Tammanend, or Tammany, had spent much of his life.
The Delaware under Captain Bull had every intention of destroying Cushetunk and vanquishing those living there just as they had done downriver, but the stockade made their task a bit more difficult. The Cushetunk settlers caught sight of the marauders as they approached, and many were able to gather inside the blockhouse. Two of the men, Moses Thomas and Jedidiah Willis, were killed by the Delawares before they could enter the fortification, and that left only one man, Ezra Witter, in defense of the settlement. Fortunately for Witter, he had the assistance of a number of strong, capable women who managed to keep their heads as the war party gathered outside.
The women were armed with muskets and under Witter’s direction fired at the opportune time, killing one of the war party and intimidating the others by convincing them that the stockade was well defended. Witter’s deception proved fortuitous, and the raiding party left without further incident, taking their lone casualty with them.
The upper Delaware remained a hostile place for another few decades. One historian has described the area as it existed as late as 1779, when the Revolutionary War Battle of Minisink was fought just north of what is today Barryville, as “a howling wilderness.” “There was not a wilder, lonelier place on the whole frontier,” Isabel Thompson Kelsay writes in “Joseph Brant: Man of Two Worlds,” “a place where wolves gathered by night but men were seldom seen.” Still, the stockade that was Cushetunk was never put to the test again.