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Little Creek Hundred, Kent County, Delaware

Early Settlements     Assessment List, 1785 Large Landowners, 1816
Churches Roads Schools
Towns & Villages .. Leipsic

This hundred lies on the Delaware Bay and originally extended westward between Little Creek and Little Duck Creek to the Maryland line. Its limits were reduced to form a part of Kenton Hundred by act of Assembly, February 3, 1869, when all that part lying west of the Delaware Railroad was made a part of Kenton Hundred, thus making Little Creek the smallest hundred in the county, embracing in its limits about fifty-three square miles and a population in 1880 of one thousand eight hundred and seventy-eight.

A large portion of the hundred, where it is located on the bay, is marsh land. Various efforts have been made to drain and reclaim the marsh land, but they have not been successful. The most ambitious and costly enterprise was that undertaken by Judge Jacob Stout and Chief Justice Thomas Clayton, on Feb. 2, 1818; they obtained an act from the General Assembly granting them Kent Island, upon condition that they would reclaim it. Dykes were erected and canals cut, and after five years of labor and an expenditure of 40,000 dollars the land was in excellent condition for tillage; but in 1830 a strong easterly storm swept everything before it and reduced the island to its original condition of marsh land. Back of this low district the land is exceedingly fertile and has been brought by good farming to a high state of cultivation. Wheat, corn and tomatoes are produced in large quantities. The Delaware Railroad, running down the west side of the hundred, furnishes transportation for the farm products. In former times it was contemplated to establish a railroad from Dona Landing to form a highway between the North and South. The Philadelphia and Norfolk Transportation Company was chartered on February 9, 1825, to make a through connection from the North to Norfolk, by running a steamboat from Philadelphia to Dona. From Dona passengers were to be taken by way of Dover to Seaford, where they would take the steamboat to Norfolk. In a few years the company failed and Dona lapsed into a sleep until 1848, when the steamboat "Zephyr" was run from Philadelphia to connect with the Peninsula line of mail-coaches. Hepburn S. Benson kept a hotel at Dona from 1848 to 1852. The stage and boat lines were abandoned when the Delaware Railroad was completed and nothing remains but the marshes to show this formerly famous stopping place of Dona.

Early Settlement

One of the first tracts laid out in the territory now Little Creek Hundred was called "York." It contained six hundred acres, and was warranted to William Stevens, of Maryland, April 13, 1676. It was sold by him in December, 1696, to John Richardson, for twenty thousand pounds of tobacco. It is described as being near Little Creek, and a portion of it now bears the name "York Seat." A part of this land and an adjoining tract came into the possession of Adam and Richabel Mott, about 1750. On January 1,1759, Richabel Mott, "out of love and goodwill," gave half an acre of land, situate on the west side of the tract called "York," to the Society of the Church of England and to the Presbyterians, for the use of a school for the education of the youth of either of the societies. The property was vested in John Brinckloe and Richard Mott, vestrymen of the Parish of St. Mary, and John Miller, Presbyterian minister at Dover, and their successors as trustees. Richard Mott was the oldest son of Richabel Mott, and succeeded to a part of the estate.

Manlove Hayes, on January 10, 1818, bought two hundred acres of the York tract, which in 1785 was owned by Jacob Emerson, and has held it ever since, while another portion is now owned by Dr. Emanuel Stout, who is also proprietor of the White Oak survey, originally taken up by John Richardson. A successor to Richardson in the property was Eleazer McComb, who built the mansion-house.

A tract of land called "Willing Brook," lying a short distance west from and including "Cowgill's Corner," was taken up by John Richardson and surveyed April 18, 1676, containing two thousand acres. A month later he installed Thomas Crampton as his tenant, who was to have half the income and increase of the property as compensation for his service as farmer. Richardson engaged to bring to the plantation three hundred apple trees, and Crampton was to set them out and care for them for three years. Richardson bought the Indian right to the land on September 20, 1676, of the Indian chief Patocoque. The consideration was "three motch-coates, having received four yards of frize and a half yard buttons and thread to the value of two of them, and one motch-coat more to be paid to me, the said Patocoque, or to Mahoxy, my brother." At the close of the deed and before the signature Patocoque wrote: "Forgot. I doe acknowledge to have received eight bottles of rum as part of satisfaction."

John Stevens, of Dorchester County, Maryland, disputed the title to this land, and August 5, 1679, Richardson petitioned the commissioners of Dorchester County. He recited that John Stevens ''hath by violence and force of arms turned the said Crampton out of doors, together with his wife and family, etc" This issue was brought before the Sussex County Court in December, 1679. A letter was read from Edward Cantwell, surveyor, dated December 10, 1679, denying that he ever gave power to Thomas Philips to grant land, nor did he give John Richard-son a warrant for more than three hundred acres, and that he (Cantwell) afterwards met Philips, who said Richardson "had threatened to beat him if he did not lay out such a quantity of land." The tract in dispute is described as being on the south side of a branch (Muddy Branch) of Duck Creek, adjoining the land of William Stevens, who then owned "York." The case between Stevens and Richardson was in litigation several years. At the court, held in February, 1680, at Whorekill, the jury found for Richardson, "being he is the first settler to have right to the same he hath seated." Stevens appealed to the Governor and Council at New York, but there is no record of their disposition of the case.

John Stevens, in 1680, had seated Samuel Stites on a tract of land, as the deed recites, ''upon near Little Creek, in the Whoorekill precinct," and on July 7, 1680, Stites appeared before the court and deposed that "about April 3 last John Richardson came to his house and demanded him to give him possession; that if he did not he would send him to prison, and further that Richardson had brought men servants to take possession, and so, through fear, he gave possession and went away."

This land was probably "Willingbrook," as there appears no other in dispute. John Stevens owned other land, however, in the hundred, and in 1715 sold part of one of the tracts to John Marim. In 1747 "Willingbrook" was owned, in part at least, by Peter Galloway, who, on February 11th of that year, sold one hundred and eighty acres of it to Adam Mott, and two hundred acres to Richabel Mott. In this deed it is mentioned that the land formerly belonged to John Richardson, who bought of James Sherwood, the latter having bought it from Jehosaphat Holland. At the same time Richabel Mott bought land formerly owned by Joseph Custan on Herring Branch, near the "York" tract, and one hundred acres of the latter tract, adjoining the property of William Morton and Samuel Berry. Mott sold part of this land on May 27, 1763, to Gouverneur Emerson, and on May 6, 1767, Emerson sold it to Thomas Irons.

Henry Stevens (a grandson of John Stevens) in 1776 had acquired, by purchase and inheritance, nearly all the land south of Muddy Branch to the road to Dona Landing, including "Willingbrook."

Benjamin F. Hamm, who resides on a farm called "Pleasanton Abbey" (a part of this old tract), is a grandson of Henry Stevens. On this farm Henry Stevens' old residence still stands. Mrs. J. P. Du Hamel, a granddaughter of Henry Stevens, owns a portion of the same land. Other owners of the old "Willingbrook" tract are Dr. Henry Bidgely and Daniel C. Cowgill, of Dover; Rev. J. B. Merritt and Peter E. Lowber, member of the House of Representatives in 1887, who lives in a fine old mansion built by Samuel Price in the summer of 1800.

John Stevens, who had the dispute with John Richardson, took up a tract of thirteen hundred acres, called "London," on which a part of the Little Creek Landing is now built. It adjoins "Simpson's Choice." "London" was patented to John Stevens by Governor Andross, and was sold on September 11, 1699, by his sons, John and William W.

William Morton and William Rodney, who obtained another patent October 9, 1701, divided "London" equally the same day, and Morton named his portion "Tiverton." "London" is now mainly owned by D. Mifflin and Thomas W. Wilson, George Parris and Hughett Knight.

"Chipping Norton" and "Just Saved" are two properties north of "Willingbrook." The former was granted to Simon Irons in 1679, and is laid down as on Muddy Branch, and containing eight hundred acres. In 1717 it belonged to David Morgan, who left it to his son Matthew. It was then called "Chipping Norton" or "Fiddler's Neck." Thomas Green, of Duck Creek Cross-Roads, sold it August 25, 1752, to Richard Sanders. David Pleasanton owns a large part of these estates, and his farm bears the old name of "Chipping Norton." Other owners are Rev. J. B. Merritt and Rev. John P. Du Hamel.

Timothy Hanson, April 19, 1715, took up a tract adjoining and west of "London" containing three hundred and sixty-five acres, and called the "Exchange," which is now owned in part by Dr. Henry Ridgely.

John Brinckloe, a member of the Assembly in 1683, took up several tracts of land on Herring's Branch, which, in 1760, were owned by one of his descendants, also a John Brinckloe; and on which a manor house was built. The property adjoined "Brookbay," an estate of one thousand acres, warranted January 15, 1675, to Francis Whitwell. Simon Irons became a very large proprietor in the neighborhood, owning at one time, after 1685, "Chipping Norton," "Just Saved" and "Whitwell."

His descendants inherited the property, and the name is yet known in the county. Thomas Irons, a son, in 1767, bought part of the "York" and "Willingbrook" lands. "Brinckloe's Chance" is now owned by Alexander Laws, J. B. Fennimore and Isaac Register.

The place known as "Cowgill's Corners," near Little Creek Landing, was, prior to 1760, in the possession of Joshua Clayton, who, by will January 21, 1761, devised it to his granddaughter, Eunice Osborne. He had previously conveyed to his daughter Sarah, widow of Thomas Cowgill, eighty-eight acres, a part of "Willingbrook," May 11, 1750. The other tract was known as "Higham's Ferry," on which was the mansion house. Eunice Osborne left the property to her children, Elizabeth, wife of Henry Cowgill; Mary, widow of Israel Asten; Eunice, wife of Peter Edmonson; and Tabitha, wife of Jabez Jenkins. The latter sold to Henry Cowgill, January 3, 1794 one undivided quarter-interest in the lands of Eunice Osborne. He settled at the Corner, which took his name. Jabez Jenkins, November 12, 1711, bought of Richard Richardson one hundred and eighty-eight acres of land, a part of a large tract called ''St. Andrew's," adjoining the land of John Clayton, and which was northwest of "London." This tract of "St. Andrew's" is now owned by D. Mifflin Wilson. Jabez Jenkins' land passed to his son, Timothy, and from him to his son Jabez, who, August 7, 1815, sold it to Sarah, wife of John Turner and Jonathan W. Mifflin.

"Mount Pleasant," embracing three hundred acres, between "Higham's Ferry" and "Chipping Norton," was warranted, February 25, 1691, to Francis Simons and Elizabeth Irons, who disposed of one hundred and twenty acres to David Morgan and the remainder to Joshua Clayton May 12, 1720. This tract became the property of Ralph Needham, and was divided between the heirs in 1770. William Seward owns part of it at present. "Betty's Fortune" was taken up by Isaiah Wharton, and contained between three and four hundred acres, and lay north of "Simpson's Choice" and northeast of York tract, also adjacent. April 29, 1775, two hundred acres of it was sold to Garrett Sipple. The tract is in a large part now owned by the Wards, and was formerly owned by William Walker.

In 1768 Isaiah Wharton took up three hundred and seventy-five acres, including a number of ponds between "Betty's Fortune" and the bay, and adjoining the former on the northeast and northwest of Taylor's Gut. There were nine hundred and ninety-seven acres of upland and marsh taken up on surveys of 1734 and 1748 to Waitman Sipple, and in 1768 they were surveyed to his son, Waitman, Jr. North of "Betty's Fortune" to Herring Branch is now owned by the estate of Dr. Robert H. Clark, of Milford.

"Simpson's Choice," lying on Little Creek, east of "London," was taken up by William Simpson. About 1680 it was assigned to John Brinckloe, and passed respectively by arrangement to John Edmondson and John Richardson, Sr. The latter, by deed, conveyed it to John Richardson, Jr., who, September 7, 1691, sold part to Thomas Clifford. John Richardson, Jr., also sold part to Robert and Lawrence Porter and part to Samuel Berry. John Hann, in 1784, become the owner of that portion which had belonged to John Bell. The road from Little Creek to Leipsic was the dividing line of this property and "London." The land is now held by Captain David Montgomery, Captain William Blackson and Samuel W. Hall.

April 3, 1760, a warrant was granted to John Brinckloe fur land and salt marsh, containing four thousand acres, on the north side of Herring Branch which was part of a large tract called the "Addition," formerly surveyed to Simon Irons, but which survey and record was lost. John Brinckloe died before the survey was made, January 15, 1763. It included several old surveys, among which was "Brookbay." This survey has finally come into the possession of J. L. Cowgill, Dr. W. W. Parvis, J. Alexander Fulton, Alexander Laws, Hughett Knight, of Dover, and Abram and James Moore.

A tract of four acres, now owned by T. K. Taylor, near Leipsic, was sold, November 19, 1757, to Jonathan Osborne. Forty square feet of this was reserved as a graveyard, where "Emmanuel Stout's daughter Sally is buried."

An old tract called "Belle's Endeavour" was owned by Christopher Southey in 1716. This land was sold by Thomas Green (son of George Green, who owned large lots in Duck Creek Hundred), November 15, 1774, to William Barnes, who the same day passed it to Daniel Needham. It is now owned in part by A. N. Harper and J. A. Nicholson. A portion came into possession of Elias Naudain, who, in 1830, owned Naudain's Landing, the first fast land above Leipsic. Naudain had a granary here and kept a store at the first bend of the road, above Leipsic, in front of his residence. The granary and store were abandoned in 1848, when the land came into possession of the Nicholsons. Thomas Walker conveyed to Elisha Snow one hundred acres of land February 16, 1716, on the south side of the southwest branch of Duck Creek, part of a large tract laid out for Thomas Wilson, and called "Darby Town," which was later conveyed to Evan Jones. Portions of this tract are owned by A. N. Harper, J. T. York and J. A. Nicholson.

"The Wheel of Fortune" is an old tract on Wilson's Branch, now owned by N. Farrow and J. A. Nicholson. It was conveyed March 20, 1738, to John Chance.

The following persons are on the Assessment List of Little Creek Hundred for the year 1785.

In 1816 the following were Large Landowners in Little Creek Hundred, and owned the number of acres stated.

Roads

The road leading Arom Little Creek to Leipsic is a continuation of that from Dover to the Landing, and is the oldest in the hundred. It is mentioned as far back as 1714 in old deeds. The road from Cheswold (Moorton) was laid out in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and when Leipsic was the great shipping point for wheat, it was the highway for wagons from Maryland loaded with grain. The State Road passes through this hundred, entering it at Hoffecker's mill and leaving it near the head of Dyke Branch, on the farm owned by the heirs of Hon. Charles Brown. The road to Dona was laid out at the time of the Philadelphia and Norfolk Transportation Company's existence.

Churches

The Friends early residing in Little Creek Hundred attended meeting at Duck Creek and were part of that society; but on the 22d of Eleventh Month, 1710-11, "Friends of Little Creek in Kent County, taking into consideration their great distance from Duck Creek, Requested of this meeting the privilege of having a meeting of worship every first day among themselves, the Reasonableness of which proposal being considered by this meeting, it is allowed them, with this caution, that they be careful in attending as many of them as they conveniently can, the meeting of worship at Duck Creek next before the Monthly Meeting." At a Quarterly Meeting held 17th of Third Month, 1714, it was agreed that Little Creek Meeting be ''henceforward as a meeting of worship distinct from Duck Creek, of which it hath hitherto been a part." A meeting-house was built on land which, on September 12, 1771, was deeded by Eleazer Badger to Samuel Hanson, Thomas Hanson, Ezekiel Cowgill, John Cowgill, Samuel Hanson, Jr., and Henry Cowgill, for that purpose. This meeting-house was presently abandoned, and on May 6, 1802, Jabez Jenkins sold one hundred and fifty-seven square perches of land to Daniel Clayton, Jonathan Cowgill and Samuel Price "in trust for the people called Quakers," on which the present meeting-house was erected. It was regularly used for religious purposes until about 1865, after which only occasional services were held. In January, 1888, it was sold, the last Quakers having disappeared from the hundred. Their old graveyard is still used for interments.

Bethel M. E. Church is a handsome brick building located on the State Road, one mile below Little Duck Creek. The first worshippers of this sect met in the house of Joseph Farrow, and a church was built in 1780. The old edifice retained the name of Farrow's until 1858, when it was rebuilt. In the original church the Farrows, Garrisons, Smiths, Boggs and Jeffersons, all old families, were influential members. Work was commenced on the present structure in 1853, and August 6, 1854, it was completed. Rev. Beverly Waugh, senior bishop of the M. E. Church at that time, preached the dedication sermon. Bishop Vaugh was a father-in-law of Charles M. Cullen, of Georgetown. The building is thirty-six by fifty feet, has a commodious lecture-room and two classrooms in the basement, and cost four thousand dollars. James T. Farson, of Philadelphia, formerly of this locality, was the architect, and Frieston & Fenimore the contractors. A graveyard is annexed. The church has always been supplied by the ministers from the Smyrna Circuit, and a list of them will be found in the article upon that circuit. The Quarterly Conferences of the circuit have met here frequently.

Manship African M. E. Church is located at Bishop's Corner, and was built about 1880. In 1876 a very neat building was erected, and the old name of Sutton's Chapel was changed to Manship Chapel, in honor of Rev. Andrew Manship.

Bell's Chapel, near Leipsic, was built in 1847 and belongs to the African M. E. Conference. The land was given by Eliza Bell. The building is only used occasionally on account of its dilapidated condition.

Schools

District No. 11 was the first to have a school in the hundred. An attempt was made as early as February 1, 1816, to create a school there. At that time an act passed the Legislature to raise one thousand dollars by lottery to "erect a school in Little Creek Neck and Hundred, near the village of Leipsic." Nothing came of this, however. At the in the centre of the district, on the road from Leipsic Nothing came of this, however. At the time of the passage of the school law the district contained all that land in the western part of the present hundred. The school building was opened in 1831 in an old Baptist Church which had been unused for years. In 1856 District 81 was erected out of this one, and the same year the two districts were consolidated, giving to the school a double appropriation. A new building was then placed on the site of the old. The first commissioners were William Keith, Francis B. Harper and Henry Taylor, the latter the first clerk. The early teachers were John A. Moore, Peter S. Ruth, John S. Furey, B. Evans, William Ruth, J. Flanigan, Louis B. Emory, Aquilla Thomas, M. J. Clark, Henry W. Draper, James P. Richardson and Thomas McClary, at this time a presiding elder in the M. E. Church of Philadelphia.

In 1886 there were two teachers, a graded school and one hundred and thirty scholars.

District 12, in 1829, was the largest in the county; the first school was opened in the Gun Swamp Church. In 1836 the present building was erected at Cowgill's Corners, and at that time it was considered the finest district school-house in the State. It has eight sides, is of brick and was called Pleasant Hill Academy. At the opening there were eighty-seven pupils and Wm. Clark was the first teacher. The other early teachers were Charles Kimmey, B. F. Chatam, George D. Manlove and Jeremiah Hunter. Among the early pupils were Rev. John P. Du Hamel ; J. H. Bateman, cashier of the First National Bank of Dover ; and David Burton, a prominent citizen and druggist of the same town. In 1886 there were sixty scholars attending.

At Denny's Cross-Roads the first school-house was erected in District 51. The old house, built in 1845, still stands, and in 1886 there were thirty-four scholars in attendance. A new building is to be put up shortly.

District 86 school-house is the Little Creek Landing School. The district was established in 1861, and was part of District 12 in this hundred and 14 in East Dover. The first school was in the blacksmith-shop still standing at the Landing. In 1865 a building was erected and Wm. D. Learned was the first teacher. The present building was erected in 1884 at a cost of five hundred dollars. District 128 was established in 1881 and consolidated with this district the same year. In 1886 there were two teachers, a graded school and ninety-four scholars.

District 83 was formerly a part of No. 11, and was established in 1859 and the building erected on Harris' (formerly Alston's) Branch, the same year. In 1886 a building was erected in Moorton and the school moved there. The first teachers were A. J. Ward, Wm. M. Smith, Adam D. Learned, Amanda D. Sevil. In 1886 there were eighty-three scholars.

District 111 was established in 1866 and was cut out of Nos. 11 and 83. A building was constructed in the centre of the district, on the road from Leipsic to Moorton, at a cost of one thousand dollars. The first teachers were George Spicer and Robert 0. P. Wilson. In 1886 there were forty scholars.

The White Oak Colored School was built in 1830, on the farm of Mrs. S. A. Sipple, then the property of Hon. Jacob Stout. It was burned down during the war, and upon its being rebuilt was again destroyed by fire. About four years ago it was rebuilt. Mrs. Sally Cowgill, a Friend's public speaker, and a sister of Hon. Jacob Stout, endowed the school and charged the cost on the farm, now owned by Peter Lowber. C. C. Babbitt, who owned the farm previous to Lowber, paid the annuity off.

Towns & Villages

Little Creek Landing

The important town of Little Creek Landing was laid out on the road dividing the tracts of "London" and "Simpson's Choice." A small stream that enters Little Creek near the landing runs nearly parallel with the road, leaving ten acres east of the stream and west of the road. This was conveyed on May 14, 1764, by May Bell (Hunter), to her children, Henry, John and Lucy Bell. A tavern and stone farm-house on the south end were assigned to Henry Bell. The tavern still stands, and Samuel Lowber lives in the house, which is owned by Captain Abram Nowell, of Dover. Next above was the tract of Lucy Bell, on which in later years the Methodist Church was built. John Bell opened a store and built a wharf and store-house on the west side of the road on the "London" tract about 1837. Capt. Robert Collins built another store in 1851, where the building of the Little Creek Canning Company now stands. Edward W. Wilson built the third store, which was bought soon after by Pennewill, Cowgill & Wilkinson, and later, about 1860, by Fox Brothers, who, in the fall of 1863, sold to Heverin Hobson. This store was continued by W. H. Hobson until January, 1865. In 1868 Stephen M. Collins succeeded Mr. Heverin. This firm continued until 1874, when the present proprietor, J. Thomas Lowe, took charge.

Little Creek is one of the most prosperous towns in the State. Its main business is dealing in oysters. Over fifty thousand dollars is invested in this industry alone. The State oyster-beds are west of this hundred, and the landing and Port Mahon, two miles distant, are the important points for this trade. Port Mahon was at one time the best shipping point on the bay. As many as ten vessels have been loading there at 'a time. There never were any houses there except the light-house, which was built in 1830. William Smith was one of the keepers.

These oyster-beds are under the protection of the State, and a police-boat constantly patrols them. They extend from a point drawn to an east line of Mahon's Light to Cross Ledge, to a line drawn to the mouth of Mispillion Creek. The oysters are first planted above the Landing, and then bedded for cultivation in the lower waters. Seventy-five boats are engaged in taking them and in transportation to market. Capt. David Montgomery was a pioneer in the business, and now each boat-owner leases from thirty to fifty acres of the beds. Fifty thousand bushels of grain and one thousand tons of marsh hay are shipped from the Lauding yearly.

This hay is used in making ropes and in packing goods. At present there are about three hundred and fifty inhabitants in the town.

The Gun Swamp Methodist Episcopal Church was situated about a mile from the Landing. A school was kept in the old church in 1832, and both white and colored children attended. The building went into decay, and in February, 1875, was moved into Little Creek Landing, and May 30th of the same year was repaired and opened for worship. In 1884 a new building was erected at a cost of three thousand five hundred dollars. There are at present twenty five members. The church was in the Dover Circuit until Dover was made a station in 1835, and was then annexed to Camden Circuit, and continued there until 1883, when it was made a station. It was annexed to Leipsic Circuit. The names of the ministers will be found in the articles upon the circuits, to which the church was attached.

The Little Creek Canning Company erected a building in 1873, but for the last few years it has not been in operation.

The town of Little Creek was made a post-office in 1868, with William Hobson as postmaster. He was succeeded by Martin Collins, and the latter by J. Thomas Lowe.

Kent County

Source: History of Delaware, 1609-1888, Volume I, by J. Thomas Scharf, L. J. Richards & Company, Philadelphia, 1888.

 
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