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Baltimore Hundred, Sussex County, Delaware

Early Settlements Assessment Roll, 1785 Churches
Industries   Schools
Villages - Roxanna - Selbyville ~ Ocean View

The right to the possession of Baltimore Hundred for nearly a century previous to 1775 was in dispute between Maryland and Delaware. In that year the boundary line was officially determined in favor of Delaware so far as this hundred was concerned. The land warrants issued before the settlement of the dispute were claimed to be in Worcester County, Maryland. The hundred is bounded on the north by Indian River Bay, south by Maryland, east by the Atlantic Ocean and west by Dagsborough Hundred. Early in the present century great quantities of salt were found along the coast. It was sold throughout the county and also shipped to Philadelphia, New York and other markets. About the same time ship-building was followed to a considerable extent on the southern banks of the Indian River for several years.

Early Settlements

Prior to the occupation, in 1682, by Penn, of the territory embraced in this hundred, a number of patents were issued by the Duke of York. The lower line of Penn's purchase was Fenwick's Island, then called Cape Henlopen. (The present cape bearing that name was then called Cape "Cornells," later "Inlopen.") A dispute arose between Penn and Lord Baltimore as to which cape was meant, in defining the boundaries of their provinces. William Penn ordered a surveyor to lay out a tract often thousand acres for a manor for the Duke of York, the location suggested being a "rich ridge'' st the head of Murderkill Creek, near the "Choptank Road." The manor, for some reason, was located on what is now Fenwick's Island, some miles from the situation originally designated. The warrant of survey bears date of March 4, 1688. The tract was not then an island, but many years ago a ditch was dug on its landward side which, through the action of the tide, has become a channel, fifty yards wide and fifteen feet deep, completely isolating it from the mainland. Fenwick's Island light-house was built in 1857, with a tower eighty feet high, and a revolving light, visible twenty miles at sea. The keepers have been John Smith, 1867; W. R. Hall, 1861; David M. Warrington, 1869; John Gum, 1878; the present keeper, John Bennett, was appointed in 1877.

In 1688, Matthew Scarborough was granted a tract of five hundred acres called "Middlesex," in the name of Charles, absolute Lord and Proprietary of the Provinces of Maryland and Avalon, Lord Baron of Baltimore. By the same authority in 1713 he took up another tract, "David's Lot," containing sixty-six acres, adjoining "Middlesex." The latter was surveyed in 1789 for David Hazzard. It afterwards came into possession of Adam Hall, at whose death it passed to John Hall, his son. Selby Evans and Elizabeth, his wife, the daughter of Hall, now live on the original tract.

William Hazzard, brother of David, took up a tract of fifty acres in 1747 called "Haphazard." "Middlesex," "David's Lot" and "Haphazard," include all the land lying south of Indian River Bay, north of the road leading to the beach. The village of Ocean View is located on one of these tracts. The Evans family, so numerous in this locality, are descendants of David Evans, a Presbyterian preacher, and a native of Wales, who came to this country with a colony of Welsh in 1704, and settled upon a tract of land in Pencader Hundred, New Castle County, known as the "Welsh Tract." He was one of the founders of the Presbyterian Church in that hundred in 1783. Later he moved to Pedee, North Carolina, where a colony had located. Some of his sons came to Baltimore Hundred, where they assisted in founding Blackwater Church.

Lemuel Evans, a native of Muddy Neck, represented the State of Texas in Congress about 1859. He afterwards became a judge of that State.

"Stockley's Adventure," containing three hundred and sixty acres, was taken up in 1738 by Avery Morgan. This parcel lies on the south side of Indian River. It passed successively to William Massey, John Roberts and Thomas Robinson. The latter bequeathed it to Miers B. and Thomas Steel. Their father, John Steel, now owns and lives on it.

"Pearson's Choice," one hundred and ninety-three acres, was taken up in 1754 by Thomas Pearson, and re-surveyed in 1760 for Thomas Wildgoose. The latter had three sons, Joseph, Robert and Jacob. Joseph took up a tract of two hundred acres, called "Summerfield," at the head of Assowoman Bay, on which he lived and died. Robert was born in 1757, on the original homestead. He married Leigh Taylor, to whom were born four sons and five daughters, John, Samuel, Robert and Jacob; Tabitha, Elizabeth, Sarah, Gracie and Mary. Each of the sons reached his seventy-fifth year. Robert and Samuel are now deceased; John emigrated to Logan County, Ohio, where he now resides, aged ninety-one years. Jacob was born at the old homestead in 1705; he now lives in Roxanna, engaged in business with his son Robert Wilgus.1

"Addition," a tract of two hundred and ninety-eight acres, was surveyed for Moses Dasey on a Maryland warrant, dated September 11, 1759. It embraced land taken up by him in 1719, situated in the backwoods from Indian River, west of Thomas Dasey's "Plantation." Moses also took up a tract called "Crooked Lott," on a warrant issued by John Penn, July 15, 1776, on the road leading from Cedar Branch to Cedar Neck. Thomas Dasey, Sr., also had property on the east side of Assowoman Bay, called "Fowl's Delight," which adjoined the tract "Cherry Bark." He had surveyed to him in 1725 a , tract called "Little Worth," which contained forty-two acres, together with forty-one acres of vacant land. This was resurveyed in 1777 for Thomas Aydelott.

"Jacob's Straggle" containing two hundred and eight acres, taken up by Jacob Gray, was resurveyed to John Aydelott, February 13, 1750. It was "on the west side of a creek issuing from the Indian River, and adjoining the former residence of Edward Clark" and "Evans' Venture."

Joshua Gibbons, July 7, 1776, had resurveyed a purchase of three hundred acres originally taken up by Philip Wingate. The same year he took up a tract of sixty acres called "Bald Eagle's Roost," and another called "Elbow Room Retreat," comprising one hundred and forty-six acres. This family were among the constituent members of the Old Sound Baptist Church.

A tract called "Young Man's Adventure," was surveyed to James Layton in 1776, which has since passed from the family.

All the lands taken up in Maryland patents were resurveyed by the surveyors of Penn's government in 1776. The following names are from the Assessment Roll of Baltimore Hundred in 1785, and show the land owners at that time:

Industries

January 24th an act was passed by the Legislature to enable William Derrickson, Richard Clark, Ebe Walter and James Fassett to erect a mill dam across Assawoman Creek, near "Sleep Point" at the head of the creek. For this purpose two acres on the north side and two on the south side were condemned. They erected a grist and saw-mill, which passed from them to William Derrickson and was operated by the latter until 1847, when it was abandoned. A steam saw-mill is now operated by Jacob Wilgus, who built it in 1855. The daily capacity is nine thousand feet.

The tracts first taken up by settlers are situated on the highest plane in the hundred. Outside of these choice parcel the land was low and swampy, and enterprises were consequently projected to drain this partially submerged territory. So well have they succeeded that the bottom-lands have become the most fertile corn-growing section of the hundred. Robert Burton was one of the first to undertake the work of reclamation, and from this beginning grew the organization of companies to carry on the enterprise with larger means. The Beaver Dam Ditch Company was incorporated February 28, 1865, with the following members: Nathaniel Tunnell, John Bennett, Kendall Rickards, David Godwin, William D. Layton, Thomas E. Hall, Ann M. West, Charles D. Bennett, James H. Godwin, Sarah Derrickson, John Bennett, John M. Taylor, Henry B. Murry, Isaac C. West and others. The work of this company in drainage has been extensive and beneficial.

The General Assembly has granted authority for the construction of a canal of seventy-two feet width and six feet deep from Jefferson Creek, the head of Little Assawoman Bay, to White's Creek, a branch of Indian River Bay. The proposed canal will lie entirely within Baltimore Hundred, and if constructed, will add thirteen miles of inland navigation to the water-courses between Chincoteague Inlet, Virginia, and Jefferson Creek.

Churches

Blackwater Presbyterian Church was built in 1767. In that year Charles Tennent, its first pastor, began his pastoral labors. He came of the family of that name which is celebrated in the annals of early Presbyterianism on this continent. His father was a pastor and teacher at the "Old Log College," which has since become the renowned and revered Princeton, and his brothers were among the organizers of the church at New Castle and of the Buckingham in Maryland. The elders of Blackwater Church with Mr. Tennent were Joseph Miller, Ebenezer Evans, John Evans, Wm. Tunnell, John Aydelott, Thomas Harnig and Thomas Wingate. Mr. Tennent was succeeded by James Wilson, son of Matthew Wilson, of Philadelphia. He, among others, supplied the pulpit until 1771, in which year Rev. Josiah Lewis was installed pastor. In 1774 Rev. John Rankin became pastor and preached for twenty consecutive years, until his death, in 1794. During Mr. Rankin's pastorate the following elders comprised the session: Jonathan Harvey, Enoch Scudder, William Evans, Joab Collins, Philip White, William S. Hall, Elihu Bredell and James Miller.

Rev. Chas. Wallace succeeded Mr. Rankin in 1794, and occupied the pulpit until 1803, when Rev. Stuart Williamson became pastor and continued six years. John Burton and others preached until 1812, when Charles Wallace returned and remained five years, being followed by Joseph Copeland and others. In 1821 Blackwater Church had become almost extinct. After a three years' pastorate, which was ended by death, Thomas Kennedy was succeeded in 1825 by Alexander Campbell. In 1831 the first session of elders had passed away. In 1839, Rev. I. H. K. Handy became pastor of what was called the United Churches of Buckingham, Blackwater and Laurel. The union was formed to insure a salary for a permanent pastor. Later the union was dissolved by the Buckingham congregation, which requested the exclusive services of Mr. Handy. H. C. Freis accepted the pastorate in 1841, and was succeeded in 1849 by C. H. Mustard, who, about 1851, withdrew to Lewes and Cool Spring Churches. The pulpit remained vacant until 1853. In that year I. W. K. Handy again occupied it, and having preached, two years, responded to a call from the First Presbyterian Church of Portsmouth, Virginia. William Graham in 1855 accepted the call to Blackwater. A year later the Ocean View Presbyterian Church was organized by the congregation of Blackwater, Mr. Graham preaching the dedicatory sermon in the newly built church.

In 1857 Mr. Graham was succeeded by C. H. Mustard, who, from old age, retired in 1866. Until 1871 there was no preacher in Blackwater or Ocean View Churches. From that year until 1878 Rev. H. J. Gaylord (now in Kansas) preached, being succeeded by Rev. J. B. Adams, after whom came John T. Foulk. Ocean View and Frankford Presbyterian Churches are branches of Blackwater Church.

The Sounds Baptist Church was the second Baptist Church in the State of Delaware, and one of the constituent churches of the Salisbury Association, formed in 1782, which the same year was united with the Philadelphia Association. In the fall of 1778, Rev. Elijah Baker came to the State from Virginia and began preaching. He was soon followed by Rev. Philip Hughes. Meetings were held at Broad Creek, Gravelly Branch, the head of the Sound and other places. The result of these meetings was many con-versions, and several churches were formed. The first was at the Sounds, and was organized August 12, 1779, with twenty-one members, viz.:

Mary Ake
Mary Bull
Mary Clark
Eliphaz Daze
Isaac Duncan
Sarah Duncan
Sarah Duncan, Jr.
Rachel Emson
Elizabeth Gibbins
Elizabeth Gibbins, Jr.
Jaen Gibbins
John Gibbins
John Gibbins Jr.
Jonathan Gibbins
Samuel Gibbins
Sarah Gibbins
Rhoda Hickma
Hannah Tull
John Tull
Thomas Wildgoose
Rose, a Negress

The meetings were held in the dwellings of John Tull and Thomas Wildgoose, and no house of worship was ever erected. By reason of emigration the church lost its members gradually and long since was abandoned. During the first thirteen years of its organization six persons were here schooled for the ministry. Their names were John, Samuel and Jonathan Gibbins, Eliphaz Dazey, Gideon Farrel and Edward C. Dingle.

The first ministers of this church were its founders, Revs. Baker and Hughes, who, in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, planted twenty-one churches.

On April 16, 1787, Rev. Jonathan Gibbins was ordained a pastor, and appointed to take charge of the Sounds Church. He also had the care of Broad Creek Church until they obtained a minister of their own. He was born in Broad Creek Hundred, Dec. 16, 1751.

The Old Sound M. E. Church is one of the oldest of that denomination in Sussex County. Freeborn Gar-retson preached in this section for several years, hold-ing services under the branches of a white oak which yet stands about a mile north of the present church, and at the head of Assawoman Bay. Speaking of the meetings held there, he says, in his diary: '' The work of the Lord broke out there, the people wept on every side, and after a sermon of three hours seemed fixed to the spot." It is a tradition that he felled the first tree that was used in the erection of the chapel which, with the aid of thirty converts, he built in 1784.

It was of hewed frame, and shingled on sides as well as roof. One acre of ground was purchased, for which twenty shillings were paid. The deed, bearing date of April, 1784, was granted to Trustees James Laws, John Aydelott, Solomon Evans, Arthur Williams, Andrew Williams, Ezekiel William, John Dier, William Powell and John Coe. William Powell was elected clerk. The deed contains the proviso "that the ministers preach no other doctrine than is contained in Rev. John Wesley's notes on the New Testament, and his four volumes of sermons.'' From the year of its erection until 1806, services were held without interruption. In that year a meeting of the trustees was held, at which it was decided to adjourn and die. This action was taken on account of the lack of money necessary to repair the chapel, which had become wholly unfit for use. In 1807, after ten days' notice, the congregation again convened, when the name was changed to Williams' Chapel. The trustees elected were Arthur Williams, Ezekiel Williams, William Rickards, William Powell, Thomas Evans, Robert Wildgoose and Isaac Rogers. The old church was repaired and again occupied. In 1828 it was again in need of repairs, and an appeal for subscriptions was made to "all charitable and well-meaning persons, friendly to the religion of Christ." A year later it was rebuilt, and services were held until 1876. At that time it was abandoned, and a new church erected about a mile southeast of the original site. It is yet occupied, and services are being held regularly.

Long's Chapel, M. E. (colored), was built in 1883. The land was donated by James Bishop to Trustees James Williams, George Bingle, Handy Selby, Arnold Purnell and John Hutchins. The chapel has now a membership of thirty persons.

Villages

Selbyville - Roxanna - Ocean View

This thriving little town lies near the line dividing Delaware from Maryland. While its territory was still under Maryland jurisdiction, one Matthew McCabe was a resident in the vicinity and a blacksmith. His principal business was the forging of plow-shares. He served as a soldier through the Revolution, and died of the small-pox in after years. He lived upon a tract of thirty acres called "Long Lot," which, in 1818, was resurveyed to Arthur McCabe. A year previous to that time Joseph Jena and Isaiah Long erected a saw-mill upon the Run at the place now known as Selby's Mill pond, which they conducted for many years and sold to Samuel Selby, who, in 1842, moved a store to the place from over in Maryland. Selby sold his store to William S. McCabe, the present owner, who, in 1860, built another store, which ranks third in the commercial interest of Sussex County.

Other stores were opened from time to time and have been kept respectively by Stephen Long, Job. Lay ton, William G. Davis, John D. McCabe, George W. Ivins and John Poole. In 1879 a saw-mill was moved to Selbyville by Messrs. Parker and Gannon from Wicomoco County, Maryland, and three years later removed to Williamsville, where it is now operated. The Selbyville "Steam Saw and Planing Mill," with a daily capacity of eight thousand feet, was erected in 1881, by E. J. Long, J. McNeill and H. Campbell.

W. S. McCabe & Son have erected a steam flour-mill, with a capacity of thirty barrels a day. In connection with this there is an elevator to facilitate the shipment of the surplus grain.

The post-office was established in 1845, with Josiah Selby as postmaster. He was succeeded by the following persons: Isaac McCabe, W. S. McCabe, E. M. McCabe, W. G. Davis, John W. Poole and the present official. Miss Annie Dukes.

Salem M. E. Church, at Selbyville, was organized by a congregation which first worshipped in the residence of David Murray. The first church building was erected about 1812 in a pine thicket near Sandy Branch and was also used as a school house. It was occupied until 1847, when the second church was built. This gave way in 1884 to the present build-ing, in the corner-stone of which are sealed the histories of its predecessors.

There are two public burial-grounds at the town, in which interments still take place. The oldest is the "Joseph Long," the first interment having taken place over a hundred years ago. The "Hickory Tree Graveyard" derives its name from the fact that the remains of Mary Campbell, oldest daughter of Benjamin, and the first person interred, lie under a hickory tree, which is still standing.

Wissahickon Tribe, I. O. R. M., (Improved Order of Red Men) No. 20, was instituted February 12, 1884, with the following charter members:

C. J. Barker
E. D. Davis
J. F. Dukes
C. S. Hamblin
F. P. Harper
A. J. Hudson
George W. Ivins
D. J. Long
I. W. Long
J. W. McCabe
W. R. McCabe
J. W. McNeill
T. W. B. McNeal
W. M. Morris
A. W. Murray
C. W. Murry
W. J. Murry
Albert Parker
E. W. Pingler
Seth E. Pingler
J. W. Poole
W. J. Rankin
M. L. Watson
E. T. Williams

Roxanna

This hamlet is situated about four miles northwest of Selbyville. It has had three names, "Dog's Ear Corner," "Centreville" and the present. At the head of the Sound, Joseph Wilgus opened a store in 1794, which be continued until 1801. He also operated a brandy still, to which the fruits of the surrounding country were taken for distillation, and his books show that the spirit was sold by him in small quantities. His successors in this store were John P. Burton and Nathaniel Tunnell. It long since disappeared.

The first store in the immediate vicinity was established by Jacob Wilgus in 1846. This he abandoned, and, in 1854, opened a new establishment, which is conducted under the firm-name of Jacob Wilgus & Son (Robert). The original house now stands opposite, and is used for storage. A store at Bayard (near Roxanna) is kept by Harbison H. Hickman. John Tingle, a mulatto, had a blacksmith shop here about 1770, which he operated until 1779. His successor in the place was John P. Burton, who kept it for sev-eral years. The post-office was established in 1868, with Jacob E. Lynch postmaster, who served seven-teen years. Jasper Dawson is the present incumbent.

Ocean View

Ocean View, originally called Hall's Store, is located on the tract known as "Middlesex." A post-office was established there in 1822, with W. S. Hall as postmaster, who also kept a store at the place. James W. Davis now keeps the store and is post-master.

The Presbyterian Church was established in 1856 as a branch of the Black water Presbyterian Church, and is served by the minister in charge of the latter.

There are several hamlets in the hundred which contain a store and post-office. The place called Tunnel's Store has been known as such for many years. A post-office was established there in 1887. A post-office was established at Bayard in 1886, with H. H. Hickman postmaster. Black water was made a postal station in 1821. Williamsville post-office was established in 1879. The postmasters have been Thomas Taylor, Rufus Atkins and Samuel Bradford. Millville post-office was established in 1886, with E. C. Dukes postmaster, who also has at the place a store.

On the road from Blackwater to Indian River a store was built by Zadoc Aydelott in 1828, who sold goods there a few years, when his son, John, succeeded him, and continued until 1838, when he sold to Ebe Tunnell. In 1842 his son, Nathaniel Tunnell, purchased the property and kept the store until 1864, when his son, Ebe W. Tunnell, became proprietor. In 1866 Stephen C. Aydelott became associated with him, under the firm-name of Aydelott & Tunnell which firm still continues. At Townsend's Landing, on Indian River, has long been a storehouse and store, kept by the Townsends, and at the mouth of Blackwater Creek ship-yards formerly existed.

Schools

As early as 1799, Stephen Ellis, a farmer, teacher and preacher, taught school in Baltimore Hundred. The sessions were held in his own house, which stood near Roxanna. His fee was fifty cents a quarter for each pupil. From that year until 1826 empty cottages, at intervals, were occupied for school purposes. Previous to 1826, Captain James Tunnell master of the vessel "American Trader," taught some scholars, the sessions being held, in turns, at the houses of the pupils.

Captain Tunnell donated the site on which, in 1824 was erected the first school-house known as ''Black Water." It is now used as a barn on the farm of Absalom Murry. After the erection of Salem Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1812, sessions were held there for several years, but, about 1825, a school-house was built at Roxanna by subscriptions of labor and material by each citizen. In 1835 a school house was erected by subscription in District No. 31, then very large and now embracing Roxanna.

Among the early schoolmasters of the hundred were:

James Coffin
John Dazey
John Dewberry
Ezekiel W. Dickerson
Daniel Drain
Stephen Ellis
Jacob Hellem
Peleg Hellem
William Huff
Jesse Jefferson
James Johnson
Clem Lofland
James Lofland
Robert Long
James Murry
John Wilgus
Captain James Tunnell
James Turner

In 1829, when the county was divided into school districts, Baltimore was made into districts from Nos. 26 to 31 inclusive. Since that time they have been divided many times and there are at present twenty-one districts and parts of districts.

Footnote:

1. The ancestor of the family, now called Wilgus, was Otto Wolget, who was a settler in the vicinity of Lewes in 1675, and one of the magistrates of the county.

Sussex County

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

 
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