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Georgetown Hundred, Sussex County, Delaware 1785

List of Taxable 1855 Business Interests Churches
Georgetown Settlement

Early Settlement

Occupies a central position in Sussex County. Its border hundreds are Broad Kiln, Indian River, Dagsboro, Nanticoke and Cedar Creek, following, in the order named, from the north. Its area is small and its origin of comparatively recent date. This hundred was first erected by an act of the Legislature, January 29, 1833, which provided that Broad Kiln Hundred, should, after the 1st day of October, 1833, be divided into two hundreds, and named George R. Fisher, George Frame and John Ponder as commissioners to establish the boundary lines. Accordingly, Broad Kiln Hundred was divided, as near as possible, at equal distance between Milton and Georgetown, beginning on the Indian River boundary line and running thence to the line of Cedar Creek Hundred. The part west and south of the line run by the commissioners was ordered to be called Georgetown Hundred, and the elections were to be held in the town of Georgetown. It was also provided that the two hundreds were to have but one trustee of the poor and but one commissioner of the Levy Court.

On the 31st of January, 1835, the foregoing act was repealed, Georgetown Hundred passing out of existence. This was the condition until March 7, 1861, when the act of 1833 was revived and declared to have the same force as before its repeal in 1835. An amendatory act of January 16, 1863, authorized Georgetown Hundred to elect trustees and commissioners, the same as other hundreds, and from that period it dates its existence as a complete political division of the county.

The surface of Georgetown Hundred is in the form of an elevated plain, whose soil is a sandy loam. Here are the head waters of Indian Run, draining into the Atlantic Ocean, and of the Nanticoke River, whoso waters fall into Chesapeake Bay. Nevertheless, the surface is so level near the source of that stream that a system of ditching has been found necessary in order to secure more per feet drainage. Heavy growths of pine and the common deciduous trees abounded, and large areas have been brought under cultivation only in recent years. The ordinary farm crops yield well, and the improved conditions appear to be especially favorable for the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. Many small farms devoted to these interests have been opened since the completion of the railroad to Georgetown in 1868.

The level nature of the country and its consequent swampiness in some localities prevented the general settlement of the hundred long after other parts of the county were well occupied. The large tracts of land owned by non-residents was another obstacle to its early development. Among the first warrants were those granted to the Pettijohn family. August 3, 1715, John Pettijohn, Sr., became the owner of five hundred and forty acres of land, a part of the twelve hundred acres known as the Bundick tract, some of which was also warranted to John Allen, in 1722. The Pettijohns have lived continuously in the hundred, but the descendants of the family are not as numerous as they were a century ago. In the old Ebenezer Pettijohn house, east from Georgetown, which was taken down in 1878, were found some rare and curious coins bearing date from 1698 to 1723, the latter being probably the time when the building was erected, as the money was securely fastened in a mortise in the frame of the house. This property has passed out of the hands of the family.

In 1714, Pennsylvania warrants for land on the head-waters of Gravelly Branch, and the Long Bridge Branch of the Broad Kiln were issued to Walter Reed, two hundred acres; William Dauten, two hundred acres; Gilbert Marriner, two hundred acres; and in 1716, Thomas Park, two hundred acres.

A number of tracts of land in the hundred were granted on warrants issued by Worcester County, Maryland, and as no distinct record was kept, they cannot be here noted. In November, 1763, Benjamin Wootten received title for a tract of two hundred acres, called "Inclosed," which had previously been granted to Edward Wootten, with another tract called "Hound's Ditch."

On the 24th of July, 1764, an agreement was made between Benjamin Mifflin, of Philadelphia, and John Jones, of Worcester County, "alias New Sussex," to purchase lands and drain the marshes. In accordance with this plan, they purchased a tract, November 6, 1764, called "Ye Great Savannah," of Samuel Pettijohn, which had been warranted to him in 1760. They also bought of him another large tract of land on both sides of the "Great Drain," and three hundred acres adjoining, of Thomas Pettijohn. A special act for the division of the lands acquired under the above agreement was passed by the Legislature January 30, 1818, and a final report was made in 1820 by Samuel Paynter, John Stockley and Isaac Tunnell, who had been appointed commissioners. The lands were divided between the heirs of John Sparhawk and Jonathan Shoemaker, but later passed into the possession of Aaron Marshall, and are now, in part, owned by Dr. William Marshall, of Milford.

In the fall of 1833 the following List of Taxables of the newly-erected hundred (including also the town of Georgetown) was prepared.

Business Interests

The Business Interests of the hundred are confined to the small stations on the Junction and Breakwater Railroad. Of these, the hamlet of Redden, a little more than four miles from Georgetown, is the most important, containing a steam lumber-mill, two stores and a dozen residences. The station was established in August, 1870, with the name of Carey, but was soon after changed to its present title, to harmonize with the name of the post-office, already existing in the neighborhood, and which had been established through the efforts of Col. William O. Redden. The first agent was James A. Evans, who was succeeded, in April, 1886, by the present R. C. Hill. Large quantities of wood and lumber are shipped, the saw-mills having been extensively operated since 1879 by Isaac A. Peck and others.

The first store was opened in 1872, by James A. Evans, who is still in trade. He had previously merchandised at Carey's Cross-Roads, where he also kept the post-office, which was removed to the station with the store. In 1885 he was succeeded as post-master by A. T. Dutton, who has carried on a store since 1879.

Carey's Cross-Roads is so called for the Carey family residing at that point, half a mile from Redden Station. A store was there opened in 1867 by James A. Evans, which was continued five years.

Robbins is a station six miles from Georgetown, and contains a store and post-office, kept by Joshua A. Lynch, who is also the station agent. Large saw and grist-mills, put up at this place in 1873 by Wm. B. Tomlinson & Co., were destroyed by fire in 1876.

Bennum Station, locally called Hancock's Crossing, is four miles northeast from Georgetown. A store is there kept by W. A. Warrington, who is also in charge of the interests of the railroad company.

J. B. McConnaughey built a steam saw-mill near Georgetown, on Layton Ditch, about 1850, which was operated by him many years. The mill is still standing and is now the property of the Bank of Georgetown.

Higher up the road to Mil ford, on Mifflin Ditch, John Harding, from New Jersey, successfully operated a steam saw-mill until he was accidentally killed in the mill. The machinery was removed to Mil ford more than twenty years ago.

Churches

There are a few religious societies in the hundred, outside of Georgetown, belonging to the Methodist Episcopal Church. The oldest of these maintains McColley's Chapel, in the neighborhood of Carey's Cross- Roads. This building, a small frame, was erected in 1857, through the efforts of Trustan P. McColley, and was named for him. It has served its purpose well, but needs repairs, and an effort to that end, or the building of a new church, is being made at this time (the fall of 1887). Previous to the building of the chapel a small house on the opposite side of the street was used as a place of worship.

The membership of the chapel is small, and is a part of the Ellendale Circuit, the Rev. J. P. Proust being the pastor. A Union Sunday-school is kept up by the neighbors through the efforts of C. Compton, Joshua A. Lynch, Charles R. Swain and others.

Reed's Chapel is on the Milton road, three miles from Georgetown. Locally this church is called ''Sand Hill Church," on account of the sand deposit in the neighborhood, which is not unlike that found on the beach of the ocean. The chapel was named for the Rev. Mr. Reed, a preacher in charge of the circuit when it was erected, about thirty years ago. It was repaired in 1885, and is now a comfortable place of worship, and also belongs to Ellendale Circuit. There are about twenty-five members, belonging to the Dutton, Donovan, Spicer, Pettijohn, Wilson, Roach and other families. Both these churches were formerly a part of the Methodist charge at Georgetown, which was the centre of a number of appointments in this part of the country. 

Sussex County

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

 
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