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Sussex County, Delaware History

The territory occupied by the present county of Sussex was known in the seventeenth century as Hoorenkill, Horekill and Whorekill, and extended from Bompties (Bombay) Hook to Cape Henlopen (Fenwick Island). The first settlement was on the site of the present town of Lewes.

In 1658 Lieutenant Alexander De Hinijossa was given command of the Horekill, and was succeeded by Peter Alrichs,1 nephew of Vice-Director Jacob Alrichs, as commandant, in 1660. The territory was controlled by the Dutch authorities at New Amstel (New Castle), and Peter Alrichs, by reason of his official position, obtained a monopoly of the trade from Bompties Hook to Cape Henlopen, causing considerable dissatisfaction among the inhabitants, who complained to the Vice-Director William Beekman, of Fort Altena, and he wrote to Director Stuyvesant Two years later, 1664, the territory passed into the possession of the English.

On April 22, 1665, Captain Martin Creiger, was granted permission to trade in Delaware Bay, and on November 11, 1665, Peter Alrichs was allowed to traffic at Horekill for "skins, peltry or what other commodities those parts would afford, he to make entry with the officers at Delaware (New Castle) of the quantity and quality of goods."

On March 20, 1666, all duties on household goods were discontinued on the Delaware River, and on October 22, 1670, on petition of the inhabitants, all customs were abolished.2

On January 12, 1670, a grant was made to James Mills for a "neck of land" lying "to the southward of the town called Whorekill" He was also given the privilege of buying the Indian right. The survey accompanying the grant was as follows:


Fac-Simile of Survey of the Coast Along the Delaware Bay3 and the Sea, Made January 12, 1670.

Explanation
1. Love's Creek. 3. Herring Creek. 3. Big Ditch. 4. Indian River Bay. 6. Rehoboth Bay. 6. Islands. 7. Cape Henlopen (the present). 8. Trading Poet, and site of the present town of Lewis. 9. Cape Henlopen, the present Fenwick Island.

On May 8, 1671, the following census of Horekill was taken:

"Hilmonus Fredericks Wiltbank, his wife two sous and a man servant. 5
Alexander Moelsteen, his wife, two sons and a man servant 6
Otto Wolgart, his wife, one son and a man servant 4
William Klarsen, with two daughters and a child 4
Jan Kipehaven, his wife and daughter 8
James Weedon, one daughter, one son and four servants 8
John Bods (Roades) his wife, five children, three sons and two daughters 7
Daniel Breen, his wife and partner, John Colleson 3
Jan Michael, Anthony Pieters, Abraham Peters, Peter Smith 4
Pieter Gronedick, Anthony Sandes 2
Herman Cornelissen, Herman Drooche, trader 2
Total 47

There are here at present on Captain Martyn Cregiers' sloop Belfast, 6
Also on a small boat of Peter Aldrich, from New Castle 2
Hermanus F. Wiltbank.

On June 14, 1671, the Council adopted an order in reference to land taken at Horekill to the effect that "what is past or granted there be confirmed upon the same conditions as the rest of ye Land, with this Proviso, that each Planter be obliged to settle upon the Land, & that each Person be enjoyned to settle a House in a Towne to be appointed near them."

At this time little land had been taken by the settlers, excepting in and near the town of Horekill; but the residents of Maryland showed a disposition to locate them. The southern and western boundaries were in dispute, and as Lord Baltimore and Governor Lovelace were uncertain as to the exact location of the line, considerable difficulty and uneasiness resulted. In June, 1672, Richard Perrot, of Virginia,"4 wrote to Governor Lovelace concerning this question;"5

"May it please your Honor:
In May last myself, with some other Gentlemen of Vergeney, came over to Delieware to see the place and liking the place we made choise of several tracts of Land for ourselves and nabors and had made bold to have given your Honor a visit had not one of our company fallen ill so that we implied Mr. Waiter Wharton for to paten our Land. Now May it please your Honor about four days before I came to see the Maryland men have survaed it again in the Lordes name. I much fear it will disharten the rest of the gentlemen from coming up at the falle and several more of our nabors that would have come up at the fale of the lefe very Honest men and good House-keepers, they desired me to take them up sums land, which I am doubtul to done unless your Honor will be pleased to give me permission for it. I dout not but to see the place well seated in tow or three years at the and a trade from Louden; the place is good and healthy and wanteth nothing but people. I was in good hopes I should have had the happiness to have got up before your Honor left Delieware, but my hopes was in vain. I hope your honor will be pleased to honor me with a line or two whoe is your faithfully and obedient servant unknown.

"From the Horekill, "Richard Perrot."
"June 21, 1672.

"If your Honor please to grant us all the land to us Virgenianes that lieth between the Horekill and the Mortherkill we shall take spedey care for the seating of it, as may be expected at so great a distance when Layed out according to menes families; what good land there may be found in the distance I know not; at present we have a desire to be near together as the please will afford. I intend Vergeney for sum occasions of business and send up my son.
"R.P."

In July, 1673, when the Dutch again came into possession of the territory, Peter Alrichs was reap-pointed commandant at Horekill, from Bompties Hook to Cape Henlopen, and among other instructions was "authorized, for the promotion of Agriculture, to assign lauds to the inhabitants of South River," subject to the approval of Governor Anthony Colve, and to call for confirmation and proper title-deeds after the lands had been surveyed by the sworn surveyor.

After the re-occupation by the English, in August, 1674, Captain Cantwell wrote to the Governor, informing him of affairs in the Horekill, to which the Governor replied that he was "glad to hear that people are generally so well satisfied with the change, and of the likelihood you tell me of newcomers to settle in those parts. In the mean time you may give to such newcomers as desire to continue there any reasonable quantity of lands not disposed of or settled in time, according to their capacity and number of hands they shall bring for clearing it; and, till my arrival or order, do further empower you to be surveyor for the whole river and bay."6

On July 7, 1665, eighty acres of land were granted to Alexander Molestidy (Molestine), "lying upon the Whorekill, near unto the mouth of the kill," adjoining the land of William Tom, and one hundred and thirty-two acres were granted to Hermanus Wiltbank on the Whorekill and Pagan's Creek, also adjoining the land of William Tom.

On March 26, 1676, patents were granted as follows:

Henry Stricker (Stretcher), 600 acres
Timothy Love (Rehoboth Creek), 411 acres
John King, 900 acres
Randell Revell, 900 acres7
Robert Windsor, 1100 acres
Daniel Hart, 500 acres
John Roads, 850 acres
Daniel Brown, 400 acres
Alexander Molesteen, 411 acres
Abraham Clenning and Otto Wolgast, 600 acre
Hermanus Wiltbank, 800 acres.

On June 15, 1676, Edward Codell was granted three hundred acres, called "Edward's Choyce," "lien in the woods south-southeast from the Horekill town, distance three miles, near unto Green branch."

On June 11, 1677, Hermanus Wiltbank wrote to Governor Andross from Horekill:

"Right Honorable:

"Whereas I am Informed, very creditable, that those of Maryland have surveyed some inconsiderable quantity of Land, the certain quantity unknown, but is supposed to be several thousand acre, the which Land Lying within the Limits of this government, As I can produce by an Instrument In writing, made between the Christians and the Indiana, In the first settlement of these places being bought and paid for, as the Writing more at large may manifest, being to the southward of Whorekill Creek about the distance of 18 or 20 miles, But to the northward of the supposed Cape Henlopen and the extended limits according to the aforesaid Writing being called Assawoman Inlet, conveniently at the seaboard side, wherefore I have already acquainted several persons that what encouragement, privileges and Assistance can or may be procured from your Honor shall not be wanting if that any persons are willing to settle there. In those parts aforesaid under the protection of his Royall Highness."

In 1677 the appended 1 st of settlers in the Horekill were given as belonging ''to the company in Delaware," and in 1678, Captain Edmund Cantwell, of New Castle, obtained land patents for them:

John Alward
John Autry 300 Acres
William Borton 1000 Acres
Richard Brasey 300 Acres
Robert Brasey, St. 800 Acres
Robert Brasey, Jr. 300 Acres
Thomas Davis 300 Acres
Thomas Davis 500 Acres
John Dupre 1000 Acres
Abraham Clement 400 Acres
John Comlia
Edward Cooper 360 Acres
Josias Coudrey
Robert Frazer 400 Acres
Edward Furlong 400 Acres
Robert Hart, Jr 600 Acres
Richard Hill 1000 Acres
Christop Jackson 300 Acres
John Johnson 400 Acres
John Kirke 800 Acres
Walter Lewis 300 Acres
James Lille 300 Acres
John Linning
John Olton 300 Acres
James Pedy 600 Acres
William Prentice
Sander Moleeteyn8 50 Acres
Henry Stretcher 400 Acres
Jacob Seth 500 Acres
Samuel Styles 400 Acres
Sam'l Styles & Trayly 744 Acres
William True 300 Acres
Cornelis Verhoofe
William Warren 300 Acres
James Wells 400 Acres
Daniel Whitley

Tracts of land in Horekill were taken up as follows:

In 1677, by Otto Wolgast, one of the magistrates, a tract of two hundred and forty acres, called the "Vineyard," "near unto Rehoboth."

On December 8, 1677, by James Laten, "Hart's Delight," four hundred acres "lien and bein in Cedar Creek."

On January 15, 1677, by Cornelius Johnson, "Johnson's Delight," six hundred and twenty-two acres, formerly surveyed for Hermanus Wiltbank, lying on the north side of Kimball's Creek.

On January 16, 1677, four hundred acres to Henry Hermon, called "Hermon's Choyce," near a marsh called "Kimball's Neck."

On November 13, 1679, Captain Edmund Cantwell certified to the following grants, "the names starred being already seated and the others intended to seat next winter":

Captain John Avery, 800
Richard Beaty, 421
John Cooley,* 600
John Crows,* 900
Andrie Dupre, 400
Anthony Enloss,* 150
Thomas Goward,* 600
Henry Harmon,* 400
Robert Highnet,* 622
Cornells Johnson, 600
James Liten,* 400
Paul Marsh,* 600
Francis Meggs.* 600
John Oakey, 400
Simon Plaing,* 300
Cornelis Verhoofe, 1210
Jessey Sumerford, 800
Alexander Molestine and John Briggs, 800
Hendrick Molestine, John Kiphaven, Jr., Cornelis Verhoofe and Hermon Cornells,* 800

On May 14, 1679, William Clarke, one of the justices of the court at Horekill, wrote to Governor Andross:

Governor Andros:
"Since thee were pleased, when I was at Yorke, to Ask me if there was anything knew relating to this place for thee to settle or order doth Imbolden me to Lay one thing before thee, which I observe to be a grievance and that which does prevent the better seating of this country, and that is, they that have land here are not at any certainty what they must do for the surveying it. The planters that come out of Maryland are and have been in expectance that they should pay no more than is paid for surveying these, which is one hundred pounds of Tobacco for the first hundred acres, and fifty pounds for the second hundred acres, and twenty-fire pounds for every hundred acres after to one thousand acres, so that the surveying of one thousand acres of Land come to but three hundred and fifty pounds. But instead thereof same have paid here two thousand pounds of tobacco for surveying one thousand acres, and none that I hear of have paid Lease than one thousand pounds for surveying one thousand acres of Land, which may be done in a day's work or less and is looked upon as a great Burthen complained in by the planters. And they do say it doth hinder others from coming to seat in this County that had thought of coming. This I thought fitt to signify unto thee; being always willing to Appear in that which may be for the prosperity and well-being of that place which I eat my bread in; And leave it to thy consideration to return such answer and directions, hereunto, as in thy great wisdom shall seem discreet; And as this finds acceptance with thee, I shall the more freedom hereafter as things presents; And subscribe myself Thyne to serve thee, Sir, what I can. "Wm. Clark."

The Governor, in a letter to the magistrates at Whorekill, dated June 6, 1679, says of this letter: "Upon a letter or address, of William Clarke, from your place to the governor, concerning the uncertainty of surveyor's fees in the s'd parts, It's his honor's order that the price of surveys be at the Whorekill, &c., as in Virginia and Maryland, money or value." One William Taylor was acting as the "pretended surveyor," and by this letter Cornells Verhoofe was appointed surveyor at the Whorekill.

On March 1680, John Roads was granted five hundred and fifty acres of land, "on ye beach of ye sea bounding on Rehobah Bay."

In February, 1682, the following were fined for not working on the public roads.

Henry Bowman
Daniel Brown
William Clark
Norton Claypoole
Thomas Dennison
Wm. Durvall
Mathias Emerson
William Emibb
William Ffootscher
Ffraim Gumby
Thomas Harvard
Thomas Hassalin
John Hill
Barnwell Jackson
Cornelius Johnson
Robert Johnson
John Kiphaven
Robert Midach
Alexander Molestine
William Page
Richard Patte
John Roades
Richard Shoulter
Henry Stretcher

In 1682 (old style), 1688 (new style) surveyors of roads and bridges were appointed as follows:

1st District, John Hill, surveyor, from the flat lands southward and to the south side of the Green Branch of Prime Hook Creek northwards.

2nd District, Robert Hart, Jr., surveyor, from south side of Green Branch of Prime Hook Greek southward, to the three runs of Mispilllon Creek northward.

3rd District William Crawford, surveyor, from the flat lands north-ward unto the extent of the county, southward being to Cape James, formerly called Cape Henlopen.

On October 29, 1682, William Penn wrote to the magistrates of the two lower counties of St. Jones' and Whorekill, to meet him at New Castle in November following, "to arrange matters for the guidance and good government of the territory."9

On December 25, 1682, the proprietary wrote to the magistrates of Sussex County10 as follows:

"By the Proprietary & Governor of Pennsylvania & the Territory's thereunto Belonging:

"Having duly Considered the present state of your county to the end that all obstructions to the due Improvement thereof may be removed and reasonable encouragement given to invite planters to settle amongst yon, I do think fitt to order and appoint as follows:

"First. That you, in open court, shall receive all petitions from time to time that may be made by such persons as designe to take up Land among you and that you grant them a Warrant to the Surveyor to admeasure the same, provided always that you exceed not three hundred acres of land to a master of a family, nor a hundred acres to a single person, at one single penny per acre or value thereof In the produce of the country, which done, that the Surveyor make his return into Court and that the Court make thereon return Into my secretary's office.

"Secondly, And because no Land shall lye waste to the prejudice of new planters, all lands formerly granted and not taken up and settled within the time limited by the methods of your own Court that granted them. Shall be accounted vacant land, and if possible upon the terms aforesaid the old clement or pretender to have the preference if not already seated, owners of above 800 acres, unless already seated by some other person.

"Thirdly, That all persons for the future that shall have grants to take up land be also limited to seat it within one year after the date of the grant, else the said grant to be void and of no effect.

"Fourthly, That you endeavor to seat the lands that shall hereafter be taken up in the way of townships."11 As three thousand acres amongst Tenn family's, if single persons one thousand acres. Amongst Tenn of them laid out in the nature of a long square five or ten of a side and a way of two hundred foot broad left between them for a Highway in the township. This I would have ye careful in, for the future good and grate benefit of your country given under my hand and seal at Chester, the 25th of 10 mo., 1682.

"To the Justices of the Peace for the Co. of Sussex,
"Wm. Penn"

This letter was followed immediately by the one appended:

"By Wm. Penn Proprietary & Governor of Pennsilvania & Territorye
Thereunto Belonging:

"I do hereby order and appoint that before any land be surveyed for any other person you do issue forth a warrant directed to the Surveyor or his Deputy to lay out for the Duke of Yorke in your county or precincts Tenn Thousand acres of Land for a Mannor and Tenn Thousand acres of land for a Mannor for myself and I would have the Duke's Mannor lye on the north side of Assawamet Inlet as near to Cape James12 as may be and my Mannor to be between the bounds of Cedar Creek and Mispillion Creek or in the most convenient place towards the north side of the county. Given onder my hand A seal at Chester, this 26th of l0 mo., 1682.
"Wm. Penn

"To the Justices of the Peace of Sussex Co.

On December 10, 1684, Samuel Gray presented the names of William Emmott, John Brown, Richard Gill, John Williams, John Waron, Robert Janson, Harman Cornelius for not working on the "Bye-ways," and the delinquents were ordered "to work between this and the next court what they are behind in their work, otherwise to be fined 20s. per day for what they are behind." Robert Hart, surveyor of the bye-ways presented Luke Wattson, Sr., Henry Bowman, Henry Smith, Barnwell Jackson, David Coursey, William Ffaury, Wm. Spencer, Jr., and Bartholomew Applegate.

On February 2, 1687, the following letter, signed by Governor Markham, was sent by the Provincial Council to the Sussex authorities:

"By the President and provincial council:

"Whereas, by the 169th Law in the Law book of the province and territories, It is enacted that no undressed Deer skins be put on board any Shipp's Boats or vessel with Intent to transport ye same out of this province before they have been publicly exposed to sale within the same by affixing in writing upon some meeting-house or court-house door, five days at least . . . upon the penalty of ye forfeiture of ye same.
The President and Council having duly considered the great injury and damage the Government dally receives by the officers neglect in their duty, in not putting the said law in execution, have thought fitt to order and strictly command all officers concerned that they strictly put in execution the said law, and that the naval officer13 of this Government clear no Ship, Boat or Vessels going out thereof with any undress Deer skins, unless certificate, as aforesaid, be first introduced."

On March 6, 1694, the magistrates of Sussex County wrote to the authorities adjacent in Maryland concerning the boundary dispute:

"Gentlemen; Whereas we their Majties Justices of the peace in court letting are given to understand that John Barker and Charles Tindall inhabitants on the south side of the Indian River within this county and government stand bound over to your government and for the rest owning the authority of ye Government.

"Thought fitt therefore to signifie unto you that most of the land on ye said south side of the Indian River, and particularly the land that they live upon, was taken up and surveyed by grant when the land was under the government of New York and since patented by William Fenn, Esq., absolute proprietary, and that the said above named persons possest their said lands by the said Right, and have all along paid Rents and Dues unto the said Proprietors and Government, and for as much as some of your County have pretended to something of an order of King and Council. That the tract of land lying and being on the River and Bay of Delaware on the one side and Chesepeake Bay on the other side be divided into two equal parts by a line from the latitude of Cape Inlopen to ye 40th degree of northern latitude, and that one-half thereof lying towards Chesapeake Bay Remaine to ye Lord Baltimore, and that half part lying towards the River and Bay of Delaware unto William Penn., Esq. But if any apprehend so they are under a great mistake, fore order of King and Council is, 'That for avoiding further difference the tract of land lying between the River and Bay of Delaware and the eastern sea on the one side and Chesapeake Bay on the other side, be divided into equal parts by a line from the latitude of Cape Henlopen to ye 40th degree of northern latitude, and that one-half thereof lying towards the River and Bay of Delaware and the eastern sea be adjudged to belong unto his Majesties and that the other half remain to Lord Baltimore as comprised within his charter. Now some of your government have also alleged that Cape Henlopen and Cape Inlopen are one and the same Cape, which likewise needs bee a great error, for if so, there had been no need for the King and Council to have mentioned the Eastern Sea in the said Order. All which being duly deliberated more whether or not it be not most fit abstain all acts of violence and breach of good neighborhood on either part until such time as ye Division be made and completed according there unto, which we have good grounds to believe will not be long.

"These things we have agreed to offer to your prudent and judicious consideration and being properly debated may conduce to the reliefs of the said Barker and Tindall and so we bid you farewell with a real acknowledgment of being
"Your affectionate friends to serve you,
William Clarke
Luke Watson
Thomas Pemberton
Robert Clifton
Thomas Oldman
"from a County Court, held in their Majties name, att Lewes, for the County of Sussex, on the Sixth day of March, 1694.
"Nehemiah Ffield, Clark."

On September 7, 1698, overseers of highways were appointed as follows:

John Miers, for town district
Richard Himon, for Rehoboth to the Inlet
John Barker, from the Inlet to the Indian River
Thomas Ffisher and Mathew Osbourne, for the Broad Creek
Luke Watson, Jr., for Prime Hook
Justice Booth for Cedar Creek

On Decembers, 1695, the Court of Sussex County ordered the constables to appear with a list of persons liable to taxation "within their respective hundreds."

On January 16, 1727, there were appointed as overseers of highways:

Jacob Kollock, Esq., for Leweston Hundred
David Cordrey, Rehoboth Hundred14
Robert Smith, Broadkiln Hundred
Henry Brewington, Indian River Hundred
Samuel Davis, Esq., Angola Neck
John May, Esq., Cedar Creek precinct
William Till, Esq., Slaughter Neck precinct

At the May term of Court, 1735, the following were appointed, and the roads defined over which they had authority:

"Jacob Wiltbank for Lewestown streets and along ye Kings road as far as the two mile post;

Anderson Parker, Esq., from ye said two mile post to Coolspring;
John Roads, from ye seaside to along Rehoboth road to ye place where a gallows stood to-wards Lewestown; James Miers and Isaac Watson for Cedar Creek hundred;
Samuel Carey and William Pettyjohn, Samuel Carey from ye saw mill vs. Wm. Burton's to Bracey's Branch, and said Pettyjohn from ye branch along ye said road to the two mile post on Southern's Run;
Robert Smith from Coolspring to Long Bridge;
John Conwell, from Long Bridge to Sowbridge;
Simon Kollock, Esq., from SoaUiem's Run to Orr's mill;
Thomas Warrington from ye bottom of Angelo Neck to Orr's mill;
William Burton and James Pettyjohn from Burton's said mill to Pemberton's bridge now road;
Richard Burton, Park Neck road from ye Horseboat Landing on the Sling's Road to the Crab Tree.

At the May sessions 1736 Thomas, Davis and William Donnelly were made overseers from the Sow Bridge to the Three Runs."

In 1764 authority was granted the courts to lay out public roads.15

On January 31, 1811, the law defining the election districts of Sussex was passed, and the polling places were designated as follows:

First District. "Cedar Creek," at the house of Milloway White, at head of Cedar Creek.
Second District "Broad Kill," at house of Benjamin Benson, at Hilton.
Third District, "Nanticoke," at house of widow of Boss Coverdale in Bethel or Passwater Cross Roads.
Fourth District, "Northwest Fork," at house of John Wilson, at Bridgeville.
Fifth District, "Broad Creek," at house of widow of John Elliot.
Sixth District, "Little Creek," at house of Thomas Sinner at Laurel.
Seventh District, "Dagsborough," at house of Peter Hall.
Eighth District, "Baltimore," at house of Wm. Howell.
Ninth District, "Indian River," at house ef William Walters, near St. George's.
Tenth District, "Lewes and Rehoboth," at house of John Wott, in Quakertown.

In 1829 the school law was passed, and under it George R. Fisher, E. Walter, Henry Bacon and Thomas Jacobs divided the county into school districts.

Courthouses, Prisons and Almshouse
More by popular consent than by official enactment, Lewes or the Horekill was recognized as the county-seat from its establishment as a trading-post in 1658 until Georgetown was, in 1791, formally made the centre of the administration of justice and transaction of county affairs. When the West India Company set up their fort on the Horekill, the Dutch commanders held their military courts therein, followed by the English in 1664. It was not, however, until 1678 that these were followed by the exercise of a rude form of civil jurisprudence. Originally embracing all that is now Kent and Sussex Counties, the Horekill territory soon grew so populous that in 1680 Governor Andross granted the petition of the people of the Northern District by setting it apart as St. Jones County. The division was quickly followed by a reorganization of the court at Lewes, which continued to have jurisdiction over the remainder of the Horekill region. There is no evidence that up to this time any effort had been made to erect a court-house or prison at Lewes; but when the new justices were commissioned. May 28, 1680, they entered upon a project for the establishment of a proper county-seat at that settlement, with its necessary concomitants of jail and courthouse. On June 26th they united in a petition to that effect to Andross, and also asked that the name Horekill might be changed. This latter request was at once granted by the Governor, who rechristened the settlement Deale, which name it held until it became Lewestown in 1682. In their memorial to Andross the judges said:

"Whereas, there have hitherto bene a neglect in getting a prison here, for want of which there have bene, not long since a prisoner for debt, who was a stranger, made his escape, which may prove damage either to the County or Sheriff. For the preventing of the Like for the futter, we have ordered a prison, stocks and wheepping-post forth with to be built, which will cost between three or four thousand pounds of Tobacco. Here is also great want of a Court-House, which will cost about five thousand pounds of Tobacco. Our request is that these will be pleaded to empower us to make a tax, to Leavey the same on the inhabitants. There was some certain Land formerly laid out by Cantwell for a town, which was to be divided into Lots of sixty foot in breadth and two hundred feet in length, and the land and wood that lye back was to be common for food for cattle and firewood, it being in all about one hundred and thirty acres of land. Since which time Armainas (Helmanus) Wiltbank have got the said land surveyed, but we do not understand that he have any patent for it. He demands a bushel of winter wheat a year of any person that shall build upon the said town lots, which is so high a rent that it gives no encouragement for any to build. We should think one half of that rent would be enough, but that we leave to thy ordering, and to whom the rent shall be paid, whether to the Duke of York or to Armainas Wiltbank. Here is a great marsh that lies at the north west side of the towne which if it should be at any time here after be taken up by any particular person it would be a great inconvenience to those that do or shall here after live here, as also the Cape, where there is good pine trees for building, the Land Lattel worth, both which we desire may Lye In common for the use of the Town. It hath bene spoke here as if they did intend as an eare to the court to empower the surveyor to grant warrants to lay out land to such persons as shall come to take it up; but we, being sensible of the Ill Consequences that will attend that, do desire that thee would be pleased to forbear giving him any such power, for our precants is now but small, and he, for the Lucker of getting the more money, will lay out such large tracts of land for a perticolar person that might serve many families to live comfortably upon. There have been experience of thee like, as when Captain Cantwell had the same power he surveyed three thousand acres of principle land at Prime book for Henry Smith, and others of like nature might be mentioned. And we have good cause to resolve for the time to come to grant leas tracts of land to particular persons than have bene formerly granted, for this county, as it is now divided, is not above halfe as big or large as St. Jones, nor will not hold a halfe so many people; neither is the land so generally good as that is. And this being the antientest place, we think, with submission might a bene continued at least equal with the others, which, if thee please, may be redressed in the next commission or sooner, which may be by dividing by Murther Creek, and so down words."

Governor Andross' answer was to confirm the action of the justices regarding the stocks and whipping post and authorize the prison and court-house to be built. His reply was in this fashion:

"At a council at New York the 13th Nov 1680 present the Governor and Council upon application made by the Magistrates and Court of the Whoorekill in Delaware signifying the necessity and want of a Court house prison stocks and whipping post for the publick service desiring to be empowering to rate the inhabitants and how to pay for the same. Having already agreed for the building of the prison stocks and whipping post which they already will cost between three or four thousand pounds Tobacco Grant for the prison stocks and bespoke but if the prison be not already done and furnished then to make it two story high the upper story to but over and to be made a Court House, the charge of both not te exceed six thousand pounds of tobacco but If for the prison and without Court room then not to exceed three thousand five hundred pounds of Tobacco which make an equal rate according to Law,
"E Andross
"By order of Council
John Wert Clk Council"

This authorization reached the Horekill officials in about six weeks from the time it was given, and they promptly proceeded to act upon it, as appears from the subjoined extract from the Sussex Court records of January 1, 1680-81.

"The Court House Stocks and whipping poet and prison which the Governor of New York ordered to be built for the service of this county is this day ordered to be forthwith built, sixteen foot square in the clear beson and twenty foot square in the clear the upper rooms and to be Lodg house. Raise sixteen foot high and to be three rooms below and the ground floor to be laid with plank or split trees of four inches thick and the Court house floor to be an inch and half thick, the doors to be made of plank of two inches thick and a good strong roof. The and well covered. Two good windows in the Court House of three foot square Apeese. The Loggs for the said house to be laid none Lesse than eight inches Thick And all the Loggs to be sott in and in to the other. And a good pair of Stairs made up to the Court House with plank of an inch and halfe thick the stairs to be with outside of the house, the iron work and nails to be provided for the said work at the charge of the countrey, the said house to be finished by the first day of next May. Also a good pair of stocks of pine fett. Long and a whipping poet at the end of them to be also forthwith made and set up.

"The said house stocks and whipping post is taken to be done and performed by Luke Wattson according to the dimensions above expressed for which the Commissioners doe oblige themselves to pay unto the said Luke Wattson Seaven Thousand pounds of good sound Merchantable Tobacco in caskes and Samuel Gray have taken the casting all the said Loggs and wood work to the place where the house is to bee sott up of Luke Wattson for which Luke Wattson is to pay the said Samuel Gray Twelve hundred pounds of Tobacco good and merchantable, the stairs not be Less than four foot wide with Bayle on both sides Six Thousand pounds of tobacco to be Raisen by a vote on the inhabitants of the said County and the other thousand pounds with what the Nails and Iron works shall cost to be paid out of the fines.

"The 7th day of the afor said monts George Young did agree and Consent with Luke Watsen to doe halfe the worke of the House Stocks and whipping post within mentioned within the time expressed, for which the said Lake Wattson doe promise to pay unto the said George Young Two Thousand nine hundred pounds of Tobacco good and merchantable in caskes or to give the said George Young a receipt for the same sume on the account of Captain Delavall in witness where off the said George Young have sott his hand the day and yeare above written.

"signed George Young"

Luke Wattson entirely defaulted on his contract and never even began to execute it for reasons which are set forth in the proceedings of the court February 12, 1682-83:

"The petitioner set forth by his petition that when he was obliged to build a court house and prison and that since that time the Government is allowed and that he is much employed in other public business so that it would be much to his domidge if he should be confined to doe the said work, the court taking the same into their consideration doe hereby order that he shall be released and discharged from the said agreement all ways provided that this only shall in no ways release or discharge the said Luke Wattson from the domadg that the sheriffs hath or shall suffer for want of a prison to this day."

So Wattson seems to have slipped out of what was perhaps an unprofitable job, and the court looked around for some other colonist who would undertake to furnish its members with a session room and its prisoners with a dungeon. He was found in the person of Baptist Newcomb, and on August 31, 1683, the judges entered the following of record:

"Baptist Norsecomb hath this day agreed with the Court to bring and deliver at the Town Landing where the Shipps is building Eighty Cyprus Logs twenty two foot long each log to contain at least one foot in thickness the great end besides the Baric to be delivered between this and the twentieth day of the next 8th mon. for which the court hath obliged themselves to pay unto the said Baptist or his order the neat quantity of 3000 pounds of tobacco to be paid between this and the 25 day of the next 10th month which said timber is for building of a prison t Court House."

December 9, 1684, the court awarded the contract to Baptist Newcomb, "to build ye courthouse and prison as is expressed elsewhere for 10,000 pounds of tobacco;" but he was in no hurry to begin the work, and on August 10, 1685, the wearied court lost patience and it was:

"Ordered this day by the Court that Baptist Newom be forwith sent for that he build the prison and court house according to his former undertaking the last winter that he build it forthwith. John Street declaring he is willing to help and aid ye sd Baptist to build the Said houses and upon the refusal or neglect of his doing the said worke that the Sheriff should have an execution to serve the penalty of the obligation of Baptist for non-performance.

Not even this extreme threat spurred Newcomb up to the discharge of his duty, and on May 3rd, 1687, the grand jury tried its hand at coercion by the radical process of presenting the court "for not causing a courthouse and prison to be made." Then the justices took up another plan of action, in which Newcomb again makes his appearance, and which is explained in the minutes of October 8, 1687.

"It is agreed by this court that whoever subscribes any logs, to be gotten for the use of the prison and courthouse, shall bring said logs to the place in the towne where it is to be built in forty days after the date hereof, or else forfeit duble the valine of the said logs. There is to be as followeth:

"54 logs at 4-8pl, 15 foots long, 1 foote over 8 inch thick.
16 logs at 6-8, 23 foote long and over 8 inch thick, squared two sides

"Every person that undertakes to get any is to take 3 short and one long.

"I doe undertake to get 20 logs: Wm. Clarke.
"I do undertake 41 logs: Tho. Wynne.
"I doe undertake 20 logs: Henry Stretcher.
"We doe undertake six short and two long: Francis Cornwall, Morrise Edwards.
"for myself and Justice Gray, 3 long and 16 short; Henry Molleston, Samwell Gray.
"I Baptist Newcomb, doe engage myself to find Rafters and Clapboards for a prison and cover the said prison, the court finding nails.
Bapt. Newcomb. "

After all this delay of more than six years the project was still not executed, as the record of March 10, 1688, bears testimony that court was then being held" at the house of Henry Streitcher, commonly called the courthouse." Streitcher was merely the keeper of the village tavern, in one of the rooms of which the court was holding its sessions. Norton Claypoole was then clerk and recorder, and had his office in his own house. On April 30, 1688, he reported to the grand jury that an attempt had been made to burn his office, and the jurymen came to the conclusion that the intention of the incendiaries was to destroy the county records.

Although the county was yet destitute of a courthouse it had managed to begin the building of a prison, which on May 3, 1688, was officially viewed by the grand jury under order of court. Samuel Jones had undertaken the construction, but never completed it, for the report of the grand jury of which Luke Wattson was foreman, was that "wee now doe find that this worke is not sufficient for a prison." At the January, August and December terms in 1691, the court was thrice presented by the grand jury "for not having a sufficient prison," and as late as 1709 a similar presentment was made indicating that neither courthouse nor prison had been built up to that time.

At what time Sussex County actually did obtain a courthouse is not be precisely determined. Rev. George Ross wrote in the journal of his tour through Delaware, in 1717, with Governor Wm. Keith, that on August 6th he held services in the courthouse at Lewestown, but it is of course possible that he officiated on the tavern premises and that they were still occupied for the sittings of of the judiciary. A building of some character was already in use as a jail and may have had courthouse accommodations. Rev. John McKim, who went to Lewes in 1838, derived the tradition from one of the oldest residents of the town that the first courthouse was built upon a lot which was part of the property owned by the county, extending through from Water to Market or Front Street This tradition places it opposite the tavern which, when the courts were moved to Georgetown in 1792, was kept and had been kept for many years by Phillips Kollock. The old jail still standing in the centre of Market Street occupies a site corresponding to the legend which Mr. McKim received, and as so much of the contiguous land was public property it is probable enough that the earlier courthouse was in the immediate neighborhood. It is indisputable, however, that Sussex County had a courthouse in 1735, for the records of that year show that Samuel Paynter was paid fifteen pounds for work upon the building, and this is really the first tangible evidence of the existence of the structure for which the judges had petitioned and planned more than half a century previously.

It did not continue in existence long after Mr. Paynter expended his work manly skill upon it. At some time between 1740 and 1750, the second courthouse was built on the northeast corner of the Episcopal church-yard. It was a frame structure, and sufficed for all the needs of Sussex, so long as Lewes remained the county seat. In 1811, Simon Mariner occupied it as a tavern, and after he died his widow continued the business until 1817. The building must have fallen into dilapidation, as on January 18, 1833, it was sold for $210.47, and the purchasers demolished it for the sake of the material.

Whatever structure was in use as a jail in Lewes prior to 1729, it had them become inadequate to its purposes, and on November 4th of that year the court allowed £50 "for building a new prison," but evidently nothing was accomplished in that direction, as on February 3, 1735, the Grand Jury reported that "having viewed the prison of the County of Sussex, do say that we find the same insufficient, and &r much out of repair."

During this year the prison caught fire but was not destroyed, and the treasure's report of December, 1785, has the following account; "To Richard Poultney for liquor about putting out the fire in the prison, £0 8s 6d," and in November, 1786, to Cornelius Wiltbank, former sheriff, "on account of the Prison being a fire, putting out and watching the same, £1 2s. 6d."

At the November term of 1788, the Grand Jury again reported the insufficiency of the jail, and the court, in concurrence with the jury, ordered that "a goal be built in Lewistown for debtors." The budget of taxes was calculated by Daniel Nunez in that year, and his final entry was of £100 "to be raised for building a goal."

The minutes of the Court for the two succeeding years are missing, but in the public charges made in 1741-42, is an account for work on the prison and for laying the prison hearths.

As the old jail stands now in Market Street, it is a creation of different periods. The most reliable indications are, that the rear section, a roughcast structure only, fifteen by twenty feet in dimensions, was built in part with the appropriation made in 1788, and that within the succeeding quarter of a century the extension, twenty by twenty feet, was made out to Second Street. On November 5, 1777, the court "took into consideration the scanty allowance for prisoners, and upon consideration thereof, ordered that two shillings be allowed each prisoner per diem for subsistence." At the November term in 1780, High Sheriff Rhodes Shankland had another complaint of the same nature to present, and the court allowed for each prisoner daily ten pence in specie during the winter and eight pence during the summer, or the equivalent in the depreciated currency. Twice the county seat was removed to Georgetown. The jail building has passed through many hands and been used for divers purposes. In 1887 it was occupied as a grocery store by Thomas Poynter.

With the decision of the Maryland and Delaware boundary controversy in 1775, which added to Sussex the hundreds of Baltimore, Dagsborough, Broad Creek and Little Creek, arose the agitation for a change of the county seat. Lewes, at the extreme eastern side, was not convenient of access for the great majority of the people of the county, now that its bounds were permanently determined.

Between January 19, 1786 and July 1st of the same year, twenty petitions, signed by nine hundred and seventy-nine inhabitants of Sussex, were presented to the General Assembly, praying that some central location be made the county seat and the movement effected the passage of the act of January 29, 1791, which provided that George Mitchell, Robert Houston, William Moore, John Collins, Nathaniel Young, William Perry, Rhoads Shankland, Woodman Stockley, Daniel Polk and Thomas Batson act as commissioners, and authorized them to purchase, in fee, for the use of Sussex County, a quantity of land not exceeding a hundred acres, near the center of the county, at the place called James Pettyjohn's old field, or within two miles of the house where Ebenezer Pettyjohn then resided, situate in Broadkiln Hundred, for the purpose of building a court-house and prison thereon. The commissioners were authorized to lay out the plot and sell lots, reserving half an acre each for court-house and prison. The courthouse was specified to be built of wood, the same size as the old court-house at Lewes; the prison to be built of brick or stone; and when both were completed, the old buildings at Lewes were to be sold. John Gordon, John Ralston, Andrew Barratt, Joseph Barker and Peter Lowber, of Kent County, were appointed to judge of the fitness of the buildings. Annual elections were ordered to be held at the new courthouse, when finished, and until that time at the house of James Pettyjohn, in Broadkiln Hundred.

The commissioners met at the home of Abraham Harris May 9, 1791, and negotiated the purchase from him of fifty acres, buying also twenty-five acres from Rowland Bevins and one acre from Joshua Pepper. Rhodes Shankland the same day surveyed the purchase, which was named Georgetown, in honor of commissioner George Mitchell, on October 26, 1791, the Legislature passed an act declaring that "all courts (of Sussex County) shall be held at the new courthouse, which shall be deemed, held and taken to be the legal courthouse of Sussex County, at the place now declared by the name of Georgetown." Shankland platted the town in May, 1792, and reserved the present courthouse and jail lots. By act of the General Assembly of June 14, 1793, the whip-ping-post and pillory were removed from Lewes to the new town. A jail was erected at once, and in 1798, on the recommendation of a committee, appointed by the Levy Court, a brick addition, sixteen by eighteen feet, and two stories high, was made by Kendall Batson, superintendent and contractor. This jail stood on the site at the corner of Market Street and Cherry Alley, now occupied by Hazel's drug-store, and was demolished in 1854. It contained three cells on each of its two floors, one of the upper dungeons being specified for the imprisonment of delinquent debtors. The citizens contributed much of the money for the erection of the courthouse and jail, and on February 7, 1795, the Legislature passed a bill to raise by lottery a sum not exceeding three thousand five hundred dollars to reimburse them.

In March, 1834, the Levy Court advertised for plans and proposals for a new jail, and on April 18th adopted the plan submitted by Joshua S. Layton. It called for a brick structure, forty by forty-two feet, and two stories elevation. Spencer Philips, James Redden and Benaiah Watson were appointed to supervise the work, and let the contract to Mr. Layton and Caleb B. Sipple for ten thousand dollars. The jail was completed within a year, and was burned to the ground November 10, 1865. In the next year the present jail was built on the same location.

The original court-house was completed in 1792 or 1793, as it is mentioned in an act of 1793, and in 1797 was repaired by order of the Levy Court. It stood on the corner of Market Street and the square until the summer of 1837, when it was removed to its present location on Bedford Street. In 1835 a popular demand for a more modern and commodious building made itself felt, and on February 13, the General Assembly authorized a lottery to raise not more than twenty-five thousand dollars for the erection of a court-house and fire-proof public building. Wm. D. Waples, Philip Short and Robert H. Griffith were appointed trustees of the lottery, and a supplementary act of February, 1837, named Mr. Waples, in conjunction with George R. Fisher and David Hazzard, as building commissioners. They met on March 7th, and after deciding that the new structure should be placed on the courthouse lot, sold the old edifice. For the next two years court was held in Burton C. Barker's hotel on the square, and in the fall of 1839 the first term was held in the new building, which baa since been continuously occupied. It is of brick, two stories high, with the public offices on the ground floor and the court-room above. It was built entirely out of the proceeds of the lottery, which realized fifteen thousand dollars, and on March 5, 1840, the Levy Court adopted resolutions complimenting the commissioners on the discharge of their duties, and congratulating the people of Sussex that the work had cost them nothing.


Sussex County Courthouse, Georgetown, Del.

Footnotes:
1. Peter Alrichs took up a tract of land at the Horekill, while ke was in command under the Dutch, but a patent was not obtained, and, upon the capture of the territory by the English, in 1604, all the land in his possession, both in New Castle County and at the Whorekill, was confiscated and later granted by Governor Richard Nichols in 1666, to William Tom, clerk of the courts "on Delaware." A tract at the Whorekill was granted to Turn, and his name appears in a list of persons whose quit-rents are still due, as follows: "Will Tom, at Grt Whorekill, 2 bushels." This tract was on the Whorekill and on the side of Pagan's Creek. It contained one hundred and thirty-two acres and was re-surveyed to him July 7, 1676.
2. Samuel Jennings, later Governor of New Jersey, in a letter October 17, 1680, to Penn Lawrie and Lucas, assignees of Edward Bylliags, says, "In good time we came to anchor in Delaware where one, Peter Alrichs, came aboard and brought a handsome present to our Commander and sent for me into the round-house, where they both were, and Peter told me he had nothing to say relating to customs he had no commission for it, nor did he know anybody that had.
3. From a manuscript in the British Museum the writer (who was informed by a soldier who was in the fort at the Hoorenkill when under the Dutch in 1662) says concerning the creek at that place "that along the seashore it was not above two leagues from the cape, and that near the fort, which is at the mouth of the creek, it is about two hundred paces broad, and navigable to about half a league upward; the pilots say generally about six feet of water in going in, but canoes can go two leagues higher. There were two small islands in it, the first very small, the last about half a league in circumference, both overgrown with fine grass, especially the latter, and all about half a league asunder, and the latter about a league from the channels mouth. The two islands are surrounded with muddy ground, in which there grows the beet sort of oysters, which ground begins near the first Island, for the mouth of the channel has a sandy bottom, being also very deep, and therefore there are no oysters there. Near the smaller island, and higher up, it is broad again as at the mouth. Near the fort the channel for a good way runs at equal distances from the sea, having the breadth of about two hundred paces of high downy land lying between them. Near the fort there is a glorious spring of fresh mater. A small rill, rising in the southeast part of this country, and falling from a rising hill, runs through this downy land into the mouth of the Horekill, is for its goodness and fertility named for the very best of New Netherland.''

Smith writing of this manuscript says: "Soon after English possession it got the name of Lewestown, by which it is mostly called. It is situate at the mouth of Delaware Bay, and is a general resort for pilots waiting to convey vessels up the river. Where the creek is described as deep and sandy is now a mowing marsh. The channel also, by the Whorekill, then used for vessels to pass, is diminished to about a hundred yards at the mouth. The two islands, one very small and the other half a league in circumference, are now, the first, supposed to be ten, and the last thirty times as large as then described, and this alteration in about one hundred years." Smith is mistaken in the place being called Lewestown soon after the English took possession. It was not until after 1690 that the name was used in official records.
4. Richard Perrott settled in Cedar Creek Hundred, on the bay, at that time in Horekill district or county, and the land was held by the family through three generations.

5. Perrott's letter caused a lengthy correspondence between Governor Lovelace and Lord Baltimore, on the subject of the western and southern boundary, which had been in dispute since the earliest settlement of the country, and was not finally reconciled until nearly a century later.
6. On the reorganization of the courts, in 1676, by Governor Andross, they were authorized to issue warrants for land to settlers, subject to survey to be approved by the authorities at New York.

7. Revell's tract was surveyed August 3, 1675. It was on "Slaahter's Creek, near to the Whorekill."
8. Alexander Molestine
9. Penn arrived at New Castle October 27, 1682, and the following day received the territory of Delaware from John Moll and Ephraim Hermans. He returned to Upland the same day and wrote to the magistrates from there. Whorekill was divided and St. Jones County formed oat of it by Governor Andross in 1680.
10. Whorekill had meantime been changed to Sussex "The extent thereof shall be from the main branch of Mispillion Creek, called the three runs northwards, and southwards to Assawomset Inlet."
11. The suggestion of Penn in this letter to the division of lands among ten families is in accordance with the old English custom of dividing land among ten families, assuming that each family with its servants was ten in number, making one hundred, and from which fact the title "hundred" was originally derived, and this suggestion of Penn's is doubtless the reason why the term obtained in this State.
12. Cape Henlopen.
13. There was no naval officer in Whorekill at this time, but on August 8, 1686, Henry Bowman was appointed.
14. This is the first mention of the term "Hundred" in the Sussex records. The Provincial Council, April 9, 1690, instructed the magistrates and grand juries of the several counties to divide them into hundreds. In 1690 there were Rehobah and Broadkill Hundreds with the addition, in 1702, of Cedar Hook Hundred, and in 1706, of Indian Creek Hundred.
15. The territory of Sussex County was not extended southward nor westward until after 1765, and the four hundreds, Lewes and Rehoboth, Indian River, Broadkiln and Cedar Creek, comprised the territory of the county for at least three quarters of a century. Among the old settlers of half a century ago it was known as "Old Sussex." In confirmation of this term, a deed made, bearing date November 6, 1764, of land in the western part of Broadkiln Hundred, recites of the parties that they were John Clowes, Jr., of Sussex County, Benjamin Mifflin, of Philadelphia, and "John Jones, of Worcester County, alias New Sussex." This was but a year after the first surrey line was made, and the territory formerly Worcester County, Maryland, this early was recognized as really belonging to Sussex County. In 1786 an effort was made to form a new county out of Sussex and Kent, to embrace the territory between Murderkill Creek and Broad Kiln Creek, and the Delaware Bay and the Maryland line. Six petitions bearing three hundred and ninety-one signatures were presented to the Legislature, but without success, and the movement was never revived.

Sussex County

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

 
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