Part of the American History and Genealogy Project




Town of Felton, Murderkill Hundred, Kent County, Delaware

Churches Societies Town Clerks
Treasurers Assessors Collectors
Aldermen .. Commissioners
Berrytown Bunite's Mill Sandtown

 The town of Felton, lying on both sides of the Delaware Railroad, is ten and one-half miles from Dover and six miles west of Frederica, on the road leading through the town to Whiteleysburg. It was laid out on the 1st day of August, 1856, when the railroad and Adams' Express authorities opened their offices at this place. Robert W. Reynolds was the first agent; he was shortly followed by George C. Hering, who, after a brief period, was succeeded by James B. Conner, who has been in the employ of the two companies to the present time. The land on which Felton is built was owned by the heirs of Joseph Simpson and by Alfred O. Clifton. In 1856, when the railroad was thrown open for traffic, Robert W. Reynolds & Brother had opened a general store, and there was one blacksmith shop and one farm-house. In the fall of the same year a hotel was built and called the "Fountain House," now "Smoots Hotel."

The population in 1880, according to the census returns, was three hundred and eighty-three, being fifty-four less than in 1870. Today the population is rapidly increasing and some very fine residences are being built. There are six general stores, two groceries, one hardware and two drug stores, two hotels, two general carriage dealers, three wagon-builders and blacksmiths, one steam saw-mill, built in 1859 by John S. Kersey, which was destroyed by fire in 1876, and rebuilt by John Waldman the same year, who is extensively engaged in the manufacture of ship timber and general hardwood lumber. There is also one florist and general nurseryman Dr. Robert W. Hargadine, who is said to own and operate the most extensive green-house on the Peninsula.

The most important industries are the basket factories and the canning and evaporating establishments. In 1870 James H. Hubbard began the making of crates for the transportation of peaches, which he continued until 1875, when he put in basket machinery which, in a fair peach season, will turn out two hundred and fifty thousand baskets. In 1887 a second basket factory was established under the firm-name of Meredith, Conner & Waldman, which has a capacity to produce five hundred thousand baskets. There are also one canning and three fruit evaporating establishments. These basket factories and canning and evaporating establishments give employment to three or four hundred persons each season, for five months in the year, and add much to the material prosperity and well-being of the community.


There are two churches, the Methodist and the Presbyterian. The Methodist Episcopal Church is a brick structure, thirty-six by forty-five feet, surmounted by steeple and bell. It was erected at a cost of two thousand five hundred dollars, and was dedicated September 29, 1861, the Rev. Dr. Cook, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, officiating. Prior to the building of the church in town, the people of the village and the surrounding country met for worship at an old frame structure, about half a mile out of town, on the road toward Frederica. It was a plain, old-fashioned building, about eighteen by thirty feet, with the high canopied pulpit.

The following have been the ministers of Felton Church since May 1, 1865:

Rev. Horace A. Cleveland. 1865-66
Rev. Thomas J. Quigley 1867-70
Rev. David R. Thomas 1870-72
Rev. J. M. Williams 1872-73
Rev. Robert W. Todd 1873-76
Rev. B. E. White 1875-76
Rev. Henry Colclazer 1876-78
Rev. J. W. Pearson 1878-79
Rev. Joseph Robinson 1879-82
Rev. Jonathan S. Willis 1879-82
Rev. A. W. Milby 1882-83
Rev. Isaac Jewell 1883-86
Rev. Vaughan S. Collins 1886-88

 The Presbyterian Church is a frame building, thirty by forty feet, and was organized November 15, 1860. Rev. J. G. Hamner, of Mil ford, preached until 1863. From January, 1864, to January, 1866, L. P. Bowan, a licentiate of the Presbytery of Lewes, supplied the pulpit. From the spring of 1868 to the spring of 1873 the Rev. S. Murdock was the pastor in charge. During the next two years there was only occasional preaching. From December, 1875, Rev. S. S. Sturges was the stated supply until his death, June 20, 1877. From October, 1877, until October, 1879, the Rev. L. A. T. Jobe was the minister in charge. Since his departure the church has been without pastor or stated supply.


Felton Lodge, No, 30, I. O. O. F. was instituted June 21, 1859, and in 1887 the lodge was in a very flourishing condition.

Felton Lodge, No. 22, A. F. A. M., was legally organized in 1868. The Masons met in the Odd Fellows' Hall until November, 1875, when they, in conjunction with the Knights of Pythias, built a hall of their own. The Masonic fraternity at Felton had many trials. They were burnt out and lost their furniture and regalia; and after their funds had been embezzled by their treasurer, they became disheartened, and surrendered their charter to the Grand Lodge.

The Knights of Pythias also had a discouraging existence.

For many years the people of Felton had no other school facilities than those afforded by the old-fashioned school-house, situated half a mile east of town, on the site of the Purnell's meeting-house lot, and hence called "Purnell's School-house." In 1887 Felton had one of the finest school-houses on the Peninsula, and her educational facilities are as good as those of any town in the State.

A stock company was formed and a seminary was instituted for the education of both sexes in the languages, belles lettres and the higher mathematics. It was placed under the management of Robert H. Skinner, and was successfully conducted by him.

The town of Felton was incorporated before 1861. The records of the town in many respects are incomplete and unobtainable. The civil list is as follows:

Town Clerks
Joseph H. Boon 1862
A. J. Wright 1864
John A. Moore 1865
N. P. Luff. 1806
P. L Bonwill 1866
Benjamin C. Hopkins 1869
M. M. Stevenson 1870
John A. Moore 1871-73
A. B. Conner 1874
Wilbur H. Burnite 1875
A. B. Conner 1876
J. A. Moore 1877-78
W. H. Burnite 1880
A. B. Conner 1881-82
C. C. Clifton 1883
William T. Parvis 1884
C. L. Luff 1885
George Waldman 1886
A. B. Conner 1887
James B. Conner 1861
A. J. Wright 1864
John A. Moore 1865
N. P. Luff 1866
P. L. Bonwill 1867-69
N. P. Luff. 1870
Philemon C. Carter 1871
Jacob W. Prettyman 1872
John Simpeon 1873
J. T. Taylor 1874
M. M. Stevenson 1875
John W. Godwin 1876
M. M. Stevenson 1877
Joshua B. Luff. 1878
M. M. Stevenson 1880
Thomas H. Kelley 1881-87
John Simpson 1861
Samuel Harrington 1864
W. H. Cain 1866
Samuel D. Roe 1867
David Needles 1869-74
John Green 1875-76
J. W. Godwin 1877
John Green 1878-80
John W. Waldman 1881
John Green 1882
J. B. Luff. 1883-86
John M. Evans 1886
Robert Hodgson 1887
H. Morris Stevenson 1861-64
W. T. Case 1867
W. H. Cain 1865
Thomas H. Kelley 1880-87
George Moore 1861-79
Stephen G. Simpkins 1886
A. J. Wright. 1880
Peter Creadick 1887
Peter Creadick. 1881-86
John W. Carter. 1861
Nathaniel P. Luff. 1861
A. J. Wright 1861
Dr. Joseph Simpson 1861
A. J. Wright 1862
James B. Conner 1862
Joseph Simpson 1862
John Simpson 1862
Jobs. Butterworth 1882
John A. Moore 1861
A. J. Wright 1864
N. P. Luff 1804
John W. Reynolds 1864
Charles P. Wyatt 1864
Dr. Joseph Simpson 1866
John Bailey 1865
James B. Conner 1865
Stephen W. Lewis 1865
J. W. Reynolds 1865
William H. Herring 1866
N. P. Luff 1866
David Foster 1866
Joshua R. Luff. 1866
N. P. Luff 1866
J. A. Moore 1866
Andrew Niles 1866
S. Harrington 1806
J. W. Reynolds 1866
Peter L. Bonwill 1867
J. B. Anderson 1867
John Shilling 1867
Benjamin A. Reeves 1867
Samuel Harrington 1867
P. L. Bonwill 1868
B. A. Reeves 1868
W. H. Cain 1868
David Needles 1868
J. T. Taylor 1868

In 1869 the town was re-incorporated, and the act appointed commissioners for the first year as follows:

Jacob W. Prettyman 1869
Benjamin A. Reeves 1869
David Niver 1869
Benjamin C. Hopkins. 1869
S. D. Roe 1870
M. M. Stevenson 1870
Joshua Morris. 1870
John A. Moore 1870
John A. Moore 1871
M. M. Stevenson 1871
Ell Dehorty 1871
Charles P. Wright 1871
J. A. Moore 1872
M. M. Stevenson 1872
C. P. Wyatt 1872
Eli Dehorty 1872
Same Commissioners 1873
J. A. Moore 1874
Alvin B. Conner 1874
N. P. Luff 1874
P. C. Carter 1874
P. C. Carter 1875
Wilbur H. Burnite 1875
Eli Dehorty 1875
John Simpson 1875
J. A. Moore 1876
Alfredo. Clifton 1876
John M. Waldman 1876
Alvin B. Conner 1876
John W. Godwin 1876
J. A. Moore 1877
J. M. Waldman 1877
Eli Dehorty 1877
J. H. Hubbard 1877
Alfred O. Clifton 1877
W. H. Burnite 1878
P. C. Carter 1878
A. B. Conner 1878
R. W. Hargadine 1880
Ell Dehorty 1880
Wesley McDowell 1880
W. H. Burnite 1880
Dr. R. W. Hargadine 1881
J. B. Luff 1881
Eli Dehorty 1881
A. B. Conner 1881
Caleb L. Luff 1882
A. B. Conner 1882
R. W. Hargadine 1882
John T. Taylor 1882

February 21, 1883, the act of 1869 was amended, by which the alderman was made ex officio member.

C. L. Luff. 1883
J. M. Waldeman 1883
Ell Dehorty 1883
R. W. Hargadine 1883
Charles C. Clifton 1883
J. H. Hubbard 1883
C. L. Luff. 1884
Frederick Hubbard 1884
Eli Dehorty 1884
James H. Dunleavey 1884
W. T. Parvis 1884
George Dehorty 1884
A. B. Conner 1885
M. M. Stevenson... 1885
C. L. Luff 1885
George W. Godwin 1885
James H. Price 1885
George W. Eliason 1886
J. H. Hubbard 1886
W. T. Parvis 1886
Charles W. Kelley 1886
George Waldman 1886
William T. Milbourne 1886
John W. Godwin 1886
Jacob Friedel 1887
Henry O. Baynum 1887
John T. Taylor 1887
S. G. Simpkins 1887
Robert Clifton 1887
A. B. Conner 1888

About one-half mile west of Felton, lying on the north side of the road leading to Whiteleysburg, was a tract of three hundred and sixty-nine acres, called "Bear Garden." In 1773, it was in possession of John Grier, and is described as being bounded on the north and northeast by land of John Houseman, called the "Turkey's Nest;" east by land now of John Clothier; south by land of John Houseman, called the "Bald Eagle" and partly by the road to "Choptank Bridges;" and on the west by land called the "Cave," originally patented to Colonel John French. In 1810 "Bear Garden," in part, passed to Vincent Moore, a merchant, and is now owned by his grand-son. Dr. John A. Moore, of Felton. It also, in part, is now owned by Henry C. Cooper. The two parts are separated by the road leading from Berrytown to Willow Grove.

"Berrytown" was located on the southeastern corner of this tract, about one-half mile from Felton. The first record we have of it is in 1767, when Preston Berry purchased [one-half acre, part of "Bear Garden," and built on it, and in 1766, Peter Lowber kept a tavern there. In 1774, Timothy Caldwell kept a store.

In 1775, Preston Berry, blacksmith, purchased two and a half acres more. There were at one time five dwellings, two stores, blacksmith shop and a hotel in the village. A hotel was kept as late as 1811 by William Anderson. To-day there exists only two dwellings on the site of "Berry Town," the other buildings having been pulled down, converted into granaries, or moved into Felton. Since the founding of Felton the village may be said to cease to have an existence.

Immediately south of "Bear Garden" and adjoining thereto is a tract called "Bald Eagle." surveyed to John Houseman, under a warrant bearing date June 25, 1735, containing two hundred acres, the greater part of which is now in the possession of James Needles.

On the west of "Bear Garden" is a tract called the "Cave," containing five hundred and ninety acres. It was crossed in its southern part by the Choptank road, leaving a strip of one hundred and fifty acres on the south side of the road. It was surveyed to Colonel John French, administrator of

William Morton, under a warrant bearing date the 29th of the Sixth Month, 1715. The strip south of the road is now owned by Jacob Friedel and the heirs of James Hopkins, deceased, and the quantity north of the road is now in the possession of Wilbur H. Burnite and _____ Parmalee.

Adjoining "Bear Swamp" on the north is a tract of one hundred and seventy-six acres, surveyed to John Houseman, by virtue of a warrant bearing date February 24, 1742. Ii was called the "Turkey's Nest," and was lately in the possession of Elias S. Reed and Nathaniel Harrington.

About two miles west-southwest, on the road to Whiteleysburg, is a small hamlet consisting of six dwelling, a steam saw-mill and a population of about thirty inhabitants, called "Bunite's Mill" formerly "Reynolds Corners" The people are chiefly engaged in the employ of Wilbur H. Burnite, who runs a steam saw-mill in the manufacture of ship timber, etc., and an evaporating establishment in peach season. About five miles from Felton, on the same road, is a small village called "Hollandsville" laid out in 1854 by Richard Holland, a surveyor and school-teacher, and named after himself. He built a dwelling and store-house, and engaged in mercantile pursuits, but in a short time the property passed into the hands of Samuel C. Dill, the present owner.

The place in 1887 contained two general stores, four dwellings and about twenty inhabitants. It also has a post-office. About one-fourth of a mile northeast of the village, in Mispillion Hundred, is located a Methodist Episcopal Church, named "Manship's" called after the Rev. Andrew Manship, who dedicated it December 2, 1855. This church took the place of "Black Swamp" Methodist Episcopal Church, located about one and a quarter miles farther up the road toward Felton. Intermediate between these two locations on the Mispillion side of the road, on the land now owned by Alexander Hughes, was located, in 1772, "St. Paul's" Protestant Episcopal Church, which was abandoned previous to 1820, and is now entirely obliterated.

About nine and a quarter miles southwest of Felton, on the road to Denton, Maryland, is the Tillage of "Whiteleysburg" located on land formerly the property of Arthur John Whitely. About sixty years ago it was a thriving village, containing an extensive tannery, owned by the Lock wood Brothers, one general store, wheelwright and blacksmith shops, eight families and a population of about fifty. Today it contains one general store, three dwellings and a blacksmith shop.

It was located on or adjacent to a tract called "Rich's Wood Yard," containing four hundred acres. The greater part of this tract lies north of Whiteleysburg and is principally owned by Jonathan Longfellow. This tract adjoins a tract, "Golden Grove," taken up under a Maryland patent.

On the road from Felton to Sandtown, about three miles west, is situated "Willis' Chapel." In 1858 the Rev. Joseph M. Magee, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, founded on this bite a church which he called "Ebenezer." In 1880 the church building was sold and moved away, and a new structure erected in its stead, which the congregation named in honor of their pastor, the Rev. Jonathan S. Willis, an eloquent and popular preacher and lecturer.

At the junction of the road from Felton to Willow Grove and the road from Petersburg to Canterbury was located, in South Murderkill Hundred, on the line dividing the two hundreds, another Methodist Episcopal Church, founded also by the Rev. J. N. Magee. In 1857 he erected a plank church, after the manner of a camp-meeting tent, at which the Rev. J. S. Willis preached the dedication sermon. In the following year he succeeded in erecting a handsome wooden structure, which he dedicated with the usual solemn ceremonies. This church has been moved to Viola and rehabilitated within the last three years. The schoolhouse which stood beside it has also been moved away about half a mile eastward. Today "Magee's Chapel" Cross-Roads does not exist.

About two miles southwest of Willow Grove, on the road to Greensboro', Maryland, lying on both sides of Beaver Dam Branch, a tributary of Cow Marsh Ditch, and south of Iron Mine Branch, a prong of Beaver Dam Branch, is a tract of two hundred and seventy acres, called "Cow Neck," surveyed for William Welch, April 29, 1731. It was resurveyed for Michael Lowber, in trust for his three grandchildren, John, Michael and Susanna Reynolds, April 17, 1739. Michael Reynolds was the -grandfather of Robert W. Reynolds, who died in 1863, and Susanna was the grandmother of John Gooden, who died in 1867, aged eighty-eight years. Through the Lowber blood these two families are connected with not less than half of the families in Kent County, and their affiliations are scattered throughout nearly every State and Territory in the United States. "Cow Neck" is now in the possession of three of Michael Lowber's descendants. Robert J. Reynolds owns about one hundred acres west of Beaver Dam Branch his sister, Mrs. Fanny G. Clough, and Mrs. Letitia Gruwell own the remainder of the original tract. The mansion-house of "Golden Ridge," where R. W. Reynolds resided at the time of his death, is upon the tract "Cow Neck." "Golden Ridge" lies west of "Cow Neck" and is owned by R. J. Reynolds, to whom it descended from his ancestors.

About four miles southwest of Willow Grove, on the road to Greensboro', and lying on the south side thereof, is a tract of two hundred acres, called "Rachel's Delight," taken up by Robert Meredith, under warrant of September 18, 1735, and which is now owned by Peter K. Meredith, a direct descendant. To the southeast of "Rachel's Delight" is a tract of one hundred and fifty-seven acres, taken up by Joshua Meredith, under warrant of April 22, 1743, which is also the property of P. K. Meredith, he having recently purchased it from Whitely H. Meredith, now deceased.

Five miles west of Felton, on the south side of the road leading from Felton to Sandtown, are several ancient tracts, now embraced in one tract of nearly seven hundred acres, owned by Mrs. Sarah A. Warren, widow of Charles Warren, and her sister, Mary E. White, who inherited the land from their ancestors, Richard, William and John White. The part called "Flintshire" was a tract of two hundred and seventy-two acres, taken up by John Davis, by virtue of a warrant dated June 4, 1742, and lay on both sides at the head of Meredith's Branch. "White's Lott," on the west side of Meredith's Branch, upon which they reside, was taken up by Wm. White, under warrant of June 4, 1742, and contained one hundred and twenty-nine acres Under a warrant of June 2, 1746, there was surveyed to Richard White a tract of one hundred and ninety acres, called "Richard's Swamp," and under warrant of June 22, 1744, forty-four acres more. "Loftis's Desire,'' taken up under a Maryland patent by John Loftis, was sold by him to John Reed and Wm. White in 1794. This tract now belongs to Lewis Schabinger in part, and in part to Mrs. Warren and her sister. These tracts lie at the head of Meredith's Branch and of Pratt's Branch, a small stream flowing northward through lands late the property of James Cohee and of Nathan Clarke, and emptying into Meredith's Branch from the west.

On the lands owned by Mrs. Warren, nearly one mile south of the present site of the school-house, in District No. 61, was located a pay-school that was taught by Robert A. Maxwell in 1826. The furniture was very primitive. The benches were formed of a hollow gum split open and the concave side placed next the floor, with boards laid across. The teacher's desk was as equally unique, consisting of a barrel with a board laid across for the teacher to write on. There was a school-house on the same tract of land westward of the old mansion, where John White, the father of Mrs. Warren, born in 1798, attended school in 1808-10.

A little over four and a half miles southwest of Willow Grove, on the road to Greensboro', and lying on both sides of the public road, partly in North and partly in the South Murderkill Hundreds lies a tract of one thousand acres, taken up by Joshua Dine or Doyne, of St. Mary's County, under a Maryland grant, dated June 4, 1683. This tract was granted to Doyne by Charles, Lord Baltimore, February 10, 1684. In 1780 it was in possession of Benedict Brice, who deeded, the same year, one hundred and eighty-four acres to Edward Callahan. Part of "Timnah Serah," the above-described land was, in 1797, in possession of the heirs of Elijah Dawson.

"Timnah Serah" in 1887 is in possession of the heirs of Nathan Clarke, Samuel D. Conner, John Gruwell, Joseph Gruwell and Dr. John M. Wilkinson.

On the tract "Timnah Serah" is located a Methodist Protestant Church, which was founded in 1845, and superseded by a new and more commodious structure about 1871.

There was also situated on this tract a schoolhouse, which was used also as a meeting-house for the Methodists. Prior to 1829 it was known as a pay-school, and was taught by William Mason in 1828.

Sandtown. Adjoining "Timnah Serah," on the west, is a tract of land taken up under a Maryland patent, of which no survey is now at hand. This tract was called "Codds-head-Manor," and lay partly in Carolina County, Md., and partly in Kent County, Del. On this tract is located "Sandtown," which, ninety years ago, was called "Lewisville." The village of Sandtown was laid out May 9, 1797, on which day six building lots were sold: Edward Covington, one acre; John Lemar, one acre; John Grigg, one acre and fourteen perches; Sarah Greenbury and Benjamin Dawson, one acre; Robert Meredith, seven-eighths of an acre; Thomas Taylor, one acre, beginning by a blacksmith's shop.

The ancient tract of "Codds-head-manor," on which Sandtown is located. Between 1825-30 was in the possession of John Killen, a prominent man in his locality. In 1847 it became the property of John Cooper, where he has since resided. About 1816 a general store was kept here by Vincent Moore, who also carried on the mercantile business at Berry town at the same time. In 1827 the mercantile business was carried on by William Bostick, and a hotel called the "Red Tavern" was conducted by Cynthia Grigg, who afterwards sold out and moved to Wilmington. The village of Lewisville at that time consisted of seven families and a population of about forty-five. The Killens and the Bennetts were the noted men of the neighborhood. At this time there is one store, kept by Samuel Faulkner, who also runs a distillery in the manufacture of apple brandy. In 1885 a post-office was established with James A. Longfellow for post-master. The service is a tri-weekly mail. There are now three families and nine inhabitants. This place, like many others, before the advent of the Delaware Railroad, was noted for the conviviality of its inhabitants and for their hospitality towards strangers.

South of Sandtown, on the west side of the road leading toward Whiteleysburg, is a long, irregular tract, extending from north to south, called the "Crooked Billet."

It was taken up under a warrant of February 22, 1776, by Samuel Craig, and contained eighty-one acres. It is now owned by Henry L. Carter, of Frederica, and by Thomas Smith, who was born on the land.

Intermediate between Sandtown and Whiteleysburg is "Greenlee's Cross-Roads," which is formed by the intersection of the road from Felton to Greensboro', Md. At this point, and south of it, were three parcels of land, known by the name of "Brotherly Love," "Wootter's Lot" and "Bear Hill," which were in possession of George Cooper in 1787, who came to this country with his brother, Richard, from Yorkshire, England, sometime previous to the year 1747. This land has continued in the uninterrupted possession of his family, and is now in possession of his great-grandson, John W. Cooper, who has since added to the three tracts two hundred and nine acre, part of "Golden Grove," a Maryland patent, which was surveyed to Robert French under warrant of December 23, 1702. This part of "Golden Grove" lies on the Delaware and Maryland line, on the north of White Marsh Branch and adjoining *' Rich's Wood Yard," which extends to Whiteleysburg.

At Greenlee's Cross-Roads, sometime after his father's death, which occurred at the beginning of 1795, John Cooper, who was a local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church, built a house for worship, which was known as "Cooper's Meeting-House." This meeting-house was also used as a school-house up to the establishment of free schools in this State, which occurred in 1829. On the tract "Golden Grove" in 1844, lying about two miles north of Whiteleysburg, was founded a meeting-house and a cemetery by the Methodist Protestant Church, and called by the name of "Cedar Grove Meeting-House." Upon the building of this church the old structure at Greenlee's Corners was moved away and converted into a barn by William Greenlee. This building having become too small to accommodate the increasing membership and attendance in 1858, the narrow quarters were superseded by a new and splendid edifice, on the site of the old one.

On the east side of the road opposite, is a tract of two hundred and ninety acres made up of three other tracts, called the "Upton Farm," which recently became the property of Dr. Thomas H. Cooper, of Chestertown, Md.

Murder Mill Neck is the eastern end of South Murderkill Hundred, in Kent County, bounded east by the Delaware Bay. north by Jones River, south, by Murderkill Creek and west by the north branch of its Spring Creek tributary, known as the Montague mill-stream. Near the mill-seat a slight elevation divides its waters from a branch of Jones' Creek, and thus prevents the neck from being an island. The divide, with contiguous tracts, was an early acquisition of the Chambers family, whose ancient dwellings and burial vaults are pointed out to the stranger. That the Neck was once a populous abode or favorite haunt of the red man, is evident by the shell-heaps visible, and by other large deposits. Many arrow-heads have been gathered, of various shapes and origin. A heap of fragmentary arrow-head cleavings, once observed at the mouth of Murderkill Creek, suggested the idea that it may have been at one time; a place for the manufacture of Indian implements. Recent collections of implements besides arrow-heads and interesting specimens of pottery include tree killers, meat and skin dressers, corn crusher and a furbisher. Great numbers of waterfowl frequented the streams, small quadrupeds the forests, ponds and marshes; wild turkeys were numerous; bears, deer and other animals were common in this locality.2 The family names of early settlers in Murderkill Neck, and especially of those who afterwards rose to a controlling influence in the affairs of the neighborhood, and who, having died, are now remembered only by what they have done, may be mentioned, in the following order: Warren, Barratt, Nowell, Sippie, Gray, Chambers, Van Natti, Neill, Walton, Darnell, Cramer, Montague, Boone, Lockwood, Edmunds, Hewston, Fisher, Cole, Lindale, Smith, Anderson, Smithers, Wilson, George, Manlove, Bowers, Reed, Grier, Clark, Harper, Melvin, Burchenal, Hirons, Vickery, Williams, West, Baker and Emory.

"Lamented dead and names of men
who built the Schoolhouse, drained the fen."

The latest dates found on any head stones of the Van Nattis or Nowells are 1787. The private burial-ground of the Warrens is doubtless one of the oldest, but that of the Barratts best denotes wealth and refinement. Inhabitants of the Necks had acquired a degree of social culture and repute before Frederica was known as a town.

The soils near the bay shore, and on the creek bot-toms, are naturally stronger than the uplands, yielding more grain and of better quality. The farmers have always been able to carry more stock by reason of their marshes, and thus, making more manure, maintain fertility. Convenient landings for the shipment of forest and farm produce, and in the unloading of lime, coal, fertilizers and general merchandise, is of great advantage to the farmers in this locality.

To restore the worn-out lands, lime was applied at an early period by some who were able to obtain it. The late Joseph Burchenal, in 1836, constructed a kiln on his farm for the burning of lime-stone. The wholesale destruction of wooded preserves, before the development of coal, caused alarm among the people. To meet the demand for hedges, long before the Osage orange came into use, Jehu Reed; in 1832, having then a nursery upon his home farm, procured berries of the Virginia blackthorn. These he fermented, planting the seed in beds, and for many years grew and sold thornquicks in addition to other nursery stock. In some instances he set out hedges by contract, notably one for his friend and patron, the Hon. John M. Clayton. About the same time he was in quest of pine-seed to sow on certain tracts of worn out land he had acquired in Murderkill Neck, as is shown by a letter to him from the family of General Potter, of Maryland, dated October 23, 1831, which land he was then unable otherwise to improve. Failing, for some cause, to obtain the pine seed to sow the next spring, Mr. Reed set out about thirty acres of this poor land in peach scions, from such of his nursery stock as he could not sell.'

It Is said Drummer Gray, an aged freedman, who died about 1840, pointed out, in his time, to those now living, the place where he had seen the last small herd of buffalo in this neck, namely, a glade or meadow, on the farm of his then master, Andrew Gray the grandfather of our Senator George Gray, northwest of his residence.

This character deserves a historic niche. In addition to his freedom, he was given a life-right in what the papers call the "Drummer Gray Lotts." ''Well to-do" white folks speak of his hospitality, of visits to his house and of seats at his table. Pious, and justly proud of his oxen, he could be seen in his cart early Sunday morning, on his way to Barratt's Chapel, where, in the gallery, the colored people worshipped in those days and held class-meetings before the white folks arrived. Back of these historic walls of Methodism, and of the more recent mortuary city of evergreen and marble, are the graves of those early Christians of the colored race. Some who yet live well represent "the rare old stock" especially those by the name of Gray (of several distinct types) whose ancestors were doubtless all slaves to the same family, known as sober, civil and orderly, reflect credit on the name they inherit, as compared with certain others, who received not the precepts of religion while under the yoke. In the lives of these, observed to be vicious, treacherous and short, and of those the reverse, one may discern antecedents; likewise, the good or evil one may do through successive generations after ceasing to live or even to be remembered.

In 1834 Mr. Reed had peaches of his own growing of fine quality, from an orchard interset with the Damson plum. Finding the latter required different treatment from the peach, they were replaced by apple trees. It was not, however, until after he had set out his third orchard with persistent pomological endeavor, that Mr. Reed received any profitable return from his fruit from 1836 to 1840, and these were of natural varieties, as were all that had gone before. Amid difficulties that would have paralyzed any but a brave and determined spirit, the nursery business was continued by Mr. Reed, his stock including the different varieties of the peach, apple, pear, plum, grape and quince, also quicks and the Italian and Chinese mulberries. He was also early in sympathy with the silk-growers of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and set out a tract of his worn out land as an orchard, in the Italian mulberry. Two of these trees he set near the front entrance of Barratt's Chapel, as memorial shade-trees, in honor of his deceased wife, one of which, after more than fifty-three years, is still in good condition.

The mulberry trees made rapid growth in the worn-out soil, and were, apparently, as self-sustaining and free from drawbacks as any indigenous tree of the forest. Under the inspiration of a National Society, organized in Philadelphia in 1839, with Nicholas Biddle as president, for the promotion of silk culture, Reed fitted up hurdles in [suitable apartments, and began the growing of silk, feeding the worms on the foliage gathered from his plantation of mulberries. Finding the first season that 'the silk-worm eggs were difficult to check or keep back from hatch-ing before the mulberry leaves were sufficiently developed, he grew afterwards early lettuce in sheltered beds, on which to feed the young worms until the mulberry leaves were sufficiently grown. A few worms were fed on the lettuce exclusively, to observe the result, which was of fair growth, without the production of silk. Mr. Reed's experience confirmed the views propagated by Benjamin Franklin in 1770, and later by ex-President Adams; also by Mr. Randolph, who, in his report to Congress, as chairman of the committee appointed to investigate the subject, declared the perfect adaptability of Delaware soil and climate for the production of silk, equal to the best portions of China. He also found the work especially adapted to women and children, and concluded that if females were encouraged to persevere in it on their own account a lucrative business would certainly follow. Continuing a mixed husbandry on his farms, but dropping the silk business and other side business, Mr. Reed resolved to make of the peach a specially, and in 1841 took a new departure, as shown by advertisements printed in February, 1842. He procured the services of Champion Clark, a practical nurseryman from New Jersey, and announced that he was prepared to furnish "inoculated" and "engrafted peach trees," and any article in the "peach scion line equal, as to quality of fruit, to anything that can be furnished from any nursery in the Union." Mr. Reed sold his trees from $8 to $12.50 per hundred. His varieties were: "Early York Opening," "Early Heath Opening," "Old Mixon's Early Cling," "Red Cheek Malacatoon," "Pine Apple Peach Improved," "Columbia," "Morris White," "Late Rare Ripe," "Lemon Cling," "Late Heath" or "English Cling Improved."

A printed advertisement found among the paper of Jehu Reed, deceased, shows that he had a nursery of peach scion for sale in 1827.

Whatever remained unsold of his inoculated peach trees, instead of burning them, as practiced in New Jersey, he continued to hold and to set out on his best land. He also grew about this time large quantities of the famous Mercer potatoes. In one year he gathered about seven hundred bushels, and was awarded a silver medal for meritorious advancement in horticulture. When more peach trees were left over, Mr. Reed was compelled to plant them in soil less improved, and he resorted to the king crab as a fertilizer. In 184 1 - 1 5 he had about one hundred acres in very thrifty peach orchards, all of choice budded fruit, which area was rapidly increased to two hundred acres or more a few years later. Selling the late Henry Todd trees to set out his first orchard, Mr. Reed afterwards sent his sons to inoculate a nursery of scions which Mr. Todd had raided from the seed. In 1846 he began to send his peaches to the Philadelphia market by a line of fast-sailing boats, of light draft, chartered and manned expressly for his own fruit. The peaches had to compete with those of Major Reybold, whose extra fine fruit went to market by steam, over less than half the distance. Notwithstanding every disadvantage, Mr. Reed continued this plan with abundant success for about ten years, or until the Delaware Railroad reached Wyoming. The boats discharged their cargoes bound to New York at Camden, New Jersey, where it brought more money than in Philadelphia. In 1857 the pines Mr. Reed had sown in 1884 and later presented a handsome body of well-grown timber, ready for the harvest of cord-wood, of which many vessel-loads were sent to market. After this wood was cut and marketed, Mr. Reed lived long enough to grow another crop of the same age from the same seed. About seven years before the timber was removed the land received a heavy dressing of lime, and when the ground was cleared, the once worn-out toil was new land of most excellent quality. It has been used almost continually since in gardening for the New York market. Mr. Reed's peaches and wood were shipped from Warren's alias Gray's Landing, on Jones' River, which empties into the Delaware Bay at the northwest end of a pretty beach, once covered with oak and walnut trees to the verge of an abrupt shore of gravel and tenacious yellow clay. This place, at first called Whitwell's Delight, has been known for many years as Bowers' Beach, and extends to the mouth of Murderkill Creek, about two-thirds of a mile. The bathing is good, and bath-houses with bathing-suits are at hand. A well-kept hotel with extensive stabling adds to the attractions, and though much of the shore has been washed away, it must continue to be a favorite place of resort its trout fisheries have always been a feature, attracting farmers and others, even from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. The oysters of Murderkill Creek and of the shore near the mouth, are said to resemble the famous Blue Points, and have been preferred by many consumers to any others for a certain delicacy of flavor. The gathering of king crabs for commerce has received a check by recent legislative enactment.

It was reserved for Bende Blohm, of Pennsgrove, New Jersey, to teach the natives the value and meth-od of catching sturgeon. Casting his nets in the cove, in March, 1871, he took the first day seventy sturgeon, valued at six hundred dollars. Since that event, quite a number of men have engaged in the business every season. Before the sturgeon enter the Hudson or Delaware Rivers, avoiding the icy currents still descending the channels from the north, they seek the warmer waters of Bowers' Cove, and taken then are quite a prize to the fishermen. Schools of shad also, of the finest quality, bask for a while near the flat shore, before ascending the rivers and creeks. Recently and by improved methods, those engaged in taking them have made of it a lucrative calling.

A village has grown up near the beach, called Bowers', and a post-office was established there in 1880. The oysters planted off shore, by reason of the Murderkill waters, are of the finest quality. The one great drawback to the cove planting and development of kindred industries at Bowers' is the bar obstructing the mouth of Jones' River. Unable to make the nearby harbor, which Jones' would afford in stormy weather at low tide (with a jettied deep water way through this bar), the oyster boats have to depend solely on a run to Mahon's every evening, or, when in stress of weather, a round trip of more than twenty miles.

The channel through this bar permanently deepened, the Jones' River, meandering through grain, fruit and garden farms, and past numerous landings, affords a water-way for heavy and fast freights alike an advantage which numerous and increasing business interests demand.

In the summer of 1887 an opening was made through this bar and the river dredged to Dover, and a steamboat has recently made trips from Dover to Philadelphia.


Kent County

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

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