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Market Square & Hotels, New Castle, New Castle Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware

Inns and Hotels Old Buildings Market Square
Common Trustee

Inns and Hotels

In the early history of New Castle the inns, ordinaries or public-houses were prominent factors in the social and business life of the community. It was at such places that important public gatherings, including even religious meetings, were held, and the best citizens of the town met there for social con venation and to hear and discuss the news received from travelers. The keeper was frequently a man of marked characteristics, prominent in the affairs of the place, and one whose opinions were usually courted. Occasionally, however, an inn-keeper would be found who did not meet the requirements of the age, and his hostelry soon declined.

Fopp Jansen Outhout, who was a magistrate from 1676-83, was an inn-keeper in New Amstel in 1662, as is mentioned in a trial of that date in which he is mentioned as one of the witnesses.

Ralph Hutchinson was an ordinary keeper at New Castle as early as 1677, and was probably one of the first in that vocation. His place was afterwards kept by his brother, Robberd, who, unfortunately, was charged with dishonest practices, and, as he was also a constable, his case became an object of public consideration. On June 3, 1679, a letter containing the following facts was sent to the Governor asking his advice:

"One Adam Wolles, a mariner, come to this place from Maryland with his chest, and stopped at the house of Robberd Hutchinson. After he had been there a day or two he found that the chest had been opened, things taken out, and again locked. He made the theft known and gave a list of articles be had in the chest. Suspicion was attached to Hutchinson, who, when closely examined, owned up, and the most of the articles were found. After other witnesses were examined he again disclosed more, and threw himself upon the court. He was put in prison."

The Governor in reply commented at length upon, the enormity of the offense, but left the punishment to the court. Hutchinson was dismissed from the ''constablewick, '' and the court "doe order and sentence that hee, the sd Robberd Hutchinson, for example to others, bee brought to the forte gate and there publicquely whipt thirty and nine strokes or lashes; that hee pay unto Adam Wolles the remainder of ye goods stolen out of ye chest not yet found, together with all the charges and fees of this action, and doe further forever banish ye sd Robberd Hutchinson out of this River of Delaware and partes adjacent, hee to depart within three days now next ensuing, with leave to choose and appoint any person as his attorney to receive and pay his debts. God save the King." This above sd sentence was put in execution And Robberd Hutchinson publicquely whipt ye same day in New Castle, etc."

Hutchinson was succeeded June 4, 1679, by John Darby. The property was described as ''bounded on the east by the strand, or river; south, by the house of John Hendrickson, drover; west, by the moat; and north, by the house and lot of Isaac Tayne." Darby's license was granted with the proviso that "he performs what he now promises which is viz: That he will keep a good and orderly house; that hee will now begin with six beds and within twelve months procure six beds more; to have only privilege to sell drink by retayle. In case none other be admitted more by the Court."

Prior to 1709 John Brewster was an "Innholder" at New Castle, and on February 28, 1709, he and Elizabeth, his wife, sold to "Richard Halliwell, of New Castle, merchant, the lot fifty by two hundred and fifty feet, bounded southwesterly with Thomas Janvier's lot; northeasterly with burying-ground; northwesterly with Presbyterian meeting-house and southeasterly with ye street. He also gave to Richard Halliwell one silver quart tankard and seven silver spoons."

In the latter part of the eighteenth century Robert Furness was the keeper of an ordinary at New Castle, and it was at his house that the first Methodist meetings in New Castle were held. He was a man of determined purpose and great force of character.

In 1802 Captain Caleb P. Bennett was an inn-keeper, and at his place the county elections were held. In 1803 he bought "the late residence of George Read, Esq., comer Front and Delaware Streets, and then used it as a tavern, calling it the ''Delaware Hotel.'' In 1824 the hotels on Water Street were burned down, and one of them, after being rebuilt and carried as the "Stockton House," was again burned in 1870. For many years it was the office of stage lines passing out of New Castle. In the rear of this building there was a steamboat landing which has long since been abandoned. In 1828 Henry Steele was the keeper of the "Spread Eagle Hotel," and James Steele was a landlord later. This place is still kept as a hostelry under another name. John Crow was for many years a keeper of the "Delaware House." The present "Jefferson House" was originally the store and residence of Elihu Jefferson, and was remodeled for hotel purposes. It is the property of William Herbert.

The Gilpin House, located opposite the old courthouse, is now the oldest hotel in continuous use in the town. It took its present name from the late Chief Justice Gilpin, and for years was the stopping-place of the judges and attorneys of the court.

Old Buildings

Few very old buildings remain in New Castle. It is believed that the back building of the present Gilpin House is as ancient as any structure in the place, and that it was the meeting-place of the first courts. It was also one of the first places of public entertainment. Nearby is a brick building, erected in 1681, where William Penn was entertained by his host Lagrange, when he visited the town in 1682. It had originally a hip-roof, but, in 1858, was remodeled by the present owner, George W. Turner. The famous old tile house was built in 1687, but by whom, or for what purpose, is not known. It was three stories high and its roof was very steep and covered with tile brought from Holland. The rafters were made like the knees of a vessel, all cut out of crooked timber. The brick in its walls were of small size and made of "whitish earth." The building was used for a number of purposes, and became very dilapidated before it was demolished in 1884.

The John Bird house was also built before 1700 and is still standing. It was long the property of Major John Moody. The house of George Read, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was on Water Street, and was removed many years ago. For a short time it was used as a bank building. George Read, the second, built the house now occupied by the family of Samuel Couper. The building, occupied in part by M. C. Rogers as a tobacco shop, antedates the struggle for independence many years. In the time of the Revolution it was occupied by a Dr. Finney.

A part of the old Courthouse, used as a State building in William Penn's time, was erected prior to 1680. Two years later Penn met the court in this building. The building has been enlarged and the interior changed. Some very large timbers have been used in its construction, the main girder consist-ing of a single piece of timber resting on two pillars opposite the doors. On these pillars it was customary in olden times to place the hands of criminals who had committed manslaughter, while they were branded with the letters M. S. A. The red-hot iron was applied until the room was filled with fumes from the burning flesh. The last person so branded was a colored man by the name of Jacob Battle, apprehended for the killing of one Clark.

Market Square

New Castle Commons. This market-house was built by the trustees of New Castle Common, [has not been much used for market purposes in recent years. The lot on which it stands is part of a tract of land reserved for public uses as early as the seventeenth century. It has been controlled by various authorities, generally by trustees for the people of New Castle. This office, in the course of years, was neglected, and with a view of placing the property in the care of a perpetual board of trustees, the Assembly on Jane 13, 1 772, appointed a board of Market Square trustees, consisting of David Finney, John Thompson, George Read, Thomas McKean and George Munro. The surviving trustee was empowered to name his successors. This was first done by Thomas McKean in August, 1809, when he appointed James R. Black, Kensey Johns, James Rogers, James Riddle, William C. Frazier, George Read and George Munro. On March 13, 1851, James Rogers, the surviving trustee, named Wm. T. Read, John Janvier, Wm. Couper, Charles H. Black and James Mansfield. On April 30, 1877, John Janvier, survivor, by deed appointed George Gray, John H. Rodney, Richard G. Cooper, Joseph H. Rogers and Julian D. Janvier.

On February 20, 1883, the Assembly enlarged the powers of the trustees and authorized them to hold the property for the city of New Castle, the rights of the county to the buildings, if it should want to use them for the purposes originally intended, being reserved^ Under this act the square and its improvements have since been controlled.

The citizens of New Castle have also been much benefited by the income arising from the common lands, which, in the last forty years especially, has aided materially in supporting the schools and in improving the city. Ever since the settlement of New Castle the lands lying north of the town have been regarded as the common property of the citizens, and for nearly a century and a half have been held in trust for their common good. Under Swedish and Dutch rule individual rights to the wood and pasture on these lands were exercised, and it has only been within a comparatively recent period that a systematic effort was made to improve the lands with a view to making them more productive. The limits of these common lands were not defined prior to the eighteenth century, but on October 31, 1701, William Penn, as proprietor, "directed Edward Penington, Surveyor-General of the Province of Pennsylvania and Territories, by a warrant, to survey one thousand acres of land for a common for the use of the inhabitants of the town of New Castle. On April 10, 1704, George Deakyne, surveyor, made a return of the survey, which included one thousand and sixty-eight acres north of New Castle."

The acreage of the common lands having been fixed and the location established, "nothing further of importance seems to have been done in the matter until November 17, 1764, when Thomas and Richard Penn, sons of William Penn, and 'true and absolute proprietaries and governors in chief of the counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex, in Delaware, and Province of Pennsylvania, recorded a charter incorporating, 'in pursuance of a warrant from our late father, William Penn, Esquire, the trustees of the common. The inhabitants of New Castle had complained that persons having property contiguous to the common were encroaching upon the town's tract, wasting the timber, etc., and they urged Thomas and Richard Penn to 'incorporate a certain number of them, the said inhabitants of New Castle, and give them perpetual succession, and to confirm to them the said tract of land in common for the use and behoof of all the inhabitants of the said town.'

''The request was favored, and John Finney, Richard McWilliams, David Finney, Thomas McKean, George Read and George Munro, Esquires, and John Van Gezell, Zachariah Van Leuvenigh, Slator Clay, John Yeates, Nathaniel Silsbee, Daniel McLonen, Robert Morrison, gentlemen, were named as trustees, and they and their successors, forever after, were to be one body corporate and politic, in deed, by the name of the Trustees of New Castle Common.'' The tract was deeded to the trustees for ''the use of the inhabitants of the town of New Castle.'' The deed, made by the two Penns, declared that the property was ''to be holden of us, our heirs and successors, proprietaries of the said counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex, in Delaware, as of our manor of Rockland, in free and common socage, by fealty only in lieu of all other services. Yielding and paying, therefor, yearly and every year, unto us, our heirs and successors, at the town of New Castle, aforesaid, the rent of one ear of Indian corn, if demanded.'

''The trustees were endowed with all the powers of corporation, to sue and be sued, and to establish such by-laws, ordinances, etc., deemed just and necessary, provided they were not ''repugnant to the laws of England or to the government of the counties aforesaid. '' When a trustee died, removed from New Castle, or was removed from office for misbehavior, an election was to be held, within ten days, for a successor, by such persons as had a freehold interest of forty shillings in New Castle, or who paid a yearly rental of that amount. The trustees were not to hold, as a body politic, by their letters patent, any Other lands or tenements except the Common, and they had no power to sell any part of the Common, which were for no other use whatever except for the inhabitants of New Castle. If the trustees failed to obey the provisions, the property was to revert to Thomas and Richard Penn, their heirs and assigns.

"On July 8, 1791 (upon solicitation of the Trustees of the Common, who claimed that the restrictive term of the grant of Thomas and Richard Penn prevented the inhabitants of the town of New Castle from deriving all those benefits and advantages which would result from a free and absolute grant thereof), John Penn of Stoke Pogis, in the county of Bucks, Esquire, and John Penn. late of Wimpole Street, in the parish of Saint Marylebone, but now of Dover Street, in the county of Middlesex, Esquire (late Proprietaries of the Province of Pennsylvania, in America), formally deeded the Common to Isaac Grantham, Esquire, the Rev. Robert Clay, clerk, and William Lees, merchant, all of the hundred and county of New Castle, then successors and heirs, in trust nevertheless, to and for the use, benefit and behoof of the inhabitants of the town of New Castle,' to be transferred or conveyed, by legal means, to the trustees of the Commons. The deed was executed in London and the seal of that city and of the Lord Mayor were affixed.

"In 1792 the General Assembly of Delaware passed an act to enlarge the corporate powers of the Trustees of the Common. It made the trustees a corporate body in deed and in law, with perpetual succession, vacancies to be provided for as in the former charter of incorporation; it gave them power to rent or lease, but not for a longer term than thirty years from the commencement of a lease or contract, and it provided that seven trustees were to make a quorum for the transaction of business, and that they must elect a president once a year.

"On July 13, 1792, Isaac Grantham, Robert Clay and William Lees formally deeded the Common to the trustees as per the deed to them by the two John Penns. The witnesses to the deed were John Bird, Jno. Willy, Sen., and Mary Grantham." From this time the title of New Castle in the lands was absolute.

In 1850 Dr. Charles H. Black and his co-trustees had the commons divided into farms, and by 1864, the annual revenue had increased to $7000, and the accumulation enabled the trustees to pay an old debt of $20,000 due the Farmers' Bank for money borrowed to build the town hall and market-house, and for paving streets. During this period the schools had been supported, the town taxes were very light and Common farms free from debt. Since that time extensive improvements have caused a small indebtedness. In 1887 the Common consisted of nine farms and two lots, north of the city of New Castle, producing a revenue of more than eight thousand dollars, which was disbursed by the trustees for the benefit of the city of New Castle. Among the annual appropriations is one item of three thousand dollars, guarantee interest at six per cent., to the New Castle Waterworks Company; and liberal appropriations are also made to the Fire Department.

In 1887 the Common trustees were the following:

John Janvier Elected June 31, 1847
Ferdinand Leckler Elected May 26, 1856
William Herbert, treasurer Elected May 14, 1859
John White Elected June 23, 1866
John Mahoney Elected April 3, 1869
James G. Shaw Elected May 8, 1869
John J. Black, M.D., president Elected December 30, 1871
John H. Rodney Elected January 9, 1875
William F. Lane, secretary Elected December 3, 1878
Elmer W. Clark Elected January 10, 1882
William J. Ferris Elected May 29, 1883
George A. Maxwell Elected January 24, 1885
Edward Challenger Elected June 20, 1885

New Castle County

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

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