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Town of Port Penn, New Castle Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware

Churches Early History Schools

According to tradition, William Penn, while on a voyage to Philadelphia, landed near the present location of Port Penn for a supply of water. In honor of this brief visit the village received its name. The land on which it stands was originally granted to Abraham Planck, Simon Boot, Jan Andriesen and Peter Harmensen in 1646. The condition of the grant, that they settle upon the land, was not complied with and their title was forfeited. Peter Alrichs was the next owner and at a later period it passed to David Stewart Stewart came from Scotland about 1700, and at first settled at St. George's, and afterwards at Port Penn. The village was laid out in lots previous to 1795, for in that year Daniel Blaney, had a store there and also rented and sold building lots. Thomas Craven, David Wild, Robert Wild and Mary Stewart were owners of land in Port Penn at this time. In 1822 the village was a grain market, and also a port of entry. In consequence of this, it was generally thronged with sailors and was very immoral. Although at that time containing but about one hundred and fifty inhabitants, there were five inns or taverns, and these were generally filled with transient guests. A custom-house was here until about twenty years ago, and was last under the supervision of John Jones. A barrack was also located where the residence of William S. Eaton now stands. Until the erection of the landing at the Breakwater, Port Penn was the best port on the Delaware shore. There are several very old houses in the village. The one occupied by Miss Mary Stewart is a frame hip roofed house with a fire-back in the open hearth bearing the date 1728. The residence of Dr. Stewart is of brick and has a very old appearance. The iron fire-back bears the date 1750, and on a pane of glass is inscribed "William Montgomery, 1750.'' It is said that the chimney of this house was struck by a cannon-ball fired by a ship in the War of 1812. A frame house now owned and occupied as a residence by William H. Muller was also struck by a cannon-ball during the same war. The house occupied by James M. Webb was built and used as a residence by Count Pulaski. Before the erection of railroads Port Penn was a centre for the grain produced in the northern part of St. George's Hundred. Joseph Cleaver was the principal grain merchant at this place. He built a wharf nearby and frequently the road for half a mile distant was crowded with teams awaiting their opportunity to unload.

Port Penn is situated in the northeastern part of St. George's Hundred, about four miles south of Delaware City. During the summer it has steamboat communication with Philadelphia. The population of the village is about three hundred. The merchants at the present time are Henry Cleaver, T. D. Stewart and Conrad Zacheis.


On July 15, 1795, Mr. Monies began to keep a select school at Port Penn. He was also here in 1799 and, perhaps, kept at a later date. About 1810 Mrs. Rebecca Reed granted to Adam Diehl, John Diehl, William Kennedy, Dr. David Stewart and Dr. William Carpenter a tract of land on which to erect a building for school and church purposes. The building was erected and used for subscription school till 1830, when it was opened as a district school. The old building was used till quite recently, when it was supplanted by the present neat structure. The old building stood near the present residence of Joshua Jefferson. The auditor's report for 1886 shows that the school was open for nine months and thirteen days and that there were enrolled fifty-two pupils.


The Presbyterian Church in Port Penn was organized July 16, 1837, with seventeen members, nine of whom came from Drawyer's and eight from Sr. George's.

Mrs. William Cleaver, Jr.
Mrs. Mary C. Cleaver
John Price
Mrs. Susan Price
Miss Ann Price
Mrs. Martha J. Price
Mrs. Priscilla Cleaver
Mrs. Mary Alrich, Drawyer's
Mrs. Mary Stewart, Drawyer's
Mrs. Mary Cox
Mrs. Honora Matthews
Mrs. Eliza F. Dilworth
Mrs. Maria J. Hessey
Mrs. Rachel Webb
Mrs. Margaret Darrach
Miss Margaret L. Kernahan
Miss Hester E. Dilworth were of the St. George's congregation.

The first church was a frame building erected in 1834, on a lot on the corner of Market and Stewart Streets, conveyed February 28, 1834, to John M. Woods, John Cannon and John Price, trustees, by Mrs. Margaret Darrach. The building is now used by the Zion A. M. E. Church. In 1856 the present two-story brick church, thirty-two by fifty feet, was built at a cost of six thousand dollars. On March 17th of that year additional land was conveyed by Mrs. Darrach to John Price, Samuel Jefferson, Joseph Cleaver, Wm. Cleaver, Jr., Jacob A. Penington and Samuel B. Cleaver, trustees. In 1871 a parsonage was purchased at a cost of five hundred dollars, and remodeled. The present membership is seventy-three. Ninety scholars are enrolled in the Sunday-school, which is under the superintendency of Henry Price. The present trustees are Henry Price, Thos. F. Dilworth, Henry C. Walter, Joseph Cleaver and John B. Vandegrift. The first elders were Wm. Cleaver, Jr., and Samuel Jefferson. John M. Woods, David Stewart, Henry Walter and John B. Vandegrift have also served in that capacity.

The following ministers have served as pastors and stated supplies:

Rev. Charles Brown 1837-39
Rev. George Foot 1830-48
Rev. Isaac W. K. Handy 1848-51
Rev. T. Ralston Smith 1851-52
Rev. David McClure 1853-54
Rev. H. J. Gaylord. 1856-57
Rev. S. R. Schofield. 1867-68
Rev. N. S. Moore 1868
Rev. Samuel M. Gould 1868-69
Rev. S. C Allison 1869-71
Rev. S. G. Boardman 1871-84
Rev. W. K. Preston 1884-85
Rev. Roland A. Sawyer, Jr., present pastor.

About 1850 a revival was held in a school-house in Port Penn by a portion of the Methodist congregation of Asbury Chapel. This led to the organization of a church there, and the erection of a frame church building, about twenty-eight by forty feet. The church flourished for a while and then began to decline.

There were at one time about forty members. The last regular services were conducted in 1881. Since that time occasional meetings have been held.

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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