Part of the American History and Genealogy Project




Town of Laurel Nanticoke Hundred Delaware

Assessment List Commissioners Schools
Churches Industries Lodges
(Many of the Churches and Lodges have member lists)

A portion of the land on which the town of Laurel now stands was originally warranted to James Wyth and Marmaduke Master. It was surveyed and laid out for them June 18, 1688, for one hundred and fifty acres under the name "Batchelor's Delight." No permanent improvements, however, were made by them.

On October 23, 1711, an act of Assembly was passed at Annapolis empowering George Gale, Samuel Worthington and Charles Ballard to lay out three thousand acres of land on Broad Creek for the use of the Nanticoke Indians. They met on December 14th of that year, and, in company with William Whittington, a surveyor, they selected two thousand five hundred acres on the north side of the stream and five hundred acres on the south side. The land on the south side embraced the present site of Laurel, and included one hundred and thirty-three acres of "Batchelor's Delight."

The five-hundred-acre tract began a little above the "wadeing place" (Laurel), and extended down Broad Creek 438 poles, to Little Creek, thence up said Little Creek to an oak at its head, thence in a southeasterly direction one hundred and two poles and thence in a straight line to the place of beginning. The jury appointed to appraise the value of the land was composed of John McClester, James Gwan, Robert Gwan, John Winder, James Hardy, John Goslee, John Richards, William Watts, Robert Caldwell, James Irain, John Caldwell and Thomas Gordan. The value of the one hundred and thirty-three acres of "Batchelor's Delight" was estimated at 2666 pounds of tobacco, and the remaining 367 acres of land at 7334 pounds of tobacco, making as a total value for the 500 acres of land 10,000 pounds of tobacco.

This land was occupied by the Indians until about 1768, when Levin Gale, M. M. Allen and Henry Steele were appointed commissioners to make compensation to the Indians for the land. It was exposed for sale at public vendue, and was then or soon afterwards purchased by Barkley Townsend.

"Batchelor's Delight," however, was granted to Benoni Barnard on November 26, 1760, it being declared vacant for non-payment of quit-rent by the original proprietors. He either forfeited his title or sold to Townsend, as it was soon afterwards in his possession.

The farm-house of Townsend is an old frame, half hip-roofed building, which is still standing, and is now owned by Daniel Hearn. In an act to prevent swine in the village of Laurel, passed January 11, 1799, the limits of the village are thus described: "Beginning at Barkley Townsend's shipyard, formerly called Baldwin's shipyard, thence on a straight line to said Townsend's little mill, thence with the run of said mill branch till it intersects the water of Broad Creek, thence down the said creek to the place of beginning."

The mill and shipyard here referred to are now outside of the town limits, and will be found in the article on Little Creek Hundred under the head industries.

In 1802 a plot of the village was made, which shows that the village was laid out in thirty-two lots. Lots No. 4-10 lay between Front Street and Broad Creek. The owners of lots in Laurel, as shown by the assessment list of 1801, are as follows:

Assessment List

Manaen Bull, 1 improved lot;
Isaac Cooper, 1 improved lot
Martin Crays, 1 improved lot
Wm. Chetom, 1 improved lot
Benjamin Fooks, 1½ improved lot
Jesse Green, 1 improved lot
Levin Haymons, 1 improved lot
William Hobbs, 1 improved lot
David Howard, 1 improved lot
Joseph Kings, 1 improved lot
William Moore, 1 improved lot
Thies Moore, 1 improved lot
James Mastins, 1 improved lot
Isaac Morris, 1 improved lot
Wm. Moore, 1 improved lot
Joseph Melson, 1 improved lot
Wm. Polock, ½ improved lot
Henry Perie, ½ improved lot
Benjamin Riggin, 1 improved lot
Thomas Townsend, 2 improved lot
Samuel Williams, 1 improved lot
Matthias Williams, 1 improved lot
Jesse Walless, 1 improved lot
John Townsend, 1 improved lot
Thomas Skinner, 1 unimproved lot
Thomas Townsend, 3 improved lot
Samuel Williams, 1 improved lot

The first store in the town was opened by Manaer Bull on the site of the present residence of George P. Phillips.

In 1825 the village contained seven general stores, two hotels and about two hundred and fifty inhabitants. Large quantities of grain and lumber were purchased by Benjamin Fooks, William Sirmon and Nehemiah Redden.

On January 31, 1827, there was an act passed, empowering Kendal M. Lewis, John Tennant, Wm. W. Green, Philip Matthews and Henry Bacon to establish the bound of Laurel. Nothing further, however, was done at this time towards the incorporation of the town.

A dispute arose as to the title to some vacant land in Laurel, and on February 20, 1847, an act was passed by the Legislature, vesting the title of the State of Delaware to land within the limits of Laurel to those persons who at the passing of the act had such land enclosed, or had heretofore held and used the same as private property. The town steadily increased in wealth and population, and in 1859 was the largest town in Sussex County, with a population of one thousand two hundred. It contained four churches and sixteen well-conducted dry-goods and grocery stores. Five million feet of lumber were shipped annually, and of this amount two million feet were shipped by John S. Bacon. Within a radius of eight miles were thirty-six mills of various kinds. On March 22, 1881, an act was passed for the improvement of the streets by the use of oyster shells, which have proved a decided benefit to the town.

Laurel was incorporated as a town by an act of Assembly passed at Dover on April 13, 1883. John R. Wilson, Thos. C. Horsey, Daniel J. Fooks, Joseph F. T. Smith and Wm. E. Wolfe were appointed commissioners, and empowered to secure the services of a skillful surveyor, and survey and lay out the town and return a plot of the town to Georgetown. All of these things were accordingly done, and Laurel now enjoys the advantages of a municipal government.

The town is nicely located on Broad Creek, and is considered the wealthiest town in the State. It is situated on the main line of the Delaware Division, and is thus afforded excellent facilities for shipment Broad Creek, which has heretofore only been navigable as far as Bethel for ships of heavy burden, is now being dredged and having its channel enlarged, so as to admit vessels to Laurel.

The town abounds with numerous fine dwellings. The people are courteous, affable and hospitable. It is steadily increasing in population, and now has about two thousand five hundred inhabitants. The business interests of the town are represented by 11 general, 7 grocery, 5 millinery, 3 clothing, 3 drug, 2 furniture, 2 hardware, 1 shoe, 1 jewelry and 1 notion stores; 2 crate, 1 stave, and 1 carriage Victories; 1 saw-mill, 2 blacksmith and wheelwright shops, 2 butcher, 3 shoe and 3 barber-shops and two hotels. There are five physicians and one dentist here. Three churches are also located in the town.

The following is a list of the Commissioners who have served since the incorporation of the town:

J. F. P. Smith 1883
D. J. Fooks 1883
J. B. Wilson 1883
W. K. Wolfe 1883
T. C. Horsey 1883
Elijah Hearn 1884
Thos. H. Riggin 1884
J. Alfred Hearn 1884
J. Wesley Marvil 1884
George E. Smith 1884
Merrell H. Tilghman 1885
Isaac J. Wootten 1885
Jos. J. Boyce 1885
Emory B. Riggin 1885
Robt H. Boyce 1885
James Habbard 1886
Jno. H. Elliott 1888
Geo. W. Hearn 1886
Wm. T. Records 1886
Samuel H. Bacon 1886
Geo. E. Smith 1887
Jas. S. Melvin 1887
Isaac J. Wootten 1887
Emory B. Riggin 1887
James W. Hill 1887


Laurel was at a very early date noted for the excellence of its schools and pupils from the neighboring villages and country came here to complete their education. Of the teachers prominent in those days were Thomas Martin and John Bacon, of J. A building with two rooms in which subscription school was taught, was converted to the use of free schools when the system of free education was introduced into the State. This building was used until 1878 when it was destroyed by fire, and the present two story school-house was erected. In 1856 an academy was built and soon opened by Samuel J. Wetherby. Subscription school has been taught in this building for the greater part of the time since its erection, the present teacher being Miss Mary Wetherby. The school building erected in 1878 is inadequate to the wants of the town and an extra free school is taught in Masonic Hall. Several at-tempts have been made to erect a new structure but without avail. The schools are well conducted but have not the advantages of the school in many smaller places. The present school commissioners are E. B. Biggins, Dr. William J. Hitch and John H. Elliott.


Christ Church, Broad Creek1
Stands about two miles to the east of Laurel, and occupies a frame building of large dimensions, built of heart pine and still in excellent preservation, an ancient landmark which carried us back to colonial times. With the exception of the roofing, which from time to time has been renewed as occasion required, this venerable relic remains both as to its interior and exterior, the same as it was when it was built more than a hundred years ago. It is without a particle of paint, and on entering you find the high-backed pews, the chancel at one end, the servants gallery at the opposite, while midway on the east side is the lofty pulpit while immediately below are the reading desk and clerk's desk. It accommodates about six hundred person and on the visitations of the bishop is generally filled with the people, who come often from a long distance on such occasions. St. Philip's church. Laurel, is in fact the chapel of this, the mother church, and both are under the control of the same vestry. The inhabitants of the lower part of what is now Sussex County, Delaware, were until the year 1765, identified with Stepney Parish, Maryland, at which date by a decree in chancery the lines were then run between the province of Maryland and the adjoining colony. Before this date the ground on which the church now stands belonged to Maryland, and the history of Stepney Parish, with which this church was connected, dates back to 1685, a period of two hundred years, big with stirring events both in the history of England and that of our own country. The Rev. John Hewitt was the first rector of Stepney Parish at this date (1685).
1. By Rev. Benjamin J. Douglass.

He died in 1698. The next name upon the list is that of the Rev. George Trotter, who had charge of the parish until the year 1708, when he closed his earthly labors. The third on the list is the name of that venerable servant of God, the Rev. Samuel Adams, who was the rector of Christ church, Broad Creek from 1704 to 1764, when he became rector of St. James Parish, Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The Rev. John Scott served the parish from November 22, 1770, to the year 1775 when trouble broke out on account of the impending struggle of the colonies with Great Britain. As a consequence the church was without a pastor until the year 1780. Rev. William Skelley took charge of the parish in 1780 and continued his rector ship until 1794.

A very vivid tradition remains of one who labored in this field from 1808 to 1811, and whose ministrations in this ancient sanctuary were attended by crowded congregations, and who was described a few years past as ''Old Parson Bell," though in reality he died at the early age of twenty-nine. It was thus that he was spoken of by aged men and women who have but recently passed away, and who remembered him in their youth. His tomb-stone is in the lot in the rear of the church where his remains repose until the archangel's trump at the last day. Bishop Lee states in his Historical Discourse delivered before the Diocesan Convention of Delaware at Milford in 1882, "St John's Church at Little Hill or Greenville, an off-shoot from Christ Church, Broad Creek, was founded by the Rev. Hamilton Bell, an earnest, faithful laborer who died in 1811 at an early age."

This congregation enjoyed, from 1820 to 1829, the ministrations of Rev. Wm. Murray Stone, D. D., subsequently the bishop of Maryland, and who was at this time rector of Stepney Parish. His labors through-out this region were crowned, by God's blessing, with remarkable success, for at this time he reports as having under his charge five hundred communicants, thus showing that the church was not that dead and feeble thing at this date as some suppose. From 1830 to 1834 the church was supplied with services by the Rev. Daniel Higbee, father of the late Dr. Higbee, of Trinity Church, New York. He resided at Georgetown and gave to the neighboring churches the benefit of his ministrations. Rev. Joseph Glover, missionary of the Society for the Advancement of Christianity in Pennsylvania, and appointed by the authority of that diocese (for Delaware was not a complete diocese until the year 1841), ministered here in 1834. He was a clergyman of the Church of England, duly transferred, and labored also in the parishes of Seaford and Laurel. His devotion to his work was cut short by an attack of bilious fever and he died in 1835. He lies buried in Seaford Churchyard. From 1835 to 1838 the Rev. Corry Chambers, a man of remarkable gifts and great earnestness, was minister in charge. He labored incessantly, preaching at Sea-ford, Milford, Cedar Creek, Laurel and other places in the lower part of the State. A student of his, Mr. Callahan, who subsequently received orders and went West, read service in Christ Church during the years 1838 and 1839. Rev. John Long, an active and indefatigable missionary, preached here from 1843 to 1846. During his ministry in the parts St. Luke's Church, Seaford, was finished and consecrated May 28, 1843. Rev. J. Brinton Smith labored here from 1846 to 1848. The Rev. John W. Hoskins had charge from 1848 to 1862. In 1850 St. Philip's Church, Laurel, was consecrated, after which, as the village of Laurel was more convenient for most of the worshippers, services were held only occasionally at the old church.

This building remained until 1874, when, to accommodate the continually increasing congregation, the present neat one-story frame building was erected. The corner-stone was laid June 5, 1874, by Bishop Lee.

That saintly man, the Rev. Richard T. Cadle, whose name still lives as a precious heritage, labored here from 1853 to 1857. In 1857, owing to his exertions, St. Mark's Church, Little Creek, was erected. From 1858 to 1859 the congregation was in charge of the Rev. Samuel B. Slack. The Rev. L. Gay officiated here from 1860 to 1861. From 1862 to 1869 the Rev. George Hall had charge. From 1870 to 1873 the Rev. John C. Tennent, rector at Laurel and Seaford, held occasional services. During the summer of 1872 services were held by the Rev. Mr. Tennent and also by the Rev, Benj. J. Douglass, rector at Georgetown, alternately. On July 3, 1873, a most interesting service was held in this ancient sanctuary. The Right Rev. Alfred Lee, bishop of the diocese, presided; clergymen from all parts of the diocese were in attendance. The church was crowded, though the weather was intensely hot. A generous collation was provided by the hospitable people under the shade of the adjoining trees and in the afternoon an historical sermon was delivered by the Rev. Benj. J. Douglass from Psalm 72: 5.

This was the centennial celebration of the erection of the present structure. It is at least one hundred years old. It is very difficult to get at the exact date, many of the old records having been destroyed or lost. But from an item of the records of Stepney Parish, kindly furnished the writer by the Rev. William Fulton, it is ascertained on the credit side of an account, the debtor side of which is wanting. "I find," writes he (the entry September 25, 1772), "By building a chapel at Broad Creek, £510." It had been intended to hold the celebration the previous fall, approximating as it would then do more closely to the date, but the bishop and clergy found it impracticable. We are inclined to believe that this was not the first building erected on this spot. Tradition points to a prior structure, of which none now can give us any exact information. Possibly light will be thrown upon this and other points of interest in the future.

Christ Church Rectors 1873-1887

James H. B. Brooks, 1873 to 1878
Charles H. Mead, 1878 to 1879
David Howard, 1880 to 1882
George S. Fitzhugh, 1883 to 1884
Edward Wootten, 1886 to 1887

The present Senior Warden is I. J. W. Adams; Junior Warden, Edward Fowler, M.D.; Vestry: M. H. Tilghman, A. W. Parker, George W. Horsey, R. G. Ellegood, M.D., Benjamin J. Moore, Isaac J. Wootten.

In concluding this sketch of the history of Christ Church, Broad Creek, it would be unjust to omit the names of Rev. Messrs. Simon Wilmer, James Wiltbank, Kensey J. Stewart, and the rectors onwards from 1872 of Laurel and Seaford: J. H. B. Brooks, Charles H. Meach, David Howard, George S. Fitzhugh, Edward Wootten, all of whom, at different times, have done what they could to keep up the services in this ancient temple of God's worship. Their labor is not in vain.

Presbyterian Church
The first Presbyterian Society in this section of the country was organized by Revs. G. Tennent and G. Whitefield. The first settled minister was the Rev. Mr. Henry, who first preached in private houses, and afterwards in the Presbyterian Church erected on the north branch of Broad Creek, about 1760. The elders in this year were Jacob Bounds, Levin Vaughan and John Nawl. The next pastor was Rev. Moses Tuttle, who was succeeded by Rev. Charles Tennent. The latter filled the pulpit until a short time previous to the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, during which time the church was entirely abandoned, and in 1778 was wantonly or maliciously burned. Occasional services were conducted by Revs. Wilson and Kerr until about 1787, when, through the exertions of Robert Houston and Messrs. Mitchell, Bratton and Boyce, a lot of ground near Laurel was procured of John and Cyrus Mitchell, and subscriptions opened for building a church. The death of Mr. Mitchell and other causes delayed the work, so that the building was not completed till 1791. In 1790 the elders were Robert Houston. Jonathan Boyce, Samuel Scroggins, Smith Wingate and Henry Edgen; and the trustees were Robert Houston, James Bratton, Jonathan Boyce and John Mitchell. Occasional sermons were preached in 1789, '90 and '91 by Francis Hindman, a licentiate under the care of the Presbytery of Lewes. In June, 1791, Rev. Isaac Tull became stated pastor of this congregation in connection with the congregations of Vienna and Fishing Creek, Maryland. He served the church until the fall of 1795, when, with two elders, Samuel Scroggins and Fleming Edgen, he moved to Kentucky. The year previous, Smith Wingate, another elder, had removed. The death of Alexander Smith occurred tho same year, and in the following year Robert Houston and Jonathan Boyce died. The loss of so many elders seemed to threaten a dissolution of the church. During 1796-97 and 98, the Rev. John Burton, of Lewis Presbytery, preached here occasionally. From 1799 till 1817 there was no stated supply, but occasional services were conducted by Revs. McMaster, Burton, Sherman and Johnson, and Messrs. Williamson and Walless licentiates under the care of the New Castle Presbytery. Levin Vaughan, an elder since the organization of the society, died in 1804. In 1808 ten were received into full membership. Rev. Charles Walless preached here every fourth Sunday during the year 1817. After that year the church was in a manner vacant until 1884. In 1832 Joseph Smith, William Vaughan, M. Stuart, Barkley Townsend, Luther T. Moore, William Hobbs and John S. Vaughan were elected and incorporated as trustees, and the name of the church, which hereto-fore was the Broad Creek Church was changed to the Presbyterian Church of Laurel.

In July, 1834, Rev. George W. Kennedy became stated supply, and preached once in three weeks until April, 1836. The next pastor was Rev. Isaac W. K. Handy, who supplied the congregation every fourth week. He was succeeded by Henry C Frise, who filled the pulpit from July 13, 1840, until April 22, 1849. Rev. C. H. Mustard became pastor January 27, 1850, and continued until May 16, 1852. During his time there were only thirteen members. There was no minister from 1852 until 1856, when Rev. Frise again officiated for a short time. In 1857 the church withdrew from the Wilmington Presbytery and joined the one at New Castle. In 1858 the building was taken apart and moved into Laurel on a lot of land granted to them by Dr. Stephen M. Green, so long as it should be used for religions purposes, with reversion to his heirs. On December 12th of the following year the building was dedicated by Rev. J. B. Spotswood. D. D. Rev. Frise again took charge of the church and conducted services until 1870, when it was finally abandoned. The building was destroyed by fire August 19, 1886. The last trustees were: Jacob Adams, Joseph Vaughan, John W. Windsor, Eben Collins and William S. Calloway.

Methodist Episcopal Church
In 1801 there was a great revival of religion among the inhabitants of Little Creek Hundred and vicinity. From the converts was formed a class which met at the house of George Adams, about a mile from Laurel and on the site of the residence of George W. Horsey. This house was known for years as ''Daddy Adams' house of glory.'' In the following year a single story frame church building about thirty-six by forty feet, with a gallery on three sides, was erected in Laurel. It was built on a lot ninety-nine by one hundred and five feet on the corner of Back and Corn Streets, and was known as lot No. 81. This land was granted by Thomas Skinner to Samuel Williams, Jr., George Armstrong, William Polk, Henry Bacon, Thomas Townsend, Samuel Jacobs and Joshua Magee, trustees, on September 9, 1809. This building was used for divine worship until 1848, when it was re-moved and used by the colored people for church purposes. A new two-story frame building was framed on land now owned by Isaac W. Sirmon, and then moved to the site of the former church. It was a little larger than the old church, and its dimensions were about forty by fifty feet. Services were held in this building until 1866, when it was removed and also fitted up for a church by the colored people. The erection of the present edifice was immediately commenced and completed the following year. The dedicatory services were conducted on February 24th by Rev. A. Cookman. It is a neat two-story frame building, forty-eight by seventy feet, with tower and steeple, and cost nearly ten thousand dollars.

The church at present has a membership of two hundred and five.

The Sunday-school with a membership of two hundred and forty, is under the superintendence of Daniel J. Fooks.

The present board of trustees is composed of Daniel Heam, J. H. Marvil, Joshua Boyce, John W. Wootten, Elijah Heam, Thomas Bacon, H. C. Lewis, Joe. P. F. Smith, 'William B. Records, Thomas H. Riggin and Levin J. Marvil.

From its organization the church was connected with the same circuits and served by the same pastors as Mt. Pleasant until 1868 when it was made a separate charge. The following pastors have ministered here since that time:

Methodist Episcopal Church Pastors 1868-1887

Elijah Miller 1868-70
T. J. Qulgley 1870
Robert Todd 1870
W. B. England 1871-74
A. W. Milby. 1874-75
D. C. Ridgway 1875-77
Rev. T. S. Williams 1877-72
Rev. G. A. Phoebus 1879-82
Rev. J. B. Quigg 1882-84
Rev. F. C. McSorley 1884-87
Rev. J. O. Sypherd 1887

Methodist Protestant Church
In November, 1881, the doctrines of the Methodist Protestant Church were introduced in Laurel by Rev. Thomas Pearson. The first services were held in a school-house on the site of the present school building, near the Methodist Episcopal Church. The project of erecting a church was soon inaugurated by Messrs. Geo. Phillips. Dr. S. Greene and C. C. Windsor. In 1832 a class was formed composed of the following persons: Nathaniel Horsey, Eliza Horsey, C. C. Windsor and wife, Levin A. Collins and Josiah Penwell. In the same year the church was opened for services al-though not yet completed. The dedicatory services were conducted by Rev. Samuel Rawleigh. In this condition it was used until 1841, when it was plastered and whitewashed. Soon afterwards the benches without backs were replaced by comfortable seats. This church was used until 1867 when it was sold to the colored people, by whom it was used for religious purposes until 1884. In the summer of 1867 Rev. A. D. Dick advised the erection of a new church edifice. A building committee composed of Martin L. Hearns, Nathaniel Thomison, Rev. Thomas H. Burgess, Edward L. Wolf, William W. Dashiell, John T. Moore, J. A. McFerran, M.D., and George W. Horsey. The con-tract for erecting the building was awarded to Joshua H. Marvil for six thousand four hundred dollars. A more desirable lot on Central Avenue was purchased of George D. Phillips on May 14, 1866. The church was completed and dedicated November 10, 1867, by Revs. J. J. Murray, D. D., R. Semple Rowe and L. W. Bates, D. D., and has since been used for religious services. It is a neat two-story frame edifice forty by fifty-five feet, with a Gothic front and tower and steeple.

In this year a revival of religion pervaded the town and more than one hundred were converted, fifty of whom joined this church.

On April 10, 1884, a parsonage on the corner of Central Avenue and Sixth Street, was purchased. This was improved and enlarged in 1887, and has a present valuation of two thousand dollars.

The little class formed in 1832 increased steadily, in numbers until at present there is a membership of one hundred and sixty-five, and from this congregation have gone forth seven ministers of the gospel.

J. H. Elliott, is the superintendent of a Sunday-school, numbering one hundred and forty members, connected with this church.

The present board of trustees, is composed of J. T. Moore, Nathaniel Thomison, William T. Elliott, R L. Wolfe, E. B. Riggen, Benjamin Hitch, George B. Phillips and W. W. Dashiell.

The church was supplied by Revs. Thomas Pearson, Samuel L. Rawleigh and Stephen Taylor until 1834, when it was added to the Dorchester and Sussex Circuit. In 1839, the circuit was divided and the Laurel Church assigned to the Sussex Circuit. It was thus connected until 1844, when this circuit was divided and Union Circuit created, to which it was joined until 1865, when Laurel Circuit was formed. Three years later it was made a station. The church has been ministered to by the following pastors:

Methodist Protestant Church Pastors 1834-1887

Rev. Geo. D. Hamilton 1834
A. G. Grove 1834
Geo. D. Hamilton 1836
T. A. Clayton. 1835
Geo. D. Hamilton 1836
John Keller 1836
J. W. Everest 1837
J. K. Nichols 1837
R. T. Boyd 1838
W. Tipton 1838
L. A. Collins 1839
L. A. Collins 1840
Richard Adkinson 1840
George D. Hamilton 1841
T. Remick 1841
L. W. Bates 1841
Geo. D. Hamilton 1842
John A. Jackson 1842
J. H. Kenard 1843
W. Koyer 1843
D. F. Ewell 1844
D. A. Shermer 1844
D. F. Ewell 1846
Jno. McClelland 1846
L. W. Bates 1846-47
H. J. Day 1846-47
Wm. C. Pool 1848
T. A. Moore 1848
H. P. Jordan 1840
J. W. Smiley 1849
H. P. Jordan 1860
J. Shapley 1880
Thos. M. Wilson 1851
J. Clay 1851
Thos. M. Wilson 1852
J. T. Whitesides 1852
John Morgan 1853
Jas. Thompson 1853
John Morgan 1854
A. D. Dick 1854
A. S. Eversole 1856
Geo. H. McFaden 1856
A. S. Eversole 1856
B. F. Benson 1856
A. S. Eversole 1857
W. W. Besse 1867
F. S. Wright 1868
Wm. Livingstone 1858
B. F. Benson 1859
Robt. Whinna 1859
H. J. Day 1860
Henry Hale 1860
Thos. H. Burgess 1860
H. J. Day 1861
James Thompson 1861
J. A. McFaden 1862
J. W. Gray 1863
J. A. McFaden 1863
G. H. B. Austin 1863
J. A. McFaden 1864
S. T. Ferguson 1864
A. D. Dick 1865-67
W. M. Strayer 1867-71
J. W. Charlton 1871-74
I. L. Mills 1874
S. G. Valliant 1875-77
J. L. Straughn 1877-78
J. E. T. Ewell 1880-83
J. B. Jonas 1883-85
H. C. Cushing 1885-87
G. Q. Bacchus 1887


In 1871 Joshua H. Marvil fitted up a building, formerly used as a cabinet-shop, with the requisite machinery, and began the manufacture of peach and berry baskets and crates. The factory it first had a capacity of sixty thousand berry buckets and one thousand crates per week. Employment was given to about fifty persons, and the factory was in operation about ten months per year. In 1875 the building was enlarged and afterwards several additions were made, until 1888, when it was deemed advisable to erect a new factory. The present structure, one hundred and thirty-three by fifty feet, was then erected and has since been operated by him. The turning of iron and wood, scroll-sawing and ornamental work was then added. The present factory has a capacity of one hundred and twenty-five thousand berry baskets and three hundred crates per week; about double the capacity of the first factory. It gives employment to one hundred persons and is operated during eleven months of the year. The product of the factory is shipped to all parts of the United States. The development of the town west of the railroad is solely due to this factory, as previous to its existence there were no houses in this neighborhood.

In 1885 J. R. Wilson, J. H. Marvil, Isaac K Hearn and Newton Ward erected a building and commenced manufacturing wooden-pails under the style of J. B. Wilson & Go, The factory was in operation for a year and then abandoned on account of the scarcity of juniper timber. The interests of Wilson and Heam were purchased by J. H. Marvil, who sold a one-fourth part interest to Lorenzo W. Marvil. It was opened in 1886 for the manufacture of fruit packages, under the firm name of N. Ward & Co. It is under the superintendence of Lorenzo W. Marvil, and has about the same capacity as J. H. Marvil's factory. The product is also shipped to all parts of the country.

In 1866 E. B. Riggin opened a blacksmith and repair shop in Laurel. This he operated until 1877, when he associated himself with W. C. C. Knowles, under the style of E. B. Riggin & Co. The firm began the manufacture of wagons, which they have since continued. In 1879 they built the factory which they now occupy. They employ six men and manufacture about thirty-five wagons annually.

S. H. Bacon & Co. built a steam planing-mill near the depot in 1884. It is operated nine months per year, and gives employment to five men. The capacity is ten thousand feet per day.

A saw and planing-mill was built in 1886 by Albert Bacon. It has a capacity of six thousand feet per day, and employs eight men.


By an act of Assembly passed February 7, 1812, the "Accommodation Bank of Delaware" was established at Laurel. The capital stock was not to exceed seventy-five thousand dollars, which was to be divided into fifteen hundred shares. The stock was to be subscribed for under the direction of Jesse Green, Nathan Vickers, Solomon Moore, Curtis Jacobs, John Collins, John Dashiell, Mansen Bull, Wm. B. Cooper and James Derrickson or any two of them. By a supplementary act passed February 12th of the same year, the name was changed to the ''Farmers and Mechanics Bank of Delaware.'' The stock was subscribed for, and the bank opened in the building now occupied by Benjamin Hitch. The bank did an extensive business but finally failed. The exact date is unknown, but it was at some period subsequent to 1820, for on February 11th of that year an act was passed extending the charter five years from September 1, 1822. William Polk is remembered as cashier, and Isaac Williams and Wittington Tull as directors. Benjamin Hitch remembers the people speaking of the money establishment as being very pretty.

Post Office

The date of the settlement of the poet-office at Laurel has not been ascertained. The first postmaster, remembered by any of the citizens of the town, was Isaac Copes, who had charge of the office in 1826. Since that time the office has been held by Ezekiel Richardson, Benjamin Hitch, Joseph Smith, Isaac Sirmon, John Ellegood, Peter Collier, Benjamin Moore, Thomas Riggin, Isaac Sirmon, George E. Smith and Isaac J. Wootten, the present incumbent.


Hope Lodge, No. 4, A. F. A. M. held its first meeting in Laurel on February 3, 1847. The society was originally instituted at Lewis by the Grand Lodge of Maryland in February, 1793, as Hope Lodge, No. 10. Among some of the names appended to the bylaws adopted in 1794, are the following: John W. Warrington, John Tennent, John Clark, Francis Brown, Robert Lacy, Thomas Fisher, Jesse Green, Phillips Pollock, James Elliott, Seth Mitchell, William Polk, John Evans, Thomas Laws and Seth Griffith. The first charter was revoked by the Grand Lodge of Maryland and a new one granted in June, 1800. At the formation of the Grand Lodge of Delaware, in 1806, this charter was surrendered and the society was chartered under its present name by the Grand Lodge of this State. After the institution of the lodge and before its establishment here, the society was stationed for short periods at Georgetown and Seaford. Meetings were originally held quarterly in March, June, September and December. The hour of meeting was four P.M., with instructions not to remain in session after ten p.m., unless there was urgent business on hand, as late hours had a tendency to bring the order into disrepute.

Meetings are now held on the first and third Tuesdays of every month in the third story of a building erected by the order in 1847, at a cost of one thousand dollars.

The present membership is twenty-seven.

The officers at the present time are as follows:

W. M., D. J. Fooks
S. W., Samuel T. Smith
J. W., Dr. Joshua A. Ellegood
Treas., J. F. P. Smith
Sec'y., J. Turpin Wright
S. D., Dr. Edward Fowler
J. D., J. Dallas Marvil

Charity Lodge, No 27, I. O. O. F., was instituted at Laurel, July 10, 1857. The first officers as well as the charter members were:

N. G., Joseph A. McFereen
V. G., John M. Phillips
Recording Secretary, Joseph Willey
P. Secretary, Thomas H. Burgess
Treasurer, Joseph Ellis

At the end of the first year the lodge had a membership of twenty-seven, and at the present time numbers eighty-nine members.

Meetings are held every Thursday night in Odd Fellows' Hall, which is on the third floor of Smith & Bros.' hardware building. The officers at the present time are as follows:

N. G., Wm. S. Burton
V. G., Joseph T. Osborn
Recording Secretary, E. B. Riggin
P. Secretary, Samuel T. Smith
Treasurer, Levin J. Marvil

Sussex Encampment No. 4, I. O. O. F., was instituted at Georgetown, Delaware, August 2, 1840. The charter members were David H. Houston, James Stuart, Charles Wilson, John D. Rodney, Jacob W. Morgan, John Stokly, Robert A. Houston and William H. Swygget.

Meetings were held there until 1875, when the Encampment was moved to Seaford and there held until 1883. Since that time the society has met at Laurel.

Regular meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesday nights of every month, in Odd Fellows Hall. The present membership is thirty-five.

The officers at the present time are as follows:

C. P., Levin J. Marvil
H. P., William S. Hitchens
S. W., Thomas Hastings
J. W., James H. Williams
Scribe, Edward L. Wolfe
Treasurer, Isaac J. Wootten

Rossakatum Tribe, No. 15, I. O. R. M., was instituted at Laurel on June 23, 1875. The first officers of the society were:

Prophet, Daniel H. Foskey
S., Joseph L. Osborn
S. S., Levin J. Marvil
J. S., E. J. Richardson
C. of R., Isaac J. Wootten
K. of W., George E. Smith

In addition to these the charter members were Emory B. Riggin, William J. Windsor, Isaac H. Williams, Samuel B. Pensey, Joseph F. P. Smith, John W. Wiley, Samuel J. Thomison, Samuel T. Smith, Vandroth S. Marvil, William T. Hastings, James A. Adams and William F. Wain-wright. At the end of the first year there were thirty-nine members, and subsequent admissions have increased the number to seventy-six. The tribe meets every Friday night, in Red Men's Wigwam, in Dr. William E. Wolfe's building on Cedar Street.

The lodge is officered at present as follows: Prophet, Joseph J. Collins; S., Isaac W. T. Hastings; S. S., Jonathan E. White; J. S., Clarence W. Hastings; C. of R., Emory B. Riggin; K. of W., Ezekiel J. Richardson.

Laurel Orange, No. 24, P. of H., was organized at Laurel in December, 1875, with thirty-two charter members. In 1879 a store was opened, which was conducted a few years and then abandoned. The grange has decreased in numbers and now has a membership of thirteen, who, however, are warm advocates of its advantages. Meetings are held every Tuesday afternoon.

Present Officers:

W. M., Q. W. Horsey;
Overseer, H. B. Lewis;
Lecturer, Thomas Bacon;
Steward, J. W. Anderson;
Treasurer, J. B. Wheatley;
Chaplain, Sarah Horsey;
Secretary, T. H. Riggin;
G. K., Amelia Bacon;
Ceres, Phoebe J. Riggin
Pomona, Mary Anderson;
Flora, Ellen Hitch;
L. A. S., Kate Wheatley.

The Laurel Peninsula Agricultural and Mechanical Society was incorporated February 16, 1875. The society organized and leased land of Wm. S. Moore, and on it erected suitable buildings for fair purposes. Three fairs were held, and then the project was abandoned.

The commissioners were J. T. Moore, I. J. W. Adams, I. H. Bailey, W. E. Wolfe, T. C. Horsey, J. S. Bacon, Dr. W. S. Hitch, J. M. C. Hearn, D. H. Foskey, L. B. Cannon, B. B. Warrington, T. P. Rodney, I. J. Wootten, G. E. Smith, S. J. Thompson, Levin Hitch, W. L. Sirmon, Jacob Adams, Isaac Giles, G. H. Hearn, Joe. G. White, D. W. Moore, J. P. H. Shipley, Dr. Edward Fowler and Wm. H. Wheatley.


The oldest hotel remembered in the town of Laurel was kept as early as 1823 by Pugh Pusey, and stood on the present site of the Cannon House. It was soon afterwards sold at sheriff's sale and purchased by Caleb Ross, who leased it to George Hobbs. Hobbs had built a hotel on Front Street, on land now owned by W. W. Dashiell, which he managed a few years previous to 1824, when it was burned, and has never been rebuilt. Ross sold the property to James Lynch, and it later came into the possession of Wm. Sherman, who devised it to Isaac James. George M. Wootten became the next owner, and by him the present hotel was built in 1856: He was proprietor for some time and then sold to Thomas L. Cannon, the present owner. James M. Gunby has been the proprietor for the past year.

The hotel on the site of the present Laurel House was built by Peter Wootten about the year 1820. After his death the property passed to his daughter Lavina, and after her decease to her brother, Hop. Edward Wootten, by whom it was sold to the present owner, Louis Frankel, of Philadelphia. The old hotel was moved away about eight years ago, and is now owned by Joshua H. Marvil. A new hotel was erected, which was destroyed by fire August 19, 1886. Work was immediately commenced on the present building, which was completed and opened in January, 1887. The hotel is well-furnished and the service excellent James S. Melvin has been the proprietor for the past seven years.

In 1824 George Bridges erected a hotel on Central Avenue, on the site of the present residence of Dr. Edward Fowler. In 1827 Nancy Martin was the proprietress of this hotel. The property was next owned by Thomas Rider, who devised it to his son James. It was sold by him to Benjamin Fooks, by whom it was devised to Kendall Fooks. Daniel J. Fooks, the next owner, sold part of the land to Dr. Edward Fowler and Mervill Tilghman. It was last kept as a hotel about six years ago by James H. Boyce. It was soon afterwards moved from its original site, and was destroyed by fire August 19, 1886.

The building now occupied as a residence by Benjamin Hitch, and at one time used for banking purposes, has on several occasions been conducted as a hotel. The first time was shortly after the bank closed, when Jeremiah Kinney became the proprietor. It was last run as a hotel about 1858 by William Rickerts, while owned by George W. Hearn.

Sussex County

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

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