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Title: Once Upon a Time in Delaware

Author: Katharine Pyle

Editor: Emily P. Bissell

Illustrator: Ethel Pennewill Brown Leach

Release date: May 16, 2015 [eBook #48976]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Chris Curnow, Emmy and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)


Once Upon a Time in Delaware



map of Delaware
Transcriber's Note: Click on the image to see a larger version of this map.

Title page


Katharine Pyle

Edited by Emily P. Bissell

Drawings by Ethel Pennewill Brown

To All Delaware Children

Dear Girls and Boys:

These true stories are written just for you. They tell how once upon a time brave men and women came across the ocean and landed here in the wilderness, among the Indian tribes; how they made farms and towns and cities and formed a state; and how they fought for the freedom and the peace that Delaware now enjoys. Only thirteen out of the forty-eight states of our Union are original colonies, and Delaware is one of these famous thirteen. You are the young citizens, therefore, of an historic state. To you it will fall, some day, to uphold the honor of Delaware. May you be as patriotic and as brave as the Delaware settlers who conquered the wilderness and the Delaware soldiers who laid down their lives for liberty and right.

The Delaware Society of the

Colonial Dames of America.

Editor’s Preface

This book is published by the Delaware Society of the Colonial Dames of America for the use, primarily, of the children of Delaware, in school and out. Its style and matter are therefor chosen to suit young readers.

Many historical points in these stories are more or less disputed. The original sources do not always agree. In preparing these stories of Delaware for children’s reading, it has been thought best to use anecdotes and interesting traditions whenever they could be found. The result is a substantially true set of stories, which do not however, undertake to settle the facts in any disputed case, but are designed to leave in a child’s mind the broad outlines of Delaware history.

The stories have all been read and revised by the Hon. Alexander B. Cooper of New Castle, to whom the thanks of the Colonial Dames are here expressed for his wise and constant help. The Rev. Joseph B. Turner, of Dover, has also kindly read over several of the stories.

Table of Contents

1— How Once Upon A Time The Dutch Came To Zwannendael 2
2— How Once Upon A Time The Swedes Built A Fort 18
3— How Once Upon A Time Governor Stuyvesant Had His Way 32
4— How Once Upon A Time William Penn Landed At New Castle 48
5— How Once upon A Time Caesar Rodney Rode For Freedom 60
6— How Once Upon A Time The Row-Galleys Fought The Roebuck 75
7— How Once Upon A Time The Blue Hen’s Chickens Went To War 84
8— How Once Upon A Time Washington Came To Delaware 100
9— How Once Upon A Time Mary Vining Ruled All Hearts 112
10— How Once Upon A Time McDonough Sailed The Sea 124
11— How Once Upon A Time Delaware Welcomed Lafayette 138
12— How Once Upon A Time Mason and Dixon Ran A Boundary 152


Indian in door of cabin,pioneer and dog inside


How Once Upon A Time
The Dutch Came To

The “Half-Moon” in Delaware Bay 1609

IT was a clear warm day in May in the year 1631, and the sunlight shone pleasantly on a little Indian village of the Leni Lenapes on the banks of the broad Delaware river.

From the openings in the tops of the wigwams—openings that answered in place of chimneys—the smoke of the fires rose toward the cloudless May sky. Kettles were suspended over these fires, and from their contents came a savory smell of cooking—of game, of fish, or of a sort of hasty pudding that the squaws make of corn, which they have ground to meal between stones.

A number of the young men had gone off to the forest in search of game, or had paddled away in their canoes to distant fishing grounds, but some of them were still left in the village. Now and then a brave stalked with grave dignity among the wigwams; and the three chiefs, Quescacous, Entquet, and Siconesius sat a[6] little withdrawn, and in the shadow of some trees, smoking together.

An Indian youth who was setting a trap down by the river paused, when he had finished his task, to look up and down the stream for returning canoes. There was none in sight, but what he did see caught his attention and brought a startled look of wonder to his face. He bent forward in eager attention and gave vent to a low guttural exclamation. Down toward the bay two objects such as he had never seen before moved slowly over the surface of the water. They moved like great birds with wide spread wings; but they were no birds, as the Indian knew well. Whatever they were, they were the work of human hands, and they were coming toward the village.

Once satisfied of this, the Indian turned and sped back to the wigwams to carry the news.

What he had to tell was enough to arouse not only the interest of the younger Indians, but of the braves and the chiefs as well. Soon a group of natives had gathered on the shore, all gazing down toward the bay.

And a marvellous sight it must have been to those Indians that May morning when the two ships of the first colonists who ever settled in Delaware came sailing up the river toward them. In the lead came a vessel of eighteen guns, her sails spread wide to the light breeze, the flag of Holland floating from her masthead. Following her was a smaller yacht named the Walrus. Over the sides of these vessels leaned the sailors[7] and the colonists, blue eyed and fair haired, dressed in cloth suits and glittering buttons.

These immigrants gazed with wonder at the strange natives gathered on the shore—at their painted faces and feathers; and they saw with joy the beauty of this new land. For five months these ships had sailed the trackless ocean, now beaten by storms, now driven on by favoring winds; and now at last, under their leader, DeVries, they had reached their haven.

They were not the first white men who had sailed these waters. Long, long before, Hudson had come this way on his search for a north-east passage to China. In 1612 Hendrickson had ventured up the river in his little ship Restless, but neither of these had set foot on the land, unless it was to seek a spring for water to drink. These men under DeVries in 1631 were the first who ever made an attempt to settle.

Very joyously these first colonists landed in Delaware. Flags were flying and music playing. The cannon of the ship boomed out a salute across the water. It reverberated solemnly over the wild and lonely country where such a sound had never been heard before. The colonists were so delighted with the peace and the beauty of the land that they named the point where the boat first touched, Paradise Point. It is the little projection of land at the mouth of what is now known as Lewes Creek.

The three chiefs, gorgeous in paint and feathers, came down to meet the strangers and conducted them up the shore to the village. Here[8] they motioned to them to seat themselves around the fire and smoke the pipe of peace.

The various small tribes of Indians in Delaware all belonged to the one great tribe of the Leni Lenapes.

DeVries, on his side, was very anxious to establish friendly relations with them. He believed that if the natives were treated fairly and kindly there would be no trouble with them.

We do not know how the bargain was made between the Indians and the white men, whether by signs or whether through an interpreter sent down from the New Netherlands (New York) which had been settled some time before. But we are told in the old documents that this first tract of land, thirty-two miles along the bay and river from Cape Henlopen, was sold by the Indians for “certain parcels of cargoes,” probably kettles, cloth, beads and ornaments.

After the bargain was made, DeVries again took ship; and the three chiefs sailed with him up to New Netherlands, where a solemn deed was made before the three chiefs and signed and sealed by the Dutch Governor and the Directors, Council and Sheriff of the New Netherlands.[1]

Down in the newly purchased land the colonists immediately set about building shelters for themselves. Their possessions had been landed with them—their chests of clothing, their farming tools, and the seeds they had brought from home. They must begin to prepare fields, too; for it was time the seeds were planted.

The spot they selected was near the mouth of the creek, where there was a spring of delicious[9] cool water; and, because of the wild swans that were sometimes seen there, they named their little settlement Zwannendael. The river they called Hoornekill in honor of DeVries, whose native place was Hoorne in Holland.

The natives watched with wonder the strange work of these colonists, and the square houses with doors and windows which they made, and which were so different from the round wigwams woven of boughs and barks.

Beside separate cabins the settlers built themselves a general house to serve as defense in time of need. They called it Fort Uplandt; but DeVries placed such extraordinary confidence in the Indians that the so-called fort was only a house, larger and stronger than the cabins, and surrounded by a high fence.

So diligently did the settlers go about their work that by the middle of the summer they were quite well established.

DeVries was anxious to go back to Holland and bring out more settlers, so he appointed Giles Hosset[2] Director of the colony and then made his preparations to sail.

It was with heavy hearts that the little band of colonists saw the ship that had brought them from home spread its wings and sail away.

They watched it until it was only a speck in the distance, until even the speck had disappeared. Then they turned again to their work with a new feeling of loneliness. They were so few in that great land of savages.

They had provisions enough, brought from home to last them a year and there was some[10] comfort in the fact that the yacht Walrus was left behind. She was anchored just off shore in the river, and from there she could keep guard over the little colony like a mother bird guarding her nest. If danger arose, the settlers could retreat to her. But what danger was there to fear when the Indians seemed so peaceable and friendly?

For some months after DeVries left them, all went well; and then trouble arose. The trouble was over a very little thing, no more nor less than a little square of tin.

One of the first things the colonists had done after settling their farms, was to erect a pillar, and place on it a piece of tin carved with the arms of the United Provinces, as Holland was called. Those arms, set high above the village, were to them a constant reminder of their old home across the sea; and often, as they went to and fro about their work, their homesick eyes would turn to it for comfort.

But one morning when the colonists arose to go to their daily toil, the piece of tin was missing. Evidently, someone had wrenched it from its place in the night.

Angry and excited, the colonists began to make inquiries. For a time they learned nothing of how or why it had been taken, but at length they found it had been stolen by an old chief to make tobacco pipes. Then the colonists were more angry than ever. It seemed an insult to their country that her arms should have been put to such a base use.


The natives were much alarmed when they found how angry the settlers were. They did not understand why they set such value upon the arms. Was the piece of tin something sacred—something that the pale faces worshiped? Out in the river lay the Walrus, seeming to threaten them with its presence; and soon the great sachem DeVries would return, unless they could make their peace with the pale faces.

A few days later some of the natives came to the settlement, bringing a gift to the white men—a gift that they hoped might soothe the anger of the settlers. It was the bloody scalp of the old chief. They had killed him and brought this as a peace offering.

The settlers, with Giles Hosset at their head, were overcome with horror.

“What have you done!” Hosset cried, “Why did you not bring him to the fort? We could have reproved him, and told him that if he did such a thing again he would be punished. But you yourselves should be punished for this. It is a bloody and barbarous act!”

The Indians heard him with sullen look. They in their turn were enraged. They had thought to please the white men by killing the white men’s enemy, and now the white men were more angry than ever. The natives dissembled, however; they went away with calm looks, but black rage was in their hearts.

Giles Hosset was deeply troubled.

“Evil will surely come of this,” he said. “Innocent blood has been shed, and something tells me that more will follow.”


However, the next few days passed peacefully. Giles Hosset’s fears began to die away. The Indians were apparently as friendly as ever, and the whole tragic event seemed to have been forgotten. But it was not. There were friends of the chief who remembered and blamed the pale faces for his death, and whose hearts were full of hatred and revenge.

One morning the little ship Walrus drew up its anchor and sailed down the bay and out into the ocean to look for whales. There were said to be a great many along the coast, and an Indian had brought them news of one that had been spouting outside at dawn.

The colonists were gathering in their crops, and the little cluster of cabins lay peaceful and deserted in the golden autumn sunlight. Two people only were left in the strong house. One was a man who was sick and so unable to work; the other was a stout, strong fellow who stayed there on guard. A great brindled mastiff was chained to the wall by a strong staple. He lay asleep, sometimes rousing himself to snap lazily at the flies. The guard was sharpening some farm implements; the man on the bed lay watching him, and now and then they chatted idly.

Suddenly the great mastiff lifted its head and listened. Then it sprang to its feet, struggling against the chain and growling ominously.

“What is it?” asked the sick man.

The guard went to the door and looked out.

“Indians,” he answered.


“Indians?” repeated the sick man, “I like not that they should come here when all the others are away and out of call.”

However, it seemed that these Indians had come on a matter of barter. They had with them a stack of beaver skins, which they wished to exchange for cloth or provisions. They spread them out on the floor, and the white men grew quite interested in examining them.

Presently they made their bargain, and the guard said he would go up to the loft and get certain of the stores that were kept there.

One of the Indians followed him up and stood around as he selected the things he was to exchange for the skins. Then, as the guard started down the ladder, swift as lightning the Indian struck him with an axe he had picked up, and crushed in his head. The man had not even time to cry out.

Immediately, and as though this sound had been the signal, the natives fell upon the sick man and killed him. Others rushed upon the dog, but there they met with such a fierce defense that they fell back. The brave beast pulled and struggled against the chain, and a moment later he fell pierced by a shower of arrows.

When nothing was left alive in the strong house, the Indians went out to where the colonists were quietly at work in the fields, guessing nothing of the tragedy that had just been enacted at the strong house.

The Indians approached them tranquilly, their weapons carefully concealed. So friendly[14] were their looks that the white men felt no fear; but only Giles Hosset, remembering the death of the chief, watched them with some uneasiness. But even he had no faintest suspicion of the bloody work so soon to begin.

When the Indians were quite close to the settlers, their friendly look suddenly turned to one of ferocity and hate. Weapons were flourished, they burst into their terrible war cry and fell upon the defenseless colonists. So thorough was their work that, when it was ended, not one white man was left alive to tell the tale of the terrible massacre of Zwannendael.

Meanwhile, out in the ocean, the Walrus had cruised about all day; but the sailors had seen no signs of the whales the Indians had told of and at evening they came sailing home.

What was their surprise, as they approached the settlement, to see no signs of life. They could not understand it. Only when they reached the strong house and saw the bodies of the men and the dog, did they begin to guess at the terrible tragedy of that day.

They hastened to the field where they had left their friends cheerfully at work that morning. Not one was left alive.

Filled with despair, the survivors hurried back to their ship. The native village too, was empty, the Indians had disappeared; but the white men were afraid to stay on the shore. They spent the night on the Walrus, and the next day set sail for Holland to carry the sad news to DeVries.


We are told that DeVries had almost finished his preparations and was expecting soon to return to Zwannendael, but that when he heard the tidings he was overcome.

The return voyage was given up, for the new colonists were afraid to risk the fate of the others. And so, in the massacre of Zwannendael, ended the first settlement ever made on Delaware soil.

Yet still the land had been possessed by the Dutch. It was not, any more, unclaimed land that belonged to any man that came along. When the King of England gave away all the land along that part of the coast to Lord Baltimore, only three years later, he could not give this land of Delaware, because it had already been settled by DeVries for Holland. Our state began when the Dutch colonists first stepped ashore on Paradise Point.

Monument at Lewes to first Dutch Colony under DeVries—1631



[1] Bancroft says, “The voyage of DeVries was the cradling of a state, and that Delaware exists as a separate commonwealth is due to the colony he brought and planted on her shore. Though the colony was swept out of existence soon after, this charter, three years before the Maryland patent was granted Lord Baltimore, preserved Delaware.”

[2] Giles Hosset in this position as Director of the Colony may well be called the first Governor of Delaware.


sailors carrying things into forest



How Once Upon A
Time The Swedes
Built A Fort.

Old Swedes’ Church Wilmington 1698 Old Swedes’ Church Wilmington 1698

SPRING had come again. The sun shone as bright and clear as when, seven years before, DeVries and his Dutch settlers had sailed up the Delaware and landed on its shores.

That was in 1631. Now it was the year 1638, and two other vessels[1] were sailing up the broad river. But these ships were not Dutch; they carried the colors of Sweden, and the men who crowded to the sides of the vessels to gaze at the unknown shores were Swedes.

Six months before, these men, fifty in all, had started out from Gottenburg to journey across the sea to this new land. For six months they had been tossed and beaten by many storms upon the ocean, but now at last they had reached the promised land.


Slowly they sailed up the river and past the mouth of the Hoornekill.[2] The colonists stared in silence at the spot where the little settlement of Zwannendael had once stood. Nothing marked the place now but a few blackened ruins; and these, wind and storm were slowly eating away.

The Swedes did not stop there, but sailed on up the river. Their commander, Peter Minuit, had once been with the West India Company at New Netherlands, and knew something of the country and had a clear idea of where he wished to start his colony. Some miles above the Hoornekill, Minquas Creek (now our Christiana) emptied into the Delaware. Two and a half miles from its mouth, a point of rocks[3] jutted out into the stream and made a sort of natural wharf. It was upon this point that the Swedes made their landing.

Stores and implements were carried to the shore, and soon the silence of the new land was broken by the sound of the ax and the voices of the settlers talking and calling to one another.

Lonely and deserted as the country had seemed to the new settlers, their coming was quickly known to both the Indians and the Dutch.

The first to visit them was an Indian Chief named Mattahoon. He and some of his braves stalked in among the colonists one day, with silent Indian tread, and stood looking about them with curious, glittering black eyes. Minuit gave them some presents, and they seemed much pleased. Then Mattahoon told Minuit[23] that the land belonged to him and his braves.

Minuit wished to buy it from him, and the Sachem agreed to sell it for a copper kettle and some other small articles. These were given to him, and he and his braves went away, well content with their bargain.

The next visitor to come to them was a messenger from New Amsterdam. He told them that Director General Kieft, the Dutch Governor, had sent him to ask why they had settled on land that belonged to the Dutch. The Dutch had bought it from the Indians long ago, at the time DeVries had settled on the river.

Minuit answered the messenger very civilly. He gave the Dutchman to understand that he and his Swedes were on their way to the West Indies, and had only landed on this shore for rest and refreshment.

The messenger believed what Minuit said, and was quite satisfied, and the next day he returned to New Amsterdam and told Kieft there was nothing to fear from these strangers; they were only passers-by and had no wish to settle upon the river.

However, not long after this, a Dutch ship sailing up the river saw that the strangers were still there. Moreover, they were building houses and something that looked like a fort, and gardens were laid out.

Kieft, the Dutch Governor was very angry when he heard this. Again he sent a messenger in haste, to ask why the Swedes were building, and to demand that they should re-enter their ships and sail away.


Minuit paid but little attention to this second messenger. He was very busy. The fort was almost finished. Reorus Torkillus, a clergyman who had come from Sweden with him, had already held services in it, and had prayed for the welfare of their little settlement of Christinaham, for that was what they had named it. The fort itself was called Fort Christina, in honor of the Swedish Queen, and the name of the creek was changed from Minquas to Christina.

It was of no use for the Dutch to send messengers now. The Swedes were well established. Moreover, they had made friends with the Indians. Minuit had given them a number of presents—kettles, cloth, trinkets, and even fire-arms and ammunition.[4]

With these presents the savages were delighted; and they signed a paper with their marks, giving to the Swedes all the land from Cape Henlopen to Santican, or what is now called the Falls of Trenton. When the Dutch heard this, they were indignant for they claimed that all that land had already been sold to them.

Reorus Torkillus, the Swedish minister for the little settlement, did what he could to keep peace with both the Dutch and the Indians. He was an earnest, pious man, and his great hope was that he might convert the savages to Christianity. He regularly held Divine service in the fort. He also had a plot of ground fenced off to serve as a burying ground when such might be needed.[5]

The Indians understood but little of the teachings of Torkillus; but there was one thing that[25] they did understand, and that was that the Swedes gave them many presents and paid them better for their furs and skins than the Dutch did. Minuit, indeed, was always careful to find out what the Dutch were paying them and then to offer a little more. In this way he secured all the best and choicest of the furs—a cause of fresh anger to the Dutch.

But with all this friendly feeling between the Swedes and the Indians, the settlers were obliged to be on their watch with the savages. The Leni Lenapes, to which the Delaware tribes belonged, were for the most part a peaceful people; but there often appeared among them Indians from another tribe, probably Iroquois, whom the settlers called “Flatheads.”[6] These strange Indians were both cruel and treacherous, and they made it dangerous for a settler to venture out of sight or hearing of the settlement. Often they would hide in the woods and fall upon some lonely wanderer, and kill or stun and then scalp him.

The scalping itself was not always fatal. There is a story of a drunken soldier who fell asleep across his gun. When he awoke, he had a strange feeling in his head. At first he thought it was the effect of what he had drunk, but presently, to his terror, he found he had been scalped. And there is a story too, of a woman who had gone into the forest to gather fire-wood. She was struck down, stunned, and scalped by a Flathead, but she lived many years afterward. Her hair, however, never grew out again, except as a fine down.


There was another thing about the Indians that, as time went on, made the settlers more and more anxious. In order to keep them in good temper, it was necessary to continue to give them presents. At first it was easy for the colonists to do this, for they had brought with them from Sweden a large store of things for that very purpose. But as time went on, their stores dwindled away. They had expected ships from home to bring them a fresh supply, but no ships came.

Week after week and month after month passed by; the home land seemed to have forgotten them. Their cloth was all gone, their clothes were threadbare, and many of their cattle had died. The Indians came to Christinaham, expecting presents, and went away with angry looks and empty hands.

In the year 1640 the Chief Mattahoon called together a great meeting of the sachems and warriors of Delaware. The meeting was held deep in the wood where no white man could come. All the chiefs and braves were gathered there, old and young. They ate and drank. Then Mattahoon spoke to them. He asked them whether it would not be better to kill all the Swedes. He said:

“The Swedes live here upon our land, they have many forts and houses, but they have no goods to sell us. We find nothing in their stores that we want. They have no cloth, red, blue, or brown. They have no kettles, no brass, no lead, no guns, no powder. But the English and[27] the Dutch have many things. Shall we kill all the Swedes or suffer them to remain?”[7]

An Indian warrior answered:

“Why should we kill all the Swedes? They are in friendship with us. We have no complaint to make of them. Presently they will bring here a large ship full of all sorts of good things.”

With this speech all the others agreed. Then Mattahoon said:

“Then we native Indians will love the Swedes, and the Swedes shall be our good friends. We and the Swedes and Dutch shall always trade with each other.”

Soon after this the meeting was dissolved, and all the Indians returned to their own villages.

The Swedish settlers knew nothing of this meeting, but they had felt that they were in danger. It was in March of that year, 1640, that they decided, with sad hearts, to give up their little settlement and remove to New Amsterdam. Preparations were made for abandoning Christinaham. Tools and provisions were packed, and the boats made ready.

The Dutch heard with joy that the little settlement was to be given up. At last they would be rid of their troublesome neighbors.

However, the very day before the Swedes were to leave, a vessel arrived from Sweden, bringing them cattle, seeds, cloths and all the things of which they were so in need. The ship also brought a letter from the wise Swedish Councillor Oxenstiern and his brother. In this letter, the colonists were encouraged in their undertaking[28] and told to keep brave hearts. They were also promised that two more vessels should be sent out to them in the spring.

When the colonists heard this news, they shouted for joy. The household goods which they had packed with such heavy hearts were now unpacked, the houses were opened, and the work of the village was taken up again.

The Indians were greatly pleased. Now they saw how wise they had been to have patience and wait, instead of killing all the Swedes as they had been tempted to do. The Swedes were again their best friends, and the givers of many gifts.

The Dutch were obliged to swallow their disappointment as best they could, for now the Swedes were more firmly settled than ever. Fields were tilled, and orchards planted. Later on they built forts at the mouths of various Creeks, so as to prevent the Dutch from trading with the Indians.

When, in 1643, Lieutenant Printz came out from Sweden to take the position of Governor; he built a handsome house on Tinnicum Island, just above Chester, and also a fort and a church.[8] The principal Swedes built their houses around this fort, and the village that arose back of it was called “Printzdorf.” Thus the capital of New Sweden was removed from Christinaham to Tinnicum Island.

The Governor held absolute power over the little colony, and all matters were decided by him according to his own will.

There were, at this time, two kinds of people upon the Delaware; the freemen, who owned[29] their own land and farmed and traded, and prisoners, who had been sent over from Sweden on the earliest vessels, and who were employed in digging ditches and hewing and building, and were treated as slaves. In fact, there was no lack of laborers in the colony.

Rich cargoes of furs and tobacco were now sent back to Sweden. The Dutch were in despair. They saw all the Indian trade being taken out of their hands; but Sweden was too powerful both at home and abroad for them to dare to interfere with her, and from this time until Stuyvesant came out to be Governor of the New Netherlands the Swedes ruled supreme along the Delaware.

The spot where the Swedes first landed is still preserved, and is marked by a portion of the original rock, placed close to the landing-place on the bank of the Christiana. This rock bears an inscription, and is enclosed by a low iron railing. It may be called the Plymouth Rock of Delaware, for it is taken from the natural wharf of rocks on which the Swedes first stepped, and marks the first permanent settlement made in Delaware.

Portion of Swedes’ Rock Wilmington Site of Fort Christina 1638



[1] The ships were the Key of Kalmar and the Bird Grip or Griffin.

[2] A landing was made a few miles above the Hoornekill at a point between the Murderkill and Mispillion Creeks, in Kent County, but the Swedes only stopped there for a short time for rest and refreshment. The place was so beautiful that they named it Paradise Point.

[3] This point of rocks marked the foot of what is now Sixth Street, in Wilmington.

[4] Giving or trading fire-arms or ammunition to the Indians was afterward forbidden on pain of death. The arming of the Indians was considered too dangerous.

[5] Upon the site of this burying ground the Old Swedes Church now stands; and somewhere beneath it lie the bones of Reorus Torkillus.

[6] So called from a curious flattening of the crown of the head.

[7] This account is given by Campanius.

[8] The present church of Old Swedes at Wilmington, was not built until 1698, so this church on Tinnicum Island was the first one built by the Swedes. In Minuit’s time, Torkillus had held Divine service in the fort.


two men talking at table


How Once Upon A Time
Governor Stuyvesant
Had His Way.

Demolished 1885 Old Tile House New Castle 1687

PETER STUYVESANT was a tall, red-faced Dutchman who came out to the New Netherlands in 1647, to take the place of Kieft as Governor of that Province.

Governor Stuyvesant had fought in many battles, and in one of them had lost a leg. When he came out to New Netherlands he had a wooden leg; and as it was fastened together by rings of silver, it was often called “the Governor’s silver leg.” Stuyvesant had also a very violent temper; and, when he was angry, he stamped about with this leg as though it were a club and he were beating the floor with it.

At this time, in 1647, the Swedes claimed all of Delaware as theirs, and called it New Sweden. They had driven many of the Dutch away, had torn down their buildings, and had kept them from trading with the Indians. Every little while news of fresh wrongs to the Dutch was brought from Delaware to Governor Stuyvesant; and every time a letter or messenger arrived, the Governor had a fresh fit of rage. He believed that the Dutch were the real owners of the river; and, if he could, he would have gathered his soldiers together and sailed down to New[36] Sweden, and have done his best to drive every Swede out of the country.

This he could not do, however; for the Directors of the West India Company, who had given him his position as Governor, had told him to keep peace not only with the Indians, but with the Swedes as well.

This was a hard thing for a hot-tempered man like Stuyvesant to do. Now the story would be that the Swedes had destroyed more of the Dutch buildings along the Delaware; again, that the Swedes had incited the Indians to try to surprise and massacre the Dutch; and Hudde, the Dutch commissioner in New Sweden, wrote that a Swedish lieutenant and twenty-four soldiers had come to his house one day and cut down all his trees, even the fruit trees.

Stuyvesant stamped about louder than ever when he heard this. The insult to the Dutch commissioner seemed the worst thing that had yet happened; and he made up his mind to sail down to New Sweden and remonstrate with the Swedish Governor Printz himself.

Governor Printz lived in a very handsome house called Printz Hall, on Tinnicum Island. All about it were fine gardens and an orchard. There was also a pleasure house, and indeed everything that could help to make it comfortable and convenient. Governor Printz received Governor Stuyvesant very politely in the great hall of the house, and presently the two governors sat down and began to talk. Stuyvesant complained bitterly of the treatment the Dutch had received in Delaware. He repeated that by[37] rights the Dutch really owned the land; they had bought it years before from the Indians, and their right to it had been sealed by the blood they had shed upon its soil.

Printz himself was a very violent man, and often gross and abusive; but this time he kept his temper and answered the Dutch Governor civilly. Stuyvesant, though, gained nothing by his visit, and all his talk and reasoning. Printz was determined to keep all the land along the Delaware, and to govern it as he pleased. As to cutting down Hudde’s trees, he said he had had nothing to do with that matter, and was sorry it had happened.

So Stuyvesant went back to his own fine house at New Amsterdam, and the Dutch in New Sweden were no better off.

However, he was not one to let the matter rest at that. He kept it in his mind, and at last, as the result of his thinking, he sent messengers to all the Indian sachems along the Delaware, inviting them to come to a great meeting at the governor’s house in New Amsterdam.

The meeting was set for early in July; and, on the day appointed, the Indians came. They were grave and fierce looking, in spite of their gay paint and feathers. Stuyvesant received them in the hall of his house; and after they had all arrived, they sat down there in council.

The first thing Stuyvesant wished to learn from them was exactly how much land they had sold to the Swedes.

The Indians told him they had not sold any land to the Swedes, except that upon which[38] Fort Christina stood, and ground enough around it for a garden to plant tobacco in.

“Then will you sell the land to us?” asked Stuyvesant.

The Indians were quite willing to do this. They were always willing to sell anything, even if they had already sold it; but what they wished to know was what the Dutch would give. The price finally agreed upon was, if they had only known it, an absurd price indeed; but the Indians were quite content with it. It was;—12 coats of duffels (a kind of cloth), 12 kettles, 12 axes, 12 adzes, 24 knives, 12 bars of lead and 4 guns with some powder; besides this, the Dutch to repair the gun of the Chief Penomennetta when it was out of order, and to give the Indians a few handfuls of maize when they needed it. This was the price for which the Indians sold to the Dutch all the land along the Delaware River, from Fort Christiana to Bombay Hook.

The Indians then went away, very much pleased. Governor Stuyvesant, too, was in high good humor. Now he would show Printz who was the real owner of the land.

In the year 1651, Stuyvesant set about having a fort built at New Amstel, (now New Castle) about five miles south of Fort Christina. The name of it was to be Fort Casimir.[1] This fort was of great value to the Dutch, and Stuyvesant felt that he had taken the first step toward recovering Dutch possession of the Delaware.

Printz, as soon as he knew what Stuyvesant was about, protested against the building of the[39] fort; but he was not strong enough to prevent it. He had grown very unpopular, because of his violent and coarse temper. He was hated not only by the Dutch and the English, but by his own people as well. Things began to grow more and more unpleasant for him, so that at last he begged to be allowed to go back to Sweden; and in 1653 he left the shores of New Sweden and his house on Tinnicum Island, and sailed away not to return.

But Stuyvesant was well pleased. He felt that it was he, with his building of Fort Casimir, who had driven the Swede away. He smiled comfortably to himself as he sat smoking his pipe, and made fresh plans.

But in June, 1654, news came to Governor Stuyvesant that made him leap from his chair and clench his hands and stamp up and down as though he would break his wooden-silver leg to pieces. The Swedes had taken Fort Casimir! And they had taken it without a single blow having been struck by the Dutch. The taking of the fort was in this way:—

Rysing, the new Swedish governor, had arrived at Godwin Bay early in May. He came sailing up the South River in the good ship Aren, and with him came a number of new settlers, bold and resolute men, about two or three hundred in all.

As they came near Fort Casimir they fired a royal salute, dropped their sails, and anchored. This was May 31, 1654. Gerritt Bikker, the commander of the fort, immediately sent to ask[40] their business in these waters. Bikker was a very weak and timid man.

The messengers soon returned, bringing word that it was a Swedish ship with the new Governor, and that he demanded to have Fort Casimir handed over to him, as it was on Swedish land.

Bikker was amazed at this message, and was about to write out an answer when he was told that a boat from the Swedish vessel was coming toward the Fort, with about twenty men.

Bikker thought that they were bringing some further message, and politely went down to the beach to meet them. The gate of the fort was left open.

The Swedes landed; but, instead of stopping on the beach, they marched straight to the open gate and into the fort. Then, drawing their swords, they demanded the surrender of the fort. At the same time two shots were fired from the Swedish vessel, and the Swedes in the fort wrenched the muskets from the hands of the Dutch soldiers. The whole thing was so sudden that the Dutch were unable to make any resistance, and in a moment they had been chased from the fort, and the Swedes had taken possession of everything.

All this happened on Trinity Sunday, so the Swedes now changed the name of the fort from Fort Casimir, to Fort Trinity.

The Dutch living near the fort, took the oath of allegiance to the Swedish crown, and it seemed that Stuyvesant was to lose everything he had just gained in Delaware.


It was felt to be very important at this time to gain the friendship of the Indians, so, very soon after the capture of Fort Casimir, Governor Rysing asked the Delaware sachems to come to a meeting at Printz Hall.

The Indians came to Tinnicum Island in answer to his message as, a short time before, they had gone to New Amsterdam when Stuyvesant sent for them. They were seated in the great hall of the house and waited gravely to hear “a talk made to them.”

Rysing began by telling the Indians how much the Swedes respected them. He reminded them of the gifts they had received from the Swedes—many more than the Dutch had ever given them.

The Indians replied that the Swedes had brought much evil upon them; that many of them had died since the Swedes had come into the country.

Rysing then gave them some presents, and after that the Indians arose and went out.

Presently they returned; and the principal sachem, a chief called Naaman, “made a talk.” He began by saying that the Indians had done wrong in speaking evil of the Swedes; “for the Swedes,” said he, “are a good people; see the presents they have brought us; for these they ask our friendship.” He then stroked his arm three times from the shoulder down, which among the Indians, is a sign of friendship. He promised that the friendship between the Indians and the Swedes should be as close as it had been in Governor Printz’s time.


“The Swedes and the Indians then,” he said, “were as one body and one heart” (and he stroked his breast as he spoke), “and now they shall be as one head,” and he seized his head with both hands and then made a motion as though he were tying a strong knot.

Rysing answered that this should indeed be a strong and lasting friendship, and then the great guns of the fort were fired.

The Indians were delighted at the noise and cried, “Hoo, hoo, hoo; mockirick pickon!” which means, “Hear and believe! The great guns have spoken.”

After more talk great kettles were brought into the hall filled with sappawn, a kind of hasty pudding made of Indian corn, and all sat down and fed heartily, and then the Indians departed to their villages.

Rysing had thought that as soon as Stuyvesant heard that the Swedes had taken Fort Casimir, he would try to recapture it; but day after day and week after week passed peacefully by. Rysing began to believe that Stuyvesant meant to let the matter rest.

But the hot-tempered Dutchman had far other ideas than that. He still remembered that he had been told to keep peace with his neighbors, but he wrote an account of the whole matter to the West India Company at home. Then he had to gather together all his patience and wait, for an answer from across the ocean. What he most feared was that he would be told still to keep the peace.


But when Stuyvesant’s letter telling how the Swedes had taken Fort Casimir reached Holland, the people were aroused at last. The roll of drums sounded in the streets of old Amsterdam. Volunteers were called for. A ship, The Balance, was fitted out with men, arms, ammunition and provisions, and set sail as quickly as possible for New Netherlands.

Great was the joy of Stuyvesant to receive such an answer as this. He too had called for volunteers, and he had gathered together all the vessels he could; he had even hired a French frigate, L’Esperance, which happened to be lying in the harbor of New Amsterdam at that time.

About the middle of August, 1655, the little Dutch fleet sailed out from the harbor of New Amsterdam-seven vessels in all and carrying almost seven hundred men. Stuyvesant himself was in command.

They sailed down to the Delaware Bay, in between the capes, and up the river to a short distance above the fort. Quietly as Styuvesant had moved, the Indians had learned his plans some time before, and had carried the news of them to Rysing.

Rysing had immediately sent what men and ammunition he could spare to Fort Trinity, and had told Captain Sven Schute, its commander, to fire on the Dutch if they attempted to sail past the fort. This, Sven Schute did not do. He allowed the Dutch to pass by without firing a single shot, and so all communication with Fort Christina was cut off.


Stuyvesant landed the Dutch soldiers on Sunday, September 5, 1655, and sent Captain Smith with a drummer to the fort to demand that Captain Schute should surrender it, as it was Dutch property.

Schute, however, asked time to consider, and also to be allowed to write to Rysing.

This was refused; and Schute was again called upon to surrender, and so spare the shedding of innocent blood.

A second time he refused, and a third time he was asked to surrender; and the third time he agreed and opened his gates to the Dutch. So it was that within a short time after leaving New Amsterdam, the Dutch marched to the fort with music playing and banners flying; and so, a second time, Fort Casimir (then Fort Trinity) was captured without a blow having been struck or a drop of blood shed.

After capturing Fort Casimir, Stuyvesant sailed up the river to Fort Christina and surrounded it. Rysing had only thirty men, and around him camped almost seven hundred Dutchmen.

Stuyvesant sent him a message by an Indian, bidding him surrender the fort.

Rysing, by the same Indian, returned a letter begging Stuyvesant to meet him and talk the matter over.

This Stuyvesant agreed to; but he treated Rysing in such an insolent way that it made matters harder than ever for the Swedish governor to bear. Rysing laid before him all the Swedish claims to the river, and begged him to[45] withdraw his soldiers. This, Stuyvesant refused to do, and again demanded the surrender of the fort.

Rysing would not agree to this and so returned.

On the twenty-fourth of September all the Dutch guns were turned upon Fort Christina, and Rysing was again called upon to surrender.

This time, seeing how useless it was to try to defend the fort with his small force, he agreed. Such terms as he could, he made with the Dutch.

He and his troops were allowed to march out with drums beating, fifes playing, and colors flying, and they were also allowed to keep their guns and ammunition and all effects belonging to the Swedish Crown. It was agreed that no Swedes were to be kept there against their will; but any were to be allowed to stay one year if they wished, in order to arrange their affairs. Rysing and his Swedes were also to have a ship to take them back to Gottenburg in Sweden.

Thus, on September 25, 1655, our state became the property of the Dutch, and Swedish power ended forever on the banks of the Delaware.

Stone at New Castle Fort Casimir was built by the Dutch in—1651 and recaptured by them from the Swedes—1655



[1] The spot where Fort Casimir (or Trinity) once stood, is now covered with water, the Delaware flowing over it. It was a little north of where the town of New Castle now stands. A boulder with an inscription has been placed near the shore, on the road, by the Colonial Dames, to mark the vicinity of the old fort.


colonist with colonists behind him speaking to Indians in room


How Once Upon A Time
William Penn Landed
In New Castle.


William Penn’s Ship—the “Welcome”—off New Castle Oct 1682

IT WAS in the year 1682, and Delaware had seen many changes since Peter Minuit and his little band of Swedes had landed on her wild shores. During those years the Swedes had been driven out by the Dutch, and the Dutch had afterward surrendered to the English; then the Dutch, growing stronger, had driven out the English; but again the English had taken possession and now owned all of what had once been New Netherlands and New Sweden. New Netherlands was now called New York, and it was the English Directors, (living in the town of New York, formerly New Amsterdam), who made the laws for Delaware.

Only a few English, however, had come to Delaware to live. The people of Wilmington (once Christinaham, or Christina Harbor) and of New Castle, were principally Dutch and Swedes. They were simple farmer people, raising crops and cattle and chickens, and they were very willing to keep the laws that the English at New York made for them. The Indians were still[52] troublesome at times, but the settlers had their block-houses or forts to retreat to and were generally able to protect themselves.

But now it had come to their ears that a new governor was coming out from England to rule over them, and they wondered anxiously what sort of man he would prove to be. Governor Printz had been coarse and violent; Governor Stuyvesant, hot-tempered, ambitious, and overbearing; and terrible tales had been told of the cruelty of Governor Kieft. There had been a long line of governors since Minuit’s time, both in Delaware and in New York; and few of them had seemed to care for the good of the poorer people. And now this new man was coming and, for all they knew, might be the worst of all.

The name of the new Governor was William Penn. The Duke of York had given Delaware to him, and King Charles the Second, had given him a great tract of land farther to the North, which he called Pennsylvania. More than this, the people did not know; but they often talked about the new governor and wondered what he would be like, and when he would come, as they sat around their fires in the early fall evenings.

Then they began to learn more about him; for his cousin, Captain William Markham, came out to America to act as Governor till Penn could come himself. They learned that Penn belonged to the Quakers—a strange, new religious sect; and that it was the rule that Quakers must dress very plainly and say “thee” and “thou” to people instead of “you” and take off their hats to nobody, not even the King himself. That[53] seemed a strange thing indeed to the settlers, and they wondered how the King liked it.

Penn had bought the land from King Charles, and his brother the Duke for an absurd price—a price so small that the poorest farmer among them all might have bought it if he had had the chance.

For all of Pennsylvania, with its wooded hills and fertile valleys and well-stocked streams, he had paid only twelve shillings[1] and, at Michaelmas, was to pay the King five shillings more.

For Delaware, he had paid ten shillings to the Duke of York; and every Michaelmas he was to pay to the Duke, a rose. He was also to pay over one half of the profits he drew from the southern part of Delaware. Yes, any of the honest farmers might have bought the land at that price, but then, the great people most probably would not have sold it at all to anyone but their friend, William Penn.

Captain Markham was buying for Penn, from the Indians such rights as they had in the land, and was paying them well—better than they had ever been paid before—so perhaps the new governor was a generous, fair minded man after all.

So, in talk and wonderings, the days slipped by. September had passed, and October was almost gone, before the governor’s English ship, the Welcome, was sighted coming up the river from the bay. The news of its coming spread from house to house, and from farm to farm, and even back into the country to the villages of the Indians.


All work was laid aside, and the people of New Castle and the country round about gathered down at the shore to watch the approach of the vessel. Captain Markham himself was there, gorgeous in his English uniform, having come down to New Castle to meet his cousin.

Nearer and nearer came the ship, looming up bigger and bigger, stately and slow, its sails spread wide, and the English colors fluttering at its masthead. Then it came about, and the great anchor dropped into the water with a splash. Boats were lowered, and the people of the vessel clambered down into them and were rowed toward the shore. In the very first boat came William Penn himself.

He was a tall, noble looking man, with large, dark, kindly eyes, and hair that fell in loose locks to his shoulders. He was very simply dressed, as were all the men with him. The only way in which his dress differed from theirs was that he wore a light blue silken sash around his waist. He was worn and thin, and some of his companions looked even ill.

This was not to be wondered at, for he told his cousin that soon after they had set sail from England, smallpox had broken out on board the Welcome. Of the one hundred men who had started with him, almost one-third had died on the voyage. The colonists heard afterward of the goodness of William Penn to the sick. He himself had never had smallpox, but everyday during the voyage he went down to the bedsides of the sufferers. He gave them medicines,[55] talked with them and cheered them, and ministered to the dying.

It had indeed been a terrible voyage. Fortunately, the ship had been well stocked with provisions of every kind, and many luxuries.[2] Still, these could ease but little the sufferings of the sick, shut up for two months in that rolling, tossing vessel. A blessed sight the shores and wooded hills of Delaware must have been to those sick and weary voyagers.

As Penn landed, Captain Markham came forward eagerly to greet him. It was a strange and varied crowd that had gathered there to meet their governor—Swedes, Dutch, Germans and Welsh, many of them dressed in their national costumes, and back of them the tall, red skinned Indian, Sachem Taminent, with his party of Leni Lenapes in their paint and feathers.

Penn was escorted by his cousin and the principal men of the village, to the house that had been made ready for him, there to eat and rest after his long journey.

The next day, October 28, 1682, the new governor went to the Courthouse to speak to the people. The room was thronged with those who crowded in to hear him. Before he began, however, two gentlemen, John Moll and Ephraim Herman, performed what is called “livery of seisin;” that is, they gave to Penn earth, water, a piece of turf, and a twig, in token that he was ruler there of land and water and of the fruits of tree and field.

After that, Penn spoke to the people with such kindness, that their simple hearts were[56] filled with joy. He bade them remember that they were “but as little children in the wilderness,” and under the care of one Father. He told them that he wished to found a free and virtuous state in which the people should learn to rule themselves. He promised that every man in his provinces should “enjoy liberty of conscience,” and have a voice in the ruling of the colony.

The people listened to him in deep silence; and when he ended his speech, they had but one thing to beg of him, and that was that he would stay among them at New Castle and rule over them. This he told them he could not do; and then they begged him to join their territory to Pennsylvania, that the white settlers might have one country and one ruler. He promised to consider this, and then he bade them good-bye and returned to the ship.

The sails of the vessel were spread wide like great wings of peace, the wind filled them, and slowly the ship began to move. The colonists upon the shore still lingered there, gazing after her, and straining their eyes to see, as long as they could, the tall man that stood there in the stem with a light blue sash around his waist At last they could see him no longer, and then they turned and went back to their daily toil.

Penn did not forget them or his promise to them. At the first General Assembly held at Chester, it was declared that the two provinces were united, and that the laws that governed one should be for the other too.

In 1701, Penn visited New Castle again and was received with joy by its people.


A few years later he made the town a gift of one thousand acres of land lying to the north of it, to be used as a public commons by its people and to belong to them.

This tract of land still belongs to the town of New Castle, but since 1792 it has been rented out in farms, and is no longer a public commons.

William Penn did much to bring the Indians into truer friendship with the settlers. He treated them justly. He trusted them and went among them unarmed and unprotected. He walked with them, attended their meetings and ate of their hominy and roasted acorns. One time it happened the Indians were showing him how they could hop and jump, and after sitting watching them for a time, the Governor rose up and out-jumped them all.

Penn’s word was trusted by Indians and settlers alike, and they knew their interests were as safe in his hands as in their own.[3]

New Castle has just cause for pride in the fact that William Penn’s first landing in America was made upon her shore.

Tablet to Wm. Penn Old Court House—New Castle Penn first landed in America at New Castle—Oct 28 1682



[1] About two dollars and a half.

[2] In a list of creature comforts put on board a vessel leaving the Delaware, on behalf of a Quaker preacher, are enumerated:—32 fowls, 7 turkeys and 11 ducks, 2 hams, a barrel of China, oranges, a large keg of sweetmeats, ditto of rum, a pot of Tamarinds, a box of spices, ditto of dried herbs, 18 cocoanuts, a box of eggs, 6 balls of chocolate, 6 dried codfish, 5 shaddock, 6 bottles citron water, 4 bottles of Madeira, 5 dozen of good ale, 1 large keg of wine and 9 pints of brandy, as well as flour, sheep, and hogs.—Dixon’s “William Penn.”

[3] Among the articles used in trading with the natives was rum. The colonists at that time did not seem to see how dangerous it was to let them have it. Several years later, however, the Friends (Quakers) had a meeting with the natives, in order to put a stop to the sale of rum, brandy, and other liquors. There were eight Sachems present, and one of them made this speech.

“The strong liquor was first sold us by the Dutch, and they are blind, they had no eyes, they did not see it was for our hurt. The next people that came among us were the Swedes, and they too sold strong liquors to us; they were also blind, they had no eyes, they did not see it was hurtful to us to drink it, although we knew it was hurtful to us; but if people will sell it to us we are so in love with it that we cannot forbear. When we drink it, it makes us mad; we do not know what we do; we then abuse one another, we throw each other into the fire; seven score of our people have been killed by reason of drinking it. But now there is a people come to live among us that have eyes, they see it be for our hurt, and are willing to deny themselves the profit of it for our good. Now the cask must be sealed up, it must not leak by day or night, in light or in the dark, and we give you these four belts of wampum to be witnesses of this agreement.” One bargain made with the Indians, included the gift of one hundred jew’s-harps.


man on horse back


How Once Upon A Time
Caesar Rodney Rode
For Freedom.


Independence Hall: Philadelphia Liberty Bell

YEARS passed, and the Counties on the Delaware,[1] under the wise laws of William Penn,[2] grew and prospered. Dover was laid out and settled; New Castle flourished; Lewes became a town. Instead of the rough buildings of the early settlers, handsome country houses and comfortable farms were to be seen.

The manners and customs of the people were still very plain and simple. Very few foreign articles were used in this part of the country. Clothes were woven, cut and sewed at home. Beef, pork, poultry, milk, butter, cheese, wheat and Indian corn were raised on the farms; the fruit trees yielded freely, and there was a great[64] deal of wild game; the people lived not only comfortably but luxuriously.[3]

The Counties on the Delaware were very fertile, and very little labor was needed to make the land yield all that was required. The people had a great deal of leisure time for visiting and pleasure. They were always gathering together at one house or another, the younger people to dance or frolic, and the older men to amuse themselves with wrestling, running races, jumping, throwing the disc and other rustic and manly exercises.

On Christmas Eve there was a universal firing of guns, and all through the holidays the people traveled from house to house, feasting and eating Twelfth cake, and playing games.[4]

So for years, life slipped pleasantly by in these southern Counties, and then suddenly there came a change. There began to be talk of war with England. News was eagerly watched for. There was no mail at that time. Letters were carried by stage-coach, or by messengers riding on horseback from town to town. In the old days, the people had been content to send their servants for letters. Now, when a messenger, hot and dusty, came galloping into the town, a crowd would be waiting, and would gather round him.

And it was thrilling news that the dusty messengers carried in those days, the days of 1775. England was determined to tax her colonies, and the colonies were rising in rebellion. Boston had thrown whole cargoes of tea into her harbor rather than pay the tax on it.


Then the first shots of the Revolution were fired at Concord and Lexington. At the sound of those shots the Counties on Delaware awoke. Drums were beat, muskets were cleaned, ladies sewed flags for the troops to carry; men enlisted, and the militia drilled. But still it was hoped by many that things would settle back peaceably.

But worse and worse news came from the north. Boston harbor had been shut up by the English. The people were starving. War ships from England had brought over more troops (many of them hired Germans), and had quartered them on the town. All the country was hot with anger over these things. Food and clothing were sent to Boston. General Washington raised troops of a thousand men, at his own expense, and marched north to her relief.

General Caesar Rodney was one of the important men of Dover at that time. He was a tall, pale, strange looking man, with flashing eyes, and a face, as we are told, “no larger than a good sized apple.” He was a general in the militia, and was heart and soul for independence. He rode about the country, calling meetings, speaking to the people, and urging them to enlist, and urging them, too, to raise money to give to the government. He was at this time suffering from a painful disease, but he spared neither strength nor comfort in the cause of freedom.

Mr. George Read of New Castle, was a very important man in the colonies, too. He was a patriot, and belonged to the militia, but he was very anxious not to begin a war. He argued that England had spent a great deal of money on[66] her American colonies, and that she had a right to try to get some of it back by taxing them. He agreed that the time might come when the colonies would have to be free, but he thought that time had not yet come. He hoped that when it did, the colonies might win their freedom peaceably, and not by battle and bloodshed. He was a calm, quiet, learned man, rather slow of speech, and different in many ways from his quick and fiery friend, Rodney.

A third man who was important in Colonial times was Mr. Thomas McKean. He was a lawyer in New Castle, and was a friend of both these men. Like Rodney, he was for freedom at any cost.

In 1776, when the Colonial Congress was called to meet in Philadelphia, these three men, Rodney, Read and McKean, were sent to it as delegates by the Counties on the Delaware.[5]

This meeting of Congress in the summer of 1776 was the most important meeting that had ever been held. From north and south the delegates came riding to it, from all the thirteen colonies; and they met in the Committee Room of the State House in Philadelphia.

Many serious questions were to be decided by these delegates this year. But the most serious of all the questions was whether the Colonies should declare themselves free and independent states. If they did this, it would mean war with England.

While the question was still being argued about in the committee room, Caesar Rodney was sent for to come back to the Counties on the[67] Delaware. Riots and quarrels and disturbances had broken out there, and no one could quiet them as well as Caesar Rodney. He was very glad to go, for it seemed as though it might be a long time before the delegates would decide on anything, and he hoped to be able to raise some money for the government.

He started out early one morning on horseback, cantering easily along through the cool of the day. It was eighty miles from Philadelphia to Dover, and he broke it by stopping over night at New Castle, which was rather more than half way home. The road he took was the old King’s Highroad, which ran on down through the Counties on Delaware, through Wilmington and New Castle and Dover, as far as Lewes.

General Rodney found a great deal to do down in the Counties. The Whigs and Tories had come to blows. One Tory gentleman only just escaped being tarred and feathered, and carried on a rail. Caesar Rodney was the one who had to quiet all the troubles. Beside this he made speeches, raised moneys and helped get together fresh troops of militia.

But busy though he was, he managed to find some time for visiting about among his friends. Especially he found time to visit at the house of a young Quaker widow named Sarah Rowland. Mistress Rowland lived in Lewes. She was a Tory, but she was very beautiful and witty, and Caesar Rodney was said to be in love with her. He might often have been seen, between his busy times, cantering along the road that led to Lewes and to her house. Mistress Rowland, as a[68] Quaker, believed all fighting to be wrong, but she was always friendly with the General. Perhaps she hoped in some way to be able to help the Tories by things the General told her, or by having him at her house. At any rate she always made him welcome.

Now, while General Rodney was still busy down in the Counties on the Delaware, with his work and pleasure, great things were happening in Philadelphia. The Declaration of Independence was finally drawn up and written out.

It was laid on the table before the Colonial Congress, and the delegates were given five days to make up their minds to agree, whether they would sign it or not. They considered and discussed it in secret behind closed doors.

One after another, the delegates from various colonies agreed to sign. At last, only the Counties on the Delaware were needed to carry the agreement. They could not sign the Declaration, for they had now only two delegates present at Congress. Of these, one (McKean) was for it, and one (Mr. Read) was against it, so it was a tie between them, and Rodney, whose vote could have decided the matter, was down in the Counties on Delaware, eighty miles away.

McKean was in despair. He sent message after message, down to Delaware, begging the General to return to Philadelphia and give his deciding vote, but no answer came. The fact was that General Rodney did not receive any of these messages McKean sent. He was visiting Mistress Rowland in Lewes at the time, and she managed to keep the letters back from him.[69] She hoped that he might know nothing about the Declaration until it had been voted on and the whole matter decided. Even if all the other Colonies decided to sign, it would weaken the union very much if the Colonies on the Delaware did not sign.

On the third of July, McKean sent a last message down to Rodney, passionately begging him to come to Philadelphia. The vote of the delegates was to be taken July the fourth, and if the General was not there the vote of the Counties on Delaware could not be cast for the Declaration of Independence, and it might be lost.

On this same day, July the third, 1776, Caesar Rodney was chatting with Mistress Rowland in the parlor of her house at Lewes. It had seemed strange to him that he had not heard from McKean lately, but he felt sure that if anything important was happening at Philadelphia he would receive word at once. So he put his anxieties aside and laughed and talked with the widow.

Suddenly, the parlor door was thrown open and a maid-servant came into the room. She crossed over to where General Rodney was sitting. “There!” she cried. “I’m an honest girl and I won’t keep those back any longer!” and she threw a packet of letters into the General’s lap.

Rodney picked them up and looked at them. They were in Mr. McKean’s hand-writing. Hastily he ran through them. They were the letters Sarah Rowland had been keeping back,—the[70] letters begging and imploring him to hasten north to Philadelphia.

Without a word, General Rodney started to his feet, and ran out to where his horse was standing before the house.[6] Sarah Rowland called to him, but he did not heed her. He sprang to the saddle and gathered up the reins, and a moment later he was galloping madly north toward Dover. It was a long ride, but a longer still was before him. The heat was stifling, and the dust rose in clouds as he thundered along the King’s Highroad.

At Dover, he stopped to change his horse, and here he was met by McKean’s last messenger, with a letter, urging him to haste, haste. Indeed, there was not an hour to waste. Philadelphia was eighty miles away, and the vote was to be taken the next morning.

On went Rodney on his fresh horse. Daylight was gone. The moon sailed slowly up the sky, and the trees were clumps of blackness on either hand as he rode.

At Chester, he again changed horses, but he did not stop for either rest or food. Soon, he was riding on again.

It was in the morning of July fourth, that the rider, exhausted and white with dust, drew rein before the State House door in Philadelphia. McKean was there watching for him.

“Am I in time?” called Rodney as he swung himself from his horse.

“In time, but no more,” answered McKean.

Side by side he and Rodney entered Independence Hall. There sat the delegates in a semi-circle.[71] Rodney and McKean took their places. The Declaration of Independence lay on the table before them. It was being voted on. One after the other the colonies were called on and one after another they gave their votes for it. The Counties on Delaware were called on. Mr. McKean rose and voted for it. Mr. Read was, as usual against it.

Then Caesar Rodney rose in his place. His face looked white and worn under its dust, but he spoke in a clear, firm voice. “I vote for Independence.”

And so the day was won. From the belfry of Independence Hall, the bells pealed out over the Quaker City. Bonfires blazed out, people shouted for joy, and the thirteen American Colonies, strong in union, stood pledged together for liberty.

House where Sarah Rowland lived Lewes



[1] It was not until after the Declaration of Independence that these “Counties upon the Delaware” received the name of Delaware State, and not until 1792 that it was called the “State of Delaware.”

[2] Edmund Burke spoke of Penn’s Charter to his colonies of Pennsylvania and Delaware as “a noble charter of privileges, by which he made the people more free than any people on earth, and which by securing both civil and religious liberty caused the eyes of the oppressed from all parts of the world to look to his counties for relief.”

[3] This account of the life in Delaware before the Revolutionary War is taken from a letter from Thomas Rodney, a younger brother of Caesar Rodney.

[4] The land upon which Dover stands was bought from the Indians in 1697, for two match coats, twelve bottles of drink and four handfuls of powder.

[5] Rodney, Read and McKean were appointed Delegates in March, 1775.

[6] While Caesar Rodney’s famous ride is a story of which Delaware is proud, the exact time when he started, and the place he started from have been much disputed. One tradition says that he left Sarah Rowland’s house at Lewes, and another tradition insists that he started from his own house near Dover. As for the hours of starting and arrival, the archives show how different the versions are. After much thought and trouble, the Colonial Dames have decided to choose the most detailed tradition as being possibly also the most accurate. They do not claim to decide the matter, which will always, probably, remain unsolved.

The following was the Congress express rider’s time from Lewes to Philadelphia: Leave Lewes at noon, reach Wilmington next day at 4 o’clock, A. M. Or leave Lewes at 7 o’clock, P. M., Cedar Creek, 10:30; Dover, 4:15; Cantwell’s Bridge, 9:05; Wilmington, 12:55; Chester, 2:37; arrive Philadelphia 4 o’clock P. M., or 21 hours. (See American Archives.)


one women and many men looking into distance


How Once Upon A Time
The Row-Galleys Fought
The Roebuck.


The people fled back into the country

THE little town of Lewes is on Delaware Bay, with rolling dunes of sand between it and the ocean. The winds that blow over it have the smell and taste of salt in them, and in the sky overhead, the grey seagulls soar and hover.

There was a time, long ago, when pirates sailed the Delaware waters. Sometimes they landed there, and drank and plundered and put the people in fear of their lives. There is a story that Captain Kidd buried much treasure somewhere among these dunes.

But that was long before the American colonies went to war with England, and in Revolutionary times it was not pirates that Lewes was afraid of, but English warships.

From Delaware Bay the Delaware River lies, wide and open, all the way to Philadelphia. An enemy’s ship that entered the bay could easily sail on up the bay and river, past New Castle, Wilmington and Chester,—and might bombard Philadelphia from the water-front. This was[78] what the Committee of Safety feared the British would do when the Revolutionary War began, so a guard was set at Henlopen light house.

It was in the last week of March of the year 1776, that the first British war vessel entered Delaware Bay. This vessel was a frigate called “Roebuck.” She came sailing slowly in, the black mouths of her guns threatening the town, and anchored in the bay. Her tender followed her, and she too was armed with guns.

Then all Lewes was in a stir. Messengers were sent riding in hot haste to Philadelphia, and all along the way they spread the news that the British ships had arrived. Colonel John Haslet came marching down to Lewes at the head of the Delaware militia, so as to be ready to protect the town against the English, in case they tried to land.

This, however, the British did not try to do. They cruised up and down in the “Roebuck,” or lay at anchor in the bay.

They managed to capture a pilot boat named the “Alarm,” near Lewes, and they fitted her out as a second tender. A little later they made a prize of an American sloop called the “Plymouth.” All the men from the tender were put on board this new prize except a lieutenant and three soldiers who were still left on the “Alarm,” to take care of her. But that night the helmsman on the “Alarm” fell asleep; the boat drifted on shore, and the lieutenant and his men were taken prisoner by the Americans.

There had as yet been no shots exchanged between the Americans and the English. But one bright, clear Sunday morning in April, word was brought to Colonel Haslet that an American[79] schooner had anchored just off the shore below Cape Henlopen. The captain wished him to send men to help unload her. She carried supplies for the Americans.

Unluckily, news of the schooner reached the British, too, and at the same time that Haslet’s men started by land to help the captain unload, the British tender started by sea.

The Americans made all the haste they could, but they were obliged to cross a creek before they could reach the place where the schooner lay. The country people brought boats and ferried them over, but the soldiers soon saw that the tender was out-racing them.

The captain of the schooner saw this, too, and rather than have his cargo fall into the hands of the British, he set his sails, and ran ashore.

As soon as the American soldiers arrived they began to fire at the tender, but she kept too far away for their bullets to reach her. Seeing this, they laid aside their muskets and set to work to help the sailors unload the schooner.

The tender kept firing at them all the while they were unloading, but her shots fell harmlessly in the sand. Several of the soldiers picked up the balls as they fell, and carried them home to show to their families.

The tender now sent a barge back to summon the “Roebuck,” and presently, the frigate came sailing around the Cape at full speed to help the tender. She swept down toward the schooner like a great bird, but presently she found she was running into shoal water. She was obliged to come to anchor just off the Hen-and-Chicken shoals, but from there she began to fire at the soldiers and the schooner.


The Americans now turned the schooner’s guns on the frigate and tender. They saw a gunner on the frigate throw up his arms and fall. A number of the English were wounded, but not a single American was hurt. Presently, the frigate, finding it a losing game, sailed back around the Cape and out of reach.

No more shots were exchanged between the English and American vessels until May. Early in that month the “Roebuck” was joined by the sloop “Liverpool,” and the two with their tenders sailed straight up the bay and river toward Wilmington. Then they moved to and fro, between Chester and New Castle.

News of their coming went before them. At New Castle, houses were closed, and the people loaded their goods in wagons and carriages and fled back into the country.

At Wilmington, a number of row-galleys (some thirteen in number) were gathered and furnished with guns and ammunition, and were made ready in every way to give battle to the enemy. The galleys were under the command of Captain Houston, of Philadelphia.

It was on the morning of the eighth of May, that the British sails were seen coming up the river. Great crowds of people had gathered on the banks to watch the battle.

It was not until the British vessels were almost opposite Christiana creek that the firing began. The dull boom of the guns echoed and re-echoed from the wooded hills of the Brandywine. Great puffs of grey smoke drifted across the water. Sometimes the vessels were almost hidden.

In the midst of the battle, four Wilmington boys started out from the shore, armed with[81] some old muskets that they had somehow got hold of. They boldly rowed out through the smoke until they were directly under the stern of the “Liverpool,” and then they began to fire at her. Presently, an officer on the sloop saw them.

“Captain,” he called to his commanding officer, “do you see those young rebels? Shall I fire on them?”

The brave old Captain Bellew shook his head. “No, no,” he cried; “don’t hurt the boys. Let them break the cabin windows if they want to.”

That indeed, was about all the damage the young patriots were able to do. When they had used up their ammunition, they rowed back to the shore again unhurt.

While the firing was still at the hottest, a major of artillery came riding at full speed. He threw himself from his horse, and begged a couple of boatmen who were standing with the crowd, to row him out to the galleys; he wished to have a chance to fire a shot at the enemy.

The boatmen refused. They were afraid they might get shot, but when the major promised them a handful of money they changed their minds and agreed to row to the nearest galley.

As soon as the major was on board the boat, he stationed himself at a gun and began to fire it off, and as he proved to be a very good shot he was allowed to stay there. After a while he called for more ammunition, but was told that it had all been used. The gallant officer pulled off his boots, filled them with powder, rammed them into the gun and fired it for the last time. In after life his boast was that he had not only been[82] in the first naval battle of the war, but that he had fired his boots at the enemy.

On all the galleys the officers showed the greatest bravery. The British had at first looked with contempt at the open boats that had come to fight them. It did not take many shots, however, to teach them that these American galleys were not to be despised.

A part of the “Roebuck’s” rigging was shot away and her sides were badly damaged by the balls. Finally, in trying to get nearer to the galleys she ran aground, near the mouth of the Christiana creek. She now keeled over in such a way that she could no longer use her guns. Night came and she still lay there, unable to get off into deep water, or to right herself. The great fear of her men was that the galleys might come to attack her while she lay there helpless, so they sent out three small boats and kept them circling around her all night to watch out for an attack. If the Americans had come, it was the plan of the English to fill the small boats with as many of the “Roebuck’s” men as they could, and send them over to the “Liverpool.” The “Liverpool” was then to retreat down the river. However, the night passed quietly, and at four o’clock in the morning the water had risen so that they were able to get the “Roebuck” off.

In the morning, the row-galleys returned to the attack, though they had been very much damaged the day before. But their men were as determined as ever, and they had a fresh supply of ammunition. One of their shots went clear through the bows of the “Roebuck,” and a number of her men were wounded. One of the officers was killed.


The British now decided to retreat. Very slowly they drew off and drifted down the river. On their way they tried to destroy the little town of Port Penn, but they could not get near enough to the shore; the water was too shallow.

When they reached Lewes they lay there for some time, while the ship’s carpenters mended the holes made by the American shots. They took on fresh water and provisions, and then sailed out from the Delaware waters.

So ended the first naval battle of the Revolution; a battle fought in Delaware waters. One other sea fight was fought there, and it was the last one of the war. It was between the American sloop of war “Hyder Alley,” and the British sloop “General Monk,” and in this, too, the British were defeated. It was not an important battle, but it seemed a curious chance that the first and the last sea-fights of the Revolution should both have been in Delaware waters.

Old Henlopen Light


minute men with drummer and fife



How Once Upon A Time
The Blue Hen’s Chickens
Went To War.

Winter at Valley Forge 1778

WAR had begun,—war between the United Colonies of America, with their small, poorly armed forces, and England, the richest and most powerful country in the world.

From all the thirteen colonies of America, regiments marched away to join General Washington and the little army he had already gathered together.

Delaware sent her regiment with the rest. It was under the command of Colonel John Haslet.[1] Men had come from all over the state to enlist in it. They carried whatever weapons they could get,—rifles, carbines, muskets or fowling pieces. A few of them had uniforms, but some of them had not even coats, and so came in their shirt sleeves.

The regiment set out from Dover to the sound of fife and drum. Their flag waved gaily over[88] them and the people crowded the streets, and waved and cheered to see them go.

It was a long, hot march from Dover up to New York, where General Washington was encamped. The soldiers soon grew footsore and weary, marching, as they did, from early dawn till night. Sometimes when they passed a stream they broke ranks to kneel on its bank and drink the cool, running water. Sometimes the farmers came out and handed them summer fruits and vegetables as they passed, and as they went through the towns the people cheered and waved their handkerchiefs to them.

At last they reached New York, but they had no sooner arrived than the whole regiment was ordered to cross the river and join General Stirling’s brigade in Brooklyn. Stirling was expecting an attack from the British at any time, and he needed all the troops he could get.

Before the regiment had left Delaware, Colonel Haslet had begun to drill them, and as soon as they were settled in Brooklyn the drill began again. The men were kept at it until their bones ached and they were ready to drop with weariness, but it was this constant drilling that brought the Delaware regiment into shape, and afterward won for it the name of “the picked regiment of the Colonial Army.”

One evening when the men were resting around the fires, one of their comrades came out from a tent carrying two game-cocks by the legs. Somehow he had managed to bring them up from Delaware with him. They were of a bluish grey[89] color, and were of a breed well known in Kent County, and called “Blue Game Chickens.”

When the soldiers saw the two cocks they shouted for joy. “A chicken-fight! A chicken-fight!” they cried. “We’ll have a chicken-fight. Where did you get them Bill?”

Bill threw the cocks into the middle of the ring. For a moment they stood looking about with their bright eyes. Then they lowered their heads and ruffled their feathers. The next moment they flew at each other and fought furiously but before they could injure each other they were separated and shut up in boxes.

“That’s the way we’ve got to fight,” cried Bill. “We’re sons of the old Blue Hen, and we’re game to the end.”

“That’s what we are,” shouted the others. “We’re the Blue Hen’s Chickens, the fighting breed.” And from that night that was the name by which the plucky Delaware regiment went—The Blue Hen’s Chickens.

The Delaware regiment[2] was soon to prove its courage. It was August twenty-seventh, about five days after they had arrived in Brooklyn, that they first went under fire.

On the twenty-sixth, General Stirling had received news that the next morning the British meant to attack his forces. They would begin the attack very early.

It was not yet light when the Delaware regiment, shivering with excitement, was marched out, and stationed near an orchard. In this orchard the Maryland regiment was placed but[90] just where the British troops were they did not know.

It was too dark to see anything at first, but there were sounds that made them know that somewhere there in the darkness, the enemy was moving and marching. Presently, a faint light began to show in the sky. There were shots in the distance. Then they saw through the growing light a great dark moving mass opposite to them. Nearer and nearer it came, and now they could see long lines of the Hessians; the light glittered on the brass fronts of their immense caps.

They were coming!

The Maryland and Delaware regiments opened fire, and here and there they saw a Hessian throw up his arms and fall, but immediately the ranks filled up, and on they came at a steady, quick step. The Delaware regiment had found some shelter behind an old fence.

“Fix bayonets!” There was a rattle and clash as the bayonets of the Delawares slipped into place. “Forward, charge!” Out from their shelter sprang the Delaware soldiers. They charged upon the Hessians, but they were met by such a steady front that for a moment they wavered. Then (we are told) a captain of Smallwood’s company sprang forward and caught the Delaware flag from the flag bearer; he flung it over into the midst of the Hessian regiment.

A long roar followed as the Delaware men flung themselves forward, mad to recover their flag. Before that fierce rush, the Hessians wavered and broke; they tried to recover and then[91] turned and fled, and again the flag of Delaware waved over the heads of the Blue Hen’s Chickens.

The Maryland regiment had also charged, and now they and the Delaware soldiers stood drawn up on a hill. The guns of the enemy were turned upon them, but their colors were flying. Other regiments of the American army had been forced to retreat, but these gallant little bands did not think of quitting their place. At last an express order came from the General commanding them to retreat. Then, and not till then, they fell back. Their flags were almost cut to pieces with shot, but the Delaware regiment retreated in such good order that they lost but few men.[3] The Marylanders were not so lucky, as many of them were taken prisoners or killed.

This victory seemed to satisfy the British for the time. They took up their quarters in Trenton and then they led a merry life, feasting and drinking. They stole as they liked from all the country round, and the poor country people were helpless. If they resisted they were shot down like dogs.

So the autumn and the first part of December passed. Upon the other side of the river from Trenton, the American forces were encamped. December was bitterly cold. Many of our men had no shoes. Food and blankets were scarce. The men kept the fires going day and night.

The day before Christmas, word was passed through the American encampment that on Christmas morning they would cross the river[92] and attack the English. The men cheered when they heard that news.

Christmas day dawned cold and dark and snowy. In the chill morning the men were marched, company after company, down to the flat boats that lay on the river, and were rowed over to the other side. Men and horses huddled together, trying to get some warmth from each other. The bitter wind whistled past their ears, and the sleet cut their faces.

On the Trenton side the troops were landed, and then began a seven miles tramp through the snow. The men struggled through the drifts, blinded by the sleet. Their hands were almost frozen to their muskets.

As they drew near the British encampment they were halted for a rest. They stood there in the snow, panting and leaning on their muskets. They could hear, through the snowy air, the ringing of the bells, and the shouts of the British soldiers. A gun was fired. They almost thought they heard a roar of laughter. The British were making merry at Christmas with no thought that their enemies were so near.

“Silence, and forward!”—the muffled order passed along the line.

The soldiers again shouldered their muskets and marched on. The deep drifts muffled their footsteps and the falling snow hid them like a curtain. Two hundred yards from the British encampment they were formed in line and the order rang out, “Forward, charge!”

Down upon the encampment they swept, running, leaping, stumbling through the drifts.


There was a wild alarm in the British camp, and a scramble for muskets, but the surprise was too sudden for them. They could not escape, and within half an hour the Americans had made one thousand of them prisoners; they had also captured one thousand muskets, and sixteen hundred blankets. Many a poor lad, for the first time in weeks, slept warm that Christmas night in British blankets.

When the cities heard of the great victory their army had won at Trenton, bells were rung and bonfires were lighted; they went mad with joy.

The battle of Princeton, which followed soon after, was an even greater victory for the Americans. But Delaware could not share in the rejoicings that followed, for her brave regiment was almost cut to pieces in that battle. Of the eight hundred men who fought that day barely one hundred were left, and Colonel Haslet was killed by a shot through the head.

Washington now called for more troops, and again Delaware gathered together a regiment and sent it north to join him.

The men under Hall were with Washington in the battle of Brandywine, when his forces were terribly defeated, and also in the battle at Germantown; and they went with him into winter quarters at Valley Forge.

Though the troops had suffered at Trenton the winter before, it was nothing to their sufferings at Valley Forge. They built themselves rough log huts, which gave them some shelter, and they had plenty of wood to burn, but food was[94] scarce. The death of a horse was hailed with joy, for then they could have meat. Their clothing fell into rags, and they had nothing to sleep on but the bare earthen floors of their huts. Washington sent out orders to all the farmers round to thresh out their grain, and let the soldiers have the straw to sleep on.[4]

Almost every day the General went from hut to hut, cheering and encouraging his soldiers as best he could.

One day he saw a soldier tramping barefoot through the snow. His foot prints were marked with blood. Washington unfastened his cloak and held it out to the man, “Here my poor fellow,” he said, “tear this into strips and bind it around your feet.”

The soldier refused the cloak with a laugh. “That’s all right, General,” he said. “I don’t need it. As long as my feet are bleeding I know they’re not frozen.”

Not all of the men could bear the suffering and hunger however. Many died, and still more deserted. In February there were in camp only about five thousand men able to work and carry arms. The regiment of Delaware was among the faithful ones who staid through it all.

It was with joy that the American soldiers saw the coming of spring. On clear days they stretched themselves out in the sun and felt fresh life warming their bodies. Thin, sickly and ragged, they still found strength to joke and laugh.

The British troops, who had spent the winter in Philadelphia, were in fine condition. They[95] had been well fed and housed, and had spent their time in merry making and balls, while our poor men were starving in their huts.

In April 1780,[5] our army was again on the move. The Delaware and Maryland regiments were ordered south under Baron DeKalb, to join General Greene’s army, which was fighting there. It was in this Southern campaign that the Delaware regiment won its greatest glory. The Blue Hen’s Chickens were in many battles and skirmishes, and in all they bore themselves with the greatest bravery.

Then, in August, came the battle of Camden, South Carolina. It was the battle in which the Delaware regiment proved themselves bravest, and the last in which they were to fight as a separate regiment.

Cornwallis had determined to attack our forces early in the morning of the fifteenth.

All that night the two armies lay opposite to each other, waiting for the daylight. The American forces had more men than the British, but many of them were raw recruits, and many were deserters. Cornwallis’s men were in good condition, and were almost all veteran fighters.

Before dawn the British began to take their positions and prepare for an attack, and the Americans made ready to meet them.

In the early dawning the first charge was made. The Americans saw the forces charging down upon them. The Virginia militia were seized with a panic. The order came to fire. Hardly knowing what they did, they fired one shot and then threw down their arms and ran.[96] The North Carolina regiment saw them running, and without even one shot, they, too, threw away their muskets and ran. Only the Delaware men, the Marylanders and one North Carolina regiment were left to bear the brunt of the attack.

DeKalb now gave the order to his men to charge with bayonets. Fiercely the Delaware and Maryland regiments charged upon the enemy,—so fiercely that they broke the British line. But the British guns poured on them volleys of grape and canister. It was more than our men could bear. They were obliged to retreat. Again came the order to charge, and again they threw themselves against those solid ranks of the British, and were driven back. Three times they charged, and then, almost cut to pieces, they were obliged to retreat. Of the brave regiment of Delaware, a mere handful of men was left. Baron DeKalb himself had fallen, with eleven wounds.

So ended the terrible battle of Camden. After it was over, many of the Americans hid themselves in the swamps and woods for a time. The few Delaware soldiers who were left joined the Virginia regiment. They fought with them through the rest of the war, and when peace was declared Virginia offered to each of them one hundred acres of ground if they would settle there. However, they preferred to return to their own state and people.

The prisoners who were taken were sent to Charleston. Among them was Major Patten, a gallant officer. He had taken with him into the[97] war his own body servant, a negro, and had entrusted to him all his clothes. When the battle was over the negro had disappeared and Major Patten never saw him again. He entered Charleston a prisoner, and in rags. There were many loyal ladies there however, and they made him a set of shirts and did for him what they could. He was very handsome and gay, and as he was allowed a great deal of liberty, he became a great favorite. After the war was ended, he returned to his home near Dover and showed with pride some of these shirts which had been made for him by the Charleston ladies.

He was more fortunate than many of the other soldiers. Some of them returned in rags, to find their farms and homesteads fallen almost into ruin. Some had lost their health or were suffering from wounds. But one thing our Delaware men had won,—the glory of having made part of that regiment fittingly called the “picked regiment of the Continental Army.”[6]

Blue Game Hen, Chickens & Cock.



[1] This regiment was composed of eight companies and numbered eight hundred men.

Haslet has well been called the father of the first Delaware regiment. He raised it before the Declaration of Independence was declared, and drilled it himself, taking the greatest pride in it. He was a native of Ireland, but at the time of the Revolutionary War was living at Dover, where his remains now lie.

[2] Haslet’s regiment, as will be hereafter seen, remained in the army only up to the battle of Princeton.

Patterson’s was a part of the “Flying Camp,” a body of men called out for temporary duty................... The regiment of Hall was the only Continental one we furnished.

[3] Brigadier General Thomas Mifflin wrote to Mr. Reed in January of 1777, “The officers (of the Delaware Regiment) in particular deserve the thanks and esteem of their country for the readiness shown by them to turn out on all occasions.”

“One paragraph of the old man’s letter is very full of the great honor obtained by the Delaware Battalion in the affair at Long Island. From the unparalleled bravery they showed in view of all the Generals and troops within the lines, who alternately praised and pitied them.”

Letter from Caesar Rodney to his brother.

Through the Revolutionary War, Delaware furnished more men in proportion to its size than any other colony in the Union.

[4] “Nothing,” said a report addressed to the President of Congress, “Nothing sir, can equal their sufferings except the patience and fortitude with which the faithful part of the army endure them.”

[5] From the time the Delaware regiment started south, that is April 13th, 1780, until April 7th, 1782, they marched 5006 miles.

[6] In less than a month after the Declaration of Independence, Delaware had eight hundred men in the field, who fought at Brooklyn, White Plains, Trenton and Princeton. By April, 1777, we had another regiment of like number who fought at Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, Camden,—twice at Camden,—Cowpens, Guilford, and at Eutaw; and it never laid down its arms, though reduced almost to a corporal’s guard, until Cornwallis laid down his arms at Yorktown.


Washington getting out of coach with crowd waiting


How Once Upon A Time
Washington Came
To Delaware.


The Stars and Stripes were first unfurled in battle at Cooch’s Bridge Sept. 3 1777.

AT ONE time Washington had his headquarters in Wilmington. It was late in the summer of 1777 and just before the Battle of Brandywine.

A few weeks earlier the British fleet had sailed out of New York harbor and had turned toward the south, with all the British army on board. No one knew where the fleet was going; no one knew where the army would land and make their next attack, and there was great anxiety.

General Washington and his army were at this time camped in Bucks county, north of Philadelphia. It was on August twenty-second that a hot and dusty messenger galloped into camp with news for the General that the British fleet had been seen in Chesapeake Bay.

As soon as Washington heard this news, orders were given to the army to break camp, and he marched with them down to Delaware, to be ready to meet the enemy, and to keep them from attacking Philadelphia, for that was then the capital of the colonies.


Wilmington at that time was still a small town. It had a few shops, a market house, and a fire engine company called the “Friendship.” A new ship-building company had just built and launched their first boat, which was named the “Wilmington.” But the most important of all the manufactories were the Brandywine flour mills, which stood on the Brandywine, some little distance above where it flows into the Christiana.[1] Washington had the “runners” (or upper stones) taken from these mills and hauled up into Chester County for fear they might be seized and used by the British.

Wilmington is very hilly. It has been said of it that it is “as full of lumps as a napkin thrown over a blackberry bush.”

The steep part of West Street that slopes up from Front to Fourth was called “Quaker Hill,” for almost all the houses that were there were owned by Quakers. The houses were built in a prim, plain fashion, but within they were full of comfort. Furniture, linen, food, were simple but of the best quality for the Friends knew how to live comfortably, in spite of their plain ways.

It was in one of these houses that Washington made his headquarters. The house is still standing, on the west side of the street, between Third and Fourth Streets.

A little beyond Quaker Hill was an old apple orchard, and still beyond that were the open country and the wooded hills of the Brandywine.

It was near the Brandywine that the army encamped. In the next few days soldiers might often be seen kneeling on the edge of the stream[105] to wash their pieces of clothing. Their voices echoed through the woods in loud jokes and laughter. Sometimes a trooper in buff and blue brought a dozen clattering horses down to the water to drink.

Washington was busy sending and receiving dispatches, riding out to explore the country, and deciding where the best points were upon which to place his army.

By September the second, our army had been moved to the high lands near Newport, a few miles from Wilmington. In the afternoon of that day orders were given to cook provisions and to be ready to march at any time. The enemy were then near Newark, Delaware, but Washington had not yet been able to learn how many there were of them, nor where they meant to attack. However he sent a light corps (of about seven hundred and twenty men) down in their direction. These men were to hide in the woods and hollows, and to act as outposts in case the British marched toward Newark.

It was the next day, September the third, that the British began to advance toward White Clay creek,—a creek which lay between them and the Americans. For some miles above Newark the road was open, with fields and meadows on either hand, and the British marched along it undisturbed. But when the road dipped into the woods, the bullets began to sing about their ears like bees. Several of the British were wounded, for the American riflemen had hidden in the thickets and hollows of the woods and were shooting at them. The Americans were so well[106] hidden that the British scarcely knew where to turn their fire. Some of the British companies left the road to look for them but got lost in a swamp, and had difficulty in finding their way back to firm ground.

For some miles this fire continued, but by the time the British had reached the Christiana creek, near Cooch’s Mill, the shots had almost stopped.

The bridge across the stream lay still and peaceful in the sunlight. There was no sound but the ripple of the water against the rocks, and a cow lowing in the distance.

The first company of the English had hardly set foot on the bridge however, when a hot fire of bullets poured out at them from the thickets beside the stream. A company of American riflemen had been lying there in ambush, and waiting for them. A moment later the Americans sprang out into the road with cheers, and charged upon them.

A sharp skirmish followed, but the British were too strong, and our men were driven back leaving several killed and wounded. The British, too, had their losses, though their loss was not as heavy as that of the Americans.

This skirmish at Cooch’s Bridge was the first warning Washington had that the British had advanced their army.

Knowing the British were only a few miles from him, Washington now expected an attack at any time, and decided to move his army to a high rise in the ground near Red Clay creek, which was a better position.


Mr. Caleb Byrnes, a miller, had a house on this high ground. Very early on the morning of September the seventh, he was awakened by the tramp of marching feet, the sound of loud voices shouting orders, and the clatter and rumble of gun wagons.

He slipped from bed and crossed to the window and looked out. There below, he saw long lines and companies of soldiers in buff and blue. Their bayonets glittered in the sunlight. Sweating horses were pulling cannon up the slope in front of the house.

Mrs. Byrnes slipped from bed and came over to look from the window, too. She was shivering with excitement.

“It’s the whole American army,” said Byrnes. He told his wife to waken the children and then he dressed as quickly as he could and hurried downstairs and out of the house.

An officer on horseback was there giving orders. The cannon had now been placed all along the high ground “for half a mile as thick as they could stand.”[2]

As soon as the officer saw Mr. Byrnes, he rode over to him and said, “You’d better get out of here as soon as you can. When the battle begins this house will be shot down and torn to pieces by cannon.”

“And my mill?” asked Mr. Byrnes, pointing to the mill, which stood about three-quarters of a mile down the road.

“That will probably go, too,” said the officer.

Mrs. Byrnes had now come to the door and stood listening. “Well, I’d rather stay right[108] here,” she said. “If there’s a battle we’ll take the children and get under the big arch that is under the chimney in the cellar; there couldn’t anything hurt us there, anyway.”

Mr. Byrnes agreed with his wife that they had better stay; and in spite of the warnings of the officers they refused to move. Mr. Byrnes’ brother, who lived near the mill, also refused to leave his house. But the other neighbors packed up their furniture and took their families further up in the country, where they might be safe from the cannon. As it happened, they were no safer than the Byrnes after all, for on September the ninth, Washington found that the enemy were circling around him toward the north in the direction of Philadelphia, and he decided to move on and meet the British at Chadd’s Ford, and force a battle there.

Marching orders were given, and a few hours later the entire American army was gone from Delaware.

So ended Washington’s first stay in our state.

But there was another time when Washington was in Delaware. This second time he was no longer commander-in-chief of a struggling army but the President of the United States.

The war was over. Liberty was won, and the English had left our shores.

It was December of 1783, and Washington was to pass through Wilmington on his way from Philadelphia to Mount Vernon, where he was to eat his Christmas dinner.

People lined the road watching for his coach, and at the top of the hill children climbed into the[109] trees of the apple orchard so as to see the better.

At last, from far up the road, came a sound of cheering; the coach was in sight. Nearer and nearer it came.

In it sat President Washington with his calm, noble face, and his powdered hair tied in a queue behind. His hat was off, and he bowed this way and that as the people waved and cheered him.

The Burgess and Council of Wilmington had prepared an address which was read to him and which he answered. It was only for a few hours that Washington was here this second time. A long ride was still before him, and soon he was in his coach again and rolling on his way.

For a while after the President’s coach had started, the little boys raced along beside him, then the horses broke into a trot that left the boys behind. The turn of the road was reached, the coach swung around it, and Washington’s last visit to Delaware was over.

Tablet on House at 3rd & West Streets · Wilmington



[1] Mr. Lea and Mr. Joseph Tatnall were among the mill owners of this time.

Miss Montgomery, in her “Reminiscences of Wilmington” writes, “Mr. Tatnall was a true patriot. He alone dared to grind flour for the famishing army of the Revolution at the risk of the destruction of his mill. His house was the home of General Lafayette during his sojourn here. * * * General Washington and other officers received his hospitality during their residence here.”

[2] Account written by Daniel Byrnes, a son of Caleb Byrnes, in 1842.


woman looking in mirror


How Once Upon A Time
Mary Vining Ruled
All Hearts.


“The Green”—Dover

CHIEF JUSTICE VINING’S house faced “the Green” at Dover.

The Green is a long, open square with grass and trees. On either side of it are handsome houses and pleasant shady gardens with box trees and tall, old-fashioned flowers.

It was on the Green, and in these gardens, that the little Vinings and Rodneys and Ridgelys and other little Dover children of long ago played.

On this Green in 1776, the citizens and Revolutionary soldiers gathered to build a great bonfire, and burn the portrait of George the Third, no longer their King.

Along the King’s Road, which runs through it, Caesar Rodney galloped, on his long ride to[116] Philadelphia, and the brave regiments of Delaware militia marched away to war.

Among the boys and girls who played on the Green in those days were the children of the Chief Justice, John and Mary Vining. They were beautiful children, with curly brown hair, rosy cheeks, and large clear grey eyes. Their mother had died while they were very young, but their aunt, Mrs. Ridgely, loved them dearly, and her house was as much home to them as their own. The year that Mary was fourteen, Chief Justice Vining also died, and left a large fortune to be divided between his two children.

Mr. Ridgely had charge of this fortune, and such good care did he take of it that when John and Mary grew up they were among the richest people in Delaware. But they were not only rich;—they were handsome and witty as well. John was such a favorite with everyone, that he was called “The Pet of Delaware,” and his sister was the belle of the whole colony. Louis Philippe, Duc d’Orleans, visited her when he was in America, and Lafayette admired her greatly. The fame of her beauty was even carried to foreign countries, so that when Jefferson visited the French queen, Marie Antoinette, one of the first questions she asked him was whether Miss Vining of Delaware was really as lovely as she was said to be.

Mary Vining spent as much of her time in Philadelphia as at Dover. In the winter of 1777, Lord Howe and his English troops were quartered there, and many of the British officers lost their hearts to the Delaware belle.


One day, one of her young cousins was studying his Latin in the drawing room when the door opened and Mary Vining swept in. She went over to the mirror and stood for some time looking at herself with admiration. She was in full dress, and her beautiful arms and neck were bare. After a while she turned from the mirror, and then she saw her young cousin sitting there and watching her. She smiled and held out her hand to him. “Come here, you little rogue,” she said “and you may kiss my hand.”

The little boy shook his head shyly and drew back.

Miss Vining laughed. “You might well be glad to,” she said, “‘Princes have lipped it’.”[1]

Afterward, when the little boy had grown to be a man he often told this story, and always added, “All the while I thought her the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen.”

Some of Mary’s friends wondered that she did not marry. “To tell the truth,” she answered them frankly, “I have grown so used to the admiration of many men that I do not think I could be content with that of one.”

Indeed, she had become rather spoiled by so much admiration. She loved her own way and was determined to have it. She felt she was so beautiful and rich that she could do whatever she chose. It was one of her fancies never to walk in the street; she always rode in her coach or went on horseback, however short the distance, and she always covered her face with a veil so that people could not stare at her.


At one time General Washington was quartered in Wilmington, and while he was there many of his officers found time to ride down to Dover to see Miss Vining. There was one of Washington’s officers whom she had never met, but she had heard a great deal about him;—that was General Anthony Wayne. He was at this time a married man, though his wife died before the close of the war. He seemed to Miss Vining to be the most brilliant officer in the whole army, and she was never tired of hearing of his wild exploits. “Mad Anthony Wayne,” they called him. His fellow officers said he was vain[2] and a boaster; but he was so brave, and so ready to carry out his boasts that no one dared to laugh at him.

General Washington trusted him so much that he asked his opinion about almost every important move in the war, and he was the one whom Washington chose to lead the attack on Stony Point. The storming of Stony Point was the most daring act of the whole war.

Stony Point is a steep bluff on the Hudson. On three sides of it are water and on the fourth a deep swamp. The English held it with a garrison of over five hundred soldiers, and their cannon were set so as to guard every road to it.

It was the night of July the fifteenth, at half past eleven that Wayne and his brave company of soldiers set out. They moved in silence, with not a word spoken, except now and then a whispered command. Orders had been given that if any soldier left the ranks, no matter for what reason, he should be instantly killed.[3] This was[119] in order that no deserter might have a chance to carry news of the surprise to the British.

To reach the rise of Stony Point, Wayne and his company were obliged to wade through water two feet deep. Then came the climb up the hill, over rocks and sharp stones. At last they were near enough to the fort to hear the call of the sentries. When the signal was given, the Americans attacked the fort from all sides at once.

The garrison was taken by surprise, and fired wildly; they had no time to aim their canon. A musket ball struck General Wayne, and made a long wound in his scalp. He was stunned and fell to the ground, but a moment later he rose on one knee and waved his sword, “Forward, my brave fellows! Forward,” he shouted.

His wound was not serious, but his soldiers, when they saw him fall, were filled with fury. They charged into the fort with their bayonets, climbing over walls and killing those who tried to stop them. Not a shot was fired by the Americans except at the very first, and then only to draw the attention of the British in the wrong direction.

This capture of Stony Point made General Wayne famous. He was said to be the most brilliant officer in the army. Praises were showered on him,[4] and later on he was made General-in-Chief of the army.

Years slipped by and the war came to an end. The American colonies were free, and the English left our shores and sailed back to their own country.


General Wayne was by this time a widower, and Mary Vining was no longer young. But though she was not young she was as beautiful, and witty and charming as ever.

She was almost forty when news came to her cousins in Dover that she was engaged to be married to General Wayne. At first they could not believe it. General Wayne was a brave soldier, he was handsome, generous and honest, but he had been brought up on a farm, and he had none of the elegance of the foreign officers, who had been her friends.

But Mary Vining loved him, and was determined to marry him. The time for the wedding was set. It was to be in January, and Miss Vining began to make ready for it. Her house was already handsome, but she refurnished it, from top to bottom. General Wayne gave her a set of India china, and she bought a new service of silver.

In December, Wayne was sent west by the government, to make a treaty with the Maumee Indians. He had fought with them and defeated them the year before, and they would be more ready to treat with him than with any one else. He was to return to Delaware by the first of January.

But the brave soldier never returned. At the first of the year, on New Year’s Day, word was brought to Miss Vining that he had died at Presque Isle, on Lake Erie.

Miss Vining immediately put on mourning for General Wayne, and this mourning she never laid aside again as long as she lived.


Soon after Wayne’s death, her brother, “The Pet of Delaware,” died too. It was found that he had spent, not only all his own fortune, but his sister’s as well. She was now a poor woman. Nothing was left her but a little house in Wilmington called “The Willows,” which stood where the du Pont building now stands, and which had once belonged to her mother. She was obliged to sell her coach and horses, and she sent away her servants.

Her brother had left four children, and she made these her care for the rest of her life. She brought them up and educated them.

The china that had been General Wayne’s last gift to her, was never used, but was kept by her as her most precious treasure.

She saw almost no one at “The Willows,” but the few who were allowed to visit her, found her always in black, and with her beautiful hair hidden under a widow’s cap. But she was still, even in old age, as gracious, as witty and charming as when she had been the wealthy and courted Belle of Delaware.[5]

State flower Peach-blossom.



[1] Quoted from Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra.”

[2] It seemed strange that the hero of Stony Point should have been a vain man; but he was said to be vain both for himself and his regiment. At the beginning of the war he told his regiment that there would be a barber in each company to shave the soldiers and dress their hair; (their hair was to be plaited and powdered) and that any man who came on parade with a long beard, carelessly dressed, or dirty, was to be punished. He told General Washington he would rather lead his men into action well dressed and with only one round of cartridges, than with all the ammunition that they needed and yet ragged and dirty.

[3] This was no vain threat. During the attack one unfortunate soldier stepped out of the ranks to load his musket, and the officer in charge immediately ran him through with his bayonet.

[4] One of Wayne’s friends wrote that the only drawback to the attack was that the General would probably lose his hearing;—he would be deafened by his own praises.

[5] The grave of Mary Vining is in the Old Swedes’ Church yard in Wilmington.




How Once Upon A Time
MacDonough Sailed
The Sea.


A “Frigate”—Old-time War-Ship 1800

COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH was sometimes called “the Boy Commodore,” for he was the youngest Commodore in the American navy.

He was born December, thirty-first, 1783, on a farm in New Castle county where his father and grandfather had lived before him.

When he was seventeen he joined the navy as a Midshipman, and made his first cruise on the ship “Ganges.”

He was a tall, thin, shy youth. He was never strong, but he was so brave that he was ready for any dangers or hardships. Cooper called him “the modest but lion-hearted MacDonough.”

At the time MacDonough joined the navy, the United States was at war with France, and his first cruise was against the French in the West[128] Indies. The “Ganges” captured three of the enemy’s vessels, and sent them home as prizes. Then the yellow fever broke out on board the “Ganges.” MacDonough was one of the men who had it. He and the other sick men were carried on shore to a miserable dirty Spanish hospital at Havana. Here, for many weeks, he lay ill.

When he was able to get up and go about again he found that the “Ganges” had sailed away, and that he was left, poor, alone, and almost without clothing, in a strange land. All the Americans who had been brought to the hospital had died except himself and two others. These two were in as much distress as himself. The American agent at Havana gave them some shirts and other pieces of clothing, and they got back to the United States on a sailing vessel.

MacDonough landed at Norfolk, Virginia, and worked his way back to Delaware. He had been away from home a year, and his family had never expected to see him again; they had been told he had the yellow fever at Havana, and was either dying or already dead. They could hardly believe it was he when he walked in among them, thin, pale and weak-looking, but still alive. The whole house was filled with rejoicings. He was still dressed as he had been when he left Havana, in worn out clothes, a straw hat and canvas shoes.

As soon as he was able, he went back to the “Ganges,” and was with her until he was ordered to the Mediterranean on the frigate “Philadelphia.”


We were then at war with Tripoli. Soon after the “Philadelphia” reached the Mediterranean, they captured a Moorish vessel, and MacDonough was sent on board of her to take her to Gibraltar.

It was a very lucky thing for MacDonough that he was ordered on to this other vessel, for very soon after he left the “Philadelphia” she ran aground, and was captured by the enemy. All the men and officers on board of her were taken prisoner.

After the “Philadelphia” was taken by the enemy, the Americans were very anxious to destroy it, for now the enemy had the ship and might use it as a war vessel. But it seemed as though it would be almost impossible to destroy the “Philadelphia.” It lay in the harbor of Tripoli, close under the fortress, and above it were the black mouths of the cannon. If the Tripoli gunners had seen any American ship come into the harbor, they would have blown it to pieces rather than let it come near their prize.

The only way to get to the vessel would be by using some trick.

Stephen Decatur, then a young commander, was very anxious to try it. It would mean the risk of his life, and of the lives of all who went with him; but every sailor on his vessel was as eager to try as he himself. From among them all he chose sixty-two to go with him, and MacDonough was one of those chosen.

They set sail for the bay of Tripoli, in a ketch, (a sort of small merchant vessel) which they named “Intrepid.” Almost all the Americans[130] hid down in the lower part of the ketch. Only a few stayed on deck. Those on deck darkened their faces, and dressed themselves as Maltese sailors, with red fezzes and round jackets. The inside of the ketch was filled with powder and everything else necessary for blowing up the “Philadelphia,” if they could only get to her.

Boldly the little ketch with these brave men on board sailed into the enemy’s harbor.

The Tripolitans, looking from their forts, saw nothing but what seemed to be a Maltese merchant ship, sailing into the harbor to shelter there for the night,—for the daylight was already fading from the sky and the moon was rising.

The “Intrepid” sailed slowly across the harbor to where the “Philadelphia” lay under the fortress. Aboard of her were the Tripoli officers on the watch.

When the ketch was near enough to the “Philadelphia,” an American officer hailed her, speaking in the Maltese language. He said they had lost their anchors at sea, and asked whether they might fasten their boat to the “Philadelphia” for the night.

The Tripoli officer hesitated a moment. “That is a very unusual thing to ask,” he said. However, he agreed that they might, and a hawser rope was flung over to the ketch for them to fasten by.

Just then the “Intrepid” swung out from under the shadow of the “Philadelphia,” and the moon shone down on her deck. There on her[131] deck, in the full light, lay the anchors that the officer said had been lost at sea.

Immediately the Tripoli men knew that a trick had been played upon them. “Americanos! Americanos!” they shouted. But they had found it out too late. The ketch was already fastened to the side of the larger vessel. The Americans swarmed over the sides of the “Philadelphia,” and the Tripolitans found themselves fighting for their lives. MacDonough was the third man to spring aboard of the ship. In a short time all the Tripolitans were killed or driven overboard, the powder was hastily carried from the ketch to the “Philadelphia,” and she was set on fire. Then the Americans returned to their own boat. They cut loose and rowed at full speed away from the “Philadelphia” and across the harbor.

The men in the fortress near by, had seen that strange things were happening on board the “Philadelphia,” but in the uncertain moonlight they could not tell just what the matter was. It was not until they saw the ketch well across the harbor, and flames and smoke pouring from the “Philadelphia” that they realized what had happened. Then their cannon roared, but the balls fell short. The men on the “Intrepid” rose to their feet, waved their caps, and in the red light of the burning ship, gave three rousing American cheers. Then they again fell to their oars, and rowed out of the harbor to where the “Siren,” an American war vessel, was waiting for them outside.


This burning of the “Philadelphia” was said by Admiral Nelson, to be “the most bold and daring act of the age.”

MacDonough had shown such bravery in this action that he was made a lieutenant.

It was while MacDonough was still on this Mediterranean cruise that he had an adventure with three cut-throats.

The commander had given him leave to go on shore one day, and toward evening, as he was coming back to his boat, three cut-throats set upon him in a lonely place. Instead of trying to escape, MacDonough turned upon them and fought so fiercely that he soon wounded two of them, and the third took to his heels and ran. MacDonough ran after him. He chased the man for some distance, and then they came to a low building; into this building the man dashed, and up the stairs, with MacDonough still after him. When he reached the roof he looked behind him. There still was the terrible Americano. Then the man ran to the edge of the roof and jumped off, for he felt he would rather run the risk of breaking his neck than fight with MacDonough.

When MacDonough came down stairs again, he looked all around for the man, but he could not see him, so he quietly returned to his boat and rowed back to the ship.

In 1806, MacDonough was first lieutenant on the “Siren,” with Captain Smith in command.

They were lying just off Gibraltar at one time, and at some distance from them were anchored[133] two other vessels. One was an American merchant ship, and the other a British frigate.

One day Captain Smith had gone on shore and MacDonough was in charge of the “Siren.” In the afternoon he saw a boat put off from the frigate and row over to the merchant ship. It lay there for a while, and then when it started to return to the frigate he saw that there was one more man in her than there had been before.

MacDonough knew that the captains of English warships sometimes kidnapped American sailors, and made them serve on board the British vessels, and he suspected that this extra man was an American who was being stolen from the crew of the merchant ship.

He immediately sent over to the ship to ask whether this were so.

The captain told him “Yes;”—that the British had come on board, and taken one of his sailors. The captain had been afraid to resist them, for the frigate had guns and he had none.

As soon as MacDonough heard this, he had a cutter lowered, and set out in chase of the British boat. The Englishmen were rowing in a very leisurely manner, for they never dreamed that any one would dare to interfere with their prize.

MacDonough caught up to them just as they reached the frigate. The prisoner was sitting in the stem of the boat. MacDonough’s men drove the cutter so close that the two boats grated together. One of the Englishmen shouted to them to keep off, but instead MacDonough reached over, and catching hold of the prisoner[134] dragged him, bodily, into his own boat. Then his rowers gave way, and before the Englishmen could recover from their surprise, he was on his way back to the “Siren,” the rescued man with him.

The British captain had seen the whole affair from the deck of the frigate, and he was in a fury. He got into a boat and had himself rowed over to the “Siren.” When he came on board, he saw MacDonough walking quietly up and down the deck, with his hands clasped behind him.

The captain marched up to him insolently. “Where is that man you took? I must have him back,” he cried.

“I will not give him up,” answered MacDonough quietly.

“You dare to tell me that? Why you are not even the captain of this vessel, and you dare to say you will not let me have the man?”

“I will answer to it to my captain,” said MacDonough, “and I will not give him up.”

The captain raged and threatened to turn the frigate’s guns against the “Siren” and blow it out of the water.

“You can do it, no doubt, if you choose,” answered MacDonough, “but as long as this boat is afloat I will never give that man up.”

The captain finding he could gain nothing, got into his boat again and had himself rowed over toward the merchant vessel.

MacDonough feared he might try to kidnap another man, so he entered the cutter and followed close after the British boat. The Englishmen rowed about for some time and then finding they[135] could not shake him off they returned to the frigate. Then, and not till then, MacDonough went back to the “Siren.”

The English officers one and all admired MacDonough’s conduct in this affair, and always afterward spoke of him with great admiration.

But it was in the battle of Lake Champlain that MacDonough won his greatest fame.

Our troubles with England had finally ended in a war with her. MacDonough was put in command of the naval forces on Lake Champlain. He was then a little over thirty years old.

The battle was fought on a clear, bright September morning, in 1814.

Before the battle began the Commodore (as MacDonough was then called) knelt on the deck of the “Saratoga,” and with his officers and crew about him, he prayed for success in the conflict.

When a little later they were clearing the decks of the “Saratoga” for action, they let out some chickens that were in coops, and threw the coops overboard. One of the cocks flew up on the rigging and flapped his wings and crowed loud and long. It was as if he recognized in the Commodore one of the “Blue Hen’s Chickens,” and was greeting him.

The sailors took his crowing as a sign of victory, and cheered in answer to him.

The American ships were scarcely set in battle order, before the British squadron came sailing proudly around a wooded point of land. The red flags at their mast-heads fluttered gaily in the sunlight.

MacDonough himself fired the first shot from[136] the “Saratoga.” The gun was aimed at the British flagship “Confidence,” and the shot killed and wounded several of her men, and carried away her wheel. Again and again, through the battle, MacDonough, with his own hands, helped to work the guns. Three times he was struck by splinters and thrown across the decks. Once a heavy spar fell over him and knocked him senseless. Once a shot blew off the head of a gunner, and threw it against him with such force that he was again knocked across the deck and into the scuppers. But he was not seriously hurt, though every other officer on the “Saratoga” was either killed or wounded.

By mid-day the battle was over and the Americans had won. So fierce had been the broadsides that not a single mast was left standing on the vessel of either of the opposing squadrons.

After the battle was ended the American officers all gathered on the deck of the “Saratoga” and the British officers came to give up their swords to MacDonough.

Instead of taking them, however, MacDonough said, “Gentlemen, your gallant conduct makes you the more worthy to wear your swords;” and he bade them put them back in their scabbards and keep them.

Every care was now given to the wounded on both sides, and MacDonough himself visited every ship in his squadron, and thanked the officers and men for their bravery.

News of the American victory was received with joy all over the country. Congress offered a vote of thanks to MacDonough, and many[137] states and towns gave him presents. But through it all he was still the modest MacDonough. Often tears came into his eyes when he was speaking of all the country had done for him.

This was almost his last battle. Soon after it, peace was declared, and he left Lake Champlain and went back to the ocean.

In 1825 he was Commander of the “Constitution,” in the Mediterranean. But his health failed and he determined to go home. He never reached his country, however. On November tenth, he died, leaving behind him an undying name—a brave officer, a great seaman, and a Christian gentleman. In memory of MacDonough, the place near which he was born has been named after him, and in the great warship “Delaware,” the largest in the present American navy, his portrait (presented by the Colonial Dames of the State) is hung with those of Admiral Jones and Admiral du Pont, to commemorate the naval heroes of Delaware.

The Battleship “Delaware”





How Once Upon A Time
Delaware Welcomed

Old Bridge over the Brandywine at Wilmington

WHEN Lafayette was in America, helping us fight for liberty, he made many friends among the Delaware people. Caesar Rodney was then President of Delaware, and Lafayette was often entertained at his house. It was there that he met the beautiful Miss Vining. He and she became great friends, and for a great many years they used to write to each other.

When Washington had his headquarters in Wilmington, Lafayette came with him. He staid at the house of a Quaker, Mr. Joseph Tatnall, in Brandywine Village, just across the stream from Wilmington. General Wayne and other of Washington’s officers, were stationed at Mr. Tatnall’s house, too.

Brandywine Village was then a separate place, and not a part of Wilmington as it is now. There was no bridge across the Brandywine, and people who wished to go from one place to the other, were ferried across the stream.[1] Lafayette often crossed the Brandywine in this way. He would ride his horse on to the great[142] clumsy boat and sit quietly while it was ferried over; then he would ride clattering off on the Wilmington side, and up the hilly streets to join Washington at his headquarters.

Often General Washington himself would cross in the ferry to Brandywine Village, and come to the Tatnall house to discuss plans of battle with Lafayette, and the other officers. These meetings were held in the back parlor; there was a large round table in the middle of the room, and on this they spread out their maps and plans. Washington kept other important papers at the Tatnall house, too. It was a safer place than his headquarters in Wilmington.

Lafayette was at this time a very gay and dashing young officer, and the Tatnall children, who were shy little Quakers, were rather afraid of him. After he had been out riding he used to come marching into the house, snapping his riding whip, and glancing about him with keen, bright eyes; his spurs jingled as he walked. The children generally ran and hid when they heard him coming,—that is all but the youngest, a pretty little girl of two or three. She never felt the least fear of the Frenchman. She would run to meet him, holding up her little bare dimpled arms for him to take her. Then Lafayette would swing her up on his shoulder, and march with her through the house. He called her “his little sweetheart.”

But one morning Lafayette and the other officers said good-bye, and went down to the ferry for the last time. His “little sweetheart” never saw him again. He had gone with Washington and his army to meet the British[143] further north, and to fight in the battle of Brandywine.

After the Revolution was over, and the colonies were free, Lafayette went back to France, and it was almost forty years before he visited America again. In that time, there were many changes. Washington died and was buried at his beloved home, Mount Vernon. Lafayette himself had changed from a gay, dashing officer to a stately, grey-haired man of sixty-seven.

He landed at New York on August, sixteenth, 1824, and was welcomed with great honor as “the nation’s guest.” Flowers were strewn before him. In many places the horses were taken from his carriage, and it was drawn through the streets by the people themselves.

There were at that time, twenty-four states in the Union, and Lafayette wished to visit each one of them. He planned to come to Wilmington on October, sixth, so as to attend the wedding of Mr. Charles I. du Pont and Miss VanDyke, the daughter of U. S. Senator, Nicholas VanDyke, at New Castle in the evening of that day. Lafayette had known Mr. du Pont’s father in France, for they were of a French family.

Great preparations were made by all the people of Wilmington and its vicinity, (indeed from all parts of the State) to welcome Lafayette.

The day of his arrival dawned clear and bright. As early as seven o’clock in the morning all the town was astir. Fifes were sounded, drums were beaten. The Wilmington City Troop was to march up the Philadelphia pike and meet the General at the state line, between Pennsylvania and Delaware. This City Troop had been[144] named the “Lafayette Guard,” in honor of their visitor. With the troop were to ride about two hundred of the young men of Wilmington. These young men were all dressed alike, in white trousers, blue or black coats, and high black stocks. They all wore Revolutionary cockades, and Lafayette badges. A number of the older men of Wilmington rode out with them, too, in carriages.

At the boundary line in Brandywine Hundred, near the Practical Farmer, a magnificent floral arch had been erected with the American eagle suspended in the centre, a United States flag, with a portrait of Washington underneath of it and the words:—


Advancing into the city of Wilmington, his reception was overwhelming. Flowers were strewn in his pathway; arches of evergreens, decorated with flags, had been built across Market Street at different points. From one of the arches hung a model of the ship “Brandywine,” and above it were the words, “In honor of Lafayette, the friend of Civil Liberty.”

The ladies of the town had decorated Brandywine bridge so that it was almost hidden by wreaths and flowers. It was over this bridge that Lafayette would enter the town.

It was eight o’clock when the procession set out from Wilmington and marched up the Philadelphia pike to meet the distinguished guest.

At about ten o’clock word was brought that General Lafayette was then in sight. The procession drew up in order, and as soon as Lafayette[145] appeared the men burst into a loud shout of “Long live Lafayette!”

Lafayette rose and bowed in answer. He was riding in a barouche, and with him was his son, George Washington Lafayette. He was escorted by the First City Troop of Philadelphia, and a number of well known men.

As soon as Lafayette reached the State line where the Wilmington procession was waiting, he stepped from the barouche down into the road.

The Honorable Louis McLane came forward to meet him, and made a speech of welcome. Lafayette answered him, and in his answer he spoke of the war for liberty, in which he had fought, and of the great bravery of the Delaware regiment in that war.

Mr. McLane then asked to introduce to the General, three men who had fought in the Delaware regiment,—three of the Blue Hen’s Chickens. They were, Major Peter Jaquet, Captain Caleb P. Bennett and Colonel Allen McLane. Colonel McLane, an old man of eighty-three years, was dressed in the Colonial uniform he had worn in the war.

Other prominent citizens of Delaware were introduced, and then Lafayette stepped into the carriage that had been brought for him, and to the music of the band, the procession moved on toward Wilmington.

As they reached the top of Shellpot hill, just outside of the city, the dull boom of a cannon sounded across the sunny fields. Again it boomed, and still again, till thirteen shots had been fired, one shot for each of the thirteen original colonies. It was a salute to Lafayette.


The General was very anxious to stop in Brandywine Village, at the Tatnall house. His old friend, Joseph Tatnall, had died many years before, but his son was still living in a stone house close by.

He was standing in the doorway when Lafayette’s carriage stopped before the house. He hurried down to the street to welcome the General. He had his little son in his arms, and at a whispered word from his father, the little fellow held out a beautiful basket of Washington pears.

Lafayette took it with a smile, and thanked the child. “You were not so many years older than this little fellow, when I was here before,” said the General to the father.

“And my little sweetheart?” added the General. “What has become of her? Shall I see her?”

But the little sweetheart was dead. Years before, she had grown up and married, and then had died, leaving a daughter. Lafayette wished to see this daughter, but she was away at boarding school. Mr. Tatnall had asked the mistress of the school to allow his niece to come to him for that day, but the mistress had refused; she was so strict that she would not allow the young girl to be absent for a day, even to meet General Lafayette.

Just beyond the bridge, a great crowd of people had gathered. They cheered wildly as Lafayette’s carriage rolled across the bridge. At the same time, all the bells in the city began to ring, and so with shouts and music, and the pealing of bells, General Lafayette was welcomed back to Delaware.


The procession paraded through the streets and under the arches, and at last drew up before the City Hall, where a great feast had been made ready. About two hundred people were at the banquet.

Just as the feast was ended, an old woman pushed her way into the hall, and came to where Mr. McLane was standing. Mr. McLane knew who she was very well. Her name was Belle McClosky, and she earned her living by selling cakes and pies about the town. Wherever she went, she always carried an old musket ball in her pocket. Often she took out this ball and showed it to her customers, and boasted that she had taken it out of General Lafayette’s wound with a pair of scissors when he was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine.

Now, as soon as she reached Mr. McLane’s side, she said, “Mr. McLane, I want you to introduce me to General Lafayette.”

Mr. McLane hesitated a moment; then he said “Very well, Belle, I will do it. I know you are a true patriot, and I believe you saved many a poor soldier’s life at the time of the war.”

He then led Belle over to General Lafayette. The General spoke to her pleasantly, but he had not the least idea who she was.

“General,” said Belle, “do you remember being wounded at the Battle of Brandywine, and the young woman who took out the ball with a pair of scissors?”

“I remember very well,” answered Lafayette. “She saved me several hours of suffering. I would like to see her again, that I might thank her.”


Belle took the ball from her pocket, and held it out to him in her hand. “This is the ball,” said she, “and I am the woman who took it out, though I am so old now it is no wonder that you do not know me.”

Lafayette was amazed. He thanked her warmly, and then took the ball and looked at it. “So you have kept it all these years,” he said. “That is very curious.”

Then he gave the ball back to her, and Belle went out from the hall that day a very proud and happy woman.

Lafayette paid only one visit in Wilmington, and that was to Mrs. Connel. She was the wife of Mr. John Connel who had been very kind to some French soldiers at the time of the war between France and Russia.[2]

Later in the afternoon, the General set out for New Castle, to attend the wedding there.

New Castle had prepared to welcome him with a military salute. There were two six pound cannons in the old arsenal at New Castle, that were named the “Wasp” and the “Hornet.”

They had been moved to the northeast end of the town, near the site of old Fort Casimir, ready for use. As the procession passed Rogers’ Woods, and came in sight of New Castle, the gunners began. The cannons boomed and boomed incessantly until Lafayette had entered the house of George Read, 2nd, on Water St., where he was received, and where guards were placed at the front door to keep back the crowd.

In the evening Lafayette attended the wedding. At this wedding, he was, of course, the guest of honor. The chair where he was to sit was raised so as to be higher than any others in[149] the room, and was wreathed about with flowers.

A great crowd gathered before the house to see General Lafayette.

Senator VanDyke, the father of the bride, gave orders that the door and windows should be left open, so that the people outside could see the General and also the wedding party.

Afterward, he went to take supper and spend the night, with George Read, 2nd, the son of the signer of the Declaration of Independence. The next morning, he was driven over to Frenchtown, Maryland, on the Elk river, where he was met and welcomed by the Marylanders.

So Lafayette passed through Delaware, on his tour through the States, and so the Delaware people welcomed him. It was a beautiful greeting, and Delaware may well be proud of the day when Lafayette was here.

Old Tatnall House—Brandywine Village—Wilmington



[1] The ferry landings were near the Brandywine Flour Mills on one side, and at the foot of King Street on the other.

[2] Mrs. John Connel afterward went to France, and was the guest of the Lafayette family for six months. She was presented at the Court of Louis Philippe, and the King gave her a handsome lace fan, which is still preserved in the family.


colonists meet Indian in woods



How Once Upon A Time
Mason And Dixon
Ran A Boundary

A Rose—at Michaelmas

OF ALL the States belonging to the United States of America, there are no two that are of the same size or shape. Some are big and some are little. One is almost square. One is shaped like a boot.

Delaware, has two boundaries, one on the west and one on the south, that are perfectly straight. On the east the boundary follows the line of the Delaware River and bay. The northern line of the State is an arc, or part of a circle. If you put a pin through the little dot on the map that is marked “New Castle,” and tie a thread to it and measure, you will find how perfect this arc of the circle is, and you will also find that New Castle is the centre of the circle.

Why should Delaware have this queer curved northern boundary? It is because, many years ago, as this book has told once before, in 1681, King Charles the Second of England gave what is now Pennsylvania to William Penn. In that[156] grant, Penn was given “that extensive forest lying twelve miles northward of New Castle, on the northern side of the Delaware,” the southern boundary of which was a circle drawn twelve miles distant from New Castle northward and westward.

Penn, at first, was contented with this grant from King Charles. But when he looked over his land grant carefully, he saw that it would be much better for Pennsylvania to have at least a strip of land that would run along one side of the Delaware River and down to the Delaware Bay. This land had been already given by the King, to his brother, the Duke of York.

If Penn only had that strip of land, his ships could sail up the river more safely. He could also carry on a better trade with the Indians along its banks. So he asked the Duke of York to let him have this river land. We have already read how the Duke of York answered him,—how the Provinces on the Delaware were given to Penn on lease, for a certain share of rents and profits, and a rose to be presented to the Duke every Michaelmas, on demand. This lease was to run ten thousand years, which was the same as if it were a gift out and out.

So what is now our State of Delaware came into the possession of William Penn, and in the deeds its boundaries were laid out; the northern one was still to be the arc of the circle drawn around New Castle. Its western boundary was to be a straight line drawn on down from the rim of this “twelve mile circle,” till it should meet another line, a straight one, which was to be drawn from Cape Henlopen across to the Chesapeake,[157] and was to be the southern boundary of the State. If you will look at the map in the front of the book, you can see how the arc of the twelve-mile circle and the two straight lines to the south and the east give Delaware its present shape. The eastern part of the land within the twelve mile circle extended all the way to low water mark on the New Jersey shore, and also to the center of the bay south of the circle. The grant gave Penn the Pea-Patch Island too, where Fort Delaware was afterward built.

The Duke of York gave the land to William Penn. But years and years before that, long before the Duke of York himself owned the Provinces on the Delaware, there was another Englishman who claimed them as his own.

This was Lord Baltimore. In 1632, the King had given him a grant not only of Maryland, but of what is now Delaware, as well. The grant was given on the word of Lord Baltimore, that no Christian people had ever settled on the peninsula. But, as we know, about one year before that DeVries had landed at Zwannendael, had bought the land there and had started his little settlement. Probably Lord Baltimore knew nothing of this. Whether he knew or not, the King was very angry when he found what a mistake had been made, and that the Dutch had made a settlement in Delaware years before. There was even a great deal of doubt as to whether Lord Baltimore’s grant would hold good.

Perhaps it was because of this doubt that Lord Baltimore did not make any claim to these Delaware lands until 1659. At that time, his brother, Lord Calvert, was the Governor of[158] Maryland. The Dutch were living along the Delaware, and had built forts there.

In that year (1659) five or six Dutch soldiers deserted from the Dutch fort at New Amstel[1] and fled down into Maryland.

The Dutch Director-General sent a message to Lord Calvert, asking him to send the deserters back to him.

Lord Calvert answered the Dutchman very politely. He was very willing to send the soldiers back, he said, but at the same time he wished to warn the Director that New Amstel and Altona,[2] and all the land along the Delaware up to the fortieth degree, belonged to Lord Baltimore.

When this message was brought to the Dutch Director and his council, they were surprised indeed. This was the first they had heard of the English having any claim to the land at all. They could hardly believe it, and yet they were so afraid of getting into trouble with the English that some of the councillors wanted to leave New Amstel at once, and move up to the Hudson, where they would be safe.

It was not long before they heard again from Maryland. In August, Colonel Utie came over from St. Mary’s,[3] bringing letters and messages from Lord Calvert. The message that he brought was that the Dutch must move away at once. They must give over all the land to the English. However, they might stay on one condition. That was that they would obey English rules, and would agree that Lord Baltimore was the owner of the land and their ruler.


Before the Director and his council could agree to this condition, they said they would have to consult with Governor Stuyvesant.

Colonel Utie was quite willing for them to consult their governor, and he gave them three weeks to send their messengers to New Amsterdam and learn from Governor Stuyvesant what they were to do.

Three weeks later, to a day, the Director and his council met together, and three weeks later, to a day, Colonel Utie came to their meeting to hear what they had to say. They had heard from Governor Stuyvesant, and his messages were very decided. The Dutch were not to give up the land, and they were not to own Lord Baltimore as their ruler. The land belonged to the Dutch. They had bought it from the Indians; they had been its first settlers and they had “sealed it with their blood” at Zwannendael.

But Stuyvesant did more than send this answer to the English. He quietly sent messengers down along the Delaware, and bought from the Indians all the land that did not already belong to the Dutch, and he built a fort at Hoornkill, and made ready to protect his land.

Lord Calvert did not force him to fight for his rights, however. The English governor seemed quite as unwilling as the Dutch had been to carry the dispute any further.

But the Dutch were not to keep the land very much longer, in spite of the friendliness of Lord Calvert. It was soon to be taken from them, and by the English, too, though not by Lord Baltimore.

In 1664, a fleet of vessels was sent over from[160] England by the Duke of York, to take possession of the land. It was his now; the King had given it to him, in spite of the grant made to Lord Baltimore years before.

The Duke of York was a very rich and powerful nobleman. The Dutch did not dare to stand out against him, no, not even the hot-headed Governor Stuyvesant himself. Very quietly, they handed over all the land to the English. Not a single shot was fired any place, except at Fort New Amstel. There the Director-General made one effort to protect the Dutch rights. He tried to hold the fort, but even the townspeople were against him. He was soon forced to yield, and the English soldiers marched in and took possession. English soldiers filled the fort; English farmers tilled the ground; Englishmen made the laws and settled quarrels, and then, during the time when their government was being established, the great tract of land north of the Delaware Province was made over to William Penn, and a little later the Provinces on the Delaware were sold to him, too.

But now Lord Baltimore began again to push his claims to the land. While the Dutch had it, he was willing to let the matter rest. As long as the Duke of York owned it, he had been afraid to dispute about it; but now it belonged to William Penn, and William Penn was only a private gentleman.

At one time, Lord Baltimore sent Colonel George Talbot over from Maryland with a band of soldiers. They seized a farm near New Castle that belonged to a Mr. Ogle. On the farm Colonel Talbot built a fort with palisades, and he[161] put a force of armed men in to defend it. He declared he was holding it for Lord Baltimore.

Soon after this, Penn heard that Lord Baltimore had sailed back to England, there to make claims on the land before the King’s Privy Council. Penn then took ship and went back to England, too, to present his side.

After the Privy Council had heard everything there was to be said, and had read all the papers on the question, they gave their decision. The decision was that Lord Baltimore had no right to any of the three Provinces on the Delaware. They were to belong to William Penn. The boundaries were to be the lines marked out by the Duke of York,—half the peninsula down to Cape Henlopen, and a line to be drawn across from Cape Henlopen to meet the Western boundary.

But somehow the quarrel did not end. Years passed and Lord Baltimore died, and William Penn died, and still the boundary dispute went on. Finally the same old question was decided in exactly the same way by the Lord Chancellor of England in 1750, in favor of William Penn’s children, and the thing was settled at last. But it was not as easy to mark out the boundary lines on real land as it is on a map. So because the marking of them was very difficult, and because Penn’s heirs and Frederick, the new Lord Baltimore, wanted the lines settled once for all, two very good surveyors came over from England in 1763, to run the boundary. The names of these two surveyors have been famous ever since. They were Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.

It was not an easy task that these two surveyors had undertaken to do. A great part of the[162] land was still wild and unbroken. Savages and wild beasts lurked in the forests. At night, as they sat beside their camp fires, they could hear the long cry of the catamounts off in the wood. Often an Indian warrior would glide out from the thickets, and stand watching their work, and then glide away again, silent as a shadow. The savages seemed friendly, and indeed some of them went with the white men as guides, but there was no knowing when they would turn against the white men. At one time, word was brought to Mason and Dixon that the Indians meant to attack their camp, and twenty-six of their workmen left, and made their way back to safety. All work stopped for a while. Then fresh men came out to take their places, and the chopping and surveying went on. Great trees were cut down and rocks were rolled from their beds. A path eight yards wide was made through the wilderness, and in this “vistoe” as they called it, stones were set up to mark the boundary line. Some of the stones had Penn’s coat-of-arms carved on them; some were carved upon one side with “P” for Pennsylvania, and on the other with “M” for Maryland.

Months slipped by, years passed, and still the work was not finished.

Then one day the surveyors came to a path through the forest that crossed the “vistoe” they were marking out. It was a path worn by the passing of many Indian feet. Here the savages who were acting as their guides stopped.

“It is not the will of the Six Nations[4] that you should go further,” they said.


The white men were very anxious to finish the line. They had been working on it for over four years, and it needed thirty-six more miles to complete it, but the Indians would guide them no further. “It is not the will of the Six Nations,” they repeated.

The white men were afraid to push on further without permission. They were afraid they would be massacred, so they were obliged to turn back leaving the line incompleted, and many, many years passed by before that line was finally finished.

But Mason and Dixon’s line[5] still marks the boundaries between the three States of Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania, and here and there a stone still stands where they set it up in their “vistoe,” more than a hundred and fifty years ago. One stone is preserved in the rooms of the Delaware Historical Society, at Tenth and Market streets, in Wilmington.

The lines they marked out were those between Pennsylvania on the north, and Delaware and Maryland on the south, and between Maryland and Delaware[6] and they did their work so well that it has never had to be done again.

—A Stone marker—Mason & Dixon Line 1763-1767



[1] Now New Castle.

[2] Wilmington.

[3] The first settlement in Maryland.

[4] The Six Nations were the tribes of Indians inhabiting that region.

[5] At the time of the Civil War, 1861-65, the Mason and Dixon line was spoken of as the line dividing North and South, free and slave States from each other. When it was laid out, it was with no such idea, however, as we have seen, but to correctly mark the divisions between the properties of William Penn and Lord Baltimore.

[6] In 1909, the original Royal Grants from the King and the Duke of York to William Penn were given to the Colonial Dames by Mrs. W. R. Miller of Media, Pennsylvania. These deeds were given by John Penn, the great grandson of William Penn, to Mr. John Coates, of Philadelphia in 1811, and had been handed down and carefully preserved. The Colonial Dames, on receiving them, presented them formally to the State of Delaware, and Governor Pennewill accepted them in the name of the Commonwealth, before the joint session of the Legislature.

They are undoubtedly the most important records ever presented to this state. They are the Royal Grants, which confer practically the sovereignty to the State of Delaware of the land composing its domain. Upon the validity of these Grants the division lines between Maryland and Delaware were established in the famous chancery suit in England between William Penn and Lord Baltimore. In the Pea-patch Island controversy between New Jersey and Delaware they established Delaware’s ownership of this island, where Fort Delaware was erected. Also in the late case between New Jersey and Delaware concerning the fishery rights within the twelve mile circle, these papers played an important part.

Transcriber’s Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired. For this HTML version the link for chapter 6 in the Table of Contents has been changed to page 73 where the illustration for the chapter is located to reflect the rest of the Table of Contents' layout. The text remained unchanged.

Page 96, “upn” changed to “upon” (charged upon the)

Page 96, “deKalb” changed to “DeKalb” to match rest of usage (DeKalb himself had)

Page 98, “readinesss” changed to “readiness” (readiness shown by them)

Page 104, “oncamped” and “eften” changed to “encamped” and “often” (encamped. In the next) (often be seen kneeling)

Page 137, in text of illustration, “Battleship” is printed as “Battleshib.”