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Camden Town


Camden Town Hall is located at 2 South Main Street, Camden DE 19934; phone: 302-697-2299.

Brecknock (Howell's Mill Seat) ca. 1700-1880, U.S. Route 13, Camden, DE, National Register

Photo: Brecknock (Howell's Mill Seat) ca. 1700-1880, U.S. Route 13, Camden, DE. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Photographed by Jack E. Boucher, 1982, Historic American Buildings Survey [HABS DE-178], memory.loc.gov, accessed May, 2017.

Beginnings

The town of Camden is situated on a tract of land originally called "Brecknock", which was granted to Alexander Humphreys under a warrant in 1680. By the middle of the eighteenth century four hundred thirty-six acres of Brecknock came into the possession of Colonel John Vining. In 1780, Warner Mifflin purchased this 436 acres from the Vining estate. Three years later Warner Mifflin sold to his brother, Daniel, one hundred twelve acres, which included the crossroads formed by the main road from Dover to the north and the road from Forest Landing (now Lebanon) to the ea: Somewhat later, Warner Mifflin sold seventy-four acres of the tract to John Edmondson and two hundred forty-nine acres to Thomas Edmondson.

Of the three property owners, Daniel Mifflin held the land which, by its location, commanded the greatest speculative value. Between 1783 and 1788 Daniel Mifflin sold twelve parcels of land at MiffTin's Crossroads, ranging in size from three-quarters of an acre to ten and nine-tenths of an acre. The new settlement was obviously speculative in nature, dependent on the commercial traffic to Dover and the products from nearby mills. By the end of the eighteenth century the crossroads had grown to include over a dozen dwelling houses and several shops. The development had been named Piccadilly, but it was commonly referred to as "MiffTin's Crossroads." The name "Camden" first appears in 1788, but probably did not replace "MiffTin's Crossroads" in common usage until the end of the eighteenth century.

More clearly defined patterns of town lots began to develop in the beginning of the nineteenth century; by 1818 the town included over seventy lots and out-lots. The development process included both speculative exchanges of property and divisions of larger tracts through inheritance. The urban character of the community was reinforced by the reduction of lot sizes to an average of about one acre. In addition, by 1820 the range of occupation represented in Camden had expanded to include merchants, innkeepers, carriage makers, tanners, bricklayers, house carpenters, and physicians.

The development of retail mercantile activity combined with the increase I in grain and lumber production, produced a prosperous town economy which survived until the opening of the Delaware railroad in 1856. With the advent railroad service, the freight shipping business was moved a mile westward to the new town of Wyoming. Nevertheless, the town of Camden, which had been incorporated in 1852 by an act of legislature,continued to survive commercially with an active retail trade and a thriving fruit canning industry.

The first religious meeting house at MiffTin's Crossroads was Whatcoat Chapel, erected by the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1791. Cited as the builder of the new chapel was Dr. Elijah Barratt, one of the early benefactors of Delaware Methodism, Philip Barratt.

However, Camden is identified chiefly as a Quaker settlement. Daniel and Warner Mifflin along with the other important local land holders were members of the Society of Friends. Warner Mifflin, in 1774, set precedent in Delaware by freeing his twenty-one slaves because his conscientious objection to the concept of slaveholding. His wholesale manumission became a model for other Friends; between 1774 and 1792 a total of six hundred twelve slaves were freed by their Quaker masters in Delaware. Camden, as a Quaker settlement, figured in this early abolitionist movement. In fact, free Negroes were among the persons who bought and sold land in Camden in the beginning of the nineteenth century. There are also references to an "African school" located in the town. The Hunn and Jenkins families, along with other Camden Friends continued their support of the negro cause during the period of "Underground railroad."

  1. National Register nomination document, prepared by Vincent P. Rogers and Madeline Dunn, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, Camden Historic District, also known as Picadilly and/or Mifflin's Crossroads, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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