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St Georges Hundred

Hundreds are historical county subdivisions, equivalent to townships, and remain, though of minor significance, in the State of Delaware. Their use in the modern era is limited to the business of property tax assessment. Until the 1960s, hundreds served as voting districts.

St. Georges Hundred (one of the original in Delaware, created 1682) is roughly bounded by the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal on the north, Maryland State line on the west, Delaware River on the east, and the Appoquinimink Creek on the south.

Primarily a rural and agricultural area for most of its history, it became one of Delaware's fast-growing areas for development during the 1980s and 1990s.

Text below was adapted from a 1908 Delaware History Text. [1]

St. Georges creek on the north, and Appoquinimink on the south, the Delaware River on the east and Maryland on the west, form the boundaries of the largest Hundred in the County. Practically all the land is tillable, and its good natural quality has been brought by long and careful cultivation to a high state of fertility and productiveness. During the Civil War, and for ten years after, when the peach was in its heyday, the Hundred farms were largely devoted to that crop, and raised in exquisite perfection, enormous quantities of all the best known varieties. After the lapse of a quarter of a century, the peach culture is again being attempted more largely, though now the careful spraying of orchards is necessary to secure a crop, and the fruit, moreover, has not yet regained that perfection of size, flavor and thorough ripening that made the "Delaware peaches" famous in bygone years. New insect and other plant foes are present, and new conditions prevail which have not as yet been fully met, though they doubtless will be.

On the north and south its creeks, and on the east the Delaware river, and in the central and western portions the Delaware railroad, gives the Hundred transportation facilities. The Hundred is divided into two divisions, known as East and West St. Georges Hundred. Since 1683, when it had but fifty taxable inhabitants, it has become well settled and tilled in every part. The names of the early settlers commonly betoken their nationality; thus, the Petersons and Andersons are Swedish; the Alrichs, Van Dykes, Vaudegrifts, Vances and Hansons, Dutch; the Dushanes, Naudains, Bayards and Seays, French; while the Crawfords, Taylors and Fosters are English. Many of these early names, held often by descendants of the first settlers, are yet found in the Hundred, though some few have quite disappeared.

The Dutch Governor, William Kieft, in 1646 made to Abraham Planck, John Andriesen and two others, the first grant of land within the Hundred, 200 acres to each, of land on South (Delaware) river near Bird (Reedy) island. Settlement was to be made within a year, and more land was promised if the settlers maintained their homes on the land. Only Andriesen actually settled on the land granted, and the other tracts were given to Caspar Herman and Peter Alrichs, nephew of the Vice-Director Jacob Alrichs. Peter Alrichs came over with his uncle, and entering into public affairs, became a prominent figure in early Colonial times, being Commander of the Whorekill under both the Dutch and English governments, and magistrate for many years. Some of his Dutch locations were confiscated, but from the English he received lands, part of which are still in the family's possession. He obtained, besides his holdings in Christiana Hundred, a big tract between St. Augustine and St. Georges creeks in the northeast part of this Hundred. He died in New Castle in 1659. Of his St. Georges Hundred lands, 1027 acres on the Delaware, between Great and St. Augustine creeks, were surveyed to his son, Hermanus, in 1682, and in 1702, to his three sons, Sigfriedus, VVessels and Jacobus, 2048 acres extending between these two creeks, from the Delaware to the King's highway.

In 1733 a Peter Alrichs owned 127 acres opposite Reedy Island, including Port Penn and St. Augustine Landing. A strip of this land 600 feet on the river, and 600 feet deep, lying north of Alrichs Landing, was conveyed April 16, 1774, by John and Peter Alrichs to the Port Wardens of Philadelphia, who were authorized by the State of Pennsylvania to erect piers there for the use of ships coming up the river. These piers were demolished in 1884. The Alrichs grant included some marshy land on St. Georges creek known as "Doctor's Swamp." Dr. Thomas Spry, also Attorney Spry and the first to be admitted to practice in the courts of New Castle County, had surveyed to him a tract of 160 acres called "Doctor's Commons" lying on a now dried up creek then known as "Doctor's Run," being afterwards the property of William S. Lawrence, Z, A. Pool and others. October 15, 1675, Edmund Cantwell surveyed for Patrick Carr 200 acres of land between Arenty's (St. Augustine) and St. Georges creeks and also next to "Doctor's Swamp." This land came at last into the possession of William Hill the maternal great grandfather of Thomas F. Dilworth who was until a few years since, the owner. The house on this place was built at a very early date, and in a way that would afford protection against the Indians. Two of the original windows have been retained in the remodeled dwelling. A vault in the basement leads by a secret passage to the river probably, though having been long walled up, it has not been explored in modern times. Nearby on the Pleasauton farm are a number of oddly-shaped holes which it is thought served as hiding places or winter quarters for the Indians.

Captain John Dilworth came from North Ireland to America shortly before the Revolutionary War, and as a loyalist commanded the ship which led the British fleet to Philadelphia in 1779, and was wounded when passing Fort Mifflin. He married Peter Alrichs' daughter Hannah. His son John Alrichs Dilworth, was born near McDonotigh, and lived on the Dilworth farm near Port Penn, as also later did his son John Ducha Dilworth, who married Eliza F. Gordon, of Philadelphia. Eleven of their fourteen children grew up. Thomas F. Dilworth, the fifth son of John Ducha Dilworth, added to the homestead farm and farmed this large body of land for many years, bringing it from a run-down condition up to a notable degree of productiveness, employing the latest ideas in scientific treatment of crops. He had 200 acres in peaches; ran a large dairy, and also packed several hundred thousand cans of vegetables and fruits yearly.

Adjoining land granted to Doctor Spry, was a 300-acre tract, granted November 5, 1675, to George Whale's widow Ann. It was called "Chelsey," and was on the south side of St. Georges creek. It was forfeited for non-settlement, and next granted in 1681 to Roeleff Andries and Jacob Aertsen. A tract on the same side of that creek adjoining the Whale land, was patented November 5, 1675, to John Ogle by Governor Andros. It was called the "Hampton," and contained 300 acres. It is now owned by the William McMullen estate.

No history of St. Georges Hundred would be complete that failed to chronicle the long and useful career, equally in private and public station of Andrew Eliason. An orphan at sixteen, without means, influence or even the help of an early schooling, he nevertheless by his own energy, brains and character, achieved signal success in life. Like Garfield, he began life on the tow-path. In 1827 he was hired by James T. Bird for two years to drive teams upon the Delaware and Chesapeake canal, then nearing completion. He was thus occupied for ten months in the year; the remaining two he spent in the schoolroom, receiving thus at sixteen his first and only educational advantages. The circumstance adds a new lustre to his very creditable career. In two years he was managing a farm, and in four more renting that farm, equipped with implements and stock bought with his hard won savings; then presently owning his own farm, and at last several farms, and became, moreover, one of the most useful and highly respected citizens in his Hundred and State.

Mr. Eliason was three times in the Legislature, in 1864, 1866 and 1880, and exercised great influence upon the legislation enacted during those periods. He is entitled to the high honor of introducing the first bill granting married women their property rights in Delaware; and although that bill failed of immediate passage, his efforts in its behalf in changing public opinion throughout the State, were so effective that at the next session of the Legislature it was enacted into a law. To him also is largely due the credit of securing the passage of the law prohibiting the sale of intoxicants on election day. A Democrat before the Civil War, he became thereafter a Republican, ardently supporting the Union cause. From early life a Presbyterian, he was for many years a member of the Board of Trustees of Forest Presbyterian Church of Middletown, and a director of the People's National Bank of Middletown. He was born April 30, 1810, and died November 20, 1890. He represents the best type of self-made American, for truly he got his own education, won his own bank account, earned his own honors, and himself made his useful life a blessing to him and his, and to his State.

Augustine Herman, of Bohemia Manor, in 1671 claimed title to all the lands in St. Georges Hundred under his grant from Lord Baltimore. He called the Delaware tract the "St. Augustine Manor," but this assertion of an invalid title was soon dropped, and he then proceeded to get title from the Dutch authorities at New York, to 400 acres on the Delaware between the Appoquinimink and St. Augustine creeks, Captain Cantwell making the surveys in 1675. In 1713 it became the property of Hans Hanson, Johannes Vanheklin, and five others, and is now owned by Mr. Bailey and E. R. Norney, Jr. (who has a very ancient fishery there), and several other persons. A tract containing 3,209 acres near Reeden island, between St. Augustine and Appoquinimink creeks on the King's road to the west, and another tract of 858 acres south of St. Augustine were re-surveyed in 1686 to Casparus Herman. He, together with Captain Cantwell, had received in 1681, 200 acres of land on both sides of Drawyer's creek, "it being for ye use of a water mill which ye Cantwell and Herman intend to erect on ye said branch for ye public good of ye Inhabitants." It is thought the Voshell mill, built later by John Vance, is meant.

Samuel Vance in 1707 settled upon and acquired title to a large part of the land on the Delaware and on the Appoquinimink, and this tract yet discloses that fact by its name of Vance's Neck. Zadock A. Pool, James M. Vandegrift's heirs, and others now own the land. Adjoining Taylor's Neck on the north of Drawyer's creek were 250 acres patented to Walker Rowle in 1684, and known as "Rowle's Sepulchre." Next to it is a triangular-shaped piece of land containing sixty-one acres, called the trap," which is the old and ever still used name for Macdonough, thus named after Commodore Thomas Macdonough, the hero of the great naval victory over the British on Lake Champlain in 1814. A tavern was built there before the Revolution, called the "General Kuox," and is now used as a farm house by William Lofland. Commodore Macdonough was born at the trap on this small tract of ground. Zadock A. Pool now (1906) owns the "trap," and the old Macdonough family burying place. The famous Commodore's father James died November 30, 1793, aged eighty years, and is buried in this private cemetery. The Society of the "Daughters of the Revolution" who have shown such commendable patriotism in preserving and restoring the records and memorials of the Revolution, should get title to this Macdonough burial ground, and see to the preservation of its tombs.

In 1675 Dirck Williamson, Dirck Lawrence and Claes Karsson, first occupied the large tract of land in the northwest part of the Hundred. Their land containing about 2,742 acres was given to Edward Green in 1656 and he sold it to John Scott after whom Scott's run is called. His son Walter Scott in 1707 conveyed it to Matthias Van Bebber. It came after a number of transfers, into the possession of David Thomas, who also bought of the sheriff in 1753 thirteen and one-quarter acres on which was a fulling mill, near Fiddler's bridge. It is now owned by George W. Townsend. Mrs. J. W. Osbourne, great-granddaughter of David Thomas, calls her part of the tract "Idalia Manor." The McWhorters also owned some of this land for many years. "High Hook," 300 acres of upland, with marsh, was patented to Jan Sieriks in 1671 by Governor Lovelace. John W. Hyatt owned it in Revolutionary times, and was captured there by the British. Garrett Otto in 1667 received 272 acres lying between the two branches of Drawyer's creek. Governor Polk owned it once, and later William Polk of Odessa. The "Strawberry Hill" farm of Isaac Wood, was surveyed for Daniel Smith in 1685. The George Houston farm includes 300 acres surveyed in 1684 by Amos Nichols. The Bohemia Manor lands in Delaware held by the Hermans, are now principally owned by the estates of ex-Governor John P. Cochran, Manlove D. Wilson, and George F. Brady.

One of the oldest families in the Hundred is the Van Dykes. They bought land in "Dutch Neck" known as Berwick about the year 1715; also 200 acres on "Doctor's Swamp" in 1719, then owned by John Vanhekle, being land patented in 1675 to Ann Whale. Nicholas Van Dyke was born at "Berwick" in 1740. After being many years in the family, it is now owned by Arthur Colburn's descendants. Another old and numerous family is that of the Vandegrifts. Leonard Vandegrift, an elder in the Drawyers Presbyterian Church, in 1711, is probably the ancestor of the family in this Hundred. It is plainly of Dutch origin, and moreover, Hazard in his "Annals of Pennsylvania and Delaware," says that in 1660 Director Stuyvesant of New Amsterdam sent certain men, among them Paulus Lindert Van De Graft, an old Amsterdam burgomaster, to New Amstel to inquire into the murder of some Indians on the South river. The records show a patent from Thomas and William Penn of 179 acres to Leonard Vandegrift, which also recites that 600 acres in St. Georges were granted in 1708 to Jacob Vandegrift, Daniel Cormick and Albertus Vansant.

In the Register of Wills' office there is filed a will of one Jacob Vandegrift, dated April 12, 1753, whose maker, an "old man," bequeaths, among other things his silver buttons to be divided equally between his two sons Leonard and Jacob, and to his daughter Christiana Atkinson, "as much striped Holland as would make her a complete gown." The 179 acres patented to Leonard Vandegrift now called the Biddle's Corner farm, have been owned ever since by that family, being now in the Thomas J. Craven family, his mother being a Vandegrift. Many of the most substantial farmers in the Hundred have been, and are, members of this excellent old Dutch family.

Four hundred acres on Appoquinimink creek called "Walnut Landing," were conveyed June 22, 1676, by Joseph Chew to Johannes De Haes, and afterwards to Thomas Noxon. The land is now owned by Mrs. Clark. The assessor's list for 1804 shows 578 taxable persons and estates in St. Georges Hundred. The oldest road in the Hundred ran from Bohemia Manor to the Appoquinimink, and was laid out in 1660 and known as Herman's cart road. It is long since closed up. The upper and lower King's roads were laid out in 1764; and March 31, 1764, an Act of the General Assembly was passed regulating its location, building and care, etc. The Act forms Chapter CLXXXIV of Volume I, of the Laws of Delaware. The upper King's highway passes through Middletown, the lower through Odessa. The German Professor, Ebeling, in his "History of America" 1799 says, "A stage coach goes three times a week from Philadelphia by Wilmington and Middletown to Warwick and Chestertown, Maryland, returning by the same route; and there is a stage coach from the landing point on Appoquinimy creek to that on Bohemia creek."

The Levy Court was petitioned in 1785 for a road from Port Penn and one from Augustine Landing to the county line. The first road went past the Hickory Grove Quaker Meeting House, and the other through McDonough, the two roads finally uniting, and crossing the old Choptank road, which formed the eastern boundary of the Bohemia Manor. The grist roller mill, now operated by James T. Shallcross, was first built in 1759 by Samuel Vance. William Vandegrift erected a new mill in 1800. It is a three and one-half story building 30x40 feet, and has a daily capacity of about forty barrels. The old Murphy mill is now run by W. H. Voshell, and has a capacity of about thirty barrels daily. The public school system was inaugurated throughout St. George's Hundred in 1829, and a number of new school-houses built and private ones turned over to public uses. The districts since formed are so arranged as to afford to every rural community in the Hundred excellent facilities for instruction, and in the larger towns of Middletown and Odessa good academies are found. Mount Pleasant is a station on the Delaware Railroad, and contains a post office, two shops, two stores and about two dozen houses. It lies in the northwest part of the Hundred, exactly on the water-shed between the two bays. At McDonough there were once three hotels, but at present only a post office, a store, two shops and a dozen houses. St. Augustine Pier has long been a summer resort and picnic ground. Its hotel was built in 1814 and enlarged in 1868, one hundred bath-houses being built and a dancing pavilion and a wharf erected. The steamer "Thomas Clyde," from Philadelphia, makes daily trips thither in summer, during which season it is largely patronized, both within the State and from cities without.

Adam Peterson in 1678 took on warrants the land forming the town site of Middletown. Eight years later he obtained a warrant for 200 acres near the headwaters of Drawyers creek, about two miles northeast of the town. This tract, or neck, was called "New Wells." In 1742 the property was divided between his two sons Adam and Andrew and a daughter Hermania, who married a Van Bibber. David Witherspoon married Adam Peterson's widow and settled upon the King's highway where it passes through the center of what is now the town of Middletown. He built there in 1761 the old tavern, and ran it till his death two years later. While keeping this old inn, Witherspoon killed James Knight, a notorious duelist. Knight entered the bar-room when drunk and asked for liquor, and being refused drew his pistol and several times sought to kill Witherspoon but his pistol missed fire, whereupon Witherspoon took down a horse-pistol from above the bar and shot Knight fatally. Pursuant to a petition in 1761 to the Court at New Castle, signed by David Witherspoon, Isaac VanDyke, Jacob Peterson, Richard Cantwell and twenty-five more leading land-owners, a road was laid out from the Trap past Vance's mill. Again, in 1771, the owner of the Noxontown grist mill on the Appoquinimink asked that "a road to Middletown" which Benjamin Noxon had closed be reopened. This petition of Jonas Preston is the first official recognition of Middletown on record.

Thomas Witherspoon, nephew of David Witherspoon, received his uncle's estate, and ran the old Peterson tannery at Middletown. He married Susanna, the daughter of Dr. Sluyter Bouchell, who lived at Middletown, and owned a great part of the neighboring land. In 1790 the Doctor sold the Thomas Witherspoon land to Jesse Higgins, then living at "Damascus." There were only a few houses at the Middletown cross-roads in 1816, but by 1850 the inhabitants numbered 368, and to-day it is the largest town in the Hundred. Robert A. Cochran bought and improved the Middletown hotel in 1837, and it is now owned by his daughter, Mrs. William A. Comegys. After 1855 the town grew fast, being incorporated in 1861 with five commissioners having the usual powers of making municipal laws, improvements, etc. A severe fire in 1882 destroyed the carriage shops of J. M. Cox & Bio., the new P. E. church and other buildings, and but for the coming of five fire-engines from Wilmington might have wiped the town out.

  1. Conrad, Henry C., History of the Sate of Delaware, volume II, Wilmington, 1908.
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