Delaware Early History
Early explorations of the Delaware coastline were made by:
- The Spaniards and Portuguese in the sixteenth century.
- Henry Hudson in 1609.
- Samuel Argall in 1610.
- Cornelius May in 1613.
- Cornelius Hendricksen in 1614.
The first white settlement was established in 1631, some 11 years after the
English pilgrims landed at Plymouth. Some Dutchmen formed a trading company
headed by Captain David Pietersen de Vries. Like everyone else making such an
investment, the goal was to get rich. As with the California gold rush that
would come about 200 years later, goals and reality often did not meet.
When he made his first visit to the colony in 1632, Captain de Vries found
the settlement burned and the settlers killed. This put a chill on further
settlement, which did not take place again until March of 1638.
This time, it was a Swedish attempt led by Peter Minuit. And it was
successful. Located near present-day Wilmington, it was the first permanent
European settlement in the Delaware Valley. A nearby river was named after Queen
Cristina of Sweden, as was Fort Cristina.
Among the colony's governors were Colonel Johan Printz (governed for 10
years), followed by Johan Rising. Rising was governor until autumn, 1655. His
reason for job change was--you will recognize this name--Peter Stuyvesant
arrived with the Dutch fleet.
While Stuyvesant ended Swedish rule, even today the Swedish influence
persists socially, religiously, and culturally in this area of Delaware. In
fact, Old Swedes (Holy Trinity) Church still exists today and is one of the
oldest Protestant Churches in North America.
In 1681, William Penn got his grant of the Province of Pennsylvania.
Following that were conflict and dispute over the lower Delaware area. And it
lasted a long time! It wasn't until nearly the end of the colonial period that
the conflict came to a close. In 1776, Delaware (along with 12 other colonies)
declared itself free from British rule. But at the same time, it also
established itself as a state separate from Pennsylvania.
You've no doubt heard of the Mason-Dixon line. That line exists due to a
survey of Delaware's boundaries. Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon conducted this
survey from 1763 to 68.
Compared to Pennsylvania, Delaware is tiny. But the state has long had a big
heart. During the American Revolution, 4,000 enlisted troops came from Delaware.
And it wasn't because Delaware was invaded. In fact, only one battle in the
entire war took place in Delaware. That was the 03 SEP 1977 battle of Cooch's
Because wars are a matter of killing and destroying, they are always
economically negative. The Revolutionary War left the new country and its
individual states with enormous financial burdens and a weak economy.
In Newport, DE, an inventor named Oliver Evans developed automatic flour
milling machinery in 1785. The war revolutionized the country, but this
invention revolutionized the milling industry. And unlike the war, this created
wealth. It helped Delaware, and the nation, recover from the war. In fact,
during Andrew Jackson's Presidency, the nation paid off all of its debts.
Some Famous Delaware People (All from Wilmington)
- Valerie Bertinelli, actress.
- E. I. du Pont, industrialist.
- Henry Heimlich, surgeon, inventor.
- Wilham Julius Johnson, basketball player.