Valley Of Delaware – Delaware Bay

THE famous navigator of the Dutch East India Company, Hendrick Hudson, was the first white man who entered Delaware Bay. He discovered it on August 28, 1609, two weeks before he entered Sandy Hook Bay and found the Hudson River. When Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, Governor of Virginia, was driven by stress of weather into the bay in 1611, his name was given the river. In 1614 another redoubtable old skipper of the Dutch East India Company, Captain Carolis Jacobsen Mey, searching, like all the rest of the navigators of those days, for the northwest passage to Asia and the In-dies, came along there with a small fleet of sixty-ton frigates, and tried to give the river and its capes his names; but only one of these has survived, Cape May. The southern portal at the entrance, which he wished to make Cape Carolis, was named a few years afterwards, by the Swedes, Cape Henlopen. The Indians called the river ” Lenape-wihituck,” or the ” river of the Lenapes,” meaning ” the original people,” or, as sometimes translated, the ” manly men,” the name of the aboriginal confederation that dwelt upon its banks. It had various other names, for when the Swedes came, the Indians about the bay called it “Pantoxet.” In an early deed to William Penn it is called ” Mackeriskickon,” and in another document the ” Zunikoway.” Some of the tribes up the river named it ” Kithanue,” meaning the ” main stem,” as distinguished from its tributaries, and those on the upper waters called it the ” Lemasepose,” or the “Fish River,” for the Upper Delaware was then a famous salmon stream, and its early Dutch explorers thus came to calling it the “Fish River” also. The Delaware, from its source in the Catskills to the sea, is about three hundred and sixty miles in length.

The estuary of Delaware Bay is about sixty miles long and thirty miles broad in the widest part, contracting towards the north to less than five miles. The capes at the entrance are about fifteen miles apart. As a protection to shipping, the Government began, on the Cape Henlopen side, in 1829, the construction of the famous Delaware Breakwater. It consists of a stone breakwater about twenty-six hundred feet long facing the northeast, and an ice-breaker about fourteen hundred feet long, at right angles, facing the upper bay. These were completed in 1870, there being an opening between them of about sixteen hundred feet width, which was after-wards filled up. The surface protected covers three hundred and sixty acres, and the whole work cost about $3,500,000. It was estimated in 1871 that fully twenty thousand vessels every year availed of the protection of this breakwater, the depth of water being twenty-four feet behind it—sufficient for most of the shipping of that day. But as vessels have become larger and of deeper draft, they have not been able to use it, and the Government has recently begun the construction of another and larger breakwater for a harbor of refuge in deeper water adjoining the regular ship channel, some distance to the northward. Delaware Bay divides the States of Delaware and New Jersey. The first settlement in Delaware was made by the Dutch near Lewes in 1630, but the Indians destroyed the colony ; and in 1638 a colony of Swedes and Finns came out under the auspices of the Swedish West India Company, landed and named Cape Henlopen, and purchased from the Indians all the land from there up to the falls at Trenton, finally locating their fort near the mouth of Christiana Creek, and naming the country Nya Sveriga, or New Sweden. The Swedes and Dutch quarrelled about their respective rights until New York was taken by the English in 1664, after which England controlled. The first settlement in New Jersey was made by Captains Mey and Jorisz in 1623, who built the Dutch Fort Nassau a short distance below Philadelphia ; but it did not last.

Delaware Bay is an expansive inland sea, subject to fierce storms, and broadening on its eastern side into Maurice River Cove, noted for its oysters. A deep ship channel conducts commerce through the centre of the bay, marked by lighthouses built out on mid-bay shoals, and, as the shores approach, by range lights on the banks, the Delaware Bay and River being regarded as the best marked and lighted stream in the country. Up at the head of the bay, years ago, a ship loaded with peas and beans sank, and this in time made at first a shoal, and afterwards an island, since known as the “Pea Patch.” Here and on the adjacent shores the Government has lately erected formidable forts, which make, with their torpedo stations in the channel, a complete system of defensive works in the Delaware, first put into active occupation during the Spanish War of 1898, as a protection against a hostile fleet entering the river. Over in the “Diamond State” of Delaware, near here, on the river shore, is the aged town of Newcastle, quiet and yet attractive, having in operation, and evidently to the popular satisfaction, the whipping-post and stocks, a method of punishment which is a terror to all evil-doers, and is said to be most successful in pre-venting crime, as thieves and marauders give New-castle a wide berth. This was originally a Swedish settlement, the standard of the great Gustavus Adolphus being unfurled there in 1640, when it was called Sandhuken, or Sandy Hook, it being a point of land jutting out between two little creeks. The Dutch soon captured it, changing the name to New Amstel; and about 1670 the settlement, then containing nearly a hundred houses, became New Castle, under English auspices. The northern boundary of the State of Delaware, dividing it from Pennsylvania, is an arc of a circle, made by a radius of twelve miles described around the old Court House at Newcastle, which still has in its tower the bell presented by Queen Anne.