May 19, 2019



Written by a Baltimore Sun correspondent on a familiar subject to Delawareans.


The white sandy line of Cape Henlopen looks seaward with a face bleached by tides of years upon years.

Nestling in the high lands making it from the dreary sand dunes and marshes to the northwest of the Cape is Lewes, a quaint old Delaware town, once called Lewestown on Delaware. Furthermore, the quaint inhabitants and queer rib roofed, shingle walled houses can carry one back to Point Paradise it's original name of the Swedes and Finns from up the bay who moved to Lewes to be nearer the ocean as they had been in Northern Europe.

Hendrik Hudson is known to have turned his ships bow in here in 1711 during his search for a shortcut to China's seaports. The Dutchman, deVries, located here in 1613, only to be exterminated by the native Indians they persecuted. Their graves were found when the railroad came to town and excavating was done for the tracks. Later the Swedes and Finns came later and the settlement became under English rule and was then named Lewestown on The Delaware. The creek in Lewestown was navigable the Cape Henlopen vicinity was a port of call. Later, Lewestown was shortened to just Lewes after a shire town in Sussex England. In 1888 Lewes does not seem to be as important as it was one hundred years ago.

Lewes lies along the west shore of the Delaware Bay, three mile in from the Atlantic.

In 1888 the population was about 2500 people. It had a hotel, The Virden House, it's keeper William Jefferson. It's newspaper, The Breakwater Light, is published by Dr. Knowles. There are maybe 30 stores, a fish guano factory, and several canning factories. 1886 Lewes had a steamer which made daily trips to New York City but recent railroads ended this venture. A citizen stock company had built a pier for a Philadelphia steamer to load and unload wood but it is abandoned after being destroyed by runaway vessels during a snowstorm and it's ice driving away a business and employment for small vessels.

Lewes was also called Pilot Town for these hardy men are it's stay and there is a section of Lewes with that name. The pilots are well paid and have built rather large and beautiful homes which are a chief ornament of the town. Forty-five pilots resided in Lewes, passing down the mantel of the pilot job within their family since time began.

The Philadelphia Marine Exchange has it's observing tower here to report ships in and out of the bay to merchants of Philadelphia. The Delaware Breakwater, built of stone, makes a safe harbor refuge for vessels during a storm from the east and north.

Stephen Girard landed here on his way to Philadelphia from San Domingo came ashore to ask direction and was advised to follow the wake of a larger ship which he did saving the cost of a pilot. Tallyrand, Chief diplomat of Napoleon and Louis Phillippe, exiled French King, have been to Lewes but no records of their mission were saved. Napoleon's brother and his Baltimore wife were forced to come ashore during a northeast storm and take refuge.

Several graveyards in Lewes hold many seafaring men and others of political status, war heroes and state Governors. The St. Peters Episcopal Church Yard Cemetery holds Samuel Paynter, Daniel Rodney, Joseph Maull, and Caleb Rodney, all ex-governors. Former Governor David Hall is buried in the Lewes Presbyterian Church Yard Cemetery. A grave with the date of 1707 holds Margaret, widow of James Huling. Margaret Beckett, wife of Rev.William Beckett, first English Missionary to arrive in America was buried in 1732.


Abstract: Wilmington Morning News, Wednesday, August 15, 1888. Written by a Baltimore Sun newspaper correspondent.





Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter