From the City of Seaford, DE…
The land at the head of the Nanticoke River has long been inhabited by mankind. The Nanticoke Indians and their ancestors have lived along the river for over 6,000 years. The first record of a European to explore the head of the Nanticoke, however, was in 1608 when Captain John Smith set out exploring the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Development along the Nanticoke River was slow partly due to friction that developed between the Nanticoke Indians and the English settlers. Once the conflicts were resolved, development in the area flourished. All land in current western and southern Sussex County was first settled as part of Maryland. Seaford, along with Bridgeville, Greenwood, Middleford, and others, were all part of Dorchester County in the Province of Maryland. Blades, Laurel, and Concord areas, on the other hand, were part of Somerset County. The area shows a definite link with the British Isles. The majority of the settlers into the Seaford area came from England; but Ireland, Wales, and Scotland are well represented. It is reported that an error in a map coordinate resulted in the east-west line of Delaware being from current Delmar to Fenwick. The original agreement had the eastwest line at the Cape Henlopen, not at the false cape. If the line had survived, Seaford would now be in Maryland. After many years in the courts of London, the boundary lines are as the surveyors Mason and Dixon defined in 1763.
The first record of any settlement in the area around Seaford was a very large tract of land identified as “Martin’s Hundred”. This 1,750 acre plot of land, bordered by the Nanticoke River and Herring Creek, was granted to Jeremiah Jadwin of Virginia on January 22, 1672. Despite development in the area, the river was the main highway for many years. It wasn’t until 1720 that roads began appearing in court records. The primary industry of the area was agriculture, particularly the cultivation of tobacco, and the style of living was plantation. In addition to agriculture, however, evidence suggests that the area east of where Seaford now resides was a very busy bog iron area.
Innovation in agriculture developed through the efforts of William Henry Harrison Ross. Ross became Governor of Delaware in 1850 and had extensive holdings north of Seaford. Ross was in politics throughout his adult life, holding office from January 1851 to January 1885. His principal place of residence was an Italian Renaissance style mansion (which still exists today) in present-day Seaford that he built in 1850.
The Civil War brought division into the community of Seaford, but immediately after the war ended, the town received its charter and was incorporated on April 6, 1865 with a Councilman-Alderman form of government which is still in existence today.
This development is what shaped Seaford into what and where it is today. By the 20th century, Seaford was a town of some 2,000 people and had become one of the peninsula’s most important economic sites. In 1925, the poultry industry became important as new methods of housing and feeding were introduced. The nature of farming changed from truck crops to grains and corn for chicken feed as Sussex County became the largest chicken-producing area in the world. In 1939, the DuPont Company chose Seaford as the site of the first Nylon plant in the world leaving Seaford known as the “Nylon Capital of the World”.
Growth and flourishment still continues today as Seaford adds more quality businesses and people to its vibrant residence. With more than 500 retail stores and service-related businesses, a stable and respected local government, a diversity of residential developments, a modern hospital and numerous support clinics, elderly care, fine schools and churches, many youth and adult extracurricular educational and recreational programs, numerous volunteer service organizations, and Seaford’s location near the most pristine river and recreational beaches on the East Coast, it is little wonder Seaford is considered such a desirable place to live, work, and play.
Special thanks to Richard Thek and Wright Robinson for providing the History of Seaford information.