Saturday, May 4, 2013

Lewes A Noteworthy Old Town


It is only within a year or two past that regular communications have been open between New York City and the region of the seashore where the Delaware River flow's into the Atlantic Ocean.
By means of a line of steamers connecting with the Junction and Breakwater Railroad , this part of the country has been removed from it previously isolated status. Now, the shipment of abundant vegetables, fruit and the personal travel of it's citizens may come directly to cities in the north.

One of the earliest settlement of this coastal section of the United States is the old town of Lewes or Lewestown , whichever you prefer to call it. It lies on the southern shore of the Delaware Bay, in a cove near the point of Cape Henlopen, close to the river Hoord Kill. It is one of the 1638 settlements of the Dutch and Swedish, under guidance and patronage of the Dutchman Peter Minuit and the Swedish Chancellor Oxeustlers.

Whoever wishes to visit an old Delaware town should visit Lewes which has not changed since the start of the present century. You will leave New York in the afternoon, pass down the coast of New Jersey, view beautiful beach sights by day and village lights by night, all from the quiet loneliness of our vessel. Early morning brings in view our destination. Lying low on port side is a stretch of pure white sand beach, behind it, a line of sand dunes, and white breakers dancing upon the shore. This is Cape Henlopen, looking much as it did to Cornellis Jacobson May, except for the lighthouse, as he entered the Delaware Bay. The New Jersey Cape, thirteen miles to north, was named for him.

Into this broad entrance the waves of the Atlantic sweep in with tremendous force, especially during an easterly gale, and it was soon found the need to establish an artificial harbor. This was done by the construction of the Delaware Breakwater, some forty years ago. As our steamer approaches it you can see it is a massive, long and straight, embankment of large stone, two thirds mile in length, laying in a north by north by west direction. The outer walls are continuously buffeted by high breakers while the inside is calm and sheltered. At the northwest end of this mass of stone is the ice breaker, much shorter, laying east to west, to protect the harbor from winter ice which flows with the current down the Delaware River.

A mile south of this harbor is the town of Lewes which now has a fine 1800 foot pier into the bay, used by the steamship line to carry the Junction and Breakwater trains of travelers to vessels moored along the pier. Lewes offers no remarkable features, save for the calm and antiquity what reigns over every part of it. To one who come from the restless uproar of New York City it is like dropping back into another century. Cedar shingled houses line the silent streets with gardens of flowers, English ivy and jessamine masses. The old Presbyterian Church building is a very curious structure, built in 1725, repaired over and over, so that nothing of the original remains except for the red and black brick front section of a peculiar construction which is viewed and admired by architectural critics . The newer church, now being itself old, is built beside, both are surrounded by graves of Lewes citizens of the past. An Episcopal Church has also been built in modern style on the site of an early one, also in the midst of graves of Delaware persons of history.

There are found several old cannon, some with a crest of arms, but are unable to be read because of rusting. It is said they came during the 'War of Twelve”, however a closer look shows they have the markings of being Spanish. These cannon sit on the bank of Lewes Creek in front of the United States Hotel at Front Street. .

Anyone who inquires about schools will see there are non. The last teacher who made school left town without making expenses. Each church has their Sabbath School.

The principle industry appears to be “Croakers”. This is a fish, “Micropogon undulatus”, six to eight inches long, with mother of pearl white meat, very tasty and with few bones. Seldom do they go farther north and there are thousands a day caught here along the beach and the pier, the “Harvest of the Sea”.

The most striking geological feature one sees from the sea approach is the 'walking dune' or sand hill, produced by the action of wind from the sea and loose dry sand. It is moving inland, overwhelming everything in its path. A pine forest has been buried and the lighthouse is being undermined by this moving sand.

The day of my departure there blew in a gale. Vessels going in and out came seeking shelter in the Breakwater. Over night the storm continued and by next morning some 300 ships were at refuge. Coal schooners from Philadelphia, Chesapeake oyster boats, lumber ships from Carolina, safe in harbor. This proved the greatness of the Delaware Breakwater

Sourc: New York Herald-Tribune, August 20 1872

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