Duck Creek Hundred

Kent County, Delaware

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"Hundreds" are unincorporated subdivisions of counties, equivalent to townships in some other states, and were once used as a basis for representation in the Delaware General Assembly. Smyrna is the primary town in the hundred.

A landing was apparently established on Duck Creek prior to 1755, and was claimed as having existed "from time immemorial" in 1778 (History of Kent County :66). The Landing was customarily called Green's after its owner before 1772, but became known as Smyrna Landing in the early 1800's after the name was adopted by the nucleated settlement to the west formerly called Duck Creek Village (Caley 1968). [†]

The main function of the landing prior to the Civil War was in grain shipments for the coastal trade, much of it controlled by John Cummings of Smyrna between 1805 and 1833 (Caley 1968). The first bridge over the Creek was built in 1833 (Scharf 1888: 1093), and is shown on an Orphan's Court Map of 1840, probably providing a tenninus ante quem for the corduroy road identified in this survey. In 1837 the first steamboat service was initiated (Caley 1968:21), and the landing remained active until well after the Civil War. Shipbuilding was prominent in the 1866-74 period (Scharf 1888: 1093), and the settlement appears well developed on the 1859 Kyle and 1868 Beers maps.

The earliest map showing ownership of the lands east of Road 64 (485) in Smyrna Landing was found in Orphan Court records (Kent County Orphans Court 1851). This document shows Thomas A. Rees, deceased, and Enoch Spruance as owners of six plots of land which had to be sold to cover debts. Four plots were sold to William Temple (No's 1, 3,4 and 5), Plot No.2 was sold to James Hendrickson and Plot No.6 to George W. Cummings.

The 1851 plot map (Kent County Orphans Court 1851), shows John G. Black as owner of the land west of County Road 64 (485). Alphonsa C. Black and John G. Black are mentioned in a conveyance of various properties in Smyrna Landing to Delaware Bay Railroad Company from Robert W. DeForest and wife in 1889 (Kent County Deed E-7 78). This deed states that the premises were conveyed by Alphonsa C. Black and John G. Black, her husband, to Jay Gould by deed bearing date the 1873. This deed could not be located but the deed showing conveyance of properties by Jay Gould to Robert W. DeForest in 1881 was (Kent County Deed F-6 482).

The earliest documented reference to the bridge crossing Duck Creek from Smyrna Landing, Kent County to New Castle County occurs in the History of Delaware (Scharf 1888). It states: "The bridge at the old landing was built in 1833, the Levy Court of New Castle County paying $250 and the court of Kent County $250."

A shipyard is shown on the 1851 Orphans Court plat. It had been owned by Thomas A. Rees and Enoch Spruance and was sold to William Temple in 1851 for the sum of $260.00 (Kent County Orphans Court 1851). Scharf's History of Delaware, published in 1888, states: "Two ship-yards gave constant employment to a large number of working-men...The large boat owners were Robert Patterson, John Cummins and John Darragh." The Beers 1868 map shows a shipyard to the east of Smyrna Landing but not near the bridge crossing Duck Creek.

According to the 1851 Orphans Court plat, a wharf and granary on land containing about one acre was tenured by William Temple then bought by William Temple in the amount of $605.00. No other specific reference to the granary is mentioned in any of the deeds.

In 1851, seven granaries were operating in and around Smyrna Landing. The largest buyer was John Cummins and as many as seven vessels a day loaded with grain plied Duck Creek carrying produce to New York, Philadelphia and Boston. By 1888 the granaries were still standing but rapidly going to ruin (Scharf 1888).

† Hunter Research, Smyrna Landing Achaeological Survey, 2009, www.deldot.gov, accessed April 2021.


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