The Three Lower Counties on The Delaware

By | Aug 24, 2012

It was on August 24, 1682 that James, Duke of York granted to William Penn “all that land on the Delaware River and Bay beginning twelve miles south of the town of Newcastle otherwise called Delaware, and extending south to the Whorekills, otherwise called Capin Lopin, on yearly payment of one rose to the Duke of York on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, if demanded.” This was how Delaware became part of the Pennsylvania Colony.

These three Lower Counties had been a matter of disagreement for a number of years. When Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore was granted a Charter for what became the Maryland Colony, he felt that this land should be part of Maryland. It was also claimed by the Dutch, whose Colony Zwaanendae, now Lewes, Delaware began in 1631, predating the Maryland Charter. The Swedes also established a colony further north near present day Wilmington.

The Dutch and the Swedes couldn’t live in peace. By the 1650’s both the Dutch and Swedes had established settlements. The Dutch called the Delaware River the South River and from their American base in New Amsterdam (New York), in 1655 they went to war against the Swedes sending ships and soldiers from New Amsterdam. Without a battle the Swedes surrendered.

The Dutch controlled the Americas from New Amsterdam (New York) to the mouth of the Delaware Bay calling the area New Netherland. They established New Amstel (now New Castle) on the South (Delaware) River. Unfortunately for the Dutch there were English settlements to both their North and to the South.

In 1664 the English send a fleet of ships to New Amsterdam demanding that the Dutch turn their territory over to them. The Dutch surrendered. New Amsterdam was rename New York, (for James, Duke of York) and New Amstel became New Castle. The Calverts still thought that Delaware should be part of Maryland, but James disagreed.

When William Penn was originally granted Pennsylvania the agreement excluded New Castle and lands within 12 miles of it. This is how the 12 Mile Arc border between Delaware and Pennsylvania was established. Penn wanted an outlet from his land to the Atlantic and convinced James to lease to him the Western Shores of the Delaware Bay.

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