WHISTLE RECALLS CHESWOLD OF PAST
by Deedie Kramer, Dover Bureau
CHESWOLD -- Snuggled next to the railroad track, about five
miles north of Dover, is Cheswold--a town of frame houses,
a store and 281 residents. The village sprouted up just after
the railroad nosed its way downstate in 1856. It used to be
a big fruit shipping center when the W. L. Smith orchards
were the biggest thing in the area.
remember when just about everybody in town worked at the orchards
sometime, either permanently or for a summer job," said Floyd
Durham, owner of the Delaware Air Park, west of Cheswold.
Those were the days when 16 trains stopped daily in the town--eight
up and eight down. The town had five stores then, and sometimes
farmers had to wait an hour to load their produce on the trains.
Townsfolk were proud of the trim little railroad station,
which had replace the old freight car used as the town's first
train terminal. But like many small towns that were the offspring
of the railroad and dependent on one major employer, Cheswold
has skidded down hill in the last 20 years. The Smith orchard,
with its dill pickle factory and applejack still, closed.
So did a local tomato canning factory. Shortly, the railroad
backed out of town, taking with it one of the track spurs
and the train station, which was moved out of town.
There's still one track going through Cheswold, but the trains
don't stop there anymore. They just sigh a long, lonely whistle.
"It looks like the last town Wyatt Earp rode shotgun through,"
said Harry Morgan, who owns a used car lot on U. S. 13, east
of town. "Things kind of went down hill by the time they moved
our train station out of town. I guess we all accepted it
as progress. I don't remember being too upset," said Mrs.
N. Lee Remley. Her parents were the first couple married in
the town's Methodist Church and her husband was the first
man in Kent County
to become a licensed pilot. "We used to have a school here,
and we fought like tigers to keep it so the children wouldn't
have to take the bus to Dover, but they closed it anyway,"
continued Mrs. Remley.
Although the town lost some things, it gained a few things
too. Not far south of the town is an International Latex Chemical
Corp. plant, which employs some of the townspeople, and west
of town are a State Highway Department maintenance garage
and the Delaware Air Park. However, most residents are employed
in the Dover area.
Of less pleasure to the citizens is the truck traffic, which
seems to have replaced the trains. Trucks barrel through the
town on Delaware 42, heading for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
"I think they turn off here to avoid the weighing station
down the road," said Mrs. Esther Emory, the town's mayor.
"I know some of those trucks are overloaded. The shake the
house, and it just ruins front porches for conversation. They're
Another local problem that is intriguing, but also avoided,
is the racial situation. Nobody seems eager to define the
situation, but almost everyone alludes to it. It exists between
the old white families, the Negroes, and a group known as
the Moors. The Moors, whose ancestry is clouded by time, settled
in the area in the early 1700s and are believed to be of mingled
blood lines, including some Delaware Indian. "There is a racial
line here, almost divided by the train tracks," said Sgt.
Jerry Lewis. The volunteer fire company and the town government
are all east of the tracks and they're all white. It's not
a problem, really, but... Well, it's there."
There are three churches in town, but the Rev. C. E. Barton
Jr. preaches at all three. The Methodist Church was built
in 1892 and has been a center of town activity since. "We
used to get our dates on Sunday nights," recalled Mrs. Emory.
"It was a center for everything." It was Mrs. Emory's uncle,
William Collins, who built the building which houses the town's
only remaining store. It's run by Sgt. and Mrs. Lewis and
is a combination luncheonette, grocery, gun shop and recreation
center. "There's a lot of activity on this corner," said Mrs.
Lewis. "I noticed the children around here didn't have any
place to go so we put in a juke box and pool tables for them
and added the fountain and an ice cream freezer."
The Lewises have been running the store about 18 months. Sgt.
Lewis just this month submitted his resignation to the Dover
Police Department to devote full time to the store. Men from
the area congregate on the benches at the store in the evening.
"They come in about 7, and sit around and talk and play pool.
Then about 9 they get the bread and milk their wives sent
them for and go home," said Lewis.
Nobody in town seems too concerned about its dwindling activity.
Mrs. Emory even said she thinks the population has increased
since she was a child. And the town residents are proud that
U. S. Sen. J. Caleb Boggs claims Cheswold as his home. His
mother and brother still live there.
If the proposed Dover bypass is build, Cheswold will be cinched
between two highways--U. S. 13 and the bypass. "It might be
good for us, or bad. I don't know. But maybe we at least wouldn't
get so much truck traffic," said Mrs. Emory. And if that should
be the case, at least Cheswoldians may start having uninterrupted
porch talk again.