Copied from the papers of Wilson S. Davis of Clayton, Wilmington, Bishop's Corner and Dover, DE, and Beltsville, MD




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        Peninsula Spotlight Morning News, Wilmington, Del. 4 Sep 1967

TRAIN 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.

"I 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 so noisy."

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MITSAWOKETT

"The History and Genealogy of the
Native American Isolate Communities
of Kent County, Delaware, and
Surrounding Areas on the Delmarva Peninsula
and Southern New Jersey"

 

 

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