Evening, Wilmington, Del. 13 Aug 1959, p 23
Moor Says His People Started 'Big Thursday'
Joseph T. Doyle
Wilson S. Davis, 47, of Greenville, is a Delaware Moor, and he says
someone has pirated Big Thursday's origin from his people.
He has no bitterness toward anyone, but he wants to help set history
right. He invites anyone who can help to chin in. His visit to the
Journal-Every Evening yesterday was prompted by a report from a Milford
correspondent concerning a Big Thursday celebration at Slaughter Beach.
It's part of a week-long carnival to raise funds for a fire house
for the community's two fire trucks. It will be "Big Thursday" on
Slaughter Beach. "Fine," says Mr. Davis, "but look. The third paragraph
of the story says: "Big Thursday originally marked the sailing of
the oyster fleet."
says Mr. Davis, "not so." He admits he's not sure of the celebration,
but he's positive of who held "Big Thursdays" in the past--the Spanish
Moor colonies of Delaware and South Jersey. Cheswold has a large Moorish
colony today. The Moors in Delaware worked on farms and still do.
Mr. Davis is sexton at Christ Church, Christiana Hundred.
` "It's Our Day"
want to defend my people," he said, "Big Thursday was our day." He
thought for a moment and recalled how he attended a Big Thursday celebration
in 1934. "I remember because someone got a new car and new cars were
something in that day."
What are Big Thursdays? From Mr. Davis' description they are or were
big, friendly picnics or outings. There were eats, drinks, games,
contests such as boxing, wrestling and horseshoe pitching. A good
time. But, as Mr. Davis interjected, only for Spanish Moors. Anyone
intruding was forcibly ejected, he said. Where were they held? Mr.
Davis says Woodland Beach and/or Bombay Hook on the Delaware Bay.
He said some of the Jersey Moors would arrive in boats and obviously
began celebrating before leaving the Garden State. Delaware Moors
came in wagons.
Instead of making the Big Thursday date more accessible, the automobile
seems to take some of the home-spun flavor out of attending the affair,
Mr. Davis said. Interest in the annual celebration--always the third
Thursday in August--waned and died. The last Big Thursday Mr. Davis
can recall was the aforementioned August, 1934. He said the huge picnic
would draw 1,500 Moors. He offers a theory as to the festival's origin.
He begins by reemphasizing that the event is peculiar only to the
Moors. Here is the theory:
The Moors, after being overthrown in Spain in the 15th Century, concentrated
on being pirates or pirate's helpers. Some roamed the world looking
for plunder. Some returned to northern Africa where they originated.
Some sailed to American waters. Just when, he's not sure, but Moors
landed in southern Delaware just about the time of the discovery of
America. Mr. Davis said they were looking for refuge from war and
the rigors of pirating. They wanted to settle. He thinks too, the
Moors might have found kinship with the Indian in Delaware.
And the origin of Big Thursday? The Moors held the celebration each
year on the anniversary of the day they landed and made their homes
in Delaware. He supports his Indian kinship theory from his family
tree. His great-grandmother on mother's side was a full-blooded Indian.
He is extremely proud of his middle name with its Spanish flavor.
It's Seville, after the Spanish city. He's anxious to find out more
about his people and their life in Delaware.
The World Book Encyclopedia has this to say about the Moors..."The
Moors belong to the black-haired, browneyed, dark-skinned peoples
who are usually classified as Mediterranean, and clearly belong to
the white race. "The term Moor now refers to all inhabitants of north-western
Africa who are Moslems and who speak Arabic." In the past, "the Moors
belonged to a larger group of people called Berbers, who gave their
name to the Barbary States. The great expansion of the Moslem religion,
Islam, during and after the 600s brought the Moors in contact with
the Arabs, whose faith and language they adopted."
Mr. Davis flips open his wallet and takes out his Delaware chauffeur's
license that has the designation "Moor" on the back under the race
and color identification classification. He's proud of it and "Big
Thursday. He'll probably be there Sunday for the start of "Big Thursday
Week" at Slaughter Beach and take his stand for the Moors.