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

 

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Journal-Every Evening, Wilmington, Del. 13 Aug 1959, p 23

Moor Says His People Started 'Big Thursday'

By 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."

"No," 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"

"I 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.

Spanish Flavor

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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