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

 

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This is Delaware

CHESWOLD: HOME TOWN OF SENATOR J. CALEB BOGGS
Fortunes Rise, Fall With Railroad; Strange Proud Moors Live in Area

By Jim Floyd

CHESWOLD--Among the children chattering in the Cheswold train station in the early morning was one whose name would one day be known second to none among Delawareans. The time was the early 1920s. The children were waiting for a train to carry them six miles to school in Dover.

Cale Boggs, later congressman and governor, and then U.S. senator, was among that lively knot of students. In later years he recalled fondly the train trips which began from the station in this small Kent Count community, his home and the home still of his mother and brother. But Cheswold has changed since the time the senator was a boy, and the change has largely revolved around this railroad line he knew so well.

Cheswold began as a station on the new Delaware Railroad which poked downstate in 1856. It grew with the prosperous business of shipping grain and fruit and carrying passengers. Mrs. Lettie Boggs, 75, the senator's sprightly mother, recalls when it was possible to take an 8:30 a.m. train to Dover, do an errand and be back in Cheswold by 10 a.m. Trains ran that frequently. Improvements in horseless carriages and roads slowly worked against the Delaware Railroad, however, and against the prosperity of towns like Cheswold. A bigger town--Dover--acted as a sponge, soaking up much of Cheswold's economic activity.

Production of apples, peaches and strawberries, once mainstays of Cheswold's position as a shipping point, declined. About four years ago the depot was taken away. Then two years ago a spur was ripped up. Earlier the freight office had gone. Now only the straight single track bores through the center of the community, past a long line of frame houses on the track's western side.

Older residents, and some not so old, recall when Cheswold had five stores, David Boyce, B. H. Emory, Howard Rash, W. F. Collins and Low Anderson were among the storekeepers. One general store is now in business. A. T. Reynolds leased it from Nick Sawyer three years ago. The last local business which provided substantial employment was the W. L. Smith plant where peaches, apples and dill pickles were packed. It closed seven years ago and the buildings are now used for storage. At one time Cheswold was even known for a brand of Delaware applejack, but this enterprise has also disappeared. Tomatoes were once canned here too.

In the wake of these various enterprises Cheswold has been left a quiet community where people are happy to make their home although their livelihood comes from somewhere else. The last census gives Cheswold's population as 281--11 less than a decade earlier. Few towns of this size can boast such a well-equipped and active fire company. Besides three fire trucks the company operates a modern ambulance in which it has invested $14,000. This ambulance has established a reputation for service and answers calls far outside the immediate envelope of Cheswold.

Elbert C. "Bud" Golder, who is secretary and manager of the Greater Dover Chamber of Commerce, is president of the fire company as well as the chief of the ambulance service. Among his memorable calls is one which involved the birth of triplets--one at the home, one in the ambulance, and one at the hospital.

Then--Governor Boggs returned to his home town in 1953 to dedicate the new Cheswold Fire Hall, which had been built on to the old Cheswold School which closed ten years ago. It was a gala day--Golder estimates that 3,000 persons were there. Officers of the company in addition to Golder include: Corbit Reynolds, secretary; Joel Ridley, Sr., treasurer; Fred Willey, fire chief; William Dempsey, first assistant; Jack Mitchell, fire recorder; Arthur Armstrong and Paul Konitzer, trustees, and Thomas M. Golder, assistant ambulance chief.

Wives are active too as members of the Ladies Auxiliary, which is headed by Mrs. Corbit Reynolds. A monthly meeting is sufficient to take care of the business of the town government. Nelson Rash heads the town council, which has Mrs. Nelson Emory, John Chipple, Arthur Armstrong and Nick Sawyer as members.

The name of Armstrong crops up again at the post office, where Mrs. Arthur Armstrong is the postmistress. She has 151 patrons. Until six years ago the post office served nearby rural areas too. Numbered among the newer patrons are several families connected with the Dover Air Force Base. Staff Sgt. Max Rogers, originally from Alabama, is still a little mystified about his first taste of a Delaware winter. He spent the past four years on a tour of duty in Alaska. "We didn't have as much snow there as I've seen here," he says.

Bound up with Cheswold's history is the presence of a group of people called Moors. Their exact origin is clouded by time, but a study made 18 years ago concludes that the nucleus of the group was a crossing of Delaware Indians with white settlers. Later there was intermarriage with other mixed-bloods of the Delmarva peninsula.

Two main concentrations of these people are found in the state, one in the Indian River area and the other at Cheswold. Their history and the legends surrounding their beginnings make a fascinating inquiry. William Morgan, a white-haired, ruddy-complexioned man of "70 out," meaning past his 79th birthday, was asked about the history of the Cheswold Moors. He said he didn't know too much about the beginnings, really, except that it was a long time ago. He mentioned that in the graveyard beside the church which the Moors attend lie soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

Floyd Durham, a plumber who has a small airstrip and has been flying his own plane for the past 10 years, was also asked about the Moors' background. He referred to the book, "Delaware's Forgotten Folk," which was compiled by C. A. Weslager and published in 1943. This book estimated the number of Moors in the Cheswold area at about 500. They form a group apart from both whites and Negroes, and the yellowish tinge to the complexion of many has resulted in the term ":yellow people" being used.

Where is Cheswold going? Bud Golder, with his chamber of commerce experience, is in a good position to field that question. He sees the railroad as being a reason for a possible future upturn in Cheswold's economy. He points out that many good locations for industry exist along the railroad from Dover to Cheswold. International Latex Corporation already has a subsidiary plant a mile south of the town.

The railroad built the town once. It is Golder's view it may do it again in a new era.

 

 

 

 

 

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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