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

 

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Memories Have Replaced Industry in Town That U.S. 13 Passed By

by Nancy E. Lynch (about 1963)

CHESWOLD--Mail always arrived here, Mrs. Elizabeth B. Remley remembers, on the noon express train. "They'd throw the mail bag off and pick up the outgoing bag from the arm swing over the tracks," said the 75-year-old Cheswold native who 57 years ago was an assistant to the town's postmaster.

In those days, three northbound and three southbound trains daily ran through the busy industrial town. Today only one track remains in Cheswold, built by the railroad in 1856. The depot--the first was in a freight car--and the freight station are gone, as is the watch tower. The second track was ripped up in 1959. "There's not a thing like it used to be," said Mrs. Remley who, years ago, used to congregate with her friends in her father's general store for ice cream. "Cheswold had a lumber yard, a tomato cannery, a blacksmith shop and five general stores but only one remains. There used to be apple orchards too, but only the storage plant is still here. Most of our old citizens have passed away."

Cheswold, five miles north of Dover on Delaware 42, a mile west of U. S. 13, is a quiet town today. Memories have replaced industry. Even Mrs. Remley, who has lived in the town all her life, finds it different. The industry has moved to nearby Dover. Only the Delaware Air Park and a State Highway Division maintenance yard are visible, but they too are on the outskirts of the town.

"There are so many strangers in now," she said of Cheswold's 300 residents. "It was a wonderful town years ago. We knew everybody and everything was booming. We used to play tennis and croquet and cards with the neighbors. I guess you'd call them the 'good old days.'"

The old frame house in which Mrs. Remley was born in 1898 has been torn down. It wasn't far from where she and her husband, N. Lee Remley, a retired contractor and mechanic, live now. Her mother was from Vermont, her father from Calvert County, Md. Mrs. Remley and her six brothers--"It's a miracle I ever survived"--were all born in Cheswold. When she and her brothers weren't studying their lessons in their 4-room schoolhouse, they and their friends went hiking. "It was our favorite activity. I have many happy memories."

Ten years before Mrs. Remley was born, in 1888, Cheswold was known as Moorton, presumable named for a John S. Moore who owned the hotel on which the town was built and who opened the first store and was later made postmaster. Because mail to Moorton, Del. was often confused with mail to Morton, Pa. and a town with a similar name in Maryland, a group of Moorton citizens decided to change the town's name. Several suggested names were placed in a hat. The winning name drawn from it was Cheswold, believed originally to have been spelled Chesswold. The new name was significant. The "Ches" in Cheswold stood for the grove of chestnut trees that overlooked the town, the "wold" is an old English word meaning wood or woods. "That was before my time, but I expect my father had a part in the naming," Mrs. Remley said. "That old chestnut grove is no longer standing."

Another part of Cheswold's history includes the Moors. Early accounts place the arrival of about 500 African Moors, descendants of shipwrecked Moors, in 1710, who settled on 1,000 acres northwest of the town. A later unidentified study said the Moors were actually descendants of intermarriages between Delaware Indians and white settlers and later the intermarriage of this group with other inhabitants of the peninsula. According to Mrs. Remley, Cheswold grew slowly after the beginning of the 20th century. Commerce from local fruit and grains--and passengers--carried by the Delaware Railroad slowed. The advent of the first Wilmington to Delmar highway, now U. S. 13, in 1924 further slowed the town. The new road passed just to the east of Cheswold. A second lane, added in 1935, apparently took what little commerce the town had left. Trucks now took the place of the railroad.

She has been active in town affairs as a 1937 charter member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Cheswold Fire Company, incorporated in 1928. More recently, she served two terms as secretary with the town's 5-member council. "Four years was enough. I didn't want it again. I was cured." Her second term expired in 1967, 70 years after the first town council was organized. Mrs. Remley is content in Cheswold, even though it's a different town than when she grew up. "It was a strict Methodist town and you could only play cards in some houses. Do you know they even used to make applejack here? It was called 'Old Delaware' but we had so many fanatical WTCU's here. It was soon gone."

Her memories--the ones not in her head--are stored in scrapbooks. Clipping after clipping fills yellowed pages. "I'm the worst old granny there ever was. I've told my kids if I ever passed away suddenly, just to get a 5-ton truck here and haul everything away. I've kept everything over the years." Mrs. Remley crochets, reads three books a week and "I love to fry chicken." She says she's given up her homemade lemon meringue pies because they take too long. "I'm a busy gal doing nothing. I have my own gait and I don't push myself."

She wouldn't consider leaving Cheswold, her home and home of former U. S. Senator, Representative and Delaware Governor, J. Caleb Boggs. "I'm here to stay. I don't want to move out. I like it her."

 

 

 

 

 

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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