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
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.
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."