Aug. 7,1994 Sunday News Journal


Weslager: Historian dies

NEWARK (Del): Clinton Albert Weslager, a prominent Historian known for his writings about Delaware and American Indians, has died.

Mr. Weslager, who was 85, died of a pulmonary embolism Friday in Christiana Hospital.

In a writing career that spanned 50 years, C.A. Weslager, as he was known to his readers, wrote at least 15 major books and hundreds of pamphlets and articles on history and archeology, especially on local topics. Many of his books are now sought by collectors.

The late News Journal columnist, Bill Frank, wrote in 1987, "Prolific may be one way to describe the ability of Dr. Clinton Albert of Delaware's most noted historians. Even that term, however, fails to tell the whole truth about this amazing man. I think his greatest contribution was in chronicling the early colonization of Delaware and interaction between colonists and the Native Americans," said Delaware history expert Carol E. Hoffecker, a University of Delaware professor. "It is remarkable that a person whose career was really in the business world developed such a level of expertise in both history and archaeology so that his work was regarded as of the quality of a professional person in either field."

Raised in Pittsburgh, Mr. Weslager earned a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Pittsburgh in 1933. About 1937, he joined the DuPont Co. in sales and moved to Richardson Park. He edited the firm's employee magazine, was national sales manager of the Automatic Chemical Specialities division, and was a fabrics and finishes marketing manager.

After retiring from the firm in 1968, he taught Delaware history at Wesley College and the University of Delaware before joining the history faculty of Brandywine College north of Wilmington, which eventually became a branch of Widener University. When he retired in 1983, he was named professor emeritus. He also was a consultant with Reader's Digest, Temple University Press and the Smithsonian Institution.

In the late 1930s, he began working with University of Pennsylvania anthropologist Frank G. Speck, an expert on the Nanticokes, an American Indian tribe based in Sussex County. After helping Speck with research, Mr. Weslager wrote his first book, "Delaware's Forgotten Folk," published by University of Pennsylvania press in 1943, "Delaware's Buried Past," now a classic, followed the next year. He wrote the chapter on American Indians for the 1947, two-volume "Delaware: A History of the First State," considered the state's first scholarly history. "Delaware's Forgotten River" (1947) and "Brandywine Springs" (1949), recently reissued, followed.

Later books include: "Red Men on the Brandywine" (1953), "The English on the Delaware" (1967), "The Log Cabin in America" (1969), "The Stamp Act Congress" (1976), "The Nanticoke Indians Past and Present" (1983), "The Swedes and Dutch at New Castle" (1987), and "A Man and His Ship: Peter Minuet and the Kalmar Nyckel" (1989). In a U.S. Supreme Court opinion, Justice William Brennan cited his 1972 "The Delaware Indians: A History (1972)."

C.A. Weslager's books and when they were published:

Delaware's Forgotten Folk, 1943

Delaware's Buried Past 1944

Delaware's Forgotten River, 1947

The Nanticoke Indians, 1948

Brandywine Springs, 190

Indian Place-Names in Delaware (with A.R. Dunlap), 1950

Red Men on the Brandywine, 1953

The Richardsons of Delaware, 1957

Dutch Explorers, Traders and Settlers In ft Delaware Valley, 1961

The Garret Snuff Fortune , 1965

The English on the Delaware 1610-1682,1967

The Log Cabin In America, 1969

The Delaware Indians, A History, 1972

Magic Medicine of the Indians, 1973

The Delaware Indian Westward Migration, 1978

The Nanticoke Indians, Past and Present, 1983

The Swedes and Dutch In New Casfle, 1987

New Sweden on the Delaware, 1988

A Man and His Ship, 1989

"To me he was unquestionably the most beloved writer of Delaware history. Even people who never met him loved his writing," said John P. Reid, a Stanton book dealer who publishes a newsletter on Delaware book collecting, Saturday. "Even in his 80s, he still was enthusiastic about writing. He worked on a couple of articles for me and was just all bubbly and enthusiastic about what he was doing."

"He was always working on something," said his daughter, Ann W. Tatnall of Woodstown, N.J., on Saturday. "The last time I saw him, about three weeks ago, he showed me some research he was doing on old one-room schools in and around Millcroft."

For Reid's newsletter he was also working on an article on an organization that promoted Delaware history in the 1940s and 1950s.

In 1993, Wesley College made him an honorary doctor of literature and, in 1985, Widener University, which earlier cited his teaching excellence, awarded him an honorary doctorate of humane letters. He also received the medal of distinction from the University of Delaware, a trustees award from the Historical Society of Delaware, and a historical medal from the Daughters of the American Revolution. He is listed in "Who's Who in the World," and "Dictionary of American Scholars."

For his work on behalf of American Indian rights, he was elected an honorary member of the Nanticoke Tribe of Sussex County and the Nanticoke-Lenape Tribe of Bridgeton, N.J.

He was president of the Archaeological Society of Delaware and Eastern States Archaeological Federation and a charter member of Historic Red Clay Valley. In the 1950s, he was president of Richardson Park Board of School Trustees. For many years he attended Hockessin United Methodist Church.

In the 1950s, he and his wife moved to Old Public Road in Hockessin. Last August, the couple moved to Millcroft. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Ruth Hurst Weslager; his daughter; two sons, Clinton, Jr. of Elkton, Md., and Thomas H. of Salem, Wis.; a brother, Fred C. of Pittsburgh; seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A service will be at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Hockessin United Methodist Church, 7250 Lancaster Pike. Burial will be private. Instead of flowers, the family suggests contributions to Hockessin Public Library.






"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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