Sunday, February 3, 2013

New Castle, Chester, and Philadelphia Ports in 1600's and 1700's

I am going through old messages and all of those old piles of things that I want to look at this morning and one message popped out at me.  It is a message from Saturday 27th Feb 1999.  Mac McCutcheon wrote it to the Scotch-Irish mail list as an answer to a question posed by Ron Gaddis. 

 "Was New Castle an Irish Center for debarkation?"  Mac says "Yes.  Leyburn concludes (and documents) that about 200,000 Scotch-Irish arrived in the 18th C., and that a great majority of them landed in New Castle, Chester, and Philadelphia, all three ports within a 40-50 mile stretch on the Delaware River.  He quotes some interesting newspaper articles from the Pennsylvania Gazette that in 1728 " there arrived forty-five hundred persons, chiefly from Ireland".  Another news item (August 14, 1728, from New Castle) said, "There is come in this last week about 2,000 Irish people, and abundance more is daily expected."  The numbers I've seen for Philadelphia are similar (perhaps lower); and I've seen no figures on Chester."

Mac was, of course, quoting from 

The Scotch-Irish, A Social History by James G. Leyburn.  

I can not remember how many times I have read about settlers disembarking at New Castle.  I thought today would be a good day to figure out just where it was, and what was the relationship of these three early ports and Philadelphia, Old Chester County, and New Castle Delaware.  All of us who do research know that the land close to this area soon was very crowded and many of our ancestors moved west and south to find cheap land once they arrived in any of these ports.

Port at New Castle

According to Wikipedia, New Castle was originally settled by the Dutch West India Company in 1651 under the leadership of Peter Stuyvesant.  Prior to the establishment of Penn's Philadelphia, New Castle was the center of Government in the area.  Between 1634 and 1674 it moved back and forth between Dutch and English ownership several times.  In 1680 it was conveyed by the British to William Penn.  Delaware's English, Dutch, and Swedish settlers were used to the more relaxed culture of the Restoration Monarchy grew uncomfortable with the more conservative Quaker influence.  Delaware formally broke from Pennsylvania in 1804.  New Castle was Penn's landing place when he set foot on what is now American soil on October 27, 1682.

I enjoyed reading about Penn's landing in a book found:

The Dutch chose the location of New Anstel (New Castle) in the 1650's for its good harbor at a bend in the South (Delaware) river.  The street they laid out between the site of their fort and the marshes next to Delaware Street has had wharves ever since.  in the late 1700's, the new federal government chose new Castle, Port Penn, Marcus Hook and Chester as sites to protect during severe winters.

Good information on how the water front has changed and what it looks like now at:

Port at Philadelphia

The Philadelphia port is located as it might seem along the Delaware River at Philadelphia.  It and Chester ports are farther up the Delaware River than New Castle:

It is still one of the major inland ports today:

Port at Chester

The below is from Wikipedia's article on Chester, Pennsylvania

The first European settlers in the area were Swedes. They called the settlement that became Chester first Finlandia, then Upland. They built Fort Mecoponacka in 1641 to defend the settlement.[1]

Hendrickson House, built in Chester in 1690 by Swedish farmers, was moved to Wilmington, Delaware, in 1958
By 1682, Upland was the most populous town of the new Province of Pennsylvania. ....
Chester served as the county seat for Chester County, which then stretched from the Delaware River to the Susquehanna River. In 1789, the city became the county seat for the newly created Delaware County (whereupon Chester County became landlocked, with West Chester as its county seat), .....
Chester's naval shipyard supplied the Union during the Civil War, and the United States in subsequent wars until the shipyard at Philadelphia became dominant after World War II. America's largest postbellum shipyard, John Roach's Delaware River Iron Ship Building and Engine Works, was also located at Chester. The Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., later Pennsylvania Shipyard & Dry Dock Company, was located in Chester until it closed in 1990.

I am rereading another e-mail from 2002 on the Scotch-Irish mail list that mentions the fact that there is also a port at Wilmington, Del.  This is a separate port from New Castle and is still in use.  It is at the site of the confluence of the Christina River and Brandywine Creek

he Port of Wilmington is located on the Christina River on the spot where Swedish settlers landed in 1638. The settlement, called Fort Christina, is the oldest permanent European settlement on the Delaware River. In 1655, the Dutch captured Fort Christina and, in 1664, they were driven out by the British.
For its first century, the Port of Wilmington was a small agricultural village. When the Quakers moved there in the 1730s, the Port of Wilmington began to develop, and the city became a busy market town. In 1739, the Quakers got a borough charter from the proprietor of Pennsylvania, Thomas Penn, who named the town for his friend, the Earl of Wilmington.
The Port of Wilmington was the biggest town in Delaware by the time the American Revolution began. In 1777, British troops occupied the town. After United States independence, the Port of Wilmington grew quickly due to its proximity to other ports, the plentiful waterpower in the area, and the rich farmlands. By the 1790s, the Brandywine Creek was dotted with gristmills, paper mills, and sawmills, and the flour mills in the Port of Wilmington were the biggest in the United States
(information from:

Scroll to the beginning of this blog post to see the map that shows where the four ports are in relationship to each other.

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