History of Early Kent County, DE and the name Whorekill: the Swedes, Dutch and English were all involved

This post reviews the history of the City of Lewes and Kent county, Delaware during the colonial period. In that area, the Dutch established the Zwaanendael settlement in 1631, and called it Blommaert’s Kill (Dutch for Creek) in honor of Samuel Blommaert, one of the directors of the Dutch West India Company. He had purchased the area earlier from the local Indians, who subsequently proceeded to massacre the settlers shortly thereafter. At some later point, records indicate that the creek was called Hoeren-kil, or Hoere-kil as early as 1642 (some records and posts also called it Hoornkill after the Dutch City, but the records on this name are scarce). According to Chris Slavens in his post about this (https://peninsularoots.com/2016/02/21/whorekill-and-murderkill-reclaiming-delawares-unsavory-place-names-part-1/), Hoere in (old) Dutch means whore, harlot, prostitute, etc., and hoeren is simply the plural form of the term; so, this is likely the source of the English Whores Creek or Whore Creek.

Following the massacre at Zwaanendael, both the Dutch and the Swedes left the Hoere Kill alone until a Dutch Mennonite named Pieter Plockhoy established a small settlement nearby with forty-one settlers in 1663. The settlement was destroyed by English forces less than a year later., although there is evidence that some of the Dutch settlers remained.

Following the English conquest of 1664, all of the land on the western side of the Delaware River and Delaware Bay was governed as part of the New York Colony and administered from the town of New Castle. During the brief recapture of the colony by the Dutch in 1673, additional court districts were created around Upland and Whorekill. And as noted, this is now the town of Lewes.

In 1680, Whorekill District was divided into Deale County and St. Jones County. After this division, Lewes became the county seat of Deale, which was later renamed Sussex County. The county seat of St. Jones (renamed Kent County in 1681) is at Dover. The former Upland District was named after the New Sweden settlement of Upland, and was renamed Chester County in 1682. Chester County is now located within the present boundaries of Pennsylvania (subject of a different post).

Comments are closed for this post.