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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Newark in New Castle County, Delaware — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

The Hundreds of Delaware

The Hundreds of Delaware Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Don Morfe, September 8, 2019
1. The Hundreds of Delaware Marker
What is a Hundred?

A hundred is an old English subdivision of a county. Although the origin is somewhat shrouded in mystery [,] basically it was a tract of land large enough to provide a hundred men to serve in the king’s wars. In American colonies that hundred men would have been known as militiamen.

The name was used in many colonies but survived in America only in Delaware, probably because there the counties were all established so early - by 1680 - that little reorganization was needed. In New England, the newer English term, town, replaced hundred, and in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the term township was adopted. Most states today are divided into counties, then into Ward, Township, Parish, Precinct, or District.

For Delaware, the origin is cited in a letter written in 1682 by William Penn, the newly appointed Lord Proprietor of the province of Pennsylvania and the counties on the Delaware. Penn directed that from this point forward, settlements be divided into sections of 100 families; each family would have an average of about ten members (including servants). The first use of the
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term Hundred in official records relating to the Delaware colony dates to 1687, when reference is made to “a list of taxables of north side of Duck Creek Hundred.”

Whatever its origin or intended significance, Delaware is the only state in which hundreds exist in the United States and possibly in the world. Other states such as Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia once used hundreds as a county division but the only remaining evidence would be an occasional location with its name ending in “hundred”. Maryland had stopped using the hundred by 1825. Some of the hundreds in Cecil County, MD were North Milford (containing Elkton), South Milford, Elk Neck, Back Creek, East Nottingham and Susquehanna.

Hundreds of Delaware

Originally, there were five hundreds in New Castle County, five in Kent County and two in Sussex County. As the population grew up several of the hundreds divided creating new hundreds.

Hundreds are unincorporated divisions of counties. They were once used as a basis for representation in the Delaware General Assembly and their names still appear on all Delaware real estate transactions. Many early records were kept based on the boundaries of the hundreds such as tax assessment lists. By 1875, the total number of hundreds had grown to the present-day 33. Their boundaries have essentially
The Hundreds of Delaware Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Don Morfe, September 8, 2019
2. The Hundreds of Delaware Marker
not changed since and they no longer serve as judicial or legislative districts.

Some names of the hundreds end with the suffix kill, for example Broadkill, Murderkill, etc. This suffix comes from the Old Dutch word "kille" meaning river bed or channel.

Delaware Laws Pertaining to Hundreds

Laws of Delaware Vol. 1, 1700-1797 Chapter 229 passed September 2, 1775: By Act of Assembly, the Justices of the Peace of the several Counties were directed to ascertain the boundaries of the several hundreds, and to lay out such and so many new hundreds as might be found necessary and convenient. It also directs the court to "maintain and support the poor and public roads".

There are no provisions of law which define the boundaries of the ancient hundreds nor are there any authentic records of the same to show that this Act was ever complied with.

The State of Delaware makes no attempt to define the origin of the term hundred but does make a decision as to their boundaries in the Laws of Delaware Code, 1852, Sec. 8-9-10.

In 1964, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling disallowed state election districts based solely on geography. Following this, Delaware redrew its districts based on population and this continues to be done when necessary after every ten year census.

Pencader Hundred

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Hundred has two distinctions that the other hundreds in New Castle do not possess. The first is that Pencader Hundred's boundary lines, with the exception of about two miles, are not made from natural formations such as rivers that mark boundaries of the other hundreds. Wilmington is the exception in that it is a hundred made up by its corporate limits. The second is that its name is not derived from localities or rivers connected to the hundred. Pencader Hundred contains 29,000 acres or 45 square miles comprising one tenth of New Castle County.

[top center of marker]
Delaware contains 1,982 square miles divided into three counties. New Castle County has 11 hundreds, Kent nine and Sussex 13. There are 33 cities, 43 towns, three villages and 30 unincorporated places. Delaware's population in 1790 was 59,096, 1850 was 91,532, 1900 was 184,735, 1950 was 318,085. The estimated population for 2014 was at 935,614. Delaware is the 49th largest state in the US, ranks 45th in population and sixth in population density at 460.8 people per square mile. It is 96 miles long and ranges from nine to 35 miles wide.

[top right of marker]
These signs are brought to you by the
Pencader Heritage Area Association
A non-profit all-volunteer organization

2029 Sunset Lake Road
Newark, Delaware 19702

[In the lists of hundreds below, do not confuse the two hundreds called Little Creek in Kent and Sussex counties.]

New Castle County
Name of Hundred -- Date -- Primary Town
Appoqunimink -- 1682 -- Townsend
Blackbird -- 1875 -- none
Brandywine -- 1682 -- Bellefonte
Christiana -- 1682 -- Elsmere
Mill Creek -- 1710 -- Hockessin
New Castle -- 1682 -- New Castle
Pencader -- 1710 -- Glasgow
Red Lion -- 1710 -- Delaware City
St. Georges -- 1682 -- Middletown
White Clay -- 1710 -- Newark
Wilmington -- 1833 -- Wilmington

Kent County
[NOTICE: Muderkill spelling appearing in some places below, despite seeming to miss what should be the 1st r, is indeed the spelling on the plaque.]
Name of Hundred -- Date -- Primary Town
Duck Creek -- 1682 -- Smyrna
East Dover * -- 1859 -- Dover
Kenton -- 1869 -- Kenton
Little Creek -- 1682 -- Leipsic
Milford -- 1830 -- Milford
North Murderkill ** -- 1855 -- Camden
South Muderkill ** -- 1855 -- Felton
West Dover * -- 1859 -- Hartly
* St. Jones Hundred was created in 1682 and was renamed Dover Hundred in 1823. Dover Hundred was divided into East Dover Hundred and West Dover Hundred in 1859.
** Muderkill Hundred was created in 1682 and was divided into North Murderkill Hundred and South Muderkill Hundred in 1855.

Sussex County
Name of Hundred -- Date -- Primary Town
Baltimore -- 1775 -- Millville
Broad Creek -- 1775 -- Bethel
Broadkill -- 1696 -- Milton
Cedar Creek -- 1702 -- Milford
Dagsboro -- 1773 -- Millsboro
Georgetown -- 1863 -- Georgetown
Gumboro -- 1873 -- none
Indian River -- 1706 -- Angola
Lewes & Rehoboth -- 1692 -- Lewes
Little Creek -- 1774 -- Laurel
Nanticoke -- 1775 -- none
Northwest Fork -- 1775 -- Bridgeville
Seaford -- 1775 -- Seaford

Political Reason for Hundreds and How that Changed
The constitution of 1897 gave new life to the hundreds at least in New Castle, dividing the county into fifteen representative districts. Five of the districts were located in Wilmington, it being the most populous. The other ten districts were the ten hundreds. In Kent and Sussex, less attention was given to the boundaries of the hundred as a political division.

Despite the fact that Kent and Sussex no longer used the hundred as a political area, the original Delaware Historic Markers of 1933 for the two counties marked the locations of the hundreds[.]

Each hundred had its own constable,assessor of property, tax collector, inspector of elections, trustees of the poor, road supervisors, and fence viewers. Tax receipts of the 1800's lists State, County, Poor, School, Road, and Dog Tax. The hundred was used for the selection of Constables as far back as when Delaware became a State. In the 1700's the Constable was picked by the Justices of the Court of Quarter Sessions to serve in a specific hundred. Delaware Law required that two Constables be appointed to each hundred, the Constables being required to live in the hundred for which they were chosen. "One of said Police for each of said Hundred shall be appointed from one of the chief political parties and one from the other chief political party." (Laws of Delaware 1935)

The concept of the hundred as a political subdivision declined in the twentieth century and was dealt its final blow in 1964 with the Supreme Court decision commonly referred to as "one man, one vote". This decision required that political representation boundaries be set according to equal population districts. Today the concept of the hundred as any sort of political subdivision is completely gone and the hundred is simply a tool used by historians to examine local history. The term has no meaningful use or purpose except as a geographic point of reference.
Erected by Pencader Heritage Area Association.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Colonial EraGovernment & Politics. A significant historical year for this entry is 1682.
Location. 39° 38.462′ N, 75° 43.944′ W. Marker is near Newark, Delaware, in New Castle County. Marker is on Dayett Mills Road south of Old Baltimore Pike, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Newark DE 19702, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. American Position (here, next to this marker); Delaware's Field of Valor (here, next to this marker); Geology (here, next to this marker); Mason Dixon Line & the Boundaries of Delaware (here, next to this marker); Milling in Pencader Hundred (here, next to this marker); The Philadelphia Campaign (here, next to this marker); Enjoy the Pencader Area Today (here, next to this marker); Your Gateway to Pencader Heritage (here, next to this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Newark.
Regarding The Hundreds of Delaware. "lists" appears in 2nd sentence of next to last paragraph; should be "list".

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New England are mentioned; New York state, which is not, uses towns.
Credits. This page was last revised on September 29, 2020. It was originally submitted on September 17, 2019, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 753 times since then and 193 times this year. Last updated on September 28, 2020, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on September 17, 2019, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Jun. 10, 2023