Sussex County, Delaware – Lewes and the Nanticokes

The first major Atlantic coastal town in Southern Delaware is Bethany Beach. Bethany Beach has a boardwalk and is a quiet family orientated resort town: a great place to kick back and relax.

The Indian River life-saving station museum and historic site is near the Maryland and Delaware border. This is the only existing one of six stations along the coast built to aid shipwreck victims. The US Life-Saving Service became part of the US Coast Guard in 1915. The brave men trained hard regularly, because they knew that shipwrecks did not happen in calm seas. They would row their cutters through the high surf and against the strong winds to save as many of the crew as possible from the ravages of the sea. This museum is a tribute to the dedication of these men.

Further North is Rehoboth Beach. This is a tourist town. They have their main street torn with the purpose of making it more quaint. From what we saw, all it will do is cause traffic jams.

Lewes, pronounced LOO-is. Lewes is the oldest town in Delaware. Founded by the Dutch in 1609 for the purpose of tobacco growing and whaling it was called Zwaanendael (place of swans). The local Indians destroyed the original settlement. The tale told is that a member of the tribe stole the totem of a tin unicorn, the symbol of Hoorn, Netherlands (the hometown of the settlers) stationed at the entrance to the fort. He wanted to make pipes out of the tin: a entrepreneur of his day. The settlers wanted the man brought to trial for theft Situs Judi Bola Resmi. The tribe found the young lad and held court according to their laws. His crime was punishable by beheading. When the elders brought the head of the thief to the settlers, as a present, they were aghast and refused the gift. This rejection infuriated the Indians, who then waged war on the settlement, burning it to the ground and killing all of the inhabitants.

Because of its strategic location, guarding the entrance to the Delaware River, and hence Philadelphia, William Penn renamed the town Lewes, after the one near Brighton, England. The town prospered. During the War of 1812, the British blockaded the River and bombarded the town for two days in 1813. One of the cannon balls from the British ships can be seen embedded in the foundation of local maritime museum on Front Street. The British suffered enough damage to their ships that they withdrew their fleet.

Lewes is the terminus for the ferry to Cape May on the New Jersey Southern tip. The Zwaanedael Museum located near the downtown area recounts to local history and has artifacts from the shipwrecked De Braak, a supposed treasure ship from the 18th century. Avast ye maties, war is that gold?

Visited the Nanticoke Indian Museum. Grandmother Patience Harmon is the curator, an 80-year-old feisty and knowledgeable matriarch of the tribe. She happily welcomes all visitors to her small, but informative museum. She had been asked by the Pequots to be the curator of the museum at Foxwoods. See Connecticut Foxwoods Casino link about this fascinating museum.

The Nanticoke, also known as the Tidewater Indians, are a farming community and have inhabited the area from New England to the Carolinas for centuries. The Iroquois Nation protected them, because they were primarily farmers of sorghum, tobacco and other important crops. When the settlers from Europe came in the 1600s, they stole the land from the Native Americans, holding up a piece of paper and saying that the land was given to them by the government. Some families hid in the woods until the settlers, who knew nothing about farming, almost died of starvation. The Nanticoke helped them survive and began bartering with them: beaver pelts for land. Chief Isaac Harmon, a very astute man, although illiterate, suspected that the parchments used as deeds were very important. With money and land titles he traded with the settlers, he traveled to Georgetown, the County Seat and obtained deeds to the land he acquired. Being a successful thrifty farmer he was able to purchase back much of the stolen land.

The museum has a collection of rare Skookum dolls, letters from John Big Tree who posed for the Indian head nickel, and ancient arrow heads and club heads. The museum, albeit small, is large in hospitality. Grandmother, a title of respect among the tribe, is a font of oral history and has a willingness to share with all visitors. Spend an afternoon walking back into history and the family of mankind. Every year they host a pow-wow the weekend after Labor Day attended by more than 30,000 people.

A block from the museum is a piece of Americana, Second Time Designs – Lon and Judy Hagen. He is a truck driver who does these designs in his spare time. When traveling down Rte. 24, they catch the eye of the tourist. His yard reminds me of Lois Smith’s front yard in the movie Twister.

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