1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lewes (Delaware)

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LEWES, a town in Sussex county, Delaware, U.S.A., in the S.E. part of the state, on Delaware Bay. Pop. (1910), 2158. Lewes is served by the Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington (Pennsylvania System), and the Maryland, Delaware & Virginia railways. Its harbour is formed by the Delaware Breakwater, built by the national government and completed in 1869, and 2¼ m. above it another breakwater was completed in December 1901 by the government. The cove between them forms a harbour of refuge of about 550 acres. At the mouth of Delaware Bay, about 2 m. below Lewes, is the Henlopen Light, one of the oldest lighthouses in America. The Delaware Bay pilots make their headquarters at Lewes. Lewes has a large trade with northern cities in fruits and vegetables, and is a subport of entry of the Wilmington Customs District. The first settlement on Delaware soil by Europeans was made near here in 1631 by Dutch colonists, sent by a company organized in Holland in the previous year by Samuel Blommaert, Killian van Rensselaer, David Pieterszen de Vries and others. The settlers called the place Zwaanendael, valley of swans. The settlement was soon entirely destroyed by the Indians, and a second body of settlers whom de Vries, who had been made director of the colony, brought in 1632 remained for only two years. The fact of the settlement is important; because of it the English did not unite the Delaware country with Maryland, for the Maryland Charter of 1632 restricted colonization to land within the prescribed boundaries, uncultivated and either uninhabited or inhabited only by Indians. In 1658 the Dutch established an Indian trading post, and in 1659 erected a fort at Zwaanendael. After the annexation of the Delaware counties to Pennsylvania in 1682, its name was changed to Lewes, after the town of that name in Sussex, England. It was pillaged by French pirates in 1698. One of the last naval battles of the War of Independence was fought in the bay near Lewes on the 8th of April 1782, when the American privateer “Hyder Ally” (16), commanded by Captain Joshua Barnes (1759-1818), defeated and captured the British sloop “General Monk” (20), which had been an American privateer, the “General Washington,” had been captured by Admiral Arbuthnot’s squadron in 1780, and was now purchased by the United States government and, as the “General Washington,” was commanded by Captain Barnes in 1782-1784. In March 1813 the town was bombarded by a British frigate.

See the “History of Lewes” in the Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, No. xxxviii. (Wilmington, 1903); and J. T. Scharf, History of Delaware (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1888).