Delaware – the First State

The Delaware state capitol.
The Delaware state capitol.

The state of Delaware is located in the southern region of the United States and bordered by Maryland to the south and west, New Jersey to the east, and Pennsylvania to the north. The state borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Delaware is the 49th most extensive and 45th most populous state in the US, covering a total area of 1,982 square miles and has a population of 967,200 people. Delaware derived its name from Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr who was the first colonial governor of Virginia (during this time the region was considered part of Virginia). Delaware was the first state to be admitted to the Union, gaining admission on December 7th, 1787. Delaware was among the 13 colonies that participated in the American Revolution.

History of Delaware

Before Delaware colony was formed, the region that is now called Delaware was occupied by the Unami Lenape (also known as Delaware) people, who also occupied much of the southern Delmarva Peninsula. The native tribe was also related to the Munsee Lenape tribe that occupied the banks of Hudson River. The Unamis were mainly hunters and farmers who soon became middlemen for the thriving fur trade. The first Europeans to settle in the area were the Dutch who established a trading post in 1631. However, they were all killed within one year following a dispute with the native tribes.

Colonies in Delaware

In 1638, a Swedish colony and trading post known as New Sweden was founded at Wilmington (then was Fort Christina) by Peter Minuit who headed a group of Finns, Dutch, and Swedes. This new colony lasted only 17 years. By 1651, the Dutch had regrouped and constructed a fort at New Castle and conquered New Sweden colony in 1655. However, in 1664, the Dutch New Netherland colony was conquered by the English under the leadership James, the Duke of York. In 1682, the Duke passed his ownership of the area to William Penn who was in charge of the Pennsylvania Province. He acquired the area and named it “Lower Counties on Delaware.” By 1704, Pennsylvania had become so large that representatives decided to meet differently; in Philadelphia and New Castle. However, Penn remained the governor of both Pennsylvania and Delaware.

American Revolution and Statehood

Like most of the middle colonies, the Lower Counties of Delaware was not keen on breaking with the British since some of the merchants had trading ties with them. However, with the anticipation of the Declaration of Independence, the Colonial Assembly was convinced to declare itself separated from Pennsylvania and the British rule on June 15, 1776. The only major battle of the Revolution that took place in Delaware was the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge which began on August 30, 1777. The British occupied Wilmington after the Battle of Brandywine and took control of the Delaware River until the end of the war. In 1783, the American Revolution effectively came to an end and Delaware was confirmed in the Treaty of Paris. Delaware was the first colony to ratify the US constitution and officially became a state on December 7, 1787.


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