Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dragon Swamp - Part 2

Picture: Dragon Run Creek, Delaware City, Delaware

To review the previous post, in late November of 1740, Rebecca's grandfather, Samuel Bradford (being approximately 30 years old at the time), purchased a large parcel of land called Dragon Swamp in Red Lion Hundred, Newcastle County, Delaware. But he apparently was already a landowner, as on close reading of the land document (see previous post dated February 1, 2010), it says the purchaser was "Samuel Bradford Red Lyon farmer." So it looks like Samuel was increasing his holdings. Was Dragon Swamp adjoining his original property? It could have been, but not necessarily. In was not uncommon in that era for "farmers" (as plantation owners were called) to buy additional plots of land in the area to increase their cash crop production.*

More interesting is the question--exactly where was this property with the intriguing name of Dragon Swamp and what did it look like? An intensive online search turned up an interesting clue: The only place in Red Lion Hundred with any record of an area containing the word Dragon in its name is Dragon Run Creek and marsh due west of Delaware City. Adjoining this area, is the city's Dragon Run Park.

[NOTE: If you type Delaware City, DE into Mapquest, then turn on the "aerial image' and close in on this area, you will see all this. It names the creeks, whereas Google Earth does not. It's the dark green swampy area on the western border of the city formed by a long creek that flows into it from the west, and which then leaves the swamp and flows northeast into the Delaware River. This is Dragon Creek, or Dragon Run Creek, or just "The Dragon" as a charming lady that I talked to by phone in Delaware City told me].

Remember the clues in the previous post: Scharf's History of Delaware says that Dragon Swamp was "near Red Lion Creek," and the Delaware Federal Writer's Project paper says that Dragon Run Creek flows east through Dragon Swamp, then flows into the Delaware River. An examination of this area on Google Earth confirms both of these points, though the rivers and creeks are not labeled. I had to look up lots of maps to confirm that Dragon Run Creek is the one that flows by Delaware City (see picture above), and Red Lion Creek is very nearby, just north of the oil refinery.

I submit that this is the precise spot where Samuel bought his 113-acre Dragon Swamp!

There wasn't a Delaware City, or an oil refinery, or even the canal back then; just meadows of rich soil, quiet waterways, birds of infinite variety in the marshlands, and occasionally a snapping turtle sunning on a log.

Next time: What else do we know about Samuel's life? Though our information is scanty, we will look at a couple more records and see if we can reconstruct more of his life.

[*Was Samuel a grower of tobacco? We may never know, but it is certainly a possibility, as this article shows: "In the latter part of the seventeenth century, Delaware colonists began to grow tobacco in great abundance. Since gold and silver were so scarce in America during the early colonial era, tobacco became a source of currency. Like other English colonies in the area, Delaware was bound to England's mercantile system. This economic arrangement allowed for England to receive raw goods from the American colonies, turn them into finished goods, and then sell the final product on the global market. However, the colonies were not allowed to enter into any production or trade agreements with other foreign countries.With England's insatiable appetite for colonial tobacco and the colonies' need for more supplies, Americans began to use this crop as a type of currency to buy goods from England as well as to buy items in the colonies. Tobacco was seen as the safest, most stable currency in the colonies of the Mid-Atlantic region. Not only was tobacco used to purchase goods, it was also used to pay court fines and taxes...In many instances, those individuals who were not farmers by trade - clergy, innkeepers, artisans, etc., would tend a small patch of tobacco in their spare time in order to pay for goods at the store or to pay taxes.Although tobacco was essential to the Delaware economy for many years, it started to be replaced by other crops by the mid-eighteenth century. Tobacco was extremely harsh on the land and exhausted the soil of its nutrients after only three years of harvesting. The land would need a fallow period of nearly twenty years to allow the soil to re-energize itself. Other crops such as wheat and corn did not have the same devastating effect on the soil. In addition, the quality of Delaware tobacco did not match that of other English colonies in the region, such as Maryland and Virginia. Therefore, it was less in demand by England and the rest of the global market. By the time of the America Revolution in 1775, most Delaware farmers had abandoned tobacco production and returned to growing grain and other crops." (]


  1. I'm going to call my new band Dragon Swamp.

  2. Interesting about the tobacco crops. And good work hunting down a map that actually showed the names of the rivers/swamps.


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