Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dragon Swamp - Part 3

Pictured at left: Dragon Run Creek (courtesy of wildcanoersteve at

Eureka! In our last post I suggested that you look up the Dragon Creek area near Delaware City, DE, on Mapquest, with the notation that I felt very strongly that our great, great...grandfather, Samuel Bradford's property named Dragon Swamp could be pin-pointed at the north side of the creek and swamp. This, however, was only a hunch. I had no proof.

So I looked up land records of previous owners of this parcel in hopes of getting a more complete description of precisely where this land was, and sure indeed Dragon Swamp
was the property bordered on the south by the actual swamp, which means that the farmland still exists intact! (see Mapquest).

Here is the reference: "Deed. On 11 May 1719 Cornelius Walrason [changed to Walraven in later years] of Dragon Swamp, yeoman & Barbara his wife to Elias Everson of the same place, merchant. Cornelius Walrason and Barbara his wife for L75 granted to Elias Everson a tract of land on the north side of Dragon Swamp bounded by Dragon Swamp, a marsh...containing 215 acres part of a greater tract of 600 deed dated 20 Oct 1686..." ("New Castle County, Delaware Land Records, 1715 - 1728" by Carol Bryant; bold added).

If you go to MapQuest, you will see the fields on the north side of the swamp are still being farmed to this day! Though over two and a half centuries have elapsed, it no doubt looks much as it did then. I believe the fact that those farmlands aren't covered by malls, subdivisions or landfills is truly a miracle!

Also, the picture above verifies that the creek was just large enough for a small boat to make its way the half mile or so to the Delaware River, a feature small plantation owners such as Samuel would have very much desired for their cash crops.

The question remains, did he actually live on the land, or did he have a homestead elsewhere in Red Lion Hundred? I believe there is strong evidence to suggest that he live at Dragon Swamp. If you read #1 below, it establishes that there was a homestead on this property, as poor old Mrs. Walraven, a previous owner [no known relation to our Bradford's] lived out her life there. Thus, when Samuel and his wife Margret acquired these 113 acres in 1740, there would have been an existing home on the site.

Our other clue is contained in Samuel's will. While it does not specify the name or size of his property, later land records show that his son, William, executor of his estate, handled transactions for a 113-acres parcel that had belonged to his father! We know this was the size of Dragon Swamp (see previous posts), and there is no other record of any parcels for which son William was executor. Thus, it appears that Samuel did not just own this for agricultural purposes, but that he and his family did actually lived there.

I believe that the homestead known as Dragon Swamp was indeed where our dear Samuel, his wife Margret, and their children (including Rebecca's mother, Sarah) lived. Perhaps one of us will be blessed enough to travel there someday and walk the very soil they trod.


For you history buffs, here are more records about previous owners of Dragon Swamp which hint at a dark and mysterious past:

#1: "Hendrick Walraven, although not named in either will, appears to be the eldest son of Walraven Jansen, perhaps by a prior marriage. By 1677 he was taxed at Appoquinimink Creek, where 225 acres were surveyed for him in 1678. Later, in 1689, he acquired 600 acres at Dragon Swamp. He died there c. 1715. Cornelius Walraven married Walborg Evertson (Swedish) by 1713. Initially he lived in Penns Neck, but took over his father's farm at Dragon Swamp by 1715. The last reference to him alive was on 1 May 1733 when, after being convicted by the Lancaster County court for counterfeiting seven silver dollars, he was sentenced to receive 21 lashes, stand in the pillary for one hour and have both of his ears cut off. He was survived by his wife, who remained at Dragon Swamp, and four children: John, Susannah, Elias and Elizabeth." (

#2: "A 1000-acre tract called the " Exchange," situated on the Delaware, south of the Red Lion creek, and extending to Dragon Swamp,was surveyed to John Moll in 1675. This tract, and another known as " Lowland," also south of Red Lion, came into the possession of Hans Hanson in 1685 ; and two other escheated tracts of 700 acres in all, were patented to his son Joseph Hanson in 1701. He devised it to his two sons Peter and Joseph, who thus became the owners of nearly the whole northeast part of the Hundred. These lands came afterwards through many hands to be principally owned by the Clarks and the Reybolds. State banks, piles, wharfs and sluices protect these lands also. In 1730 George Hadley, from New York, reputed immensely wealthy, leased 200 acres of this land, and suddenly died at Dover. Rumor had it that he secreted great treasure on the land, and it is said that the entire 200 acres were turned over in the eager search by dreamers digging for the fancied wealth, which was never found to anybody's knowledge, at any rate. About 500 acres of the Hanson land came by marriage into the Clark family, and some of it is still retained by them." (History of the State of Delaware by Henry Clay Cloud, Vol. 2, p. 532).


  1. Wow! I'm sorry now it took me so long to get to these posts! What kind of a fantastic name is Dragon Swamp! Whether it has reference to huge turtles or St. George, it's equally whimsical. I think if you have a low spot on your property, you should call it Dragon Swamp. :)

    p.s. I'm so impressed by all you've found! Is this all internet research? You need to teach me your methods.

  2. Couldn't be more pleased than to get such a great comment from someone whose opinion I value so highly. Yes, it's all online research, plus a phone call to Delaware City. Good idea about the name...we have a spot that would suit it nicely! Thanks Stace.

  3. I, too, am SO impressed with your research - you make it look easy!


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