New Castle Delaware was originally named Fort Casimir. It was founded in 1651 by Peter Stuyvesant, who was sent to provide the Dutch with the command of all river traffic. Because of its strategic location, ownership of the settlement was constantly changing. The flags of the Netherlands, Sweden, and Great Britain have all flown over New Castle.
Settled by Swedes in 1638, it has been called by no less than six names as Swedes, Dutch or English took possession: Grape Vine Point, Sandhuken, Fort Casimir, Fort Trinity, New Amstel, and New Castle. This last being given by Sir Robert Carr when the British conquered the Dutch here in 1664. Most houses in New Amsterdam in 1664 were of wood with roofs thatched with the local reeds and they used clapboard siding. The houses were one story with a garret. Almost all buildings had their gable-end facing the street. The siding was generally horizontal clapboards.
The three counties which make up the state of Delaware were added to William Penn’s lands in America. In 1682, Penn came ashore at New Castle and took possession, but these counties, which were already well established, became dissatisfied with his rule. Proceeding to the Court House he was presented with “Turf and Twig, Water and Soyle” in token of his Proprietorship. The Court House in New Castle is the oldest one in the United States, and it is located in the center of a 12-mile circle forming the northern boundary of Delaware. It was the scene of many famous trials. In the Courtroom, there are two pillars on which the hands of criminals were placed while being branded with hot irons. The Common Farms, given under a Charter from William Penn in 1701 for use of inhabitants of New Castle, consisted of 1000 acres of fine farmland that adjoined town. In 1704, when he granted them a separate legislature, New Castle became the colonial capital of Delaware. The lively town also briefly served as the first state capital and continued as the county seat until the 1880s.
New Castle’s location made it an ideal transfer point for trips up and down the coast. As a result, New Castle was a thriving community throughout the 1700s and early 1800s. The courts and general assembly also attracted various judges, lawyers, and government officials who built handsome houses, many of which still remain.
William Dyer, my 7th great-grandfather, was born in Boston, Massachusetts on March 7, 1663. He married Joanna Chard on March 22, 1687. He moved to New Castle, Delaware after the marriage where they had 2 sons, John and Joseph. Joanna died in 1711 and William then married Mary Whitman on April 17, 1712. There were no children born to this union. William died in January 1714 at the age of 51. It is not known where he is buried as the Quakers that ruled this community did not believe in placing headstones or markers on graves.
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