THREATENED BY DEVELOPMENT: Save the Natural & Cultural Resources of Historic Glasgow, DE

  • by: Susan Arday
  • target: David L. Tackett, Councilman, 11th District, New Castle County Council; David L. Tackett, Councilman, 11th District, New Castle County Council
The Friends of Historic Glasgow (FOHG) is a voluntary, nonprofit organization of concerned citizens devoted to the cause of preserving the Glasgow, Delaware area's dwindling natural and historic resources.
HEAR YE! HEAR YE! ALL OF AMERICA The Developers are coming! The Developers are coming! Join in the effort to preserve the lands now at risk which encompass the American Revolutionary War Battle of Cooch's Bridge in New Castle County, Delaware. The running skirmish between Aikentown (Glasgow) and Iron Hill was our first defensive action against the Red Coats' late summer 1777 advance from the Head of Elk (Elkton, MD) to Philadelphia. The Patriots succeeded in stalling the British and Hessians troops and inflicting a great many casualties. A history park will boost tourism in nearby counties of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Three key properties in the Pencader Hundred, New Castle County, DE, are now threatened: * Royal Farms plans to build a 5,269 square foot gas station and convenience store on 2.5 acres at the northeast corner of Rte. 72 (S. Chapel St.) and west Old Baltimore Pike. This site is the gateway of the historic battle grounds at Cooch's Bridge. The immediately surrounding lands are safely under state control. * Walgreens had planned to demolish the colonial Middleton/Brooks house (built in 1787 by Robert L. Middleton) and barn to develop the northwest corner of Rte. 40 West and old Rte. 896 South (Glasgow Ave.). This property anchors the Aiken's Tavern National Register Historic District, and shares a common boundary line with the La Grange farm. In 2004, the New Castle County Historic Review Board and County Council, along with the Friends of Historic Glasgow, were successful in our joint efforts to obtain an historic zoning overlay for this property. * La Grange, the historic Barczewski/Dr. Samuel H. Black farm and home on the north side of Route 40 West, just west of Route 896. A developer, Stephen J. Nichols of La Grange Communities, LLC, in Glasgow, DE, purchased the neighboring farm (the Barczewski property) on November 14, 2005, so that 232 houses, a 56,865 sq. ft. shopping center, and a church parking lot can be built. Christina School District wants at least 50 acres of the farm, including the manor house and granary, so that a public elementary school can be constructed. The 236 acres of the farm contain: a FEMA floodplain; state and Federal wetlands; a significant portion of the Glasgow aquifer recharge area; over a mile of the Muddy Run Creek and tributaries; 11 documented Native American prehistoric archeological sites with artifacts dating from 9,000 BC to 1,000 AD; the last remaining section of an 18th century road in DE; earthen trenches from the British and Hessian occupation of Aikentown (Glasgow) in 1777; one of the few remaining remnants of the Benjamin H. Latrobe feeder canal circa 1804 for the C&D canal; and a manor house and granary from 1815 that are on the National Register of Historic Places (Dr. Samuel Henry Black) and the Historic American Buildings Survey. The La Grange farm was once owned by Robert L. Middleton, the father of Dorcas Armitage Middleton. In 1807 Dorcas married Dr. Black, who was a physician, University of Delaware trustee, State politician, and a Brigadier General of Delaware's First Brigade of Militia. Dorcas A. Black was a great-granddaughter of Thomas Cooch, the owner of Cooch's Mill in 1777. General Lafayette named the farm "La Grange" while a visitor there in 1824. In 1996, a New Castle County historic zoning overlay was placed over the entire 236 acres of the farm. The Barczewki farm is one of the crown jewels of the Glasgow Historic Area and the State of Delaware. The farm is constantly under threat of development. The first significant engagement of the Philadelphia campaign in the American Revolutionary War took place at Cooch's Bridge, DE, on September 3, 1777. After resting and refitting at Head of Elk (Elkton), MD, for over a week, the 16,500 British forces of Lieutenant-General Sir William Howe moved forward in two divisions from Head of Elk. One division was commanded by the Hessian Lieutenant-General Baron Wilhelm Knyphausen and the other by Major-General Earl Charles Cornwallis. Howe accompanied Cornwallis's column, which advanced from Head of Elk and reached Aiken's Tavern in what is now Glasgow, DE, at about 9:00 A.M. Knyphausen's division, marching from Cecil County Courthouse, arrived an hour later. Cornwallis's division, having arrived earlier, proceeded first on the road north (old Rt. 896) from Aiken's Tavern toward Cooch's Bridge and Iron Hill, DE. Just a mile north, the vanguard of Hessian jägers under Lieutenant Colonel Ludwig Johann Adolph von Wurmb encountered outposts of Brigadier-General William Maxwell's light corps. This ad hoc formation had been thrown together to replace Colonel Daniel Morgan's vaunted and invaluable riflemen, sent some months earlier to aid Major-General Horatio Gates. Stationed "at the entrance of a wood," the Americans commenced an irregular fire on the advancing British that continued for two miles up the road. Captain Johann Ewald of the Hessian jägers, who had gone ahead with six dragoons to scout the road, "received fire from a hedge, through which these six men were all either killed or wounded." This continued for some time as the Americans fell back from one position to another. Howe's aide Captain Friederich von Muenchhausen "saw several rebels behind trees, firing at our advancing jaegers, then retreating about 20 yards behind the next tree, then firing again." Wurmb was meanwhile "continuously in front of the jaegers, encouraging them in every way, both by actions and by words." Finally the Americans retreated to the area of Cooch's Bridge. Howe ordered a simultaneous advance on both flanks of the enemy. On the American right, the attempt of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Abercromby's light infantry got entangled in the woods and bogged down in what was known as "Purgatory Swamp," advancing no further. On the left, Captain Carl August von Wreden with a body of Hessian grenadiers succeeded in gaining the American flank and "cannonaded [them] with some amusettes and charged with bayonets," driving the Americans back in disorder. Major John André wrote that "their flight afterwards became so precipitate that great numbers threw down their arms and blankets." Accounts of casualties vary widely, but probably approached thirty British and 60 American. What was intended to be little more than a delaying action had turned into a bloody skirmish; the initial tenacity of the Americans, as well as their propensity to break when pressed with the bayonet, was a portent of things to come. Howe settled down for several days in Glasgow to rest his troops.
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