In the middle of the 17th century, an area of the bay was claimed by the Dutch as part of the
New Netherland colony. It was also settled by the Swedish, as part of the New Sweden colony, resulting in considerable conflicts with the Dutch, who eventually took control of the area. Things got even more confusing, history-wise, when the British came in and took control of the area. Eventually, after a couple of wars (e.g. the Third Anglo-Dutch War) and a couple of treaties (e.g. The Peace of Breda) some degree of peace was established in the area. States such as Delaware, Virginia, New York and « were carved out of this humungous territory. Realizing the strategic importance of the area, it was quickly settled by people from both sides of the Pennsylvania Atlantic. This influx of new citizens eventually lead to the growth of the city of Philadelphia upriver on the Delaware – a soon-to-be prosperous settlement that eventually became the largest city in North America during the 18th century.
The military importance of the bay was noticed by the Marquis de Lafayette during the American Revolutionary War. As you may remember from high school history,
Lafayette was a wealthy French citizen who came to to support the Revolution. He befriended George Washington and was with him at America Valley Forge. It was Lafayette who proposed (to whom, we don’t know) the use of Pea Patch Island located at the head of the bay for a defensive fortification to protect the important ports of Philadelphia and . New Castle, Delaware
And, if indeed, legend is as much of history as fact then there is at least one persistent story about how this unique island claimed its name. It seems that the captain of a ship that was plying the
Delaware Bay didn’t realize how shallow the sandbar was in the middle. As is often the case with sea captains who don’t pay attention to water depths - his ship ran aground and subsequently sank. The ship’s freight was peas – nothing but peas. Lots of peas! Bushels of peas! Tons of peas! Incredibly, they sprouted and thrived - catching silt coming down the river. The silt piled up and the peas kept growing until it was eventually two acres of prime Delaware Bay real estate. Fort Delaware was later constructed on the aptly named « and during the American Civil War it was used as a Union prison camp. Pea Patch Island
Today Delaware Bay is a major estuary outlet of the
Delaware River. The bay is one of the most important navigational channels in the United States, and is one of the busiest waterways in the United States (not surprisingly, the Mississippi River is the busiest). The bay, approximately 782 square miles (2,030 km²) in area, is bordered by the states of New Jersey and . The shores of the Bay are largely composed of salt marshes and mud flats, with a sprinkling of small communities dotting the shore of the lower bay. Besides the Delaware River, it is fed by numerous small streams and its lower course forms part of the Delaware Intracoastal Waterway. For centuries, the bay has served as an important breeding ground for many aquatic species, including oysters, shad, herring and, those ubiquitous horseshoe crabs.
was named, not for William Penn, but rather for his father – Sir William Penn. It seems as though Charles II owed a large debt (£16,000) to Penn Senior. The king offered one of history’s largest land grants as repayment. It was named Pennsylvania Pennsylvania (“Penn’s Woods”) in honor of William Penn (the son) wanted the tract to be named “ Sir Penn. ” so that people wouldn’t think he named it for himself. However, King Charles prevailed and, ever since, it has been called Sylvania . Pennsylvania
« Despite what you may have heard, there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that this island was the inspiration for John Lennon’s song, “Give Peas a Chance.”