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New Castle County, Delaware
Seal of New Castle County, Delaware
Map of Delaware highlighting New Castle County
Location in the state of Delaware
Map of the U.S. highlighting Delaware
Delaware's location in the U.S.
Founded 1637
Seat Wilmington
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

494 sq mi (1,279 km²)
426 sq mi (1,103 km²)
67 sq mi (174 km²), 13.62%
 - (2000)
 - Density

1,173/sq mi (453/km²)

New Castle County is the northernmost of the three counties of the U.S. state of Delaware. As of 2000 its population was 500,265. The county seat is Wilmington. The center of population of Delaware is located in New Castle County, in the town of Townsend [1]. It is the most affluent county in the state of Delaware.

This county is part of the Delaware Valley area.

History[edit | edit source]

The first permanent settlement on Delaware soil was Fort Christina, resulting from Peter Minuit's 1638 expedition in the Kalmar Nyckel. The town was laid out where Wilmington presently exists, and the land contracted with the Indians consisted of Old Cape Henlopen north to Sankikans (Trenton Falls), and inland as far as they desired. However, a dispute ensued between the Swedes and the Dutch, who stated they had prior claim to that land.

In 1640, New Sweden was founded a few miles south of Christina, and in 1644, Queen Christina appointed Lt. Col. Johan Printz as Governor of New Sweden. She directed boundaries to be set and to reach Cape Henlopen north along the west side of Godyn's Bay (Delaware Bay), up the South River (Delaware River), past Minquas Kill (Christina River), to Sankikans (Trenton Falls). Printz settled on Tinicum Island, making it the seat of government and capital of New Sweden.

Peter Stuyvesant, Governor of New Netherland, sailed up the South River in 1651. He purchased land from the Indians that covered Minquas Kill to Bompties Hook (Bombay Hook), part of this purchase had already been sold to the Swedes in 1638. Stuyvesant, unaware of any dishonesty, began to build Fort Casimir (contemporary New Castle).

In 1654, John Rising, Commissary and Councilor to the Governor Lt. Col. Printz, officially assumed Printz's duties and began to extricate all Dutch from New Sweden. Fort Casimir surrendered and was renamed Fort Trinity in 1654. The Swedes were now in complete possession of the west side of the Delaware River. On June 21, 1654, the Indians met with the Swedes to reaffirm the purchase.

The Dutch, having learned of the fall of Fort Casimir, sent Stuyvesant to drive the Swedes from both sides of the river. Only the Dutch were allowed to settle in the area and on August 31, 1655, the territory was converted back to Fort Casimir. Consequently, Fort Christina fell on September 15th and New Netherland ruled once again. John Paul Jacquet was immediately appointed Governor, making New Amstel the capital of the Dutch-controlled colony.

As payment for regaining the territory, Dutch West India Company conveyed land from the south side of Christina Kill to Bombay Hook, and as far west as Minquas land. This land was known as the Colony of The City. On December 22, 1663, the Dutch transferred property rights to the territory along the Delaware River to England. In 1664, the Duke of York, James, was granted this land by King Charles II. One of the first acts by the Duke was to order removal of all Dutch from New Amsterdam; the name was then changed from New Amstel to New Castle. In 1672, the town of New Castle was incorporated and English law ordered. However, in 1673, the Dutch attacked the territory, reclaiming it for their own.

On September 12, 1673, the Dutch established New Amstel in present-day Delaware, fairly coterminous with today's New Castle County. The establishment was not stable, however, and it was transferred to the British under the Treaty of Westminster on February 9, 1674.

On November 6, 1674, New Amstel was made dependent on New York Colony, and was renamed New Castle on November 11, 1674.

On September 22, 1676, New Castle County was formally placed under the Duke of York's laws. It gained land from Upland County on November 12, 1678.

On June 21, 1680, St. Jones County was carved from New Castle County. It is known today as Kent County.

On August 24, 1682, New Castle County, along with the rest of the surrounding land, was transferred from the Colony of New York to the possession of William Penn, who established the Colony of Delaware.

  • 1673 - 1682 Information Source: NEW YORK: Atlas of Historical County Boundaries by Kathryn Ford Thorne and John H. Long.

"In the local government of seventeenth century England, the justice of the peace was the key figure. Collectively, the justices composed the county court which governed the county......." In September 1673, a Dutch council established a court at New Castle with the boundaries defined as north of Steen Kill (present-day Stoney Creek) and south to Bomties Hook (renamed Bombay Hook). In 1681, a 12-mile arc was drawn to specifically delineate the northern border of New Castle County as it currently exists. In 1685, the western border was finally established by King James II; this was set as a line from Old Cape Henlopen (presently Fenwick) west to the middle of the peninsula and north up to the middle of the peninsula to the 40th parallel of Latitude.

Geography[edit | edit source]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,278 km² (494 sq mi). 1,104 km² (426 sq mi) of it is land, and 174 km² (67 sq mi) of it (13.62%) is water.

Adjacent Counties[edit | edit source]

Demographics[edit | edit source]

As of the census² of 2000, there are 500,265 people, 188,935 households, and 127,153 families residing in the county. The population density is 453/km² (1,174/sq mi). There are 199,521 housing units at an average density of 181/km² (468/sq mi). The racial makeup of the county is 73.12% White, 20.22% Black or African American, 0.20% Native American, 2.59% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.22% from other races, and 1.62% from two or more races. 5.26% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. 14.6% were of Irish, 11.4% Italian, 10.9% German, 8.8% English and 5.4% Polish ancestry according to Census 2000. 89.5% spoke English and 5.3% Spanish as their first language.

There are 188,935 households out of which 32.50% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.60% are married couples living together, 13.40% have a female householder with no husband present, and 32.70% are non-families. 25.70% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.50% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.56 and the average family size is 3.09.

In the county the population is spread out with 24.90% under the age of 18, 10.30% from 18 to 24, 31.50% from 25 to 44, 21.70% from 45 to 64, and 11.60% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 35 years. For every 100 females there are 94.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 90.80 males.

The median income for a household in the county is $52,419, and the median income for a family is $62,144. Males have a median income of $42,541 versus $31,829 for females. The per capita income for the county is $25,413. 8.40% of the population and 5.60% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 10.20% of those under the age of 18 and 7.40% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Government[edit | edit source]

Executive[edit | edit source]

The county is headed by a County Executive, who is elected to a maximum of two, four-year terms. The incumbent is Democrat Christopher A. Coons, a former president of the New Castle County Council. The Chief Administrative Officer, who is the County's second-in-command, is appointed by the County Executive and serves at his or her pleasure. The current CAO is Jeffrey Bullock.

Legislative[edit | edit source]

The county's legislative body is a thirteen-member County Council, consisting of twelve members elected by district and one President elected at large. Each County Council member is limited to two, four-year terms.

New Castle County Council doubled in size to thirteen from seven members in 2004.

The current President is Paul Clark (D). The current County Council members are:

  • District 1: Joe Reda (D)
  • District 2: Robert S. Weiner (R)
  • District 3: William J. Tansey (R)
  • District 4: Penrose Hollins (D)
  • District 5: Stephanie McClellan (D)
  • District 6: Bill Powers (D)
  • District 7: George Smiley (D)
  • District 8: John J. Cartier (D)
  • District 9: Timothy P. Sheldon (D)
  • District 10: Jea P. Street (D)
  • District 11: David L. Tackett (D)
  • District 12: Bill Bell (D)

Further information can be found at:

Judiciary[edit | edit source]

As with Delaware's other two counties, New Castle County has no judiciary of its own. All judicial functions, with the exception of Alderman's Courts, are managed and funded by the State of Delaware.

In New Castle County, only the cities of Newport and Newark have Alderman's Courts. These Courts have jurisdiction over driving offenses, misdemeanor criminal charges, and minor civil claims.

Row offices[edit | edit source]

The County retains the concept of "row offices" from Pennsylvania, so-called because all of these county offices could be found in a row in smaller courthouses. In Delaware, these offices are Recorder of Deeds, Sheriff, Register of Wills, Clerk of the Peace, and Register in Chancery.

The office of Clerk of the Peace is unique among the 50 states; the office-holder's function is almost exclusively to perform marriages. The current incumbent is Kenneth W. Boulden, Jr. (D)

The Register of Chancery is the Clerk of the Court of Chancery. This office is scheduled to be taken over and funded by the State of Delaware in the near future. The incumbent is Dianne M. Kempski (D).

The Sheriff of New Castle County has two divisions, criminal and civil. The criminal division is based in the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington. The deputies assigned to this division organize and manage capias returns. They also transport prisoners for Superior Court, Court of Common Pleas, and Family Court. The civil division serves legal process, performs levies & impounds and sells property in satisfaction of judgments. The civil division also locates and apprehends individuals wanted for civil capias. The current Sheriff is Michael P. Walsh (D).

The Recorder of Deeds is Michael Kozikowski (D). His office is responsible for receiving and recording deeds, mortgages and satisfactions thereof, assignments, commissions of judges, notaries, and military officers. The Recorder of Deeds' office is heavily computerized; electronic images of all recent documents and many others are available the office is in the process of imaging further back with the eventual goal of all documents in the office's possession being available electronically. Computerized indexing and searching is also available. [2]

The Register of Wills is Diane C. Streett, Esquire. Her office receives and records wills and small-estate affidavits upon an individual's death, and issues letters of administration to estate executors.

Zoning and public works[edit | edit source]

New Castle County has a strong zoning code, known as the Unified Development Code, or UDC. The UDC was shepherded (some would say forced through) by the Gordon Administration in response to public perception of over- and misdevelopment in the county. New building projects must go through an arduous process of application and approval before construction is permitted to begin.

By operation of state law, New Castle County has no responsibility whatsoever for maintenance of roadways. Public roadways are maintained exclusively by the Delaware Department of Transportation, while roadways within neighborhoods and developments are, pursuant to County code, maintained by homeowner's or neighborhood associations.

The Department of Special Services maintains essential infrastructure elements such as sewers, water mains, and the like. It also maintains County-owned parks and recreation departments.

Municipalities[edit | edit source]

Like the rest of the State of Delaware, New Castle County has relatively few incorporated areas. This stands in stark contrast to neighboring Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where townships, towns, and cities form a virtually continuous patchwork of municipalities.

Most incorporated areas have home rule and are free to enact their own city and building codes, and set their own election dates.

Developments and neighborhoods[edit | edit source]

Delaware, and particularly New Castle County, may be unique in that residents, when asked where they live, will more often respond with the name of their development (or neighborhood in the city of Wilmington) than the name of their town or city. This is likely due in large part to the relative dearth of incorporated areas in the county, going back to the historical division of Delaware into unincorporated hundreds.

Many developments and some neighborhoods are prominently marked on state maps, and most have state-erected markers signifying their entrances. Some developments are large enough to be considered unincorporated villages, while others may have only one street. Significantly, Delaware driver's licenses list the licensee's development or neighborhood as well as the actual street address.

Incorporated cities and towns[edit | edit source]

Unincorporated communities and census-designated places[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Coordinates: 39°35′N 75°38′W / 39.58, -75.64

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