On Friday, October 18, a state historical marker was dedicated at the location of the former home of Col. John Haslet, an Irish immigrant who was the father of Governor Joseph Haslet and a hero in the Revolutionary War. Kate Fair, the Historical Marker’s Coordinator for the Delaware Public Archives and Stephen Marz, Director of the Delaware Public Archives, along with state and local officials were on hand for the unveiling of the monument, located on the south side of Airport Road in Milford.
John Haslet, born in Ulster, Ireland around 1728, immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1757, serving in the Pennsylvania militia during the French and Indian War. Col. Haslet eventually moved to Delaware, attending the Three Runs Meeting House, which sat along the south side of Kings Road leading into Milford. The first record of Col. Haslet living in Milford is in the will of John Brinkle (Brinkloe) ini 1764. Col. Haslet, who was a practicing physician, attended John Brinkle on his deathbed in 1764, and soon after took Mr. Brinkle’s widow, Jemima, as his second wife. Col. Haslet’s first wife, Shirley Stirliing, with whom he had a daughter, Mary, died in childbirth in Ireland. Mary, who was called Polly, was raised by an uncle before joining her father in America in 1765.
Col. Haslet, who had been ordained as a Presbyterian minister in Ireland, chose to establish a medical practice in Milford instead of continuing his ministry. He and Jemima had four children – Ann, Jemima, John and Joseph, who later became Governor of Delaware. At the time of his marriage to Jemima, Col. Haslet lived near the site of the Teal Point Hunt Club. After their marriage, he began purchasing land in an area known as Longfield at the site where the Milford Business Park is located today.
Col. Haslet’s fellow Three Runs congregation member, Caesar Rodney, who was serving in the Continental Congress, urged his friend to begin building a militia. On January 19, 1776, Col. Haslet took command of the Delaware Blues. Although they were the only regiment from Delaware to fight in the Revolutionary War, they were the largest regiment with 800 men. While leading the Delaware Blues, Col. Haslet fought in the Battle of Long Island under Brigadier General William Alexander. On December 26, 1776, Col. Haslet crossed the Delaware with George Washington and joined the attack on Trenton.
On January 3, 1777, in the Battle of Princeton, General Hugh Mercer who was leading the skirmish, was shot and killed at the beginning of the battle. Col. Haslet took command after the death of General Mercer and was shot in the head as he attempted to rally the troops after the death of the general. When it was over, General Washington acknowledged the victory at the battle, but lamented that he had lost “two important leaders, Mercer and Haslet.”
Originally, Col. Haslet was buried in Philadelphia but his body was moved to the Presbyterian cemetery in Dover on July 4, 1841 by act of the Delaware legislature after the cemetery where he was originally interred was abandoned for commercial interests.
“We want to thank those who worked tirelessly to have this memorial placed,” said Stephen Marz. “Dave Kenton and the Col. Haslet Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution were instrumental in getting this monument installed. The historical markers program began 80 years ago, and the state archives do not choose what historic site receives a memorial. The more than 500 markers throughout the state were recommended by private citizens who work with their legislators to recognize areas that need historical reminders.” Several state legislators were on hand for the dedication as well.
“There are a lot of people who question why we go to the trouble to do this,” said Representative Dave Wilson. “This is our history and it lets future generations learn more about the people that came before them.”