The History Of Kings Highway

Photograph shared by the Milford Museum.
Photograph shared by the Milford Museum.

By Barbara Jones, Milford Museum

King’s Highway in South Milford begins a short distance west of Route 113 on the south bank of Haven Lake and continues to South Walnut Street. Located on the road are some of the oldest and loveliest 20th century houses in the community. King’s Highway, also known in some areas as The King’s Road, is an extremely small piece of one of the earliest roads in colonial America. To understand the role The King’s Road played in the history of our country, one needs to know its background.

By the mid-1600s all the settlements on the Atlantic coast and farther inland were under English dominance. King Charles, wishing his American colonists to be in closer communication with one another, requested roads be built between the colonies by “the shortest and most direct routes.” Considering the very different terrains in the colonies and the limited tools available for the job, this would not have been an “over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house” project. However, a king’s request is to be obeyed, even if the roads would be neither short nor direct. The King’s Road began in Boston, Massachusetts in 1673, and was completed sixty five years later in Charleston, South Carolina in 1738.

The piece of the road that is the focus here ran south from New York to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and into Delaware. Before 1700 Delaware was part of William Penn’s land grant. Penn ordered “direct and commodious roads” to be built between New Castle and Lewes. The main road is said to be the present Route 13, which runs the length of the State. The difference here is where it separates leaving Dover.

The main road (Route 13) continues out of Dover south to Canterbury, where a spur veers off to the southeast (Canterbury Road). A mile south of Dover, a second spur breaks from the main road traveling southeast to Frederica, skirting Tub Mill Pond on Swan Creek, and making a circuitous southwest swing toward Milford. This road continues until it connects with the Canterbury Road somewhere in the vicinity of an area originally known as “Three Runs”. “Three Runs” was an area slightly west of Milford where the Presbyterian Branch, Mispillion River and Clark’s Branch converged. The river, south of present day Haven Lake, was forded and the road continued across South Milford to Marshall’s Pond and south to Lewes. A second route extended south from Frederica to the connection of Church and North Streets and then to Northwest Front Street. It then turned west to connect with the other two spurs at “Three Runs”.

Thus we have a brief narrative of The King Road/King’s Highway, Milford’s piece of this national road. Tucked in this story is something of a cautionary tale. King Charles, the one who wanted his colonial subjects to be able to communicate with one another, actually sowed the seeds of his country’s expulsion from his colonies with the King’s Road. Over 100 years later a nation was confirmed when the rag-tag American colonials, using the King’s roads, would defeat the elite English troops at Yorktown, Virginia.