Family Fun Day to Unite Ellendale


by Terry Rogers


The town of Ellendale will be the site of an event designed to give back to and unite the community. The Ellendale Family Fun Day Festival is planned for Saturday September 21 from 10 AM until 3 PM. The event will be held in the Town Park behind Town Hall at 300 McCaulley Avenue on Willow Street.

“The Ellendale Family Fun Day Festival is designed to provide health, education and awareness,” Mayor Kim Hughes said. “There is no admission fee. I wanted to provide an event to put Ellendale on the map, per se, by giving back and bringing the community back together like we were in years past.”

Troop 2 will land at the event at noon and there will be a DJ providing music all day. A K-9 demonstration will be held and the tentative time for that demonstration will be around 11 AM, although the time may be adjusted on the day of the event. There will be inflatables for children, food and sales vendors along with educational booths. Walgreens will give free flu shots, there will be fire truck rides and information on fire prevention as well as a Hurst tool demonstration by the Ellendale Fire Company. Many of the vendors will provide information on issues that face the Ellendale community along with other communities in the area.

“This event helps the community by providing educational and health awareness for adults and children,” Mayor Hughes said. “It brings neighbors and residents of both the in-and-out of town areas to promote unity in Ellendale and the surrounding communities. We are looking for volunteers to man stations, give breaks, promote safety, set up, clean up and more.” Anyone interested in volunteering can call 302-422-6727 or email

The town of Ellendale has a long, rich history. The area was initially a swamp and forest hunted by the Nanticoke Indian Tribe until they were driven out by the Lenni Lenape Tribe on the Battle Green near Chestnut Ridge, a hill on the northern side of the area. A Native American trade route passed through Ellendale, known as the Lenape Trace, allowing Native Americans to trade from Pocomoke City, Maryland, to Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. In 1740, the tract of land was deeded as Bennett’s Pleasure. In the early 18th century, Ellendale was a popular location for hunters and fur traders, although it was not long before farming pushed back the swamp.

Before the American Revolution, the area was known as the Nanticoke Swamp and criminals were often known to hide there due to boundary disputes between Maryland and Delaware who both claimed the area as their own. During the fight for independence, the area became a refuge for loyalists at the time of the 1780 Black Camp Insurrection. This was a loyalist uprising who opposed the independence movement and attempted to secure Sussex County for the British. The rebellion began on July 15 until around August 10, when the militia forces arrested the participants. Most of those who rebelled were poor farmers from the Cedar Creek, Milford, Lewes and Seaford areas who were frustrated with the situation they were in do to the war.

Bartholomew Barnum and William Dutton lead the rebellion. Sussex County was far from Philadelphia, Boston and New York where rebellion was rampant. The residents had little issue with how Britain managed the new colonies and were resentful that the revolution interrupted their livelihoods. Markets in Philadelphia and Baltimore closed and they were dealing with seizure of their products by both sides of the war. That same year, there was a severe drought that destroyed the summer wheat crop, pushing many farmers into destitution. After the British secured Charleston, it was rumored that all southern states were about to be secured by the British.

Barnum, a local small planter, created a group of farmers from Broadkill Hundred while William Dutton created a similar group from Cedar Creek Hundred. William Ratcliffe, Job Townsend and Sengo Potter also joined the Cedar Creek group which eventually merged with the Broadkill group. They set up camp in the Black Swamp and traveled the countryside seizing arms and ammunition of families who sympathized with the revolution. However, the groups were poorly organized and knew nothing of military tactics. The state learned of the insurrection and sent General John Dagworthy from Kent County to disperse the group. Many were arrested and faced fines of as much as £10,000. However, it appears the government took mercy on the poorest of those involved. William Deputy, Solomon Veach and John Workman, all tenant farmers, were only assessed £1. A few were ordered to serve in the Continental Army and 37 of them were sentenced to death although no death sentences were carried out. All were pardoned on November 4, 1780.

In the 19th century, the Old State Road was built to connect Georgetown, the new county seat, with Dover, the state capital. After the Civil War, African Americans who were recently freed took up residence in the area and the railroad was built. The original town of Ellendale was founded near what was known as the Morris Tavern Crossroads by a handful of families. There is not any definitive explanation for the name of the town, although it is believed it was named for the daughter of Alfred Short, a state legislator, the wife of Dr. John S. Prettyman who laid out the town or the daughter of Mr. Thomas William Dale, chief engineer of the survey team that established the railroad.

The town center shifted east when the Junction and Breakwater Railroad depot was built in the town. In 1873, the Ellendale Methodist Episcopal Church erected a church, parsonage and school in town while the economy grew with companies like the RJ Clendaniel Sawmill, Jester & Reed Canning Company, canneries, brickyards, basket factory and the Phillip J. Ritter Ketchup Company. The Ellendale Excelsior Company along with a button factory were also located in the town. The construction of Dupont Highway led to the decline of the railroad and the economy of Ellendale was impacted.  

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