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Sussex County, Delaware
Sussex County Courthouse, Georgetown
Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown, Delaware
Map of Delaware highlighting Sussex County
Location in the state of Delaware
Map of USA DE
Delaware's location in the U.S.
Founded 1683
Seat Georgetown
Largest city Milford (partial)
Seaford (whole)
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

1,195.65 sq mi (3,097 km²)
937.58 sq mi (2,428 km²)
258.07 sq mi (668 km²), 21.58%
 - (2011)
 - Density

210/sq mi (81.1/km²)
Congressional district At-large
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4

Sussex County is a county located in the southern part of the U.S. state of Delaware. As of the 2010 census, its population was 197,145, an increase of 25.9% over the previous decade.[1] The county seat is Georgetown. The Seaford Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is the largest micropolitan area in the United States, includes all of Sussex County.

Sussex County is Delaware's largest county by land area, with 938 square miles (2,429 km2). The first European settlement in the state of Delaware was founded in 1631 near the present-day town of Lewes. However, Sussex County was not organized until 1683.

History Edit


Archaeologists estimate that the first inhabitants of Sussex County, the southernmost county in Delaware, arrived between 10,000 and 14,000 years ago. Native Americans in Sussex County called themselves by the various tribal names of the Algonquin Nation. The most prominent tribes in the area were the Leni Lenape and Nanticoke tribes. The people settled along the numerous bodies of water in the area where they were able to harvest fish, oysters, and other shellfish in the fall and winter. In the warmer months they planted crops, and hunted deer and other small mammals as larger game was not present in the area.

European discoveryEdit

There is no agreement on which group was the first to settle in Sussex County. In the early years of exploration, from 1593 to 1630, many feel the Spanish or Portuguese were probably the first Europeans to see the Delaware River and the lands of present day Sussex County.

Henry Hudson, on his expedition for the Dutch West India Company, discovered the Delaware River in 1609. Attempting to following him, Samuel Argall, an English explorer, was blown off course in 1610 and landed in a strange bay that he named after the Governor of Virginia, Thomas West, Lord De La Warr.

In the first half of 1613, Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, a Dutch navigator, discovered and named both Cape May, New Jersey and Cape Henlopen, (originally Hindlopen) in the Delaware Bay. Later it was found that what May had named Henlopen, was actually Fenwick Island protruding into the Atlantic Ocean, and the name of the cape was moved to its present location just east of Lewes.

European settlementEdit

Sussex County was the site of the first European settlement in Delaware, a trading post named Zwaanendael at the present site of Lewes. On June 3, 1631, Dutch captain David Pietersen de Vries landed along the shores of the Delaware to establish a whaling colony in the mid-Atlantic of the New World. The colony only lasted until 1632, when De Vries left. Upon returning to Zwaanendael that December, he found the Indian tribes had killed his men and burned the colony. The Dutch then set about settling the area once again.

Although the Dutch and Swedes returned to resettle the Delaware River region as early as 1638, much of the Delaware Bay area south of what is today the city of Newcastle remained unsettled until 1662, when a grant of land at the Hoernkills (the area around Cape Henlopen, near the current town of Lewes) was made by the city of Amsterdam to a party of Mennonites. A total of 35 men were to be included in the settlement, led by a Pieter Cornelisz Plockhoy of Zierikzee and funded by a sizable loan from the city to get them established. This settlement, established in 1663, was organized in part to threats from the English colony of Maryland to the west beginning to assert its own rights over the area. The timing of the settlement was terrible, as the English wrested New Netherland from the Dutch in 1664, and they had the settlement destroyed that same year with British reports indicating that “not even a nail” was left there.[2]

Settlement in the area after the English ejected the Dutch was slow. The Swedes and Finns that had settled in the area from the days of New Sweden had generally welcomed the English and were allowed to stay; the few Dutch found in the area were rounded up as prisoners and sent to Virginia as slaves. Lord Baltimore also encouraged Marylanders to move east to settle the area. But the land was far removed from other, more established settlements and did not appeal to many new settlers. It was also becoming a tempting wilderness for pirates to hide out from authorities and regularly pillage the settlers for supplies.

The Dutch briefly recaptured the territory in 1673 as part of the Third Anglo-Dutch War. At that point, they established courts in the town of New Castle and at the Hoerkill at the southern end of the territory, effectively creating two counties out of the territory. After the war concluded in 1674, the Delaware territory was again returned to the English, at which point it was placed under the control of James Stuart, Duke of York. In 1680, the Duke reorganized the territory south of the Mispillion River as Deale County with the county seat at New Deale (modern-day Lewes); and created a third county, St. Jones, out of the Delaware territory between the Mispillion River and Duck Creek. In 1682, English King Charles II awarded the Delaware territories to William Penn in settlement of family debts, and Penn reorganized all three Delaware counties: Deale County become Sussex County, and St. Jones County became Kent County, in recognition of Penn's homelands in Sussex County, England. He brought two hundred people over from Sussex, England as colonists.[3] The town of New Deale was also renamed Lewistown (today known as Lewes). At this time, Penn also claimed that the Delaware territory extended as far south as Fenwick Island. The 'Three Lower Counties' (Delaware) along Delaware Bay moved into Penn's sphere of settlement and became the Delaware Colony, a satellite of Pennsylvania.

But the boundary disputes continued between Pennsylvania and Maryland. Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore and William Penn both claimed the land between the 39th and 40th parallels according to the charters granted to each colony. Whereas Penn claimed the Delaware territories extended to Fenwick Island, Calvert claimed the Colony ended at Lewes with all the land south of the settlement belonging to Somerset County.[4]

In 1732 Charles Calvert signed a territorial agreement with William Penn's sons that drew a line somewhere in between the two colonies and also renounced Calvert's claim to Delaware. But Lord Baltimore later claimed that the document he signed did not contain the terms he had agreed to, and refused to put the agreement into effect. Beginning in the mid-1730s, violence erupted between settlers claiming various loyalties to Maryland and Pennsylvania. The border conflict between Pennsylvania and Maryland would be known as Cresap's War.

The issue was unresolved until the Crown intervened in 1760, ordering Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore to accept the 1732 agreement. As part of the settlement, the Penns and Calverts commissioned the English team of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon to survey the newly established boundaries between the Province of Pennsylvania, the Province of Maryland, Delaware Colony and parts of Colony and Old Dominion of Virginia.

Between 1763 and 1767, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed the Mason-Dixon line settling Sussex County's western and southern borders. After Pennsylvania abolished slavery in 1781, the western part of this line and the Ohio River became a border between free and slave states, although Delaware remained a slave state.

In 1769 a movement started to move the county seat from Lewes to the area then known as Cross Roads, the present day site of Milton. The current county seat of Georgetown was settled upon on January 27, 1791 after residents in western Sussex County successfully petitioned the Delaware General Assembly to move the county seat to a central location as roads at the time made it too difficult to reach the county seat in Lewes.[5] Georgetown was not a previously established town and on May 9, 1791, the 10 commissioners headed by President of the State Senate George Mitchell negotiated the purchase of 76 acres (308,000 m2) and Commissioner Rhodes Shankland began the survey by laying out "a spacious square of 100 yards (91 m) each way." Eventually the town was laid out in a circle one mile (1.6 km) across, centered on the original square surveyed by Shankland and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Georgetown was named after Senate President George Mitchell.[6]

Sussex County has been known by several names over the years including Susan County, Hoorenkill or Whorekill County as named by the Dutch prior to 1680 when Kent County broke off, Deale County from 1680 to 1682 after being taken over by the British under James Stuart, Duke of York prior to signing over to William Penn, and Durham County when claimed by the Lords Baltimore during the boundary dispute with the Penn family.[7]

Law and government Edit

Sussex county's government is composed of an elected legislature and various elective executive heads of departments.

The county council has five members; all are elected in and for specific geographic subdivisions for four years. This forms the legislative authority of the county, which then chooses a "County Administrator" or executive.

The county council members are Council President Michael H. Vincent (R), Vice President Samuel R. Wilson (R), Vance Phillips (R), George Cole (R), and Joan Deaver (D).[8]

The additional offices of Clerk of the Peace, Register of Deeds, Register of Wills and Sheriff are elected at large.[9] These positions are held by George Parish, Scott Dailey, Cynthia Green, and Jeffrey Christopher, respectively.[10][11]

Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democrat
2012 56% 52,116 43% 39,971
2008 54% 47,939 45% 40,299
2004 60% 47,003 39% 30,098
2000 52% 34,620 44% 29,739


Unlike Northern Delaware, particularly New Castle County, Sussex County is very conservative. Sussex County has long been a Republican Party stronghold. Republicans dominate county council with only one district electing a Democrat.

Education Edit


Sussex County is served by eight public school districts.[12]

  • Cape Henlopen School District
  • Delmar School District
  • Indian River School District
  • Laurel School District
  • Milford School District (also serves Kent County)
  • Seaford School District
  • Sussex Technical School District (County-wide overlay school district)
  • Woodbridge School District

The county also contains one charter school, the Sussex Academy of Arts & Sciences.[13]

Those state funded public high schools which participate in sporting events are members of the Henlopen Conference.


There are several private schools in Sussex County: Bible Center Christian Academy (Laurel), Children Craft CO (Seaford), Christian Tabernacle Academy (Lincoln), Destiny Christian School (Georgetown), Eagle's Nest Christian School (Milton), Epworth Christian School (Laurel), Greenwood Mennonite School (Greenwood), Harbor Christian Academy (Ellendale), The Jefferson School (Georgetown), Jesus Is Lord Christian Academy (Georgetown), Lighthouse Christian School (Dagsboro), Lighted Pathway Christian Academy (Seaford), Milford Christian School (Milford) and Seaford Christian Academy (Seaford).[14]

Higher educationEdit

There are several colleges and universities in Sussex County. Delaware Technical & Community College has the largest presence in the county, but students can also attend Delaware State University, Goldey-Beacom College, University of Delaware, Wesley College all in Georgetown, the Philadelphia Bible College in Ellendale, and the Beebe Hospital School of Nursing in Lewes. The University of Delaware also maintains a marine science campus in Lewes.

Geography Edit

According to the 2000 census, the county has a total area of 1,195.65 square miles (3,096.7 km2), of which 937.58 square miles (2,428.3 km2) (or 78.42%) is land and 258.07 square miles (668.4 km2) (or 21.58%) is water.[15]

Sussex County, like all of Delaware's counties, is subdivided into Hundreds. There are several explanations given for how the Hundreds were arrived at, being an area containing 100 families, an area containing 100 people, or an area that could raise 100 soldiers.[16][17] Sussex County is apportioned into eleven Hundreds: Cedar Creek, Broadkiln, Georgetown, Nanticoke, North West Fork, Broad Creek, Little Creek, Dagsboro', Baltimore, Indian River, and Lewes & Rehoboth.

The eastern portion of the county is home to most of Delaware's beaches and many seaside resorts. The western side of the county is center of Delaware's agriculture industry with more acres of arable land under cultivation than anywhere else in the state.

Adjacent counties Edit

¹ across Delaware Bay; no land border

Major highways Edit

There are three major north-south highways in Sussex County:

In addition, Sussex has a number of east-west thoroughfares, the primary being U.S. Route 9. State Routes 16, 18, 20, 24, 30, 54 and 404 also service the area, providing alternatives east-west routes to most municipalities in the county.

National protected areaEdit

Economy Edit

The average home and property price in Sussex County increased 250% in the ten years between 1995 and 2005. Local increases within Sussex County for this period include a 381% increase for Millsboro and a 609% increase for Millville. Sussex County is served by the Delaware Coast Line Railway, the Maryland & Delaware Railway and the Norfolk Southern Railway.[18]

Sussex County produces the most poultry of any county in the United States.[19][20]

Demographics Edit

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1790 20,488
1800 19,358 −5.5%
1810 27,750 43.4%
1820 24,057 −13.3%
1830 27,115 12.7%
1840 25,093 −7.5%
1850 25,936 3.4%
1860 29,615 14.2%
1870 31,696 7.0%
1880 36,018 13.6%
1890 38,647 7.3%
1900 42,276 9.4%
1910 46,413 9.8%
1920 43,741 −5.8%
1930 45,507 4.0%
1940 52,502 15.4%
1950 61,336 16.8%
1960 73,195 19.3%
1970 80,356 9.8%
1980 98,004 22.0%
1990 113,229 15.5%
2000 156,638 38.3%
2010 197,145 25.9%
Est. 2011 200,330 27.9%
U.S. Decennial Census
2011 estimate

As of the census of 2000, there were 156,638 people, 62,577 households, and 43,866 families residing in the county. The population density was 167 people per square mile (64/km²). There were 93,070 housing units at an average density of 99 per square mile (38/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 80.35% White, 14.89% Black or African American, 0.60% Native American, 0.75% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 2.02% from other races, and 1.35% from two or more races. 4.41% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 14.9% were of English, 14.3% United States or American (Mostly British), 12.9% Irish, 12.5% German and 5.6% Italian ancestry according to Census 2000. 93.3% spoke English and 4.3% Spanish as their first language.

There were 62,577 households out of which 27.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.90% were married couples living together, 11.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.90% were non-families. 24.30% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.88.

In the county the population was spread out with 22.50% under the age of 18, 7.00% from 18 to 24, 26.30% from 25 to 44, 25.60% from 45 to 64, and 18.50% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 95.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.80 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $39,208, and the median income for a family was $45,203. Males had a median income of $30,811 versus $23,625 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,328. About 7.70% of families and 10.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.00% of those under age 18 and 8.40% of those age 65 or over.

Cities and towns Edit

Non-incorporated communities Edit

Festivals, fairs, and events Edit

Sussex County, Delaware is home to several festivals, fairs, and events. Some of the more notable festivals are the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral to mark the end of summer, Apple Scrapple Festival and the World Championship Punkin Chunkin held in Bridgeville, the Return Day Parade held after elections in even-numbered years in Georgetown, the Laurel Independence Day Celebration, the Nanticoke Indian Pow Wow in Oak Orchard, the Rehoboth Beach Chocolate Festival, the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival, the Sea Witch Halloween Festival and Parade in Rehoboth Beach, and Seaford Riverfest. Also, Sussex County is the home of the Senior League Softball World Series in Roxana at the Lower Sussex Little League Field.

Media outlets Edit

Newspapers Edit

Radio stations Edit

Call sign Frequency City of license[21][22] Owner[23] Format[23][24]
WAFL 0097.7 FM Milford Delmarva Broadcasting Company Hot Adult Contemporary
WGBG 0098.5 FM Seaford Great Scott Broadcasting Classic Rock
WGMD 0092.7 FM Rehoboth Beach Resort Broadcasting Co., LLC News Talk Information
WJKI 0103.5 FM Bethany Beach Great Scott Broadcasting Classic Rock
WJWK 1280 AM Seaford Great Scott Broadcasting Spanish Variety
WJWL 0900 AM Georgetown Great Scott Broadcasting Spanish Variety
WKDB 0095.3 FM Laurel Great Scott Broadcasting Contemporary Hit Radio
WLBW 0092.1 FM Fenwick Island Clear Channel Communications Oldies
WNCL 0101.3 FM Milford Delmarva Broadcasting Company Oldies
WOCM 0098.1 FM Selbyville Irie Radio, Inc. Album Adult Alternative
WKZP 0095.9 FM Bethany Beach Clear Channel Communications Sports Talk
WRBG-LP 0107.9 FM Millsboro Rhythm and Blues Group Harmonty Association, Inc.
WYUS 0930 AM Milford Delmarva Broadcasting Company Spanish Contemporary
WZBH 0093.5 FM Georgetown Great Scott Broadcasting Active Rock
WZEB 0101.7 FM Ocean View Great Scott Broadcasting Contemporary Hit Radio
WXDE 0105.9 FM Lewes Delmarva Broadcasting Company Country

Television stations Edit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^ [Scharf, Thomas J., History of Delaware, 1609 – 1888, 1888
  3. ^ Lower, Mark Antony (1865). Worthies of Sussex: Biographical sketches of the most eminent natives or inhabitants of the county. Lewes: Sussex Advertiser. p. 341. 
  4. ^ Sussex County, Delaware: USGenWeb Project
  5. ^ Sussex County – History
  6. ^ At The Beach-Georgetown, Delaware History
  7. ^ Sussex County, Delaware Genealogical Records Information
  8. ^ "Sussex County – Council". Sussex County Council. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Sussex County – Government Structure". Sussex County Council. Archived from the original on October 26, 2006. Retrieved December 16, 2006. 
  10. ^ "Sussex County – Departments". Sussex County. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  11. ^ "New Class of County Officials Sworn In". MILFORD LIVE, LLC. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Delaware Public School Districts for K-12 Education". Delaware Educational Directory. Delaware Department of Education. Retrieved March 11, 2008. 
  13. ^ Department of Education (2010-2011 school year). "List of Delaware Charter Schools". State of Delaware. Retrieved September 14, 2010. 
  14. ^ Sussex County, Delaware Private Schools
  15. ^ "Census 2000 U.S. Gazetteer Files: Counties". United States Census. Retrieved February 13, 2011. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Mike Chalmers (May 22, 2006). "Looking to live in Sussex? Good luck". The News Journal. pp. A1, A6. Retrieved March 22. 
  19. ^ Cohen, Micah (August 31, 2012). "Delaware: A Small Example of a Larger Trend". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved September 5, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Community Data". Sussex County. September 2012. Retrieved September 5, 2012. 
  21. ^ FM Query – FM Radio Technical Information – Audio Division (FCC) USA
  22. ^ AM Query – AM Radio Technical Information – Audio Division (FCC) USA
  23. ^ a b Inside Radio/M Street
  24. ^ Station Information Profile

External links Edit

Coordinates: 38°41′N 75°20′W / 38.68, -75.34

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Sussex County, Delaware. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.