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Western Sussex County

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The state song “Our Delaware” (c. 1906) celebrates “Dear old Sussex … of the holly and the pine”—Coastal Plain flora abundant in the swampy woods of the western half of the county, culminating in the great Cypress Swamp between Gumboro and Selbyville. Huge bald cypresses hundreds of years old have escaped the axe at Trap Pond State Park near Laurel. In this land of abundant timber, wooden architecture was the norm, and much of it has disappeared with time. The Maryland influence in architecture was especially strong here: atypically for Delaware, the land drains west into the Nanticoke River basin, and early trade and settlement came up the many-pronged creeks from Caroline, Dorchester, and Somerset counties on the Eastern Shore. Only with the coming of the railroad in the 1850s was a full link established to Delaware itself. Towns sprang up along the line: Greenwood, Bridgeville, Delmar—the latter preserving a rare “highball” (a white ball that was raised and lowered to indicate track conditions) railroad signal device. Although industry transformed Seaford in the twentieth century with the coming of the DuPont nylon plant (WS17), most of the region remained a quiet rural enclave until development pressures began to grow in the 1990s.

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard

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