The Coming of the Railroad

The Delaware Railroad Comes to Seaford

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     The coming of the railroad to Seaford was not an easy task. William Henry Harrison Ross was one of the many people responsible for the railroad becoming a reality.  In 1849, William Ross, and a few of his friends, became interested in constructing a railroad from Seaford to Lewes or maybe building a line from Seaford to Dona Landing near Dover.  The idea of having a railroad in Seaford was not popular, and they had a hard time finding support and financial backing.  At first there was general distrust and apathy, as demonstrated through an Annual Stockholders of the Delaware Railroad Report. It quotes some of the criticism commonly expressed during this time. “A peninsular railroad! Who ever heard of such a thing?  A railroad in Kent and Sussex! What would be the use of it?  These counties produced nothing but mosquitoes and bilious fevers; the people had no business to travel for, and slight means to travel on.”

     You can imagine that these insults must have made William Ross and his supporters even more determined to bring the railroad here. The friends and supporters of William Ross were Charles I. DuPont, Thomas B. Bradford, William Cannon, Henry Ridgely, Alexander Johnson, Henry B. Fiddeman, Charles Wright, William O.. Redden, Andrew C. Gray, Edward Gilpin, Jesse Lane, Jesse Sharpe and Samuel Felton.   After many years of hard work, as well as personal and financial sacrifices, Ross and his supporters earned the respect and popularity needed to silence their critics.  Eventually, their efforts attracted the interest of the Delaware Railroad to extend their line from Wilmington to Seaford.

     The railroad to Seaford opened on December 1, 1856.  The first train actually came to Seaford on December 11, 1856.  This train was full of stockholders and invited guests from Philadelphia and Wilmington, who came to celebrate the opening of the railroad.  The train’s arrival was greeted by a thirteen gun salute and loud cheers by thousands of Sussex County residents. Banners hung at the station with mottos that read: “These iron bands unite us!” “Delaware shall blossom as the rose!” “The luxuries of earth and ocean!” “Uncle Sam’s peach pocket!”  There was a prayer by the Rev. Thomas B. Bradford, and Chief Justice Samuel M. Harrington, President of the Company, addressed the large crowd that had gathered despite the terrible weather.

      A meeting was organized that day at three o’clock, and from a motion by William Cannon, the following officers of the railroad were selected: His Excellency, Peter D. Causey, President; Ex-Governors, David Hazzard, William H. Ross, William Temple, and William Tharp, Vice-Presidents; George W.S. Nicholson and John Allerdice, Secretaries. The railroad was named the Delaware Railroad and it started in New Castle, DE.  The Delaware Railroad ended on the north bank of the Nanticoke River, in Seaford, when it opened in 1856.  In 1860, the railroad was extended to Delmar, DE.  In 1869, it was extended to Cambridge, MD.

This is the original poster announcing the opening of the Delaware Railroad in Seaford in 1856.

Stock Certificate for the Cambridge & Seaford R.R. Company dated May 3, 1889