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The Hundreds of Delaware


"Hundreds" is a geographic division, smaller than counties and roughly equivalent to the division "townships" in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Delaware is the only state which currently uses this division. There are thirty-three hundreds today. The most recent changes to hundreds were in the 1870s when the last two were established: Gumboro in 1873 and Blackbird in 1875. Prior to the 1960s, hundreds were used as voting districts and as units for reporting taxes. The remaining use of hundreds today is in property tax assessments (tax parcel numbers are assigned by hundreds).

The use of hundreds in America dates back to colonial days. Hundreds were used as a sub-county division in England and were introduced in some of the British colonies. For Delaware, the origin is cited as a letter written in 1682 by William Penn, the newly-appointed Lord Proprietor of the province of Pennsylvania and the counties on the Delaware. Penn directed that from this point onward, settlements be divided into sections of 100 families. The first use of the term Hundred in official records relating to the Delaware colony dates to 1687, when reference is made to "a list of taxables of north side of Duck Creek Hundred." (from the New Castle County court records, Returns of the Constables, as cited in Scharf, p. 611f).

Following are selected references relating to hundreds:

Delaware Genealogical Research Guide (p. 5):

On 25 Oct 1682, William Penn directed that Delaware be divided into townships occupied by 100 families where each family would have an average of about ten members (including servants). These townships were referred to as "hundreds" in a 9 Apr 1690 order by the Provincial Council. Originally, there were five hundreds in New Castle County, five in Kent County and two in Sussex County. As the population grew, several of the hundreds divided, creating new hundreds. In 1875, the total number of hundreds had grown to the present-day thirty-three hundreds. Their boundaries have essentially not changed since and no longer serve as judicial or legislative districts.

Munroe, History of Delaware (p. 49):

A hundred is an old English subdivision of a county, its origin shrouded in mystery.... The name was used in many colonies but survived in America only in Delaware, probably because there the counties were all established so early – by 1680 – that little reorganization was needed. In New England, the newer English term, town, replaced hundred, and in Pennsylvania and New Jersey the term township was adopted.

Scharf, History of Delaware, quotation from a letter by William Penn to the justices of the peace in Sussex county (25th of Tenth Month, 1682) (p. 611 note):

That you endeavor to seat the land that shall hereafter be taken up in the way of townships. As three thousand acres amongst Tenn familys; if single persons one thousand acres. Amongst Tenn of them laid out in the nature of a long square five or Tenn of a side, and a way of two hundred foot broad left between them for an Highway in the Township, and I would have you careful for the future good and grate benefit of your country.

On page 84, Scharf uses the terms "three lower counties" and "Delaware Hundreds" interchangeably.

Delaware 1782 Tax Assessment and Census Lists (p. 2):

A "hundred" is an old Saxon land division which is smaller than a county or shire and larger than a tithing. It comprised ten tithings of ten freeholder families each, or 100 families.

List of Hundreds

Delaware Counties and Hundreds
Location: Internet (http://delgensoc.org/delhund.html)
A list of Delaware hundreds and links to a list of Delaware place names.

Maps of Hundreds on the Internet

Delaware 1775-1830 Map / The Delaware Divide
Location: Internet (http://delgensoc.org/dedivide.html)
Map of hundreds. The map also depicts the "Delaware Divide," the east-west water flow division.
Delaware Map of Hundreds (1875 to present)
Location: Internet (http://www2.lib.udel.edu/subj/genealogy/resguide/hund.jpg)
From Delaware Place Names, U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin, no.1245.
Delaware 1868 Hundreds Maps
Location: Internet (http://history.delaware.gov/information/GISdata/Hundreds_Maps/hundredspdf.html)
PDF images of the maps of hundreds as they appeared in the Atlas of the State of Delaware by Daniel G. Beers, 1868.
Maps of Delaware & the Mid-Atlantic Region (Historic Map Collection)
Location: Internet (http://fletcher.lib.udel.edu/collections/hmc/index.htm)
Color jpg images of the maps from Atlas of the State of Delaware by Daniel G. Beers, 1868. To find the Beers maps, choose the Search option and search for: beers.

Voting and the Reapportionment Cases

In 1964, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Delaware case disallowed state election districts based solely on geography. Following this, Delaware redrew its boundaries based on population. The case was Roman v. Sincock 377 US 695 (1964). The case can be found in Findlaw: U.S. Supreme Court Opinions and in LexisNexis Academic Universe [Library Database, restricted to University of Delaware].

The Delaware case Roman v. Sincock 377 US 695 (1964) was one of six cases commonly referred to as "the Reapportionment Cases." In these cases, the districting methods for state legislative elections were declared to be in violation of the principle of "one man, one vote." The states were directed to redraw the districts to more closely represent equal areas of population and to redraw districts after each decennial census. The equal population requirement was to apply to both houses, if the legislature were bicameral. According to the Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court (p. 710): "These cases effectively declared the apportionment of every state legislature unconstitutional."


References

Delaware Genealogical Research Guide. 3d ed. Wilmington, DE: Delaware Genealogical Society, 2002.
Location: Morris Library - Reference (Ref F163 .D349 2002)
Location: Morris Library - Special Collections (Del F163 .D349 2002)
The most important guide for doing genealogical research in Delaware. It covers specific types of records and where they can be found in the state. Edited by Thomas P. Doherty and published by the Delaware Genealogical Society (http://delgensoc.org). Includes maps of Hundreds:
Heck, L.W. Delaware Place Names. U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin, no. 1245. Washington, DC: GPO, 1966.
Location: Morris Library - Reference (Ref F162 .U54)
Location: Morris Library - U.S. Documents (U.S. Doc I 19.3:1245)
Location: Morris Library - Special Collections (Del F162 .U54)
Location: Internet (http://genealogyud.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/usgs.pdf)
Includes a map of hundreds 1875 to present (p. 5).
Delaware 1782 Tax Assessment and Census Lists. Ralph D. Nelson, Jr., ed. Wilmington, DE: Delaware Genealogical Society, 1994.
Location: Morris Library - Special Collections (Del F163 .D45x 1994)
Location: Morris Library - Reference (Ref F163 .D45x 1994)
Transcription and index of the names of taxable persons collected in a state census in 1782. Includes maps of hundreds in 1782 (p. 5) and 1877 to present (p. 6). The returns are available in the Delaware Public Archives.
Miller, J.L. "First State's Hundreds Endure into Millennium," Wilmington News Journal, Sec. A, p. 1 and 5, August 30, 1999.
Munroe, John A. History of Delaware. 4th ed. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 2001.
Location: Morris Library - Reference (Ref F164 .M83 2001)
Includes a map of hundreds, p. 149.
The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Location: Morris Library - Reference (Ref KF8742 .A35 O93 2005)
Scharf, John Thomas. History of Delaware, 1609-1888. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Richards, 1888.
Location: Morris Library - Reference (Ref F164 .S33 1976)
Location: Library Databases (via American County Histories to 1900) [restricted to UD]
A comprehensive history of Delaware and its people. Vol. 2 contains histories of New Castle County (p. 611-1028), Kent County (p. 1028-1200), and of Sussex County (p. 1200-1346). There is a 3-volume index: Index to J. Thomas Scharf, 3 vols. Wilmington: Historical Society of Delaware, 1976. Note: the author's name is pronounced "Skarf."
Williams, William Henry. Slavery and Freedom in Delaware, 1639-1865. Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 1996.
Location: Morris Library (E445 .D3 W55 1996)
Location: Morris Library - Special Collections (Del E445 .D3 W55 1996)
Includes a map of Delaware Hundreds in 1800, p. x.

More Information

Bibliography of Delaware Through 1960. By Henry Clay Reed. Newark, DE: Published for the Institute of Delaware History and Culture by the University of Delaware Press, 1966.
Location: Internet (http://www.lib.udel.edu/digital/dbd.php) (Digital Bibliography of Delaware)
Location: Morris Library - Reference (Ref F164B .R43)
Location: Morris Library - Special Collections (Del Z1267 .R4)
Location: Morris Library (F164B .R43)
See, especially, the sections on "Biography and Family History" and "History." Has an index that includes people, places, and topics, for example: "churches" and "wills."
Bibliography of Delaware, 1960-1974. By the University of Delaware Library, Reference Department. Newark, DE: University of Delaware, 1976.
Location: Internet (http://www.lib.udel.edu/digital/dbd.php) (Digital Bibliography of Delaware)
Location: Morris Library - Reference (Ref F164B .H84 1976)
Location: Morris Library - Special Collections (Del Z1267 .H84 1976)
Location: Morris Library (Z1267 .H84 1976)
See, especially, the sections on "Biography and Family History" and "History." Has an index that includes people, places, and topics, for example: "probate records" and "genealogy."

This page is maintained by Rebecca Knight, Reference Department.

Version: 5/2010
Last modified: 11/24/10