Delaware is a comparably small state in our massive nation, but even though the land mass is somewhat less than the average state, the contributions of those from this state, who in the past stood up to lead this fledgling nation, remain an integral part of our history. This history can be found preserved for all of us in a museum in the capital city of Wilmington. In the old town area known as Willingtown Square, we found all kinds of interesting historical things to see. The square itself honors Thomas Willing and the original name of the town he helped found in 1731. The four brick structures found there were built between 1748 and 1801 and represent the types of houses common in early Willingtown. Buildings like these often served as both businesses and residences. Each has only one or two rooms per floor. Large families both lived and worked in these small spaces. By the 1960s, the older neighborhoods in which these houses originally stood were slated for urban renewal. Only a determined effort by preservationists rallying to move the buildings to a site on Market Street saved them from the planned destruction. The move was completed in 1976 at which time responsibility for preserving the houses was turned over to the Historical Society of Delaware. Across the street is the entrance to the Historical Museum which tells the story of the state from pre-Columbian times to the near present. Even before entering, we were introduced to one of the states most cherished birds. The state bird of Delaware is, believe it or not, the Blue Hen Chicken. Delaware is the poultry state with an estimated 387 chickens per person in the state. With this bit of trivia, we entered into the museum and the history of a delightful state. THE FIRST COLONY: In March of 1638, two ships flying the Swedish flag sailed up the Delaware and into the Christina River. The leader of the party, Peter Minbet, claimed the land for Sweden and built Fort Christina in honor of Sweden's child-queen. After trading with the Native Americans, exchanging cheap goods for furs and tobacco, Minbet set sail for Europe. He left behind a small group of Swedes and Finns and one African slave by the name of Black Anthony who had been brought from the Caribbean. They began the New Sweden Colony the first permanent settlement in what would become Delaware. The colony would grow to about 200 men, women and children who lived on farms spread along the East and west sides of the Delaware River. No group of settlers in North America survived better then those of the New Sweden Colony. Used to great forests, harsh winters and a simple way of life, they brought their skills, built their farms and created new lives for themselves and their children along the Delaware. Even when their governor surrendered to a stronger Dutch force from New Amsterdam, most of the Swedish colonists chose to stay in their adopted land. Black Anthony, now a freeman stayed too.
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