The March of Progress in Glasgow

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Pencader Presbyterian Church – 1852

The once quiet crossroads village of Glasgow, tucked away near the Mason Dixon Line, hums with activity these days.  This hub of Delaware commerce, filled with shops, fast-food restaurants, and gas stations, wasn’t always this way and the march of progress has swept away many of the traces of the earlier historical fabric. But if you look carefully you will see some remaining 19th century relics, artifacts that reveal a past that was here long before vehicles jammed modern roads and housing developments replaced corn as the product sprouting up on farm fields in the spring.

Long before the Revolutionary War, John Aiken opened a storehouse and tavern at the intersection of two major Delmarva roadways.  Having selected such a beneficial location for travelers, the business prospered and a small village slowly grew up around the inn.  The crossroads were known as Aiken’s Tavern or Aikentown, before becoming Glasgow in the 19th century according to a Delaware Historical Marker.

For generations, the hamlet grew slowly and steadily.  By 1874 farmers from miles around were well supplied with their daily needs by a carpenter, blacksmith, hotel, merchant, mill, paper hanger, physician, shoemaker, undertaker, wheelwright, coach painter and undertaker.  In the immediate area of the small commercial center, there were over fifty farmers and fruit growers, according the Delaware Directory of 1874.

“Glasgow is a small village in the central part of Pencader Hundred, in the midst of a highly productive agricultural section,” is the way the Delaware Directory described Glasgow in 1874.  “The new Penn and Delaware Railroad is within 2 miles of the village and the Delaware R. R. within 3 ½ miles of it.”

Eight years later, the Delaware State Peninsula Directory that it was a “flourishing village of about 350 inhabitants.  It had “two churches . . . , a good public school, good stores and other evidences of a progressive spirit.  Two first-rate steam thrashing machines” were owned by James Sapp and Elwood Dayett.”

The rural east-west road across the peninsula, from the State Line to New Castle, turned into a four lane highway crossing through undeveloped open farm land on its journey toward the Delaware River by 1937.  In the last decades of the 20th century this divided highway had become what aaroads.com calls “a suburban main street,” as commerce, developments and traffic lights, stretching across the entire route, filled up practically all open space.

Progress has a way of trampling artifacts of the past but to help preserve the heritage of the area the Aiken’s Tavern Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.  Resources from the 19th century in the district include the Pencader Presbyterian Church (1852), two cemeteries, the Middleton House (before 1818), a frame shop building, mechanics row (1810), and a three-story brick house listed as the Manse (1850).

The next time you visit People’s Plaza or some establishment in Glasgow, venture over to the northern part of the old village.  This area remains relatively undisturbed by the heavy commercial intrusions along Route 40 and in the southern part of the crossroads.  It’s a great place to pause to enjoy the vestige of this village. a preserved historic spot in Delaware.

1874 delaware directory glasgow

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From the Beers Atlas of Delaware, 1868:  Source  David Rumsey Map Collection Online

From the Beers Atlas of Delaware, 1868: Source David Rumsey Map Collection Online 

1874 delaware directory glasgow

The Delaware Directory for 1874.

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