Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Filpot, Kilpot or Shellpot - The history of Shellpot Creek on maps.

The creek that flows through my backyard that is currently called Shellpot Creek, wasn't always called that, it didn't even always empty into the Delaware river. Early maps (late 1600's) show the creek with various names and have it emptying into the Brandywine. It is famously know as the boundary of Valentine Hollingsworth's plantation "New Worke" or "New Ark". He arrived to settle in Pennsylvania in 1682, only months after William Penn.

The USGS has a name server where you can search for geographical features in the United States. The Shellpot Creek entry lists some older names for the creek and conveniently provides some citations, which spurred this study.

Names of Shellpot Creek:
  • Kitthantemessink
  • Schillpades Creek
  • Schilpatts Creek
  • Secellpot Creek
  • Shell Creek
  • Shelpot Creek
  • Shilpot Creek
  • Shilpts Creek
  • Skilpot Creek
  • Filpot River
  • Philpot River
  • Shillpot Creek
Not all of the maps below came from the USGS citations as my searches turned up more references to early maps of northern Delaware. (click on any of the maps below for a larger picture).

The earliest map in English that I have found shows Shellpot creek as the Filpot river. And this is not a "f" for "s" mistake as often happens with early typography since elsewhere in the map capitol "S" is rendered as "S" not as "F". This map dates from 1687, only a few years after Hollingsworth's arrival in Delaware.

Reference: The City of Philadelphia two Miles in Length and one in Breadth.
Inset to: A Mapp of Ye Improved Part of Pennsylvania in America, Divided into Countyes, Townships and Lotts. Surveyed by Thomas Holme. Sold by George Willdey at the Great Toy, Spectacle, and Print Shop, at the corner of Ludgate Street, near St. Paul's, London. 1687. (source)

My favorite alternate name for the Shellpot creek name is from a 1688 map showing the creek as Kilpot creek, shown above. This time it appears to empty into the Delaware. It is possible that the mapmaker has mistaken Naamans Creek for Shellpot (Kilpot) creek, but there is an unnamed creek (in the middle of Chichester) between Kilpot and Chester creek that could be Naamans Creek.

Reference: A NEW MAP OF NEW JARSEY AND PENSILVANIA BY ROBT. MORDEN , page 567 from Geography Rectified: Or A Description of the World, .....The Second Edition Enlarged by Robert Morden London, Printed for Robert Morden and Thomas Cockerill MDCLXXXVIII (Burden #650), 1688. (source, see 1688.1, full map)

This map from 1775 names the creek Shilpot Creek and once again shows that it empties into the Brandywine. Farther north up the Delaware River is Naamans Creek. The atlas that this map comes from is one that George Washington and the founding fathers might have used to understand the war situation during the American revolution.

Reference: A Map Of Pennsylvania Exhibiting not only The Improved Parts of that Province, but also Its Extensive Frontiers: Laid down From Actual Surveys, and Chiefly From The Late Map of W. Scull Published in 1770; And Humbly Inscribed To The Honourable Thomas Penn And Richard Penn Esquires True And Absolute Proprietaries & Governors Of The Province Of Pennsylvania and the Territories thereunto belonging. London Printed for Robt. Sayer & J. Bennett ... June 1775. (source, uses Java applet to view maps)

Here is map clipped from a larger map showing Shellpot creek as Fillpot creek. Could they have perhaps used the Thomas Holme map as a reference? The numbers in the river are depths for ship navigation. I fear this map would have been useful to British ships prosecuting the Americans in the Revolutionary War.

Reference: A chart of Delawar River from Bombay Hook to Ridley Creek, with soundings &c taken by Lt. Knight of the Navy. The Atlantic Neptune. London: Des Barres, 1779. (source, map)

This 1778 map shows the creek as Shilpot creek.

Reference: This map of the peninsula between Delaware & Chesopeak Bays, with the said bays and shores adjacent drawn from the most accurate surveys. Churchman, John. Philadelphia? 1778? (source, map in zoomable view from LOC)

There have been travel guides throughout all of history. If you wanted to get from Philadelphia to Washington or to new York in 1804 you could have used Moore's and Jones' excellent guide. North is down in the map above because it is showing the route of travel to Washington from Philadelphia in the southerly direction. This closeup of Map 4 shows that between mile 25 and 26 a traveller would cross over Shillpot creek just after they came back down Shillpot hill.

Reference: Road from Philadelphia to Washington. (Maps) 1, 2, 3 and 4. from
The Traveller's Directory, Or A Pocket Companion: Shewing The Course Of The Main Road Philadelphia To New York, And From Philadelphia To Washington. ... From Actual Survey. By S.S. Moore & T.W. Jones. Philadelphia: Printed For, And Published By, Mathew Carey. 1802. (source)

When we jump forward to 1868, Shellpot Creek becomes Shell Pott Creek, but at least that looks more like its modern name. I have shown another portion of this map before in reference to the Newark Union Cemetery where Valentine Hollingsworth is buried.
Atlas of the State of Delaware, Pomeroy and Beers, 1868 (source click on the hundreds for map in .pdf, map in .pdf)

Shellpot creek takes its modern name if not its modern location on this image, joined from two sections of the 1904 USGS survey maps. (It is a combination of sections from the Northeast Wilmington quad and the Southeast West chester quad, source maps for Delaware in 1904)

The story of when Shellpot Creek was redirected to empty into the Delaware river (sometime after 1937) instead of the Brandywine will be in an upcoming investigation.


L. Harvey Kirk said...

Mr. Koehler - Thank you for the very informative blog on Shellpot Creek. I am researching my family's history in Brandywine Hundred, and this was exactly what the doctor ordered. The family was spread between Brandywine Creek and Shellpot Creek. The maps were great and the explanation had all the detail I desired. Are those maps in the public domain? I might like to use one to help illustrate the limited publication family history I am writing. Any chance you are likewise as knowledgeable on the old mills and properties along the Brandywine? I know Adam Kirk had a grist mill there, and another one of my ancestors married an Alice Vandever (Vandever was shown on one of those maps.) Please reply - my E-mail is nesshagg@comcast.net

Roy Hemmer said...

Thank you for the information on Shellpot Creek. I came searching for info because I purchased an oil painting of a creek flowing under a railroad bridge. The back of the canvas is labeled "Shelpot Creek Northern Delaware 1963." I am trying to identify the exact location.

Richard said...

Roy, I would love to see a picture of the painting that you purchased. I might be able to help identify the location. Who is the artist?

Dutchman said...

The Dutch settlers are responsible for the name. 'Schildpad' is the Dutch word for 'turtle' or 'tortoise'.

Brandywine is also a name of Dutch origin.

I thought you might find this interesting.

Roy Hemmer said...

I'm sorry it has taken so long to respond to your message to me about the Shellpot Creek painting I mentioned on your blog. It is too long a story to go into but I stopped blogging shortly after posting that and had only recently opened the associated email account to find your reply.If you are still available and able to receive a photo from me please tell me where I can email it. And, thank you for your offer.