New Castle, Delaware
Community History and Archaeology Program 

The Dike Uprising of 1675
An early resistance against involuntary labor?

The "foot dike" (shown in red on this map) ran from the end of New Castle's second street towards Buttonwood House. In early times, the dike and the continuation up to Crane Hook was an important foot path prior to the building of roads.

In 1675 (a hundred years before the revolution) a government order required private citizens to work on Justices Hans Block's dike. Citizens led by a perhaps contentious Finn (Evert Ek) and the Lutheran minister (Jacob Fabritius) protested being required to work on private property. They gathered weapons (swords, pistols, and clubs) and protested this conscription. The "uprising"/"rebellion" was put down, and the participants (except for Fabritius) fined.
"ye said Magister Fabricus, in regard of his being guilty of what is layd to his charge and his former irregular life and conversation be suspended from exercising his functions as a Minister."
Rev. Fabritius did not stop preaching but moved upriver to Tinnicum (Chester) at what is now the Cornithian Yacht club) and continued preaching until his death 9 years later.


Thomas Jacobs and two sons, Pieter and OeleWhite Clay Creek60
Conraeth Groenburgh ofFern Hook20
Carl Jönsson's servant "Copp" (probably a Stalcop son)Marcus Hook60
Stoffel Michel MeyerCrane Hook60
Joran Joransson Båtsman, SrLong Hook120
Pål LarssonFeren Hook20
Evert Hendricksson EkCrane Hook460
Olle Ollesson alias Toarson or TossaVerdrietige Hook60
Paul MånssonVerdrietige Hook60
Jacob Vander VeerBrandywine Creek460
Matthias Mattsson de FossBrandywine Creekactive protestor
From Craig, 1671 Census of the Delaware Crane Hook & New Castle portion (pdf, 3 MB)

The account reprinted below published by Scharf in 1888 makes light of the incident. However, it's in some ways like the petition vs greivances presented to Gov. Johan Printz 30 years before that resulted in one execution and two deaths of deserters by Indian headhunters. Both cases, like many others, are the kind of unfair treatment of citizens that led to the revolution.

The town dike of New Castle was authorized to be built by the magistrates of the town June 4, 1675. But prior to this the small "Mistress Block's Dike" had been dug, but does not seem to have been kept in good repair. The order for the construction of the poure, or town dike, along the marshy lands was as follows:
     "WHEREAS, Govr Edm'd Andross, Lieutenant-General of all the Duke's of York dominions in America, has ordered that the marsh land on the north side of New Castle, on the Delaware River, belonging to Capt. John Carr, should be appraised by four impartial men to be appointed by the Magistrates, therefore they have unanimously chosen Sr Peter Alrichs, Sr Johannes De Haes, Sr Peter Cocke and Sr Lars Andriessen, who after inspection judged the marsh land to be of no value. Thereupon the aforesaid Magistrates have assembled to-day and considered that the Governor's order regarding the construction of a highway could not be carried out unless an outside dike, with sluices, was first made along the water and they commanded, therefore, herewith that all and every male inhabitant of the district of New Castle shall go to work next Monday and assist in making said dike and continue with his work until the aforesaid outside Dyke has been completed; and the men who do more than their share of the work shall be paid for their overwork by those who do not work themselves and hire no laborers; the inhabitants of New Castle shall do an much work pro rata, counting every head, as the country people work or pay for.
     "It is further ordered that Martin Gerretsen, Pieter De Wit and Hendrick Sybratsen shall by turns be officers and have charge of this work and construct the aforesaid dike ten feet wide at the bottom, five feet high and three feet wide on top, providing it with well made and strong floodgates, and the country people shall thereafter not be obliged to do any work on this outside dike or floodgates without being paid for it; while, on the other side, the inhabitants of New Castle shall be held to make necessary repairs on this dike and the floodgates from time to time under condition that they shall also derive the profits from the aforesaid marsh land and have it as their own.
     "The Magistrates have also considered it highly necessary for everybody that the outer dike, running along Mr. Hans Block's Marsh should be repaired and strengthened; they order, therefore, that this dike, like the other, should for this time be repaired and strengthened by all and every male inhabitant of the district of New Castle, but that hereafter the said dike and flood gates shall be repaired from time to time and taken care of by the aforesaid Hans Block or his heirs.
     "The working people shall be divided into three parties by the aforesaid three officers, and each party shall be under command of its officer, and work for two days at the dike, and whoever shall refuse to come to work in his turn, or to send a laborer in his place shall be held to pay to the said officer for each day which he loses the sum of ten guilders in wampum.
     "The aforesaid work must be done and completed within the time of six weeks under penalty of threefold payment, in default whereof they are to remain under bail bonds for its payment.
     "This done and published in New Castle the 4th June, 1675.


Against this order the country people protested to Gov. Andross accepting the construction of the town dike,
     "But not any way willing to repair the dike which belongs to the flye of Hans Block without the privilege thereof, it being the said Hans his owne, and, therefore, belonging to him to make good the dike the whole Company of ye inhabitants or ye most part making the parties named, John Ogle and Dominie Fabricius their speakers, that they were willing to repair the Kings Highway through the flye as also to make and secure the Dike for a foot passage over the river side with sufficient sluices to draine the water out of the flye, but not to be slaves to Hans Block's particular interest, for which cause not only one but all in whose behalf these whose names are underwritten complayne. The flye being by yor Honr apprizers accounted of no value, yett according to yor Honors orders in New Castle, we humbly accept yor honors pleasure therein, and are willing to maintain both ways, so yt we may have the privilege of ye Commonage.


"For the whole company of Crane Hooke.

"Both for the whole company of Cristina Creek."

The inhabitants of New Castle also remonstrated and declared their unwillingness to improve private property. The order caused much bad feeling in the community and acts of violence were attempted. The condition of affairs is set forth by Willam Tom, clerk of the court, in a letter to Governor Andross, June 8, 1675. After speaking of the necessity for the dikes and the causes which led to the order, he says
"That all the inhabitants as above should meet in the Towne, the fourth of June, there to hear read or determination wch was accordingly done in the Church, but after the reading and being opposed (wee returning from the Church) by some of this Towne and a number of the inhabitants wthout in such a mutinous and tumultuous manner, being led on by Fabricus, the priester, Jacob Vande Vere, John Ogle, Bernard Egge, Thomas Jacobson, Juryan Bratesman, Matthew Smyth, Evert Hendricksen and several others, some having swords, some pistols others clubbs wth them wth such despiteful language, saying they wont make neither the one nor the other, that they could not longer be forborne in so much that Capt. Cantwell, High Sheriff, by our consent, calling for the Constable, layd hold of the priester and Ogle, and sent them on board of the Sloope, wth intention for New Yorke, to yor Honor, but the tumult thereupon arising, upon their going on board, cursing and some crying "fatt them on fatt them on"(9*) being most drunk and wee not knowing wt height it might come, they being in such a humor, still crying and all wee were inforced to send for them from on board and discharge them, wch said mutinous way of proceedings, we hope yor honor will not allow it and impossible for us to get justice according to the best of or knowledge, when all of or accouns shall be disputed by a plebeian faction wch will not only force us to leave the bench, but will expose the country to great charges when upon every occasion their frenzical braynes pleases."

He further stated that Mr. De Haes would wait upon his honor in a few days and would transmit his answer and order in the matter, and suggested the propriety of sending two files of soldiers to the river to "keep the people in awe and us in security."

The magistrates gave to the Governor the following reasons for their orders about the dykes:
     "First, To obey the Honble General's order concerning roads to be made from one village to the other. No wagon or cart roads could be made unless the aforesaid dikes and flood-gates had been constructed to keep out the water.
     "Second. There are only a few here, who have a knowledge of such work, especially among the people of New Castle, and they have been compelled to pay their workmen from 30 to 40 guilders a day for such work, so that the people who wanted to labor have earned much and nobody would have lost more than five or six hours work on the public dike and three or four hours on Hans Block's dike.
     "Third. All inhabitants, country people and strangers, would have been compelled to go five or six English miles through the woods to reach Sweenewyck, which is not more than one English mile from here. Now that Mr. Hans Block's dike has been made, although he could make his hay without repairing his dike, as it can be made on other marshes without dikes, he has nevertheless made sixteen parts of his dike at his own expense, besides one-fourth of the dike which had already been made, and has also paid the expenses of making a flood-gate and everything needed thereto; so that the mutineers had not the least reason or cause to make reflections about it or to vent their foul language.
     "Fourth. In case of a war with the savages or other enemies, especially during winter, when the river is closed, it would be very dangerous for us and for our nearest neighbors to go 5 or 6 English miles through the woods in order to assist each other, we need each other in diverse emergencies every day. We request the Honble General to consider the foregoing reply while we rely on your Honor's sound judgment to decide whether we have given the least lawful reason to the community to resist our order and to mutiny.


The Council at New York June 23, 1675, ordered "That some person be sent thither about it. The Governor will think of some fitting person. That with ye person to be sent to Delaware two fyles of soldiers or some other force will be sent likewise."

On the following day the Council ordered that warrants be sent to Delaware for "Jacobus Fabricius and John Ogle as Ringleaders to make their appearance here to answer ye misdemeanor objected agst. them, touching ye late disturbance." The warrants were dated June 26th and forwarded; and on September 26, 1675, it was ordered "That ye said Magister Fabricus, in regard of his being guilty of what is layd to his charge and his former irregular life and conversation be suspended from exercising his functions as a Minister or preaching any more within this government, either in publique or private."

The magistrates of New Castle, not in the least intimidated by the rebellion against their order, directed the people to obey it and, in case of refusal, the high sheriff was to execute the work at the double amount of their expenses. It was delayed, however, for some time, and the order of the magistrates was confirmed by the Governor and the Council, September 15, 1675.

The dikes were built soon after and in November of the same year Walter Wharton was appointed to survey the same. He made report December 5, 1676, "of the length of the Town Dike and Mistress Block's Dike, it being the new worke" as follows: "Martin Garretson's pat, three hundred and six feet; Hendrick Johnson's pat, three hundred and eighteen feet; Peter De Witt's part, five hundred and nineteen feet."

"The whole length of Town Dike, allowing twelve feet for the sluice, is eleven hundred and forty-three feet; Mistress Block's Dike eight hundred and fifty-two feet."

Ten years later the dikes were repaired at the expense of those having a proprietary interest in the commonage, as the former meadow of Captain Carr was then called, and the commonage was subsequently divided by lot, with the understanding that the dikes were to be kept in repair by those holding an interest in it.