New Castle, Delaware
Community History and Archaeology Program 

Clipping of the article in the Star from the Richard Rodney scrapbook. Courtesy Richard Cooch and the New Castle Historical Society.
Click on image to see full item.

Alexander B. Cooper's
History Of New Castle, Delaware

In addition to the Scharff's 1888 local and general histories, the 1938 Writer's Project and recent histories of New Castle there's a history of New Castle written by a man who lived there in the late 1800's, and whose friends and relatives knew first hand about the old times such as the building and operation of the NC & Frenchtown RR, the robbery of the Farmers Bank, and local churches, banks, stores, restaurants etc.

They're available in Google's now defunct project to scan selected newspapers. While not easy to read and portions are undeniably dry, like who occupied which rooms in the court house, or the name of ministers of the major churches since their founding, there are many interesting tidbits about New Castle history. They are in the 45 articles published between 1906-1908 by Alexander B. Cooper in the Sunday Star. To read them, click on the link to the articles, click on the full screen icon , then use the arrow keys to move the page. For example, did you know:

* The Town Hall originally stored fire engines for TWO competing fire companies, one in each side. Part XII (page 6, top left)
* The coal wharf near the flagpole was an almost never used boondoggle that was a trysting place, menace to navigation and cause of much litigation Part XLII
* Lawyers and judges used to meet in the Stockton house on Packet alley at lunch. When Cooper was admitted to the Bar, his initiation required donation of a case of champagne to the Bar bar Part XVIII
* Cotton was grown between the "old Moody House" (a.k.a. Amstel House) and the poor house Part XXXIII
* Pistol-shot by pistol-shot details of the robbery attempt at the Farmer's Bank Part XXX
* The Opera house was built for TWO organizations -- Masons and IOOF, and that there were two other large buildings in town for other fraternal organizations: Red Men and Knights of Pythias Part XXXV
* The Trustees supported NC public schools for white children (until the money was needed for the water company). Part XXIX
* Water was supplied from a creek to the basin on Basin Rd until problems with algae led to TWO separate water companies Part XIX
* The Arsenal (with its four named cannon) was taken back from the U.S. on a technicality in the deed. Part XXV

Alexander Bradshaw Cooper was a lawyer who lived and worked in New Castle from 1868 to 1924. His public positions included City of New Castle Solicitor, U. S. District Attorney, assistant Attorney General, prosecutor and state senator. He was interested in the history of the town and wrote an article on Fort Casimir, which was published in 1905 in the Historical Society of Delaware journal. Cooper published 45 articles in the Sunday Star from 1906 to 1908. His original typed notes that were used by the newspaper's typesetter are preserved at the Delaware Historical Society. On these are both the corrections Cooper made that were incorporated in the paper, and notes that he added up to 1913 that may have been intended for some possible publication of the work in book form.

His history includes items where he had first hand knowledge, for example events in the courthouse and town hall (where he worked), the library company (of which he was president), the Presbyterian church choir (of which he was a member) and firefighting (he was part of the bucket brigade at a fire on the Strand in 1870).

His secondary sources included his brother, Richard G. Cooper, the Farmer's Bank cashier who was involved in the shootout during a robbery, and friend and neighbor Joseph H. Rogers who remembered Lafayette's arrival in town in 1824. Rogers was the engineer who laid the second track of the New Castle and Frenchtown RR.

We caution that this history may be incorrect in places, especially about early events. Since there are few references cited, it may be difficult to tell if his assertions are based in documented fact.

The Delaware Historical Society has very fragile and partially fragmented original issues of the paper. The New Castle Historical Society has a fragile scrapbook of clippings of the articles made by Richard Rodney up to Part 37. Both societies have copies of the typed notes. Google recently scanned all but one of the 45 parts of the Star articles. However, they are illegible in places, are not currently searchable and there are no indexes that will easily allow them to be located. Therefore, we present this index of the articles to make them more accessible, and an index to the google scans for those who wish to view the original articles.

Jim Meek '13
New Castle Historical Society