New Castle, Delaware
Community History and Archaeology Program 

Typed notes of Jeannette Eckman (1947)
With permission of Delaware Historical Society
The Bernard Ekon Plot on the Strand

Comprising #30, now owned by Miss Ann J. Dungan, and 35 feet of the Read Garden adjoining
now part of the Philip Laird garden (See Photo #21)

Original Plot 7	South Part

In August, 1650, Director Stuyvesant wrote to the commissary, Andries Hudde, at 
Fort Nassau on the Delaware, that the bearer of the letter, Jan Andriessen of Beren-Back,
had recently arrived from the fatherland and wished to settle on the South River
and gain his subsistence like other freemen. A man of the same name had been at 
this fort as early as 1646; whether they were one and the same is not clear, but 
after Fort Casimir was established in 1651, Jan Andriessen with a number of others
from Fort Nassau each acquired a plot of ground for house and garden on the Strand.
Jan Andriessen is the first owner recorded for the lot immediately north of Andries
Hudde's, that is, north of and adjoining the plot Hudde sold for the Dutch Church. 
Andriessen's confirming patent of 1657 describes the lot as 62' on the Strand 
side, 56' in the rear, and 300' in depth.

Whether Jan Andriessen built on the lot is not certain, but ten years later 
Bernard Ekon, or Eken, is in possession of a house and garden on the site and 
secures a patent for the property, which describes the lot as 60' x 300'.

Eken's only child, a daughter, Margaret, inherited the property. She married 
Reynier Vanderculen, owner of a number of plots in New Castle. Reynier and 
Margaret sold the property in 1693 to John Cann,an outstanding citizen who held 
many offices in the early town, one of them Register of Wills 1684. John Cann's
son, John, divided the lot and sold the south half of it to Jacob Van Gezell, 
merchant, in 1701, the front width of this south half being described as "three 
feet more than the old kitchen". to run back 45' at this width and then to widen 
to the equal half of the 60' plot. The number of front feet is not given in 
successive conveyances of the next hundred years, but later records indicate the 
division to have been 25' for the south part and 351 for the north part. In 1702
Van Gezell sold the house and lot to Cornelius Empson, the county judge and member
of Penn's assembly, who had bought the "Penn house" property on Delaware 
Street in 1696. Empson immediately sold to Richard Clark for 85 pounds, and 
he may have been acting only as attorney for Clark as he had done in other 
property bought by him. The money indicates a fairly substantial house on 
this narrow site at that time.

Richard Clark and his heirs were in possession of the property until 
1720-21, when it was sold for a debt against the Clark estate. There were 
no buyers when the property was first offered, and it was finally bought in 
for the man to whom the estate owed money - Robert Gordon - for 35 pounds. 
Robert Gordon, "gentleman" and Mary, his wife sold to Richard Grafton, 
merchant, in 1728. The property was in the possession of this merchant 
until 1740 when be sold it to Jehu Curtis for 100 pounds. At that time, 
Jehu Curtis lived next door to the north, in the house that was then on that 
larger half of the original lot. Jehu Curtis probably kept an inn at the time
or soon after, for in 1744, when Dr. Alexander 'Hamilton the distinguished 
physician of Annapolis made his trip north through New Castle, he writes in 
his account of the trip, "I arrived at New Castle, upon Delaware, at nine 
o'clock in the morning and baited my horses at one Curtis's at the sign of 
the Indian King, a good house of entertainment." [On his return through 
New Castle, Dr. Hamilton "dined at Griffith's and had some chat with a certain 
virtuoso of the town who came in after dinner". Griffith may have been 
Gideon Griffith, who was sheriff 1744-1748 and wholived in the Tile House.]

In 1743 Jehu Curtis was appointed a justice of the Supreme Court and 
remained in that office until his death in 1753. He was a friend of the 
colonial leaders of his time in Pennsylvania and Delaware. In addition to 
his Judgeship, he was speaker of the colonial assembly and treasurer and 
trustee of the county loan office. The epitaph on his grave stone in 
Immanuel Church yard is attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

Judge Curtis left this house, garden, and stable to his daughter Ann, a 
good business woman. Her husband, Slator Clay, continued the inn, and in 
this dwelling their eleven children grew up. One of Jehu Curtis's 
grandchildren, Elizabeth Booth, writes in her Remeniscences, that the large 
attic room was called "Mount Racket" where the children played and were 
allowed to make as much noise as they pleased. After the death of Ann 
Curtis Clay in 1789, the house was sold to her son-in-law William Lees, 
an English merchant who married her daughter Elizabeth and lived in New 
Castle for a time doing an importing end exporting business in association 
with Thomas Bond.

After William Lees moved with his family to Liverpool, England., the 
property was in the hands of several successive groups of merchants; James 
McCullough, who had a store and tavern on the opposite side of the street 
next to Packet Alley on the north side, bought this property in 1818. The 
house was destroyed in the great fire of 1824. Before that time the plot 
was described in indentures as having a "frame dwelling and frame stable." 
In 1826 there was a "lateley erected brick dwelling house" on the site., 
the present #30. In 1846, the property was sold, for debt of James 
McCullough, to Howell J. Terry. [Howell J. Terry later built the larger 
house on Delaware Street now owned by the New Century Club. In 1855 the 
Second Street end of the original south half was sold to the Trustees of
the Presbyterian Church as part of the site for the new church.]

The frame house shown on the 1804 survey elevations looks as if it might 
have been the original of the Dutch period, probably enlarged at the back 
and kept in good repair by the succession of outstanding professional men 
end merchants who owned as a place of residence as well as a place of 
entertainment or merchant store.


Original Plot 7 - North Part

The sale of the north part of the Eken property to Richard Halliwell is 
recorded in 1703. The actual sale was probably made before 1701 for the Penn 
Grant in 1701 of the water or "bank lot' 60' wide, apposite the whole Eken 
plot, to Richard Halliwell, recites that Halliwell had bought the "greater 
part" of the Strand plot formerly belonging to John Cann. Richard Halliwell, 
merchant and large land owner, was also a justice of the court at New Castle 
for many years, a member of Penn's council and of the assembly. By his will in 
1719 he left to Immanuel Church the tract of land north of the present canal - 
for a church glebe, and his properties on the Strand to his brother Thomas in 
England or to Thomas's son Thomas.

The elder Thomas Halliwell being dead, the nephew came to New Castle and 
transferred his property inheritance to Sarah Needham, who afterward married 
John Potts. Whether this north part of the Eken plot was included in that 
transfer has not been discovered. An indenture for the south part of the lot 
in 1722, describes the north part as "the lot and tenement late of Richard 
Halliwell now of William Read." This William Read was sheriff 1728 to 1730, 
and held other offices earlier. He was a contemporary of John Read, father of 
George Read, the signer, and may have been George Read's uncle. No conveyance 
from William Read has been found. When the south part of the lot was sold to 
Jehu Curtis in 1740. This north part was described as the "lot and tenement in 
which Jehu Curtis now lives." William Bedford had the lot in 1747. He sold to 
Benjamin Price; Thomas Wattson guardian for Price's young daughter and heir 
sold to John Stewart, described in one indenture as "tailor" and in the 
following one as innkeeper.

John Stewart acquired the house and ground in 1767. He mortgaged it to the 
county loan office in 1776, and died before the mortgage was cleared. At 
sheriff sale in 1794, the property was sold to Rainer Penton, who died the 
following year leaving it to his son John.

In the 1804 survey the house is marked "store and post office", and in the 
conveyance of the south part of the Eken plot to James McCullough in 1818, 
this upper part is described as the "tenement and lot wherein Archibald 
Alexander now lives". Alexander was a tenant since at that time the Penton 
heirs owned the property. The house as it was at that time is shown by the 
Latrobe drawing for the 1804 survey. No description of it has been found in 
any indenture. The house was there in 1719 and from its size and style of 
architecture, was probably built by Richard Halliwell after he bought the 
plot in 1701, and may have incorporated an earlier smaller house.

How long Dr. Alexander had lived there before 1818 has not been determined 
in this search. He was a distinguished citizen and physician one of the 
founders of the Delaware State Medical Society in 1789, and a man of broad 
interests. In the Delaware Gazette, 27 May 1797, "the New Castle Book Store" 
is advertised by A. Alexander, having "laws of the United States" and other 
books for sale. In that year he bought the large plot of land on the Third 
Street opposite the Green and built the large double dwelling still known as 
the "Alexander houses"., between that year and 1804, when they appear on the 
survey map. Dr. Alexander was a member of the five-man commission appointed in 
1797 to survey the town and act as its governing council.

The house was destroyed in the fire of 1824. Ten years later, Eliza Penton, 
heir of John Penton, sold the lot to George Read II, for $500. $100 was paid 
at the time and the mortgage of $400 was cleared by Read's son, William T. 
Read in 1838. Since that time it has been a part of the Reed garden, now of 
Philip Laird.