The mention of Piccadilly immediately brings to mind a famous street in London, England. Few would recognize it, however, as a small 18th century village in Delaware. Piccadilly — located some three miles south of Dover — was also known as Mifflin’s Crossroads, for Daniel Mifflin, who owned land intersected by Forrest Landing Road (later Commerce Street and now Camden-Wyoming Avenue) and Upper King’s Road (Main Street).
In his history of the town, Patrick Dyer says that, by 1798, the community of Mifflin’s Crossroads had adopted the name Camden. The arrival of the railroad in 1856 to this farming community motivated George Stetson and William Ellison to establish a vegetable canning factory that shipped its products to market by rail.
Soon, newly-constructed homes reflected the prosperity of the local inhabitants. Joan Robinson Medland’s brief history “Camden” confirmed the “canning industry … ensured a prosperous economy into the 20th century.”
Prior to 1800, Camden consisted of Brecknock (1685) and 55 other dwellings, including those of James Newman (1750), James M. Clyment (1780), Edward Cole (1780), the Cooper family (1782), Jonathan Wallace (1785), the Edmondson family (1788), Nimrod Maxwell (1790) and John Millis (1790).
Medland refers to the 1800 census of Kent County that describes “Camden, a small town situated on ye main road leading from Dover to Canterbury, containing 56 dwelling houses, 11 of which is brick and 323 inhabitants, mostly [Society of] Friends & Methodists.”
The Friends, or Quakers, were abolitionists and set the tone for the community by freeing their slaves. Some of the prominent abolitionist families were the Hunns, Jenkins, Lowbers, Dolbys, Nocks and Howells. It is understood that these members of the Friends were active in the Underground Railroad that ran from Maryland through Delaware toward Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Among the homes within the community that were believed to have served as stations on this route to freedom for escaped slaves are those at 11 and 15 Main Street in Camden.
One of these homes reportedly had a room with cots above the kitchen, where slaves were hidden. In keeping with the secrecy required for security purposes, records were not kept of this Underground Railroad activity.
The fine homes built since 1800 were those of the Townsend family (1800) and Jonathan Jenkins (1812), the Kimmey-Ridgely House (1813) and Spruce Acres (1848), among others. The 1868 map of Camden from Pomeroy & Beers “Atlas of the State of Delaware” displays a town clustered around the crossroads of Commerce and Main Streets. The size and shape of the community changed little over the next nine years, as reflected by Cray’s 1877 “New Map of Camden.”
A prominent citizen of Camden was William Kirkley Lockwood, born in 1786. He and his wife, Mary, had a son, Henry Hayes Lockwood, who graduated from West Point in 1836. After serving for three years, he resigned from the Army and became a professor of mathematics at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
The outbreak of hostilities within the United States in 1861 interrupted Lockwood’s tenure as a professor when Gov. William Burton appointed him colonel of the 1st Delaware Regiment. By 1863, Lockwood commanded a brigade of infantry as a brigadier general and marched off to Gettysburg as part of the Army of the Potomac’s 12th Corps.
Lockwood’s brigade was engaged in the desperate fighting for control of Culp’s Hill on the morning of July 3, a confrontation in which the Union army eventually repulsed the attacking Confederates. In his official report, Lockwood commended “the courage and good conduct of every officer and man engaged in this fearful enterprise.”
Following the Battle of Gettysburg, Lockwood took charge of the garrison at Harper’s Ferry, W.Va., and later received appointment as commander of the Union Army Middle Department, with headquarters at Baltimore, Md. He numbered among other high-ranking Delawareans who fought for the Union cause during the Civil War, including Maj. Gen. Alfred T.A. Torbert, Maj. Gen. James Harrison Wilson, Adm. Samuel Francis DuPont and Commodore John P. Gillis.
The town of Camden is proud of its heritage and encourages visitors to enjoy the ambiance of a community that dates to the 17th century. Medland concludes, “The modern world has done little to change the character and fabric of this … town.”
Many of the fine homes and buildings constructed over the years still stand and can be appreciated on a tour of the town. A pamphlet titled “Walking Tour of Historic Camden” provides addresses and pen-and-ink drawings of a number of these historic dwellings.
For a preview of this tour, see a slide show online at www.camden.delaware.gov. For more information, call town hall at (302) 697-2299.
Thomas J. Ryan is a Civil War author and speaker and former president of the Central Delaware Civil War Round Table in Dover. He lives in Bethany Beach. Contact him at email@example.com.