Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture
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About Delmarva History

From the beginning of the 17th century to the American Revolution and beyond, Lower Delmarva, anchored in Old Somerset County (today's Somerset, Worcester, Wicomico counties, Maryland and southern Sussex County, Delaware), was a major center of European immigration to North America.

The people who entered the new land through its Chesapeake Gateway developed farms and towns throughout the region, interacted in both peace and war with the resident Native American tribes, intermarried and formed extended kinship groups, and created families whose descendants are now scattered throughout the United States and beyond. The total past and current numbers of descendants may well number in the millions. From this perspective, Old Somerset, including its immigration relationships with Northampton and Accomack Counties on Virginia’s portions of the Eastern Shore, served as an early "Ellis Island" for America.

In colonial times, the Peninsula became home to residents whose origin included both Africa and Northern Europe. Certain contemporary Delmarva speech patterns retain, more strongly than any other part of America, the 17th-century English settlers' dialect. And the occupation of many a Delmarvan, "following the water," is modeled upon that of those same English settlers whose West Country fishing and harvesting skills are being used by modern-day watermen in forms remarkably little changed over three centuries and more.

The Delmarva Peninsula has contributed significantly to the development of American life. Key roles were played in the nation's colonial, federal, 19th-century, Civil War, industrial and contemporary periods. Yet because of its geographic separation from the Eastern Seaboard corridor, Delmarva may well be America’s most important, yet least studied and understood region.





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Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture
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Salisbury University