The Delaware River is a fascinating ecosystem waiting to be explored. Beyond its ecological value, the Delaware is also a vital tool for our community, providing us with water to drink, bathe, and live our day-to-day lives. Undoubtedly one of our community’s most essential resources, we all owe much appreciation to this beautiful waterway. But how and when was the Delaware first discovered? Today, we’ll look at some notable moments in Delaware history and explore how this natural wonder has evolved alongside our community.
Long before settlers made their way to Trenton, New Jersey’s indigenous people lived and worked alongside the Delaware River to steward its bounty. Before it was called the Delaware River, this body of water was known as the “Lenape Wihittuck,” meaning River of the Lenape. The Lenape, New Jersey’s original people, made regions throughout the Delaware their home, taking advantage of all the waterway had to offer. A critical resource to this indigenous community, the river has remained a central part of life in this region from its very first civilization. Tragically, however, as European settlers began to make their way to the nation, our indigenous populations were forced to endure displacement, ultimately pushing many families away from their native lands.
In the 1600s, European settlers began making their way to the shores of the Delaware en masse. Although it is recorded that some settlers may have spotted the river previously, the first settler credited with exploring the river was Henry Hudson of the Dutch East India Trading Company. Although not what they originally intended to discover, encountering the Delaware would ultimately lead these Dutch and Swedish immigrants to establish settlements and begin living here in the soon-to-be United States. While the moniker of the river has changed over the years, it was ultimately dubbed the Delaware in honor of the third Barron De la Warr, Sir Thomas West, who was the first royal governor of the Virginia colony.
Throughout its history, the Delaware River has driven the local economy. In addition to serving as a central trade route throughout the East, the Delaware provided a bounty of resources, including fishing, hydropower, and transportation. As Trentonians know, the Delaware River has also been a key strategic site during our nation’s most pivotal moments. Most famous, perhaps, would be George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware right here in Trenton, which is widely considered the turning point of the American Revolution. After this successful Christmas Eve sneak attack, the American troops were able to leverage this momentum, bringing them to the finish line.
As society has progressed along the banks of the Delaware River, this waterway has played a critical part in every phase of its development. And as our community continues to evolve, there’s no doubt that the Delaware will flow alongside us as we embark on our future. By stewarding the Delaware River today, we can assure that generations to come can enjoy the same invaluable resource as the generations prior. Take some time to discover the Delaware today because you never know what you might find!
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