Millsboro, Delaware

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Millsboro, Delaware
Location in Sussex County and the state of Delaware.
Location in Sussex County and the state of Delaware.
Coordinates: 38°35′21″N 75°17′33″W / 38.58917°N 75.29250°W / 38.58917; -75.29250Coordinates: 38°35′21″N 75°17′33″W / 38.58917°N 75.29250°W / 38.58917; -75.29250
Country United States
State Delaware
County Sussex
 • Total 1.9 sq mi (5.0 km2)
 • Land 1.7 sq mi (4.5 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.5 km2)
Elevation 23 ft (7 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 3,877
 • Density 2,280.6/sq mi (861.6/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 19966
Area code(s) 302
FIPS code 10-47940
GNIS feature ID 0214319

Millsboro is a town in Sussex County, Delaware. The population was 3,877 at the 2010 census, an increase of 64.3% over the past decade.[1] It is part of the Salisbury, Maryland-Delaware Metropolitan Statistical Area.

State temperature records[edit]

On July 21, 1930, the temperature in Millsboro rose to 110 °F (43 °C), the highest temperature ever recorded in Delaware. On January 17, 1893, the temperature fell to -17 °F (-27 °C) in Millsboro, the coldest temperature experienced in the state. Thus, it is one of only three cities in the United States to record both its state's extreme temperatures, the others being Chester, Massachusetts and Warsaw, Missouri.[2][3]


A Brief History of Millsboro, Delaware

Millsboro's origin, like that of many towns, is an accident of geography. It is situated at the first point on the Indian River, as one proceeds up the river from its mouth, narrow enough to allow for the construction of an earthen dam and bridge with the technology available in the Late 18th Century. Thus the town generally sets the date for its establishment as 1792, the year Elisha Dickerson dammed up the headwaters of the Indian River at the point known as Rock Hole ( because of the annual spawning of rockfish there). In fact, there had been a thriving rural farming community in existence in the area for more than a century by that date. Most early white residents were second or third generation residents of the Maryland and Virginia Eastern Shore and when they arrived in the area they called "Head of Indian River" the river served as the boundary between the Colony of Maryland and William Penn's "Three Lower Counties Upon Delaware."

The area had had a much earlier Indian presence. As English settlement pressures in the area now known as Worcester County, the Indians who had originally been known as Assateagues and who had lived in the coastal area of Worcester began moving gradually northwest during the middle and late 1600s, stopping first along Assawoman Bay and then near the Head of Indian River. Once there they became known as "Indian River Indians" and it is probable that the river was named for them. In 1711 the Maryland Colonial Assembly established a reservation for them on the southwestern site of the river, encompassing much of what is now the southwestern side of Millsboro. Over the years this "Indian Land" was gradually purchased by members of the Burton family and together with their other lands served as a major plantation. Their home farm stood just west of U.S. 113 near present-day Hickory Hill Road and the farm road which ran from this farm to their landing on Indian River became in later years the public road we known as "Old Landing road." it is probable that surviving elements of the Indian community joined with other Indian groups such as the Nanticokes to form the original Indian River Hundred Nanticoke community.

Elisha Dickerson's large grist mill and saw mill were only two of the more than fifteen grist and saw mills which existed within a four-mile radius of Millsboro in the Early 19th Century. Originally, however, the name "Millsborough" applied only to the area on the northeastern side of the river where Dickerson's grist mill was located, and it only got this name in 1809 when residents adopted it as an alternative to the earlier "Rock Hole Mills". The growing community on the southwestern side of the river was known as "Washington" until 1837 when two villages became a single community under the name Millsborough, later shortened to Millsboro.

The mills were quickly augmented by other industries, prominent among which were a tannery, a thriving business in the shipment of hand-hewn cypress shingles made from the vast stands of cypress in the nearby Great Cypress Swamp, and an iron furnace and foundry which used as its raw material the deposits of crude "bog iron" which occurred naturally in many area steams. The foundry and forge, which operated until after the Civil War, were located at what is now known as Cupola Park. The word iron business and one which considerably outlived it was the charcoal business. This continued until shortly before the Second World War. But the great mainstay of the local economy was the same in the 18th and 19th Centuries as it is today -- agriculture and timber, albeit with the many changes along the way.

Millsboro had always been a market center for the outlying area because of its river location and thus it was natural for the railroad to be routed through the town when it was developed in the years following the Civil War. This helped growth to continue slowly but steadily through the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries. In the 1890s two large lumber mills began operation. One of several Houston brothers, members o the prominent local farming family, was a principal in each mill. The company which eventually prevailed was Houston-White Company whose managing partner was William J.P. White. This company continued as Millsboro's largest industry until the 1950s.

Another thriving business which began in the Early 20th Century was the manufacture of holly wreaths, which were distributed nationally from Millsboro into the 1950s. The cultivation of strawberries was also important for many years though this business never reached the overwhelming proportions it did in Selbyville and Bridgeville, which were national leaders around the turn of the century. Tomato canneries were another leading business in the Early 1900s. Like most of the other agricultural pursuits these were seasonal operations.

From the early 1930s on the dominate "crop" produced in the Millsboro areas as in most other parts of Sussex County was the broiler. The poultry business had the major advantage over most other types of agriculture that it could be carried on all year, thus reducing the risk of a particular crop. The leading practitioner of this business locally was an is Townsend's, Inc. The Townsend family which had long been involved in lumber, strawberry cultivation, orchards and canneries gradually converted its vast Indian Swan Orchards just east of Millsboro to the production of poultry and related products between the mid-1930s and the mid-1950s. By the 1940s, Townsend's, Inc. had become the nation's first fully integrated poultry company, meaning that they had every aspect of poultry growing under their control from the hatching of eggs and the growing of grain for poultry feed to dressing the birds and shipping them to market, although Townsend's, Inc. was the largest local poultry company there were and still are many others.

In recent years Millsboro has experienced almost continuous economic growth. One setback occurred when the town's large National Cash Register plant ceased operation many years ago, but the vacant plant was Purchased by First Omni Bank (now Allfirst Financial Center), which uses the building for banking operations. M&T Bank acquired the facility through an acquisition, and now operates from that location.

Over the centuries the town has seen vast change, but many of the best things about life in Millsboro remain unaltered as the town's fourth century of progress begins.

The Robert Davis Farmhouse, Harmon School, Isaac Harmon Farmhouse, Harmony Church, Ames Hitchens Chicken Farm, Indian Mission Church, Indian Mission School, Indian River Archeological Complex, Johnson School, Perry-Shockley House, Warren's Mill, and Warren T. Wright Farmhouse Site at and near Millsboro are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[4]


Millsboro is located at 38°35′21″N 75°17′33″W / 38.58917°N 75.29250°W / 38.58917; -75.29250 (38.589170, -75.292415).[5]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.9 square miles (4.9 km2), of which 1.7 square miles (4.4 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) (10.82%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1940 432
1950 470 8.8%
1960 536 14.0%
1970 1,073 100.2%
1980 1,233 14.9%
1990 1,643 33.3%
2000 2,360 43.6%
2010 3,877 64.3%

As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 2,360 people, 1,045 households, and 619 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,367.9 people per square mile (526.7/km²). There were 1,153 housing units at an average density of 668.3 per square mile (257.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 73.64% White, 19.41% African American, 0.76% Native American, 3.31% Asian, 1.61% from other races, and 1.27% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.09% of the population.

There were 1,045 households out of which 23.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.2% were married couples living together, 13.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.7% were non-families. 36.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.13 and the average family size was 2.77.

In the town the population was spread out with 21.4% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 24.3% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 26.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 71.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 68.9 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $27,379, and the median income for a family was $32,708. Males had a median income of $30,700 versus $22,100 for females. The per capita income for the town was $15,157. About 14.7% of families and 18.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.2% of those under age 18 and 18.2% of those age 65 or over.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Record Highest Temperatures By State" (PDF). National Climatic Data Center. Retrieved June 20, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Record Lowest Temperatures By State" (PDF). National Climatic Data Center. Retrieved June 20, 2013. 
  4. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  5. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  6. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 

External links[edit]