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Lesson D - This Land is Your Land


  • Geography Standard One: Students will develop a personal geographic framework, or "mental map," and understand the uses of maps and other geographics.
  • Geography Standard Two: Students will develop a knowledge of the ways humans modify and respond to the natural environment.


  1. Students will understand how land was divided and marked for boundaries in the early days of settlement in Delaware.
  2. Students will mark out land on the playground according to the methods used by the early settlers.
  3. Students will write a description of a survey.


  1. Lesson D, Delaware Public Archives, Duke of York Record (Survey), Series Number 0000.04
  2. Survey Map Worksheet
  3. Rulers


  1. Divide the students into pairs. Pass out one Duke of York (Survey) Record to each group. Give the students several minutes to study the document.
  2. Begin a discussion of early colonization focusing on the importance of the land for early settlers, land ownership, and the document. (See background information.)
  3. Returning to the document - point out the following areas of interest:
    1. Scale - located in the upper left hand corner of the map. Look for "A Scale of English perches:" In surveying terms a perch is a measure of land 5 1/2 yards or 16 1/2 feet in length. It is also referred to as a "rod" or "pole".
    2. Trees - located at the corners of the surveyed property.
    3. Waterways - located along the left side, along the top, and through the right center portion of the property.
  4. Read through the document aloud (see transcription) as the students follow along with their copy. Discuss the way the land and the boundaries are described in the survey. (See background.)
  5. At this point the lesson can proceed in two different directions:
    1. Pass out the worksheet that accompanies this lesson. The students will complete a written description of the property that may include the counting and marking of perches. A compass has been included for directional aid in completing the assignment. Rulers will be needed for this exercise. However, if the perch scale seems too difficult to grasp eliminate the measuring and concentrate on writing the description. The students should mark the corner of the boundaries with a landmark of some type. In addition, the waterway should be mentioned in relation to how it is located on the property. The students will give names to the waterway and the property itself.
    2. The second activity option for this lesson involves using the playground. If the playground provides enough suitable landmarks, the students may go outside and mark their own boundary according to playground landmarks. They will need to draw their own map as well as write their own description. Each map should have a compass. Point out the directions (North, South, etc.) as well as any other important features that should be noted in their boundary description.
  6. The students will turn in their completed maps and descriptions for grading. The maps and descriptions should be graded on accuracy, effort, and creativity.

Document Transcriptions

By virtue of a Warr.[Warrant] from Deale Court.

Laid out for Capt. John Avery a parcell of Land called Goulden quartere, Scituated on the West side of the Delaware Bay and on the South west side of a Creeke called middle Creeke which proceeding out of Rehobah Bay Beginning at a marked white oak standing on a point at the mouth of a little Creek Called Harring Creeke and Running up The said Creeke with ye several Courses three hundred twenty and three perches to a Corner marked white oake standing in the woods by a Valley and from thence North West with a line of marked One hundred and fifty perches to a head bounded white oake of William Ematt his Land and from thence North East binding on the said line three hundred thirty and three perches to the white oake bounded tree of the said William Ematt standing on the said middle Creeke side and from thence South East One hundred sixty and five perches Binding on the said Creeke to the first bounded white oake Containing and laid out for three hundred acres of Land.

March ye 28th A 1681 Cornelis Verhoofe Surveyor

At a Court held at Deale by the Kings Authority the 14th day of Feb. 1681: the above Survey is Certified by the Court to be as yet unseated

Luke Wattson


During the 17th century the ownership of the Delaware colony was continually changing between the Dutch, the Swedes, and the English. In 1664, the English, under the command of the Duke of York, took control of the colony. Except for a brief period of Dutch rule in 1673-74, Delaware remained under English control in one form or another until the American Revolution. Because of this volatile nature of colonial rule during the early years of colonization, Dutch, Swedish, and English colonists probably had little trouble pledging allegiance to whatever nation was controlling Delaware at the time. After the English took over Delaware permanently in 1674 the British colonial government began to implement the English system of government into Delaware. Since the Dutch colonists were allowed to remain in Delaware, the English wisely decided to keep parts of the Dutch government structure in place until they were ready to replace it with their own form of government.

Like many individuals who came to America, the colonists who settled in Delaware wanted land. Land was valuable because farming was the main occupation of most colonists. In order to claim land in America under the English system of government, an individual would make an application to the proprietor. A proprietor is a person who has the legal title or exclusive right to a specified piece of land. In this case the Duke of York was the proprietor. The application to the proprietor included the name of the applicant and the location of the property to be granted. Sometimes it also included information about the condition of the property and if the applicant was already living there.

Upon receiving an application, the proprietor or his agent issued a warrant. The warrant gave permission to the surveyor general to lay out or survey the land. In most instances, a county deputy surveyor visited the property and marked its boundaries. The surveyor was also charged with writing an accurate description of the property and ensuring the land was vacant or unclaimed.

With the application and survey process completed, the next step was for the individual to get a patent for the land. A patent is a deed for the land from the proprietor to the claimant. All privately held land in Delaware started with a patent.

Document Background

This survey is part of the Duke of York Record (Series Number 0000.04). Although this record was recorded in 1681, the record itself is actually a transcription of the original that was completed in 1774. The record shows a survey of land in Sussex County (known as Deale County at the time of this document) that is located at the mouth of Herring Creek in Rehoboth Bay. The applicant is Captain John Avery and the surveyor is Cornelis Verhoofe. Within a year of this survey being completed, William Penn would take control of Delaware from the Duke of York. However, Lord Baltimore also claimed Delaware - but that's another story (See the lesson Why Does Delaware Have Such a Strange Shape?

One Possible Solution

Laid out for Capt. Anderson a parcell of Land called Anderson's Delight. The survey begins at a white birch tree and moves fifteen perches east to the river named Rocky River. The river is thirty perches wide. From the east side of the river move east two hundred and twenty perches to the green holly tree. At the green holly tree move one hundred and twenty five perches south to a white oak tree. At the white oak turn west and move one hundred and seventy five perches to the southern end of the Rocky River. The river is thirty five perches wide at this point. After reaching the other side of the river move forty perches west to a large gray rock in the woods. At the rock turn north and move one hundred and twenty two perches until reaching the white birch tree where the survey began

By virtue of a warr: from Deale Court.

Laid out for Capt.____________ a parcell of Land called _________________. The survey begins at ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________