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RG# 6130

RG 9015-028-000: Walnut St. from The Square, Magnolia

Magnolia is located within a large tract of land which was once owned by the Duke of York and these large land holdings were maintained through most of the first half of the nineteenth century. There were major roads that bisected that land and it was at the intersection of two such roads that lots were laid out to form a town about 1845. The intersection of the road from Dover to Frederica with the road from Canterbury to Barker’s Landing on the St. Jones River became the center point of the circular boundary of the Town of Magnolia. It is said that the name of the Town pays homage to the Duke of York’s favorite tree, the Magnolia. Even today, there are a number of Magnolia trees within the Town.

The 1800s

The Town of Magnolia was incorporated in 1885 as the “Town of Magnolia” with its boundaries taking an unusual circular form, ¼ mile in all directions from a spot in the middle of two intersecting roads mentioned above. The government was vested in a five-member Council which served staggered, two-year terms. All male citizens 21 or older who had paid their taxes were eligible to vote in the election for the Council members. Each year, the Council was to choose one of their members to serve as President. The Council was to appoint an Alderman who was charged with keeping the peace, a Clerk, a Treasurer, an Assessor, a Collector of Taxes, and Constables. The Council was to meet monthly to enact ordinances for the good of the government. Among the powers assigned to the Council were the power to lay out, widen and maintain streets, direct the paving or graveling of footpaths, to place gutters and curbs, regulate the use of the streets, regulate the construction and maintenance of chimneys, prevent nuisances, suppress riotous or noisy assemblages, prevent bonfires and the firing of guns, preserve the health of the Town, and to register dogs and prevent them from running at large. The Council could also levy taxes and impose fines. The annual amount of taxes for general purposes was to be no more than $500.1

Except for a renewal of the first Incorporating Act in 1907, it would be sixty-five years before the Town of Magnolia was re-incorporated, and during that time, there were only a few amendments to the 1885 Incorporating Act. The first of these was in 1891 when the issue of just how much a resident would be taxed to register their dog was specified.2 Two years later, Magnolia received authorization to borrow $300 with which to purchase a fire engine and equipment. Referendum approval was required for this loan for which a special tax would be levied to ensure it was repaid.3

The 1900s

In 1907, the Incorporating Act of 1885 was renewed and re-enacted, but no reason was provided for taking this action.4 In 1923, the maximum amount of taxation was doubled, to $1,000 annually.5 In 1929, Magnolia was again given the authorization to borrow money by issuing municipal bonds. After referendum approval, they borrowed $8,000 to install a water plant and water mains. A special tax was to be charged to repay the yearly interest and establish a sinking fund to redeem the bonds when they came due.6 A law passed in 1945 changed the election day from April to January.7 In 1957, Magnolia made an attempt to expand, describing in metes and bounds their proposed corporate boundary.8 However, referendum approval was required for this action and the referendum was defeated.

In 1960, the Town of Magnolia was re-incorporated. Having failed to receive approval for its proposed expansion, the Town’s circular territorial limits remained unchanged. The structure of the government continued to include a five-member Council who were elected by male and female voters over the age of 21. Instead of a President of the Council, the Town officials chosen from the Council members included a Mayor, a Vice-Mayor and a Secretary. Town officials appointed by the Council included a Treasurer (who could be a Council member), an Assessor, a Collector of Taxes, an Alderman, Police, and a Town Solicitor. The Council was granted additional powers which included entering into a contract to supply electrical energy, condemning property, adopting measures which protect against fires and appropriating money for fire equipment, prohibiting the use of building materials and condemning buildings that were a fire hazard, issuing building permits and establishing certain requirements for new construction, and adopting zoning ordinances, and creating a Town Zoning Commission. The 1960 Incorporating Act also authorized the Council to borrow money for immediate needs without referendum approval so long as the amount did not exceed $5,000. The Town was authorized to levy taxes of not more than $5,000 annually.9

Between 1960 and the next re-incorporation in 2010, the 1960 Incorporating Act was amended three times. In 1967, three changes were made to the 1960 Act. The first of these included expanding the responsibilities of the police and assigning oversight of them to the Council as a whole, allowing the Justice of the Peace in the nearest Town to serve the same function of the Magnolia’s Alderman, and setting the maximum amount of taxation to $10,000 annually.10 In 1972, there were significant changes made to the 1960 Incorporating Act, among which were changing the voting age to 18, authorizing Magnolia to annex land including the methods under which such an action could take place, authorizing the Town to construct and maintain a sewer system and/or a sewage treatment plant and to establish fees for connecting to it, and also authorizing the borrowing of money for public purposes among which were the distribution of electricity or water, road improvement, or sewage treatment. The amount borrowed was not to exceed, in aggregate, 25% of the assessed valuation of the Town’s real estate.11 In 1988, the maximum amount of taxes that could be assessed annually was increased to $20,000.12

2000 – Current

In 2010, Magnolia re-incorporated and established a Charter. The Town’s circular boundary remained unchanged. The town is vested with all powers possible for a municipal corporation and, in addition, forty-four specific powers are enumerated. Among the specifically-stated powers are: to acquire and hold property for public purposes as well as to condemn and dispose of it, accept loans from the United States government or State of Delaware with which to acquire, construct, improve, or repair public property, acquire, construct, equip, and maintain a Town office, regulate and protect the planting of shade trees, control the drainage of all water, provide an ample supply of potable water or to contract for same, provide, manage and control a plant to provide electric and gas or to contract for same, regulate the storage of gasoline, gun  powder, fireworks and other combustible materials, provide for the organization of a fire department and do all things necessary for the prevention of fires, provide for the organization of ambulance, rescue and paramedics services, prevent vice, drunkenness and prohibit gaming, prevent disorderly assemblages, regulate the streets and other public places, regulate the use of guns, preserve the public welfare of the Town, regulate public shows, adopt ordinances which regulate the upkeep of buildings, impound animals running at large, establish zoning, license businesses, impose impact fees, impose licenses and/or permits for any activity within the Town,  grant franchises for utilities and other public services, establish a pension or health plan for its employees, and to regulate sub-divisions and land development. As previously, Magnolia’s government was vested in a five-member Council, one of whom was chosen to serve as Mayor and one as Vice-Mayor. The Council meets monthly. This Charter re-institutes the position of Town Clerk who alone is charged with assisting the Council in administering the Town. Magnolia does not carry out its own assessments but uses the assessment values determined by Kent County. The maximum taxation to be levied must not exceed 2% of the total assessed valuation of the Town’s taxable real estate. Short-term borrowing without a referendum is authorized but may not exceed $15,000 in aggregate. Long-term borrowing with referendum approval may not exceed, in aggregate, 15% of the assessed valuation of the Town’s real estate.13

For the fully amended text of the current Charter, see

CITATIONS in Del. Laws

1 17 Del. Laws, c. 568 (1885) [pp. 823-37]

2 19 Del. Laws, c. 226 (1891) [p. 445]

3 19 Del. Laws, c. 751 (1893) [p. 1067]

4 24 Del. Laws, c. 206 (1907) [p. 463]

5 33 Del. Laws, c. 137 (1923) [p. 399]

6 36 Del. Laws, c. 173 (1929) [pp. 529-32]

7 45 Del. Laws, c. 179 (1945) [pp. 671-72]

8 51 Del. Laws, c. 257 (1957) [pp. 535-38]

9 52 Del. Laws, c. 264 (1960) [pp. 561-75]

10 56 Del. Laws, c. 213 (1967) [pp. 700-02]

11 58 Del. Laws, c. 589 (1972) [pp. 2048-57]

12 66 Del. Laws, c. 319 (1988) [p. 693]

13 77 Del. Laws, c. 458 (2010) []

 Delaware Laws from 1935 to present can be found online at


Town of Magnolia records at the Delaware Public Archives:

  • Minutes of the Commissioners/Town Council (1885-1923, 1929-1949, 1981-1991): 6130-000-001

jnl / August 31, 2018 | April 23, 2019