RG# 7030


RG 1325-003-207: Bridgeville Hotel c. 1915

Bridgeville, whose settlement dates to the early eighteenth century, is the oldest community in western Sussex County. In 1730, a settlement formed here when a bridge was built over a branch of the Nanticoke called Bridge Branch, a name which the settlement also was known by. In 1810, its name was changed to Bridgeville by an act of the General Assembly.1 Continued growth in the town was spurred by the arrival of the railroad when a station was established there in 1856.


1870 – 1899

The first incorporation of Bridgeville as a Town took place in 1871 under the corporate name of “Commissioners of Bridgeville.” The limits of the Town were defined as one-half mile in all directions from the intersection of Market and Front (renamed Laws) Streets. The Incorporating Act called for election by taxable male residents over the age of 21, of an Alderman who served the role of Justice of the Peace, five Commissioners, an Assessor, and a Treasurer. The Commissioners were to choose a member to serve as President and one as Secretary. All Commissioners would serve a one-year term. The Incorporating Act made no provision for how often they were to meet. It did, however, discuss in detail the procedures for how the Town’s residents would be assessed. The assessment, assisted by $100 from the road taxes collected by the Levy Court of Sussex County, was to be used to repair the roads as well as for other purposes that would contribute to the safety and prosperity of the Town. The Act also called for a jail to be constructed and a Bailiff appointed.2

Sixteen years after the Town was incorporated, the amount of road taxes to be paid to Bridgeville by Sussex County was increased to $150.3 In 1898, the limits of the Town were increased by an additional one-quarter mile in all directions.4


1900 – 1949

In 1901, Sussex County again increased its allotment for road repair, to $350.5

In 1905, the Town was reincorporated in an Act which mirrored the one which proceeded it. The amendment that increased the limits of the Town by an additional quarter mile was not included; the 1905 Incorporating Act continued to indicate a boundary of a half mile circle as cited in the initial incorporation. The election process and the Town officials to be elected did not change, nor, in a significant way, did their duties. The Act focused on the laying out and repairs to streets, and the paving of sidewalks as well as the procedures, fines, and penalties associated with the assessment which was to pay for this work. The maximum amount allowed to be raised through taxes annually was $900. The increased Sussex County Levy Court payment of $350 from road taxes was accounted for in this Act. A new provision which was added to this Act called for taxing dogs, fifty cents for male dogs and $1 for females.6

Two years later, amendments to the 1905 Incorporating Act made minor changes to the election procedures; increased the maximum amount of annual taxation to $1,200; and allowed for telephone, telegraph and electric light poles to be taxed.7 In 1909, the Commissioners were granted the authority to set up a waterworks and sewer system and to control all of the public mains, pipes, sewers, and drains. A referendum was to be held to approve borrowing $25,000 and issuing bonds for the debt. In order to repay the bonds, two specials taxes were established, one to pay the interest on the bonds and to cover the cost of operating the water and sewer systems, and the other to create a sinking fund to repay the principal on the loan in an amount to be no more than $100 yearly.8

In 1911, Town was once again reincorporated. This Incorporating Act began by defining the limits of the Town in metes and bounds. The election procedures were outlined in greater detail but there was no significant change in them. The elective offices remained the same. The Town Commissioners who are now charged to meet monthly retained the powers outlined in the previous Acts as well as those associated with managing the water and sewer systems. They were also given the power to enact ordinances with which to regulate activities within the Town. The President of the Commissioners was to assist the Alderman in his duties to keep the peace. The special assessments associated with the water and sewer system previously approved were to be continued and a water use rate to be established. Several new Town officials, to include an Auditor, an Attorney and Town Constables (who replaced the Bailiff) were discussed in the 1911 Incorporating Act. The maximum amount of taxation allowed annually was decreased from $1,200 to $1,000. The amendment to the 1905 Act which called for taxing electric and telephone poles was incorporated and that which taxed dogs retained. Sections were added to address the issue of drainage particularly as it pertained to ensuring good health in the Town. Other newly added provisions of the Incorporating Act provided for the Commissioners to contract for work as long as the cost did not exceed $100 and prohibited opening excavations into the ground without prior approval of the Commissioners.9

Two years after the 1911 re-incorporation, the first amendments were approved. In 1913, the amount of monies that were to be paid to Bridgeville from Sussex County’s road taxes increased from $350 to $450.10 Ten years later, women were given the right to vote in Town elections, and the Town borrowed $5,000 to purchase a fire engine.11 In 1925, a number of amendments were made to the 1911 Act. Among these were an ensuring that all buildings be set back at least 30 feet from the centerline of Market and Front (Laws) streets; changing the requirements associated with re-paving sidewalks; and making the Treasurer an appointed, rather than an elected, position.12 In 1927, the Commissioners were empowered to borrow $6,000 in order to install a sewage system along Walnut Street, issuing municipal bonds, the interest on which would be repaid through a special tax with a sinking fund established to repay the principal.13 In 1931, the Commissioners issued bonds in order to borrow $20,000 to pave the Town’s street.14 In 1937, the Commissioners were given the power to set-aside 10% of the taxes collected in order to establish a Fire Department Fund which would provide equipment for the fire company and maintain the firehouse.15 In 1941, the bonds issued to cover the cost of the sewer and waterworks came due. As the debt had not been paid in full, new bonds in the amount of $20,000 were issued.16

In 1941, Bridgeville was once again re-incorporated. In many ways, this Incorporating Act mirrored the previous one, with some minor additions and clarifications. The Act included the provisions of the various amendments made in the prior thirty years. One major change in the Act related to the expanded power of the Commissioners to regulate the Town’s buildings through zoning. The 1941 Act also addressed the beautification of the Town through the planting of ornamental trees, controlling traffic on the roadways, provisions for the licensing of businesses, prohibiting manufactories which might cause or promote fires, and purchasing sites to dump refuse. The provisions of the Act which addressed the assessment of real estate and the paving the sidewalks were both expanded. The amount of taxation levied was to be limited to $12,000 annually.17

In 1945, the 1941 Incorporating Act was amended so that the Alderman and the Assessor, previously elective Town offices, were now appointed.18 Two years later, the maximum amount of taxation to be levied annually was increased to $20,000, and new penalties for non-payment were established.19


1950 – 1999

The time of the elections was changed in 1951.20 In 1955, the amount of the taxes which could be levied was increased again, to $30,000.21

In 1957, Bridgeville was re-incorporated with a much updated Charter. This Charter remains the governing Charter for Bridgeville, all be it with numerous amendments. The election for the Commissioners, which total five, govern the Town, takes place in January and all residents over 21 who have paid their assessment may vote. Meetings of the Commission are held monthly. The President of the Commissioners is now recognized as the executive of the Town of Bridgeville. In addition, the Commissioners have the power to appoint a Town Manager. All other Town officials, including the Treasurer, the Assessor, the Alderman, the Town Solicitor, and the Police Chief, are appointed by the Commissioners. The powers of the Commissioners of Bridgeville include all those granted to municipal corporations; a number of these powers are specifically enumerated in the Charter. The total amount of tax to be levied in a year has been increased to $40,000, and a ten-year exemption for paying taxes is provided for businesses with more than ten employees. Clarifications and expansions were made in provisions related to borrowing money and contracting for work. Also newly addressed in this Charter are the annexation of property, the budget, borrowing for current expenses, the independent annual audit, engaging in business, water, and sewer main improvements, levying of special assessments, and new developments and subdivisions.22

Since the 1957 re-incorporation of the Town, there have been 38 pieces of legislation which have amended the Town’s Charter. In 1961, the Town increased its borrowing power from $500,000 to $1 million.23 In 1962, there were changes made to the way in which bonds were sold.24 In 1963, a number of laws amending the Charter were passed: the first law added a provision on the Town’s ability to control traffic and driving within their boundaries; the second law revised the manner in which a Town official or employee was terminated; the third law added new procedures to address the issue of filling vacancies among the Commissioners; and the fourth law limited the amount of tax that could be collected for the general budget, but indicated the same was not true as it related to repayment of bonds.25 In 1967, the Town was given the power to extend their water and sewer service to properties within a mile outside its limits.26 Five years later, an amendment called for having markers placed if the Town was re-surveyed; allowing for more than one Alderman, and making changes in the election procedures including allowing those over 18 years of age to vote.27 The annual maximum taxation amount was increased in 1978, to $60,000; another piece of legislation in the same year made additional changes to the Town’s election procedures.28 In 1980, an amendment addressed the issue of how an unplanned vacancy among the Commissioners would be handled.29 In 1984, the Charter was amended to add a new section which listed the criminal acts and defenses over which the Town would have jurisdiction and the Alderman could impose fines.30 In 1985, the maximum amount of taxes which could be levied was increased to $100,000 annually, and in the same year, there were minor changes made to the section of the Charter on borrowing money.31 In the following year, the Town increased the amount of money it could borrow to cover current expenses to $500,000, and doubled the area outside the Town limits to which water and sewer services could be offered.32 In 1987, the Town’s Charter was revised to allow for absentee balloting.33 In 1988, contracts for the disposal of sewage were allowed.34 Five years later, the borrowing power of the Town was increased to $4 million.35 In 1996, the maximum amount of annual taxation was increased again, from $100,000 to $200,000.36 In 1997, the amendment approved in 1984 related to criminal acts within the jurisdiction of Bridgeville was repealed.37 Four pieces of legislation were passed in 1998. The first provided the Town with the power to levy a 1% tax on the transfer of real estate. The next two addressed changes in the election procedures. The final one changed the fiscal year to begin in July.38


2000 – Current

In 2002, the date on which Town elections would be held was moved to the month of March.39 Three pieces of legislation were approved in 2004. The first allowed Bridgeville to borrow money from the state or federal government and to issue bonds at a private sale. In the same year, legislation was passed that deleted the limitation on the amount of money which could be raised in taxes annually. The Charter was also revised so as to delete all references to the Treasurer and substitute Finance Director.40 In 2005, the amendments provided Bridgeville with the power to undertake all actions in accordance with the Delaware Code as it pertained to the Municipal Tax Increment Financing Act and Special Development Districts and in relation to this, to allow for exceptions to competitive bidding for certain contracts.41 In 2006, two pieces of legislation were passed calling for five election districts to be set up so that Commissioners would represent the district in which they resided.42 In 2008, a Charter amendment deleted all sections and references to the Alderman and his duties, deleted the ten-year exemption from taxation for businesses with ten or more employees, and made several other minor changes.43 An amendment in 2009 updated and made clarifications to the section of the Charter on sewer and water improvements.44 In addition to making certain clarifications to the duties and qualifications of the Town Manager’s position, amendments in 2012 made a number of changes to the procedures on borrowing money.45 A year later, the section of the Charter on election procedures was revised as were the qualifications for elective office.46 In 2015, Charter revisions allowed the Town to annex up to five acres of land and to refinance outstanding debt by issuing new municipal bonds, both without referendum.47  

For the fully amended text of the current Charter, see http://www.Charters.delaware.gov/bridgeville.shtml

CITATIONS in Del. Laws

1 4 Del. Laws, c. 119 (1810) [p. 322]

2 14 Del. Laws, c. 126 (1871) [pp. 151-60]

3 18 Del. Laws, c. 156 (1887) [p. 252]

4 21 Del. Laws, c. 100 (1898) [p. 238]

5 22 Del. Laws, c. 184 (1901) [p. 394]

6 23 Del. Laws, c. 183 (1905) [pp. 327-38]

7 24 Del. Laws, c. 212 (1907) [p. 530]

8 25 Del. Laws, c. 195 (1909) [pp. 283-90]

9 26 Del. Laws, c. 233 (1911) [pp. 532-60]

10 27 Del. Laws, c. 250 (1913) [p. 742]

11 33 Del. Laws, c. 144 and c. 145 (1923) [p. 412 and pp. 413-15]

12 34 Del. Laws, c. 146 (1925) [pp. 367-71]

13 35 Del. Laws, c. 97 (1927) [pp. 283-87]

14 37 Del. Laws, c. 149 (1931) [pp. 513-18]

15 41 Del. Laws, c. 137 (1937) [pp. 316-17]

16 43 Del. Laws, c. 157 (1941) [pp. 523-26]

17 43 Del. Laws, c. 158 (1941) [pp.527-57]

18 45 Del. Laws, c. 175 (1945) [pp. 659-64]

19 47 Del. Laws, c. 27 (1949) [p. 42]

20 48 Del. Laws, c. 59 (1951) [p. 124]

21 50 Del. Laws, c. 59 (1955) [p. 221]

22 51 Del. Laws, c. 131 (1957) [pp. 452-82]

23 53 Del. Laws, c. 165 (1961) [p. 490]

24 53 Del. Laws, c. 294 (1962) [p. 778]

25 54 Del. Laws, c. 92, c. 93, c. 94, and c. 120 (1963) [p. 289, p. 290, p. 291, and p. 374]

26 56 Del. Laws, c. 212 (1967) [p. 699]

27 59 Del. Laws, c. 62 (1973) [p. 106-08]

28 61 Del. Laws, c. 278 and c. 279 (1978) [p. 863 and p. 864]

29 62 Del. Laws, c. 279 (1980) [p. 673]

30 64 Del. Laws, c. 299 (1984) [pp. 686-87]

31 65 Del. Laws, c. 23 (1985) [p. 20]

32 65 Del. Laws, c. 285 and c. 404 (1986) [p. 541 and p. 819]

33 66 Del. Laws, c. 144 (1987) [p. 346]

34 66 Del. Laws, c. 318 (1988) [p. 692]

35 69 Del. Laws, c. 17 (1993) [p. 14]

36 70 Del. Laws, c. 348 (1996) [p. 774]

37 71 Del. Laws, c. 125 (1997) [p. 240]

38 71 Del. Laws, c. 258, c. 269, c. 274, and c. 278 (1998) [p. 705, p. 713, p. 717, and p. 723]

39 73 Del. Laws, c. 422 (2002) [p. 1113]

40 74 Del. Laws, c. 197, c. 198 and c. 239 (2004) [p. 508, p. 509, and p. 545]

41 75 Del. Laws, c. 8 and c. 32 (2005) [p. 7 and p. 31]

42 75 Del. Laws, c. 245 (2006) [p. 336]

43 76 Del. Laws, c. 350 (2008) [vol. II, p. 206]

44 77 Del. Laws, c. 173 (2009) [vol. I, pp. 339-40]

45 78 Del. Laws, c. 342, c. 345 and c. 355 (2012)




46 79 Del. Laws, c. 31 (2013) [http://delcode.delaware.gov/sessionlaws/ga147/chp031.shtml]

47 80 Del. Laws, c. 177 (2015) [http://delcode.delaware.gov/sessionlaws/ga148/chp177.shtml]

Delaware Laws from 1935 to present can be found online at http://delcode.delaware.gov/sessionlaws/


Town of Bridgeville records at the Delaware Public Archives include:

  • Minutes of the Commissioners/Town Council (1909-1990): 7030-000-001
  • Bridgeville Life in the 20th Century – 4 Oral Histories: 7030-000-002


jnl / May 25, 2018 | April 22, 2019