Frederica City Hub

RG# 6050


RG 9015-028-000: Frederica, Front St. c. 1900

At a place where Spring Creek branched off the Murderkill River, a community called Johnny Cake Landing was established by the mid-eighteenth century and it became well known as a shipping and shipbuilding center. In 1772, land in this area was laid out into town lots, and by 1796, it was known as Frederica Village. A water-based economy fueled its growth in the nineteenth century, and canning became a major industry. 


1800 – 1899

In 1826, an Act Directing the Manner of Choosing Commissioners to regulate and Repair Streets and Alleys of Frederica was passed into law by the General Assembly. White inhabitants of the village who were eligible to vote in the general election were authorized to participate in the election for Town government. Five Commissioners, an Assessor, and a Treasurer were to be elected to survey the Town and record this with the Kent County Recorder of Deeds. The Act authorized the Commissioners to tax residents of the Town in order to pay for maintaining the streets, erecting public pumps, and removing nuisances. The general boundaries of the Town were described.1 In 1855, a law was enacted which revoked all of the provisions of the earlier Act except for the section which described the Town’s general boundaries.2

Ten years later, in 1865, the Town was incorporated as the “Town Commissioners of Frederica.” The 1865 Incorporating Act directed that the Town be surveyed and the survey recorded. It stated the general limits of the Town and prohibited the closing of any street currently open. The Town’s Commissioners were awarded the power to regulate streets and sidewalks, to address citizen complaints, to prohibit the firing of guns and making of bonfires, and to prevent noisy or turbulent assemblages. However, the Commissioners were prohibited from removing any ornamental tree, porch or building without the consent of the owner. Five Commissioners were to be elected by the white taxable residents of the Town each year; females who met these criteria could vote by proxy. The Commissioners were to meet four times a year. At their annual meeting, they were to appoint an Assessor and a Collector of Taxes. The Assessor was to yearly make an assessment of the value of real estate and to determine the number of white male residents as well as to ascertain the number of dog owners that resided in the Town. The assessment of real estate and the amount of the per capita tax was determined yearly. Together the amount of taxes for the Town could not exceed $200. Each owner or keeper of a dog was to be assessed fifty cents. Keeping the peace in the Town and acting as the Alderman was tasked to the local Justice of the Peace, or if there was no such person, to the Town’s oldest Commissioner.3 Although the 1865 Incorporating Act did not indicate that the incorporation of the Town needed to be renewed, twenty years later it was continued in effect for another twenty years.4

Various amendments were made to the 1865 Act. The first of these was in 1889 when an amendment specified that the Commissioners were required to be resident freeholders and were to be elected to staggered two-year terms. The Alderman and the Bailiff, who had previously been appointed Town officials, were now to be elected.5 In 1893, a law was passed which specified that a street was to be opened and another closed.6 In 1895, the limits of the Town were revised, and the maximum amount of taxes for the Town was increased from $200 to $400.7


1900 – 1949

In 1903, the Town borrowed $2,000 in order to improve their Town Hall. The law called for a special tax to be levied which would create a sinking fund to pay off the indebtedness.8 In 1909, four years past the year when such action should have been taken, a law provided that the Town’s Incorporating Act was to be continued for another twenty years. Among other provisions, this law also eliminated the requirement that Town’s Commissioners receive owner approval before removing an ornamental tree or other obstruction when opening or widening a street; instructed the Kent County Levy Court to allocate $200 annually for road maintenance; and increased the maximum annual taxation for the Town to $1,000.9 In 1921, two laws were enacted: the first allowed the Commissioners of Frederica to borrow $15,000 to establish and maintain a water plant once they received voter approval of this action; and the second increased the maximum taxation levied annually to $1,500.10 Four years after this, in 1925, the annual amount of taxes was increased again, to no more than $2,000 annually.11 In 1929, the 1865 Incorporating Act was continued for another twenty years.12 In 1935, the law which authorized the Town to borrow $15,000 for a water plant was repealed and another was passed which allowed the Town to borrow the same amount for the same purpose; however, this time a special tax was required which would pay the yearly interest on the bonds and establish a sinking fund to enable repayment of the loan. Approval by referendum was required.13

In 1935, seventy years after the passage of the 1865 Incorporating Act, an Act to re-incorporate “The Town of Frederica” was passed. The Town’s limits do not appear to have expanded since the previous incorporation; however, changes had been made to the structure of the government. The government of the Town was now to be vested in a Mayor and Town Council consisting of five members. The members of the Town Council were required to be resident freeholders. They were to be elected to two-year staggered terms which began in March. Eligible voters were any resident over 21 who was not delinquent in paying their taxes. In addition to their annual meeting, the Town Council was to meet at least four times yearly. At the annual meeting, the Council was to choose one of their members to serve as Mayor and also to appoint other Town officials including an Assessor, a Collector of Taxes, a Treasurer, an Alderman, and a Town Solicitor. They were also to designate one of their members to serve as Council Secretary and appoint police officers who have the same powers as Kent County Constables. The Council had the authority to enter into contracts to supply electricity and power in the Town. They could condemn property for municipal purposes, adopt zoning ordinances and measures appropriate for protection against fires as well as appropriate money for the purpose of acquiring fire equipment whether owned by the Town or by a volunteer fire company. In many other ways, the powers afforded the Town Council mirrored those that had been part of the Incorporating Act passed seventy years earlier. The annual maximum taxes for the Town was set at $2,500. The Town Council was empowered to exempt new manufacturing businesses from paying taxes for up to ten years. The Council could borrow up to $500 annually.14

In 1937 a law was passed which allowed Frederica to borrow $20,000 in order to consolidate and refund its indebtedness and to finance repairs necessary to its water and power plant and to purchase equipment for its newly purchased Town Hall and Fire House.15 

In 1949, The Town of Frederica was again re-incorporated. Much of the new Incorporating Act mirrored the previous one. The power to adopt ordinances related to the health of the Town’s population was added as was the power to prohibit the establishment of certain specific types of manufacturing businesses if the Council felt they were detrimental to the Town. The Council was also granted the power to adopt zoning ordinances and to create a Zoning Commission and issue building permits. The amount which they were able to borrow annually was increased to $1,000 and the maximum amount of taxes for the Town was increased to $5,000 annually.16


1950 – 1999

A number of amendments to the 1949 Incorporating Act were enacted over the next 57 years. In 1953, the Town Council was awarded the ability to restrict the use of certain areas within its limits for the use of establishing trailer parks or camps.17 In 1969, the maximum amount of taxes that could be levied annually was increased to $15,000, and the annual borrowing power to the same amount.18 In 1982, there were amendments on filling vacancies on the Town Council.19 In 1968, the 1949 Incorporating Act was amended so that the Mayor would be elected by the voters rather than appointed from among the members of the Council and the Council was reduced to four elected members. Like Council members, the Mayor served a two-year term.20 In 1989, the Town’s Incorporating Act was amended to authorize the annexation of land. In another law passed the same year, the amount of taxes to be levied yearly was changed to 25% of the assessed value of the Town’s real estate value plus a fixed rate as needed to pay the interest on any outstanding municipal bonds and their redemption upon maturity. The Town’s annual short term borrowing power was also adjusted to match its expected annual revenue.21 Three years later the Town was granted the authority to operate a water system, including the power to borrow money to accomplish this.22 In 1995, the qualifications for both voters and those being elected to Town office were changed. All town residents who had been residents for at least six months, were U.S. citizens, were over 18, and had no tax delinquency were eligible to vote as well as run for Town office; property ownership was no longer a factor. The position of Alderman was eliminated from the Charter, and the Justice of the Peace Court was given jurisdiction over all matters previously handled by the Alderman.23


2000 – Current

The Town’s next re-incorporation and establishment of a Town Charter took place in 2007. The corporate limits are not described in the Act which instead refers to the plot recorded with Kent County. Future annexation of land is provided for after approval of the Town’s residents by referendum vote. The Town continues to be governed by a Mayor and four Councilman and the qualifications to run for these positions now requires one year of prior residency in the Town. The procedures in the Charter which related to elections procedures, vacancies, and forfeiture of office and the duties of the Mayor and Council were all updated. Elections take place in March, but the fiscal year runs from July to June. Meetings of the Council are to be held twice monthly. Town officials appointed by the Council include a Town Clerk, a Secretary, a Treasurer and a Town Solicitor. Appointing a Board of Assessment is now optional, as the Town could choose to accept the assessment carried out by Kent County. The Council is provided with the option of appointing a Planning Commission who will then be charged with the preparation of a Comprehensive Plan. The maximum amount of the annual taxes is not specified in the Charter; instead this is to be determined annually by the Town Council based on the amount of funds needed to meet the Town’s needs for the upcoming year. This Charter enumerates forty-three specific powers of the Town Council. Among these are: preventing vice, drunkenness and immorality; providing for and preserving health, peace, safety and cleanliness; prohibiting gaming; regulating public events; regulating and paving streets; regulating and impounding wild and domestic animals; regulating or removing certain businesses or building detrimental to public health; acquiring or maintaining cemeteries; enforcing the removal of snow from sidewalks; keeping the streets free from obstructions; prevent or remove nuisances to public safety, health or welfare; providing pure water; providing a sewer system; providing electricity; providing good drainage; granting franchises to companies to provide public services; planting and preserving ornamental trees in public locations; regulating the numbering of houses; regulating the use of combustible materials and removing personal property which may be a fire hazard; establishing a fire code; maintaining a jail; maintaining a town office; and regulating devices which might cause bodily harm. The procedures for enacting ordinances is specifically outlined in the Charter. The Justice of the Peace Court continues to have jurisdiction and enforcement responsibilities of violations of ordinances; they are assisted in this by the town’s Police Officers. The Town continues to have the authority to operate a water system and to enter into contracts for electricity for the Town’s residents. After approval by referendum, the Town may borrow money and issue bonds for public purposes.24 The Charter has not been amended.                                                                                                                                                                                                           

For the fully amended text of the current Charter, see

CITATIONS in Del. Laws

1 6 Del. Laws, c. 369 (1826) [pp.755-59]

2 11 Del. Laws, c. 294 (1855) [p. 323]

3 12 Del. Laws, c. 530 (1865) [pp. 591-95]

4 17 Del. Laws, c. 566 (1885) [pp. 821-22]

5 18 Del. Laws, c. 652 (1889) [p. 869-70]

6 19 Del. Laws, c. 755 (1893) [p. 1071]

7 20 Del. Laws, c. 206 (1895) [p. 271]

8 22 Del. Laws, c. 426 (1903) [pp. 891-93]

9 25 Del. Laws, c. 192 (1909) [pp. 372-73]

10 32 Del. Laws, c. 132 and c. 133 (1921) [pp. 390-93 and p. 394]

11 34 Del. Laws, c. 136 (1925) [p. 346]

12 26 Del. Laws, c. 160 (1929) [p. 482]

13 40 Del. Laws, c. 161 and c. 162 (1935) [p. 577 and pp. 578-81]

14 40 Del. Laws, c. 163 (1935) [pp. 582-95]

15 41 Del. Laws, c. 146 (1937) [pp. 431-34]

16 47 Del. Laws, c. 32 (1949) [pp. 51-65]

17 49 Del. Laws, c. 400 (1953) [p. 822]

18 57 Del. Laws, c. 49 (1969) [p. 80]

19 63 Del. Laws, c. 432 (1982) [p. 921]

20 65 Del. Laws, c. 254 (1986) [p. 492]

21 67 Del. Laws, c. 32 and c. 81 (1989) [p. 39-40 and p. 264]

22 68 Del. Laws, c. 284 (1992) [p. 909]

23 70 Del. Laws, c. 190 (1995) [pp. 491-93]

24 76 Del. Laws, c. 140 (2007) [vol. I, pp. 189-200]

Delaware Laws from 1935 to present can be found online at


Town of Frederica records at the Delaware Public Archives include:

  • Minutes of the Commissioners/Town Council (1866-1920): 6050-000-001


jnl / July 6, 2018 | April 15, 2019