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Fenwick Island, 1857-1907

Identifier: III.A.

Scope and Contents

Contents: Letters, legal documents, photos.

This subseries focuses exclusively on one of Saulsbury's larger investments. In the last few years of the 19th century, Saulsbury joined a group of investors to look at the possibility of selling lots on the island and developing Fenwick Island as a summer resort and hunting lodge. Saulsbury and his fellow investors were initially motivated by the establishment of an annual non-denominational camp meeting on the island every summer, which they believed could provide a group interested in purchasing lots for summer homes. After the announcement that a streetcar line and possibly even a railroad would be extended down towards the island, Saulsbury became convinced that the investment would be profitable. Saulsbury and his cohorts formed the Fenwick Island Co. and bought title to the land.

Fenwick Island lies on the border between Maryland and Delaware. Coincidentally, at roughly the same time that the Fenwick Island Co. was preparing to develop the island, the Atlantic Coast Improvement Co., a Maryland investment group, sought to develop the land as well. Unfortunately, Fenwick Island had been the focus of a border dispute between the two states extending back to the time of William Penn. Therefore, although the border dispute had long been settled, title to land on the island was not always easily established. The two investment companies disputed who had acquired title to most of the beachfront property without which the land would not be a rewarding investment. A protracted legal search, which even involved the two states' governors, ensued, ultimately showing that title to the beach belonged to the Maryland company. Without the beachfront, Saulsbury and his associate Preston Lea, former governor of Delaware, resigned their positions with the Fenwick Island Co. and it was subsequently dissolved.

This subseries, consisting mostly of correspondence, documents these events. Also included are the charter of the company and the official resignations of Saulsbury and of Governor Lea from the company. The bulk of the file is made up of the correspondence involved in efforts to establish title to the beachfront. Also of interest are ten photos of various places on the largely undeveloped island, including one of the old lighthouse.


  • Creation: 1857-1907



Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA