The Beers Atlas and Aerial Imagery

The Pomeroy & Beers Atlas of 1868 is a valuable resource for Delaware researchers, featuring the locations of most houses and their owners’ names, in addition to other important structures like churches, schools, and stores. I’ve often compared the atlas to early topographic maps and aerial photography while researching a particular individual or property, glancing from one to another, but with the help of fairly simple software, images from different sources can be layered and merged, creating a sort of hybrid map.

In the following examples, I’ve overlaid a portion of the Beers Atlas (specifically, a portion of the map of Broad Creek Hundred) over early aerial imagery. In each case, there is a significant gap between the year the map was produced and the year the aerial photograph was taken, but the resulting images are striking nonetheless.

The image above depicts the neighborhood between Lowe’s Crossroads and Little Hill. The photograph is from 1954. Points of interest include the absence of King’s Crossing Road in 1868, and the presence of a road connecting what is now Lowe’s Crossing Road and Carey’s Camp Road. That road still survives as a private dirt lane. “Mrs. N. Timmons” is assumed to be Nancy Timmons, who was—according to census records—100 years old in 1870, but only 60 years old in 1850.

The image above depicts the neighborhood once known as Terrapin Hill, or, more recently, Whaley’s Crossroads. The photograph was taken in 1937. Perhaps the most striking difference is the absence of today’s Route 24 in 1868. Even in 1937, the road was fairly new. Persons of interest include Henry Pepper, Elijah Hudson, William J. West, and Henry Clay Matthews. Henry is probably the southernmost “H. Matthews,” living on the north side of today’s Samuel Hill Road, near the center of the image.

I plan to create more hybrid images of neighborhoods in this part of Sussex County, such as the Old Forge community located east of Laurel, Trap Pond (which will be tricky, since it’s in both Little Creek Hundred and Broad Creek Hundred, and therefore appears at the edge of two maps), Cypress Swamp, and parts of Gumboro.

– Chris Slavens

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2 Comments

Filed under Delaware, Delaware history, Delmarva Geography, Maps, Sussex County

2 responses to “The Beers Atlas and Aerial Imagery

  1. Donna

    Chris,
    This is fabulous. I have ancestors who lived in Broad Creek Hundred, Northwest Fork Hundred, and then Seaford, DE. I have pinpointed their home using the1868 Beers Map for Seaford in Northwest Fork. The property, known as the “Huffington lot” was owned by Rachel Huffington, the sister of my 4x great grandmother, Mary “Polly” (Huffington) Laws. In her will, Rachel deeds the property to her great nieces and nephews, including the children of Polly and her husband, Elijah Laws, including my 3x great-grandmother Catharine (Laws) Marvel. In 1900, Catharine is a widow, living in the home, which by then was owned by her grandson, Charles Marvel. The property was located, according to the deed of sale dated 3 September 1895 between Charles Marvel and James E. Marvel (his uncle and Catharine’s brother), “on the west side and near the south end of north street fronting on North Street” and adjoining the property of Margaret Brouton, the former property of Benjamin Shockley, and the Hellen lot. A Google Earth search shows that the house is no longer there, but the block (North and Water Streets) is now part of the Nanticoke Training Center.

  2. cindysteinhoff

    Hi, Chris, Could you tell me the name of the software you use to do map overlays? I am interested in doing exactly what you did — overlaying a map from a Beers or similar atlas on a more recent map. Thanks!

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