Former black school, revolutionary battlefield to receive historic markers
by Scott Goss, Newark Post
Two historic locations in the Newark-area will finally get some of the credit they are due during separate public recognition events planned for this weekend.
On Friday, city and state officials will officially unveil a new historic marker at the George Wilson Community Center on New London Road, which began life on Sept. 2, 1922 as a five-room school for Newark’s 180 black children.
The building is one of 80 black schools built in Delaware between 1919 and 1928 that were personally financed by Pierre S. duPont, who at the time had just quit his job a president of E.I. duPont de Nemours and Company to serve on a newly created state board of education. The building served as the city’s “colored school” until integration came in 1954 and Newark’s black students were transferred to O.O. Howard High School in Wilmington.
The city purchased the building from the state $5,000 in 1961.
It began operation as the New London Avenue Community Center in 1970, but seven years later was renamed the George M. Wilson Community Center, in honor of local civil rights hero George “Inky” Wilson, Newark’s first and to-date only black city council member, having served from 1958 to 1962.
A brief ceremony will be held at the George M. Wilson Community Center at 10 a.m. on Sept. 5 for the unveiling and dedication of the new historic marker.
Then on Saturday, members of the Pencader Heritage Association will unveil a new monument honoring the American soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge, the only wartime engagement ever fought on Delaware soil.
The battle, which began on Sept. 3, 1777, was the first in a series of skirmishes between about 1,000 militiamen from Delaware and Pennsylvania and British and Hessian troops on their way to capture Philadelphia.
The much larger British force was able to drive the militiamen into retreat across Cooch’s Bridge, killing 30 to 50 colonists, including a handful of officers, along the way.
“We don’t know the names of the American kids who died during the battle or even how many of them perished because the only historical records are from the diaries of the British soldiers,” heritage association vice president Bill Conley said. “The British buried the dead, so we assume there must be mass graves in the area.”
The monument to be dedicated at the Cooch-Dayett Mills complex on Dayett Mills Road and Old Baltimore Pike at 6 p.m. was designed by Chris Kanich, a Hodgson Vo-Tech High School senior, and is made from granite once used as ballast stones in a 17th century British ship.
A bronze plaque affixed to the monument was designed by Wage Catts, a Delaware historian and expert on the battle.