Fenwick Island is among a string of other beach towns along the Maryland and Delaware shore, but residents know that Fenwick Island has a distinctive charm all its own. Residents of Bayside, and other locals, certainly enjoy the uniqueness of the quaint coastal town, but they may not be aware of the rich history Fenwick Island has. If you dig a little bit, you’ll see that the small beach town boasts quite an interesting history.
Lord Baltimore originally claimed the land now known as Fenwick Island, and later gave it to Colonel William Stevens in 1680, who then gave it to wealthy New Yorker Thomas Fenwick in 1692. Though Fenwick didn’t actually live on the land, it received his namesake nonetheless. In the 1600’s, Fenwick Island resembled an actual island more than it does today. There were several inlets that connected the bay to the Atlantic Ocean, and they were well-travelled by not only merchant ships and sailors, but pirates as well. Fenwick Island lore states that the small islands surrounding Fenwick Island were used by pirates to unload or hide their treasure. In fact, Charles Wilson, partner in crime with the infamous Blackbeard, allegedly buried treasure on Assateague Island, which is just south of Fenwick Island. Before being tried and hung for his crimes, he wrote a letter to his brother – recovered in 1948 – that detailed directions to his treasure, which has yet to be found.
Thomas Fenwick died in 1708, and Fenwick Island became the property of his daughter and son-in-law, Mary and William Fassett. According to legend, William Fassett swam to the Fenwick Island beach after being tossed overboard a pirate ship off the shore of the southern Delaware coast. He was so thankful to reach the beach that the allegedly vowed he would own the land someday – a wish that came true by marrying Thomas Fenwick’s daughter.
Although it had passed ownership several times, Fenwick Island still remained relatively uninhabited for quite some time. Due to an increasing number of shipwrecks occurring off the coast of Fenwick Island in the 19th century, a lighthouse was deemed necessary. The light was lit in the Fenwick Island lighthouse in 1859, and it’s been a fixture of our coastal town ever since. The lighthouse slightly boosted the population of Fenwick Island with the addition of the families of the lighthouse keeper and his assistant. The lighthouse still stands today, and is a must-see for Bayside residents if they haven’t yet visited!
During the 19th century, one of the few people to settle on Fenwick Island was local legend, Zippora “Zippy” Lewis, who moved to the area with her husband, John. Zippy could be found walking along the Fenwick Island beach in a long dress and sun bonnet, waiting for John to return after he left on a ship one day and never came back. Legend has it that Zippy built a shack on the beach so she could keep a watchful eye for John’s return, and it was rumored that she had a vast collection of coins she gathered from the beach to support herself financially. When she died in 1884, however, no treasure was found in the home of “Aunt Zippy.”
As the decades wore on, the Fenwick Island population slowly began to increase, and vacationers took notice of its prime destination and beautiful beaches. Post-World War II, Fenwick Island really began to get noticed as an excellent summer resort, and it’s been one of the prime destinations on the Delaware shore ever since.
Fenwick Island’s rich history undoubtedly plays a part in its current-day charm, and for Bayside residents, that uniqueness is one of the best aspects of living in a Delaware beach community. And our residents know that the best way to enjoy the charm of Fenwick Island is by living in Bayside. Our new home construction community allows residents to love their beach homes and their community while enjoying the historical and enchanting beach town of Fenwick Island.
SOURCE: fenwickisland.com, visitdebeach.com, “Pirates and Patriots: Tales of the Delaware Coast,” by Michael Morgan