History of Leipsic

The formal history of Leipsic began in 1687 when John Hillyard purchased a 300‐acre tract of land from William Penn. In 1723 Jacob Stout bought this land from Hillyard and it became known as “Fast Landing,” because of its quick boat docking.

J. Thomas Scharf’s History of Delaware (1988) characterizes Leipsic’s port in 1836 as “one of the most important on the Peninsula,” with “hives of activity” that included lumber, grains, oysters, and fur that could be loaded onto 24 ships at one time. From the 1830ss to 1850s there were multiple shipyards in operation, building vessels that traveled all over the Atlantic Ocean.

A steamboat line opened in 1853 connecting Smyrna, Leipsic, and Philadelphia. The port of Leipsic has always been central to life in Leipsic. Up until the 1930’s Leipsic was a port of call for small steamers, which worked the river towns of the Delaware Bay, offering scheduled weekly visits that connected the port of Leipsic with other small ports on the Delaware Bay, as well as Philadelphia.

The produce of local farms including tomatoes, peaches, melons, together with muskrats and salt hay from the local marshes were exported and coal for wintertime heating was imported. The era of Prohibition also brought activity to Leipsic’s port. The oyster business was most productive and boats from Leipsic worked the oyster beds around Port Mahon and the mouth of the Leipsic River.

In the 1950s a mysterious oyster disease MSX, and in the 1990s Dermo, decimated the oyster business in Delaware and New Jersey. Only crabbing survived as a mainstay of the port of Leipsic. The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary reports, “The oyster population rebounded somewhat by 2000 due to the combined efforts of Delaware and New Jersey and the oyster industry, producing some 100,000 bushels per year. Today, however, the oyster population is feeling the effects of below‐average biological recruitment for unknown reasons. Over  Ɵme, the shell‐planting and transplant program could increase production to approximately 200,000 to 400,000 bushels per year, with a possible economic impact of up to $60 million between the two states. This is money that would not only revitalize the oyster population in the future, but also many coastal communities dependent upon the living resource.

Leipsic Mayor Craig Pugh talks about living off the water and the taste of Delaware Bay oysters.