Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
List of counties in Delaware
Delaware's Three Counties
- Kent County: Formed in 1685 by William Penn as St. Jones County; later renamed to Kent County. County seat: Dover.
- New Castle County: First settlement in 1673 by Dutch settlers. Upon transfer of Dutch colonies to England in 1682, borders establshed in 1685 by William Penn. County seat: Wilmington.
- Sussex County: Taken from the Dutch in 1674 upon transfer of Dutch colonies to England. Border in dispute with Lord Baltimore; claimed by the Duke of York as Deale County and by Lord Baltimore as Durham County. Subsequently renamed Sussex County in 1682 by William Penn. Dispute dragged on between Penn and Lord Baltimore and their heirs for many years through the English judicial system; borders finally fixed for all time by the Mason-Dixon Survey. County seat: Georgetown.
Legal Status of Delaware's Counties
It is not true, as some Internet sites say, that Delaware has abolished its counties. It is true that property taxation was originally based on the hundred, a Saxon unit in early England, instead of counties. Today, though, property taxes are levied by the municipality (if the property is in a city or town) and the county and the school district the property is in.
The hundred still legally exists; in fact, there are 33 hundreds in the state, the boundaries of all of which are fixed by law. However, the hundred is largely an anachronism now, the primary purpose of which seems to be to show up on property deeds to identify the location of the parcel being transferred.
Each county also has its own elected executive officials and legislative body. However, many functions which in larger states are handled by individual counties -- such as law-enforcement, the judiciary, road maintenance, etc. -- have in Delaware been assumed by the state government.
Law-enforcement services in unincorporated areas of the state (i.e., most of the state) are handled by the Delaware State Police (and, in New Castle County, the New Castle County Police ). The sheriffs of the three counties have no official law-enforcement duties other than service of legal process and holding prisoners at the courthouse. Even courthouse security duties have been assumed by the Delaware Capitol Police . 
However, Robert L. Reed, the Sheriff of Sussex County, is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the Sussex County Council and the Delaware Attorney General over his authority to equip his deputies' vehicles with emergency lights and sirens. He claims that the Delaware Constitution makes the Sheriff the chief law-enforcement officer of the county with powers of arrest. The State disagrees. The dispute escalated to the point where the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles suspended the registrations of the Sheriff's vehicles which were so equipped.  Although Reed relented and removed at least some of the lights, , and a court challenge to the Attorney General's interpretation of the law was dismissed on procedural grounds, it is possible that legislative action may yet be taken to grant law-enforcement powers to the Sheriff. (This also occurred in Pennsylvania, where it took a decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and an act of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania to give such powers to sheriff's deputies and constables.)
External links to county webpages
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