Delaware Backstory:
Award puts little-known battle, group in national spotlight

By robin brown, The News Journal - March 19, 2013

A little-known citizens’ group was honored last weekend for its efforts to preserve a unique part of Delaware’s past.

The Cooch’s Bridge Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, led by Regent Geri Dorman, on Saturday recognized the Pencader Heritage Area Association. The all-volunteer group focuses on a part of New Castle County once called Pencader Hundred, including the site of the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge, the only Revolutionary War fight on Delaware soil.

The chapter presented PHAA President Barbara White and Vice President Bill Conley the national group’s Historic Preservation Recognition Award, citing “tireless efforts... for the purpose of preserving our local history.”

Sharing the honor were PHAA board members Ed Wirth, Jim Lee, Sally Miller, Bob Barnes and Marcia Adams, who is the organization’s treasurer. (PHAA Editor's Note: Marcia Adams is the PHAA Secretary)

The group created a public memorial, interpretation site and museum – curated by Barnes – of donated and loaned objects on the sprawling battlefield in the Cooch-Dayett Mill Complex across Old Baltimore Pike from the Cooch home and cannon monument. The nonprofit has about 40 members, nearly a dozen involved in most activities, such as a yearly Pencader Heritage Day and speaker bureau.

Part of what makes the award prestigious is that DAR chapters countrywide make nominations but the National DAR decides those worthy of the honor, chapter Historic Preservation Chairman Dawn Clair told members and guests at the Christiana Hilton near Stanton.

The chapter nominated PHAA for “exemplary volunteer work in the area of historic preservation ... instrumental in preserving the site of the state’s only Revolutionary War battlefield,” Clair said.

Beyond its monument and museum, she lauded its “collection of Revolutionary War period artifacts, many of which were found on the battlefield, as well as clothing, literature and other war items donated to the museum.” Its efforts, she said, help the public recognize the battlefield’s significance.

Conley said each board member plays “a key part” in PHAA and praised support of the state Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and Cooch’s Bridge Chapter DAR.

The battlefield – where archaeologist Wade P. Catts determined up to 20 colonial troops are buried in unmarked graves from the battle on Sept. 3, 1777 – is “one of the most precious, sacred pieces of ground in Delaware,” Conley said.

Lynn Riley of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs praised PHAA’s volunteers, saying, “We could not do justice to this venerable land and history without their help.”

The free museum – at 2029 Sunset Lake Road (Del. 72) just south of Old Baltimore Pike – is open 10 4 p.m. the first and third Saturday monthly.

Write to robin brown at The News Journal, Box 15505, Wilmington, DE 19850; fax 324-5509; call 324-2856; or e-mail