Bowers Beach is located along the west coast of the Delaware Bay between St. Jones River to the north and the Murderkill River to the south in Kent County. It is the ancestral homeland of the Lenni-Lenape people.
We know very little about the leisure activities at Bowers Beach during the early twentieth century and nowhere is it designated as an exclusively Black beach. However, the timetable, shown here, indicates that the beach was being visited by vacationers from out of town throughout the summer. The beach was also mentioned several times in the August issues of the Delaware Gazette and State Journal or the Evening Journal newspapers, but only when violence occurred during Big Thursday, Big Saturday, and random other occasions.
Screenshot of the Delaware Gazette and State Journal August 18, 1898 article about the recent incidents at the “Big Thursday” event at Bowers Beach.
The incidents appear to take place around the time of “Big Thursday” the event held for white people and “Big Saturday” the event held for Black people to celebrate the beginning of oyster season. These two days were a celebratory time for people because there was a law enacted on February 4, 1835 that regulated times of the year when oystering could take place. Despite the day being geared towards white people there was a location south of the main entrance of the beach where Black beach-goers would gather to also celebrate the beginning of oyster season. The event is still held today at Bowers Beach, however now they are held on a Sunday in October.
- Dr. Reba Hollingsworth, Oral History conducted by Kelli Barnes, August 12, 2021.
- Duffy, Jim. “The Bowers Beach Oyster Back that Dates Clear Back to 1852.” Secrets of the Eastern Shore. Blog Post. 2016 Oct 9.
- Scharf, J. Thomas. “Chapter LXII: South Murderkill Hundred.”
- History of Delaware, 1609-1888. Volume II. Philadelphia: L.J. Richards & Co. 1888. P. 1147-1171.