History of Rehoboth's Freshwater Lakes

By Warren H. Macdonald, noted local historian

Silver Lake, Lake Comegys, and Lake Gerar have long been considered to be unusual because freshwater lakes are not normally found so close to the edge of the ocean. The truth is, the edge of the ocean has receded back to its proximity to the lakes. Meanwhile, the soils containing the depressions for the lakes (and containing the fresh water aquifers that feed them) are remnants of the alluvial flow that followed from the receding glaciers of the last Ice Age.

The Lake Gerar area, until the 1930’s, was basically a swamp -- with shallow water in rainy periods. A branch of the DuPont family, with homes on the north side, agreed with the City of Rehoboth Beach, to clean up the wetland and make it a proper lake, in exchange for nearby lands. Until about 200 years ago, Silver Lake and Lake Comegys were conjoined. The separation took place early in the 1800’s, at which time the Comegys extension was already known as Tan Vat Cove.

historyEarly European visitors to this part of Delaware found that no American Indians were permanently living around the lakes, but that the Nanticoke tribe, whose home base was on the north shore of Indian River Bay, had regular summer encampments around Silver Lake. The purpose of these visits was to gather shell fish (clams and oysters) from the Ocean. These were then smoked over open fires for drying. The meats could then last into the winter but were also used for trading purposes with other tribes further inland. In this trade, a sought after item was Pennsylvania Jasper, a stone hard enough for Indians here to turn into tools, including arrow points. Such artifacts have been found along the shores of Silver Lake.

The earliest name applied by English settlers to Silver Lake was Rhodes Pond. This was for the John Rhodes (Roads) family that acquired a Duke of York patent (grant) to the nearby land, beginning in 1676, and ultimately surrounding the entire lake. Over the years thereafter, the land in the patented area was gradually sold to others, but no part of the lake was included in the sales. This factor appears to have contributed to the situation today wherein no party or jurisdiction has claimed the lake.

The name of Rhodes Pond gave way, in the late 1700’s, to Lake Newbold, for John Newbold, the third of the six husbands of Naomi Hinham (who first married the fourth John Rhodes). At some point in the 1800’s, Lake Newbold was renamed "Lake Charles." The reason for this remains a mystery. About 1924, the name "Silver Lake" was applied, as part of the promotion of the development, "Rehoboth Heights" "Tan Vat Cove" gave way, about 1871, to "Lake Comegys," the name of a major director of the organization promoting the sea-side development then named "Rehoboth City." The name, "Lake Gerar" was applied to the third lake in 1872, by the Methodist Camp Meeting Association.

Early in Colonial days, ship captains knew that Silver Lake was a handy place to secure fresh water before heading out into the Atlantic. The settlers of Lewes, however, tried several times to prevent pirates from filling their casks by sending armed men here to drive them off.

During cold winters and before the production of manufactured ice, local farmers cut blocks of ice from Silver Lake to help keep their foodstuffs from spoiling too soon. Today the lake’s surface covers a total of forty-five acres.


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