Fort Christina, founded by the Swedes in 1638, was the first permanent settlement in what is today the state of Delaware in the United States.

In the early part of the seventeenth century, many nations were fighting (often literally) to establish footholds on the western hemisphere for new colonies and new sources of goods for the home country. The coast of modern-day Delaware was surveyed in the sixteenth century by the Spaniards, and later by the Dutch and English, including Henry Hudson and Samuel Argall. Argall was the man who coined the name "Delaware" (in honor of the English governor of Virginia Lord De La Warr) when a storm blew his ship into Delaware Bay. The Dutch tried to establish a colony in Delaware in 1631 near present day Lewes which they called Zwaanendael or Valley of Swans, but the colony was destroyed by local native tribes (the Leni Lenape). The Dutch returned briefly in 1632 but did not stay at that time after finding Zwaanendael destroyed.

In 1638, Sweden decided to try its luck in the Delaware Valley. The New Sweden Company was founded in 1637 to bring trade goods (fur and tobacco) from the New World. Peter Minuit (former Dutch governor of New Netherlands) was hired to lead two Swedish ships -- the Kalmar Nyckel (Key of Kalmar) and the Vogel Grip (Gryphon) -- from Gothenburg, across the Atlantic Ocean, and up the Delaware Bay and River to establish Fort Christina (named for the young Queen of Sweden). Fort Christina was located at the mouth of the (newly christened) Christina River, now located in downtown Wilmington near 7th Street. The original group of 25 settlers who established the fort were a mix of nationalities: Swedes, Finns, Dutch, Germans, and one freed slave from the Caribbean. All 25 were men -- they left their families behind, and they lived in Finnish-style log cabins around the Fort. When their families arrived two years later, all 25 were still alive, a rare occurrence in those days.

The Swedes founded New Sweden in 1640 seated just a few miles south of the original Fort Christina, and they bought a large parcel of land from the native inhabitants stretching from Cape Henlopen at the mouth of Delaware Bay, far up the Delaware River to Trenton Falls, and from the river as far inland as they wanted. At that time, Johan Printz was appointed the first governor of the colony. The colony thrived, and more than 600 Swedish and Finnish settlers moved from Europe to New Sweden over the next decade and a half. Swedish settlements in the region included what is today Philadelphia, New Castle, Delaware, and Salem, New Jersey on the eastern shore of the Bay.

Though the colony did fairly well for itself, it ran into diplomatic problems starting in 1651. Apparently the local native tribes sold the land along the Delaware River to the Swedes and the Dutch. The Dutch were apparently oblivious to (or just ignored) the Swedish claims to the land, and founded their own new settlement in the region, centered on Fort Casimir, near modern New Castle. Things were further complicated when the Swedes used their forts on Delaware and New Jersey sides of the Bay to block Dutch and English ships from entering the River. Finally, in 1654 Governor Johan Rising (who replaced Printz the previous year after complaints from the settlers) "attacked" Fort Casimir and took over the Dutch colony. Apparently Fort Casimir had no gunpowder, so they surrendered without a fight.

When news of this reached Peter Stuyvesant, governor of New Amsterdam (modern day New York), he was furious, and sent Dutch forces to the region -- seven ships and over 300 soldiers -- in late 1655. The Swedes realized they were outnumbered and outgunned, and finally surrendered Fort Christina in September of 1655, ending direct Swedish control over the region. However, Stuyvesant allowed the Swedes currently there to continue living as they had done, and did not impose Dutch law on them so long as they acknowledged Dutch control. Actual control of the region switched back and forth between the Dutch and England for the next thirty years, until England finally took control, and most of the region was ceded to William Penn by James II in 1685.

When the English ordered the Dutch out of the region, they allowed the Swedes to stay. In fact, the Swedes thrived, and retained some of their culture. For example, the Old Swedes Church (Lutheran) was built in 1698 in New Castle, well after the English take-over, and remains to this day. A few other examples of the Swedish history can still be found. The Governor Printz Boulevard runs from the edge of Wilmington to Claymont, Delaware. And the Christina River also retains its name.

and the general gist of things from memory. My apologies for dead links, I'm starting a new noding project on Delaware history.

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