Hundreds are subdivisions of land and population, made for purposes of judicial administration and taxation. The division dates back to the Anglo-Saxon period in England, and was brought to the American continent by William Penn during colonial times. This system still survives today as semi-official subdivisions in the state of Delaware.

Under Anglo-Saxon law and society, the land and their people were divided into parcels of various sizes, administrated and taxed by people of corresponding stature. These divisions were codified during the reign of King Edgar, around the year 975 C.E., in the Law of the Hundred. The smallest subdivision was the individual "freeholder" family -- a single married man, and his dependents. Ten of these families were then combined into a tithing, presided over by a tithingman, and ten tithings made up a hundred. Thus a hundred is essentially a hundred freeholder families. In England, these hundreds were grouped into a shire, overseen by a shire reeve (sheriff), and the shire reeves were finally overseen by the King. Hundred courts met once a month to deal with judicial matters on the local level, and each hundred was led by an eolder (elder), a single man responsible for the administration and military organization of the hundred. (Aside: analogous to the English Hundred was the Wapentake -- a subdivision of land used in the North of England, specifically in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Nottinghamshire. See wapentake for the details.)

When William Penn established his colony of Penn's Woods in October of 1682, he adapted this division of counties and hundreds, at least in the lower portion of his colony on the Delmarva peninsula. Originally, there were nine hundreds spread throughout Delaware, though there was more than one county. The original hundreds were: Appoquinimink, Brandywine, Christiana, Duck Creek, Mispillion, Motherkill, New Castle, St. Georges, and St. Jones. Over time, as the colony grew in population, more hundreds were added and land within existing hundreds was split and shifted from one to another.

The Hundreds are still recognized in the State of Delaware, though these subdivisions are mostly traditional now, and all governmental matters within the state are conducted on the municipal, county, and state level. I believe they are mainly used now as property tax and public school district boundaries. (Note for our British friends: public schools here are the government-run schools, not the private ones.) Hundreds also existed in the state of Maryland as election units until 1800, but the first national census led to the creation of "Election Districts" which superseded them. Similar divisions apparently existed in Virginia, West Virginia, and perhaps the Carolinas, but only a few exist in name today.

The Hundreds of the State of Delaware are as follows (by county, north to south):

New Castle County: Kent County:
  • Duck Creek
  • Kenton
  • Little Creek
  • West Dover
  • East Dover
  • North Murderkill
  • South Murderkill
  • Milford
  • Mispillion
Sussex County:

The Delaware Genealogical Society (
Delaware: Small Wonder, State of Delaware and Harry Abrams Inc., New York (1984)
Thanks to Gorgonzola for noting the existence of hundreds outside of Delaware.