The origins of naming Wawaset


The village of Wawaset is two miles down-river from Northbrook.  It was called Seed’s Ford until 1834, named for Emmor Seeds, a farmer who owned the land across the river. It was re-named Seed’s Bridge after the West Chester-Unionville road spanned the Brandywine.  The Wilmington and Northern adopted this name when it built a station in 1870 at the west end of the bridge.  Thus it remained for only a few years, until it was re-named Wawaset.

There are two widely differing stories about this change of name.

The first story, with overtones of Romeo and Juliet, springs from a dark and tragic legend presumably passed down from the Lenape to the early settlers of Seed’s Ford.  The tale is of Deborah, the daughter of a Nanticoke chief, who was loved by Kaucke, a Nanticoke, and Wawaset, the son of a chief of a hostile tribe.  Deborah loved Wawaset dearly, but her father and her people would not accept him, and so the couple eloped.  On their way to join Wawaset’s tribe, Kaucke caught up with the couple and killed Wawaset.  Deborah was brought back to her own tribe, and her father arranged for her to be married to Kaucke that same night.

Distraught, Deborah slipped away from her village before the ceremony, climbed to the top of cliff on the banks of the Brandywine, threw herself down into the dark waters and drowned. Deborah’s Rock can still be seen a few miles from the village.

So, this story goes, the railroad management was so struck with the legend of this strong-willed Indian woman that they renamed the station after her slain lover.

But the story has its cynics.  Futhey and Cope (again, in the History of Chester County)  dismiss “this tale of deep and thrilling interest” with these words: “It is scarcely necessary to say to the intelligent reader that the story is without foundation, so far as is known to history.”

By far the more prosaic story is that the railroad management chose the name the Lenape Indians gave to the Brandywine:  wawassan, a word roughly translated “the settling place of the wild geese.”