The Gap

The Settlement of Delaware Water Gap

Martin W. Wilson 

In 1793, when Antoine Dutot arrived in the area with the intention of founding a city, the vicinity just north of the geological formation known as the Delaware Water Gap, had been the site of human habitation for thousands of years. Known as the Minisink by the Lenni-Lenapes, it is estimated that the area was first inhabited by the Paleo-Indians as early as 10,000 to 12,000 B.C. When the first white men reached the region in 1614, they encountered the Minsi tribe of the Wolf Clan of the Lenni-Lenape Nation (the Lenni-Lenape were commonly referred to as the Delaware Indians because they ranged from the headwaters of the Delaware River to the shores of the Delaware Bay).

The Minisink was first explored by Europeans in 1614 by three travelers from New Amsterdam who descended from the Hudson River. They were followed in 1620 by a second group of Dutchmen who, in their report, referred to mineral deposits, especially copper, present in the region. At some point subsequent to the 1620 visit, the Dutch started to mine the copper (a reference to copper ore mined in the Minisink appeared in a 1641 journal article originating in the New Netherlands). In order to get the ore from the mines (which still exist about three miles north of the gap on the New Jersey side of the river) to Esopus (Kingston, New York), the mining company built a road connecting the two. It was along this one hundred mile-long road that the first settlers reached the Minisink.

Copper mining ceased in 1664 when the Dutch surrendered New York to the English. The Copper Mine Road continued to be used, though, by Dutch, English, French, and even some Spanish and German settlers who colonized the eastern side of the river north of the Gap. The first settler on the west bank of the Delaware River in the Minisink was Nicolas Depui who, in 1727, moved his family from the Hudson Valley to present day Shawnee.

Due to the difficulty of travel through the Gap (the mountains reached right down to the river leaving no room for a road or path), settlers in the Minisink knew little or nothing of settlements to the south. In 1730, Thomas Penn, son of William, sent Nicholas Scull on an expedition from Philadelphia to the Minisink to investigate rumors of settlements there. As a result of Scull’s visit, Depui was required to repurchase land from William Allen (who had obtained it from Penn) that he had previously bought from the Indians. After Scull’s sojourn, settlers from south of the mountains began to travel into the area. (Northern-bound settlers reached the area via Wind Gap.) It was not until the end of the eighteenth century, however, that the flow from the south eclipsed that of the north.


A settler from present-day Albany, Daniel Brodhead, moved his family to the area in 1737. Settling in present-day East Stroudsburg, Brodhead lent his name to the new town of Dansbury. The Indian wars of mid-eighteenth century led to a thinning of settlers as many moved away to avoid hostilities. By the time another settler, Jacob Stroud, returned to the area after the Revolutionary War, the Indian threat had been eliminated. Stroud was able to acquired several abandoned farms at very little cost. By 1806, he owned so much land that the area in which he lived began to be called Stroudsburg.

Delaware Water Gap remained unsettled long after settlements nearby had grown. In 1793, Antoine Dutot, a French plantation owner in Santa Domingo, fled the slave uprising there and headed toward Philadelphia. Upon arriving in the Quaker city, Dutot was advised to travel up the Delaware River to the Gap, where he purchased a large tract of land and began to lay out an inland city. He erected a dozen or more wooden buildings, designated a triangular piece of ground for a market, and named the new town after himself. Dutotsburg never became the bustling city its founder had envisioned, however. People moving into the tiny borough built their own houses and Dutot’s structures fell into disrepair. Eventually Dutotsburg became known as the borough of Delaware Water Gap, probably in order to benefit from the inherent advertising benefits associated with the well-known geological formation.

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