List of counties in Delaware

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The United States state of Delaware has three counties: New Castle, Kent, and Sussex, the fewest counties of any U.S. state.[1] The origin of the county boundaries goes back to former court districts. The powers of the counties' legislative bodies are limited to issues such as zoning and development.


Politics and government

Each county elects a legislative body (known in New Castle and Sussex counties as the County Council, and in Kent County as the Levy Court). The counties are able to raise taxes and borrow money. They also have control over garbage disposal, water supply, sewerage, zoning, development, and building codes.[2]

Most functions which are handled on a county-by-county basis in other states—such as court and law enforcement—have been centralized in Delaware, leading to a significant concentration of power in the Delaware state government. The counties were historically divided into hundreds, which were used as tax reporting and voting districts until the 1960s. However, the hundreds now serve no administrative role; their only current official legal use is in real-estate title descriptions.[3]


Following the English conquest of 1664, all of the land on the western side of the Delaware River and Delaware Bay was governed as part of the New York Colony and administered from the town of New Castle. During the brief recapture of the colony by the Dutch in 1673, additional court districts were created around Upland and Whorekill.[4] The latter was also known as Hoornkill, and is now the town of Lewes.[5] The court at New Castle was left with the central portion of the colony. The jurisdiction left to the court at became New Castle County, and the county seat remained at New Castle until 1881 when it was moved to Wilmington. In 1680, Whorekill District was divided into Deale County and St. Jones County.[6] After this division, Lewes became the county seat of Deale, which was later renamed Sussex County.[6] The former Upland District was named after the New Sweden settlement of Upland, and was renamed Chester County in 1682.[7] Chester County is now located within the present boundaries of Pennsylvania.[8]

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