Town History

Ellendale was founded in the early 19th century and surveyed in 1866-1867. Ellendale was first settled near the Morris Tavern Crossroads, near the current Old State Road and Main Street intersection, by a handful of families. Ellendale’s current site was established in 1866 when the families moved east to settle around the Junction and Breakwater Railroad Depot.

On July 16, 1873 the Ellendale Methodist Episcopal Church purchased land to erect a church, parsonage, and school. Ellendale began as an industrial community and the economy rapidly advanced as the R.J. Clendaniel Sawmill, the Jester & Reed Canning Company, a brick yard, several peach evaporating and canning companies, a basket factory, the Phillip J. Ritter Ketchup Company, Ellendale Excelsior Company, and a button factory opened in the town.

In February 1895, the Queen Anne’s Railroad was authorized by the Delaware legislature to extend its rail lines across the state to Lewes. The goal of the company was to establish a direct link between Baltimore and Delaware’s coastal resorts. This additional rail line passed through Ellendale and provided passenger, freight, and mail services, with the first passenger trains passing through in 1897.

This made Ellendale an important railroad hub on the Delmarva Penninsula, with two north-south lines, and one east-west line, served by two railroad stations in the area of town now known as Railroad Square. Residents and businesses of the communities on the east-west Queen Anne line would travel or send their products to Ellendale to head north to Philadelphia or south to Cape Charles, Virginia and across the Chesapeake to Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Similarly, communities on the north-south lines would travel to Ellendale to head east to Rehoboth Beach and Cape May, New Jersey or west to Baltimore, Maryland.

A post office was erected at the site of what is now the Town Hall. The railroad was purchased by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1905 and that same year the town was formally incorporated. In 1920, the Ellendale Fire Company was started as a municipal fire department by the Ellendale Town Council. The Ellendale Police Department was started a year later, in 1921.

Today, Ellendale is a small, but growing, Delaware town with a population of 487 residents in the 2020 Census, an increase of 27.8% over the last ten years.