From the early Dutch settlement in 1631 to the colony’s rule by Pennsylvania in 1682, the land that later became the U.S. state of Delaware changed hands many times. Because of this, Delaware became a very heterogeneous society made up of individuals who were both religiously and culturally diverse.
During his voyage in 1609 to locate the Northwest Passage to Asia for the Dutch, Henry Hudson sailed into what now is the Delaware Bay. He would name it the South River, but this would later change after Samuel Argall discovered the river in 1610 after being blown off course. Argall would later rename the river, Delaware, after his governor, Lord De La Warr.
Neither the Dutch nor the English showed any early interest in establishing any kind of settlement of this land. The first true attempt to settle the land came in 1631 when the Dutch sent a group of twenty-eight men to build a fort inside Cape Henlopen on Lewes Creek. This first colony was established in order to take advantage of the large whale population and produce whale oil. However, by 1632, the entire colony was massacred by the native Indians because of misunderstandings.
In 1638, New Sweden Company and Peter Minuit created the first permanent settlement of Delaware and created an outpost on the Minquan Kil. The outpost of the Swedish settlement was renamed after the queen of Sweden to be Fort Christina. A famous early governor was Colonel Johan Printz who ruled the young colony for ten years until he was succeeded by John Rising in 1654. The end of the Swedish rule came in 1655. Peter Stuyvesant came with a Dutch fleet and captured the Swedish forts, thus, establishing control of the colony. The town of New Amsterdam was established and was made the center for fur trading and the colony’s administration headquarters.
In 1664, after James, Duke of York, captured New Amsterdam, Sir Robert Carr was sent to the Delaware River. He took over New Amstel and renamed it New Castle. This effectively ended the Dutch rule of the colony and, for that matter, ended their claims to any land in colonial North America. Delaware was governed from New York by a Deputy of the Duke of York from 1664 to 1682.
After William Penn was granted the province of Pennsylvania by King Charles II in 1681, he asked for and later received the lands of Delaware from the Duke of York. Penn had a very hard time governing Delaware because the population was made up of a diverse mixture of ethnicities. He attempted to merge the governments of Pennsylvania and the lower counties of Delaware. Representatives from both areas clashed heavily and in 1701 Penn agreed in having two separate assemblies. Delawareans would meet in New Castle and Pennsylvanians would gather in Philadelphia. Delaware continued to be a melting pot of sorts and was home to Swedes, Finns, Dutch, French, and some English.
The area now known as Delaware was originally owned by William Penn, the Quaker owner of Pennsylvania. In contemporary documents from the early Revolutionary period, the area is generally referred to as "The Three Lower Counties on the Delaware River" (Lower Counties on Delaware) or by the names of the three counties. The term "Lower Counties" refers to the fact that New Castle, Kent, and Sussex were lower, or farther downstream, on the Delaware River than the counties constituting Pennsylvania proper. The Delaware River itself was named for Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, the second governor of Virginia.