Town of Galena Seal

This Week’s Kent County History Quiz Question: What Kent County town was originally known as Downs’ Cross Roads?

A. Fairlee

B. Galena

C. Massey

D. Millington

This Week’s Answer: B. Galena

Downs’ Cross Roads was the busy gateway to Kent County from the north and east,  as Rock Hall Cross Roads was the gateway from the south and west.

Established in 1763, it was first named for William Downs, a local tavern owner.   Sometime before 1813 it became Georgetown Crossroads, and finally dubbed Galena in 1858 and incorporated in 1860.  It is one of the five incorporated towns in Kent County, which means it is a “municipality” and has a charter, and also elected officials.  The four other incorporated towns are Millington, Chestertown, Rock Hall, and Betterton.

Its importance was ensured because of its easy access to the Sassafras River and to the main roads leading northeast to Philadelphia and New York and north to Elkton (formerly Head of Elk) a vital depot for gathering supplies for General Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War.

Sketch of Downs’ Inn circa 1890 by Frank Ruth in 1932. Source: Galena Postcards at carrouselhorsebnb.com and reprinted from Cooking in the Chesapeake, Galena Fire Company, 1967.

George Washington traveled through there on his eight famous rides through Kent County.  He stayed with William Downs on his 1774 ride to the first Continental Congress.  At that time it was the only building on the site of what became the town of Galena.  Downs’ Inn ultimately became the Pennington Hotel in 1848 (pictured above).  A devastating fire in the town center in the 1890s took many buildings, including the Pennington.

It is thought that the name Galena was coined in 1858 in remembrance of a short-lived small silver mine near the town.  Galena is a type of silver. Several conjectures remain as to the purity of the product found in the mine.   One thought is that the silver was valuable enough to be sent to Philadelphia silversmiths to be made into buckles and silver spoons.

The land that held the mine has passed through a series of owners.  It remains a curiosity that attracts the occasional wanna-be prospector with a metal detector, but nothing but a tantalizing memory exists there today.

The crossroads were widened in the 1950s removing several buildings that stood in the way.

The Kent County History Quiz is a weekly local brainteaser sponsored by The Peoples Bank. Kent County historian and author Joan Horsey and columnist Kate Meehan contribute to the quiz’s development. Our goal is to create an opportunity for local learning and discussion. If you have a quiz idea, send it to steve@kentpilot.org.