Lums Pond State Park contain the largest freshwater pond in Delaware. Boasting nearly 1,800 acres, the park is located near Bear in New Castle county. The park’s centerpiece, Lums Pond, encompasses over 2,000 acres. Being designated a state park in 1963, the area is known for its beautiful camping, freshwater fishing and challenging trails. Although only given its state park status somewhat recently, the park was first the site of several Native American hunting camps. The area was a thriving community as far back as the 1800s.
Lums Pond was built in the 19th century as an impoundment for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The water supplied power for a local gristmill, the Lums Mill House. Lums Mill House was named for the 19th century owners, father and son pair, John Lum. The original home was built by Samuel Clement, and was later the home of Samuel Davis, an evangelist and Presbyterian minister. He went on to become the fourth president of Princeton University.
The house was transferred to the state of Delaware in 1966 as a historic monument by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The millhouse might not have been the only thing Delaware inherited, however. There were some reports of seeing the father and son pair who seemed to be continuing about their work, ensuring the mill was running smoothly. Visitors even reported hearing the sounds of a water wheel churning to generate the energy necessary to grind grain into flour. Of course, upon inspection, no workers were ever found.
Another unique part of the park’s history is that it was along one of the routes taken by slaves, attempting to run to freedom prior to the Civil War. Thousands of slaves escaped to freedom through the Underground Railroad, or what is now known as the Harriet Tubman Byway. Some say it is the poor souls of the slaves who failed to find their freedom that roam the park at night. Apparitions and noises are credited to the slaves that did not make it or were apprehended. Visitors describe seeing ghostly figures in the woods and hearing the sounds of screams or running.
Still other stories tell the sad tale of a runaway teenager who was hitchhiking in the area in the 1970’s. A stranger stopped for the girl and brought her to Lums Pond. Her body was found in a stream bed near the Swamp Forest hiking trail. Her murderer was never found and was even rumored to still live in the area. Hikers describe hearing a woman begging for her life from the woods, just off the hiking trail by the pond. They go on to explain that the cries eventually start to sound muffled as the woman continues to plead, scream, and cry. No visitor has ever been able to locate the source of the sounds.
It is clear that the watermills and canals are not the only things creating energy in this park. Whether it’s workers from the past, slaves on their way to freedom, or a young girl fighting for her life, there is definitely something lurking in Delaware’s Lums Pond State Park.