Brinkley Hill was a free Black community north of Camden. It was named after the community’s own Brinkley family, which included William and Nathaniel Brinkley, both noted Underground Railroad conductors. Harriet Tubman mentioned them in her 1897 interview with Dr. Wilbur Siebert, recalling that “at Camden her helpers were William and Nat Brinkley and Abraham Gibbs.” Tubman remembered feeling “safe and comfortable” with them. William Brinkley is further known for two letters printed in Philadelphia “stationmaster” William Still’s book, The Underground Railroad, published in 1872. One letter confirms Brinkley used his home to help freedom-seekers, and that he was agitated by the betrayal that was at the heart of the escape of “The Dover Eight” in March 1857 (a dramatic escape story interpreted by First State Heritage Park in Dover). He was also concerned that the physical toll the rescue had on his farm horses might hinder future Underground Railroad work. In 1849 William and many of his male Brinkley Hill neighbors signed a petition to the legislature to repeal the oppressive laws that restricted travel within and outside of the state, free assembly, and gun ownership.
Dwellings related to the 19th century Brinkley Hill community do not survive, but two later, vernacular structures survived through the first decade of the 21st century. Demby Cemetery is the only reminder of the community that thrived in the 19th century. It was last attached to the Colored People’s Methodist Episcopal Church built in 1883 and demolished in the 1960s.
- Delaware State Archives, Dover, Delaware. Petition 1849. General Assembly, Legislative Papers, Record group 1111, page 458-460, microfilm 458-460.
- Zebley, Frank, The Churches of Delaware (1938)