John G. Townsend and His House
Constructed in 1904, the current site of the Selbyville Public Library was once the residence of John G. Townsend Jr (1871-1964), agricultural pioneer and statesman. His long and distinguished public career included service as Governor of Delaware (1917-21), United States Senator (1929-1941), and member of the delegation to the first session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946. As Governor, he fought for the much-needed reform and modernization of the state’s education and transportation systems. While serving in the Senate, he was an architect of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and other New Deal-era programs that reformed and rebuilt the nation’s banking industry. A business leader of great vision and accomplishment, he was a successful lumberman, farmer, strawberry broker, orchardist, canner, banker, and contractor. He was one of the pioneers of the Delmarva poultry industry. Townsend’s personal magnetism resulted in many friendships, and persons from all walks of life came here to visit him. Notable visitors included former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and future President Richard Nixon. Following his death the Townsend family donated his home to the Selbyville Public Library.
Outline of the Life of John G. Townsend, Jr.*
1872 - Born near Bishopville, Maryland
1894 - Moved to Selbyville with his wife and children
1902-1903 - Delaware State Representative from Baltimore Hundred
1904 - Moved into home at Main and McCabe Streets. John G. had one of the first telephones in Sussex County
1904 - Alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention
1911-1916 - Helped in the development of the DuPont Highway (Route 113)
1913 - Supported establishment of Women's College in Newark
1915 - Establish J.G. Townsend, Jr. & Co. cannery at Hoosier Street and railroad - one of dozens of companies he was involved in starting, e.g., Selbyville Manufacturing, etc.
1916 - Runs and is elected for governor on Progressive (a breakaway Republican group) and Prohibition Parties tickets. It is the first time a Republican was elected governor without the strong support of the regular party organization
1917-1921 - Governor of Delaware; first and only Progressive Party governor; strong advocate of educational reform
1917-1918 - Led Delaware in accepting Prohibition
1917 - Mrs. Jennie Townsend, the First Lady of Delaware, dies in a car accident in Dagsboro in late fall returning from Newark, Delaware
1920 - Led fight to approve the Women's Suffrage Amendment - the amendment was defeated in Delaware but approved nationally
1928-1940 - Served as a Republican Senator from Delaware
1946 - Appointed as an alternate delegate to the first General Assembly of the United Nations in London with Eleanor Roosevelt
1946 June - Eleanor Roosevelt visits Selbyville and has dinner with Townsend at the house
1960 - Attended his last Republican National Convention as a delegate from Delaware
1957 - Celebrated his 86th birthday with many dignitaries in attendance including Vice President Richard Nixon
1964 - Died at age 92
* From the Delaware Public Archives marker on Main Street in front of the library.