While it is not hard
to find people whose childhood memories bring about nostalgic
attachment to a variety of geographic features, Cooch is out of
the ordinary in that his are only the latest in a series of
memories which go back more than 250 years. Col. Thomas Cooch,
his wife and two children settled along the river in Pencader Hundred in 1746.
Edward Cooch is the
seventh generation in direct descendancy from Thomas Cooch. His
entire line has lived in the sane house, the oldest part of
which Thomas built in 1760. A small but significant
battle -- the only battle ever on Delaware soil -- was fought
alongside a wooden bridge, the ancestor of the present span over
the Christina just a few feet from Cooch's driveway.
That would seem to
qualify Cooch to claim that his familial association with the
Christina may be the longest of any in this nation. However, he
will not boast of such a distinction even with regard to the
local stream. "I've never researched that. Just say we're one of
the oldest families," he said.
One would expect a
man with that pedigree, who happens to be 82 years
Still bearing a
resemblance downstream to the industrial artery it once
was, the Christina becomes idyllic as it meanders through
New Castle County upstream of Newport.
old, to content
himself with enthralling young'uns with tales of times gone by
-- perhaps in the role of a latter day Mark Twain whose affinity
for a much larger river produced masterpieces in American
Edward Cooch is not
a man given to such leisure. He is still active with the Cooch &
Taylor law firm and can be found in his Wilmington office most
days. He similarly spurns passivity when it comes to his
favorite river. He has been president of the Christina
Conservancy for 22 years.
He describes the
mission of that organization as "to preserve, protect and urge
wise usage" of the river and to support a vision for its future.
The conservancy is
one of the sponsors of the annual Christina Cleanup, the 12th
edition of which will take place on Mar. 29 between 9 a.m. and 1
p.m. There will be ancillary cleanups on Naamans Creek in
Brandywine Hundred and at Fox Point State Park.
participation each year ranges between 600 and 1,200 volunteers
of all ages, from primary school through senior citizens,
depending on the weather.
"Last year, we took
out 165 tons of trash. I expect to do about the same this year,"
he said. Worn tires comprise the largest category of rubbish,
but there is no limit to the variety of items tossed into the
river or discarded along its banks. "People terribly. They throw
away an enormous amount of trash," he explained.
The cleanup is
important as a tangible demonstration of renewed interest in the
Christina, which author C.A. Westlogger dubbed 'the forgotten
river' and residents today tend to regard as 'the other river' a
distant second in prominence to the Brandywine.
That is despite the
fact that the original Swedish and Finnish settlers stepped
first into the New World on rocks several hundred yards upstream
from the Delaware and decided to name their waterway after their
monarch, Queen Christina, Cooch explained. The river's name was
later corrupted to Christiana, but has been restored to the
original form, although the village and the retail mall nearby
retain the corruption.
Colonists used the
river, then navigable to the mouth of White Clay Creek,
upstream of what is now Newport, as an avenue of trade with the
Indians. In later years, heavy industry -- the Dravo and Pusey &
Jones shipyards and Harlan & Hollingsworth, to name a few --
located on its banks.
are gone now, but in their place is emerging a recreation and
retail area, with activities ranging from sports to art, and in
the relatively near future, a wildlife conservation area to be
named for former Governor Russell Peterson.
Cooch isn't one to
further a rivalry between the rivers, noting that both are area
assets which should be reclaimed as needed and preserved for
another seven generations or more. But he can't resist a last
word on behalf of the one associated with his family.
Brandywine is really a tributary of the Christina," he said.