On February 7, 1837 an act was passed creating Atlantic County from Gloucester County which at that time extended from the Delaware to the sea and included what is now Camden, Atlantic and Gloucester Counties.
Egg Harbor Township, formerly called Great Egg Harbor, included all of what is now Atlantic County and, in the very early days of the stage mail coach, all mail was addressed simply to "Egg Harbor, New Jersey. From it have been taken the various municipalities which comprise Atlantic County today, starting with Galloway Township in 1774, Weymouth in 1798, and Hamilton in 1813. Mullica was formed from Galloway in 1838 and Buena Vista Township in 1867 from Hamilton. At the time the county was created, there were four large voting places; Egg Harbor, Weymouth, Hamilton and Galloway, and the census of 1830 showed a population of 8,164.
The pre-1800 post offices of this part of old Gloucester County were Mays Landing, Leeds Point, Absecon, Bargaintown and Somers Point. Miss Lizzie thinks it's possible Smith's Landing and Weymouth might be included in this group.
When the new county was created out of old Gloucester, there was great speculation as to what it would be called. Late one winter afternoon Dr. Jonathan Pitney of Absecon was calling on his friend, Judge Daniel Baker of Bakersville, who is Miss Price's great-grandfather. As the doctor was leaving he turned to Mr. Baker and said “Judge, what name shall we give to the new county?" The Judge stood for a moment, looked over towards the ocean, waved his hand and said "Doctor, there it is, the wide broad Atlantic Ocean. What name more appropriate than Atlantic County?"
The oldest settlements along this part of Shore Road were Absecon, Smiths Landing, Leedsville, Bargaintown and Somers Point. Later settlements included the section around the Mount Pleasant Church in Pleasantville which was first called Adamstown after the Adams family, and Bakersville which was named after Miss Price's great-grandfather, Daniel Baker.
Miss Price says that when an early community had a store, a mill and a blacksmith shop they considered themselves very flourishing, and that the next great event was always a school house.
The original 'great' store was founded by a Yankie peddler who came down from New England to sell his wares. Perhaps he was like the New England whalers who liked the Cape May climate so much they stayed, because this New Englander, who was one of Miss Edna Ryon's ancestors, started his general store on the lot opposite' Collins' present store in the 1620's and was very successful. Goods were brought here to sell by the boat from New York and Philadelphia and overland from Philadelphia, but mostly by boat which were built locally and named by local men. After a short time Ryon, Price and Adams were all partners in this new venture.
In these early days the store was a hub of activity, standing as it did at the foot of Tilton Road which was an old Indian trail. The inland people used it regularly for a barter and trade at the Bakersville 'great' store. One particular item they brought down was herbs, a relic of Indian days, which they traded for staples the boats had brought in from far-away places along the coast.
It's hard now to imagine Northfield as a bustling seaport, perhaps a smaller replica of Salem, Massachusetts with its China clipper ships, but bustle it did from about 1830 to 1880, when local shipping and shipbuilding were at its height.
The majority of ships built locally were two-masted schooners and were built to ply coastal waters, although Miss Price says at times her father and uncles touched South American seaports. They must have been similar, I think, to the oyster fleet on the Delaware Bay which was very beautiful in full sail on a May Day.
The Bakersville shipyard was owned by Daniel Baker and stood on the east side of Shore Road between Mill Road and the Post Office, next to Warren Ryan's home.
A ditch large enough to launch ocean going vessels went from the Shore Road to a stream that enters the bay near Hackney's boatyard, and the ships; which Daniel 'Baker built were all launched in this ditch. One ship was christened 'Atlantic County' when the county was new. A lane leading from Shore Road to the ditch is called Baker's Lane.
The Somers family also had a shipyard on their property on Sculls Bay around 1825, and around 1800 Christopher vanSant built a full rigged ship at Bargaintown on Patcong Creek.
These ships had a capacity of about thirty tons and one of the principal exports was cord wood which the ships loaded in their hold and deck, and took primarily to Manhattan to burn in kilns of brickyards along the Hudson River. Miss Lizzie says it was a sight to see the cord wood piled up and waiting for shipment. It was racked high and deep beside the rail fences from where Surrey Avenue is now to Mill Road, and a similar distance out Mill Road.
Bay products, such as clams, were also shipped by boat to New York and Philadelphia. Other things not indigenous to this section were brought back for the people here to use.
Bread was just as important in olden days as it is today and a local mill was a sign of a permanent town. Men who raised grain enough to sell or just enough for their own use took it to the mill to be ground, and the miller took a 'toll' of grain for pay which he could sell. A 'toll' was round and about two peck size.
There were five mills in this section, Bargaintown, English Creek, Absecon, Port Republic and where the pumping station is now on Mill Road. This last one was the Price mill and the old Price homestead was nearby. It was also owned by Risley, Baker, Frambes and Collins.
Bargaintown had a brilliant future when it was young. It had both a grist mill and a saw mill, was the only post office between Somers Point and English Creek, and was on the stage route. The grist mill was owned by Babcock, Somers, Ireland and Frambes, and stood on the south side of Central Avenue on the east side of where the dam is now. The last millers here who had an extensive business supplying the shore with wheat and flour were Frambes and Price who were brothers-in-law and Miss Price's uncles.
There is a very interesting story about this lake which Miss Price has called 'Slaves at Bargaintown' and is under 'Anecdotes.'
The first school near here was a Friend's School, an adjunct of the Friend's Meeting House which stood where the Central Church Cemetery property is now. Later, in 1817, Bakersville considered itself large enough to have a public school, and leading citizens held a meeting to plan for it. It was decided that the people should contribute by shares, having no return on their investment. The teacher received his money from the number of children who attended school, consequently there was no school if enough children were not interested to pay the teacher to come. Miss Price has a receipt for education paid to Simon Lake, teacher, for $1.36 for fuel and tuition, presumably for a three month period. It is billed to Asbury Price, her grandfather, for her father's schooling.
The first school house was built of brick and was on the north corner of Tilton and Zion Roads. It was built by private subscriptions and the land, about a quarter of an acre, was donated by James Tilton. In this one room school, children were taught, among other subjects, science and navigation, which seems to be conclusive evidence of the importance of shipping to the town as it was then.
One of the teachers was Emaline D. Huntley of Connecticut who was advised to come here by Pardon Ryan. She was hired for the salary of $10.00 a month and board, expecting to board around among the parents of school children.
The present school on Mill Road was built in 1872.
In the old days, this section of the Shore Road seems to have been strongly Quaker. Most local people know that a Friend's Meeting House once stood on the north east side of the outer part of the Central Methodist Church cemetery and that a small portion of this cemetery is a part of the old Friend's cemetery. The land where the Meeting House stood was deeded for church purposes in 1758 'forevermore'. The last Friend known to have attended the Meeting in what was then called Leedsville was the great-grandmother of Miss Lizzie Block, Sarah Garwood Price. Now the only vestige of Quakerism in this section, aside from the Atlantic City Meeting House, is the tiny and very charming Meeting House in Seaville, which is opened once yearly.
Bishop Asbury first introduced Methodism into South Jersey and apparently he did a very good job, for today the Methodist churches are very numerous.
"Bargaintown Circuit was formed in 1828 from the lower end of Gloucester Circuit and a small part of New Mills, and included the following places of preaching: Zion, English's, West's, Absecon, Wrangleboro (Port Republic), Leed's, Simkins, Pine Coaling, Gloucester Furnace, Westcott's, Pleasant Mills, Green Bank, Glass Works, Dutch Mills, Lake, New Friendship, South River, Estel's and Weymouth Furnace, Mays Landing and Shore School House (Salem Methodist Church). The first Quarterly Meeting of Bargaintown Circuit was held at camp meeting in Bargaintown, June, 1828, Charles Pitman, first presiding elder: the preachers making the journey on horseback."
Central Church was build in 1861 according to the old method of building (the owner bought the materials and a boss carpenter took charge of the job). The architect was a man from Tuckahoe. Miss Price recalls two of the items which were put in the cornerstone, one was a picture of her aunt who was a very prominent church woman and the other was a copy of a local daily newspaper.
The following excerpts on the history of this church are taken from two places, the first one from a "Sketch of Central and Bethel Churches” taken from the Book of Records from 1879 to 1898, and the second one from "Interesting Historical Facts" compiled by Edmund H. Steelman, Pastor, on the 82nd anniversary, June 21, 1942.
“To the fourth Quarterly Conference of Somers Point Charge to be held at the Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Saturday evening, February 12th, 1881:
Deeming it in place at this time, in view of having it entered in its appropriate place in your Church Record, with your approval, that a brief outline containing the origin of the two Churches embraced in this Charge, together with some account of the doings and transactions during the time these Churches have been in their present relations, I submit the following:
"The Bethel Church holds priority by thirteen years. It was built in the interest of Watermen in the year 1848 upon a plot of ground donated for the purpose by the late Captain Elmer English. Before its erection the people met and worshipped in a small school house on the Shore Road near what is now called Sea View.
"The Central Church was built in 1861. It is much more pretentious in appearance and modern in its construction built upon a plot of ground donated for the purpose by the late Captain Frank Somers. And, as its name indicates, at a central point, about
equal distance for the people of Bakersville, Bargaintown and Leedsville. At the time Bargaintown Circuit was divided in the spring of 1873 and Central and Bethel Churches became a separate charge, they were without debt upon either place of worship. The parsonage, however, was held jointly and in equal parts of the four churches of the Circuit (Central, Bethel, Zion and Asbury). To adjust the above, it became expedient to dispose of all parsonage property and divide the proceeds, pro rate. The sale being effected each party proceeded to the erection of parsonages to meet their needs growing out of the separation.
"During the year 1880 the cemetery grounds opposite the Central Church was owned by the Society of Friends, a transfer of which is proposed by them to the Church, has been accepted by the Trusties and a Committee appointed to adjust same.
"During the years 1879 and 1880 Central Church has been recarpeted, supplied with pulpit chairs, lamps throughout, organ and organ apartment for the choir. The lecture room has been furnished with sofa and chairs from the Pulpit above with carpet and calcimined. Lamps placed in front of the church, and a class room fitted for infant school. Also a silver plated communion service has been purchased. All these without leaving any debts thereon. The parsonage and grounds have received attention during the same period.
"The Opening of watering places and summer resorts are evidently detrimental to the cause of Christ and the interest of the Churches. As a last item of historical import is the construction of a narrow gauge railroad from Pleasantville to Somers Point, opened October 26, 1880. Also a change in the name of the place from Leedsville to that of Linwood by the popular vote of the people."
E. Perry, Pastor
From 'Interesting Historical Facts' - “The land upon which the Central Methodist Church of Linwood now stands was donated by Mr. Francis Somers in February, 1860. The trusteed elected for the 'new meeting House to be erected on the Shore Road nearly opposite the Friend's burying ground' were: John W. Tilton, Israel G. Adams, Jesse Adams, Dr. Samuel C. Edmonds, Lewis S. Frambes, Samuel R. Risley, Andrew Frambes. At the time of their election (February 20, 1860) these men assumed the responsibilities for the erection and oversight of ' The Central M.E. Church of the Bargaintown Circuit.' The corner stone for the new edifice was laid on June 19, 1860 under the auspice of the Board of Trustees and their building committee: John W. Tilton, Israel G. Adams and Lewis Frambes."
As nearly as I can tell from the splendid historical book on Atlantic County published by the Atlantic County Historical Society in 1914, the Zion Methodist Church, known in the early days as 'Cedar Bridge Meeting House' and also as 'Blackman's Meeting House' was originally a Presbyterian Church, as the original deed says:
"This Indenture, made the 19th day of March in the year of our Lord 1764 between Andrew Blackman, Cordwainer, of Egg Harbor, in the county of Gloucester and Province of New Jersey of the one party, and Joseph Ingersoll, John Scull, Joseph Scull, and Return Babcock, of the aforesaid township, county and province, of the other party, witnesseth, that the said Andrew Blackman for and in consideration of the sum of two pounds, proclamation money, to him in hand paid before the ensealing hereof, by Joseph Ingersoll, etc., hath granted, sold, etc., containing one acre, more or less, together with the mines, etc., for the erection building and standing of a Presbyterian Meeting House for the carrying on of Public Religious Worship for all that shall incline to meet and assemble in it; together with a Publick Burying-yard for the interment of the deceased of all denominations, etc.”
This first meeting house was of wood with planks placed perpendicularly. The Reverend Philip Vickers Fithian, a well known Presbyterian minister who was born in Greenwich, New Jersey, preached here in the latter part of the 1700's, traveling from Cohansey to Egg Harbor on horseback.
Eventually the Methodists took over Blackman's Meeting House as there were thirty-some families in the vicinity of Bargaintown by 1814 “who assembled at Blackman's Meeting House and thought it proper to elect Trustees for the better government of said house and on the 23rd of October in 1814 at the place aforesaid elected Thomas Garwood, Japhet Ireland, John Price, Philip Smith, Daniel Tilton, Daniel Edwards and Richard Devinny Trustees for said House.” It The deed for the land where the Church stands is dated October 31, 1814 from Joseph Sharp by the Administratrix of Andrew Blackman's estate. The present Zion Church was built in 1822 and 23.
As a rule the early churches had at least one ten-plate stove, usually placed a bit off center nearer the front, a most effective way of drawing people nearer the preacher on cold winter days. Their collection plates were tiny pouch bags at the end of a long, polished pole and required skillful maneuvering to draw out of a pew without hitting some one across the aisle. The traveling preachers came about once in four weeks but, some times due to the weather, couldn't make it, and local people took charge a great deal of the time.
"Reverend Jacob Timberman and his brother, John Timberman, who conducted services at the Bakersville Schoolhouse and the Mount Pleasant Church which stood where the Mount Pleasant cemetery is now, conducted a Methodist Protestant Camp Meeting in back of the Bakersville School in the fall of 1844 and 1845. Ezra B. Lake, one of the founders of Ocean City, was converted at this time.
The Shore Road is one of the oldest prominent roads in continual use. The original one, and the first public road in Atlantic County, was laid out in 1716 from Port Republic to Somers Ferry at Somers Point. This road was resurveyed in 1731 and moved a little east of its former location as the ground was dryer and made traveling easier.
Miss Price remembers an occasional trace of the original road in back of the home of her uncle, Elijah Price, when she was a little girl. It was a narrow roadway of white sand, warmed by the sun, and crowded on either side with masses of wild sweet fern. Some of the names of the early settlers in this vicinity are Adams, Somers, Steelman, Price, Ireland, Lake, Risley, Tilton and Baker.
The Somers family property line was on the north side of Central Church. The Steelman line was next, going north, from Somers Line to Mill Road which accounts for the three Revolutionary graves in the circle of the street just off Mill Road to near the present post office. The Baker line ran from Mill Road to near the present post office.
Daniel, son of John Baker, bought this property from George West. John Baker, born on Long Island, married Martha Swain of Nantucket who died and was buried there. He came to Cape May and married Elizabeth Scull, daughter of John Scull, who is buried in the Friends Cemetery in Salem, New Jersey.
Daniel Baker, founder of Bakersville, was a son of this union. He bought his property, built the shipyard, and lived a long and useful life. The Baker homestead, formerly at the corner of Mill and Shore Roads, was a long, straight building of brick and frame, Daniel Baker having built the brick part, and had a marble stone under the eaves with 'Daniel and Mary Baker - 1832' on it.
It's very easy to tell, walking up and down Shore Road, which homes had people in them waiting for a ship to come in. The captains invariably built a 'Captain's Watch' on their house tops so they might watch for a sail to come up the bay, and on clear days see the ocean.
The house where Miss Lizzie and Miss Louie Price live was built by their father, John Price, in 1866. A picture of the house in the late 1800's which they have, shows a comfortable home with a porch on three sides, a picket fence in front of a nicely landscaped lawn. The most interesting picture of this house, though, is an oil painting hanging in the library which was done by a friend of Miss Lizzie's.
The home where Mr. and Mrs. John Hinman now live was built in 1867 by Elijah Price, brother of John Price. It faced Shore Road about forty feet back from the roadway, setting where West Rosedale Avenue is now. The Tudor Terrace Corporation moved it in order to extend the street in the 1920's. His garden was on the north side where they raised all food stuffs needed for the household. The south side of the house was natural wood land. Miss Price says she thinks some of the larger trees between Mr. Hinman's and the Shore Road are some of the original trees.
Captain Richard Adams built the home just above Miss Price's within a year or two of 1886. A Captain Tilton built the former Burkhardt home about the same time, Miss Price thinks. It had a plain front with a two-story front porch of wrought iron work. The house where Mr. Warren Somers lives was also a sea captain's home and Miss Price thinks it is older than the Captain Tilton Home. The two nice old brick homes at Bargaintown, near Oak Road and Central Avenue, belonged to the Somers family.
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