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On a USGenWeb/NJGenWeb Web site TRANSCRIBED BY GEORGE PRICE, Volunteer Transcriber in AUGUST 2007. Please see the web site for email contact. Property of New Jersey GENWEB (NJGenWeb)
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SOURCE: SOUTH JERSEY, A History, 1664-1923; Alfred M. Heston, editor-in-chief.
Volume I, 1924, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., New York and Chicago.
Geology and Topography--While this arm of land, Cape May, extending out into the sea is one of the most noted headlands to navigation, and in seacoast topography, it is also geologically a landmark to student and teacher. Geographical examinations here, says Edward A. Wheeler, in his dissertation upon the subject, reveal the fact that the county belongs to tertiary and recent formation of the Cenozoic period, being characterized by deposit, drift, and alluvium, geology borings being confined to the surface and to the deposit about three hundred and thirty-five feet in depth of the latter. Geologists tell us that ages ago the ocean shore of Southern New Jersey extended from Trenton on the Delaware to Woodbridge on Staten Island sound, running nearly along the railroad from Trenton to Metuchen, Middlesex County, and thence eastward, a short distance. This, they state, was the southern limit of the appearance of the red sandstone of the Triassic formation. All the land between there and Cape May, to a depth of about seven hundred and forty-two feet in the cretaceous formation, and 1,000 feet or more deep the rest of the distance, has been “made” either by deposits from the sea, or from vegetation growth, or by “drift,” and wash materials.
The recent formation in New Jersey, again says Wheeler, borders the Atlantic from Sandy hook to Cape May, and forms the shore of Delaware Bay up to Salem, also the banks of some of the rivers and creeks. The sand beaches, the marshes, the cedar swamps, and an indefinite amount of upland border in the State are recognized as being included in this formation, and are in the process of formation and change. The general surface soil of the upland border is fine sandy loam with but little gravel, and contains organic matter enough to render it profitable and fertile ground. An example of such border land is to be seen adjoining Sea Grove, and forms the Stites Farm. For some time occupied by Hon. Downs Edwards, this farm was worked in places constantly and successfully for a hundred or more years without any manure or dressing whatever, and yet was not at all impoverished. The land thus cultivated was full of shells in spots as to make ploughing difficult; the sub-soil is a deep, black, sandy mould.
A remarkable feature, too, are the tide marshes, there being about 300,000 acres of such marshes in the State; and Cape May County, alone has 58,824 acres if tide marsh. We quote freely from what Mr. Wheeler has written upon this subject as his research is a valuable ingathering upon this special study, and largely relates to the Cape May County section. In various elevated positions in the recent formation, marine shells of common species, or casts of them are to be seen in their natural attitude; on the banks of the Maurice River, at Tuckahoe, and elsewhere along the shore, they lie from eight to twelve feet above high-water mark, and indicate an elevation before the depression now going on; and as the amount of subsidence at present is about seventeen feet on average, as estimated by measurement from tide level to the lowest point where buried and submerged trees are found in the places in which they grew, the former elevation must have raised the surface from twenty-five to thirty feet. The highest land of Cape May County is but about forty feet above the level of the sea, and that only at a few points of limited extent, the average elevation being but eleven feet; so that when the shells now from eight to twelve feet above tide-mark were at the level in which they grew, the greater part of Cape May county must have been submerged. The last elevation carried the shore-line at least seventeen feet above where it now is.
It has been shown that the work of the Sea Grove Association in having had that seaside resort cleared and graded, obliterated some of the most characteristic traces of the geological action to be found in the State. There formerly existed a number of well-defined parallel ridges of drift sand along the shore and between the gateway of Sea Grove and the bay. These ridges were evidence of a former uprising of the shore, and of the consequent receding of the sea, which must have washed the gravel bank. The ridges were created, one behind another, by the winds. The beach ridges having been formed long since, were covered with heavy growth of black oak timber, which was removed by the Sea Grove improvements.
The waters of Lake Lily at Sea Grove, we are told, are solely from rainfall; they percolate slowly down and out from the bed of the lake, displacing the salt water that infiltrates, yet not mixing much with it. Similar effects are produced among all the beaches. The different gravity of the salt and fresh water has an influence upon the phenomena; the fresh water being the lightest remains on the surface, and can be obtained by digging a few inches beneath the sand, anywhere between the beach ridges. Lake Lily is the only similar body of water on the Cape below Cold spring.
Mr. Wheeler has pointed out that the timber standing in a natural ancient cedar swamp is but a fraction of the quantity that has fallen and become subterranean. The living timber thus buried apparently become indestructible, and has been mined from its place of deposit , buoyant and sound, and used for the best quality of lumber, many hundreds and perhaps thousands of years after it had grown. The mining of timber was carried on as a regular business in the swamps of Dennisville, between nine and ten thousand dollars worth of shingles at fifteen dollars a thousand , having been manufactured in a year from logs thus exhumed. Here production of shingles did not consume all the timber taken, as a part of it was large logs, more valuable for boards, into which it was sawed. More than forty thousand dollars worth of cedar rails and lumber were produced from these cedar swamps every year, and an acre of good swamp, fifty years in growth, was worth from five hundred to one thousand dollars.
Quartz is exceedingly abundant in South Jersey. Pebbles of pure, transparent quartz abound in the gravel beds and at the shore of Sea Grove and Cape May. Washed clean and bright in the water, they have been collected by visitors as “Cape May diamonds.”
Before the white man came--Although in no case that is concerned with Atlantic shores history have we been made fully aware of the circumstances that existed while the Indian dwellers were here, and when the first comers from Europe put in their appearance, particularly where the disposal of and the trading of lands is mentioned,
Yet no history of our country may be said to be in any way complete unless the historians narrate in essentials at least the story of the latter days of Indian ownership, and their dispersal before the advancing waves of the inevitable immigration. With the ages-old ebb and flow of the tides of humanity the Indians themselves must have disturbed some aboriginal race and in some way or other taken their holding from them, but no one as yet has resurrected the substantial story thereof. We know only of the red race, of their remaining awhile and the eventual disappearance of their power hence. We cannot quite restore to the mind’s eye the actual conditions of the seventeenth century here-abouts, when Cape May acres were purchased from the Indians; but it should be a matter of general satisfaction to the white men and their descendants to be told from what records that we have that the Europeans, when they first came, treated the natives in the friendliest way, that the Indians were not killed by the wholesale nor driven out, as in the King Philip and the Pequot wars in Massachusetts and in Connecticut, as they received for their lands that sort of payment that they most cared for--a certain quantity of goods, very likely garden tools, garments and the like.
Our Indians, then, the first occupants of New Jersey, or Scheyichbi, as the region was called, and the Cape May lands, the country of the Kechemeches, were known as a local tribe by the name of Lenni-Lenapes (original people), a branch of the great Algonquins, and their number when the Europeans first set foot on the soil here is understood to have been considerable. Here this tribe lived and moved about from camp to camp as they pleased, their habit of life being nomadic, though they had their townships of huts and wigwams, their usages and customs being of the simplest kind --generation after generation of them being content to hunt and fish, and to wander restlessly within tribal bounds, and often outside. We know that here was a wilderness, and herein resided a wild race of beings; their bones, their implements, many arrow heads and stone hatchets have been found, as well as shell-banks, in plenty, denoting their places of encampment, and thus mutely recounting their struggle for existence. Their methods of living were so simple that no more substantial relics of their times have ever been discovered her; yet even such as these are becoming rare and find their last lodgment in the museums of civilization.
A peaceful people were the Lenni-Lenape, the records concerning them so declare. Yet striking periodic events or historic incidents of any great value regarding the race have not been transferred to us through the legendary channels, so that there is really a great gulf fixed between them and us, as our useful knowledge of them in their home that is now ours.
In the very first account of a European’s visit to the present Cape May section, which appeared in 1648 in a “Description of New Albion” (New England), written by Sir Edward Plowden under the non de plume of Beuchamp Plantagent, Plowden reproduced a letter of Lieutenant Robert Evelyn, who left England with an expedition for the Delaware in 1634, and probably soon afterwards made an exploration of the Cape. There, on the north side of the Cape, he met with the natives. With a “port, or rode for any ships,” called the Nook, Evelyn stated, “liveth the King of Kekemeeches, having I suppose, about fifty men. I do account all these Indians to be about eight hundred, and are in several factions and war against the Sarquehannocks, and are all extremely fearful of a gun, naked and unarmed against our shot, swords or pikes. I had some bickering with some of them, and they are of so little esteem, that I durst with fifteen men sit down or trade in spite of them.“ And Dr. Beeselet says with reference to this visit: “Now where it was the King of Kekemeeches with his fifty men held forth, it would difficult to ascertain. It might have been at Town Bank or Fishing Creek, or farther up the cove or ‘nook,” as he was pleased to call it. Master Evelyn must certainly have the credit of being the first white man that explored the interior, as far as the seaboard, and his name should be perpetuated as the king of pioneers.” It indeed should be perpetuated as being that of a man who gave us the first glimpse of the natives here.
The one outstanding event of early record here, in which the red race and the white race shared, and that all school folk should familiarize themselves with, and that concerns this Cape and territory, is that of the purchase of Cape May itself from the Indian owners--a consummation and transaction of Gillis Hossett and Peter Heyssen, who then represented Samuel Godyn and Samuel Blommaert, Dutch patrons, and councilors of New Netherlands, on May 5, 1630. It was the year of the founding of Salem, Massachusetts, that this took place, and ten years before the arrival of the Pilgrims on the “Mayflower,” at the land of the Patuxets. It was the hour of the general arrival of new people and their settlements in the New World. The colonial records preserve the deed of this transaction between the Dutch and the Indians, at Albany, New York.
There were other lesser historic narratives concerned with the last of the Indian occupancy, but they remain mostly legendary. Yet there remains that dim and final leave-taking incident, told of rationally, that in the early part of the eighteenth century those of the Indians that then remained on this part of the Cape, after holding council in which they gave voice to their grievances connected with the new comers, they quietly loaded their tents and went away--where, no one knows. The white men, though fair-minded at first, had brought intoxicating liquors and such-like adjuncts of their civilization, and the abuse of these had much to do with the departure of the old race.
These only, constitute the main facts concerning Indian occupancy of this portion of the South Shore. Lewis T. Stevens, in his history has declared that it is New Jersey’s boast, and especially that of the land owners, that not a foot of soil was ever taken by fraud or force from the red man. Such was the custom of the Dutch, the Swedes, and the Quakers, as well as all of the succeeding proprietors.
Explorers and Newcomers--What, then, with the too brief account of our Indians retold in substance, does the history transmit to us of the approach and possession by men from overseas, and the naming of Cape May, itself? Of the general voyages of discovery by John and Sebastian Cabot, of John de Verazanno, of Hendrick Hudson, and others, and of the probabilities of their having come within hail of these shores, even if they had not landed here for water and for hunting , every history of the Atlantic coast territory has made voluminous repetition. So also have historians dealt in detailed particularity with epoch-making voyages, land transaction and settlements that concern the vast Virginia territory, and with those of the Dutch West India Company. It is directly because of the existence of the latter company, that had been formed in Holland in 1621, that our Cape received christening.
Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey (as the spelling then appeared), and known as the first director of the New Netherlands gave the Cape his name during a voyage to Delaware Bay in 1623, three hundred and one years ago. In fact, Mey named many another headland and bay for himself, but this Cape May naming, in orthographic change remained secure to the present day. Stevens tells us of his bay exploration, which bay was called Zuydt by the Dutch, by the Indians Pentaxit, and by the English Delaware, and he at length built a fort at Techaaoho, upon a stream called by the Indians Sassachon, which stream is now called Timber Creek, and empties into the Delaware a few miles below Camden. He called it Fort Nassau, and it is said to be the first attempt of a settlement on the eastern shore of the Delaware river.
With this incident and its sequences, and with this portion of the coast, has our narrative to do. Seven years after this visit of Captain Mey, and his naming of the Cape, occurred that first land-buying transaction from ten Indian land-owners, and in which the sixteen square miles area of our Cape May County was turned over by the Indians to the Dutch, in exchange for a “certain quantity of goods.” May 5, 1630, was the memorable date--and this was the first recorded purchase from natives within the present State limits. In the deed this territory was designated Cape de Maye, and Stevens adds that this patent and one for land on the south side of the bay were issued by Peter Minuit, while he was director of New Netherlands, and “this is the only document found in Holland as having come down to the present time from the West India Company, the rest having been sold as waste paper.” ** see transcriber’s footnote.
This purchase, then, left the way open for settlement by Europeans, and such took place in a transient way, the next year, 1631, when David Pieterson de Vries, navigator, left a colony near the present Bombay Hook, and himself, though for very brief space, became the first resident patroon owner of Cape May. He returned to Holland on urgent business, and while he was away, his small colony had been annihilated by the natives. Thus, says the writer, at the expiration of twenty years from the discovery of the Delaware by Hudson, not a single European remained upon its shores. De Vries in his journal states: “March 29, 1633, found our people have caught seven whales; we could have done more if we had good harpoons, for they had struck seventeen fish, and only save seven.” Wheeler, historian, refers to de Vries as by nature and experience equally commendable as a man, citizen, a commander, a diplomat, or a statesman.
A number of Swedes who entered the bay in 1638 were ordered off by officials of the Dutch West India Company, and the Swedes who entered the bay said that they were on their way to the West Indies, and had put into Zuydt Bay, to rest, after a stormy voyage. Beesley, historian, continuing the historical narrative states that about 1641 Cape May was purchased by Swedish agents, a short time before the arrival of the Swedish Governor, Prinz Tinicum, this conveyance including all the land from Cape May to Narriticon or Raccoon Creek. Concerning this occupancy little is known, yet it is at this time that the site of Sea Grove was referred to as a promontory, and Campanius wrote of dangerous shoals off Cape May.
Eventually, again, the Dutch easily secured mastery of the whole territory, though they were easily deposed by the English. In the year 1664, New Jersey came into the possession of proprietary governors, the English then taking absolute control, by right of the discoveries that Cabot had made in 1498; and in that year, 1664, the name New Jersey was given to the territory. But positive permanent inhabitancy of Cape May was not actually recorded until the year 1685, when a pre-existing population is inferred from the county annals that state that in the year Caleb Carmen was appointed justice of the peace, and Jonathan Pyne was made constable by the Assembly of New Jersey.
Edward S. Wheeler, historian, has remarked with much credibility in his assertion that first settlers of Cape May at this early period were persons who, to escape servitude, oppression, or debt, domiciled in the wilderness. The Swedes, who sometimes visited the Cape for eggs, and to kill geese, had in their colony men bound to penal slavery, some of whom became fugitives among the Indians, and Maurice Beesley, M.D., has stated that some of the veritable Swedes from Christiania might have stayed or been driven to our shores. But, says wheeler, the earliest historical settlement in Cape May County was that of the whalemen at Town Bank, and before 1700 most of the land taken up was in that vicinity. The marine tastes and habits of the people coming afterwards are attested by the fact that they settled altogether along the bay or sea, heedless of the quality of the soil.
These were the first, though faint milestones of our history with their demarcation of the residences and governance of the old race and a new on these sea-girt shores.
Founders of Home and Civic Life-- Nothing finer can be said of the memory of a New world arrival than that he remained and built his home. And cast in his lot with the founders of a colony. Of such were the Pilgrim Fathers; of such also, were the first actual settlers of Cape May, the fifteen or twenty whalemen who constructed their small dwellings at Town Bank. Such a man, also, but not of that group, was John Townsend, from whom all of the name here are descended. It was previous to the year 1680, that, with his three brothers, all Quakers, he first came to Long Island. But John having been banished from New York for being a Friend, and for harboring Friends, came here to Leed’s Point, near Little Egg Harbor, and clearing land and building a cabin and a mill near Ocean view,he became an honored townsman. His wife, Phebe, was the first white woman to be buried in Upper township in the old burying ground, near Thomsson Van Gilder’s location. John and Phebe Townsend left three sons, Richard, Robert, and Sylvanus. John and Peter Corson were herein 1692, and the family of that name became numerous on the Cape . Shamgar Hand was the first of his name to settle here; he came in 1690, to his 1,000 acre farm at what is now Court House. His neighbors presently were Christopher Leaming, Joseph Ludlam, Randal Hewitt, Henry Stites, Humphrey Hughes, Ezekiel Eldredge, Henry Young, Benjamin Godfrey, Samuel Matthews, John Goff, Arthur Cresse, John Willett, Joseph Whillden, John Stillwell, Cornelius Schellinks.
Of the Lrge proprietors of New Jersey at this period, Dr. Daniel Coxe, of London, England, purchased 95,000 acres of land here, this first proprietary survey in this country having been made by John Worlidge and John Budd, who also laid out a number of other such rights, in the year 1688. Dr. Coxe was physician at first to Charles II, and afterwards to Queen Anne, in England, and upon his rights here the fact is always pointed out that Coxe Hall was built near Town Bank and cold Spring, in 1691, and in that hall the first court of the country was convened in 1693. Egg Island near the mouth of the Maurice River was laid off to Thomas Budd in 1706 and 1713. In 1691, New Haven and Long Island families came here to settle permanently, twenty-one such first comers founding Cape May Town. Christopher and Esther B. Leaming arrived here in 1691, and three years later, in 1694, they took up two hundred and four acres for their plantation. They were the parents of seven children. Colonel Joseph Spicer appeared here the same year, from Gravesend, Long Island, with his wife ,Sarah. John Persons, first, and his wife, Elizabeth Garlick, and daughter, Lydia, came to a plantation about four miles below the present Court House, and there settled in September, 1691, John Persons, second, also from Long Island, came about that year, and he purchased three hundred and fifteen acres of Dr. Coxe. Joseph Ludlum , arriving from Long Island in 1692, purchased Ludlam’s Beach, where Sea Isle City now is, and he stocked it with cattle; he also bought five hundred acres of land in Dennis Neck, paying 163 pounds for his purchase.
After the West Jersey society was formed in 1692, the settlers were able to obtain titles for their lands, the earliest deeds granted being those of William Dixon, William Whitlock, and Christopher Leaming, in April , 1694. The next year thirty more deeds were recorded.
The following named persons purchased of the agents of Dr. Coxe and the West Jersey society, mostly previous to 1696, some few as early as 1689, the number of acres being attached to their respective names: Christopher Leaming, 204; William Jacobs, 340; Abigail Pine, 200; Humphrey Hughes, 206; Samuel Matthews, 175; Jonathon Osborne, 110;Nathaniel short, 200; Caesar Hopkins, 250; Shamgar Hand, 700; Joseph Weldon (Whilldin) 150; Joseph Houlding, 200; Dorothy Hewitt, 340; Thomas Hand, 400; John Taylor, 220; John Curwith, 55; John Shaw, two surveys, 325; Timothy Brandreth, 110; John Crawford, 380; Ezekiel Eldredge, 90; Oliver Russell, 170; Samuel Crowell, 226; John Carman, 250; Thomas Gandy, 50; Caleb Carman, 250; William Mason, 150; Henry Stites, 200; Cornelius Skellinks, 134; John Richardson, 124; Arthur Cresse, 350; Peter Corson,400; John Corson, 300; John Townsend, 640; William Golden and Rem. Garretson, 1016; William Johson, 436; John Page, 125; John Pearsons. 325; William smith, 130; George Taylor, 175; Dennis Lynch, 300; William Whitlock, 300; Jacob Spicer, two surveys, 1,000; Benjamin Godfrey, 210; Randal Hewit, 140; Elizabeth Carman, 300; John Reeves, 100; Benjamin Hand, 373; James Stanfield, 100. Some few of these locations were made on the seashore, but the larger portion of them in the lower part of the county.
In addition to those who located land previous to 1700, the following named persons had resided and were then residing in the county, many of whom possessed land by secondary purchase: Thomas Leaming, Alexander Humphries, Abraham Hand, Shamgar Hand, Jr., Benjamin Hand, Jr., Daniel Johnson, Oliver Johnson, William Harwood, Jacob Dayton, Richard Harvo, Jonathan Crossle, William Lake, Thiers Raynor, Thomas Matthews, William Stillwell, John Cresse, Morris Raynor, Joshua Howell, Arthur Cresse, Jr., William Blackberry, Daniel Carman, Joseph Knight, John Stillwell, John else, John Steele, Thomas Hand, Joseph Ludlam, Sr., Anthony Ludlam, Jonathan Pine, John Woldredge, John Jervis, Jonathan Foreman, Thomas Goodwin, Jonathan High, Edward Howell, George Crawford, Joseph Babcock, William Dean, Richard Jones, John Howell, Thomas Stanford, George Noble, John Wolly, Peter Cartwright, Abraham Smith, Thomas Miller, John Hubard, Robert Crosby, John Fish, Lubbard Gilberson, Edward Marshall, James Cresse, William limpkins, Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Clifton, Joshua Carman, William Duboldy, James Marshall, John Baily, William Richardson, Thomas Foster, Thomas Hewit, George Taylor, Jr., John Dennis, Isaac Hand, Daniel Hand, Jeremiah Hand, Joseph Hand, Thomas Bancroft, Edward Summis, Henry Gray, Abraham Weston, Thomas Going, Jonathan Edwards, Nicholas Martineau, John Garlick, Samuel Matthews, Jr., William Shaw, Robert French, Jeremiah Miller, William Sharwood, Zebulon Sharp, John Story, Richard Townsend, Robert Townsend. William Sharwood was ancestor of the famous Chief Justice Sharwood of Pennsylvania.
Jonathan and Richard Swain, of Long Island, were born in 1706, and soon afterwards, their father, Ebenezer Swain, came to Cape May, and took up the occupation of whaling, Jonathan being cooper for them. Henry Young came about the year 1713, and served the county as judge of the court for many years, and he was a member of the Legislature for ten years. He was an extensive landholder, deputy surveyor, and was surrogate from 1743 to 1768. He was a surveyor and a scrivener, also, and no one in those times acted a more prominent and useful part.
Of those who located in the Upper Township there were such pioneers as William golden, senior and junior, Rem. Garretson, john, and Peter Corson, John willets, ohn Hubbard, and later there came John Mackey, at Tuckahoe, and Abraham and John Van Gilden at Petersburgh. In Dennis, which was a part of the old Upper precinct, on the seaboard there was Joseph Ludlam, John Townsend, Robert Richards, and Sylvan us Townsend.
Dennisville was settled upon the south side of the creek in or about 1726 by Anthony Ludlam, and some few years afterwards the north side by his brother, Joseph, both being sons of Joseph Ludlam, of Ludlam’s Run.
David Johnson was here in 1765, and he owned land at the time of his death, in 1805, on the south side of Dennis Creek John Stephenson purchased of John Spicer in 1758. East and West creek were settled by Joseph Savage; numerous descendants of the latter now occupy that portion of the county. In middle township on the seaboard were Thomas Leaming. John Reeves, Henry Stites, Shamgar Hand, Samuel Matthews, and John Parsons; while William and Benjamin Johnson, Yelverson Crowell, and Aaron Leaming, first, were first at Goshen. The lands of William Jacoks and Humphrey Hughes
Were in 1700 Cape Island, now part of Cape May City. Jacoks afterwards sold the land to Thomas Hand, one of the original settlers and their sons, for the larger part: they tilled the soil and toiled along the seaboard, and their descendants have built up the county, in the trades and professions.
** Transcriber’s footnote - While this author makes much of the fact that the Dutch, the Swede’s and the Quaker’s were always honest in their dealings with the Indians regarding land acquisition, and “not a foot of soil was ever taken by fraud or force from the red man,” he fails to convey the fact that the Indians, unlike the Europeans, had no understanding of land “Ownership,” so any contract made with them to forfeit such ownership regardless of the payment had no value; and the Indians, not understanding what they had agreed to, became hostile when the Europeans insisted they leave their traditional, and ancestral hunting and fishing territories.