Atlantic County from
HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF THE
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
BY: JOHN W. BARBER and HENRY HOWE
PUBLISHED BY S. TUTTLE (NEW YORK) 1844


ATLANTIC COUNTY is bounded NE. by Burlington co., SE. by the Atlantic ocean, S. by Cape May Co., SW. by Cumberland CO., and NW. by Gloucester co. It is about 30 miles long by 20 wide; and was formed from the eastern part of Gloucester co., in 1837. The principal streams are the Great Egg Harbor, running through it nearly centrally; the Little Egg Harbor, separating it from Burlington Co.; and the Tuckahoe, on its southern boundary. These streams are navigable for many miles, and facilitate the transportation of timber and cord-wood to market, which form the most valuable products of this part of the state. Clams, oysters, and fish abound in the numerous bays and inlets on its coast; and many of its inhabitants gain their livelihood by oystering and fishing. Ship-building is carried on in the little settlements on the streams; and glasshouses and furnaces are scattered here and there among the pines. Agriculture is but little pursued, there being but few farms.

The pine-region of New Jersey extends over about one third of its territory, comprising the whole of this, and parts of Middlesex, Monmouth, Burlington, Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland, and Cape May counties. This immense tract is very thinly settled, there being many square miles on which there is not a single inhabitant; “where deer, foxes, and rabbits are abundant, and the bear finds a lair to protect its race from extirpation.” Through these wilds wind numerous roads, by mazes almost inextricable; Where

____________" the scarcely-waving pine
Fills the brown shade with a religious awe.”


Thirty years since, this immense forest was of little value; but the introduction of steamboats and anthracite coal has created such a demand for fuel, that the lands have risen from ten cents to four or five dollars per acre; and in some instances, where convenient to market, bring from fifteen to sixty dollars. Where the pine has been cleared, oak springs up; and frequently, where the oak has been cut, the pine again succeeds. Upon the clay and loam soils oak abounds, of an excellent quality for shipbuilding. In the sandy region are extensive swamps bearing white cedar, very valuable, and worth from one to three hundred dollars per acre.

Atlantic co. is divided into five townships, viz:
Egg Harbor
Hamilton
Mullica
Weymouth
Galloway.

This is the most thinly-settled county in the state. In 1830, the townships now comprising it numbered 8,164 souls; in 1840, 8,726.


EGG HARBOR


EGG HARBOR was incorporated in 1798. It is about 11 miles long by 10 broad; and is bounded NE. by Galloway, SE. by the ocean, S. by Great Egg Harbor bay, separating it from Cape May co., SW. by Great Egg Harbor river, dividing it from Weyrnouth, and NW. by Hamilton. Its surface is level, and principally covered with pines. On the coast is a marsh, four miles wide, studded with twenty or thirty islets, encircled by bays and arms of the sea. Beyond these, next to the ocean, Absecuxn beach stretches along parallel with the coast, for 9 miles. Bargaintown, 10 miles SE. of May's Landing, has a Methodist church, and about 30 dwellings. Leedsville, on the shore, 1 mile SE. of Bargaintown, contains 15 or 20 dwellings. Somers Point, on Great Egg Harbor bay, is quite a place of resort in the summer. Here are good boarding-houses for the accommodation of strangers. From this place along the shore, to Absecombe, there is an almost continuous line of houses. According to the United States census, in 1840, the population of this township was 2,739. It contained 10 stores, capital $10,600; 3 grist-mills, and 4 saw-mills; $9,800 capital employed in manufactures; 10 schools, 810 scholars.

Capt. Richard Somers, one of the most gallant and intrepid officers tiat ever did honor to the United States navy, was a native of this township. He was the youngest child of Col. Richard Somers, a prominent man, in this vicinity, in the American revolution. The subject of our notice was born about the year 1778, at Somers Point. He first attended school at Philadelphia, and afterward at a celebrated academy in Burlington. About the year 1794, Somers, then 15 or 16 years of age, first went to sea, in a coasting vessel, from Egg Harbor. Two years after, he received a warrant as a midshipman, and made his first cruise in the frigate United States, in company with Decatur; both of whom became, for the remainder of life, generous professional rivals, and strong personal friends. In 1801, Somers was promoted to a lieutenancy, and at the time of his death was appointed master-commandant. In 1803, at the period of the difficulties with the Barbary powers, Lieut. Somers was appointed to the command of the Nautilus, a beautiful schooner of 12 guns, attached to the Mediterranean squadron; which sailed in the summer and autumn of this year, and became so celebrated under the orders of Preble.

While at Syracuse, on this, or perhaps a previous occasion, where the American vessels made their principal rendezvous, a characteristic anecdote is related of Somers, by his biographer. He was walking in the vicinity of the town, in company with two brother officers, when five Sicilian soldiers, carrying swords, made an attack on the party, with intent to rob. One of the gentlemen had a dirk, while Somers and the other were unarmed. The officer with the dirk used the weapon so vigorously as soon to bring down one assailant; while Somers, seizing the swor&blade of his antagonist, was severely cut in the hand by the unsuccessful efforts of the Sicilian for its recovery; but finally he wrested it from him, and plunged it into his body. This decided the matter, the three robbers taking to flight.

When the American squadron under Preble was maintaining the blockade against Tripoli, in 1804, he distinguished himself in its early stages, as well as on the occasion in which he lost his life. At one time he was engaged in a gunboat, within pistol-shot, against a. force at least five times superior. In the end the enemy were obliged to make off, and he brought off his boat in triumph. On anotlicr occasion, as his boat was advancing to her positin, an incident occurred which marked his presence of mind. Somers, while leaning against the flagstaff; saw a shot flying directly in a line for him, and bowed his head to avoid it. The shot cut the stafl and on measuring, it was certain he escaped death only by the timely removal.

After several unsuccessful enterprises to force the enemy to terms, it was resolved to fit up the ketch "Intrepid" in the double capacity of fire-ship and infernal, and to send her into the inner harbor of Tripoli, there to explode, in the very centre of the vessels of the Turks. As her deck was to be covered with a large quantity of powder, shells, and missiles, it was hoped the town would suffer not less than the shipping. The panic created by such an assault, made in the dead of night, it was fondly hoped would produce an instant peace; and more especially the liberation of the frigate Philadelphia, whose officers and crew were thought to have been reduced to extreme suffering by the barbarity of their captors.

The imminent danger of the service forbade the commodore ordering any of his officers upon it; and Somers, with whom the conception of this daring scheme is supposed to have originated, volunteered to take the command.

"On the afternoon of the 4th of September, Somers prepared to leave the Nautilus, with a full determination to carry the ketch into Tripoli that night. Previously to quitting his own vessel, he felt that it would be proper to point out the desperate nature of the enterprise to the four men he had selected, that their services might be perfectly free and voluntary. He told them that he wished no man to accompany him, who would not prefer being blown up to being taken ;* that such was his own determination, and that he wished all who went with him to be the same way of thinking. The boats now gave three cheers in answer; and each man is said to have separately asked to be selected to apply the match. Once assured of the temper of his companions, Somers took leave of his officers; the boat's crew doing the same, shaking hands, and expressing their feelings, as if they felt assured of their fate in advance. . . . Each of' the four men made his will verbally; disposing of his effects among his shipmates, like those about to die. . . . . . . Several of somers' friends visited him on board the Intrepid, before she got under way. Among them were Stewart and Decatur, with whom he had commenced his naval career in the United States. These three young men, then about twenty-six years of age each, were Philadelphia-bred sailors, and had been intimately associated in service for the last six years. They all knew that the enterprise was one of extreme hazard, and the two who were to remain behind felt a deep interest in the fate of him who was to go in. Somers was grave, and entirely without any affectation of levity or indifference; but he maintained his usual tranquil and quiet manner. After some conversation, he took a ring from his finger, and breaking it into three pieces, gave each of his companions one, while he retained the third himself."

Two boats accompanied the ketch to bring off the party just after setting fire to the train. In
the whole there were thirteen men, all volunteers.

About nine o'clock in the evening Lieut. Reed was the last to leave the ketch for his own vessel. "When he went over the side of the Intrepid, all communication between the gallant spirits she contained and the rest of the world ceased. At that time every thing seemed propitious. Somers was cheerful, though calm; and pcrfbct order and method prevailed in the little cralt. The leave taking was aflictionate and serious with the officers, though the common men appeared to be in high spirits."

The ketch was seen to proceed cautiously into the bay, but was soon obscured by the haze on the water. "ft was not long before the enemy began to fire at the ketch, which by this time was quite near the batteries, though the reports were neither rapid nor mimerous. At this moment, near ten o'clock, Capt. Stewart and Lient. Carrol were standing in the Siren's gangway, looking intently toward the place where the ketch was known to be, when the latter exclaimed, 'Look ! see the light!' At that instant a light was seen passing and waving, as if a lantern were carried by some person in quick motion along a vessel's deck. Then it sunk from view. Half a minute may have elapsed, when the whole firmament was lighted with a fiery glow; a burning mast with its sails was seen in the air; the whole harbor was momentarily illuminated; the awful explosion came, and a darkness like that of doom succeeded. The whole was over in less than a minute ; the flame, the quaking of towers, the reeling of ships, and even the bursting of shells, of which most fell in the water, though some lodged on the rocks. The firing ceased, and from that instant Tripoli passed the night in a stillness as profound as that in which the victims of this explosion have lain from that fatal hour to this."

In the American squadron the opinion was prevalent, that Somers and his determined crew had blown themselves up to prevent capture; but subsequent light has rendered it more probable that it was accidental, or occasioned either by a hot shot from the enemy. "Thus perished Richard Somers, 'one of the bravest of the brave.' Notwithstanding all our means of reasoning, and the greatest efforts of human ingenuity, there will remain a melancholy interest around the manner of his end, which, by the Almighty will, is forever veiled from human eyes, in a sad and solemn mystery."

In person Somers was rather below the middle stature.; stout in frame, and exceedingly active and muscular. He was mild, amiable, and affectionate, both in disposition and deportment; though of singularly chivalrous notions of duty and honor. As a proof of the estimation in which he was held, several small vessels have bceii called after him; among which is the beautiful little brig "Somers," which recently has been the scene of a thrilling tragedy on the high seas. *

* The foregoing account of Somers is drown from an interesting biography by J. Fennimore Cooper, in Graham's Magazine for October, 1842.


GALLOWAY

GALLOWAY was incorporated in 1798. It is 16 miles long, and 8 wide, and is bounded NE. by Little Egg Harbor bay and river, separating it from Burlington Co., SW. by Egg Harbor township and Hamilton, SE. by the ocean, and NW. by Mullica. Its surface is level and covered with pines. The ocean-side is bordered by a marsh several miles in width, in which are numerous arms of the sea, and bays with many small islands. Outside of these is Brigantine Beach, where were formerly works for the manufacture of salt from sea-water. Absecombe, in the SE. corner, 13 miles from Mary's Landing, contains about 30 dweffings. Port Republic is a village of about the same size upon Nacote creek, a branch of the Little Egg Harbor. A considerable business is done here in ship-building. Smithville is a small village 7 miles N. of Absecombe. There is a Methodist church at each of these places. The townstiip contains 7 stores, capital $9,700; 1 glass factory, 3 gristmills, 3 saw-mills ; capital in manufactures, $47,500 ; 8 schools, 616 scholars. Population, 2,208.

In the American revolution there was a considerable settlement at the forks of Little Egg Harbor river, now gone to decay. It contained about 30 dwellings, inhabited principally by persons engaged in "running goods" when Philadelphia was in possession of the British. Little Egg Harbor river was a favorite resort for privateers to land their cargoes for this perpose. At chestnut Neck some storehouses for the reception of merchandise were burnt by the British. At that time a breastwork was erected there, and the inhabitants to the number of 1,500 collected for its defence. The enemy coming up the river in strong force in barges, compelled them to retreat.


HAMILTON


HAMILTON is about 16 miles long by 11 wide, and is bounded NE. by Galloway, SW. by Cape May county, SE. by Egg Harbor, and NW. by part of Gloucester county. The Great Egg Harbor river passes through its whole length, draining a wide extent of sandy soil and pine forest. The township contains 8 stores, capital $14,800; 1 furnace, 1 forge, 2 grist-mills, 3 saw-mills; capital in manufactures, $22,150; 6 schools, 916 scholars. Population, 1,565.

May's Landing, the seat of' justice for the county, is on the Great Egg Harbor river, at the head of navigation, 16 miles from the Atlantic ocean, and 73 from Trenton. It is divided into two portions about a quarter of a mile apart. Hamilton, the upper village, is on both sides of the river, over which is a bridge. May's Landing is on the west side of the river, and was first settled. There are in the village and vicinity about 70 dwellings. Its inhabitants are principally engaged in ship-building, and in transporting cord-wood and timber to market. The above view shows on the right the courthouse and other county buildings. That on the extreme right is the jail. These are handsome brick edifices, situated on the north bank of the river, about 60 rods east of the bridge. There are two churches in the village; a Methodist, (formerly occupied by Methodists and Baptists,) and a Presbyterian church lately erected, a handsome brick edifice with, a spire, situated near the county buildings, in a grove of venerable forest-trees.

May's Landing was first settled in 1710, by George May, who bought the land on which the village stands. He opened a store and supplied vessels which put in here with wood. His dwelling was standing until about 1830, on the north side of the river, about 10 rods above the mouth of Babcock's creek, near the willow-trees. it was a small gambrel-roofed building, a story and a half high, fronting on the river. After the American revolution Colonel Richard Westcott removed here from the forks of Egg Harbor, and became a large owner. This gentleman died about twenty years since, at the advanced age of 102 years. A Baptist church was built in the village in 1782, in which the clergyman at Tuckahoe, where there was then also a churehof this denomination, occasionally preached. Catawba, 4 miles SE. of the courthouse, has a Methodist church and about 20 dwellings. Weymouth, on the river, 6 miles NW. of the courthouse, contains a Methodist church, a furnace, forge, saw and grist mill, and about 40 dwellings. These works belong to the heirs of Samuel Richards, Esq., deceased, and give employment, directly and indirectly, to several hundred men.

The following extracts from the New Jersey State Gazette, published at Trenton in the war of the revolution, relate to incidents off this coast.

March 31, 1779.-In the late snow-storm, the transport ship Mermaid, of White. haven, England, with troops from Halifax, bound to New York, was driven on shore and bilged at Egg Harbor. Alter being in this miserable situation from fIve o'clock on Monday morning until noon on Tuesday, a boat came off to their relief, and saved only 42 souls out of 187. Perished-Capt. Snowball, Lieut. Snodgrass, 112 sergeants, drumaners, and privates, 13 women, 11 sailors, and 7 children; total, 145. Saved-S sergcants, 25 privates, 7 sailors, and 5 officers; total, 42.

Sept. 11, 1782.-Last week Capt. Douglas with some of the militia of Gloucester co., attacked a refugee boat at Egg Harbor, with 18 refugees on board, of whom 14 were shot or drowned; the others made their escape.

Dec. 18, 1782.-Capt. Jackson, of the Greyhound, on the evening of Sunday, last week, with much address captured, within the Hook, the schooner Dolphin, and sloop Diamond, bound from New York to Halifax, and brought them both into Egg Harbor. These vessels were both condemned to the claimants, and the amount of sales amounted to £10,500.

Aug. 25, 1779.-By a sailor from Egg Harbor, we arc informed, that on Wednesday last, the schooner Mars, Capt. Taylor, fell in with a vessel mounting 14 guns, which he boarded and took. She proved to be a packet from Falmouth to New York. Capt. Taylor took the mail and prisoners, 45 in number; but on Saturday last, felt in with a fleet of 23 sail, under convoy of a large ship and frigate, when the latter gave chase to the packet and retook her. Capt. Taylor got safe into Egg Harbor.

The annexed account of a naval exploit of a minor character, performed off this coast in the late war, was communicated by a resident of May's Landing.

In the latter part of 1813, as several small coasters werc sailing around Cape May, from the Delaware river, bound for Egg Harbor, they came in contact with a British armed schooner, lying at anchor off the Cape. She put chase, fired upon, and took the schooner New Jersey, from May's Landing, which was manned by the master, Capt. Burton, and 2 bands. Having placed on board as prize-master a young midshipman, with three men, (two Englishmen and an Irishman,) she ordered the sloop to follow her, and continued the pursuit of the other vessels. As they neared Egg Harbor, the approach of night compelled her to desist from the chase, and she then put about for the Cape. The sloop followed, but made little headway, the young midshipman in corninand being an indifferent seaman. He at length placed the sailing of the vessel under the directions of Capt. Burton, directing him to steer for the Cape. He designedly steered the vessel so that no headway was made. Morning dawned and found them off the mouth of Great Egg Harbor. Burton feigned ignorance of the place. Shortly after, a man was sent aloft to look out: the prize-master and one of his men went below to examine the charts, leaving the three Americans and one of the enemy on deck. Burton availed himself of the opportunity. He and his two men secured the one on deck, fastened the two in the cabin, and having thus made them all prisoners, in an hour, with a fair wind, brought his vessel to anchor off Somers Point, within a short distance of home. The prize-master, after a short confinement in prison, was exchanged. The two Englishmen hired out in the vicinity, and the Irishman enlisted on board a gunboat and fought valiantly for the stripes and stars.


MULLICA


MULLICA, the NW. township of the county, was formed in 1838, from Galloway. It is about 13 miles long, 8 wide, and is bounded NE. by Burlington county, SW. by Hamilton, SE. by Galloway, and NW. by Gloucester county. Surface level, and covered by a pine forest. Gloucester, Pleasant Mills, and Hammonton, are settlements. Gloucester is in the SE. part, on a branch of the Little Egg Harbor or Mullicus river, where there is a furnace giving employment to about 100 men, a grist m., saw m., and about 25 dwellings. The iron works, now the property of John Richards, Esq., were founded in 1813, previous to which there was no settlement. Pleasant Mills, on Atsiori river, a branch of the Mullicus, contains an extensive cotton factory, a Methodist church, and about 30 dwellings. Hammonton is the name of a locality in the W. part of the township, where there are glass works and a few dwellings. The township contains 10 stores, cap. $16,900 ; 1 furnace, 3 grist m., 7 saw m., cap. in manufac. $19,300; 5 schools, 296 scholars. Population 1,056.


WEYMOUTH


WEYMOUTH was incorporated in 1798 It is 9 miles long, 7 broad, and is bounded N. E. by Great Egg Harbor river, separating it from Egg Harbor and part of Hamilton, S. and W. by Tuckahoe river, dividing it from Cape May and Curnberland counties. The portion of the township bordering Tuckahoe and Great Egg Harbor river is mostly marsh; the remaining portion generally covered with pine forest. On Stevens' creek, a branch of the last named river, 5 miles south of May's Landing, are Estell's glass works, employing about 80 men; a Methodist church, a grist and saw mill, and a few buildings. The village of Tnckahoe is on both sides of the Tuckahoe river, partly in this and partly in Cape May co. The township contains 8 stores, capital $16,000; 1 forge, 1 grist-mill, 6 saw-mills; capital in manufactures $14,000; 6 schools, 336 scholars. Population, 1,158.

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