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A TOUR OF GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ by Yummygal

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Before we go ahead… I would like to say a few words…

Hi and Happy New Year!!!  I have a lot of goodies planned for you this year.  Now that it is extremely cold outside, I have time to sit down and get some postings up!  I’ve got hundreds of them coming.  I do not claim to be Mrs. Grammar when it comes to this blog. I write for fun, so I do apologize if things aren’t all that “proper.”  This blog is about having a great time and showing folks what is out there in South Jersey.  I try not to get too technical in matters and attempt to explain things as easily as I can.

Ahh… Yes, this is where it all began South Jersey!!! Really!!! Gloucester City holds a ton of history secrets, my friends!   This small 11,000 resident “city” may have been known in the Guinness Book of World Records for most bars per capita at 38 total establishments…. As the birthplace of Rock N Roll (Bill Haley & the Comets) And….  as “Title Town” through the 1960s-1970s because of Gloucester Catholic and Gloucester High School winning many championships in football, basketball and baseball… but are you aware that Gloucester City was reportedly the first settlement in South Jersey?

Yerp…. Well… According to this…

Fort Nassau

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Inscription reads on the marker: “The Dutch ship Walvis, Erected by the State of New Jersey 1919 to commemorate the first white settlement in West Jersey, at the mouth of Big Timber Creek and the erection of Old Fort Nassau by the Holland Dutch in 1623 under Capt. Cornelius Jacobeson Mey of the Dutch West India Company. Members of Commission John H. Fort – Frank H. Stewart – Alfred M. Heston.”

It is speculated that Gloucester City may have been the renowned settlement of Fort Nassau (some say otherwise and believe that it was in Brooklawn or Westville). The real creepy part about it is that no one really knows its EXACT site. Maps are estimated and show various locations in the general vicinity of Fort Nassau.  However, we do know that it was where Timber Creek met with the Delaware River.

Here’s the story… History records state that Captain Mey declared upon the Hermaomissing (aka Delaware River) at the mouth of the Sassackon (Timber Creek) as the place of his settlement and built a fort made of logs.  Upon returning eight years later, the place was found deserted by the colony and that the Indians laid claim to it. There were no signs of any of the settlers.  Poof! They were gone! I have to say that’s pretty freaky!!!

The area was known as Arwaumus by the Native Indians.  However, it was named Gloucester Point by London and Yorkshire Commissioners in 1677.

Famous painting by Thomas Eakins of shad fishing in Gloucester City.  Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Famous painting by Thomas Eakins of shad fishing in Gloucester City. Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I really don’t like writing books on this blog, as I could literally go on and on about Gloucester like an Encyclopedia Britannica… However, I will discuss key elements of Gloucester’s past and current historical places to check out… And I will do my best as to not bore the heck out of you because this is not my intention.  I try to make history a bit fun and enjoyable!

Aerial of Gloucester City in the 1930s.

Aerial of Gloucester City in the 1930s.

Then came Betsy Ross…

Perhaps, the most famous woman from the late 1700s is Betsy Ross.  Her maiden name was Griscom and if you read up on South Jersey history, the Griscoms were everywhere. Betsy was a rebel in those times.  A lot of folks don’t know this fun fact about her and I find it interesting as part of her history.

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Hugg’s Tavern torn down in 1929.

Mantel currently at the Gloucester County Historical Society of where it was reported that Betsy married John Ross.

Mantel now at the Gloucester County Historical Society of where in front of the mantel was reported that Betsy married John Ross.

In 1773, she rode a ferry over to Huggs Tavern in Gloucester where she wedded John Ross.  Now, John Ross was an Anglican a huge no-no with Betsy’s faith.  She was a Quaker and brought up in that discipline her entire life. Basically, if a Quaker marries someone of another faith they are “read out” (stripped of their membership), exiled from the meetinghouse and friends/family basically shun you… You’re on your own little lady. 

Betsy had met John during an apprenticeship at an upholstery shop and they fell in love. 
It’s a true love story as she pretty much gave up everything to be with the man she loved.

Then the American flag was “invented” by her and yada yada.. I think everyone that grew up in the Philadelphia area knows the rest of the story. However, this is her connection to Gloucester City (hey, I’m developing a timeline here.)

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Copy of oil painting “Blowing UP of the Frigate Augusta” hanging in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia. Painted by James Peale, English Naval Officer, from a sketch made at the time. Presented to the Historical Society in 1857 by James S. Earle. In 1777, the Augusta, with other English ships and foot soldiers, attacked Fort Mercer at Red Bank, Gloucester County, New Jersey. The Hessian foot soldiers were defeated and the Augusta and Merlin destroyed. Copied from the original by Russell J. England, of Federal Art Project. Photographed by Charles W. Benson, Federal Writer’s Project.

Fast forward just a bit to October 22nd in the great year of 1777, a battle was a brewing during the Revolutionary War.  A Battle at Red Bank to be exact.  Gloucester is known for the HMS Augusta that somehow scattered upstream during a nasty storm and was washed ashore on a small beach area.  It was cherished here for decades, but not much remains visibly seen today. The HMS Augusta was a 64-gun ship part of Britain’s Royal Navy.  She was accidentally destroyed by fire on October 22, 1777.

The remains of the HMS Augusta in the late 1930s.

The remains of the HMS Augusta in the late 1930s.

I am kind of scattered all over the place on Gloucester, but I just want to discuss some key facts of history and hope you don’t get lost moving from point to point… If you do.. I am sorry.\

 

I am kind of scattered all over the place on Gloucester, but I just want to discuss some key facts of history and hope you don’t get lost moving from point to point… If you do.. I am sorry.

The Dog House Bar, former synagogue, former bank... It has had many uses.  It is a historical beauty nonetheless.

The Dog House Bar, former synagogue, former bank… It has had many uses. It is a historical beauty nonetheless.

Salem Road….  Kings Highway….

A lot of folks have probably heard about Salem road at one time or another, but it’s actually Old King’s Highway or large chunks of it anyway. Old Salem Road stretches from Burlington City to Salem and was the primary thoroughfare from its creation in 1681 and even through today.  It’s had a few revisions and diversions over the years, but most of the route remains intact.

What many folks don’t know is that Old Salem Road once led to Gloucester.  It actually ran right on Market Street and then behind Cedar Grove Cemetery (near Cold Springs school) to a small bridge and then to Little Timber Creek… Ahem, near “the trestle.”

Cedar Grove Cemetery…

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Entrance into the cemetery.

This cemetery is very mysterious to me.  Upon my research, I have found ties that American Indians are buried here.

One in particular is a man named, Levin Stockume. Levin was a Delaware resident, but allegedly a Nanticoke Native American and married a woman from his tribe.  Delaware had laws against any person that was not Caucasian that was attempting to better themselves.  They also did not allow non-Caucasians to purchase firearms or ammunition.   Levin defied this gun law (he purchased arms) and was arrested.  Levin was fined $20 and had to pay court costs. He then got arrested a second time and was so fed up that he moved his family to Gloucester City, New Jersey.  He ran a general store and millinery (made lady hats) out of his home on Mercer Street and died on December 25, 1864.  He was 57 years old.

Another popular Native American of the Lenni tribe named Ada M One Star is also buried here.

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Many Civil War, World War I and World War II veterans are also interred here. As you see, this cemetery has some historical significance to Gloucester City and is almost unknown by most.

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