Welcome to Toms River Seaport Society’s (Mari)Time-Warp, taking our supporters back through the nautical history of the Barnegat Bay and Toms River watershed areas!
This time we reprint the October 17th, 1890 feature on Barnegat Bay's history, courtesy the New York Times and Newspapers.com.
OLD BARNEGAT'S SHORES
BITS OF THE ANCIENT HISTORY OF JERSEY'S SANITARIUM
THE SHIPBUILDING RESOURCES OF THE COUNTRY - ITS BURIED TREASURES AND ITS WRECKED VESSELS.
Barnegat! There are two sides to it, the bay side and the ocean side. Very different ideas are aroused according to the side from which it is viewed. On the one hand are visions of keen enjoyment, of active, health-giving outdoor amusement, of hunting and fishing, of sailing over blue waters, while the foam of the flying cat flashes in the sunshine and the blood courses merrily through the veins. On the other hand there is the breaker-marked outline of a dangerous coast, and the hard yellow beach below the low lying white sand hills, tufted and streaked at all seasons with green, is filled with the phantoms of wrecked ships and drowned men and women.
The very name derived from the breakers along the shore. It comes down from Dutch colonial days, and was originally spelled Barende-gat, meaning an inlet with breakers. The appellation was probably borrowed, in the first instance, from the log book of Sir Hendrick Hudson's famous little ship the Half Moon, which on the morning of Sept. 2, 1609, made the bay and inlet from the southward while voyaging from the Delaware to the Hudson. The entry for that day describes the trend of the shore, the appearance of the bay, which is called a lake. Of the inlet it says it "had many shoals and the sea breaks upon them." As Sir Hendrick made no mention of any other inlet it is fair to presume that there was then, as now, only one, but a century ago there were two inlets, and the other, called Cranberry Inlet, ten or twelve miles north, about opposite Toms River, was during the Revolution the more used of the two. Then it appears to have been navigable for vessels of large size, but now it is entirely closed up, and nothing marks its place but an opening between the sand hills.
Whether or not there be any foundation in fact for the assertion that the coast was infested early in the present century with land pirates, who with false beacons lured ships to destruction, it is certain that the coast is a very dangerous one to mariners, and that before the establishment of the life-saving stations it was the scene of many a disastrous wreck. Two of the worst wrecks within the memory of persons now living were those of the Powhattan and Manhattan, which struck about five miles below Harvey Cedars, or fifteen miles south of Barnegat Lighthouse, in April, 1854. The Powhattan was a full-rigged packet ship, bound from Havre to New-York, with 326 persons on board, counting passengers and crew. She struck early on the morning of April 16 during a blinding snowstorm and went to pieces soon after. When it was light enough to see, the few persons who lived along the shore found the beach strewed with corpses. Not a soul had survived that dreadful landing. On the following afternoon the brig Manhattan came ashore alongside of the Powhattan, and of thirteen men on board twelve were drowned. Everybody alongshore had to lend a hand in burying the dead. A large part of the Powhattan's cargo was fine china, and it is said that some pieces are still preserved in families along the shore as mementoes of the shocking calamity.
An attempt was made to establish the Life-Saving Service on the Barnegat coast in 1848, and two stations were actually located, one at Harvey Cedars, the other at a place called Bonds, near Egg Harbor, but the service did not reach its present proficiency until less than a score of years ago. Wrecks are scarcely less numerous now than before, for vessels come ashore every year, but the loss of life, thanks to the proficiency and zeal of the life-saving crews, has been greatly reduced. Some idea of the success of these crews in saving life may be gathered from the fact that in eight wrecks, the particulars of which have been recorded at Forked River Station by Capt. David L. Yarnall during the last seven years, only one was attended with loss of life.
The unfortunate exception was the two-masted schooner L. and A. Babcock, which came ashore in a northwest gale on the afternoon of June 26, 1884. Capt. Harry S. Babcock and Cook Martin Campbell were drowned in attempting to swim ashore. Mrs. Scarborough, wife of the first mate, was knocked overboard by a falling gaff and either killed or drowned. The rest of the crew was saved by the breeches buoy. That same year, Nov. 19, about 10 P.M., the Mallory Line Steamship Guadaloup, bound from New-York to Galveston, went ashore on the shoals about a mile off the inlet and out of reach of the life line. Her passengers and crew, numbering seventy, were taken off life boats without mishap by the crews of four stations.
The crews, however, have not always come off unscathed in their efforts to save shipwrecked mariners. The crew of the Barnegat City Station (formerly the stations were designated by numbers, but now they are called by the names of the places at which they are situated) met with a sad disaster four or five years ago. An Italian bark struck on the same shoals where the Guadaloup came to grief. At daybreak the life-saving crew went out in the surf boat to her assistance. When they reached her it was found that she was abandoned. In returning to shore the boat was broached, and four out of the nine members of the crew were drowned. Meanwhile the ship's boat, in attempting to land several miles further south, was upset in the breakers and five of her crew were drowned. The worst storms on this coast come from the southeast or the northeast, when there is sure to be tremendous surf and a powerful current up or down the beach, according as the wind blows.
In colonial times the name Barnegat was applied to the adjacent country as well as to the bay. Nearly all of that is now embraced in Ocean County, and it constitutes the greater part of the pine belt of New Jersey. From Lakewood to the bay it is evident to the eye of the woodsman that these pines are the second growth. Not a vestige of the primeval forest remains. All of it has been brought to the market of this city in the form of lumber and firewood. More than a century ago those pine woods were full of sawmills, and lumber was floated in narrow rafts down the Forked and Toms rivers for shipment from the bay.
Some of these mills are still operated. During the first half of the present century there was a great business done in shipping firewood to this city for household and steamboat consumption. Old residents of Forked River recall occasions when they saw as many as forty vessels loading with wood at one time in the mouth of the river. The business is all gone from there now, though some wood is still shipped by vessels from Toms River and more is sent by rail from the interior. Up to a comparatively recent period there was a good deal of ship building at the mouth of Forked River, and several three-mast schooners built there are still afloat. One of these, the Lulu Ammerman, went ashore on the beach opposite the Forked River Life-Saving Station Nov. 4, 1883, but was subsequently pulled off uninjured. Many of the farmers in the neighborhood of Forked River are large owners of vessel property, nearly all of which is registered at this port. A conspicuous example of these vessel-owning farmers is Capt. Daniel S. Williams, who is spoken of as the richest man in Ocean County and said to be worth several million dollars.
During the Revolution several noted privateers made Toms River their base of operations, and many valuable prizes captures from the British and refugees were carried into that haven. Capt. William Gray of the Privateer Dart, hailing from Salem, Mass., was one of these. Some daring residents of Toms River, notably Capts. Joshua Studson and Samuel Bigelow, also frequently acted as privateers, and manning barges made prizes of passing or stranded vessels. Salt works at Toms River, Forked River, Waretown and other places along the inner shore of the bay at the same time supplied a much-needed article to the commissariat of the Continentals, and made the bay a twofold object of interest to the Britons.
Several expeditions were, therefore, sent against it. One of these attacked a log fort at Toms River Sunday, March 24, 1782, and captured it after a sanguinary [defined as an archaic term for "involving or causing much bloodshed"] fight. It then burned the town and carried off Capt. Joshua Huddy, the commander of the fort, and the survivors of his garrison as prisoners of war. Capt. Huddy, who at [earlier, other] times had inflicted severe punishment on the refugees, was, after a confinement of some duration in this city, delivered to the refugee leader, Lippencott, who hanged him upon the Highlands of Navesink. This hanging became an international affair, and the failure of the British to give up Lippencott in response to Washington's demand resulted in the selection by lot from among the prisoners in the Americans' hands of Capt. Asgill of the Royal Guards to be hanged in revenge for Capt. Huddy's murder. After French and English diplomacy had been engaged for months in a fruitless effort to save him, Capt. Asgill was finally released by special act of Congress, induced by the pathetic and eloquent appeals of his mother, Lady Asgill, and the intermediation of Washington.
In common with every other part of the Atlantic coast Barnegat enjoys the reputation of hiding beneath its sandy surface untold stores of pirates' treasure. It would be too much to expect that Capt. Kidd's name did not figure in these traditions, but it must be admitted that the evidence of his complicity is far from conclusive. It is said that much digging for this long-buried treasure has been done in the vicinity of Toms River, and some of it not more than a generation ago...
The country and waters hereabout have long had an enviable reputation for hunting and fishing. It is related that during the war of the Revolution a party of American officers went down to fish in Barnegat Bay and were captured by a roving British barge. The annals of the shore also preserve the fact that early in the present century a Prince Murat went hunting there with a large train of servants. Whether this Prince Murat was Napoleon's famous Lieutenant the writer will not undertake to say. At any rate, the visit of this foreigner seems to indicate that Barnegat enjoyed a transatlantic reputation as a hunting ground at least a century ago. It is said that there are a few deer still left in the heart of the pine forest, but they are not easy to find.
Small game, however, is abundant. Quail are especially numerous this season all along the inner shore of the bay. Partridges and ruffed grouse are also to be found. As to rabbits and squirrels the woods are full of them, while along the beach and meadows yellow legs and other shore birds are found in large flocks. A few English snipe have also appeared since the beginning of the current month. Black ducks have also shown themselves in desultory flocks. Last Monday a flock of twenty-two geese was seen flying over Forked River. The bay is a great place for ducks and geese in the Fall and Winter, but they are too shy to be easily killed. The true sportsman, however, never hunts tame birds. Of ducks the black redheads, mallard, and broad-bill are most abundant. Teal are also to be had, and it is said occasionally a canvasback may be bagged.
One of the chief attractions of this part of New-Jersey is its extreme healthfulness. Nowhere can you find a healthier and hardier lot of children than along the shore of Barnegat Bay, sunburned and unpolished, but hearty and sturdy. Malaria is unknown. The sandy soil absorbs the water as fast as it falls and the pine forests supply ozone enough to keep pulmonary disorders always at a distance. The seashore at the northern end of the bay has commanded a fair share of the attention of persons seeking Summer resorts, and as a consequence such charming places as Island Heights, Point Pleasant and Seaside Park have covered the "sandy tracts." The inner shore has been almost entirely neglected save by fishermen and hunters.
There is a notable exception, however, in the case of Barnegat Park, and the march of improvement will eventually take its way further south. The improvements now making at Barnegat Park are worth more than a passing notice, especially as many prominent officers of the army and navy are concerned in them. Several years ago at a dinner of the Army and Navy Club in Washington, the idea was broached of establishing a rural resort for officers of both branches of the service. The idea took root, an association was formed, and the purchase was effected of 15,000 acres of Jersey pine land on the inshore of Barnegat Bay, about half way between Toms River and Forked River. For two or three years work proceeded slowly, but now the transformation of the wilderness into a very attractive place is going forward rapidly. Broad avenues and streets, circles and squares have been laid out, a handsome hotel and pretty cottages have been built, besides a livery stable, storehouses, railroad station, and other necessary adjuncts.
The avenues and streets are beautifully graded, and a magnificent winding drive over two miles long has been constructed from the park to the bay. A handsome casino is to be built at the bay end of this drive, and a canal is to be cut through the meadows to let boats come up to the casino. At night the park is lit up with electric lights, and an electric railway is to be run from the hotel at the park over the drive already spoken of to the casino. It is the intention of the promoters to make the place a Winter as well as a Summer resort, and the hotel, which was opened Oct. 1, is expensively and beautifully furnished.
From the roof of this hotel, which is called "The Pines," is a magnificent view on the one hand of the rolling pine forest and on the other of the bay and ocean. The President of the company is Orson Adams, formerly President of the Commercial National Bank, and among the more prominent of the property owners are Gens. Frank Wheaton, Stewart Van Vliet, B.P. Runkle, John S. Mason, August V. Kautz, and O.O. Howard, Adjt. Gen. Drum, Cols. D.A. Griffith and Frederick Van Vliet, Majors William A. Elderkin, Augustus S. Nicholson, T.C. Tupper, and Charles Parker.
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