A Brief Time Line History of Absecon
By Rob Reid
June 1, 2001, November 26, 2002
The following is a brief historical time-line of the early years of Absecon. This time-line just skims the surface of Absecon’s interesting past. It is intended to stir interest in the history of our town. To learn more about the history of Absecon it is recommended that you contact the Absecon Historical Society at PO Box 1422, Absecon NJ 08201, Vonnie Clark, 609-569-1799. Recommended reading includes: Along Absecon Creek, by Sarah W. Ewing and Robert McMullin, Absegami Yesteryear, by Jack E. Boucher, History of Atlantic City, by A. L. English, The Daily Union History of Atlantic City and County by John F. Hall, and Boardwalk Empire, by Nelson Johnson for starters.
6000BC Absegami (or Little Water)
The Aborigines of the Eastern Allgonquian Confederacy who called themselves “Lenni Lenape” (original people) first inhabited what is now known as New Jersey sometime before 6000 BC. The South Jersey subdivision of the Lenni Lenape was called “Unalachtigo”, or “people who live near the ocean”. The Atlantic County subdivision of the Unalachtigo was called “Abseqami”.
The name Absecon is derived from the Indian word for bay, or little water. The book “Annals of Eyren Haven and Absegami” by Alfred Heston, says: “Absecon is a corruption of the real Indian name Absegami. It originally designated the bay , or saltwater lake inside the sand bar. Aps or Abse is the common Algonkin name for small of little, used in relation to inanimate objects. Gami, kami, or gom all mean across or on the other side of. The true Indian meaning of Absegami is little water.
1614 Region called “Eyren Haven”
Dutchman Capt. Cornelius Jacobsen Mey explored what is now the Mullica River and Great Egg Harbor River. He named what is now known as Atlantic County “Eyren Haven” (Harbour of Eggs) because of the abundance of wild fowl eggs found there. (Cape May and Mays Landing is named for him.)
1616 Region called “Harbour of Eggs”
On a map prepared by Capt. Cornelius Hendericks the area now known as Atlantic County was called “Eyerhaven” or “Harbour of Eggs”.
1664 New Jersey becomes an English Province
1670 Region called “Little Egg Harbor”
On a map entitled “Virginia and Maryland, as it is Planted and Inhabited this Present Year 1670, Surveyed and exactly Drawne by the only labour & endeavour of Augustine Herrman” today's Southern New Jersey is called “New Jarsy Pars”. A note on the map states that the area is “Inhabited only or most by Indians”. Indian long houses are shown along the rivers. The Great Egg Harbor and Little Egg Harbor Inlets are both labeled. The island that will become known as “Absecon Island” or “Absecon Beach” is labeled “Some wood land & some sandy hills”. Today's Absecon Inlet is labeled “Little Egg Harbor”.
1686 Gloucester County Established
Gloucester County established without well defined boundaries. Included portion of what is now Atlantic County.
1693 Region called “Egg Harbour”
Area now known as Atlantic County was called Egg Harbour. On March 20th it was mentioned in Gloucester County in Court records. Also called New Waymouth at times.
1716 King’s Highway Built
“King’s Highway” as called by the English colonialists was built over the Indian trail that existed for many years before This road is now known as Shore Road.
1769 Absecum Beach in Gloucester County
On a map Entitled “The Province of New Jersey Divided Into East and West, commonly called The Jerseys” (Published Dec. 1, 1778, Drawn from the survey made in 1769 and subsequent military surveys made by British troops). Gloucester County is depicted extending from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean. Absecum Beach is shown between Brigantine Beach to the north and the Great Egg Harbour River to the south. The only roadway shown in an area now called Atlantic County is a roadway now called Shore Road ( aka Kings Highway ). The road runs from the Great Egg Harbour River to the Mullicus River through the village of “Leeds”. The area now called Absecon was unlabeled on this map.
1773 The James Holmes Tavern was built at the northeast corner of Shore Road and Church Street.
1774 Absequan in Galloway Township
King George the third of England gave permission for the Township of Galloway to be and remain a perpetual township and community. The metes and bounds description included what is now Brigantine, part of Atlantic City, Port Republic, Mullica Township, Hammonton, Egg Harbor City and what is now Absecon City north of Absecon Creek. Absecon Inlet, Absecon Bay and Creek was then called “Absequan”.
1776 Bustling Seaport at Absecom
Wharves lined the creek, boats both large and small were built along the banks of Absecom Creek.
1780 First Dam Erected
By an act of State Legislature owners of the tide marsh and meadow lying on Absecom Creek was permitted to erect and maintain a bank, dam and other waterworks across the creek.
1795 Mount Eagle
The first recorded transfer of land in what is now Absecon was when John Reading sold 200 acres to Thomas Budd in “Mount Eagle”.
1796 United Methodist Church Established
1800 Road to Robert Doughty’s Mill Built
This road was built from Shore Road to Robert Doughty’s Mill at Mill Road on property presently owned by the Blee family. This road is now know as New Jersey Avenue.
1807 Absecombe, Absequam and Abeskum
The first Post Office was established with the name designated as “Absecombe”. It’s spelling soon fell victim to it’s pronunciation. Variations such as “Absequam” or “Abeskum” are found.
1812 Absecum Beach
On a map entitled “New Jersey 1812" plotted from Capt. Wm. Giberson’s Chart Book the nearest town shown from what is now know as Absecon is “Tucker T.” (Actual it is incorrectly shown in an area now known as “Leeds Point”) Gloucester County is depicted extending from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean. Atlantic City area is shown as “Absecum Beach”.
1820 Dr. Pitney Arrives
In May Dr. Jonathan Pitney arrived on horseback in the small village of Absecon in Galloway Township, Gloucester County.
1821 Road to Cooper’s Ferry Built
The road now known as West Church Street was known as the road to Samaul Cooper’s Ferry in Camden. This road continued west through lands now occupied by McGinnis Well Drillers and the American Legion to connect to what is now known as New Jersey Avenue and continued west to what is now US Route 30.
1832 Lenni Lenape Cedes All Lands
The Lenni Lenape (forty in number) ceded all lands for the payment of $2000.00 from the New Jersey Legislature. A spokesman of a Lenni Lenape by the name of Wilted Grass addressed a letter to the Legislature, in which said: “ Not a drop of blood have you spilled in battle; not an acre of our land have you taken but by our consent. Nothing but benisons can fall upon New Jersey from the lips of a Lenni Lenape.
1833 Pitney Road Built
Before the coming of the Camden-Atlantic Railroad through the village of Absecon, the population of the village of Port Republic was greater than Absecon. Dr. Pitney had to travel Wrangleboro Road to Port Republic to treat patients. This route was today’s Highland Blvd. which traversed through Absecon Highlands to Port Republic. Pitney Road was built to Port Republic bridge to provide Dr. Pitney a direct route to his patients.
1835 Dr. Pitney Advocate for Lighthouse at Absecon Inlet
This year Dr. Pitney being acutely aware of the dangers to seafarers at “Graveyard Inlet”, started his letters and pleas to Congress to build a lighthouse on Absecon Island.
1834 Village known as Absecum in Galloway Township
Thomas Gordon’s “Gazeteer of the State of New Jersey” refers to “Absecum” as the post town of Galloway Township consisted of a tavern, store, and 8 or 10 dwellings..
1837 Atlantic County Created
With the active participation of Dr. Jonathan Pitney , Atlantic County is created out of Gloucester County.
1837 Absecom or Absecon
By this time the spelling was narrowed down to Absecom or Absecon. There was a friendly rivalry among the citizens of the community over just how it should be spelled. Enoch Doughty insisted Absecom was correct and used that form all his life. Dr. Pitney favored Absecon, and in his various passions in the community he would assert his preference.
A US Coast Survey of part of the Atlantic coast of New Jersey from Little Egg Harbour to Brakersville shows Absecon Inlet, Abescon Bay and Absecon. The only roads shown are now called Shore Road, Church Street, and Pitney Road. A notation with an arrow states “To Port Republic” at Pitney Road and “To Philadelphia” at Church Street. At that time Church Street continued northwest through to what is now New Jersey Avenue northwest of Mill Road)
1844 Delegate Dr. Jonathan Pitney
Dr. Pitney served as Delegate of Atlantic County in Trenton at the Constitutional Convention.
1848 Dr. Pitney enlarges Pitney House
1850 Odd Fellows Hall built
Auora Lodge (I.O.O.F No. 78) on Church Street facing Pitney Road was shared with other village groups. The Absecon Methodist Church held services while their church was being enlarged. The Absecon Presbyterian Church was organized within the walls of the Lodge. It was used as a private school at the time of the Civil War.
1852 Camden-Atlantic Railroad Co. formed
The first officers of the company included Dr. Jonathan Pitney as a Director.
1854 Camden-Atlantic Railroad Built
July 4th the railroad was opened to the public and first paying passengers pasted through Absecon to the new city of Atlantic City on Absecon Island.
1856 Congress Appropriation for Lighthouse
Finally after 20 years of Dr. Pitney reports of shipping losses, Congress gave in and appropriated $35,000.00 for the construction of the “Absecom Lighthouse”.
1865 Presbyterian Church was built
The cornerstone of the church was laid on November 16 and construction was underway. Three months later the Reverend Charles T. McMullin became the first installed pastor. Members of the church included many familiar names including Dr. Pitney, Jimmy Leeds, Hannah Doughty.
1872 Town of Absecom / Town of Absecon
An Act to Incorporate the Town of Absecom, out of parts of Galloway Township and Egg Harbor Township, in the County of Atlantic was approved by the Assembly, No. 104, State of New Jersey. A supplement to above Act was approved February 29th. It contained minor changes to the description of the town’s boundary and a change in the spelling of “Town of Absecom” to “Town of Absecon”.
1875 Town of Absecon / Town of Absecom
A second supplement to above Act to Incorporate the “Town of Absecon” was approved. It appeared that the spelling of Absecon with an “n” was now officially established. However, a booklet published by the municipality only added confusion. Its cover announced the “Charter of the Town of Absecom, New Jersey” in bold type. Inside the booklet listed the “Present Town Council of Absecom, N.J.”.
1899 Population of Absecon was only 530 people
1902 Absecon City Incorporates
On March 24th the Legislature of the State of New Jersey approved an Act to Incorporate Absecon City in the County of Atlantic, as a city. Within the description of the city boundaries the Act refers to “All that part or portion of County of Atlantic, formally herein as the Town of Abescon”. At the conclusion of the description of the city boundaries the official statement reads (in part) as follows: “ be and they are hereby ordained, constituted and declared to be, from time to time, and forever here after one body, politic and corporate in fact and in name by the name of Absecon City”.
2000 Howletts Donate former Bank Building