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


1799                                Pitney House Built

The original portion of what was to become the “Dr. Jonathan Pitney House was constructed by Samuel Reed.


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.


1841                Absecon

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

Dr. Pitney built the Italianate style addition to enlarge the original home he purchased in 1833.


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”.


1923                                Howlett Hardware Opens

The family run hardware store served the community for 73 years until Leo and Margie Howlett retired in 1996.


1932                                White Horse Pike constructed through Absecon


1997                Dr. Jonathan Pitney House becomes Bed & Breakfast


1998                                Pitney House placed on National Register

The Dr. Jonathan Pitney House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.


1999                                Downtown Clock Plaza Dedicated

With the help of hundreds of sponsors which included many Absecon residents and Absecon businesses through the leadership of ABCD Corp. Inc. and Absecon Council, over $33,000 in donations was collected to erect the Downtown Clock Plaza.  


2000                                Howletts Donate former Bank Building

Leo and Margie Howlett donate former First National Bank of Absecon building to the City of Absecon for use as a Historical Museum.



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