By Douglas Yearsley/Township Historian Back in the mists of time our community was inhabited by stone age people who left us few clues to know them by, except that they were Weymouth Townships first inhabitants. About 600 A.D. an Algonquin speaking people moving from Hudsons Bay through Illinois settled here and replaced the original people. They called themselves Lenni-Lenape which means "original people". It is these late woodland "Indians" which the Dutch explorers found around 1609 when they began to appear off our coast. The Dutch made a half hearted attempt to colonize the South River (Delaware River). They built Fort Nassau in what would be Gloucester County. In our area they left a name; Egg Harbor.
In the late 1630's the Swedish queen wanted colonies and sent ships full of Finns and Swedish settlers to occupy South Jersey which they called New Sweden. The Dutch, who called here New Netherlands were furious and sent a fleet from New Amsterdam (New York) to reinforce Dutch rule. Many Finns and Swedes moved inland away from the Dutch to here, along the Great Egg Harbor River.
English Quakers started to arrive on the Delaware River. In 1664 after losing two wars, the Dutch turned here over to the English. Charles II has just been returned to the throne after a revolution that killed his father. He gave her as rewards to those who had supported him. South Jersey, then called West Jersey, ended up being given to a group of Quakers to get them and their Democratic ways out of England. They founded Salem, Burlington, and Gloucester counties. Cape May County claimed Great Egg Harbor River, but the area was unmapped and unpopulated.
In 1694 Egg Harbor was given to Gloucester County by the West Jersey Legislature and the same year Gloucester County appointed Arther Powell as constable for Weymouth, making here a "constablewick". The following year Weymouth and other townships were defined, but a clerk turned" the new Weymouth Township" into "New Waymouth Township" as it would stay for 16 years. The people did not accept the new name and the minutes of the Grand Jury ruled Gloucester County used the terms Egg Harbor and New Waymouth interchangeably. All historians agree Weymouth or New Waymouth was a Quaker name for the area now comprising Atlantic County. Between 1715 and 1774 the whole area was lumped under the term Egg Harbor or Great Egg Harbor.
All local business was put on hold because of the Revolutionary War in which here played a pivotal role in the American victory. The privateers sailed from our rivers brought all British commerce to a halt and made the war so expensive that is lost support in England. More battles were fought in New Jersey than any other state., ten battles in Gloucester County alone. King George called Egg Harbor "A nest of rebels"
After independence Gloucester County began to fix the boundaries between its townships that it had put off during the war. In 1798 Weymouth Township was apportioned a third of the territory we now call Atlantic County. Weymouth Township helped found the Federal government of the new nation. Around 1800 three partners began an extensive iron producing operation in Weymouth Township and named it for us. The ironworks flourished and in an attempt to consolidate their power the owners formed a new township encompassing all the are beds, water power, forests, and river ports they could grab. In 1813 their Hamilton Township separated from Weymouth Township.
The other iron operations in Weymouth Township were Etna Furnace founded in 1816 near Head of the River. It closed in 1832. There was also a smaller operation at Ingersoll Town, but it vanished without a trace. Monroe Forge, now called Walkers Forge after Lewis M. Walker, in 1816 and has now also vanished.
In the 1820s John Estell founded John Estell and Company in the Stephens Creek area. Estells had worked for all the great iron works whose ledgers list Thomas Estell, Richard Estell, Daniel Estell, and John. While the other Estells spent their time working drinking and training with the militia at Mays Landing, John seemed to learn something from his masters and founded his own baronial manor. He meant to do iron, but the ore quality must have been low. Also there was nearby competition at Monroe and Etna. In 1826 he took on a partner in the glass business named John Scott and they built a glass factory that produced until 1877. The Estells also built a sawmill and dabbled in boat building as well as farming. They built a village of Estellville on their millpond called Lake Rebecca and a mansion that rivaled Batsto or Weymouth.
Ruins at Weymouth Furnace
Weymouth Township was a shipbuilding center with its many waterways and close timber and iron supply. Boats were built at High Banks Landing, Steelmans Landing, Gibsons Landing, Champions Landing, and Etna.
The Estell family ruled a manor like anything out of Norman England full of tenants who owed them everything. Near the end of the 1800's Anderson Estell Bourgeois began selling off the vast land holdings as farmsteads. Many immigrants from the teeming cities came into Weymouth Township looking for cheap land and elbowroom. Anderson sent his daughter, Rebecca, to college in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and to hear tell this was a mistake for our township.About this time D.L. Risley of Philadelphia, New York, and London, a real estate speculator and railroad investor came upon the scene. He knew the railroad was coming between Richland and Tuckahoe through vast tracts of virgin land. The railroad came in 1893 and two Risley colonies, Milmay and Estelle sprang up in 1896. A year later Dorothy was christened and the Estells were faced with a population not beholden to them. Risley also sold to immigrants and city dwellers by making the most outlandish claims for local lots. He claimed that we had a year round growing season and a sea view. (so what is new about a lying developer !)
Risley Station (Estell Manor) 1921
In 1917 the government and the Bethlehem Company bought up huge areas in Weymouth Township and moved in the Bethlehem Loading Company to load shells for the allied war effort in World War 1. This also changed us forever. We lost many old farms and gained a city, Belcoville with a population of over 9,000 soon dominated Weymouth township politics. Just as fast as the industrial giant was born, it died. The war ended soon after the loading plant was in operation.
Belcoville Fire Company 1925
By now the population of Weymouth Township had shifted from Corbin City, Estellville and Risley to Dorothy and Belcoville. It was more than the old timers could take and in 1922 Corbin City left, Rebecca Estell (Bourgeois) Winston was on the Weymouth Township Committee and followed the Corbin City cession carefully. Two years later she led all the people beholden to her family and incorporated most of old Weymouth into Estell Manor City. The people in Belcoville and Dorothy didn't seem to care since they were not from Weymouth Township. Mrs. Winston sat in the front room of the Estell mansion and with a red pencil included as much of the old township as she dared, even following the streams to their sources and choosing who to let into the new city and who to leave out. Neighbors on the same street were separated. The legislature of New Jersey went along with this madness because they simply did not care who suffered in a place they had forgotten existed. The rest, as they say, is history. Eckels' Hotel, Dorothy, 1912
In 1799 Weymouth Township adopted the new United States monetary system replacing the English system of pounds, shilling, and pence that had been our official currency for 105 years. The first coin minted by the young America was a 1787 copper cent that bore the motto, "MIND YOUR BUSINESS" The first coin authorized by Congress, in 1787, was a copper cent whose sundial motif and motto exhorting Americans to industry were adapted from a design by Benjamin Franklin. The coin-minted by a private company-was quickly found to be short of weight. Although never popular, it remained in circulation until 1857.
Origin of Weymouth's name
Weymouth, England - An ancient seaport and modern terminal for ferries from the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey. It is located at the mouth of the Wey River on Weymouth Bay. Weymouth is a popular beach resort of Georgian and Victorian houses. In olden days it was a naval port and the site of an important castle. King George III had a summer house there. In 1694 the Quaker fathers in Gloucester County named our township Weymouth because it was their township on the sea. They had no idea just how big a township they had created. Some of the Quakers may have left England from the port of Weymouth making it their last glimpse of the motherland.
Belcoville is the name given to the workers village of the Bethlehem Loading Company's South Mays Landing Plant which was built in Weymouth Township in 1917-18 to support allied forces in World War 1. The complex was huge, 10,000 acres running from Hamilton Township to Gibsons Landing roughly between the present Route 50 and the Great Egg Harbor River. Distances were important. If one magazine exploded it need not take the others as well. At full swing, with workers, families, soldiers, contractors, management, officers, and tradespeople, Belcovilles population neared 10,000 souls (12 times the remainder of Weymouth Township) Belcoville contained a bowling alley, theater, post office, school, gym, laundry, central heating plant, power station, water and sewerage, railroad line, newspaper, band, and church. The plant opened in October 1918 and the war ended in November. Most of the people and buildings left and the land was bought by the Mays Landing Water Company which sold the houses for a song if you would remove them. Many went to the Linwood area or to Mays Landing. Some Dorothy houses are built of Belcoville lumber. The bowling alley is now Romak's Hardware. The Mays Landing Deli and Liquor Store is a Belcoville duplex. Area firehouses were paneled with the doors of Belcoville. The town flickered back to life in 1923 when the water company sold the remaining houses with the land and Belcoville rallied to form its volunteer fire company and community church. The village began the war as South Mays Landing in Hamilton Township, but ended up as Belcoville, Weymouth Township probably to force Bethlehem Loading Company to supply its own schools and services. To make room for the huge landmass needed by the loading company, the property was bought up secretly to avoid inflation. Lost forever was High Banks Landing, the Herbert, Smit, and Ireland farms on the South River, Stephens Creek, and Steelmans Landing. These ancient farmsteads, boatyards, and cemeteries are marked now only by a few stones and brave daffodils.
Where did Dorothy get its' Name ?
For years people have said that Dorothy was named for the wife of railroad developer D..L. Risley, but there is no evidence for this. Many colonies (as developments were called in the 19th century) bore female names much like ships] Here in South Jersey we have Erma and Thelma and would have had an Estelle, but the U.S. Post Office denied Risleys' choice of names because it was 6 miles from another post office called Estelville. Do you thing D.L.. Risley was trying to cash in on the advertising and good name of Anderson Estell Bourgeois who was also selling land in and around Estellville? Anyhow the colony's 'name was changed from Estelle to Risley leaving us only Estelle Avenue to remember her by. Another tangled fairy tale concerns the naming of Milmay. This is not the contraction of Mildred and Mabel nor Maybeth nor any of Risley's relatives. Less romantically Milmay happens to be midway; twixt Miliville and Mays Landing. So what about Dorothy ? Well there was St. Dorothy. Back in the 300s a beautiful young Roman girl was a secret Christian which was against the law. When she refused to participate in pagan festivals of immodesty and immorality she was denounced by her neighbors as a Christian. Brought before a judge she cheerfully confessed and accepted a death sentence with a happy face. The judge was furious, but she told him that he was sending her to a beautiful garden. "When you get to your beautiful garden, " the judge said scornfully, "send me some apples and roses. " The sweet young girl was led off and killed. That night when the judge returned to his home there on the doorstep was a basket of apples and roses. The Roman judge was converted and St. Dorothy along with St Fiacre is now hailed as the patron saint of Gardeners. is this who Dorothy is named after ? Probably not, but it's as good a story as any..
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms of Weymouth Township consists of a shield divided in half. One side is the Union Jack: The British flag that symbolizes our colonial roots The other half is halted again horizontally by a river which symbolizes all the rivers that figure in our past and present: The Mullica, the Great Egg Harbor, the Tuckahoe, the South, and Stephens Creek. Above the river is an iron furnace made of Jersey sandstone which symbolizes our early ironworks and later industry at the Bethlehem Loading Company. Below the stylized river are two plows taken from the ,New Jersey State Seal. They stand for our farming history as does the pitchfork crossed behind the shield. The crossed oar symbolized our maritime and shipbuilding past. On top of the shield is an farmed sloop-of-war to recall our part in the American Revolution. The whole is surrounded bv branches of pine and oak and underneath is our Quaker motto, ":Mind thine own business". This doesn't mean stay our of public affairs, but tend to them. Wevmouth Townships flag is the old Taunton Battle Flag of 1777. It was originally the British Merchant Marine flag which frugal Americans took and added the words, "Liberty and Union". 'This really burned English bacon. Weymouth Township chose this flag because its historical period is correct, it keeps alive an ancestor to our Stars and Stripes, and because it is always in production and therefore, cheap. Frugal is, as frugal does.
Mays Landing/Weymouth Ironworks
Mays Landing, founded in 1710, is named for George May, an Englishman and representative of the Proprietors of West Jersey. It was in Weymouth Township until 1813. The owners and workers at the Weymouth Iron Works incorporated all surrounding ore beds, lumber and charcoal forests, villages, and the important river landing into a new township named Hamilton, after the little village of Hamilton Bridge which was located where the old cotton mill (Wheatons) is now. The Weymouth Ironworks was founded by George and Charles Ashbridge in 1801 and named in honor of Weymouth Township. It was a going concern that put Mays Landing on the map. The forge and furnace also gave birth to the Village of Weymouth. The operation made bombs and shot for the US government during the war of 1812 and died with the rest of the bog ore industry before the Civil War. Attempts were made to use the site as a paper mill in the 1870s and 80s with some success, but it soon settled into the beautiful landscape like a Romantic ruin. It is the Village of Weymouth, with its Methodist Church (circa 1807) and a few surviving workers cottages, that is most often confused with the Township of Weymouth, where they and the ruins haven't been for 181 years.
Corbin City really played the name game. It has been in 3 counties and 2 townships. Once called Champions Landing, it became Tuckahoe when Tuckahoe moved from Head of the River. Later Tuckahoe (sometimes called Turkey Hoe in old records) crossed over its namesake river and replaced the village of Williamsburg which is where Tuckahoe is today. In 1923 Corbin City incorporated as a city in Atlantic County and left Weymouth Township in an attempt to keep school tax money at home. At that time Weymouth Township had schools in Dorothy, Estellville, Head of the River, Hawkinsville, Risley, and Belcoville. We salute our cousins in Corbin City who traveled with us for so long in Weymouth Township.
We were founded by Quakers. Their real name is "The Religious Society of Friends" and they prefer to be called "Friends". They were founded by a reform movement in England led by George Fox during the 1660s. They rejected organized churches in favor of meetings and clean living. Quakerism was illegal in its infancy and this is where the name Quaker started. Fox was on trial for being a non-conformer to the Anglican Church and described how he quaked (trembled) when he realized how huge and powerful God was and how small and weak was he. After that statement the judge referred to him and his followers as the "Quakers". Quakers believe that all men are equal and therefore did not bow or remove their hats to King Charles II. They did not pay a clergy for preaching. They claimed that women were as intelligent as men and could be preachers. Women were entitled to equal rights. They opposed all wars not in self defense, as well as all forms of oppression. They believed in plainness of speech and never use titles like "mister" or "sir" calling all men by their first name, even the king. Since all men were brothers, they used the familiar" tense in speaking such as "thy", "thine", "thee" and "thou". They lived and dressed simply and feared no man. King Charles liked William Penn, a Quaker leader and son of a famous admiral, but could not very well have people calling him Charlie. He gave Penn and the Quakers big tracts of land in the New World to get rid of them. The three Quaker counties in South Jersey were Burlington, Salem, and Gloucester. Gloucester broke from Burlington in 1686 and in 1694 named some new townships after places in England, like Camden, Deptford, Woolwich, and Greenwich. Their far off seaside township they called Weymouth. Most families that settled our area were Quakers. The Quakers are still among us. Richard Nixon was a Quaker, but most keep a low profile as they live good lives. During the Civil War they smuggled slaves out of the South in an operation called the "Underground Railroad". William Penn gained LASTING FAME when as a reward for his fathers service to the English crown he was given all of what we call Pennsylvania. . "Here William", said the king, "I am doing a fine thing giving you all these seas, bays, rivers, and forest lands, but your must promise not to take up scalping. " Penn laughed and said he intended to pay the Indians for the land. "I fear I shall not see you again, William", said King Charles, "I shall soon hear that you have gone into the savages war kettle and what is to prevent it ?" "Their own inner light", answered Penn. Today, our most visible contact with Quakers is the logo of the Quaker Oats Company who know that the mere mention of the term Quaker conjures up feeling of fairness, quality and simplicity. What is even more a part of us from those "Friends" is our freedom, easy going manner, and real American friendliness. Every time we return a found wallet or root for the underdog or tell people to call us by our first name or criticize the President we are being very "Quaker".
Ethnic groups in Weymouth
Weymouth Township salutes all the immigrant groups and individuals who over the last 300 years have given us our flavor. Finns and Swedes 1630 & 1950, English 1664, Irish 1680& 1845, Germans 1720& 1850, Italians 1898, Hungarians and Slovaks 1920, Jews 1890 & 1950. Two waves of Jewish refugees were welcomed by Weymouth Township. One at the turn of the century and another following World War II. These people, fleeing persecution in Europe, settled here in colonies as egg farmers, but were for the most part urban tradesmen. This coupled with the collapse of the South Jersey egg market in the 1960s leave us only two former synagogues and a forgotten cemetery to mark their passage through Weymouth Township History.
Steamboats and the Railroad
Until the advent of railroads in Weymouth Township stagecoaches and packets were the only scheduled modes of transportation. In 1877 some businessmen on both sides of the Tuckahoe River invested in a sidewheeler named "Reuben Potter". This was a 100 foot long steamboat which they intended to run between Tuckahoe and Somers Point. It was rumored to cost $7,000 which was a princely sum in those days. The Reuben Potter was in service carrying as many as 100 passengers a trip for three years but, ran aground many times and was plagued by engine trouble from the start. These delays delighted the Sunday School picnickers but began to lose money for the investors. What really killed the Reuben Potter was the arrival of competition. Another steamboat company began running the 65 ft. "Bonnie Doon" on the same schedule. The Doon was a propeller driven steamboat and its smaller size made it more navigable. In 1880 the Potter suffered a boiler explosion and could not be recertified for passenger use. She was towed up river, beached in Weymouth Township and salvaged in a Corbin City boatyard. The Bonnie Doon continued her work until in 1893. The railroad came and she was put out of business overnight. She was taken to Wildwood for use as a fishing/excursion boat, but ran aground in Anglesea and broke in half while being towed off.
The Jersey Trade
Jersey trade of the mid 1770s - Prosperity came to the swamps of South Jersey in the form of an extensive smuggling network. The royal government in England tried to control the colonial trade in sugar and molasses, which were the prime ingredient of rum. People here took their own boats to the Caribbean Sea, loaded up with sugar, sailed it here (avoiding patrols) and off loaded it in ports like Mays Landing and then hauled it over land to Philadelphia. . cheating the King out of a fortune. Sugar Hill in Mays Landing gets its name form this trade. The whole operation was good training for the coming revolution.
Walker Forge Mansion, This is the home of Lewis M. Walker, Weymouth Townships most famous citizen. He was a judge, a state senator, local businessman and comer of Gloucester County. He was born in 1790 and in 1813 was a freeholder of the new Hamilton Township. In 1816 he founded an ironworks he called Monroe Forge, after President James Monroe, but we know it as Walkers Forge. It employed over 100 people and adjoined his sawmill. Nearby he built this home for his wife and 5 children. In 1837 he and Thomas Parsons represented Weymouth Township at the formation of Atlantic County from half of what had been Gloucester County. Atlantic County then included us, Egg Harbor Township, Galloway Township, and Hamilton Township and consisted of what had originally been Weymouth or New Waymouth Township. The Walker House was for years a stage coach stop. Lewis M. Walker died in 1853. The house no longer stands, but its stones live on in another home on Lake Lenape.
The Lindbergh Train
The Lindbergh Train - The old Pennsylvania 460 at one time the most ' famous locomotive in the country. On June 11, 1927 Charles Lindbergh, the "Lone Eagle" and hero of every American was to be promoted to full colonel and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in honor of his solo flight in the "Spirit of St. Louis" across the Atlantic Ocean. It was announced' that President Coolidge would also present Lindbergh with the ' Congressional Medal of Honor. Several newsreel companies filmed the ceremony and then raced to get their films into the theaters of New York City first. The International News Reel Company chartered a train on the Pennsylvania Railroad to carry the film while every other news reel company chartered aircraft. The 225 mile route from Washington to New York was covered by the train in 3 hours. The fastest running time was 114 MPH while crossing New Jersey. Internationals" film was the first shown in the theaters even though some planes had made the trip faster. It seems the reels were developed in route In the baggage car as the train sped along, it was the big news of the day. Old number 460 ended its career carrying passengers between Camden and the Jersey shore through Dorothy as late as 1955. All steam service ended in South Jersey in 1957. The Lindbergh Locomotive was spared the junk pile and is now on display at the Pennsylvania State Railroad Museum in Strausburg. Diesel Passenger Train, 1950's Budd demonstrator and Pioneer trailer.