1. Colonial Days
I. Formation of the Township:
The Weymouth Township area presently in Atlantic County, New Jersey, was originally called Eysen Haven (Egg Harbor) by the Dutch. It was later spelled `New Waymouth' on various documents. New Waymouth was a large area in West Jersey settled by Quakers from England, a few Swedes and more local Lenni Lenape Indians. It was loosely affiliated with Gloucester County. In 1694 these ties were dropped and a constable was chosen for the new area called Weymouth, encompassing five townships. An act was passed in 1837 which created Atlantic County.
Weymouth Township originally covered over 100,000 acres. As specific areas became more populated─especially along rivers and creeks─fragmentation began. The occupants wanted more direct control of their freedom and taxation, as well as of their destiny. Following is a brief chronology of these divisions:
||Galloway Township separated from Weymouth Township.
||Hamilton Township, with 60,000 acres, was created from Weymouth Township.
||Atlantic City separated from Egg Harbor Township.
||Buena Vista Township was created from Hamilton Township.
||Folsom was created from Buena Vista Township.
||Corbin City (5,500 acres) was shed from Weymouth Township.
||Estelle Manor took 31,000 acres from Weymouth Township, leaving 10,000 acres, consisting of Belcoville and Dorothy.
||an additional 38 acre tract was annexed from Weymouth Township. This was essentially the properties of Elia Clemenson and Louis Strouse.
II. First Inhabitants:
The Lenni Lenape IndiansThe Lenni Lenape Indians of New Jersey were members of the Delaware tribe, of the great Algonquin family of Indians. These Algonquins were scattered along the Atlantic seaboard from Labrador to the Everglades of Florida. They lived along the river valleys because of good transportation and the adequate supply of nature's food in the forests and in the water. They never cut down trees or destroyed the environment.
The Lenni Lenape were described by early settlers as being lovable and hospitable. The first Europeans arrived desperate for food and shelter. The Indians introduced them to new types of foods, such as corn, beans, squash, melons, pumpkins, cauliflower and tobacco. The Indians would dig holes about three feet apart, place a fish in it for fertilizer, and plant several seeds of corn, beans and squash in it. The corn would grow a stalk on which the beans would climb, and the squash would come along later.
The first winter the Indians helped the settlers to build temporary homes since they hadn't time to fell trees for log cabins. They made wickams, like the Indians, by creating a light frame of small trees and covering this frame with branches and pieces of bark. The following year one-room cabins were built with a large fireplace. Cracks were filled with mud and moss. Small windows were added, covered with oiled paper to allow more light to enter. Heavy wooden shutters were also added.
The Europeans began to mix with the Indians, resulting in the Indians' decimation due to contracted diseases for which the Indians had no natural immunities. Statistics suggest that more than fifty percent of the Lenni Lenape succumbed to diseases such as smallpox, measles, etc. There is no record of massacres or treachery by the Indians in our area where the Quakers settled. This was principally due to the love of peace and justice exemplified by the Quakers. However, the Friends Society agreed that they ought not sell the Indians any rum, as the Indians reacted badly to alcohol.
Along our shores may be found the shell mounds where the Lenni Lenape buried their people with their belongings, some inscribed with their totem, the turtle. A newspaper article dated January 28, 1890 records the finding of skeletons under an oyster shell mound near the bay in Pleasantville. One was thought to be the remains of an old chief, since the skull was encased in a turtle's shell, surrounded by clam shells and arrowheads.
A later newspaper account (February 1, 1905, also from Pleasantville), states that fourteen skeletons were exhumed from the top of a mound 60'x60'. The bodies had been buried three feet deep. Flints and arrows were found with the bones.
Eventually, the Lenni Lenape became upset about being pushed from their land. In 1758 the Colonial legislature appropriated the equivalent of $2,000 and appointed five commissioners to pay any just claims due the Indian nations of the colony. In 1762, 74 pounds of this was expended to purchase 3,044 acres of land for a reservation, called Brotherton (now Indian Mills) in Burlington County. This was the first reservation in the United States. About one hundred Indians were brought there and required to relinquish titles to all unsold land. The government built them houses, a store, a sawmill and a meeting house.
The reservation experiment became a failure. Indians could not live in a closed village. The Indians became very poor and received assistance for food and clothing. In 1801 a tribe in New York invited the New Jersey tribe to join them. This began the years of moving from reservation to reservation in other states. By 1820 the Delaware who remained in the United States crossed the Mississippi River. Ultimately (1867) this tribe purchased a district in present Oklahoma from the Cherokee tribe, where a few Lenape still remain within the Cherokee Nation.
III. The Revolutionary War:
1775-1783War with England became inevitable because of growing differences in life, thought and economic interests between the American colonies and the mother country. War broke out in New England and moved to New Jersey when General George Washington, in retreat, made his unexpected crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas, 1776, to defeat a Hessian force at Trenton. The Americans then struck at Princeton.
In our immediate area there was only one fort. This was the fort at Somers Point, built of sand by Atlantic County's elderly population. At that time there were eight companies of foot soldiers and two of cavalry─called horse guards─stationed here. During the war, several ships were intercepted and brought into Great Egg Harbor inlet by the colonists. One of particular note was the Bellview, which had a British crew of whom all were filthy with lice. The vessel was towed into Steelman's Bay through a small channel, which thereafter was named Lousy Harbor.
IV. The First Schools:
The first schools appeared about 1800. They were usually a single room, built in conjunction with a church. Schools were not free. During the summer a teacher would canvas the area for pupils, going house to house. The charge was $3.50/quarter/pupil. The teacher received $10 a month and board. She would board around with her pupils' families. Even earlier, churches were used as school buildings, with the minister teaching. These schools were of Dutch, English and Quaker origin.
A feeling prevailed that all children should be allowed to attend school, whether they were poor or rich, and regardless of religion. In 1820 towns were allowed to raise money from taxes to pay for the poor. Thus, the first schools were called "pauper schools". In 1871, New Jersey passed a law requiring all public schools to be free for all pupils.
V. First Churches:
In the late 1700's, Bishop Asbury introduced Methodism into South Jersey. According to Early History of Atlantic County, the first church meetings were held in homes at the present Port Republic (Wrangleboro) and Smithville areas. By 1800 numerous churches had sprung up, including one in 1771 at Head of the River. The ministers went around a circuit of churches on horseback over Indian trails, visiting each congregation every four to eight weeks, as possible. At first only summer meetings could be held since the churches were simply constructed and not finished with windows, heat or candle light.
During the next few years windows, plastering and a ten-plate stove were added to the Port Republic two-story frame meeting house, which was 25 feet square. In 1792 a new, more substantial church was built at Head of the River which still stands. In fact, meetings still are held there once a year to keep the church active, and the cemetery is also maintained.
|Head of River Church
In 1828 a Bargaintown Circuit was formed which included South River, Estel's, Weymouth Furnace and the Mays Landing area.
The first Catholic Church in Atlantic County was built in 1827 at Pleasant Mills, near Hammonton, where a sawmill and iron forge were set up which drew a colony of wood choppers and sawyers. Many Catholics had settled in the area from Germany, where they had been religiously persecuted. They sought peaceful homes but found bigotry here also. They practiced their faith in private houses until chapels could be built for services. The Revolutionary War brought together all faiths, and thus differences diminished and rights became recognized. The Jessie Richards family bought the Pleasant Mills and nearby Batsto businesses and donated land for the first Catholic church south of Trenton.
The Catholics in Mays Landing had to travel to Egg Harbor for church services until Mrs. Patrick McGeary opened her home to children of the faith. Due to her interest, the new St. Vincent DePaul Roman Catholic Church and parochial school were built in 1906. Dorothy churches will be included later.
VI. Charcoal Industry and Tar Kilns:
Sturdy wood choppers leveled the forests of pine, oak, and white cedar. The heavy timbers were sent to the mills for making lumber and the cedar was hand split into shingles. The branches were converted into charcoal and used in the furnaces and forges, or shipped to Philadelphia for fuel where it was burned in charcoal burners. The charcoal was transported by slow-moving oxen, taking three to four days to return from Philadelphia.
In the forests wood choppers' shanties and smoking tar kilns or charcoal pits were tucked here and there. These operations took eight to ten days to complete. The tar run would be checked to see whether it was ready to be drawn.
The charcoal burners, or colliers, were better paid but were isolated from their families for weeks at a time. For the best grade of charcoal, the collier would have to canvas the forest for gum, maple, poplar or oak; cut these trees to length and transport the wood back to the site. About three cords were used per burn. The wood was placed in a circle with a center opening for starting and admitting a limited amount of air. The pile was covered with sod down to the ground. Holes were made on the side of this mound for draft. A piece of burning wood would be dropped into the center opening and allowed to smolder. If white smoke came from the side holes, it was fine. Black smoke indicated too much draft and rapid burning, so the side holes were closed over bit by bit. One batch produced one ton of charcoal. According to Dr. Ralph K. Turp's accounts, the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia used charcoal from Mays Landing.
In 1788, charcoal cost five pence/bushel. One year's room and board was fifteen pounds, or $75.00. One shilling (British) equaled twelve pence.
VII. Early Shipbuilding:
Tuckahoe, Mays Landing and Somers Point were important early shipbuilding and repair centers.
George May built several ships in Mays Landing on Babcock's Creek. This was at the time of the blockade by England, with no trade allowed with them. Therefore there was a need for ships to trade with the West Indies which supplied us with rum, spices, tobacco, salt and molasses. Our ships also traveled to Mexico and even around the Horn to the Pacific coast. Local ships transported lumber, ice, fish, grain and special commodities ordered.
In 1800 Christopher Vansant built a full rigged vessel in Bargaintown along Patcong Creek. Five more ships were built there during the next fifteen years and in 1825 John Somers opened his shipyard at Sculls Bay. The woods used were pine, oak, gum and hickory. During the next half century shipbuilding boomed when hundreds of vessels were built, mostly in the 30-40 ton size. These schooners plied between Gravelly Run (Mays Landing) and Manhattan and carried much charcoal, lumber, iron and products such as stoves and pipe.
A strange condition existed in Dennis Creek (Dennisville), which is seven miles from Cape May Court House. Many ships from 500-1,000 tons were built here, with as many as eleven ships in stock at one time. Due to narrowness of the creek, the ships had to be launched sideways, getting many launching guests drenched.
More than two hundred vessels were built along the Great Egg Harbor River. Quite a number ended in disaster. Records generally indicated bad storms─which would be known as hurricanes today─as the cause. Captain William Sharrock lived in Catawba and commanded the 184 ton Daniel S. Marshon. It was loaded with coal and in a few days was lost at sea. Other local schooners lost were the Ellen Baker and Ida Lawrence. John and Daniel Estelle also owned their own boats and lost a few in the 1830-1840 period.In this area of shipbuilding, as well as Mays Landing, captains built unusual three-story homes, topped by a cupola called a "Widow's Walk" or "Watch" whereby captains' wives could oversee the entrance to the bay and could keep watch for the safe return of their husbands' ships.
VIII. Iron Furnaces:
Iron furnaces started to be built in the 1750's and finally petered out around the 1860's. These foundries proliferated since there was wealth to be made. Tradesmen emigrated from England and Europe and were offered considerable land and even an interest in the business in order to accelerate production through their skills. The iron product was cast iron, which has a very high carbon content and therefore does not oxidize or rust readily, as does today's refined iron and steel. The first cast iron water pipes cast for Philadelphia at Walkers Forge to replace the original wooden ducts are one hundred and fifty years old. Some of these still exist intact.
Bog iron is actually a soft pile of rust. It was harvested from the lowlands (bogs), was heated with charcoal and smelted with limestone. It melted at over 2000 F. and ran into molds to make iron "pigs".
The furnaces employed a lot of help and some locations provided free living quarters, usually only two or three rooms. Work was steady, six or seven days a week. (The Weymouth Furnace inaugurated a six day week, to allow all to celebrate the Sabbath.) Each location lasted 15-50 years or more, as the raw materials of iron and wood were available. People came to these areas to form new towns. When the resources were gone, the towns disappeared.
When planning for a new furnace on a creek, provisions were always made and approved by the authorities to enable damming the creek to provide water-wheel power for ancillary businesses such as forges, gristmills and sawmills. This provided more work and made the area self-sufficient.
In our locale were many furnaces: Weymouth Furnace, Walkers Forge, Aetna Forge, Atsion Furnace, etc. Labor costs around 1806 for professional carpenters were $1.00-$1.25/day. Furnace workers and laborers received considerably less. The furnaces discussed below represent the general nature of the business and products produced. Weymouth FurnaceFirst operated by Joseph Ball, the Weymouth Furnace was built around 1754 and was in business until 1865. A forge was added later which made cannons and balls for the Continental Army and the War of 1812. Weymouth was a large furnace and produced 900 tons of castings annually. The forge had four fires and two hammers which could produce 200 tons of bar iron per year. This was used principally in the shipbuilding industry nearby. The furnace and foundry employed about nine hundred men who lived free in company housing.
A gristmill and sawmill were added which employed another 90 men. After the furnace was closed down, a paper factory was built to make paper for books. Today, only the ruins of a mill race and foundry remain. Mays Landing Water Company acquired the property and the site was later contributed to the Atlantic County Historical Society as a historical site.
Aetna (Etna) Furnace
The Aetna Furnace, later called Tuckahoe Furnace, was a smaller installation, located on the Tuckahoe River below Head of the River. It was built by Joshua Howell and John R. Coates. The furnace was 25' high, with a 14' base and a 3' diameter top. A ramp at the rear was used to charge the furnace. The furnace chimney was60' high and made of Jersey reddish stone. It was operated from 1816-32. It produced bar iron, nails and spikes used in the local shipbuilding industry in Tuckahoe and Mays Landing.
Walker's Forge was located nearby on South River, just east of present Belcoville. It was built by young Lewis M. Walker, who was born in Berks County, Pa., in 1791. At the young age of twenty, he became the manager of the large Weymouth Furnace. As this furnace ran out of bog iron, Walker traveled to Tuckahoe in search of iron ore. He liked what he saw, purchased land along South River, and in 1820 left Weymouth works to build his own furnace. He got approval to dam the river for water power for a forge and sawmill. He also built himself a beautiful two-story Jersey ironstone mansion on Maple Avenue, which I remember as a youngster. It was since carried away, stone by stone, to build fireplaces.
The dimensions of the furnace were 30' high, by 30' square at the bottom, which tapered to 15' square at the top. A long ramp was also used to feed the furnace. It was said that eight wagonloads of charcoal were needed each day. Approximately one hundred men were employed, including those who produced the charcoal from the hand-cut wood and branches. Pipes and fittings were cast as well as stoves. Iron bands and fittings were made, along with nails and tools.
The local iron industry died out after the 1860's as the supply of bog ore and wood was depleted. (The old bog iron furnaces required charcoal from 1,000 acres of woods per year.) Meanwhile, iron ore deposits and hard coal were discovered in western Pennsylvania in great quantities. New and more efficient smelting operations were started there around 1840 and later developed by Andrew Carnegie.
Since lumbering is closely related to charcoal production and cord wood trading, much of this subject has already been covered.
The era of building iron furnaces in South Jersey brought new workers such as wood choppers, sawyers, teamsters and laborers, who formed new towns.
Shingles were split by hand from cedar wood, which abounded in the swamps. These shingles were shipped to New York and Philadelphia. Much later, enormously large fallen cedars dating back thousands of years were found and retrieved from six foot depths below the swamp surfaces. Sawyers also used white cedar to make clapboards, lumber, lath, shipboards and cedar paneling used in better homes.
Cordwood was cut and shipped to New York and Philadelphia for about one hundred years. This wood and charcoal was used as fuel in homes and industry until coal was discovered. The lumber industry was actually being depleted when its replacements─coal and oil─were discovered. The next great timber harvest would not be until the 1900's, almost a hundred years later.
X. Early Glass Industry:
South Jersey had fine white sand (silica) that was needed for making glass. The early furnaces were fired with oak and pine wood and needed intense heat to melt the glass at 3100° F. Limestone was added to improve the glass and lower the melting temperature. When the glass starts to cool, it becomes plastic and can be formed. At this time a hollow rod blowpipe was used to gather a glob of molten glass from the furnace. This glob was rolled on a piece of stone or metal plate to shape it, and then blown to stretch out the center of the glob, which hangs onto the blow tube. It is then placed in a clay, wood or iron (jar) mold and blown out to fit the mold. Today this process is automatized and done with great precision.
The earliest successful colonial glass works was started by Casper Wistar, who came from Heidelberg, Germany, in 1714. He worked in various places before 1739 when he and his son Richard─with four other immigrant glass experts from Europe─started their glass works in Wistarburgh, near Alloway, now Salem County. They started production of table and glassware of distinction, keeping their business secret from His Majesty's customs. By 1760, there was a goodly production of flasks, demijohns, spice jars and medical phials. They were made in colors of light green amber, etc.Other early glasshouses were built in Glassboro in 1775 and Port Elizabeth in 1799, by James Lee. Later, in 1806, Lee started an operation in Millville, which evolved into the present large Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation.
In 1825, John Scott erected a glass works on Stephen's Creek in Estellville in the old Game Preserve. In 1834, Daniel and John Estelle invested in the booming business. The 1825 Tariff Law had given a preference to glass made in this country. The works produced window glass and later was converted to blowing bottles and employed approximately eighty men. With the gristmill and sawmill, the population of Estellville blossomed. The glassworks operated until 1877 when the fuel supply was depleted.
XI. Slave Labor in New Jersey:
Slavery was common in Europe for one hundred years prior to its establishment in the colonies. Most of the hard labor was done by slaves. In the early 1700's, the Duke of York was president of the "Royal African Slave Company". Queen Anne instructed the governor of the province of New Jersey to negotiate with the Slave Company to obtain a sufficient number of Africans at a moderate price and that a bounty of 75 acres of land be given to any man who brings or sends a slave, over fourteen, to the province of New Jersey. There was also a duty to England for the importation of slaves. They were harshly treated according to accounts in 1733, when they could be burned alive for assaulting a white woman. In 1737, New Jersey had 3,981 slaves.
Perth Amboy, where vessels landed from Africa, was the distributing center for slaves. The slaves were held in barracks until sold.
As early as 1696, the Quakers in the north advised the abolition of slavery. In 1784, Governor Livingston proposed the emancipation of slaves and freed his own two. In 1804 by law in New Jersey and New York, all negro infants were born free. By 1820, the number of slaves dropped to 674.
Slave importation to the United States was outlawed in 1808. However, illegal smuggling continued until the Civil War. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in 1865. At the Batsto Mansion one can still see the false floors under which slaves were hidden, presumably as part of the Underground Railway.
XII. Life Span:
From DiariesReading several diaries written during the past several centuries, it was gleaned that working men in the 17th century survived on the average into their forties, while their wives lived ten years longer. In the 18th century men lived into their fifties; and in the 19th century, into their 60's. In the 20th century men survive into their 70's and women five to seven years more. Of course, there were always a few who outlived these averages.
XIII. The Jersey Devil:
An amusing piece of South Jersey folklore that has existed since the early 1800's concerns the Jersey Devil. This monster allegedly originated in Estellville, from which it flew to Leeds Point. The story claims that a Mrs. Leeds of Estellville was expecting her thirteen child. Thoroughly fed up, she shouted in anger, "I hope it's a devil!"
The subsequent child was purportedly born with horns, tail, batlike wings and a head like a horse. It flew out the window and over to Leeds Point, where it is supposed to reside. According to local superstition, it always reappears preceding the start of a war. A number of people have sworn to have seen it over the years. At one time, a reward had even been offered for its capture, since it was thought to be a rare Australian bat.
2. Recent History
I. Land Development by Risley and Bourgeois:
The Estelle Huguenot family emigrated from France (via England) around 1685 to escape religious persecution. They were of considerable means and were prominent in the colonial days. They also played important business roles throughout the generations into the twentieth century. The Estelles were involved in the iron, glass and shipping industries and acquired vast land holdings, including the more recent Estelle Colony, which originally encompassed the Risley, Dorothy and Milmay areas.
Anderson Bourgeois (pronounced Burgess), a teacher turned lawyer, came into the picture by marrying Anna Estelle, whose parents owned the whole colony. Bourgeois then took over the promotion of the colony, entering into a real estate venture with Daniel L. Risley in 1886. Risley consequently surveyed, developed and become agent for the land sales. The contract included an arrangement whereby Risley would hold and pay taxes on the unsold land.
Risley set up a large land sale operation and accrued considerable expenses maintaining three sales offices. While the main headquarters were in Philadelphia, there was a second office in New York City and a third in London, England. It is interesting to note that Mrs. Mary A.(Brown) Robertshaw saw Risley's ad in a London paper and emigrated here in 1893. J.W. Burkitt apparently did likewise. My parents, Michael and Louisa Csere─who emigrated from Hungary─landed in Philadelphia, where they succumbed to a later (post-Risley) ad.Daniel Risley had a brother, Jess, who actually surveyed the whole Estelle Colony, consisting of Milmay, Dorothy and Estelle Manor.
The Dorothy portion was not named until about 1897, when it consisted of two tracts. There are several versions of how Dorothy was named. However, the most plausible one is that it was named after Bourgeois's oldest daughter, Dorothy. Tract #8 encompassed the farm land west of the then South Jersey Railroad, to the Tuckahoe River, and between 9th Avenue and 16th Avenues. It was published in 1895. Tract #17 contained all the land east of the railroad, basically between 7th Avenue and 15th Avenue and was published in 1897. Lots were sold prior to 1895 for $20-30 per acre.
The first resident in the Dorothy area was Mike Roberto from Philadelphia. Mike related this to young Anna Schelken (and her mother), whose 3rd grade class was writing a history of Dorothy in 1923 for its teacher, William C. Strack. The history reports that Mike Roberto came down in 1886 and purchased land on west 12th Avenue, beyond Cape May Avenue (which was an Indian trail turned stagecoach road down to the seashore). There were no developed roads or intersections at that time, basically just a large forest with a few trails. Roberto returned alone on November 18, 1887, and built himself a log cabin. (He'd been a stonemason in Italy and was handy with tools.) When completed, he sent for his family. He lived here six years with his family until his first neighbor appeared in 1893. Mr. Russell settled a little east of Roberto, but on the south side of the road. He also built a log cabin. Three years later Russell sold the property to Pete Base Sr.
Risley operated his land development company from 1886-1903, when his delinquent taxes mounted and he went bankrupt. The unsold land reverted to Anderson Bourgeois of the Estelle family for the delinquencies. Thus, it was Bourgeois himself who became the mortgage collector for these properties. He made his rounds each month─first by horse and wagon, later by Model "T" Ford─to collect his payments. Our family payment was $8.00 per month on a $700 mortgage. That was a not inconsiderable amount, as it equalled more than one week's pay in the local lumbering industry.Early TaxesAccording to a tax notice for 1899, a five acre lot selling for $125 was assessed at $25, with a 2-l/2% tax rate. This yielded a tax of $.64. A small farmhouse was also assessed at $25. Thus, the average family tax would be doubled. This appears reasonable, before one considers that no local services were included. By 1920, the same five acre lot assessment had doubled and the tax rate increased to 3.7%, effectively tripling the land tax.
By 1930 the same five acre assessment had doubled once more to $100, the tax rate increasing to 6.3%. Thus, between 1899 and 1930, the land tax increased tenfold, from $.64 to $6.29. Today the equivalent five acres and improvements are assessed at $48,000. With a current tax rate of 2.52%, this yields a tax of $1,200 per year. In 1915 Anderson Bourgeois was still paying taxes on 5,700 unsold acres, most of which he had reacquired at the bankruptcy sale of D.L. Risley in 1903.
II. Early Inhabitants and the Railroad:
Probably due to Daniel Risley's promotions, by 1893 more people began to move to the area. It was the coming of the railroad line in 1894 which really boosted the population, however. The local railroad station was built in 1894 by the South Jersey Railroad Company (merged with the Reading Company in 1901). This station was not opened until 1897 due to insufficient business. Consequently, those traveling by rail between this period had to walk two-and-one-half miles to Risley to catch the train from there.
Families settled here because it was their dream to own a home and farm of their own, even though the farming life was more difficult than an urban one. Some of the families who moved here at this time seeking independence were:
• Julius Kraus─lumber yard and builder (1892)
• John Radley─feed and grocery store (1898)
• Edward Miller─first station agent (1897)
• H.K. Lewis─large greenhouses (1898)
• George Hasselbalch─Dorothy Lumber Company, a sawmill on 10th Avenue
• Richard Markman, Sr.─farmer
• William J. Brown─store and lumbering business (1898)
• Carl Burkman─builder (1901)
• Lazaras Kobash─(1898)• Richard Ellison─(1893)
• Eisenschmidt─farmer and painter (1896)
• John Illingworth─teacher from England
• Charles Kobash─builder
• Guido Seelman─publisher of the Dorothy Weekly News Letter (1900)
• Yanke Other families, reflecting the names of people still in the area, were: Merlock, Lewis (Hansen), Serbeck, Base, Richert, Clemenson, Josephson, Nelson, Klimek and Weiss.
III. The Railroad Station:
When the South Jersey Railroad opened the line on June 23, 1894, it had built a station at Milmay, Dorothy and Risley. The Dorothy and Risley stations were alike and smaller than Milmay's, where the population was greater. These stations had wooden shingle roofs which were flammable. In 1913 the Dorothy station burned down, due either to being struck by lightning or being ignited by sparks from a train engine. The destroyed station was replaced with a larger one with a slate roof. The Dorothy station eventually was sold to a black cemetery on Route 40 in Mays Landing for use as a storeroom when the railroad liquidated its excess properties to save taxes.
The train engines used oil headlights until 1916, when they were outlawed and converted to electric lights. The oil lights were filled with oil and had eight 10" reflectors which were kept shined by the fireman. These performed fairly well since there was very little horse and buggy or other night traffic in those days.
Dorothy's first station agent was a Mr. Miller, followed by Mrs. M.A. (Brown) Robertshaw. Miller lived on Miller Avenue, after his namesake, and had a peg leg. Mrs. M.A. (Brown) Robertshaw's daughters Bertha and Nellie assisted their mother with the station work. Mrs. (Brown) Robertshaw first lived in Barton Lane and had the telegraph lines run to her home there in order to improve on her and Nellie's Morse Code skills.
On April 25, 1898, Mrs. (Brown) Robertshaw was also appointed Postmistress of Dorothy by Postmaster General Charles Emery Smith. She held both positions for a time in the station building. She then moved the post office into her more recent home across the street from the station on South Jersey Avenue (Tuckahoe Road). Elwell McNeil (father of Mrs. Louis Szigethy) served as station agent next (from 1925). McNeil was succeeded by Joshua Mitchell, who was transferred from Risley when his station closed during the latter 1940's when the railroad was consolidating its expenses and discontinued a number of stations.
Postmistress Mrs. M.A. (Brown)
The stations were originally built with large freight platforms across the track. Here the farmers would bring produce such as cucumbers, peppers, fruit, etc. This was shipped daily to Philadelphia and even New York City. Later, eggs were shipped in thirty-dozen wooden crates. I can remember my father taking three or four crates at a time on a wheelbarrow to the station. This was before truck pick-ups were made bi-weekly by large egg dealers.
The railroad station was always the focus of activity, with the post office across the street from it. There were also three stores clustered around the station. Inside the station waiting room a large potbellied stove used soft coal (from the train) for heat. Here people collected to talk, keep warm and wait for trains on benches around the walls. The station agent's office jutted out toward the track so the agent could look both ways down the track. During train time, many people assembled outside, especially for the Philadelphia train, which exchanged passengers, mail, and freight cars twice a day. Quite often, the local people would be waiting for mail order merchandise from a Sears catalogue, or Montgomery Ward.
The train would stop for five minutes or less. During this period trainmen worked feverishly to unload incoming freight and load crates of eggs and produce for the city. There were two scheduled stops each day arriving from and leaving Philadelphia and New York. In 1900 the schedule was: Southbound: 10:18 AM and 7:18 PM Northbound: 8:14 AM and 5:31 PM.
|Waiting for the train
There was also a great deal of cordwood stored along the tracks or being loaded onto flatcars. The people in the business of shipping cordwood, like William Brown and Steve Merlock, would have to wait for cars to be assigned to them for loading. This was big business from before World War I into the World War II era. Even my father, from necessity, cut cordwood for William Brown for $1.00/cord (one day's work) until he built coops for raising chickens.
After the cordwood petered out, Atlantic City Electric Company built a power plant in Beesley's Point in the 1950's which consumed hundreds of tank cars of fuel oil and soft coal monthly to fuel the boilers. Sometimes a hundred cars would be standing on the sidings in Dorothy, on into both Milmay and Risley.
The railroad station in Dorothy definitely became a center of community life. It brought new settlers and kept the ties open between Dorothy and the outside world. On occasion the station, its stationmasters, and the railroad itself also added more─a warmth and flavor gone with the building itself. The following few anecdotes only begin to express this feeling.In 1980 John Weiss told me a story about his family's arrival in Dorothy from New York City when he was still a baby. They came on the late afternoon train on April 1, 1901. A terrible rainstorm was blowing and there was no one to take them to their new home on 10th Avenue. The station agent, Mrs. M.A. Robertshaw, brought pillows and blankets from her home across the street and the Weiss family slept in the station. The next day Mr. Hasselbalch─a neighbor and sawmill operator─came to take them home.
Tom Ross of Milmay told me that around the same period─the turn-of-the-century─the railroad company offered a unique service to newcomers to the area still building their homes. The railroad furnished empty boxcars on the siding to house the men while construction was in progress!And then there was the railroad engineer named Bill Waldorf─a terrific whistle blower. When I was a child in the 1920's, I remember his evening southbound run from Milmay. Waldorf would play Home Sweet Home and other songs on his steam whistle. He was pretty darn good.
IV. Early Schooling/Local School System Beginnings;
Before 1898, the few Dorothy pupils had the option to walk two and a half miles to the Risley one-room school. Only a few of the children (including Leona and Andrew Richert and Katie Base) occasionally ventured to do this─one of them Otto Geyer Jr. While campaigning for office in 1956, Geyer mentioned this to me. I contacted a number of other older residents in the 1950's, but none had information on our first school. The Dorothy Weekly News Letter, published by Guido Seelman, was the only source available.
In a 1901 article, the Dorothy Weekly states that the first school was a small, one room "tar paper shack" and was a disgrace. It was built in the area of the present Municipal Building (school #3) in 1898 for 24 pupils. Dorothy already had 66 pupils of school age, but since truancy was heavy, the building sufficed. This building had wall benches for seats and boxes topped with boards for tables. It had a wood burning stove in the middle of the room. The building was probably constructed by volunteers with donated lumber.
In 1901 the School Board of Weymouth Township alternated their meetings between Tuckahoe, Head of the River, Dorothy, Risley, Hawkinsville and Estellville. The meetings were usually held at 2:00 PM. The Board members at this time were Otto Geyer Sr. (Dorothy), Chairman; Anderson Campbell, Secretary at $40.00 per annum; Tomlin, Shaw, Joe Flanagan (Dorothy), Garrett, Alfred Rodenback, McKeague and Anderson Bourgeois (the land owner).
On August 1, 1901, the Board passed a resolution authorizing the erection and furnishing of a new, larger schoolhouse in Dorothy. It was to be built of lumber, contain two rooms, and its cost was not to exceed $1,500. The money was raised by issuing five bonds of $300 each. One bond would be issued for one year, one for two years, one for three years, one for four years, and one for five years. A tax was levied on the whole district for five years to repay the bonds, plus interest.
A building committee, comprised of Joe Flanagan, Anderson Bourgeois and George Shaw was appointed to take care of the new building project. The size of the school was to be 28' wide x 40' long and two stories high. The committee posted notices in all area schools, and an ad in the Dorothy Weekly News Letter to obtain bids for the project. Only one bid was received, from A.S. Bushay, for $1,495. He built and furnished the schoolhouse on three lots opposite the Episcopal Church. New school books were purchased for the school at $.22 for spellers, $.65 for elementary geography books, and $.52 for arithmetic books (at a discount). Two stoves were also bought at $8.10 each.
After the building was complete, the School Board agreed to allow the St. Bernard Church Alliance (before the church was built in 1904) the privilege of holding meetings and services in the new school, providing the Alliance cleaned up after the meetings.
Every month the board purchased approximately eight cords of firewood ($2.25/cord, plus $1.00 for labor) for all the schools. Kate Glenn received $1.50 for cleaning our first school.
Later local board members were Joshua Mitchell (Risley), H.K. Lewis (Dorothy), Richard Markman (Dorothy), William Flanagan (President), Andrew Richert (Secretary), and George Evans (Dorothy).
Early School Board Actions
1901: The School Board voted to expel pupils for profanity or uncontrollable mischief (as reported by the teacher). Several boys from Dorothy were expelled and one was recommended to be sent to reform school by the Judge. This recommendation was not carried out.
1904: School hours were set at a 9:00 AM opening and 4:00 PM closing.
1905: Several parents were instructed to send their children to school within five days or the Truant Officer would be notified to take action. Truant Officers were paid $10 a month and were kept considerably busy.
─ Insurance for the second Dorothy School was noted at $22.50 per year.
1906: The Principal reported to the School Board that pupils were carrying firearms and loaded guns on school grounds.
─ Kate Glenn cleaned the school for $5.00.
─ School Board members were asked to speak to the teachers to request improved classroom discipline and order. If expelled, students were required to apologize to their teachers before reinstatement.
─ Occasional coal purchases from the Mays Landing Water Power Company were begun.
─ The price of a cord of wood increased from $2.25 to $3.00.1908: Tuition to Upper Township High School was $25 per student.
─ The Dorothy School building was insured for $1,000. Its books and fixtures were insured for $200. The insurance agent was Julius Kraus, and the fee was $21.60 a year.1909: The School Board Clerk's salary was fixed at $50/annum.
─ The Board was empowered to borrow $350 from Tuckahoe National Bank to pay for one month's teachers' salaries.
─ George Evans, from Dorothy, was elected a new Board member.
1910: A motion was made and carried that no teacher be hired for three consecutive years. Teacher vacancies were to be filled by candidates from the County Superintendent Mr. Cressman's office.
─ Medical Inspectors for the schools were appointed. Dr. James from Mays Landing agreed to examine the pupils at Estellville, Risley and Dorothy for $1.00/pupil for six months.
1912: Emil Burkman from Dorothy was elected Truant Officer. The Board also passed a resolution that no corporal punishment be allowed. Suspensions by the teacher were to be used instead.
─ The School Board Clerk's salary was increased from $50 to $60 per year.
─ The Board decided to send local students to Hammonton High School, with transportation by train provided.─ A resolution was passed to deduct $2.00 per month from the salary of any teacher who refused to build fires or help to keep school rooms clean.
─ Al Base was hired to transport Dorothy pupils to school for $1.25 a day.1913: William J. Brown sold ten cords of wood to the Dorothy School for $30.
1914: Joe Flanagan transported children to the Dorothy School for $1.50 a day.
─ Flora M. Brown and Catherine Bowen were approved to attend Hammonton High School. Anna Merlock went later.
─ Otto Geyer Jr. was appointed to fill Board member Mark Rogers' vacancy.─ Mark Rogers was appointed Truant Officer at $15/month. He was required to visit each school once a week to check their registers for absentees.
1915: A fire escape was installed in the second floor of the Dorothy School at $85.
─ Richard Markman was paid $9 for moving the old school house (Dorothy School #1).
1919: William J. Brown received a contract from Risley to haul pupils from 1st Avenue to the Risley School at $2.50/day.
1920: It was agreed that any outside pupils attending the Dorothy School would be charged $10/year tuition.
─ A school wall clock was purchased for $14.
─ George W. Evans was appointed custodian of the Dorothy School.
─ The Truant Officer's salary was increased to $40/month. The officer was also instructed to visit parents of absentees.
─ H.K. Lewis was again elected to the Board to replace Anderson Bourgeois, deceased.
─ Dr. Britton, from Mays Landing, was made Medical Inspector for all schools at $150/year.─ David L. Smith was appointed for the second year as Principal of Dorothy School, with an increase to $1,000/year.
─ The Board resolved that the condition of the second Dorothy School was deplorable and insufficient in size and that a new building should be erected. A new frame four-room building was approved for construction on land owned by the School Board. The cost was not to exceed $12,000. Two additional lots were purchased for $300, west of the old second school.
─ The Board arranged to rent part of Flanagan's store area (the Dorothy Club House) for a schoolroom for the lower grades, as needed, until the new school was erected.
─ On October 5, 1920, the Belco Society requested that the School Board take charge of opening the closed Belcoville building for a new grade school. Still owned by the government's Bethlehem Loading Company, the property was scheduled to revert to the Township's control on November 1, 1920. The Belco Society offered to loan the Board $175 to initiate hiring two new teachers immediately.
|Dorothy School's Upper Grades with Teacher David L. Smith. 1921
The Dorothy School Bell Our two-story second school was built with a belfry. Mrs. Marie Seelman recounted how the Dorothy Ladies' Aid Society made collections and ran benefits to raise money to purchase a bell. A brass bell was ordered and cast in England and received in 1902.
The bell was installed and served for eighteen years. It was tolled every school day at 9:00 AM, noon and around 4:00 PM. Its peals could be heard over more than half the community on a quiet day. When the third school (the present Municipal Building) was built, the bell was reinstalled. After the latest brick school was built in 1974 on 11th Avenue (the Merrill School, or Dorothy School #4), the bell was displayed in its hall.
|Second Dorothy School with Belfry, 1910
Teachers at the Dorothy SchoolDorothy's first teacher was young Daniel Bailey from Tuckahoe, who roomed in Dorothy during the week and received $35 a month in salary. Bailey taught here for two years.
The second teacher hired was George Eldridge, a man in his forties who received $40 per month and taught from 1900-1902. Studying the school registers for this period is quite interesting. Aside from noting the teachers' excellent penmanship, it becomes obvious that teachers were changing some surnames to make the foreign names phonetic, as many pupils of this period had no birth certificates. For instance, the Hungarian name Besz was altered to Base. Kopacsi was changed to Kobash. Others altered included: Kahle to Colley; Richert to Richard; Kraus to Krause; Clemenson often to Cleminston; Eisenschmidt to Isansmith; Kovacs (meaning a blacksmith) to Smith; Murljock to Merlock. A number of these variations were later adopted to become legal names.
Mrs. Mabel (Clinton) Lewis, the daughter of a Connecticut minister, began teaching the lower grades in 1917 (before her marriage). For $60 per month, Mabel had to begin by teaching all eight grades on two floors, because Miss Anna Wenker, also recently hired as the new Principal, arrived three weeks late. Mabel became Principal in 1918, receiving a raise to $70 per month, plus a $15 bonus. Regardless of her qualifications, she remained hired for only three years. Teachers were not kept any longer during this period to avoid having to offer them tenure. However, Mabel Lewis returned in 1925 after having two children (Adelaide and Henry).
When I interviewed Mabel in 1983, she told me that the year she first started at the Dorothy School there were 59 pupils in two rooms. School was also delayed a few days for that school year of 1917 because larger stoves were being installed (and moved from the center of the rooms to the front corners). Dismantling the old chimney and building a new one caused the delay.
During her first teaching period in Dorothy, Mabel boarded with the Postmistress, Mrs. M.A. (Brown) Robertshaw for $4.50 a week. When Mrs. Robertshaw raised the board to $6.50 in 1918, Mabel left to board with H.K. Lewis, the Dorothy florist (more recently John Hanson's business) for $4.50. Mr. and Mrs. Lewis had three adopted boys and Mabel married the youngest one, Tom, on May 24, 1919. Both Mabel and her husband were talented musicians, and they played together with my father (whose instrument was the violin) at affairs for the Episcopal Church.
|Bill Lewis in the H.K. Lewis Greenhouse, 1920
As the bigger boys in Dorothy's upper grades were difficult to control, the School Board in 1919 assigned Mabel Lewis to the lower grades and hired a man, David L. Smith, to deal with the boys. Smith, from Mays Landing, was a husky, former semi-pro baseball player. In later correspondence with Smith it was learned that when he first arrived the boys were practically climbing the walls, not to mention bringing revolvers to school. He related one incident in which the Principal became so angry with Tony Merlock that he shook him till Tony fell down the flight of stairs to the first floor.
In 1920 the Board added a third teacher for the lower grades and initiated a kindergarten. Anna Merlock of Dorothy, then twenty, was hired. Esther Logergreen, who was eighteen, was also hired since Mabel (Clinton) Lewis's first three years had been completed. Edwin Kraus was employed in 1921 and later transferred to the Belcoville School. He taught there for many years with his future wife Winnie.
Another teacher of note was William C. Strack, a serious and well-respected man. Beginning at the Dorothy School in 1922, he taught for twenty-nine years─right through the Depression, during which he was receiving $100/month in scrip money. As he had five children to raise, Strack felt he couldn't take a pension deduction from his pay. When he retired in 1951, the sympathetic School Board voted him a small pension, nevertheless, in appreciation for his years of service.
|Dorothy Teachers in 1937
To summarize, the first four years of the Dorothy School (1898-1902) were taught in the one room "tar paper shack", by one teacher for all eight grades. Between 1902 and 1921, school was taught in the two-story, second school by two teachers until 1920, when a third teacher was hired and a kindergarten class was inaugurated. In the fall of 1921, the third grammar school opened. The new Dorothy School had four rooms on one floor. One room was used as a spare, however, so only three teachers continued.
|The Third Dorothy School, 1950
High School: Prior to World War I only a few students were interested in moving on to high school. The Township paid the tuition for Hammonton High School and also paid for the train fares. Anna Merlock remembers needing to meet the train in Dorothy around 7:00 AM and then changing for Hammonton at Winslow Junction. She wouldn't return till about 7:00 PM when her father met her at the station and walked her home.
Later, some of our students attended Mays Landing High School for two years before transferring to Pleasantville High School. Emma Zboary, who lived near 12th Avenue on Tuckahoe Road, worked in the Mays Landing Court House and drove the students, among them Anna Schelken.
By 1928, when I began high school, the School Board made arrangements with Atlantic City to accept Dorothy's students. Atlantic City High School was a nearly new, posh building where tuition was high at $300 a year. Estelle Manor was sending their students there also.
Our first bus driver was Edwin Clemenson, who was only 21 years old and had purchased a rickety, boxy, wooden-sided bus to handle the job. It creaked going into turns and was only used for a year. (One icy morning in Pleasantville the bus spun completely, ending up backwards on the road.) There were about thirty students picked up from Dorothy and Belcoville, including a few attending the Atlantic City Vocational Training School (a program which was discontinued in 1933, just before my younger brother Alex was scheduled to matriculate in it).
Frank Huttle got the bus contract next and continued to drive until 1936, when Charlie Applegate from Mays Landing took over the job. Frank was a strict disciplinarian and allowed no foolishness!
During the height of the Depression in 1931, the School Board transferred high school students to Egg Harbor High School (where the tuition was only $100/year) to save money. It was a tremendous disappointment having to leave the more advanced Atlantic City High with its 2,500 students for a country high school with an enrollment of 300.
The Dorothy School StrikeOne later event in Dorothy's school history should be noted. This was the Dorothy School Strike of 1949. Rachel Irma Cartledge (Neal) was an aggressive teacher hired in 1947. She advocated the consolidation of the Township's Dorothy and Belcoville schools, and also initiated the hot lunch program. It was the mothers and school pupils of Dorothy who actually went out on strike for several days, protesting the removal of Dorothy's upper grades to Belcoville. In September, the School Board finally agreed that the two schools be combined to allow grades to be held individually in one room, rather than continuing the traditional three per classroom. Dorothy was to transfer their fifth to eighth grade pupils (34 of an 86 total) to Belcoville, and Belcoville was to send their kindergarten to fourth grade students (18 of 30 total) to Dorothy. A transportation problem was created which took a while to resolve.
After moving my family back to Dorothy in 1955 during the chicken business boom, I was elected to the School Board for twelve years (1959-71). During the latter part of this period the Board planned the construction of the new, fourth elementary school on 11th Avenue. The Merrill School was constructed in 1974 and at the current time additions and an enlargement of the gymnasium are in progress.
The Dorothy Private School: Mr. and Mrs. John Illingworth were retired school teachers from England. As early as 1904 they were advertising their services as Notary Publics and agents of real estate and fire insurance in the Dorothy Weekly News-Letter. Just after World War I the Illingworths began operating a small private school for kindergarten pupils from their home on 11th Avenue, between Tuckahoe Road and Cape May Avenue (opposite Kuhar). The school had only a handful of students and charged about $3.00 per quarter. Two of the known students were Emily Burkman and Anna Radley. Anna remembers enjoying the little school. Perhaps partially due to this early "head start", both she and Emily Burkman advanced rapidly in their subsequent public school educations, even winning awards in the Atlantic
County Arithmetic and Spelling contests: The Belcoville SchoolIn the fall of 1920, the Belco Society of Belcoville clamored for the School Board to open the unused school already built for local pupils by the Bethlehem Loading Company on the government reservation. Mr. Mendal, Chairman of the Society, offered to turn it over to the Board $175. This amount had been subscribed for the purpose of employing two teachers, providing the Weymouth Township School Board initiate the hiring and assume charge of the school building upon return of the property to Township control in November, 1920.
There seems to be no record of the first few teachers hired, but Edwin Kraus of Mays Landing (formerly a teacher at the Dorothy School), began teaching at Belcoville in 1923, at a salary of $90/month. Two years later, Miss Winnie Flaherty was hired for $85/month and boarded at Butch Johnson's Meat Market for $40/month. Edwin and Winnie fell in love and married. Mr. and Mrs. Kraus taught together for seven more years until Edwin left in 1932 to teach in Pleasantville (1932-1944). From this post Edwin Kraus moved to Kenilworth, N.J., to become Supervising Principal and later Principal (1944-1964). Eventually the two retired to Clearwater, Florida.
Top: Helen Johnson, George Manning, ?, Harry Fuorsen, Gerald Turna, Thelma Yearsley, Olga Thurson, Elsie?, Evelvn Revel, 1926
Fred Nichterlein became Principal for five years after Edwin Kraus left, and in 1949 the Dorothy and Belcoville Schools were combined. The Belcoville School was closed in 1974 when the new, larger Alfred R. Merrill School (Dorothy School #4, named for Merrill in honor of his long term as President of the School Board) opened on 11th Avenue, about midway between the two towns.
|The Belcoville School, 1924
Holy Nativity Episcopal Church: Otto Geyer Sr. made a survey in 1898 to determine which religious denomination was preferred by a majority in Dorothy. The Episcopal vote prevailed. In the beginning of 1900, trustees were elected. These were H.K. Norton, Chairman and generous donor; T.T. Phillips, Secretary, who donated some land; H.K. Lewis, Treasurer. Also on the Board of Trustees were John Illingworth, Otto Geyer Sr., Mr. McPherson, and George Hasselbalch, who donated some of the lumber and was Chairman of the Building Committee. D.L. Risley also donated several lots. The Trustees decided to build a wooden structure 40'x24', with an 8'x8' tower about 45' high.
Donations were solicited in the community. One of the largest donors was the Rt. Rev. Bishop J. Scarborough of Trenton, N.J. ($200). The Rev. Dean C. Perkins from Salem also donated a significant amount, which, with the Women's Auxiliary donations amounted to $200. Many local donors gave in the $1-$5 range, with George Hasselbalch donating $79. The total donations were $837. Rev. Perkins also procured the new organ.
While George Hasselbalch was supervising the building construction, he noted that the donations would not cover the expense for the lumber (including walnut for the altar), so volunteered to donate the balance of lumber needed from his sawmill on 10th Avenue. Thus, there was no need for bids to be placed. A cemetery was also included in the project.
Ground was broken on November 21, 1900, when the concrete foundation was started. Building progressed at a rapid rate with volunteer labor until on New Year's Day, when the trustees asked for help for a shingling bee. Thirty-four men appeared and by nightfall nearly all the siding, flooring and shingling were completed. This grand participation was never expected─and never equalled again! The painting was completed with equal vigor in the spring.But before the painting was completed, Rev. Perkins opened the church on Tuesday, April 30, 1901. Some scaffolding was temporarily removed for the occasion, when over a hundred people attended. The church was consecrated on Thursday, June 13, 1901, by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Scarborough, accompanied by Rev. Perkins from Salem and four others. At this time the first baptism took place, six members were confirmed, and Rev. R. Stevens was appointed the first minister. The church was turned over to the diocese free of debt, but later had a difficult time financially when several other churches were built in Dorothy.
During the 1920's, the services were held at 2:00 PM on Sundays. I remember walking to church past the baseball field on 12th Avenue, watching with envy other boys playing ball! Rev. E. Pierot drove from Millville in a big car to preach, but the collections (10-25 cents per family) probably never exceeded $5.00 and hardly paid his way. When a clergyman was unavailable, H.K. Lewis, the Deacon, officiated. Lewis also filled in for funeral services; for example, that of Mrs. Mike Roberts in 1913.
|Holy Nativiry Church, 1922
Rev. E. Pierot served the church for years, but began getting old. H. K. Lewis, the church motivator, passed away in 1941. About 1961, an active Lutheran group (Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church of Dorothy) which had been meeting at Everybody's Mission Church suggested purchasing the rundown Episcopal Church from the Diocese of New Jersey for a token price of $100. The Lutheran group was active and began to maintain the building. They first added a new roof, which was needed as the former one had been installed in the 1930's when I was in college.
In 1970 the Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church held a donation drive, collecting enough for material to add a kitchen facility, water, a rest room, and outside siding to cover the original cedar shingles. Later, an all-purpose room was also added. All labor was volunteered. More recently, $5,000 was donated to replace the original pews.
Cemetery lots were originally sold for $5.00 each by H.K. Lewis, although no one was turned away for burial. On the west side of the cemetery there is a row of graves for indigents. There was never a plot plan for the cemetery.
St. Bernard's Catholic Church: Information on the formation of St. Bernard's is sketchier than that available for Holy Nativity Episcopal Church. The local McClure sawmill cut the lumber free of charge for the church that was built by volunteer labor in 1904 on Pennsylvania Avenue, north of the Episcopal Church. St. Bernard's is slightly larger than the Episcopal Church and was originally assessed at $1,000 versus $800 for the latter. For some reason, the cemetery was not added when the church was built.
Everybody's Mission Church: A large group of residents wanted a Pentecostal Mission. These families included the Josephsons, Clemensons, Seelmans and Richerts, among other. They built their meeting house in 1915, east of the Episcopal Church. Meetings were officiated by visiting ministers, and sometimes by their own members, including the Clemensons and Josephsons. Everybody's Mission held services for a number of years, but as families moved away and others joined the Lutheran group, the church fell into disrepair.
Weymouth Township received a grant from the state in 1993 to rehabilitate the Mission as a landmark. The grant covered the expenses involved in moving the structure behind the Municipal Building and making improvements to it. A basement was dug and a new roof installed. The windows were also replaced. Although constructed of pinewood, rather than cedar, the building remained structurally sound, with no termite damage. On July 4, 1993, the building was dedicated and named the "Grandmom Seelman Youth Center". Scouts and other groups now have a permanent place to hold their meetings.
Marsalee Hotel: It's believed that the first hotel and bar in Dorothy was built by Daniel Marsalee around 1897, which was later purchased by M.A. (Brown) Robertson for her home and the first Post Office. Prior to this time the Post Office was operated from the old railroad station, while the Postmistress lived in her Bartons Lane home.
Milmay Hotel: The big hotels in the vicinity were the Milmay Hotel and Eckel's Hotel in Dorothy (after 1912). D.L. Risley built the Milmay Hotel about the same time as the Marsalee, before 1900. It had a large bar and dance floor and was located on the southwest corner of Cumberland and Tuckahoe Roads.
The Milmay Hotel eventually was acquired by Waldek Corporation and became their headquarters. Here Waldek started a large tobacco and licorice farm before World War I to give employment to the sons of the officials of the American Tobacco Company and American Telephone Company, allegedly in order to avoid the draft. After the war was over, Waldek Farms was dissolved in 1923 and the hotel was sold to William Oesterle, a former bartender. Business was slow during Prohibition until Oesterle began making home brewed beer (on his customers' recommendation!) The hotel became popular and famous for its fantastic, packed New Year's Eve celebrations and the Oesterles ran the business successfully for many years.The Oesterles came from Germany. Mrs. Oesterle was a good cook. She made fabulous real snapper soup. The local kids would hunt for snappers in the swamps around Tuckahoe River and would get paid $.50-$1.00 each, depending on the size of the turtle.
I worked there one summer for $5.00 a week, helping to bottle beer and tending to the hundreds of rabbits Mr. Oesterle was raising in cages. My chores also included cleaning the bar area each morning. The Oesterle's son Bill (who later married Alice Lambert, a Dorothy girl) drove me home in his new convertible and picked me up each evening. Sometimes I stayed over in a third-floor room facing north. I'll never forget one particular Saturday night. Returning to the room from my weekly bath I turned on the light and found the room filled with flying bats which had snuck in through a hole in the window screen. Taking my trousers, I swung at them until I'd killed fourteen bats and stuffed them in the chamber pot under my bed.
The Oesterles eventually sold the hotel to a woman friend who later sold it to Krokus, a Milmay poultryman. Krokus operated the Milmay Hotel with his sister until a fire gutted the hotel and it was torn down. A small bar now stands in its place.
Dorothy Hotel (J. Gebert): Joseph Gebert was proprietor of the Dorothy Hotel (location unclear) which had a grand opening on October 8, 1904, serving a frankfurter and sauerkraut specialty. The hotel was advertised in the Dorothy Weekly News-Letter for several years.
Dorothy Hotel (Ferdinand Eckel): The first Eckel Hotel was apparently located on 11th Avenue, west of the old Lambert (Blusk) home. It was probably purchased from Gebert, since ads in the Dorothy Weekly News-Letter by Gebert in 1904 and later ones placed by Eckel were identical.
In 1907, at the time of the photo shown, Ferdinand Eckel also raised hogs to augment his income. He brought in beer by wagon from the Christian Atz Brewery in Egg Harbor. Eckel's first hotel must have been a success, because in 1912 he built the new, much larger, three-story Dorothy Hotel, next to the G.J. Hill store (later owned by J.W. Burkitt and now the Post Office.) The new hotel was strategically placed opposite the railroad station. It contained eight or ten guest rooms upstairs and a dance floor extension downstairs in the rear. The building was constructed by Steve Toth, Carl Burkman and Pete Base Sr. Anton Eckel, one of Ferdinand's sons, said that a pint of whiskey was placed in the corner of the foundation when the hotel was built. Unfortunately, this was not retrieved when HUD ultimately demolished the building.
When my parents moved to Dorothy from Philadelphia on March 28, 1914, they stayed at the hotel the first night, since their house furniture had not yet arrived. The hotel charged $1.00 for the room, and $.25 each for breakfasts delivered to their room. The breakfast served was ample: two eggs, toast with butter, coffee and oatmeal. (My parents wouldn't touch the oatmeal, because they were unfamiliar with the tasteless cereal!)
The hotel business flourished because people gathered there in the evening to play cards and drink wine (which was made locally in Risley). Dances were held every Saturday night, and other gatherings were held in the hotel extension out back. Eckel had his own band, with his older sons playing violin, piano, clarinet and guitar. Travelling businessmen and hunters also stayed there during hunting season.
Unfortunately, on July 10, 1916, the Dorothy Hotel was involved in a serious disaster. The Eckel boys were dispensing gasoline for a customer and checked the fuel level by striking a match in the small block room. A gasoline explosion and fire resulted, killing three of Eckel's six sons. A fourth son, the youngest, was blown from the building. He survived, but developed a phobia for fire, becoming so frightened by the sight of it that he got spells and never fully recovered from the accident.
|Eckel's new Dorothy Hotel, about 1915
Michael Csere, my father, happened to be at the Brown store at the time of the accident. He and Mr. Brown ran to the scene and administered first aid by applying oil to the boys' skin to relieve their pain. However, one was already dead, and the other two died at the Vineland Hospital. Mr. and Mrs. Eckel couldn't forget their memories and sold the building to William Flanagan. As heavy snows and ice had caused the collapse of the dance floor roof the previous winter, dances were discontinued.
There have been numerous bars in Dorothy, but no hotels since the Eckel's Dorothy Hotel eighty years ago. The most notable bars were run by Happy (John Jicka), who previously ran a bar in Risley, and Clem's Bar.
Happy's: Happy, a bachelor, started his business in Dorothy after World War II on Tuckahoe Road near 12th Avenue. He was benevolent and community minded. Happy stored for years, free of charge, the town ambulance, until he retired and transferred the business to his niece, who married Joe Lambert. The Lamberts ran the establishment for a few years before selling it. The present owners have added a lunchroom .
Clem's: Clem Lisitski purchased the old Red Men's Hall on 13th and South Jersey Avenue from Steve Merlock and added living quarters on the east end, while converting part of the hall into a bar. About 1960, he built a big home with a bar, dining room, and sub-basement kitchen. Clifford Veniard painted a large mural on the bar ceiling.
Clem's was actually run by his wife Adeline, while Clem himself oversaw a small contracting business with a gravel hole. The bar was a local gathering place for many years, and during summers Adeline was kept busy cooking meals for the transit seashore trade. After the Lisitski boys left for college and the Lisitski's daughter Rita married and also moved away, the business was sold, changing hands several times since.
VIII. Local Grocery and Drygoods Stores:
With the advent of the railroad in 1894, local stores could be stocked weekly by ordering staples from Philadelphia. The original and earliest stores were:
Ellison's: After settling here in 1893, Richard and Laura Ellison opened Ellison's store circa 1894-95 in the present Post Office building. Ellison's store was followed by that of G.L. Hill and J.W. Burkitt.
Radley's: John Radley, born in England, moved to 11th Avenue west in 1898 and started business in 1899. Radley was a retired chief steward on the S.S. City of New York passenger ship for forty-two years. Mrs. Radley had been a governess for the two granddaughters of a Mr. Johnson, the first president of Chase Manhattan Bank in New York. The Radleys were considerate grocers and helped many local people─even canceling food bills for destitute cases. When I was born, John Radley delivered to my mother a cooked meal a day for a week─as well as milk, rice and groceries. Radley also sold chicken feed in fifty pound bags and delivered them once a week with his half ton Model "T" truck.
The Radley's had no children of their own, but adopted a boy and a local baby girl from Steve Toth, whose wife was institutionalized soon after giving birth to their daughter Anna. Anna had a fortunate upbringing. She was sent to the Dorothy Private School as a child, and later educated to be a nurse.
Flanagan's: Mrs. Elizabeth Flanagan (Joe and Bill's mother) arrived from Ohio with the family in 1900. She built the two-story Flanagan store east of the tracks near the railroad crossing. It was what we now think of as an ``old fashioned" country store, with bags of staples stored on the floor around the counter.
Mrs. Flanagan's husband had been a Civil War veteran. When she became old, she purchased the old two-story Dorothy School with money she received in veteran's benefits. The first floor of the school was converted to living quarters, where her grandsons Edgar and Andrew lived with her until she died.
Frick's: Mr. and Mrs. (Mary) Frick opened the first butcher shop before 1900, located at Miller and Pennsylvania Avenues. Later, Mark Rodgers from Risley followed, but was located at the small building on South Jersey Avenue, north of the Flanagan store. Rodgers would purchase half a steer from a Philadelphia slaughter house and sell it on Saturdays.
Burkman's: Mrs. Elizabeth Burkman advertised in the Dorothy Weekly News-Letter in 1904 for her Dry Goods Store at Cape May and 10th Avenue (Berlinsky's recent home). She carried a big ad promoting her pants, shirts, corsets, ribbons, pearl buttons, table oil cloth, etc. By 1908, Mrs. Burkman was also advertising boots and shoes and gave Trading Stamps. Mrs. Burkman's husband Carl died young at 43 in 1913, and the store supported her until her own death in 1925 at 53.
Brown's: William J. Brown served in the Navy prior to World War I. On his return in 1913, his mother M.A. (Brown) Robertshaw purchased the building next to her home for a grocery store. Brown was operating the store in 1914 when my father arrived and they became friends. As mentioned elsewhere, Brown was also involved in the cord wood business, and later in a contracting business. Brown also started a butcher's route in the 1930's, operating from his more recent Chelsea Heights (Atlantic City) home, but serving his old territory in the Dorothy area.
Flanagan's: William Flanagan purchased Eckel's Dorothy Hotel after the 1916 gas explosion disaster. Flanagan converted the hotel into a large grocery, hardware and feed store, the biggest to date in town. After Flanagan's death in 1949, the Hudson family (Betty D'Amore's mother) operated the store until the Siroki family from New York (relatives of the Huttles), took it over. The building was finally purchased by Ed Moore as a residence. In 1985 the old hotel building was razed by HUD.
Burkitt's: Mr. and Mrs. John W. Burkitt came from England and Ireland in 1901 and bought a farm on Cape May Avenue near 10th Avenue (later the Rohlicek and currently the Zilavy property). About 1910 they purchased G. L. Hill's store (presently the Post Office) after Mr. Hill had died.
The Burkitts sold candy, groceries, fresh milk, bread, tobacco and fruit in season, as well as kerosene and gasoline from in front of the store. They also had a barrel of dill pickles on the floor most of the time. Mrs. Burkitt was irresistible to children─from the babushka she always wore to her generous nature. She must have given away most of her small profits while handing out free candy samples.
|The Burkitt's, circa 1926
A small bell jingled on the door as we kids entered the store, praying it would be Mrs.
Burkitt─and not Mr. Burkitt─who would emerge from behind a curtain at the rear of the counter. If (oh, joy!) it was Mrs. Burkitt, we'd purchase the required can of vegetables (for $.15, giving her a penny or two profit). "Wait!" she'd sing out. Raising her head to peer through her bifocals, Mrs. Burkitt would then reach for a tiny brown bag and choose and present us with several pieces of penny candy. Pinwheels were my favorite. Mr. Burkitt was grumpy and never gave away anything. Evenings, after the store was closed, he'd emerge into his backyard to run his five white poodles on leashes. The dogs were his children.
Mr. Burkitt was, however, a serious and well read man. He read at night at his second floor window. Gossip had it that Mrs. Robertshaw was interested in him and would study him reading nights from her second floor window. Mr. Burkitt was six years younger than his wife M.H., and was the victim of an earlier accident which had made him sterile. He died at the age of 74 of cancer in 1938, confiding to his wife on his deathbed that he'd been baptized a Catholic. Thereupon, Mrs. Burkitt became a Catholic convert, and both are buried in St. Bernard's cemetery.
Malloy's: Mrs. H.E. Malloy also ran a small dry goods store in the early 1920's, renting from William Brown. My only experience with the Malloy store was when my mother sent me there to purchase a new shirt for my father's funeral in November, 1924. Mrs. Malloy sold me one much too large. Mrs. Malloy was hard of hearing. While picking berries alone along the railroad track one day, she was sucked in by the draft of a passing train and killed.
Bakeries: Bakeries seemed to pop up at various times and locations. Mrs. Green was probably the first Dorothy baker, but in 1904 she announced that she was retiring and returning to Philadelphia. Adolph Stenzel's bakery on 12th Avenue was selling bread and cakes "of good quality" as of November, 1904, according to the Dorothy Weekly News Letter. He built his oven in October of 1904, and was still selling rolls and pies in 1911. Another early bakery was that started by Miss Vesselak in 1916 on 13th Avenue.
IX. Local Industries
Lumbering: As noted earlier, lumbering was a big business in the area until the original growths were depleted around 1850. By 1900, however, regrowth was sufficient to continue harvesting wood, particularly for the building boom and home heating in Philadelphia and New York.
There were a number of dealers in cord wood, including William J. Brown, Steve Merlock and even Joshua Mitchell, the railroad station agent from Risley. There must have been hundreds of choppers, because the cord wood was piled up along the railroad tracks, seemingly for miles in my childhood. Potential farmers chopped wood until they were able to build their chicken businesses. These cutters were paid $1.00/cord (4'x4'x8', neatly stacked). An average man could cut one cord a day, while the best were able to cut one and a half.
While visiting the elderly and ailing William J. Brown in 1972, he related his wood-cutting experiences. In 1915 Brown paid $180 (probably to Anderson Bourgeois who owned much of the woods) for woodcutting rights to a block of oak (120 acres) bounded by Estelle and Sterling Avenues between 11th and 12th Avenues in Dorothy. It took Brown two years to harvest this timber, using as many as sixteen woodchoppers, including my father, Michael Csere, Steve Serbeck, John Hanson, and Steve Merlock. Open boxcars were loaded with nineteen cords of wood each. A crew of three (usually Michael Csere, Mr. Brown, and his brother-in-law George Weisenecker) could load two cars a day.
Most of the wood was shipped to Midvale Steel in Philadelphia which used it for heating forgings for straightening and reworking. Some oak was used for firewood, and pine for making charcoal by Burkhardt in Atlantic City. Brown also shipped wood to Sol North in Bridgeton and the Army barracks in Fort Dix, N.J. The wood was selling for $3-$4.50 per cord. It's amusing to note that at this time William Brown's mother, M.A. (Brown) Robertshaw, was postmistress and station agent. As such, she assigned the freight cars. Mrs. Robertshaw would show no favoritism toward her son, who often had to wait long after other local wood dealers to be assigned freight cars for his cords of wood.
The Clay Pit: In 1901 the Brick Company of Winslow Junction began to dig clay on the northwest side of 13th Avenue and Tuckahoe Road (opposite Clem's last bar). Fifteen to twenty men and several teams were employed to transport the clay to rail cars where they were shipped to the brick factory. According to the 1901 and 1904 tax books this property (lot #1131) belonged to Arthur Trueman, and the adjacent lot (#1130), which may have been included in the pit, belonged to H.H. Findley.
The dig left a small, deep lake for some time, providing winter ice skating for the local boys. Children also skated at Grassy Pond (15th and Tuckahoe Road); past the Charles Lore sawmill on the river (13th Avenue); and at Durell and Shanner's cranberry bog (at the end of 9th Avenue west) where Mr. Shaner left broken crates to be used for bonfires.
As for the clay pit itself, it was eventually filled with town garbage and currently has a stand of trees growing over it.
Sawmills: In 1900 George Hasselbalch owned Dorothy Lumber Company, located on 10th Avenue, west of South Jersey Avenue (Tuckahoe Road). He had a big business in lumber and also contracted to build homes. He donated considerable lumber for the Episcopal Church in 1901.
Julius Kraus between 1901-05 advertised himself as a "Contractor and Builder": Lumber and Building Material. Kraus bought cordwood at the railroad sidings or in the woods. He also advertising the highest prices paid for dead animals, hides and skins. He ran a sawmill right in town with a steam engine.
Charles Lore had a sawmill around 1911 at 13th Avenue near Beaver Dam and the Tuckahoe River. It was operated by Harry Miskelley. Young Liz Kobash worked there as a man. She bought the cedar slabs and sold them to farmers for chicken coop sidings. My father bought several loads when building his first 10'x60'coop. A lot of local pine for home building was milled here with Lore's steam engine drive.
McClure's sawmill operated between 1890 and 1918. McClure's milled wood for St. Bernard's Church in 1904.
Cranberry Bogs: Durell's and Shanner's cranberry bogs were located between 9th Avenue and Cumberland Avenue at the Tuckahoe River (in the Estelle Manor corner of land). The bogs originally were formed by the excavation of the shallow bog iron in the early 1800's for use in iron furnaces. They made good ice skating ponds for the children. The company imported bus loads of labor from Philadelphia during harvests. These were husky men who knew how to handle the large scoops─ working down rows together, scooping a three to four foot width of berries. I tried my hand at it for a short time, but was no competition for these professionals. If you fell behind, adjacent laborers scooped up your good areas and you were left with nothing.The cranberry scoop has large, protruding prongs at its front. One must scoop with two hands in a lifting motion, so the prongs lift up and pull off the cranberries from the vines. In a continuation of the smooth movement, the berries are thrown into a large bag carried on one's back. It was a backbreaking job through wet muck. The bogs were drained in the spring after the last frost. After the harvest, the dam was closed and the creek filled up the bog, creating a lake to protect the plants from freezing.
Brown's Gravel Hole (and Tuckahoe Road): The main road through Dorothy─Tuckahoe Road─was surveyed by the state in 1914. Improvements were suggested, but World War I intervened. After the war, the road was still dirt, and still in such a pitiful condition that even doctors were prevented from coming to town for emergency care.Clamoring for improvements, taxpayers called a meeting on August 19, 1921. It was held at the Club House and Freeholder Milton Garrison was invited attend. The intention was to convince the state of New Jersey to improve Tuckahoe Road from Buena to Pink House (Route 50), a distance of fourteen miles. A committee of twelve was appointed to pursue the road project, including: Joshua Mitchell, H.K. Lewis (Dorothy), William J. Brown (Dorothy), Michael Oze (Dorothy), Jacob Schmidt, Charles Kobash (Dorothy), and William Flanagan (Dorothy).
The road was finally gravelled between 1922 and 1923. Much of the gravel (about seven miles worth) came from a pit started by William J. Brown.
The road project set off a chain reaction. As a youngster watching it all, it seemed as if everyone in town was busy converting their cars into small trucks to help haul the gravel. There were more than ten converted trucks from Dorothy working on the project, which brought a good extra income. The little trucks would run down the long ramp into the gravel pit. At the loading station, two men with shovels loaded the truck. Every boy in the neighborhood "supervised" the operation.
After the road project was complete, Henry Schelken purchased the gravel hole, had it graded, and built several chicken coops inside the hole (which apparently drained well). Later Schelken built a larger block home on the property, which included a grocery store and a bar. At present Elinor (Serbeck) Parks lives on the property.
The Poultry Business: From the very beginning of the Estelle Colony, D.L. Risley promoted the area as being ideal for raising poultry─as well as vegetables and fruit.
In 1900, a poultry farm consisted of between 50-100 hens. By 1910 the poultry industry was flourishing in Dorothy, Risley and nearby Vineland, farm sizes expanding to flocks of 1,000 hens by 1918. This capacity increased to 1,500 hens by 1922, and a 3-5,000 hen capacity by 1945.
With the assistance of the New Jersey Agricultural Department at Rutgers University the technology of the poultry business advanced rapidly:
|Egg shipments on Dorothy Railroad Platform, 1920
• Chicken pens were enlarged for greater capacity and improved living environment. My father's first pens in 1915 were 10'x20'. Area coops grew to 20'x30', and by 1950 they had become 30'x40' coops with roof insulation included. These were six times the size of the early coops. Ventilation was controlled with operable curtains and windows, resulting in warmer environments for the birds.
• Labor saving devices were instituted. For example, originally chicken dropping boards were open and had to be cleaned every morning with a wide hoe scraper, the droppings carried out in a bucket. When roosts were enclosed in wire, they could be cleaned every week or two. Later, the roost boards themselves were eliminated and the droppings which fell to the floor through a wire enclosure could be cleaned annually.Other improvements included replacing kerosene water fountain heaters with thermostatically controlled electric bayonet heaters. Hand feeding in hoppers was replaced by automatic electric conveyor feeders. Hand carried water was replaced by running water to automatic fountains.
• Catastrophic losses from disease (particularly respiratory diseases) were controlled by developing vaccines which made it possible to inoculate thousands of birds in a few evenings.
• Ultimately the final step was taken to keep formerly free range birds completely indoors. Hens were compressed in cages or concentrated three-fold in immense buildings with large exhaust fans to clear the buildings' stench. Manure was conveyed by belt from the building while eggs rolled to one side of the wire floor and also were collected by conveyor belts.The poultry business in the area flourished during World War II (when Philadelphia chicken dealers would canvas the area, paying $1.00 a pound for heavy breed meat birds for the black market) and during the 1950's. In 1959, the bottom dropped out, depreciating farm prices tremendously in a few years.
Having supported 120 poultry farms at one time, Dorothy suddenly found itself without any, and became a distressed area. After twenty years of abandonment use, the old chicken coop roofs were rotting and falling down. In 1985 HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) allocated a grant of approximately $500,000 to demolish the dangerous buildings and remove the debris. Mayor Joe Jobbagy did an admirable job of dispersing the funds and overseeing the work, including the destruction of the original Eckel's Hotel (Siroki's) and the replacement of windows in older homes of senior citizens.
Poultry Feed Mills: There have been quite a few private feed companies in the area, primarily from Vineland (the largest of which was the Rubinoff Feed Company). While Dorothy had feed selling ventures, the town never milled or manufactured feed.
The earliest distributor was probably John Radley, followed by William Flanagan, who delivered feed in fifty pound bags. Around 1924 the Dorothy Poultry Association was begun by Andrew Holley (who lived on 13th Avenue east). Holley hired young Otto Hoff to deliver feed, at first by wagon, and later by truck. Holley rented the old Red Men's Hall at South Jersey and 13th Avenues and hired Marie Seelman as his secretary. After Holley's business closed (due to alleged financial mismanagement), it was operated by John Davidson and Andrew Stewart, with Clara Anderson as clerk. When Stewart committed suicide due to illness, the Dorothy Poultry Association was terminated and Clara was hired by Mrs. M.A. Robertshaw as a clerk in the post office. About 1936, a GLF branch rented the Grange Hall's lower floor. Ridgeway also delivered feed from Woodbine.
Farmers Cooperative Association of Vineland: In 1946 a group of poultrymen from the Dorothy and Vineland area organized the Farmers Coop Association of Vineland. This became an important business for our locale, since many farmers purchased feed from the Coop.
Peter Gonzalez became the first President when the Coop was organized. Elia Clemenson (of Estelle Manor) served many years on the Board of Directors, as member and President. During the 1960's I also served on the Board for six years. Ray Marinelli, the mill manager, served until 1970.
After organizing, the Coop purchased an old warehouse property in Norma. A cupola, grinding and milling machinery were added in 1948. Silos for storage followed. By 1953 a new office was needed to handle the business. In 1955 the Coop built a new, million dollar, pushbutton mill with financing. Its first manager was Felix Prezant.
The Coop grew fast, purchasing and drying local corn, and manufacturing an honest, high quality feed that was competitive with the product of other local mills like Rubinoff Feeds.
The Coop gave members a percentage of their purchases as future equity, which arrived in the form of certificates at the end of each year. When the poultry feed business dropped in the early 1960's, the mill began manufacturing other feeds, such as horse, dog and cat food. The mill finally closed in 1974.
Originally there were five township committeemen who governed the township. In 1872 the number was reduced to four, and later to three, as it is at present.
Township meetings were usually held in Tuckahoe at the E.J. Steelman store. In 1922 meetings were transferred to Dorothy, where the attendance improved. Two of the committeemen at that time were Elia Clemenson and Rebecca Winston. Rebecca's father was Anderson Bourgeois, who had been a committeeman in 1908 to keep an eye on the family's vast land holdings.
Some of the more recent committeemen have Michale Oze, H.K. Lewis, John Brna, Roland Marsh, Joe Jobbagy, Geza Mihaly and the Merlock brothers.
Before Dorothy grew and Belcoville was conceived, voting for elections was done in Corbin City. Registration for World War I was also done there. The local induction center for the armed services was located in the Mays Landing Court House.
The Tax Collector: The tax collector's position was once part time, but more recently it has become a full time job with other duties, currently held by Mrs. Millie Messina of Belcoville.
Our collector at the turn-of-the-century (1899) was George Desker. Anderson Bourgeois held the position in 1909. In 1920, Lewis Beebe was tax collector, and in 1930 George Evans served before moving to Florida. In 1950 Chris Weiss served.
Township Fire Wardens: Fire wardens for both the Township and the New Jersey Forest Fire Service were changed frequently until John Brna's era, when John made it his lifelong profession, becoming District Fire Warden for the N.J. Fire Service and ultimately a Section Fire Warden. Some of the early wardens were:
1908: Tom Campbell (Tuckahoe)
1909-10: Joe Flanagan (Dorothy)
1911 and 1916: H.K. Lewis (Dorothy)
1928-1959: John Brna (Dorothy)
During the early days of our community, fire wardens were critical because there were no fire departments to be called upon for help. A warden had the authority to commandeer the public to fight fires with basic tools and a tank of water strapped to the back. Later, a 4-wheel drive truck was acquired. This was capable of manoeuvering through the woods with two guides using axes to clear out saplings in the way.
Occasionally there was a severe forest fire that threatened the heavily wooded community. During a 1910 local fire, fighters were paid $.15/hour, and the warden (Joe Flanagan) received $.20/hour. The cost to the township for that particular fire was $65.99.
Fires of major proportions included one around 1929 when the fire burned right up to many Dorothy poultry buildings, and everyone was fetching buckets of water from hand pumps to drench the buildings' roofs and sides. Others forest fires occurred in 1959 and 1966. The latter might have destroyed the entire town if it hadn't been stopped at Pennsylvania Avenue by fire companies from Atlantic, Cumberland, Salem, Cape May and Gloucester Counties, as well as the Forest Service.
Road Overseer: The position of Township Road Overseer generally appeared to be a political appointment, and consequently overseers were changed often. The first supervisors were Gus Yanke (Dorothy, 1905), followed by Tom Campbell (Tuckahoe, circa 1909). At that point the work consisted of supervising several gangs of men who labored with shovels and axes to fill the ruts after a rain and keep the road right-of-way open and clean of encroaching brush and weeds.
Between 1909 and approximately 1919, Pete Base Sr. served. He was followed by Otto Geyer Jr.. Otto didn't last long because the public indicated that the "roads were rotten". A special citizens' meeting was called on November 30, 1921, at the Beneficial and Social Society Hall (13th and South Jersey Avenue). Geyer was ousted and replaced with Steve Serbeck. Serbeck was probably the first overseer to use an eight foot horse drawn scraper. He also hired two helpers─his oldest son Bill, and Henry Lambert.
There might have been more than one overseer prior to 1925, when Estelle Manor split from the township. After the separation, the dirt roads remained basically in Dorothy. Things did improve once the sandy Tuckahoe Road was gravelled, and 12th Avenue never looked better than when Serbeck scraped it twice a day travelling to and from his home enroute to his labors with the machine.
XI. The Dorothy Fire Company
In 1935 Edmund Seelman had a serious $10,000 farm fire. As a result of this, the insurance company stated it would not renew any farm insurance in the area as long as there was no local fire fighting equipment in existence. Prior to this time, (1920-1935) Dorothy had been relying on the Belcoville Fire Company to come to its assistance. Unfortunately, a building could burn to the ground before Belcoville's fire engines were able to arrive.
Thus, out of necessity, a fire company was conceived and incorporated in Dorothy. The first officials elected were John Brna (then the Forestry Service Fire Warden), President; Edmund Seelman, Vice President; Tom Lewis, Secretary; Frank Kiss (of 14th Avenue), Treasurer.
In 1936 the Township extended $4,400 to the Dorothy Fire Company to pay for a new, 1936 Chevrolet pumper (which had a 500 gallon water tank and cost $1,275), and the chassis ($865). The equipment was made by the Philadelphia Truck Works. I believe Harry Bullock handled the transaction and also donated $4,100. He was made a member of the new organization. In 1937 the volunteers built the original Fire House with two bays on land (centrally located on Tuckahoe Road near 11th Avenue) donated by Matthew Hanus (a neighbor). The building has been enlarged several times to include more bays, a large meeting room, and space to store the ambulance.
In February, 1955, the Fire Company converted a used oil truck into a 1,000 gallon water tanker, giving the Company a 1,500 gallon capacity on wheels. An acre of ground was also donated by the Township, providing more room for parking and space for future additions.
The Dorothy Fire Company later upgraded its service by adding a foam dispenser for gas and oil fires, and carbon dioxide pumps. The Company cooperates with adjacent community fire departments, an essential during serious home or forest fires. It also maintains ambulance and Rescue Squad services.
The latest addition to the Company is the September, 1993, acquisition of a larger pumper. The KMC Freightliner crew cab fire truck (over $170,000) is a multi-purpose pumper with a capacity of 1,200 gallons of water. The truck also incorporates the latest in fire fighting technology hardware.
The Dorothy Fire Company has always been run by volunteers─people with unlimited dedication both in learning their business and in giving extra time soliciting donations and running the annual chicken barbecues which have become important community events.Elwood Seelman, the Fire Chief, was appointed in 1951 and in 1969 named permanent Chief. Elwood eats and sleeps his fire fighting work, as well as keeping an eye on the impressive list of current equipment: a 1953 Dodge brush truck; a 1963 GMC fire truck; a 1986 Chevy rescue truck; a 1987 GMC ambulance; and, of course, the new, 1993 KMC Freightliner pumper.
XII. The Conception of Belcoville
Belcoville was founded as a direct result of World War I, when the U.S. government required an armaments manufacturing town─complete with housing─fast. Thousands of acres were purchased primarily from Anderson Bourgeois. The area was six miles long and about one mile wide, extending between Mays Landing and Estelle Manor. Bethlehem Loading Company was given a contract to build and operate an ordinance plant for loading shells with high explosives─along with creating the largest testing site then extant. The name "Belcoville" was created as a contraction of the company's name.
Ground was broken in 1918 for the factories and housing for four hundred families and three thousand single workers. These homes were to be modern, and contained running water, bathrooms, and heating─more amenities than most families had at that time. The government also erected restaurants, a 100 bed hospital, meat shops, a drug store, a tailor shop, a barber shop, garages, and a fire house─not to mention a bowling alley, pool room, post office, school, theatre, bank, YMCA and YWCA. In short, a self-contained, complete community was built, fueled by patriotic fervor.
By March of 1918 railroad material arrived and construction began in earnest, work continuing on a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week construction schedule. By August─a little over four months─Belcoville was nearly completed. Streets, sidewalks, sewage, water and electrical lighting systems were in place. The heating plant came a little later.The munitions buildings consisted of eleven units, each independent of the others. There were eleven changing houses for the 1,650 men already in residence to put on their required working clothes. The finished buildings had a total production capacity of 25,000-75mm, 12,000-155mm and 4,000-8" or larger shells per day. The first 155 mm shells were loaded on July 1, 1918.
A Bell telephone system was installed. Artisian wells were drilled─one for the village, one for the plant, and a third for the power house boilers. Steam fire pumps were placed at the plant with 30,000 gallons of water storage (taken from the South River). The fresh and firewater mains had isolating valves to prevent losing water to any area in case of an accident. A complete dispensary and police barracks (with 250 guards, apparently to protect against sabotage) were also included.Transportation to Belcoville became a problem. During the construction phase, as many as forty trucks were used to transport men from the Mays Landing Station. The labor force included men and women inexperienced with outside work.
By the time the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, ending the war, the Belcoville complex was completed and the plant continued to operate for a time.
A number of Dorothy people found work at Belcoville, including the Jupin boys and Pete Merlock (who was only fifteen at the time, but looked older). Pete loaded the 6"-9" shells on a conveyor belt. He remembered that everything was made of wood or brass to prevent dangerous sparks. He also remembered the daily emergency evacuation drills. Second floor workers would jump through opened windows onto stainless steel chutes and slide outside into four-foot-deep protective ditches on the ground. Some of the buildings even had moats around them.
When the war effort was finally terminated, most of the workers left Belcoville. Vacant homes were dismantled in large sections, sold (quite reasonably for $300-$500), and carted off by horse and wagon. A number of the houses were purchased by Dorothy residents. Michael Oze, for instance, bought three and erected them (adding basements) on 11th Avenue west of Tuckahoe Road. He lived in one and sold the other two to Mr. Kuhar and Mr. Grossheim (later bought by Mihaly). Mr. Huttle's former home on 12th Avenue is one the larger, two-story buildings. William Brown's home in town (later bought by George Base) was another one.
A few new homes have been built since in the Belcoville area, but more were constructed in the wooded area adjacent to the Tuckahoe River. The Lenape Landing Development was also established on the north side of town.
The original plant area and the unused proving grounds were acquired by Atlantic County from the government for use as a public park. The old building foundations are still visible (along with the ruins of a nineteenth century glassworks), although overgrown with brush and trees.
The Belcoville Volunteer Fire Company: A new Fire Department was initiated and incorporated in April, 1923, by a group of residents including Messrs. Charles Wolfe Sr. (the first Fire Chief, who was followed in 1941 by Chief Iversen until his retirement in 1991), Frye, Fox, Wigglesworth, Kinery, Wilson and others. Having organized excellent Township support, the group obtained the use of the old Bethlehem Loading Company Fire House building for their headquarters. They proceeded to order a new 1923 Ford Model "T" fire truck chassis for $482.02. Also ordered was a 250 gallon Hale pump (with a 30 gallon capacity), without a tank, as the new Fire Company had access to fire hydrants from the government installation. This equipment was mothballed in 1952 and sold for scrap for $50, when a new Diamond T fire truck was purchased.
The Fire Company progressively has improved its equipment. It now owns a 1967 Keiser Brush Truck, a 1970 GMC Pumper (1,000 gallons capacity), a 1983 Ford Fire Truck and a 1990 GMC van ambulance. The Company still uses the original, 1918 Bethlehem Loading Company building, although it is getting too small and short for larger modern equipment.
The Belcoville Fire Company building was also used for other purposes over the years. The Belcoville Community Church held services on the second floor in 1947, and an emergency generator set and emergency food supplies were also stockpiled in the building.
In 1973 the Belcoville Fire Company celebrated its 50th Golden Anniversary. Forty-five outside fire companies─primarily from the Atlantic County Firemen's Association, participated in a huge parade.
Like Elwood Seelman in Dorothy, Chief Walter Iversen was the driving force in Belcoville. He modernized and managed the Fire Company for many years. Iversen was made "Chief for Life" and awarded the "Order of Old Weymouth". Belcoville also bestowed upon him the honorary title Colonel, one of the four men so honored to date. Chief Walter Iversen passed away in 1993 and is sorely missed. Fortunately, he was succeeded as Fire Chief by Roland Marsh, also the long time Mayor of Weymouth Township.
XIII. Boy Scout Troop #62
Boy Scout Troop #62 was chartered and granted to the Weymouth Township PTA in 1953. The original groundwork was begun by Mr. and Mrs. Lou Paull to organize the Cub Scouts. Abner Nye became the first Scoutmaster. He served for one year, helping to charter the new Troop. On the Scout Committee were Lou Paull, Ben Netolicka and Joe Dinofilio, among others. The earliest Scouts included Jeff Carlson, Clem and John Lisitski and Bub Seelman. The Troop consisted of about twelve members from Dorothy and Belcoville and the meetings were alternated between the Dorothy School and the Legion Hall in Belcoville.
At one of the annual Blue and Gold Dinners, Scoutmaster Steve Csere had his Troop honor the original Scoutmasters, from 1953 to date. Each Scout presented a resume of a past Scoutmaster:
• Abner Nye, brother-in-law to Ben Netolicka, was serious about training the young generation. He used the Scout Handbook for teaching the rudiments of knot-tying, compass reading, first aid, etc. During Nye's tenure, Scouts went camping to Lake Lenape in Mays Landing. (There was no Atlantic County Camporee in 1953.)
• Bill Pons served from 1954-56. Bill was a congenial man who favored outdoor activities and devoted a lot of time to hiking and bicycling long distances. His Troop hiked full pack to the Weymouth Iron Furnace ruins and camped overnight─unhappily in the middle of a poison ivy patch. (Billy Mitchell later required medical attention). Bill also took his Scouts for target practice at the Atlantic City Police Range and marching in the Mays Landing Halloween Parades. Under Bill Pons, Troop #62 participated in the Scoutorama and won an award for its poultry display with incubator and chicks. Gene Read and George Pierce were assistants to Bill.
• Gene Read followed Bill Pons in late 1956 and served as Scoutmaster until 1958, holding meetings in his home. He also participated in Cub Scouting and was an assistant to Steve Csere later. Gene was young and energetic. He was strict on discipline and trained the scouts (including the Weiss, Sutherland, Lisitski and Paull boys) in marching drills. Gene's Troop entered the annual Memorial Day program.
• Lou Szigethy served as Scoutmaster from 1956-62, with his brother Ted as assistant. Lou was easygoing, but didn't appreciate roughness or "tomfoolery". Feeling that scouting helped to form future citizens, he wanted his boys to wear their uniforms not only to meetings, but also to school on meeting days. (He bribed them with popsicles.)A builder by profession, Lou used his skills to teach his Scouts carpentry work. They made wooden gifts for parents and name plates to sell to raise money. Szigethy's Scouts included Neil Szigethy, Lou Parks, Rob Csere, Rich Klimek, Rob Graham, Rob Gibney, and the Kleppecki and Hayes boys.
Lou Szigethy approached the Township for a donation of land for the Scouts on Maple Avenue which would include a stream. He was given instead a high and dry parcel on 14th Avenue. The Scouts began clearing this area, but it eventually had to be abandoned due to an error in ownership. Later, in June of 1964, the Dorothy Youth Committee was able to obtain two lots on Maple Avenue with a branch of the Stephens Creek running through it.
Lou Szigethy took the boys to Camp Edge, swimming at the Atlantic City pool, had them participate in the Memorial Day programs, and entered them in the annual exposition in Atlantic City.
• Steve Csere served as Scoutmaster from 1963-1967, eased nicely into service after offering to teach the Troop the essentials of radio in January, 1963. Crystal sets were built, and the Troop later learned the Morse Code, practicing on battery-operated, inexpensive code keys.As an engineer and strong believer in self improvement, I emphasized the boys' learning skills during my tenure. The Scouts studied for and earned many merit badges, resulting in the first Eagle Scout Award for the Dorothy Troop (Rob Csere), and another Scout who almost achieved the same distinction (Benny Ash). The Scout Committee consisting of Gene Read, Ted Szigethy, Bela Cherry and myself were responsible for testing the boys for merit badge advancements.
During my term the Troop began using Gene Read's old quarters for meetings, which some of the scouts helped to repaint. Swimming parties were held each year at the YMCA pools in Atlantic City and Vineland. We combined with other local Scouts and had successful affairs with Mr. and Mrs. Chuck Belanger (Belcoville teachers) as instructors. Troop #62 also participated in all the Camporees and won more than its share of awards. In 1963 the school bus took the Scouts to a circus in Philadelphia. In 1964 we made a canoe trip from Weymouth down to Mays Landing (when the Scoutmaster stood up and tipped over the canoe!) In February, 1965, the Scouts camped overnight at the Dorothy Gun Club. In the autumn of 1965 we camped overnight at Estelle Manor at 1st Avenue and Tuckahoe River.
Annual Blue and Gold Dinners were continued. During one outstanding event the boys created a small planetarium and took turns showing different constellations.
Regarding the eleven acre Boy Scout property received from the Township: surveyor friends Harry Duberson and Al Scull came from Mays Landing to survey the property gratis. The Scouts helped to cut the lines and completed about half the project. The Troop also began clearing the area and planted one hundred white pine seedlings in 1966. Unfortunately, the forest fire later that year destroyed most of the seedlings, sparing only a few along the road. Eventually, when later Scouting interest waned, this beautiful property reverted back to the Township.
During its heyday, Troop #62 was a small, but mighty group. The other Scoutmasters and myself learned a lot about both Scouting and boys. But after nearly freezing while tenting at my last Camporee, I made the decision to pass the baton to a younger man─Charles Zilavy's eldest son. Troop #62 has since passed into history.
XIV. Interesting Odds and Ends
• At the turn-of-the-century Francis Laier was foreman of a cigar factory located in the front room of the old home south of the original Post Office.
• Julius Kraus came to Dorothy in 1892 and lived in a little home on South Jersey Avenue, east of the tracks, near 13th Avenue. He ran a pickle shed near the future Post Office, followed by a lumber mill with a steam engine drive. This property was last owned by the Township, who allowed Gizela Toth to live out her long life there after her husband Steve died. The property was ultimately sold to Sam DeRosa from Milmay who cleared it over ten years ago.
• In 1900 Milmay had a rug factory which employed men from Dorothy.
• During the 1920's, Mr. Braden (a one-armed man) came occasionally from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, with a travelling movie show. He charged an admission of ten cents and projected the films in our old two-story school. Braden owned an Edison projector which Ben Netolica cranked by hand. It used a carbide gas lamp.
• During World War II, Dorothy sponsored an enormous scrap drive. The scrap pile─reaching a height of twenty feet─was stored in front of the school (currently the Municipal Building). Appendices:
Appendix A: Land Development
A-1 D.L. Risley land prospectus.
A-2 Testimonials to D.L. Risley
A-3 D.L. Risley correspondence with early settler Jacob Weiss.
Early InhabitantsB-1 Dorothy Lumber Company News, 1900.
Appendix C: Early Taxes
C-1 Anderson Bourgeois mortgage receipt, 1913.
C-2 Tax Notice, 1898.
C-3 Tax Notice, 1920.
C-4 Tax Notice, 1930.
Appendix D: Early Schooling
D-1 Dorothy Teachers List, 1898-1924.
D-2 Dorothy School Attendance Record, 1900.
D-3 Dorothy School Lower Grades, 1920. Anna Merlock (left) and Miss Logergreen (right), teachers.
D-4 1949 Dorothy School Strike.
D-5 Dorothy School Reunion, 1974.
Appendix E: Local Stores
E-1 G.J. Hill invoices, 1903 and 1906.
E-2 Flanagan's Store account sheet, 1917.
E-3 W.J. Brown invoices. Appendix
F: The Poultry Business
F-1 Michael Csere invoice.
F-2a The Csere free-range poultry farm, 1921.
F-2b Babe Cherry's 3-story cage chicken coop (10,000 capacity), 1952.
F-3 Farmers Cooperative Association of Vineland invoice, 1958.
F-4 Farmers Cooperative Association of Vineland. 1960: Gerry Mamlock (board member), Ray Marinelli (top, mill manager), Elia Clemenson (President), Steve Csere (board member).
Appendix G: Local Politics and Elections
G-1 1922 ballot.
G-2 1929, Certificate of Election for Michael Oze as Township Member.
G-3 More recent officials:
• 1955: Michael Oze, Bennie Lisitski, George Merlock, Pete Merlock (Dorothy's Mayor in 1967), and Andrew Merlock.
• 1964: The Township Transportation Committee: Karl Everling (Clerk), Roland Marsh, Geza Mihalyi, Pete Merlock.
Appendix H: The Creation of Belcoville in 1918
H-1 Overview of lumberyard and housing.
H-2 Power plant.
H-3 Location of Fire House and Belcoville School.
H-4 Location of theatre.
H-5 Shell storage.
H-6 Administration building.
Appendix I: The Belcoville Volunteer Fire Company
I-1 Station House in 1918.
I-2 Members in 1925.
I-3 Members in 1952.
I-4 Chief Iversen Retirement Celebration.
Appendix J: Dorothy Fire Company
J-1 Dorothy's first ambulance, a 1941 Cadillac, (1949 photo).
J-2a Victoria and John Brna, 1930.
J-2b Section Fire Warden John Brna's Dodge 4-wheel drive Forest Fire Truck, 1958.
Appendix K: Dorothy Boy Scout Troop #62
K-1 Camporee and Star Scout Articles, 1965.
K-2 Boy Scouts of America Newsletter, 1965.
K-3 Troop #62 roster, 1966.
Appendix L: The Dorothy Post Office
L-1 In 1922.
L-2 In 1932
Appendix M: Dorothy During Wartime
M-1a The Dorothy Home Guard, 1917; William J. Brown, Joe Base, [unidentified], Steve Merlock, Steve Smith, Tom Lewis, Bill Ring, Henry Schelken, Pete Base.
M-1b World War II fuel oil ration stamps.
M-2a Aircraft Warning Service Identification card (Mrs. Victoria Brna, 1942).
M-2b US Army Aircraft Warning Building. Observation Post at 11th & South Jersey Avenues (Brna's Farm), 1942.
M-3 Dorothy Ground Observer Group. M-4a Edgar (Illingsworth) Flanagan, in front of Flanagan's Store, 1943.
M-4b Joe Base, Sr., Mr. Base, Joe Base, Jr., March 1945.
M-5 Town Memorial Day Celebration in front of the Dorothy School, May 31, 1943.
M-6a Town Memorial Day Celebration in front of the Dorothy School, May 31, 1943.
M-6b Town Memorial Day Celebration in front of the Dorothy School, May 31, 1943.
Appendix N: Guido E. Seelman, Photographer, Printer, Editor ( - 1923)
N-1 Self-portrait of Guido Seelman, Publisher of the Dorothy Weekly News Letter.
N-2a Receipt for subscription to the Dorothy Weekly News Letter.
N-2b G.E. Seelman's calling card.
About the Author Stephen Csere was born in Dorothy in 1914, the first of the five children of Michael and Louisa Csere, who emigrated from Hungary earlier in that year. Steve attended the Dorothy School and Atlantic City and Hammonton High Schools, before graduating from the Drexel Institute of Technology in 1937. He was employed as an engineer for the Mack Truck Company in Allentown PA for a number of years before returning to Dorothy in 1955 with his wife, Elizabeth, and three children (Mary Louise, Kathleen and Robert). At this time he established a poultry farm and worked as an engineer for the Atlantic City Electric Company.
During the next number of years before his transfer to the Atlantic City Electric Company's Deepwater Station, Steve actively participated in Dorothy's community activities, including:
• Member, the Weymouth Township School Board, 12 years.
• Member, the Board of the Farmers' Cooperative Association of Vineland, 6 years.
• Scoutmaster, Dorothy Boy Scout Troop #62 (1963-1967).
Since his retirement with his wife Betty to Pinellas Park, Florida, Steve has been playing tennis and keeping up with his growing family of seven grandchildren and one great grandson. He's also been collecting memorabilia relating to Weymouth Township and working on this history.