Gloucester Co NJ - History & Genealogy  

E A R L Y    H I S T O R Y

Old Gloucester County was formed on May 26, 1686 from the third and fourth tenths of the province of West Jersey. Greenwich Township became the first township. Incorporated on March 1, 1694. The original townships formed at that time were Gloucester, Deptford, Greenwich, Waterford, Newton and Egg Harbor. It included present-day Atlantic County and Camden County. Woodbury is the county seat of Gloucester County. Atlantic County set off in 1837. Camden County set off in 1844.

For histories of townships or boroughs in current Gloucester county, see the "Municipalities" section.

Also see "Snippets of History"

NOTE: The history of Gloucester County, New Jersey cannot be told without first having knowledge of the Native American tribes who were living here when the "white men" arrived. The following is from the Lenape (Delaware) Tribe of Indians web site. I highly recommend anyone seriously interested in our early history to visit this site and other links provided.

"The name DELAWARE was given to the people who lived along the Delaware River, and the river in turn was named after Lord de la Warr, the governor of the Jamestown colony. The name Delaware later came to be applied to almost all Lenape people. In our language, which belongs to the Algonquian language family, we call ourselves LENAPE (len-NAH-pay) which means something like "The People." Our ancestors were among the first Indians to come in contact with the Europeans (Dutch, English, & Swedish) in the early 1600s. The Delaware were called the "Grandfather" tribe because we were respected by other tribes as peacemakers since we often served to settle disputes among rival tribes. We were also known for our fierceness and tenacity as warriors when we had to fight, however, we preferred to choose a path of peace with the Europeans and other tribes.

Many of the early treaties and land sales we signed with the Europeans were in our people's minds more like leases. The early Delaware had no idea that land was something that could be sold. The land belonged to the Creator, and the Lenape people were only using it to shelter and feed their people. When the poor, bedraggled people got off their ships after the long voyage and needed a place to live we shared the land with them. They gave us a few token gifts for our people's kindness, but in the mind of the Europeans these gifts were actually the purchase price for the land.

Our Delaware people signed the first Indian treaty with the newly formed United States Government on September 17, 1778. Nevertheless, through war and peace, our ancestors had to continue to give up their lands and move westward (first to Ohio, then to Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, and finally, Indian Territory, now Oklahoma). One small band of Delawares left our group in the late 1700s and through different migrations are today located at Anadarko, Oklahoma. Small contingents of Delawares fled to Canada during a time of extreme persecution and today occupy two reserves in Ontario (The Delaware Nation at Moraviantown and The Munsee-Delaware Nation)."

Abstracts of Old South Jersey
by Amos J. Peaslee
Address Before The Philadelphia Geographical Society
at Mickleton, New Jersey October 21, 1944
[my thanks to the family of Amos J. Peaslee who provided this information]

Original Claims to New Jersey included those made by the British beginning in 1497. Dutch claims began with the voyages and settlements of Henry Hudson who entered the Delaware Bay on August 28, 1609. The first Dutch settlers were apparently all massacred by the Indians, and was followed by another settlement (of Dutch immigrants) who arrived in 1631. The Swedish settlements in Southern New Jersey followed soon after the arrival of the Dutch in 1638. These Swedes landed first at Inlopen (also called Hindlopen) on the western side of the Bay. They told the Dutch that there were merely stopping there on their way to the West Indies, but they took possession and founded a settlement called "Christina" in honor of the Queen. The Swedes began fortifying their claims by purchasing land from the Indians. In the course of a few years they had bought from the Indian tribes, and paid for, all the land from Cape May to Raccoon Creek.

     The total number of Swedish settlers in Southern Jersey is not known, but in 1693, long after the Swedes ceased to exercise any control over the country, it was reported by Peter Stuyvesant that there were 1,000 Swedes in the territory who retained their Swedish language and customs.

     In 1651 the Dutch built Fort Casimer on the site of New Castle. In 1653 John Rysing, who was deputized by the Swedish Government, demanded the surrender, and took possession of this fortification for the Swedes. Governor Stuyvesant of New Netherland dispatched a force of 7 vessels and 600 men who brought about the complete surrender and subjugation of New Sweden.

     The subjugation of New Netherland in America by the British took place in August of 1664, transferring sovereignty over the territory of South Jersey from the Dutch Crown to the British Crown. Although this sovereignty was interrupted twice for brief periods of time, it was finally restored to the British Crown by the Treaty of February 9, 1674, and New Jersey continued as British until the American Revolution of 1775.

Original Condition of the County
     The descriptions by early historians what the first settlers found here are magnificent and startling. From Raccoon Creek to "Makles" Creek, now known as Mantua Creek--which is the land in this precise area--we are told that tobacco grew luxuriously. There were great quantities of walnuts, chestnuts, peaches, cypresses, mulberries, fish trees, and many other rare trees to which Campanius the historian says "No names can be given as they are not found anywhere else except on this river." He also said that the Delaware was alive with whales, sharks and sea spiders, and that its shores were infested "with a large horrible serpent which is called a rattlesnake which has a head like that of a dog and can bite off a man's leg as clean as if it had been hewn down with an axe."
     The aborigines of this region were called the "Lenni-Lenape" or the "first people." The Indian name for the Delaware River was "Lannape-Whittuck," or "Stream of the Lennape." The particular tribe of Indians who lived along Raccoon Creek which flows through Swedesboro were known as the Naraticons. Those who lived along Mantua Creek were the Manateses. The Lenni-Lenapes were a vigorous but peaceful tribe. They had been demilitarized, so to speak under a treaty with the Iroquois. Many relics of the Indian settlements along those creeks, including cooking utensils, arrow heads and other weapons may still be found by anyone possessing sufficient curiosity and diligence.

Tangle of Early Titles
     The ten years which followed the restoration of New Jersey to the British in 1674 were disturbed by many conflicting claims of title. Although the British Crown grants of 1606 had already disposed of most or all of the territory of New Jersey to the Virginia Company and the Plymouth Company, nevertheless Charles II, upon his restoration, granted all of both New York and New Jersey to his brother the Duke of York, who sold his rights in the territory of New Jersey to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. Carteret was appointed Governor of New Jersey and came over with settlers in August 1665 landing at Elizabeth. They found already here another British Governor, Colonel Nichols, who had not been told by the Duke of York of his sale of New Jersey to Berkeley and Cataret. Nichols called New Jersey "Albania." He thought highly of it and protested the sale in no uncertain terms, but without avail. Conflicting claims of titles to lands arose by reason of grants which had been made by Col. Nichols and also through purchases from the Indians and the old titles acquired under Dutch and Swedish rule. Berkeley became alarmed regarding his investment and sold out his entire interest in March 1673 to John Fenwick and Edward Byllinge, two Quakers living in England for 1,000 pounds cash.

The Division of East and West Jersey
     The half of New Jersey which the two Quakers Fenwick and Byllinge had bought from Lord Berkeley was an undivided interest, but after 1673-74, Cateret obtained a new grant which divided the State geographically and gave him the northern portion of the State. A disagreement arose between Fenwick and Byllinge which was eventually resolved by William Penn who arbitrated the matter. Byllinge became financially embarrassed and assigned the property to trustees who included William Penn. Out of all of this arose a new settlement, and a new division of territory on July 1, 1676 into "East" and "West" Jersey. The new line ran from Little Egg Harbor to a point in the Delaware River in 41 degrees of north latitude.

John Fenwick and Early Quaker Settlers
All of this division of land took place while most of the grantees were still in England. John Fenwick, however, left England in 1675 before the division of East and West Jersey occurred, sailing on the ship Griffith with a group of Quakers who settled at Salem. William Penn did not leave England until seven years later.
     In 1677 and 1678 five other vessels with 800 emigrants, mostly Quakers, arrived. A large number disembarked at Raccoon Creek near Swedesboro and others proceeded farther north and settled at Burlington, originally called Beverly, then Budlington, and finally Burlington. Friends Meetings were held in Burlington in 1677 in tents. A Quaker Meeting House was built in Salem in 1680, and in Burlington in 1682. At this point proprietary interests in West Jersey were to a large extent in Quaker hands.
     The type of government which developed in all of New Jersey was extremely liberal. In fact it was considered later by the Crown of England to be revolutionary. The capital of West Jersey was fixed at Burlington, and an Assembly was convened there in 1681. These early New Jersey colonial governments, asserted, 100 years before the American Revolution, substantially the same principle of sovereignty of the people themselves, which was later set forth in the Declaration of Independence.

The Origin of Gloucester County
     It was during this period of relatively independent existence from about 1680 to about 1702 that the local units of government in Gloucester County were created. The County is the only one of the State, and is among few in the entire United States, which originated directly in action of its own freeholders and inhabitants -- it was not created by the provisional government of West Jersey.
     Gloucester County began its existence on May 28, 1686 with a meeting of its proprietors, freeholders and inhabitants who formally decided to organize a government and to establish a "Constitution of Gloucester County." The colonial legislature which had been meeting at Burlington was not in session at the time and did nothing whatever either to authorize the creation of the County or to interfere with its existence after it was organized. In 1692 the legislature recognized formally the existence of Gloucester County as a separate entity.
     The County seat was at the City of Gloucester until moved to Woodbury during or about the time of the Revolutionary War. The first court was held in Hugg's Tavern in Gloucester. Betsy Ross was later married in that Tavern. The building stood in Gloucester County until about 1933. [The fireplace of that tavern, can be found at the Gloucester County Historical Society].
     Gloucester County for many years extended entirely across the State and included all of Atlantic County and all of Camden County. The territory now in Atlantic County was not separated from Gloucester County until 1837 which was 151 years after the founding of Gloucester County. Camden County was not created until 1844.


The inhabitants of the County of Gloucester, in New-Jersey, May 18th 1775, having elected Robert Friend Price, John Hinchman, John Cooper, Elijah Clark, Joseph Ellis, John Sparks, and Joseph Hugg, or any three of them, to represent them in the Provincial Conventions, to be held at Trenton on the 23d of this instant, do unanimously instruct them in the manner following. [n. p. 1775].

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor. [The text is from the circular sent to Lieut. Col. William De Hart, of the Second New Jersey Regiment, who was assigned to Bergen County. The letter is in the writing of Robert Hanson Harrison and is from a photostat kindly furnished by Julian F. Thompson, of Bridgeport, Conn. The circular was sent also to Col. Matthias Ogden, of the First New Jersey Regiment, who was assigned to Essex County; Col. Richard Butler, of the Ninth Pennsylvania Regiment, assigned to Hunterdon; Col. Israel Shreve, of the Second New Jersey Regiment, to Burlington; Lieut. Col. Francis Barber, of the Fifth New Jersey Regiment, to Gloucester; Lieut. Col. Edward Carrington, of the First Continental Artillery, to Sussex; Lieut. Col. Caleb North, of the Ninth Pennsylvania Regiment, to Monmouth; Lieut. Col. Isaac Sherman, of the Fourth Connecticut Regiment, to Middlesex; Maj. Henry Lee, of the Partisan Light Dragoons, to Salem, Cumberland, and Cape May; and Maj. Daniel Platt, of the Fourth New Jersey Regiment, to Somerset.] USE THE SEARCH ENGINE LINK above, and search for one of the names mentioned above.

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 3
J. Adams to the President of Congress. Paris, May 9, 1780. John Adams proposes:
"Thirdly. That all the country from the Connecticut to the river Delaware, containing the whole of New York, Long Island, and the Jerseys, with some parts of two other provinces indenting with them, shall return to Great Britain. " [To see this document in its entirety, visit "American Memory" and search for the words "shall return to Great Britain." The first document will be this one].

Map showing boundaries of West and East Jersey, circa 1780

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 18 March 1, 1781 - August 31, 1781 --Abraham Clark to Elias Dayton [mentions Joseph Hugg, John Cooper]

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 3g Varick Transcripts; George Washington, November 4, 1781, General Orders [mentions Lieut. John Blair, of the First New Jersey Regiment and the pardoning of George Leadbetter, of the Jersey Brigade, Condemned to suffer Death by the sentence of a General Court Martial of their respective Lines]

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 19 August 1, 1782 - March 11, 1783 --Abraham Clark to Joseph Cooper

Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 21 October 1, 1783 - October 31, 1784
John Beatty to Israel Shreve [of Gloucester County]

Address of the Republican committee of the County of Gloucester, New-Jersey ... Gloucester County, December 15, 1800. [mentions Gloucester Co. residents: Mathew Gill, Thomas Carpenter, John Miller, John Blackwood; candidates of the 7th congress: WILLIAM HELMS, of Suffex. JAMES MOTT, of Monmouth; EBENEZER ELMORE, of Cumberland; HENRY SOUTHARD, of Somerset and and JOHN CONDIT, of Essex; signed by JAMES SLOAN, Chairman and JOHN EVAUL, Secretary.

Draft of roads in New Jersey (1777) - image shows roads of Camden and Gloucester counties, New Jersey; Described in Samuel S. Smith's The fight for the Delaware, under the title Route the Hessians took from Coopers Ferry to Red Bank. [GIF file]

George Washington to Israel Shreve, May 23, 1778

West-Jersey Dragoons A few more able bodied men are required to fill up Capt. Step. Goldsmit's Company---"A" West Jersey Dragoons. [Poster 1864] Civil War

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REVWAR '75 - transcriptions of Orderly books and many other resources online.

Heritage Glass Museum -

South Jersey Glass

From Ships to Soup
More about South Jersey Glass

Founding Fathers - New Jersey

South Jersey Heritage: A Social, Economic and Cultural History (book online) - R. Craig Koedel
[link dead on 2/8/05]

Tinicum Lighthouse in Paulsboro, N.J.

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