Amusement Center of the East Coast-an oil painting by Frank Morrow, III
Thousands of visitors came to Gloucester City during the 1890's. Between the racetrack and "The Beachfront" it was probably the largest amusement center on the East coast.
The Gloucester racetrack was opened on Labor Day, September 1, 1890. The first race was won by a horse named "Gloster" with Willie McDermott the jockey. Three years later, on Thanksgiving Day, 1893, the track closed. Over 15,000 people were betting everything they had on this last day of racing in this town.
"The Beachfront" popularity began several years earlier when excursion boats docked at several ferry slips along the river, bringing thousands of visitors from Philadelphia every day. Probably one of the earlier popular "stops" was the Haines Hotel (Hugg's Tavern) where hungry visitors could partake of hot waffles and hot fishcakes and then ride the elevated serpentine railroad.
Soon after "Billy" Thompson built his hotel on the south side of 3rd Street at the riverfront (1872) he opened up another excursion company, bringing even greater numbers of people to enjoy a variety of pleasant activities. The thousands of visitors could spend all day on the beach and in the water and all evening strolling along the boardwalk. Here they could stop at the numerous saloons or try their luck at the gambling bazaars. Some preferred the gaiety of the hotels with their famous planked shad dinners.Others took in the burlesque shows and the beer gardens, Strolling the walk from the ferry to the creek,one could meet many celebrities, writers, ballplayers, show people, boxers, and royalty.
That was the day of The Beachfront in Gloucester City, a resident population of 6,000 and a floating population reaching at times to as many as 20,000.
John H. Corcoran
Along the Gloucester Beachfront in 1886 were Thompson's Hotel, the Gambling Casino, Frank Fath's Burlesque, the handball court, Bill Guy's Pavilion, McGlade's Hotel, Haggerty's Place and Interno's. Upper right insert shows Thompson's Hotel; lower left shows hauling in shad; lower right portrays setting the seine.
Pastimes of Colonists
For nearly 300 years, from the coming of the Dutch to the closing of Washington Park, Gloucester served the recreational needs of people living on both sides of the Delaware River. Even today Philadelphians come to Gloucester City to patronize various local establishments. For years people came to make use of Gloucester's natural attributes: sandy beach, fish and game, mineral springs, beach. As these became more difficult to find because of the growth of the area, those seeking recreation turned to man-made facilities: taverns, racetrack, athletic fields.
Writers of the eighteenth century praised Gloucester Town's natural beauty and rural qualities. Many people came from Philadelphia and inland settlements of West Jersey to take advantage of Gloucester's offerings. Farm families would climb aboard a wagon, come to Gloucester's beach, and spend the day fishing. It was a day of relaxation from the back-breaking work of the farm, but it was also a way to survive a long winter. The many fish caught were preserved in various way to supply the family with food for months, perhaps a year. The several kinds of wild berries were the objective of numerous berrying parties. Philadelphians would cross the river to spend a day picking them. Some were eaten fresh with cream; some were made into preserves, jams, and jellies; some became local wines or brandies. Gloucester Town was also the ideal place for a picnic with its sandy beach, groves, of trees, and pleasant climate.
Because of the location of Gloucester Town, summer breezes, which come mainly from the southwest, were cooled by the river. When the city became unbearably hot and the odors began to stifle, people would head for the beach to be refreshed by the cool breezes. It was quite easy to row or to sail across the river, beach the boat, and spend a few hours in pursuit of favorite pleasure: fish, hunt, pick berries, swim, walk, drink of the mineral water, eat or whatever.
Before long, a few residents saw the possibility of turning these natural attractions into a profitable business. A few opened taverns and inns; some harvested, hunted, trapped, or fished and then sold their products; some went into the business of transporting people and goods. However, the popularity of informal recreation eventually gave way to organized activities. Gloucester Town then went through a period of clubs-mainly hunting and fishing. This period spanned two centuries, the latter part of the eighteenth and the early part of the nineteenth. This type of recreation is still popular in Gloucester City and there are a number of well-organized groups functioning for various purposes.
One important attraction in Old Gloucester was the chalybeate spring where a small health resort developed. Many people came to the spring to drink and to bathe because the mineral water was considered healthful. The Reverend Nathaniel Evans, an Episcopalian rector in the county from 1765-1767, wrote a poem about the spring, which he had visited when he held services in Gloucester Town.
"Morning Invitation to Two Young Ladies at the Gloucester Spring"
Sequester'd from the city's noise,
There innocence and mirth resort,
There are Aurora's rural sweets-
(The poet was born in 1742 in Philadelphia. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he studied for the ministry in England. He returned to America in 1763 and became rector of St. Mary's in Colestown, the mother church of other South Jersey Episcopal churches. He died in 1767.)
The Fox Hunt (Inset page 124)
The fox from covert insecure
On May 7, 1767, the following advertisement appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette:
The Chalybeate Waters, near Gloucester, having acquired great esteem, and having been much frequented, many persons, who gave them a regular trial having found very singular and salutary effects from them; it is expected, as the excellent virtues of these springs become more known, many will be desirous to be convenient where they can have frequent and easy access to them, every morning and evening, which will be necessary, as the waters drank at the spring are found to be much more efficacious. And as many were prevented from attending them regularly last season, from the difficulty of getting good and convenient house in Gloucester, very pleasantly situate, with six good lodging rooms on the first floor, and will entertain those who are pleased to favor him, on very low and reasonable terms.
Hunting and Fishing Clubs
The natural pleasures of old Gloucester Town could be enjoyed by all people regardless of social rank or economic level. However, the gentlemen of the period were not satisfied with the simple recreation afforded by picnics and berry picking. Being among the "landed gentry," the professions, or businessmen allowed them more leisure time than the working farmers of Gloucester County had. Many of them had been born in Great Britain and had brought with them the social interests of the upper class. Here they could pursue these interests even though they were not on the same level as those they admired from a distance in the homeland. From these two factors the "Club" was created.
In the early 1700's people, individually and in small groups, had ridden to the hounds or gone fox hunting. A few were involved for the sport but many rode because the fox was a menace to farmers. The animal would eat the farmer's grain and poultry. Consequently most farmers were grateful for help in ridding the rural areas of this nuisance. The fox hunter was welcomed from fall harvest in October to spring planting in April. Frequently farmers would assist in various ways: join the chase, help tracking or spotting, or dig out the burrows.
According to available information, the first organized Fox Hunting Club in America operated in Gloucester County and used Hugg's Tavern as its base. Actually the club was organized at the Philadelphia Coffee-House on the southwest corner of Front and Market streets by a number of sportsmen in 1766. The 28 men who founded the club held their business meetings in Philadelphia and used Hugg's Tavern as headquarters for their hunt.
Following a hearty breakfast at Hugg's, the men would mount up and proceed to the place where foxes had been sighted. Hunts usually occurred at Cooper's Creek, four miles from Gloucester; at the Horseheads, seven miles away; at Chew's Landing, nine miles; at Blackwood Town, twelve miles, at Heston's Glassworks, twenty miles distant; and Thompson's Point on the Delaware, many miles south. The hunts lasted from a rapidly moving one or two to ten hours and were known to have gone as far as Mount Holly and Salem. Occasionally a hunt would be planned to go to Egg Harbor to provide a change of scene and a chance to shoot small game. When the hunt was over, the men would return to the inn for dinner and lively discussion of the day's happenings.
A hunting uniform was adopted by the Fox Hunting Club in 1774. It was
a dark brown cloth coat with lapeled dragoon pockets, white buttons, and
frock sleeves; a buff waistcoat and breeches and a black velvet cap. The
members were easily identified as they rode over the fields and through
the woods of Gloucester County with their pack of 32 hounds.
The club temporarily suspended operations from 1776-1777 while many of them served under Washington during the British occupation of the southern portion of the Delaware River area. On September 18, 1778, the group reconvened and paid off debts that had built up over the two years. By this time the club had accumulated 22 dogs and 10 six-month-old pups. For about 30 years the club flourished. Among the members from West Jersey were General F. Davenport, John Lawrence, Captain James B. Cooper, Captain Samuel Whitall, Colonel Heston, Colonel Joshua Howell, Samuel Harrison, and Jesse Smith.
During its approximately 50 years, the Fox hunting Club had only two men serve at guide and whipper in. In 1769 the club obtained the services of Old Natty, Mr. Morris' black slave, for a salary to be applied to his purchase price and his apparel. When he became a freedman, he was installed as Knight of the Whip and allowed 50 pounds per year, a house, a horse, and an assistant. This gray-haired black man became well known and was respected by the residents and loved by the children of Gloucester Town. After Natty's death in 1796, Jonas Cattell took over the responsibilities. Jonas served as guide and whipper in until the club was disbanded in 1818.
Among the more notable members from Philadelphia were Samuel Morris, governor of the Schuylkill Fishing Company; Robert Wharton, a mayor of Philadelphia; Robert Morris, banker and treasurer for the Continental Congress; John Cadwalader, Charles Willing, Trench Francis, Benjamin Chew, Thomas Mifflin, Joseph Wood, Samuel Caldwell, Thomas Lawrence, John Dickinson, General Wilkinson, and Andrew Hamilton.
Samuel Morris served as president of the club from 1778 until his death in 1812. When Captain Charles Ross, the last master-spirit, died in 1818, the members who were still active decided to disband. President Wharton dispersed the dogs throughout West Jersey and the services of Jonas Cattell and Cupid, a black assistant, were terminated. The Fox Hunting Club died but the First City Troop, organized by some members of the club, functions today in the city of Philadelphia. Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunt Club, a book by William Wilner, was published in 1830 and contained a detailed account of the club's personalities and activities.
With the demise of the Fox Hunting Club came the rise of fishing clubs. There has been for some time a dispute over the exact date of the organization of the first fishing club, but a careful, close check of the available data would indicate that 1828 is accepted by the majority of local historians. In that year the Fish House Company, later called the Williamson Fishing Club and finally the Prospect Hill Association, was organized.
According to George P. Little's writings, "Originally the Fish
House Company was organized by some old Waltonians, who, during the
summer months, met semi-weekly under the large sycamore trees that once
lined the shore of the Delaware, from Newton Creek to Timber Creek.
Chief among those veterans in handling the rod and frying pan was Jesse
Williamson, and in organizing a club in 1838, it was called the
Williamson Fishing Club, and, at his request, on the erection of the
present house, the name was changed to the Prospect Hill
However, considerable evidence points to the 1828 date for the formation of the fishing club. During that year a house was built on Prospect Hill overlooking the mouth of Timber Creek to the south. In 1838 the house was replaced with a bigger and better one and the name of the club was changed. Apparently this caused the confusion of the dates. Another club called the Fish House Club organized in 1839 and the similarity of names surely contributed to the problem also.
A two story club house provided the meeting spot for the members of the Prospect Hill Association. Meeting twice a month from May to October, the men would fish, socialize, and eat. According to accounts of the meetings, the members consumed vast amounts of food which they prepared themselves and accompanied the tasty dishes with the appropriate liquid refreshments. Perhaps a more accurate description of the fishing club would be to call it an eating and drinking club.
Among the members of the association during its years of activity were President and Captain E. J. Hinchen (of the Philadelphia Sunday Dispatch), Benjamin Franklin, George W. Wharton, William F. Hughes, Benjamin Allen, and others. Membership was restricted to 30; and since many of the gentlemen lived very long lives, there were seldom openings for new members. A penalty was incurred if a member missed a regular meeting but this did not happen very often. For example, Mr. Hinchen, club leader, did not miss a meeting in the 32 years of his membership.
John B. Rice, William J.Young, and William F. Hughes (all of Philadelphia) rented a part of the Clark Fishery land from Joseph Howell and William Hugg in October of 1839. The rental was to last for nine years at $40 per year for the ground. They were given permission to build an ice house there which was much more than the typical ice house. The club house was built on the beach just below Charles Street. The building was torn down in 1916 when Pusey and Jones Company was constructed. The Fish House Club had provided recreation and relaxation for the gentlemen of Philadelphia for many years.
Many workers at the fisheries and the fishing clubs had homes along
the Delaware River.
Other clubs and individuals also built houses along the shore. During the summer months clubs and families with their friends would come to the houses from Philadelphia for a day's fishing. Many families used the boat houses as summer cottages as people use homes in Ocean City, Brigantine, and other shore points today. At one time nearly 100 of these houses lined the shore north of Hitchner's Surf House. The Philadelphians who owned the houses also held regattas on the river along a 16 mile course from the Point to the Block House and back. During the races the sails were in constant view from the Point and people enthusiastically cheered on their favorites.
Fishing and boating were so popular among residents, permanent and temporary, and visitors that several large hotels opened to accommodate those who did not own houses here. By the 1880's seven hotels were operating with full houses most of the fishing season. The hotels were the Buena Vista, the Surf House, Thompson's, Fath's, Haggerty's, McGlade's, and Costello's. It was during this period that planked shad dinners became an attraction for epicureans to visit Gloucester.
The next popular club in Gloucester City was the bicycle club. Membership was rather exclusive, somewhat like belonging to a country club today, and was limited to the more well-to-do residents who were also excellent bicyclists. With the payment of annual dues of one dollar, a member received a by-laws book, an emblem to sew onto a sweater and one to attach to the bicycle, and a membership card to show your affiliation. Being a member permitted you to participate in the regular rides taken by the club. Usually the distance of an organized ride was 10 miles.
During the early 1890's three men achieved a degree of fame as bicycle racers: Joe and George Van Hest and Bill Lanagan. Once the three built a bicycle built for three and set the pace for a racer who was trying to establish a record for the ride from Camden to Atlantic City. Bicycle races were held on a track built by James Foster near his hotel in the Highland Park section of town. Bill Lanagan frequently raced on that track.
Today Gloucester City still has many clubs but there is considerable variety to satisfy every interest possible.Those interested in sports, fraternal, veteran, or service organizations can find others with the same interest. These organizations and their members have contributed much to making the city a better place to live.
Inns and Taverns
Over the nearly 300 years of Gloucester's history as a permanent settlement, residents, visitors, and travelers passing through have been able to find adequate refreshment in local establishments. In the earliest years, family dwellings became ordinaries or public houses by petitioning the county court and being granted a license. Laws were passed by the Duke of York and later by the General Assembly of West Jersey to regulate such establishments.Conducting business at various points along routes of travel or in the larger villages was a relatively good way to earn a living.
Although there were probably public houses in Gloucester Town from 1686 or before, the first recorded license was granted to Matthew Medcalfe in December 1692. The record stated "Upon the Request of (torn) George Webb and Math. Medcalfe for their keeping Ordinarys or houses of entertainment within the Town of Gloucester the same is granted and ye Clerk ordered (torn) them of ye evidence they paying (torn) five shillings to Ye Cort and half a Crown specie to ye Clerk for writing their Lycences." According to many historians the name of Mary Spey was recorded at this time and probably appeared on one of the missing pieces.
These licensed tavern keepers had to uphold standards known as the Duke of York's Laws. Each tavern had to be licensed by two Justices of the Peace in addition to the local authorities. The tavern had to be provided at all times with "strong and wholesome beer of a strength of four bushels of malt to the hogshead." Tavern keeper shad to make sure that no one drank to excess and had to stop selling liquor at 9 p.m. One strange part of the law set the price of beer sold out-of-doors at 1/2 the price charged indoors.
Apparently there was some problem with drunkards during those early years. The General Assembly passed a law in 1683 to set the minimum punishment for drunkards. Anyone found guilty of public drunkenness was fined three shillings and four pence or five hours in the stocks. Repeat offenders or particularly troublesome drunkards could and did receive heavier fines or harsher punishment.
Petitioners for tavern licenses also had to post a bond with the clerk of the court. The earliest known document of this kind in West Jersey was a bond filed by Thomas Norrice on July 13, 1698. Probably Mr. Norrice was petitioning to keep an ordinary previously operated by Mr. Medcalfe, who had become sheriff of the county. In 1731, Mary Spey (Spay) and Captain Richard Wheeldon offered her dwelling house in Gloucester with the stables, orchard, pasture,"ferry flatts," and boats for rent.
The most historic tavern in Old Gloucester County was Hugg's Tavern, constructed in 1720-1721 by Joseph Hugg. Mr. Hugg then began the operation of an inn which was used for nearly 200 years. The inn was operated under other names over the years-Sign of the Ship, Old Brick Tavern, and later the Surf House.The inn was torn down in 1927 to construct the facilities at the Camden County Park. The role played by the tavern during the years Gloucester Town was the county seat and the British occupation has been covered in other chapters of the book. As the headquarters for the Fox Hunt Club, host to the Council of Proprietors during their annual meeting in Gloucester Town, and waiting house for the ferry, Hugg's Tavern was the only tavern to survive the slow, quiet years from 1786 to 1860.
Facsimile of Elizabeth Griscom (Betsy Ross) marriage document (Inset on page 128)
Tavern Fare (Inset page 129)
One night's lodging 3 pence
(These were the listed prices at Hugg's Tavern when William Hugg's license was renewed in 1770.)
Travelers coming from any direction into Gloucester Town from 1760 to 1800 could find refreshment or overnight accommodations at one of the five taverns licensed. Arriving after riding any distance over rough, rutty roads in a coach which rested only on two leather straps suspended between the fore and aft axles, a traveler was stiff and aching. The riders usually required someone to give them support until their legs regained proper circulation. Therefore, one employee of most inns was a "supporter." Others were stablemen, lackeys, and hostlers. The newspapers of the day frequently carried help wanted ads like the following which appeared on December 4, 1769: "An Hostler, That gets drunk no more than 12 times a year will bring with him a good Recommendation, is wanted. Such person will meet with encouragement by applying to H. Gaines."
Arriving from the north by crossing the bridge over Newton Creek, a person's first stop was Gerrard's Tavern. This tavern at the toll bridge was opened by William Gerrard in 1763 and was used as headquarters for Hessian officers who established an outpost at the bridge during the occupation of Gloucester.
Coming from the east from Haddonfield, a traveler could stop at a
tavern on what is now the northwest corner of Black Horse Pike and
King's Highway. This tavern apparently was built as a private dwelling
by Ephraim Albertson. Although it was a tavern before and during the
Revolutionary War, the first known licensee was Charles Ogden, who
obtained a license annually from 1799 to 1805. According to a notice in
the Village Herald on October 25, 1825, this establishment was still in
The lovers of Field Sports are informed that the subscriber will let out on THURSDAY, the 3d. of November next, from the Hotel at Mt. Ephraim, a DEER. The chase will commence at 10 o'clock A.M. Gentlemen are invited to join in the hunt; and those having good Hound Dogs, are requested to bring them along.
Entering Gloucester Town from Woodbury, weary travelers were welcomed at the Buck Tavern, located south of Big Timber Creek in what is today Westville. The earliest known licensee was Matthew West, who operated the tavern from 1788 as the Sign of the Buck or Buck Tavern. While attending the Woodbury Academy to study navigation, Stephen Decatur, a naval hero, lived with the West family at the tavern.
If traveling from the east using Gloucester Road, a likely spot for a
rest and refreshments was Two Tuns Tavern just south of the bridge over
Little Timber Creek (Brooklawn). The first petition for licensing of
this tavern was filed in 1737 by Enoch Ellison. Mr. Ellison renewed his
license until 1745 and his widow took over. She renamed it the Cooper's
Arm Tavern and operated it for two years. After being closed for a few
years, it was reopened from 1752 to 1759 by John Heritage. Robert
During the Revolutionary War the tavern was called "Aunty High-Cap" and was a favorite drinking spot for British officers and sailors during the occupation. It would seem the name was derived from the head gear of Desire Sparks, Robert's widow who operated the tavern during those years. The following story includes one explanation offered for the name of the tavern:
"In this locality was a tavern, called the Two Tuns, which was
kept during the Revolution by an old lady known as Aunty High-Cap, from
the headgear she wore. Here the British officers were wont to assemble
and regale themselves with the rum the old lady dispensed, having little
fear of attack or disturbance by the Americans. This over-confidence
lead to the death of one of their number, who was shot by a patriot more
than a third of a mile from the house, and whose presence
The tavern was abandoned in 1830 when the direction of the road was altered.
One other tavern is frequently mentioned in the history of this period even though it was not in Gloucester Town. On King's Highway in the village of Clarksboro was the Death of the Fox Tavern, operated by William Sailer. The Fox Hunting Club took the dogs from Hugg's Tavern to this inn to begin the hunt. Watching the hunters leave from this tavern supposedly inspired the poem "The Fox Hunt." The writing of this poem has been accredited to John Cooper of Woodbury.
Photo caption page 130
(COUNTERCLOCKWISE) The Buena Vista was the oldest and most popular, among the residents, of the 1890 hotels. Thompson's Hotel was close to the river as this winter photo indicates. The Mansion House is the only one of the famous hotels still standing. The trolley line ran past it. Crusoe Cottage is shown as it was in 1895. Many other residents converted large store front houses into boarding houses to accommodate those who could not afford the large hotels.
By 1784 there were 30 licensed taverns in Gloucester County. This was partially because almost anyone who had served in the Revolutionary War could obtain a license. During that year the residents of Greenwich Township, Gloucester County, became alarmed at the number of taverns. They signed a petition of complaint against any additional licenses being issued. The petition stated "that the Number now are Sufficient for the Uses for which they are instituted, that any more May be of Great Disadvantage to Sundry of the Near Inhabitants Who are apt to frequent such Places to the Poverishment of Themselves and familys."
Many taverns did close after 1800 and the next period of rapid growth in Gloucester was from 1870 to 1900. During those years between the two major resort periods two local establishments continued operations for residents and visitors. In addition to Hugg's Tavern, the Buena Vista Hotel attracted Philadelphians and many others. An advertisement in 1849 in a Philadelphia paper encouraged business with "excellent accommodations and cool breezes off the Delaware." However, the fame and popularity of the Buena Vista really developed after it was leased by William Thompson in 1870.
One attraction of the Buena Vista's was the planked shad dinner which could be obtained for fifty cents. For just one dollar a complete dinner could be purchased. The dinner included 1/2 a five pound shad, spring onions, fresh asparagus, radishes, hot waffles, bread and butter, coffee, and fresh strawberries with cream. Another attraction was the free concerts given nightly at the bandstand in front of the hotel. During the hot summer months, strolling through the gardens and listening to the music while enjoying the cool breezes off the river was a refreshing and relaxing way to spend an evening.
Planked Shad Recipe (Inset page 131)
Select a hickory or white-oak plank which is 2 1/2 inches thick. Heat until it is ready to burn. Place on the plank a "roe shad" which has been freshly caught, split down the back, and seasoned. Put this in front of a fire of coals. It takes from one-half to three-quarters of an hour to cook properly. The fire will cook the top half of the fish and the plank will cook the bottom half. This process preserves the aroma and juices. Serve the fish with new potatoes, fresh green peas, asparagus, and waffles. A good wine, for those who like it, will complete the meal fit for any epicure.
Many famous people of the period came to the Buena Vista. Walt Whitman, the "gray poet" who was residing in Camden, was a frequent visitor. He would sit on the porch of the hotel and entertain guests with his poetry and stories. He was often treated to a shad dinner by Mr. Thompson and later operators of the hotel. Other patrons included "Buffalo Bill" Cody; John L. Sullivan and William Muldoon, fighters; Jay Gould and son George, financiers; John MacCullough, actor; Charles A. Dana, newspaper editor; Colonel Sim, Tony Drexel, George W. Childs, Colonel Alex McClure. Charles T. Collins and many others.
Among the more notable foreign visitors to Gloucester during the "great resort period" were Premier MacDonald of Canada, Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston's father, and the Earl of Yarmouth. The people of the city were quite awed when the Earl's $200,000 yacht sailed up the river and anchored off Gloucester Beach. The Earl came ashore to eat the world famous planked shad and then left as suddenly as he had arrived.
Probably the largest single group to come to Gloucester for a shad dinner was 300 businessmen from New York. The men traveled by train to Philadelphia and then to Gloucester aboard the Sylvan Dell. A brass band was employed to entertain them on the ferry ride and dinner was served at Thompson's Hotel.
Planked shad was not a new dish to Gloucesterites. Actually it had even been mentioned in Sarah Bull's will in 1742. Two women were noted for serving planked shad. "Aunt Polly" Powell would sometimes serve the fish to the various fishing parties who came to town. Mrs. Willis, who ran the "Old Brick" ferryhouse, occasionally served shad to her guests. When her husband died, she leased the Buena Vista. Among her guests who enjoyed planked shad was Philadelphia detective Ben Franklin, grandson of the very famous Ben. Her son Daniel also served the fish dish at the Buena Vista and later at the Lazaretto. Among those who came to Gloucester to sample planked shad were President Grover Cleveland, United States judges, Congressmen, and department heads; state governors and legislators; county and municipal officials; and military and naval heroes.
Hugg's Tavern (called the Jefferson Park Hotel in the early '90's), the Buena Vista, and Thompson's hotels are gone now, but one establishment of the period remains in Gloucester. The first mention of the Mansion House appears in an 1886 directory of Camden and Gloucester County. According to the directory, James McGlade was the proprietor of the hotel located at Jersey Avenue and Ferry Street. Local records list a saloon license issued to Mr. McGlade in 1884 but the location of the saloon is not recorded. The Mansion House catered to the family trade as an excursion pavillion. This historic landmark is still a part of the Gloucester scene and should be preserved as one of the very few remaining historical sites in the city.
In 1890 Mr. McGlade leased the Mansion House to a Philadelphian and built a new hotel on 6th Street near Charles. The Crusoe Cottage, as the hotel was named, was located near the newly developed baseball fields in Pine Grove and did tremendous business during the baseball season. Records seem to indicate that John O'Donnell was a partner of McGlade's in this establishment.
There were several hotels in Gloucester during the fifty years from
1860 to 1910. Thomas McBride's hotel on King Street, John Plum's hotel
which was built to give Thompson's some competition, and the Highland
Park Hotel which is now a two-house dwelling next to the firehouse on
Highland Boulevard were among the many lesser known hotels which catered
to visitors when Gloucester City was known as the "Poor Man's
Atlantic City or Cape May." Others included the Pine Grove
For about 40 years Gloucester and the surrounding area was a major amusement center on the East Coast. All classes and types of people came to the city for the variety of activities offered. Anyone interested in sporting events, gambling, drinking, music, swimming, picnicking, or other forms of entertainment could find a plentiful supply of activities and facilities.
Individuals, families, or groups would pack a picnic lunch and spend the day at Gloucester Beach. The wide sandy beach and the cool, clean Delaware River were a great combination on a hot summer day. In the evening there was a wide choice of entertainment from free concerts to an assortment of unusual attractions at establishments along the riverfront.
For ten cents a person could see a "live mermaid" in one of
the stores on King Street. Actually the mermaid was "Snapper"
Garrison, who was made up and swam in a large tank. Of the many beach
performers, perhaps the best known was Paul Boynton, the man who could
walk on water. His daily "walking on the Delaware"
Gambling houses were as abundant as the arcades on the boardwalk at Wildwood. Paddle Wheel was the most popular game. The typical wheel with numbers on it was the instrument used but the matching numbers were printed on paddles which the bettors held. Bets could also be made on cock fights, dog fights, bicycle races, horse-flat and trotting-races, and any number of things-most of which were illegal.
The circus made regular visits to Gloucester whenever it was in the Philadelphia area. It was very easy to transport animals and performers to town on the ferry. Usually this was an exciting, happy time in Gloucester. One performance did end on a sad note when the elephants, returning by ferry to South Philadelphia, stampeded, fell into the Delaware, and drowned. The event was somewhat ironic because one of the stunts in the elephant act was swimming in deep water. However, the loss was apparently due to the fact that the elephants had been chained together and consequently could not swim.
The circus can no longer come to Gloucester City because some years ago the City Council passed an ordinance to prohibit them. When the Rotary Club decided to sponsor the Mills Brothers Three Ring Circus as its annual fund-raising project in 1952, the circus had to set up on Crescent Boulevard and Browning Lane.
For the residents of Gloucester the most exciting days were the engagements played here by the Wild West Show. Comanche Bill's Wild West Show had combined with Pawnee Bill's Historical Wild West Show and gave two shows daily at the Baseball Park on Charles Street. The members of the show established a cowboy and Indian encampment in the Pine Grove section. One of the performers attracted people for miles around. Because of her being an expert rifle shot, the Indians called the "Little Sure Shot," but she was better known as Annie Oakley.
The baseball park was also the scene of very daring events in 1889. Each week Professor Charles A. Kimzel, who had been a member of the German Army Airship Corps, made balloon ascensions. The balloon was 60 feet high and 38 feet in diameter. It was capable of reaching heights of 5000 feet.
However, this period had another phase to it. It was during the 1890's that the racetrack controversy burst upon Gloucester. Until 1890, race tracks were illegal in New Jersey. Then the state legislature passed laws permitting the construction and operation of race tracks. Within a few months there were five tracks in the state-Monmouth, Guttenberg, Clifton, Linden, and Gloucester.
William Thompson built the Gloucester Race Track on Charles Street. The track opened on Labor Day, 1890. With jockey Willie McDermott aboard, Gloucester won the first race. Charles Gould, who lived in the 500 block of Market Street,was the grounds keeper. In the slightly more than two years the track operated, Mr. Gould missed only one day of getting the track opened. It seems there was too much ice to remove from the track.
For a time, betting at the track was illegal because a state law classified betting booths as disorderly houses. In 1891 a bill was introduced to eliminate the booths from the list. The governor vetoed the bill. Three bills favoring race tracks passed the state legislature in 1893. One permitted county and municipal authorities to license tracks within their limits. A second said that race tracks which permitted betting were not disorderly houses. The third provided only light fines for those who violated the state's anti-gambling laws. These bills became law over the governor's veto. The next legislature, under considerable public pressure, abolished the racetracks.
William Thompson became a millionaire as the owner of the Gloucester
Race Track. Thousands paid the admission fee of 25¢ and bookmakers paid
from $75 to $200 each to obtain the right to take bets at the track.The
races were so popular that the Sylvan Dell and Sylvan Glen made trips
every half hour from Pier 12 in Philadelphia to Thompson's Dock every
day, 365 days a year. Thompson's trolley line-the Camden, Gloucester,
Woodbury Street Railway-brought more race enthusiasts from north and
south of the town. Those patrons who came by train were driven to the
track in coaches operated by several companies. Dilworth's
Many people claimed the track was corrupt. One story told by local jockey Harry Black provided some proof of the charge. Eskimo, a horse past his prime racing days, was entered in a race but had to be "put into condition" to run. For days the trainers packed his legs in ice and then rubbed the horse down with alcohol and various liniments. On the day of the race, Eskimo's legs were soaked in chloroform, a pint of whiskey followed by a quart of hot coffee was poured down his throat, and a stimulant was given him by needle in his neck. The final encouragement was a burr placed under his saddle. Eskimo won the race.
Perhaps the most famous horse to run at the track was Sunday. The horse was so named because it was born on that day, which seemed to be the key to his fate. Sunday won his first race on a Sunday and finally died on a Sunday. A grand funeral was held for the horse and Sunday was buried in the homestretch of Gloucester Race Track.
The amount of money exchanging hands attracted the attention of the criminal element. Gambling in all forms, some not exactly on the up-on-up, became a major activity. Gamblers seemed to be everywhere. If a person were fortunate enough to leave the track with money in his pockets, he would probably go home empty-handed, having lost his winning at one or another form of gambling available. There were also constant problems with muggings and thefts. The small local police force faced an enormous task of maintaining some semblance of law and order.
An outraged public elected an anti-gambling legislature and Gloucester Race Track and other gambling houses were forced to close. The last race was run on Thanksgiving Day, 1893, but the notorious reputation the town had gotten was not so easily forgotten. Many still look upon Gloucester as the tough-as-nails drinking town where anything goes and drunken brawls make it impossible to walk the streets at night. The period when Gloucester was a "wide open" town lasted only a few years but the city has suffered from the hangover for more than 80 years.
The race track spawned other enterprises. In the spring of 1891,
trotting races were run at the Cloverdale Race Track in the Highland
Park section of town. Horse raising and training became an important
business in the area. Dick Liddil (Liddle, Little), a former member of
the James Brothers' Gang, owned a farm at Market Street and King's
Highway where he trained horses. Frank James occasionally came to
Gloucester to visit his old friend Dick who had left the gang and had
With the closing of the race track, William Thompson concentrated his energies on the development of a vast amusement park. By trickery he obtained 600 acres of land in present day Westville. Mr. Thompson then proceeded to build Washington Park, which extended for two miles along the Delaware River on 450 acres of woodland and 150 acres of open fields. Within its boundaries were amusements, restaurants, picnic groves, a lake, and many other attractions. After a year and a half of construction, Washington Park opened on Memorial Day, 1895.
Visitors to Washington Park were provided excellent transportation,
usually via Mr. Thompson's ferry or trolley. In order to accommodate the
excursion boats a 314 mile long pier was constructed. A trolley ran from
the dock to the park on one side of the pier and a scenic railway ran
along the other side. At the peak of the season it was necessary to
operate six boats: the Sylvan Dell, Pleasant Valley, Sylvan Glen,
Columbia (largest excursion boat on the river), Thomas Clyde, and
The park was expertly landscaped and a day could be spent just enjoying the beautiful flowers, shrubs, and trees. Picnic groves stretched along the riverfront with sufficient tables and benches for thousands of picnickers. There was also a 1 1/2 mile long lake (Howell's or Martha's Lake) to be enjoyed by visitors. Electric, steam, or naphtha launches, along with rowboats, canoes, and gondolas, could be rented for a cruise or a slow row.
For those who preferred not to pack lunches there were restaurants and cafes available in the park. The Howell Mansion was at the center of the park and Mr. Thompson converted the house into a cafe and restaurant. A two-story band pavillion which seated 1,000 persons could be seen from the second floor dining room. "Little Germany" was a special attraction in the park. It was a miniature village and coffee house where imported beers and German food was served. Various foods, such as clams, corn on the cob, hot dogs, and ice cream, could be purchased along the midway.
Running through the amusement rides area of the park was a half-mile-long cobblestone midway. On each side were the rides and refreshment stands. Billed as the world's largest Ferris wheel-a 10 cage, 20 passengers to a cage wheel which could be seen from any location in the park. The park also had had two merry-go-rounds, two scenic railways, a toboggan slide, and a shoot-the-chute. The chute was a very daring ride which shot a boat-like vehicle down an incline and across an artificial lake. Passengers were first loaded into the boats which had a captain to steer and then the boats were raised to the top of the ride by an elevator. After the boat completed its trip across the lake, it was returned by a cable.
Many of the attractions were performances by professional musicians and sportsmen who were well-known during the Gay 90's. The 60 piece Gilmore Band performed daily and was occasionally conducted by Victor Herbert. Also featured was the first all-ladies band to perform in the United States. Forty women were the instrumentalists and 22 were soloists. In addition to these two bands, all the popular bands of the day performed at the park. Even the great John Philip Sousa's band played an engagement at Washington Park.
Dunlap's Electric Fountain was a spectacular, unique attraction. One
advertisement described the fountain as "surpassing in grandeur
anything heretofore attempted, has been erected at enormous cost, for
the sole purpose of furnishing the visitors to the park a series of
spectacular surprises-beautiful beyond description-free
Surrounded by many rows of various types and colors of flowers and plants, the lighted water of the fountain would rise and fall in rhythmetic patterns. Then slowly the lights would dim and go out. Rising from the center of the fountain was a large glass-covered elevator. In the glass cylinder, living statues portrayed "Washington Crossing the Delaware." Several times the elevator would return underground and rise again with another portrayal of an historical painting. A great water display climaxed the nightly showing as beautifully lighted water was hurled 80 feet into the air.
The electric fountain also formed the background for performances of plays, such as Quo Vadis, The Fall of Pompeii, and The Battle of Manila. Fireworks displays and balloon ascensions rounded out the daily entertainment schedule.
The first motion picture house in South Jersey was built in the park. Using a high powered carbon light to project an image on celluloid film made it possible for viewers to see "moving" pictures. The Boer War Battles, the Philippine Battles and the Paris Exposition were among the films seen for the admission of ten cents.
The New Jersey National Guard made use of the drill field and rifle range in the park. At other times live pigeon shoots were held or visiting companies used the facilities. The ball fields seemed to be in constant use by professional, semi-pro, and local teams, plus picnickers who would "get up" games. A bicycle house which could hold 2,000 bicycles adjoined the 3/8 mile track where bicycle races were held.
Located on the river was the Natatorium, which included all the facilities of a private bath. This provided unusually sophisticated accommodations for visitors. Of course, there was also swimming available along the beachfront for those avid swimmers who could not find sufficient enjoyment otherwise.
William Jennings Bryan, a great lawyer-orator, spoke at Washington Park and a record for attendance at the park was established. It is claimed that on the day he lectured 100,000 people came to see and to hear him. Each year several days were set aside for children from poor families to use the park. Special attractions and special days were features of Washington Park.
Tragedy struck the park in 1909 when a fire broke out in the kitchen of the Howell Mansion. Since modern fire equipment was not available, the fire spread rapidly until the park was completely destroyed. Mr. Thompson rebuilt the park but turned management over to Oliver and Herbert Stetser because the Duke's health was failing. He was also planning a trip to Ireland. The park was hit by a second fire in 1913 and was closed forever. According to some historians, the Ferris wheel was dismantled and sent to Chicago, where it was reassembled for use at the World's Fair.
Mr. Thompson's series of financial losses caused him to sell the Mansion on King Street to the United States government in 1913 and move to the Berry Mansion at Monmouth and Burlington Streets. The end of an era had come.
Photo captions from pages 136 and 137
The Washington Park Pier was 1725 feet long.
GLOUCESTER'S MOST CONTROVERSIAL RESIDENT! (Inset pages 138-140)
If a "King of Controversy" were to be crowned, William J. Thompson would win Gloucester's election with practically no opposition. The power and influence of this man on the life of Gloucester City has probably had a more lasting effect than that of David S. Brown. His brilliant manipulation of men could have been used to make an outstanding positive contribution to the city. However, his abuse of this power created a reputation which, in the minds of many citizens, has not yet been eliminated. It would appear that the "Duke of Gloucester," was saint and sinner, hero and villain, friend and enemy to the residents of Gloucester City.
Born in County Derry, Ireland, on October 15, 1848, William Thompson came to the United States and finally to Gloucester by a series of circumstances which developed an uneducated boy of 13 into a well-known, monied influence peddler. William arrived in New York City as one among the many Irish immigrants during that period. Travelling to Boston, William found a job in a store. But as his record will show, this type of position would soon dissatisfy his ambition. Obtaining a job in a soda bottling establishment, William was put in charge of the works and left the job, all within a few months.
Returning to New York, William spent one year in that city before moving on to Philadelphia. The management of the Continental Hotel hired him to handle the billiard tables and later to manage the billiard room. Within six years of William's arrival in the United States, he had worked at a series of jobs and had learned a number of skills in addition to methods of handling people. A well-known Philadelphia restaurant owner, Captain Frank T. Osborne, hired William and soon gave him the complete responsibility for the operation of the restaurant. William remained at that job for two years.
Becoming a barkeeper in the American House on Sampson Street, William learned this skill in a few months. Now he was ready to strike out on his own. In 1869, Mr. Thompson opened The Hole in the Day, a hotel on Chestnut Street which became a favored spot for the politicians to spend recreational time. At the age of 21, William realized the dormant possibilities of Gloucester's becoming a great resort center. He moved across the river and got a job tending bar. Here he met and married Sara Sweeney in February of 1870.
On March 17, 1870, William Thompson leased the Buena Vista Hotel in Gloucester City. The era of the "Poor Man's Atlantic City" was begun. The rags-to-riches life of Gloucester's most famous (?) resident was also begun. Mr. Thompson was husband, father, businessman, politician, sportsman, gambler, manipulator, friend, enemy, benefactor, destroyer.
The Buena Vista soon became the most popular hotel-restaurant on the river and gained this fame basically from the planked shad dinners served there. William's talents as a host also attracted many celebrities and politicians of the day to the hotel. However, when the lease expired, the owners refused to renew the lease. This minor setback did not deter Mr. Thompson. He simply bought a piece of property next to the Buena Vista and built a new hotel-Thompson's Hotel.
About the same time, Mr. Thompson leased the shad fisheries still in business along the Delaware. Within five years of his first Gloucester business venture, William owned three and a half miles of the riverfront from Gloucester to present day Westville. The oversized net of the Hugg Fishery was moved to a pier at his new hotel so customers could see their dinners being caught. The planked shad dinners were becoming world famous and Gloucester's reputation as a great place to have a good time was also spreading.
The ferry was a major transportation route for those coming from Philadelphia to spend their money in the hotels and along the beachfront. Mr. Thompson attempted to get the ferry company to extend the hours of operation in order to cater to these people. The owners, William Farr and Archimedes Hickman, refused. He offered to buy the company but was unsuccessful. Undaunted, William went to New York, purchased two ferry boats, and started his own ferry company. The 24-hour service provided by the new line pleased pleasure-seekers and South Jersey farmers. Soon Farr and Hickman were forced to sell the Gloucester Ferry Company. Mr. Thompson gained control for $250,000 through an agent. Mr. Thompson also built the Camden, Gloucester, and Woodbury Street Railway to transport additional people to the resort area.
During the first 20 years as a Gloucester businessman, William Thompson was building two empires: one financial and one political. As an active member of the Democratic party, Thompson's influence began at a local level and grew until he was able to control the state legislature as the most powerful Democrat in New Jersey. Thompson served as a member of City Council for 17 years, as a freeholder for 14 years, as an assemblyman for two terms, and as a delegate to two national conventions. However, his positions were frequently used for personal gain and not for the improvement of life for the community or his constituents.
An outstanding example of Mr. Thompson's influence, probably the beginning of his downfall, was the passage of a bill legalizing open gambling. Although William was largely responsible for Governor Wert's election, the governor vetoed the bill but the legislature overrode the veto.
This was not a difficult thing to do since the Speaker of the
Assembly was Thomas Flynn, the starter at Thompson's race track, and
most of the legislature were indebted to Thompson. The reason Mr.
Thompson pushed through the bill was to supplement a law passed earlier
to open a race track, an illegal enterprise at the time. This abusive
use of power quickly obtained front page space in the major newspapers
on the East Coast. Political cartoons also pointed out his control of
The race track opened on Labor Day, September 1, 1890, and continued in operation for three years. Mr. Thompson, now known as the Duke of Gloucester, made his fortune during those years. Sixty local bookmakers paid $75 per day and out-of-town bookmakers paid $200-per day for the right to take bets at the track. Admission to the track was fifty cents. Each day of the year thousands of men and women paid that admission fee.
Visitors to Gloucester City were contributing to Thompson's growing wealth in several ways: by riding his ferry and his street railway, by attending and betting at his race track, by purchasing fish caught and processed at his fisheries, and by eating and staying at his hotel. If anyone had money left after all this, the gambling houses took it.
Opposition to Thompson's political power became so widespread that the next election brought the defeat of many of Thompson's men. The legislature was now controlled by an anti-gambling majority. Complaints and petitions resulted in the passage of a bill prohibiting all betting and bookmaking within the state. This law put an end to race tracks and the last race at the Gloucester track was run on Thanksgiving Day 1893.
Mr. Thompson suffered a financial set back but was already working on
another project. Through a third party, William was negotiating the
purchase of land in what is now Westville. The Howell family thought the
land would be used to graze horses, but the purchaser transferred the
property to William Thompson. It was on this
Mr. Thompson's last financial venture was an ice manufacturing plant. Located on Jersey Avenue near Fifth Street, the company used a new process to make ice year round. After large cakes, ten feet square, of ice were frozen, large power saws would cut it into sizes used in home and business ice boxes of various capacities. He also started and, for a short time, operated a rug mill.
William Thompson was generous with his money. Poor people frequently received gifts of food and fuel. Children from poor families were sent to camp. Specific days were set aside at Washington Park for poor children to visit free. William was also a benefactor for St. Mary's Church, donating chimes and a new organ in 1891.
William and Sara Thompson were the parents of ten children. As the family grew, Mr. Thompson quickly realized the necessity of having a home large enough to accommodate the large family. He selected a site on King Street and built the "Mansion." The Duke spent $20,000 in 1889 to construct his new home which was later used by the Department of Immigration. The Mansion was torn down and the Coast Guard Base now is located on the site.
One financial problem after another came to William Thompson. His race track was closed in 1893; the amusement park was destroyed by fire in 1910 and had to be rebuilt; his investments in purchasing the right of way for a railroad to Atlantic City and another to New York were lost when Wall Street financing did not materialize. His money-making abilities, his political power, and his health seemed to fade at the same time.
In 1911, William Thompson made a trip to his place of birth in
Ireland. While visiting there, he died of tuberculosis or a heart attack
or both on July 2. The body was shipped back to the United States and
was met in New York by Mr. Foley, a local undertaker. After arriving in
Philadelphia, the body was brought to Gloucester on the ferry Fearless.
Following the mass in St. Mary's Church, one of the longest funeral
processions ever seen in Gloucester proceeded to St. Mary's Cemetery
Organizations and Small Businesses 1860-1910
Harry Bancroft, barber, King near Middlesex
(Additional information available in Prowell's
THE BEACH BUGLE (newspaper-style insert pages 141-145)
Gloucester City, New Jersey A Composite Newspaper 1860-1910
CIVIL WAR DEAD BURIED
A very sad but quite impressive occasion was witnessed by the residents of Union Township when William Bernard Campbell was given a military funeral during the Civil War. Beginning in Camden, the funeral procession solemnly marched to Gloucester, accompanied by bands playing dirges. The column of soldiers in the procession reached from the cemetery gate to the bridge over Newton Creek. There had never been a funeral like it before that day and there has not been one since. William B.Campbell was killed on May 6, 1862, the same day Sgt. Patrick Reilly was killed.
Later in 1862, Bridget Reilly, typical of Gloucester women who have
lost men in various wars, had a large stone installed over the grave of
her husband Patrick. The stone monument, located in Old St.Mary's
Cemetery, bore his likeness. This represents another unusual tribute to
one who marched away to serve his country
Another Civil War grave stone can be seen in Cedar Grove Cemetery. On the stone is a poem entitled "A Tired Soldier." The verse reads as follows:
"The tired soldier bold and brave
The marker is over the grave of William Groves, who died on November 18, 1865.
GLOUCESTER POINT IN GLOOM
The closing of the Gloucester Race Track was marked with a farewell banquet given by William J. Thompson, the President of the South Jersey Jockey Club, to the track officials, horse owners.and track men. He made a brief address to them in which he expressed regret at parting with them and hoped that they would come together again when horse racing would be legitimatized by the Legislature.
The race track and kindred evils at Gloucester was made the subject
for last night's sermon by nearly every preacher in this country and in
some churches sermons bearing upon the subject were preached both
morning and evening. This was in accord with the resolution passed at
the meeting of the ministerial union on Friday, and the preachers used
plain language in their denunciation of the evils they portrayed.
GLOUCESTER'S BIG DAY!
Two Men Pushed Overboard While Trying to Crowd on the DeBary
ADULTS AND MINORS GET DRUNK
Fight Between Two Intoxicated Youths on the Ferryboat-Two Young Men Stabbed in Drunken Row and One Clubbed to the Earth.
Yesterday was a big day at Gloucester. Not for several weeks had the notorious place been so crowded. To the usual list of attractions was added a championship baseball match. This it was that swelled the crowd to unusual proportions. The steamer DeBary, which left Race Street Wharf at 3:10 P.M., did not reach Gloucester's bacchanalian shores until after 4 o'clock. The boat was loaded to the water's edge and the trip was an extremely hazardous undertaking.
As soon as the DeBary arrived at the wharf just above Race Street the crowd rushed pell-mell over the gang plank until the boat's three decks were jammed with all sorts of specimens of humanity. In the melee two men were pushed overboard, but were fished out with nothing more serious than a thorough ducking. People who frequent Gloucester never mind a thing like water-on the outside. It was noticeable that both men had the presence of mind to keep their mouths closed, so that they could not swallow any of the water that enveloped them. The cubical contents of their stomachs were kept unimpaired for the reception of Gloucester's vile beer.
"PULL IN THEM PLANKS''
The captain of the DeBary, when he thought that his boat could not hold any more passengers, called to his men to haul away the gang planks. The men were slow to respond. "Pull in them planks, d--n you!" he yelled.
"Ay, ay, sir," was the response, as the planks were hauled aboard.
After the vessel got started, the captain found that he could crowd a few feet more, and he put in at the Christian Street Wharf, where about fifty additional men, women, and children were crushed on board.
Gloucester itself resembled pandemonium during the afternoon and on until midnight. The amount of beer consumed was tremendous and the shore was lined with drunken men, women, and children. The streets in this city leading from the landings were peopled last night with lines of intoxicated people, yelling, howling, and singing their ribald songs.
FIGHTS ON THE BOATS AND ON SHORE
On the 5:30 P.M. trip of the Peerless from Gloucester to this city (Philadelphia) a fight was indulged in by two 18-year-old lads, who had been drinking beer or whiskey until they were in a sadly befuddled condition. The boat was crowded and for a time a panic was imminent, but a special seized one of the intoxicated youths and dragged him to another part of the boat, while the friends of the other took charge of him and the affair was quieted.
Early yesterday morning, in fact, shortly after Saturday midnight, a drunken row occurred among a number of young men near Costello's saloon. After indulging in fisticuffs all around some of the gang drew knives and stabbed Chase Buchanan, of Camden, in the groin, and Walter Brick, of Gloucester, in the left side and on the back, below the shoulder blade. The cutting is said to have been done by two toughs from this city (Philadelphia). William Robinson was felled to the ground by a blow on the head from a baseball bat. No arrests were made, as the fracas was considered a very mild affair for a Saturday night windup at Gloucester.
(Editor's note: Although this appeared in a Philadelphia paper in the
late 1890's, many residents would confirm that only a change of names
and the mode of transportation is necessary to describe the situation
today. Young people who are not old enough to drink in Philadelphia
still come to Gloucester City to indulge and still create problems with
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TELEGRAM!
Whose influence, perhaps indirectly used, plays an important part in controlling State appointments from the hands of the National administration? William J. Thompson's, the Gambler.
Whose influence strongly figures with the Governor of the State of New Jersey on all matters, whether political or legislative? William J. Thompson's, the Gambler.
Who controls the majority in the State Senate and in the House of Assembly of the State of New Jersey and who forces that majority, either by bribery or otherwise, to legislate in the interests of gamblers and thugs? William J. Thompson, the Gambler.
Whose interests are carefully looked after by a majority of the court of Camden County? William J. Thompson's, the Gambler.
Who is the boss of the majority of the Board of Freeholders of Camden County, in whose hands is the shaping of legislation either conducive or detrimental to the interests of the taxpayers of the city of Camden? William J. Thompson, the Gambler.
Who is William J. Thompson? He is the racetrack owner at Gloucester City, through whose influence homes have been despoiled and robbed of happiness; the creator of thieves and black-legs; the ruination of young men and women; the cause of sorrow to mothers, wives, and sisters, in whose hearts happiness was once in full possession.
Upon whom does William J. Thompson rely to support in the coming
election? Upon the toughs and thugs of this city and Gloucester,
together with a big importation
Is it likely that the better element of the Democratic Party will
support its ticket? It is not especially in view of its close
affiliation with Thompson. Has Thompson any other sources which he
regards as contributory to his success? Yes, a small one in the way of a
contribution from about three citizens who assume to represent
LAW REDUCED FERRY FARE
The trouble about the new law fixing five cents as the rate of fare on the ferry boats between Gloucester City and the slip at South Street, Philadelphia, has been, and probably will be, a source of disadvantage to Gloucester. It is now reported that the company will not start their boats until the Supreme Court disposes of the case brought on the constitutionality of the act reducing the fare, and that, if the case is decided against the company, the boats will be withdrawn altogether. This would leave the communication between the two cities to carriage and railroads exclusively.
1 tablespoon sweet oil
Mix well and apply with clean cloth. Rub well.
Compound for Cleaning Carpets
2 1/2 bars ivory soap
Shave soap fine, boil until dissolved in 1 1/2 quarts water. Borax
added, boil 10 minutes. Steep soap bark in one quart water for 1/2 hour.
Add ammonia and one quart cold water, mix together and add water to make
6 gallons. This is a very valuable recipe not only for carpets but also
draperies, clothing, etc.
THE COCK-PIT RAID SOME PAID THEIR FINES OTHER WERE HELD TO BAIL
As a result of the cock-pit raid at Pat McGlade's Indian Springs Hotel at Gloucester City on Sunday, when nine men were arrested and 21 cocks captured, sporting men gave the place a wide berth yesterday. There was an ominous report afloat that warrants had been issued for several other sporting characters. Scores of hangers-on gathered around Justice Snyder's office as early as two o'clock. A strong guard had been placed at the door of the Justice's office and orders given that no one should be admitted except the defendants, members of the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals from Philadelphia and New Jersey, and the lawyers in the case.
1 cup vinegar
Put in bottle and shake well. Excellent for man or beast.
Liniment for Rheumatism
To be applied externally, must not be bound on with cloths as it will blister:
1/2 ounce gum camphor
Mix together in a bottle, shake before using; does not grease clothing. Can be applied 2 or 3 times a day. This has never been known to fail if used regularly.
HARPER IN THE SOUP THE CHARGES AGAINST WILLIAM J.THOMPSON FALL FLAT
REPUDIATED BY HIS CLUB THE AMERICUS
There was a large attendance at the regular meeting of the Americus Club last night. The rumor that certain charges were to be preferred and investigated against William J Thompson, the well-known Gloucester City leader serving as the attraction. The result of the whole was that Mr. Thompson was completely exonerated for all charges and the gentleman instrumental in pushing them was censured by the club. This was certainly an unexpected denouncement to the affair but certainly eminently satisfactory to Mr. Thompson and his friends.
These charges against Mr. Thompson were preferred, in writing, by Sam Alcott at a meeting of the Americus Club held a week ago last night. The charges were very crudely drawn up but implicated Mr. Thompson with nearly all the crimes in the calendar, the principal part being that he (Thompson) had first set up the nomination of Henry Turley, for sheriff, and had then stabbed him in the back. It was evident from the first that charges had been investigated by a person having a personal grievance and for that reason less attention was paid to them than would ordinarily have been the case. The matter was referred to the executive committee. This committee had instructions to report last night.
After the regular business had been gone through with, the committee reported that there was no cause for investigation of Mr. Thompson's case and that the charges were unfounded and they recommended that a vote of censure be passed against ex-letter carrier William F. Harper, who had usurped the powers of the committee and the club. Before the committee had taken any action in the matter, Mr. David Peterson made the motion to censure Mr. Harper and it was carried unanimously.
It appears that Mr. Harper in order to vent his spleen against Mr.
Thompson sent a secretary to appear before the club and answer the
charges preferred against him.
GLOUCESTER GAMBLING PHILADELPHIA SPORTING MEN IN THE TOILS OF JERSEY JUSTICE
Joseph Madden, Joseph Burns, and Harry and "Budd" Wiiliams,
well known gamblers who were driven out of Philadelphia by the police,
were held in $500 bail by Judge Cassady, yesterday, on charges of making
books on horse races and running a faro bank at Gloucester City. John
H.Veighte, of Philadelphia,. entered the complaint for bookmaking
against Madden, alleging that he had lost several thousand dollars
recently through betting with the defendant. The charge of running a
faro bank against the other parties was preferred by Alfred P. Clark,
another Philadelphian, who says that he dropped a considerable sum of
money "bucking the tiger," All four men waived hearings.
GLOUCESTER CITY GLEANINGS
H.W. Lafferty of Gloucester has patented a machine to utilize the refuse of his breweries.
Great Wild West Shows! Every afternoon at 4 Every Evening at 8:30
Sundays Included. Baseball Park, Gloucester,N.J. COMANCHE BILL'S WILD
One of the most exciting games of ball this season was played between
the Hensils and Berrys on the mill lots last Saturday afternoon. The
umpire was several times thrown over the fence and finally discharged
and the clubs umpired the game themselves. The batteries of both sides
worked like clockwork, as there was not an error on either side. Home
runs and three baggers were common, as each side was credited with
eighteen each. The principal feature of the game was the
Gloucester City was crowded yesterday with visitors. It was estimated that there were between twenty-five and thirty thousand persons. At a very early hour they commenced to come and in the afternoon the boats were taxed to their full capacity. The Camden, Gloucester, and Mt. Ephraim Railroad never carried so many, and the street leading to the Point was blocked with humanity. There was very little disorderly conduct, not sufficient enough to cause arrest. The fakers' flying horses and the Coney Island sausage man did a thriving trade. Altogether it was quite a jubilee and our citizens are well pleased at the remarkable good conduct of the visitors.
President Thompson, of the South Jersey Jockey Club, in a conversation yesterday afternoon, stated that he did not intend to make any improvements of any kind at the race track, and that he would not open the track while racing continued to be unlawful, as he did not wish to violate the law governing racetracks.
Surely, Gloucester City is an unlucky place for a circus. On Saturday the circus tent was blown down, preventing a performance. On Saturday night two attachments were served on the circus paraphernalia. Yesterday a man was arrested for the larceny of some of the circus goods and chattels, and Mrs. Marshall, wife of one of the proprietors, came to Squire Bancroft armed with a warrant for the arrest of her husband for failing to support herself and child. Quite a number of rings flourish here, but this is evidently no place for a circus ring.
William Crowley, better known as Jockey Crowley, who at one time was one of the best ball players that donned a uniform, after a long and tedious illness, died at his residence on King St. last evening, a few minutes before ten o'clock. Jock, before his baseball career opened, was employed at the Washington Mills. He first started to play professional ball in 1870, when he was a star catcher of the Philadelphia Club. He has played with Buffalo, Boston, the Athletics, and several other teams, but for the past two years, owing to sickness, was compelled to retire from the diamond. (Taken from a collection of newspapers printed during the 1880's found in the offices of the Gloucester City News.)
For a gallon of strained tomatoes put
4 tablespoons salt
Boil until of the required thickness; put the dark spices and garlic
into a cloth to prevent the catsup from being dark.
8 pounds peaches
Stick 2 or 3 cloves in each peach. Add a few sticks of cinnamon. Cook
until tender. Take them out on a platter to cool. When cold, put in
jars. Pour the cold syrup over. Let them stand 24 hours, then seal up.
Prepare equal measure of finely minced meat and washed rice. Season
to taste with salt, pepper, onion, and cayenne. Scald grape leaves till
they are well wilted. In each leaf roll a little of the meat and rice,
making small oval balls. Stew in just enough water to keep them from
browning. Blanched lettuce or cabbage leaves will do; in this case add a
few drops lemon juice to the meat.
AT THE LOCAL GROCERY
25 lbs of meat $1.25
CHRISTMAS DINNER MENU
A BILL TO PUT AN END TO SUNDAY BASEBALL PLAYING
The following is the full text of Assemblyman Harris' bill to put an end to the practice of practicing or playing baseball on Sunday, supposed to have more especial reference to Gloucester City.
1. That every person or persons being above the age of fifteen years, who shall play or be engaged in playing at any game with bat and ball commonly known and denominated baseball, on the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, whether scheduled game of ball be for money or other valuable thing, or merely to test the skill of the persons engaged therin, or for any other purpose whatever, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof shall be punished for the first offense by a fine of not more than $20 or imprisonment in the county prison for not more than thirty days; and for the second or other conviction by a fine of not less than $50 or more than $100 and an imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both, at the discretion of the court.
Winter Provided Great Outdoor Activities on the River (inset pages 146 and 147)
Most old timers call tell many stories of the severe winters that were common in the past. Ten foot snow drifts, ice on the Delaware River, and other descriptions of those long, cold winters cause some people, especially the present generation, to shake their heads in disbelief and to say these stories are only tall tales. However, facts and photographs prove these stories to be more truth than fiction. Not very many years ago the Delaware River did freeze over each winter, much to the delight of many and the consternation of some.
During those very severe cold spells, farmers could drive their wagon loads of produce across the river to the market in Philadelphia and save the money usually spent on the ferry. Of course, the ferry owners and crews were not happy about the loss of business. It must be remembered there was no unemployment compensation in those days.
Ice skating on the river was a common form of winter recreation for young and old. Iceboat races from Burlington Island at attracted sleighing parties from Gloucester. Many people enjoyed the thrill of watching the iceboats sailing along the river on a brisk winter day and then of returning to Gloucester for a warming mug of liquid refreshment.
During the January thaw, huge ice cakes would be piled up along the shore line by the tides. Today a January thaw usually means ankle-deep mud but to residents in the 1800's and early 1900's it meant 15 foot high ice cakes on the beach. Since the river was fresh water and was not polluted as it is today, the ice could be cut and used in ice boxes.
It is quite understandable that businessmen were upset by the loss of commerce on the Delaware River. An article in the Philadelphia Public Ledger on March 25, 1836, explained the concerns of local businessmen.
"Whoever, on Friday and Saturday last, witnessed the scene on the river and at the wharves, and compared it with what the same have exhibited during the whole of the late, long and gloomy winter, must have been forcibly struck with the necessity of keeping the navigation at all times free.
"About ninety sail of vessels came up in one day, and their appearance upon the river, crossing and recrossing each other in beating against a head wind, was truly beautiful. Our wharves now exhibit a forest of masts, and the hum and bustle of a mighty seaport. Why should not this ever be the case?
"Why should we not, like New York, have a regular line of packets to London, Liverpool, and Havre, departing and coming with mercantile punctually, in every month of the year? Why should not Philadelphia as well as New York, have a great, increasing, and lucrative foreign trade? The difficulties of her navigation are the only obstacles and these can be surmounted.
"The ice should never be allowed to accumulate; the river should never be closed. Steamboats are adequate to keeping it clear of ice and can tow up vessels when the wind is unfavorable. The obstacles can be surmounted. Enterprise only is wanted."
Apparently that enterprise did not develop and the photos indicate ice on the river years later.
A brief rebirth of Gloucester's being a boisterous, busy entertainment center for out-of-towners occurred during World War II. Gloucester became a favorite drinking town for thousands of sailors on temporary duty in the area. According to many local people who were in the service during the war, the mention of Gloucester to a navy man brought an immediate response and usually a story of his experiences in the city. Apparently Gloucester's establishments were known around the world-at least to the navy.
Perhaps the best known place at the time was the Twin Bar at Broadway and Market Street. Music was basically country-western and had wide appeal during those war years. Headliners included Sally Starr, who later had a children's television program, and Billy Haley's western group. It was Haley and The Comets who introduced rock and roll and started a new musical style while playing at the Twin Bar. Very few students of the history of rock and roll give recognition to Gloucester's role in its birth. However, when a definitive history of this popular form of music is finally written, it must be acknowledged that it all began with Bill Haley and the Comets at the Twin Bar in Gloucester City.
Today only a few places are known outside the local area. The many hotels, large and small, have been replaced with one motel-The Holiday Inn at Route 130 and Market Street. The famous restaurants have dwindled to one-O'Donnell's at the north end of Broadway. Residents will also suggest two places for their great sandwiches-Cap Steele's and Keebler's Cafe. Of course, there are other taverns, bars, restaurants, luncheonettes, but they are known only within a small area. In so far as a great resort is concerned, Gloucester City is in one of its quiet periods. This relative quietness is quite agreeable to most of the residents.
FORMS OF ENTERTAINMENT
While Gloucester City was being called the "Merry Town of Jersey," the "Paris of New Jersey," the "Poor Man's Atlantic City," and the "Bower of Bacchus," residents still called it the Old Hometown. Local people did not usually patronize the many establishments which catered to the thousands of out-of-towners who flocked to Gloucester. Since most of them were factory workers, the many other forms of recreation and entertainment which were available free or at low cost were more important to residents. Some of these activities were provided locally; others were brought to town by local government, churches, and other organizations.
The Chautauqua's visits to Gloucester provided varied programs which were inspirational, educational, and entertaining. Tickets could be purchased for the entire series or for individual performances. Since the main purpose of the traveling tent show was to develop the movement for self-education, the series relied heavily on lectures by retired Congressmen, minor governmental officials, and the better-known orators; inspirational talks by ministers and evangelists; and moral dramas. Family entertainment was provided by Hawaiian minstrels, acrobats, light orchestras, and other performers. Sometimes local talent was also given an opportunity to participate in the show. The Chautauqua went out of existence in the early 1930's after bringing years of culture, education, and pleasure to millions of people in small towns and rural areas across the country. It was destroyed by the Depression, the end of Prohibition, and the automobile.
Gloucester also had a number of local musical activities which displayed local talent. Bands, choral groups, and barber shop quartets were popular with townspeople and usually had packed houses for their performances. Most of the musical events took place in the auditorium of Old City Hall.
Band concerts at Gloucester City had gone on for many years before the resort boom. An ad in an 1849 Philadelphia paper invited people to hear the good music of Gungle's Band every fine afternoon in the summer. The bands from the 1880's to the 1920's gave concerts and provided music for dances just as rock groups do today.
Among the more popular bands were Charley Butterfield's, the Easley Brothers', and the Arion bands. The latter merged with the Jennings Band from Camden and eventually became the Second Regiment Band. Undoubtedly the most unique band was organized by Troop 1 of the Boy Scouts. This flute and drum band became well-known throughout the area about 1910. Impromptu concerts were given when a band would parade through the streets to get practice in reading music while marching. Today the Garden State String Band, St. Mary's Cadets, the Gloucester High School Band, several rock groups, and a number of individuals are upholding the musical reputation of the city.
(CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT) During the Harvest Festival a large Fruit Column would be built in the Old Dutch Park. Families used pleasant afternoons to sit and to visit. One of the corner gangs organized the Gloucester Country Club. Howlette's Yankee Kids Fife and Drum Corps was organized in 1904. The second floor of Flexon's Garage was occupied by station WRAX, the first radio station in the area. The photo was taken in 1924. This corner gang used the southeast corner of Broadway and Monmouth Street for its meeting place.
Two choral groups performed regularly. One was directed by Miss Gertie Baker and the other was under the leadership of Miss Katie Bennett. The choral groups staged operettas in the second floor auditorium of City Hall. Lilliputians in Fairyland, directed by Miss Bennett and Mr. F.H. Decker, used 1/2 the city's residents in the cast which set a record for operetta casts in the city. Of course, there were also church choirs that performed cantatas and passion plays, such as the Upper Room. Large productions of operettas and musicals have become part of the two high schools' music programs. The Costello Elementary School Chorus also puts on a spring concert each year. For very special occasions an ecumenical choir has been organized for a single performance. One choral group is in existence today-the Saints and Singers.
For a number of years the sound of vocal harmony could be heard from the street corners of Gloucester. It was the barber shop quartets holding their practice sessions.The Gallagher quartet vocalized at Burlington and Hudson Streets and the Flynn quartet harmonized at Broadway and Hudson Street just to name two of the local groups. During those years the air was filled with music instead of the loud, obscene and abusive language frequently heard today.
Movies, a popular family type entertainment, came to Gloucester about
1907. A nickelodeon was opened in back of Harry Black's poolroom at
Middlesex and Willow Streets. The room very quickly became too small and
Mr.Young, the owner, erected a building for his nickelodeon on the
southeast corner of King and Middlesex Streets. Sam Schuster was allowed
to show movies in the City Hall auditorium, and viewers paid an
admission of ten cents for 3 to 5 hours of movie
After painting the windows black and installing long benches with fence rail backs and a white sheet, movies were shown at Powell's Grocery Store at Market and Burlington Streets. "A Trip to Hell and Back"' was one of the thrill-packed "flickers" viewed at Powell's. In the shoe repair shop on the corner of Market Street and Pig Alley, those interested in the more sensational stories of the time could see "The Trial of Harry Thaw."
Children particularly enjoyed the matinees at Mommy Hayes' theaters, the Palace and the Leader, which were located opposite each other on Burlington Street. For a nickel, a child was admitted to the movies and given a box of candy. Live vaudeville shows were also featured at Mommy Hayes' Opera House, which occupied a building on the site of the VFW. Other theaters included the Apollo, where Mrs. Anna Gross Sanders of Gloucester Heights played the piano, and the King, where live stage shows were offered in the 1930's and 1940's. Recently the King Theater has again offered live entertainment at various times. The first graduation class of Gloucester High School used the Apollo for their ceremonies.
When drive-in theaters began to grow in popularity, the Starlite was built and continues to operate on Route 130 at Klemm Avenue. During the summers of the 1940's and 1950's, movies were shown by the Civic Association at Martin's Lake every Wednesday night. The only cost to the many viewers was a mosquito bite or two. Now the City Library performs this type of service to the community. A regular schedule of family movie nights is conducted by the library staff. They also supply the schools and organizations with educational films which circulate throughout New Jersey's library system.
Gloucester also made a contribution to the movie industry. James Barton, one of Hollywood's most famous character actors, was born in Gloucester in November, 1890. In addition to starring in movies, he played a lead role in the Broadway production of "One Man in a Million." Gloucester's resident expert on movies is Mr. Dal Gray of Bergen Street. He has unlimited knowledge of movie history and can discuss the topic for hours.
Excursions by boat, trolley, or train were planned by various
organizations to raise money while having fun. One of the largest boat
excursions took place on August 4, 1891. The Red Men's lodge hired the
Republic for a boat ride on the Delaware. With 1,000 Gloucesterites on
the trip, the city certainly must have seemed deserted. Many groups
sponsored moonlight rides on the river and this continued into the
1950's. The Wilson Line provided moonlight rides, as well as carrying
Train excursions from Gloucester to the boardwalk in Atlantic City could be taken for one dollar round trip fare. Many large and small groups also organized train trips to Wildwood in more recent years but it has been quite a few years since passengers gathered at the station on Monmouth Street to load the trains for a day of beach sun and ocean fun.
Young people favored moonlight trolley excursions from Camden to the end of the line below Washington Park. Each trolley car would be decorated with lights and bunting and then coupled together to form a train. A band occupied the front car and the others were filled to capacity with singing, laughing young men and women.
Numerous picnic areas were available in Gloucester. There were, of
course, picnic areas at the beach and in Washington Park. Oak Grove was
west of Broadway between Monmouth and Bergen Streets; Old Dutch Park was
on the southwest corner of Jersey Avenue and Broadway; the Bone Boilers
covered and area east of Sparks Avenue and from Martin's Lake to the
creek. Picnickers could also use the wooded lot between Bergen and
Monmouth Streets from Broadway to the railroad. If a hike and a picnic
were desired, the area east of Route 130 or the Gloucester Heights
section offered plenty of "wild" land to explore, to gather
A special kind of picnic was the clambake, usually held on the beach. Clams and oysters, whole fish, corn on the cob, and potatoes were cooked in the sand fire pits and then enjoyed by the picnickers. John Sipple, referred to as Captain Jack, became a clambake artiste. He was so well-known that he was often hired by people in various parts of the United States. His skill at baking clams was employed to provide the delicious clams for more than one President of the United States. The largest group for which Captain Jack prepared a clambake was 1,000 hungry clam lovers.
During the mid-1900's, the Polish Picnic Grounds in Gloucester Heights became the last picnic area in town. On days the grounds were not rented out, the Olsens operated open picnics. The delicious Polish foods and the polka music attracted residents and many people from the Delaware Valley.
Block parties combined food and fun and were a common way to raise
money from the turn of the century until a few years ago. Most of the
block parties in Gloucester were sponsored by the churches. The best,
according to many old timers, were those given annually by the First
Methodist Church. From King to Burlington Streets booths lined both
sides of Monmouth Street. The church orchestra gave a concert from the
porch of the parsonage. Foods, needlework,
Gloucester was always a "parade town." In the 1800's and early 1900's parades were organized for all types of occasions. There was even one parade for a wedding. A number of organizations sponsored parades but the outstanding ones were probably those put on by the Red Men's lodge. The Indian costumes and floats were quite colorful and very exciting for the children.
Political parades were usually scheduled at night and were a part of every election campaign for many years. When Grover Cleveland was elected President in 1892, the Democrats marched throughout the city in a giant torchlight parade. In the line of march were several bands, marching units with many fancy drills, and decorated horses. The 400 torchlights were more than sufficient to illuminate the night parade.
New Year's Day was the occasion for the Cook Family parade. Rivaling the Mummer's Parade in Philadelphia, the Cook parade had all kinds of marching units. An unusual feature was the cake wagon that came by at the end of the parade. Residents along the route would donate freshly baked cakes as the parade passed by and saloon keepers and businessmen donated money. Later in the week, the parade participants would meet at City Hall auditorium for the cake cutting, dancing, and refreshments.
Memorial Day parades were always very impressive. Military units from Fort Dix and from the Coast Guard Base were added to the local marchers and bands. Following services at the monuments and cemeteries, the marchers would proceed to the County Park on the river for a special ceremony. The climax was the launching of a flower-laden model ship which would float to sea in tribute to those who had given their lives for their country. In earlier years the marchers included all the school children and the women from the Welsbach-all carrying flags. A large American flag was carried horizontally by some of the women's groups.
For a few years there were two parades on Fourth of July because Gloucester Heights had its own celebration. There were floats, decorated bikes, costumed children, and a queen and court voted for by the residents. The parade marched along Nicholson Road and then to the Polish Picnic Grounds for games, refreshments, and dancing. The Civic Association of Gloucester Heights sponsored the parade and a summer handcraft program for the children.
Gloucester still has quite a few parades for a city its size. One of the few remaining Firemen's Parades is held in October during Fire Prevention Week. The Garden State String Band sponsors a parade every spring.
Although there are now only two safe places to swim in Gloucester
City, in addition to the numerous backyard pools, there were many
"swimming holes" at the turn of the century. Besides the beach
on the riverfront, good swimming could be found off the Stinson and
Dickensheet's Wharf, at Sandy Bottom near Third Street (the willow tree
there had a rope swing), off the fishing boats at Fifth Street, at the
trestle over Little Timber Creek, in the "Bend" in the creek
in Highland park, off the bridges at Hudson Street and Essex Street;
near the Water Works on Johnson Boulevard (row boats could be rented
here), off the old Reading Railroad bridge
Among the young men of the town, belonging to a club was the best way to find recreation and entertainment. Most clubs were first organized by a corner gang with a special interest or purpose. Several were involved in sports and others were interested in socializing. (The corner gangs who were musically oriented have been mentioned previously.)
The Gloucester Mutual Club organized in 1890 and met every Wednesday night at John Korn's. Formed for their mutual protection and welfare, the club was composed of Belgian, Luxemburger, German, and French members of the community. The High Hat Club, a group of young men who wore high hats, did not last long because it was organized on the basis of a fad. The Bergen and Willow Gang was composed of young men who later became Gloucester's leading citizens. Chase Barnard, James MacInnes, George Barnard, Leroy Heritage, Jesse and Harry Stetser, Will Bradway, George and Charles Calligan, Rulon Geissler, and Harry Green made up the roster. There are no corner gangs or clubs of this type in existence today.
Of minor but special interest were election-day proceedings and various sales which attracted spectators who wanted to pass a few hours in a different way. The most interesting voting place on election days was the schoolhouse on Jersey Avenue in Pine Grove. Crowds would gather at all the polls to discuss issues and candidates, but the discussions often became quite heated. There were many very loud arguments which sometimes developed into fights. At this point, John Hugh Boylan, the beat cop, would enter the scene with gun drawn, arrest the gang, and put them in the Jersey Lily (paddy wagon) to be taken to City hall. The victorious party members would remove the shades from the windows in their houses and put a lamp or lighted candle on the sill. There were also election night bonfires.
Horses brought from the Mid-West were put on sale on Conway Commons (a lot bounded by Powell, Third, Hunter, and Fourth Streets) and many came to watch the bidding. Tom Black conducted these sales. In 1891 a very spirited auction took place when the lots in East Gloucester were sold. Philip Fowler, who acted as auctioneer, sold the land between the West Jersey and Reading railroads.
One of the first hundred radio stations in the United States broadcast from the second floor of Flexon's Garage on Jersey Avenue between Fourth and Fifth Streets. With Mrs. Anna Flexon at the microphone, station WRAX broadcast the first string band music to go out over the airwaves. According to Dal Gray, Mrs. Flexon was the first female broadcaster and the Mary Pickford String Band was the first to play on the air. Anna also gave news and weather reports.
Today Gloucester has one of the few cable television companies in South Jersey. Clearview Cable Television supplies programs from New York channels, video taped programs of local events, and first run movies on Home Box Office.
Gloucester no longer boasts of a roller skating rink on Jersey
Avenue, Ray Fowler's dances on the second floor of the County Park
building, a teen or servicemen's canteen, or vaudeville shows. Instead
recreation and entertainment has become a function of the schools and
sports groups and usually left to the initiative of the individual.
INTEREST IN SPORTS
Sports Capital of South Jersey would be an excellent title to apply
to Gloucester City. It has been a center of sports activity for nearly
100 years, and it is doubtful that any town of similar size can produce
records to rival Gloucester's diverse and extensive sports history. From
the earliest years when many professional and semi-professional athletes
participated in various sports to the amateur, club, and scholastic
programs of today, sports have played a dominant role in the lives of
Baseball is the oldest organized sport in Gloucester City and has involved the greatest number of people over the years. When the game as an organized team sport began in Gloucester, it was played by the men. Today younger boys have taken over and the men play softball. It has grown from a club activity participated in by as many as 15 clubs to a league activity involving 37 teams. Some of the older boys play on baseball teams in other communities.
During the 1880's the Philadelphia Athletics played its Sunday games in Gloucester. One game must surely have set some kind of record. The Athletics were playing Baltimore in a regularly scheduled American League game. Thousands came by ferry, train, and trolley to see the game. The crowd was much too large to be controlled and flowed onto the playing field. This situation deteriorated so quickly that the game had to be called after only two innings. A state law passed in 1888 ended Sunday baseball in Gloucester.
Several men from Gloucester played in the big leagues during those years, William "Jockey" Crowley, who lived on King Street, began playing in 1876 and was a member of the Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Boston teams of the American League. The World Baseball Championship Team (Detroit) of 1887 listed three Gloucesterites on the team roster: Dunlop, Richardson, and Shindle.
In the late 1800's there was stiff competition among the teams composed of factory workers. The factory teams were replaced with club teams organized by corner gangs. There were several fields at various locations around the city which were fully utilized every Saturday. Most of the fields were open and no admission was charged. The Gloucester Baseball Club did enclose its field and charged ten cents general and twenty-five cents grandstand admission. Those clubs that did not charge admission passed around the hat.
In addition to the competition among Gloucester's clubs, there was tremendous rivalry between Gloucester and Camden. The games were always close and excellently played, so they attracted thousands of baseball lovers. In 1902, more than 5,000 avid fans watched the game which Camden won 5-3. There were five separate full scale riots among the fans during the game.
Some clubs which were active during the early 1900's were the Gloucester Field, Emerson's, Mama's, Orient, Broadway Athletic, Ascension, Y.M.C.A., Monmouth, and Gloster Athletic clubs. The Y.M.C.A. baseball team probably had the shortest life. Because church groups objected to the Y's being open on Sundays, the Y.M.C.A. dissolved. Many of the young men then organized the Monmouth Club by joining forces with the gang that met on the corner of Broadway and Cumberland Street. The Monmouth Club also had a football team for a number of years. Playing at the baseball field at Charles and Water Streets, the Gloster Athletic Club always filled the grandstands. People could easily get to the field from Camden or Woodbury because the trolley passed the gate.
Interest in baseball seemed to dwindle after World War I and the intense rivalries began to disintegrate. For a brief period in 1930's there appeared to be a regrowth of interest. It may have been stimulated by the St. Philip's Club, which played in Gloucester. Coached by Steve Farrell, the team played its home games on the Kohler Street diamond and traveled throughout the region playing other semi-pro teams. The opening game of the 1936 season against the Philadelphia Cardinals, a strong all Negro team, was started with a flag raising ceremony and a concert by the Garden State String Band.
No discussion of baseball would be complete without a word or two about Raymond "Pudd" Carr. What made Pudd unique was that he always played in his stocking feet-and extraordinarily well. Baseball was his major pastime until he reached the ripe old age of 25. From that time on his hobby was impersonating Abraham Lincoln. So many people had told Mr. Carr of the uncanny likeness that he was finally convinced and spent the rest of his life portraying Lincoln in parades and at special events.
1976 is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Gloucester Little League. In April, 1951, more than 200 boys signed up for the first season but only 60 were selected. With John McCann as president and Don Allison chairman of a fund-raising committee, four teams took the field that summer. John Gorman took on the task of developing the finest, fastest gravel infield possible. The bricklayers union donated 200 cement blocks, and four bricklayers donated their time to erect the dugouts. Ray Ford came up with electric water coolers for the dugouts, and the Gloucester Catholic Boosters Club donated the wooden bleachers from the school's gym. Fans could buy a season pass for one dollar. The following year the league moved to the Leo Lafferty Memorial Field on Johnson Blvd. The field named for a little leaguer who died from polio is the present minor league field. The one division, four team Little League has grown considerably over the years and now occupies one of the finest, fully-lighted for night games, fields in South Jersey.
Gloucester now also has a Junior Baseball League which plays its games on the Gloucester High School fields. Organized by William Dilks, the league gives boys a chance to play ball after they are too old for the Little League.
Softball, as a club sport, has taken the place of baseball.The softball field at the north end of Johnson Boulevard is constantly in use by the men's clubs and by the Fillies, a local girls' team. Since girls also need a summer pastime, the Ponytail League was organized in recent years and now has 12 teams playing on their field next to the Little League diamonds on the boulevard.
Many years ago there was considerable interest in professional boxing and Gloucester had more professional fighters than Philadelphia. The great John L. Sullivan trained in Gloucester for one of his fights. Ellick's Gymnasium on King Street below Market Street was the training center for local fighters. Ted Ellick, the owner, was also a promoter and got many of Gloucester's young men onto the fight cards in Philadelphia. Among the local pugilists who gained a degree of fame were flyweight Willie Spencer, bantam weight K.O. Joe O'Donnell, and heavyweight Hughie Clements. Others included Johnnie Hinkle, Tommy and Pat Lyons, Joe Kurtz, and the Boyle Brothers.
Other sporting events enjoyed some popularity in Gloucester for brief periods. At one time the town trad a quoit team which played matches against other towns' teams on a handball court on the southwest corner of Fifth and Market Streets. Pushmobile races (the forerunner of soapbox races) originated in Gloucester. Each Thanksgiving Day cars from the Delaware Valley area would come to Gloucester for the big race. Iceboat, yacht, and rowing races were all part of Gloucester's sports life around the turn of the century. In 1934 more than fifty professional and semi-pro speed boat drivers entered the Gloucester City Speed Boat Race. The event was cosponsored by the N.C.A. Yacht Club and the Gloucester City Fire Department.
Cross country and track events do not seem to arouse much interest among Gloucester's residents. However, two families have obtained wide recognition in this athletic activity. George Williams and his sons and the Schemelia brothers have won many honors as runners.
Rivaling baseball in overall appeal has been basketball. As early as 1914 the Eureka Basketball Team was playing a regular schedule in the cage at the Old City Hall auditorium. From the interest of a small group of young men, a program which operates on several levels almost year round has developed. Boys, girls, and men have the opportunity to play scholastic and/or league ball during the regular season and league basketball in the summer.
In the fall, all eyes turn to football-high school and midget league, organized some years ago by Bill Flynn. For a few years football teams were sponsored by the town's athletic clubs but those days are past. Football now belongs to the younger men and former high school players have become sideline coaches. There are now only five football teams playing in Gloucester, but they generate enough enthusiasm, comments, and criticism for 25 teams.
The most recent development in organized sport is the growth of street hockey. The spirit induced by the Philadelphia Flyers seems to be the inspiration for the overwhelming interest in the sport. Part of the popularity of this sport stems from the fact that it can be played all year round. Other physical activities which have some interest locally are tennis and karate.
Sports for women has for the most part been confined to the high schools and has played a role in Gloucester's sport life for about 55 years. Field hockey was the first organized team sport to be played in Gloucester. It began in 1920 when Bess Taylor, first hockey coach at G.H.S., was instrumental in organizing the West Jersey Field Hockey League. Bess and Sarah Taylor, Betty Miller, and Bert Nolan have developed some of the area's most outstanding athletes in hockey and basketball. After high school some have gone on to gain recognition in college and club play. Two women-Bert Nolan and Mikki Baile Flowers-have played on the United States Field Hockey Team.
Today the sports programs of the high schools do not offer swimming as Gloucester High did in 1931, but they do offer a wide variety of team and individual sports. Many championships have been earned by the high schools' teams, male and female, and the young men and women who participate have won a number of individual honors.
Back to Chapter Five
Back to Master Page of Book Links
Continue to Chapter Seven