By Beryl D. Mason

Click here for a Historic Map of Bargaintown, Large Area
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Click here for another Historic Map of Bargaintown, Area Map I
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Click here for another Historic Map of Bargaintown, Area Map II
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The Town Hall of Egg Harbor Township, erected as a school in 1873. The building is on the west side of Bargaintown Road in Bargaintown.      

                                          Photo Hattie Anderson

  Bargaintown (Cedar Bridge) in Egg Harbor Township, 4 miles from Egg Harbor Bay, contains 2 taverns, 1 store, a gristmill, a Methodist Church, and about 30 dwellings ....(From Gordon's Gazetteer of N. J. 1838.)

  Anyone wishing to seriously study the history of New Jersey will find the chapter on "Original Land Grants of New Jersey" in the "Early History of Atlantic County" excellent reading. Briefly, the original grant from King Charles II was East and West Jersey, joined in 1637, to become New Jersey. West Jersey contained Gloucester County of which a portion was separated in 1837 to form Atlantic County. Atlantic County contains Egg Harbor Township, which contains Bargaintown.

From the "Judicial and Civil History of New Jersey":

"Every foot of the soil claimed by the original inhabitant (Lenni Lenape Indians) of this State has been obtained from them by a fair and voluntary purchase and transfer."

There is room for doubt as to the "fair and voluntary" aspect of any land transactions with the Indians. Certainly there is a lack of psychological and anthropological understanding of the Indians of this area in the following conclusions, which appear in the "Lure of Long Branch of New Jersey" by George B. Somerville.

"The original Lenni Lenape was described by the early writers as being almost lovable in his hospitable simplicity, but when a half century had given the white man's liquors and the inter-mixture of bloods a chance to show what they could do, it developed that the red man was not what he once had been; he was not possessed of the white man's mental power to resist temptation of over indulgence."

"The last act of the Lenni Lenape drama or tragedy occurred when the New Jersey Legislature appropriated $2000.00 in 1832 to extinguish all the right, title and interest which the Lenni Lenape held or might hold against the Colony or State."

The monument and plaque erected in front of the Town Hall on Bargaintown Road in Bargaintown.    

             Photo Hattie Anderson

Mr. Somerville, his ancestors and all the early settlers of New Jersey and Bargaintown should give Thanks that the "lovingly hospitable" Lenni Lenape chose to drink the settlers liquor rather than lose their good dispositions, don war paint and gone forth to slit throats and collect scalps as did their Apache neighbors to the North.

Whatever the justice or injustice of the treatment of the Lenni Lenape, they were the first residents of Bargaintown, making summer camp on the high ground around the cedar swamp that is now Bargaintown Lake and along the banks of Patcong Creek. All of the South Jersey Shore was used by the Lenape as a sort of summer resort camp. They spent the season digging for shellfish, picking wild berries, hunting for bird eggs, catching and drying fish and collecting those particular shells for carving beads to be used as wampum. Arrowheads in quantity have been found in Bargaintown and if you don't mind a kink in the neck from peering downwards, you have a good chance of finding one. Indian pottery was also unearthed along Patcong Creek. Wherever you walk in this area, an Indian walked before you. Their footpaths became our roads and their land, our homes. There is no record of there ever being a war-like incident toward the white settlers by the Lenni Lenape Indians. It is a nice thought that even in the beginning, Bargaintown was a friendly place.

There were no famous Revolutionary battles fought in Bargaintown, nor did any of her men become well known heroes, but they served with honor and as always, it is the unpublicized ranks that fight a war and win it. Whatever personal emotional stress and individual sacrifice felt or endured by the early residents of Bargaintown during the Revolution is lost in time. Names that appear on the lists of "Officers and Men of the Revolutionary War, Gloucester County"; Somers, Smith, Price, Ingersoll, Adams, English, Frambes, Garwood, Ireland, Lake, Tilton, etc., appear today on the mailboxes throughout Bargaintown. If Bargaintown cannot claim a great Revolutionary battle or hero - she can absolutely claim that George Washington did not sleep here.

When and how Bargaintown received its name depends on which version you choose to believe.

From the "History of Bargaintown" (Unpublished) by William Lake, 1918.

"Tradition informs us that Bargaintown received its name as early as 1760 by the acts of one David Howell, a Blacksmith, who had a shop at this place. He being the owner of a number of acres of land in that locality employed a surveyor to lay the same off in tots, these lots were two perches wide and four deep (or 33ft. by 66ft.). He had a locust tree set out at the corner of each lot, (who the surveyor was that did the work I know not, as the old map has neither name nor date marked upon it), but it has plainly marked upon it the name of Water Street and Second Street, each street is 24ft. wide. It is said of Mr. Howell that when any one came to his shop to have any work done he labored as hard to sell one of his lots as he did to do the work, hence the name Bargaintown."

Gristmill built by Japhet Ireland (d) (1776-1858). The Mill some 30 feet west of the one built by James Somers (1695-1761), stood until recent years.

By far the most appealing and persistent version of the origin of the name is that of the bargain made between James Somers, a large landholder, and his slaves. James Somers lived on the East side of the swamp that is now Bargaintown Lake and found it both inconvenient and difficult for himself and his associates to traverse to the West side and vice versa. He offered freedom to his slaves if in their spare time they would build a road across the swamp. After performing a full days work for their owner, the women would carry sand and gravel in their aprons or baskets and the men hand hauled stones and timber, laboriously building a passable road through the cedar swamp by lantern light. When the road was completed, Mr. Somers true to his word, granted the slaves their freedom and a piece of land to till. The bargain successfully accomplished, the village became known as Bargaintown.

If the origin is obscure, the name is not. BARGAINTOWN. It has both phonetic atmosphere and character.

Though it cannot be proven that James Somers was responsible for building of the road across the swamp, which became Central Avenue, we do know that he built the Grist Mill on Patcong Creek side east of the dam and a Saw Mill west of the dam. The Grist Mill that is pictured and remembered today was the second gristmill erected some thirty feet to the westward by Japhet Ireland to replace the deteriorated first mill building. The old grinding wheels from the original mill were incorporated into the masonry wall of the second mill. In 1918,Mr. William Lake wrote this nostalgic paragraph concerning the Grist Mill.

"The old grist mill still stands as of yore but the grinding therein has nearly ceased; here too, the old undershot wheel and cogger have given way for the turbine wheel and belts--the old stones that crushed the grain, the bolt that bolted the fine flour for the wedding cake at the marriage bell have almost ceased to turn. The old willow trees that stood by the side of the pond, under which the farmer drove his horses on a hot summer day whilst his grists were being ground, have also passed away."

The saw mill on the southerly side of Central Avenue was run by Daniel S. Collins in recent years.

Mr. Somers in his last will and testament dated April 20th, 1758,bequeathed to his son, James Somers, Jr., among other possessions, the grist mill, saw mill and one acre of land, purchased from Netum Babcock, adjoining the saw mill property to be used as a log bank. He also bequeathed an acre of land to the (Quakers. This ground is across from Central Methodist Church, Linwood, and is used as a cemetery.

Concerning Netum Babcock from whom James Somers purchased the one-acre of land for a log bank, William Lake wrote,

"Netum Babcock was a seafaring man, frequently making voyages to different parts of the world. On one in the Mediterranean Sea, in company with a number of other merchant ships trading in that sea, they were attacked by a number of pirate ships, a battle ensued. Cap't. Babcock fought them to the last - he was finally captured, his vessel robbed by the pirates and them ran upon an island where himself and crew were driven on shore.

The pirates decided that the man that had fought them so bravely should not at once lose his life; his right arm should be cut off between the shoulder and elbow. After this barbarous act was done the captain was left to bleed to death. One of his sailors seeing the condition his captain was in, went on board their ship, got some pitch and a kettle, brought them on shore, warmed the pitch in the kettle and then had the captain to plunge the stump of his arm in warm pitch, which soon stopped the flow of blood and by so doing saved the life of Cap't. Babcock.

When I was a young man, one Mrs. Holdcroft, an estimable old lady, and a daughter of Colonel Doughty, frequently said to the boys that met at her place to get cake and beer; that when she was a young woman she had frequently seen Cap't. Babcock with his right arm off; as the Captain frequently came to her father's place."

The General Store located at the northwest intersection of Delaware Avenue and Bargaintown Road was operated by Somers Edwin Leeds (1864-1959). He married Aura the daughter of Richard S. and Aimira (Babcock) Garwood. He was a member of the School Board and the Township Committee.
..... from page 197 of the Genealogy of the Lake Family by Adams and Risley 1915. Map

Mrs. Holdcroft's father, Colonel Doughty was the genial host and proprietor of the establishment known as Doughty's Tavern located on what is now Delaware Avenue. Before the building of the old Bargaintown School in 1873, the tavern was used as a town hall and voting center for all of Egg Harbor Township. Voting was practical and open. A moderator and clerk were chosen. The moderator mounted a wagon to address the assembled crowd. A line was drawn in the dirt and ayes and nays were counted by the voters stepping across or remaining behind the line. Officers were elected and monies voted for the expenses of the Township. School taxes were levied so much per child between the ages of five and eighteen years. The number of sheep killed by dogs during the year determined the amount of dog tax. It is worth considering for a moment that this method of handling government affairs may be superior to the ponderous procedures employed today.

In 1873, a school was constructed on Bargaintown Road. Children from the ages of seven attended from nine until four o'clock with all eight classes being taught in one room by one teacher. Township meetings were there after held in the school instead of Doughty's Tavern, which pleased David and Simon Lake. Township Officers and temperate souls, who positively refused to vote public monies for the purpose of purchasing intoxicating liquors for the Township Officers or anyone else attending Township meetings. In 1914, a new brick school was built next door and the old building renovated and renamed Egg Harbor Township Hall, which is still the center of Township government and voting.

Price's or Bakers Mill at Pricetown on Patcong Creek was built by John Price of Mays Landing about 1757. The Mill was operated at various times by Richard Somers (?), Daniel Baker, and Daniel E. Benjamin and Edward Collins.

Prior to-the Bargaintown Road School, an earlier one-room schoolhouse existed on Mill Road near the standpipe and is remembered by William Lake.

"The old school house, where the boys and girls learned their A.B.C.'s stood in the edge of the woods on the west side of the road that leads from the village of Bargaintown to once Risley's Mills, where now stands a water tower one hundred feet high; this building stood near the head of the Mill Pond. This building was 18 feet in length, 16 feet in width and 9 feet posts; it had 8 windows, three on each side and one on each end; the eight were 8 by 10 inches. The writing desks were on the four sides of the building, set against the wall; in using these desks, the scholars always sat facing the wall, with their backs to the Master." "The room was heated by a large tin plate stove set in the middle of the room, a cord of wood stick four feet long when cut in two made two sticks for the stove. On three sides of the stove were arranged three low benches without any backs, for the small girls and boys to sit on. On a cold morning the older ones always crowded the smaller ones off. Well do I remember the low bench on the boys' side. It was made of an oak slab, in the same condition it came from the saw mill, not even the stub shot cut off."

The religious and social center of Bargaintown was Blackman's Meeting House built in 1764 by the Presbyterian residents and the special efforts of John Brainard, a patriot of the Revolution. After 1789, the Methodists shared the building and in 1814 purchased it. Needing more space for a growing congregation, a brick building was erected in 1822 close to the original meetinghouse. $1525.95 was pledged to the building fund, which seems ridiculously low, but so were the invoices tendered:

  Digging well 18ft. deep
  Laying 54,050 brick
 135.12 1/2
  Painting and glazing 364 lights
  Two bundles of lath
  3355 feet of frame stull
  500 feet of 5/8 cedar boards
  Carting 13,600 brick
  Two days work painting

Zion Meeting House, Bargaintown, 1963
                             Photo by Joseph Henry Bennett

Zion Methodist Meeting House continues to serve its congregation, which again threatens to out-grow it.

It is not surprising that many of the men at rest in the old graveyard of Zion Church were of the sea, since three shipyards were active on Patcong Creek. Two and three masted ships were built, one of them the AIDE, three hundred and fifty tons, built in 1854. William Lake remembers:

"Anyone looking at the remains of the old saw mill and stream at the present day would say it looks very much like a fairy story to say that one day they built vessels by the side of this old mill site.

Job Ireland, the old sawyer, frequently told us boys, that he had sawed deck plank in the mill and shoved them from the saw to the deck of the vessel. Sad was the day to the old sawyer, when a vessel named the "Miller" was launched from this yard - as she slid off the ways she listed to one side, one of his sons being on board fell down the mast-hold and was killed. The second shipyard, known as early as 1803, in after years at Jole's Landing, is about one-eighth of a mile below the mill. In building a vessel at this yard, the adjoining landholders got into a dispute as to the correct location of their partition line. A surveyor was called upon to locate the line; it was found that the line crossed the keel of the vessel. To adjust the matter the keel had to be moved some 15 or 20 feet to the southwest.

The third yard was about one-fourth of a mile below the sawmill and is known at this day 1918, as the old shipyard. The dock in which the vessels were launched, can be plainly seen at this date and very plainly marks the historical spot.

Nicholas Frambush (Frambes) was the owner of this yard, with the assistance of his three sons, namely, Job, David and Andrew and his son-in-law, Daniel Edwards, a blacksmith. They always had a vessel on the stocks. In the winter of 1856-7 I was in New York keeping ship, our vessel having been frozen up and navigation almost at a standstill. Here I became acquainted with an old sailor, by the name of John Lee from English Creek, who informed me that he had made a voyage from New York to the West Indies in a Brig built at Bargaintown."

The first Postmaster of Bargaintown was Samuel Somers in 1807. In 1872 the postmaster may have been J.I. Frambes, as the post office is shown at his house located at the southeast corner of Central Avenue and Water Street. **

Sometime after this post office was in the house across the street, pictured above. This office was ended. The house is now owned by Francis Sutton:

** Area Map I & Area Map II of Bargaintown; Map of Atlantic County, Bargaintown inset, by Beers, Comstock and Cline, 1872.

Bargaintown's blacksmith shop was built by David Howell and was located on the west corner of Water Street and Central Avenue on property that is now owned by Mr. Francis Sutton. Daniel Edwards, Nicholas Frambes's son-in-law, served his apprenticeship under David Howell, eventually becoming owner. Business increased until the old shop was torn down and a larger one built on the same site containing two forges. Enoch Ingersoll became owner after serving his apprenticeship and 1834 conveyed ownership to Mark Lake. These men over the years kept the shipyards on Patcong Creek and various others on Atlantic and Cape May Counties supplied with iron fittings. The making and repairing of carpenter tools, farming implements, nails, horseshoes, etc., made the blacksmith shop indispensable to the progress and convenience of the Community.

Besides the grist mill, saw mill, blacksmith shop, shipyards, church, schools, tavern, plantations and residences, the village of Bargaintown boasted a shoe shop, general store, post office, custom house and an ice business. The general store stood some three hundred feet from Cedar Bridge off Zion Road where the present day home of Mr. and Mrs. E. W. Lister is located.

The post office was established in 1807, with Samuel Somers as the first Postmaster. The last Post Office was located on Water Street and still stands as the residence of Mr. Francis Sutton and his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. David Clayton. Mail was picked up and delivered by stagecoach. Bargaintown was also a main stagecoach stop on the route to John Knisell's ferry in Camden.

Click on photo for larger view.

Shown in the picture are Joseph Thoman, Joshua Tindley, Hosea Sutton, Frank Hackett, Herman Shauffer, Robert Lloyd, Joseph Price, sitting on the cake of ice; John Doughty, Joshua Garwood, Ben Sutton, Fred Myers, Joshua Dueble, William Bird, Smith Sutton and Gus Brower. The men are holding saws, and other implements necessary to their trade.

The ice cutting industry flourished until about 1918. Richard F. Collins and Dardel S. Collins, brothers, were the main "ice men". Richard Collinm had his icehouse on Mill Rd. near the old stand pipe while Dardel S. Collins had ice houses on Central Ave. (the Mill pond) and in Somers Point.

Original photograph from Mrs. James Way A copy by Jack E. Boucher

Click on Certificate above to see larger version.

A photocopy of the Commission to Robert B. Risley appointing him, Collector of the Customs for the District of Great Egg Harbor and Inspector of the Revenue for the Port of Bargaintown in the State of New Jersey.

Copy of the original Commission by Joseph H. Bennett

In the late 1800's, Daniel S. Collins ran a prosperous ice business with storage buildings at both ends of Bargaintown Lake. A narrow canal was cut through the ice the length of the lake. Cakes of ice were hand cut and floated with the aid of hooked poles along the canal to either building where they were stacked and covered with sawdust to await the summer demand.

The Custom House stood on the lake side of Central Avenue on property that is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. John H. Dilks and was enacted into being by a document dated the 8th day' of February, 1845, and signed on the 12th day of February, 1845, by John Tyler, President of the United States and George M. Bibb, Secretary of the Treasury, appointing Robert B. Risley Collector of the customs for the District of Great Egg Harbor and Inspector of the Revenue for the Port of Bargaintown on the State of New Jersey. This remarkable document is owned by Mrs. Marie Cavileer Gandy of Linwood, New Jersey and is in perfect condition including the metal tube in which it was originally delivered.

The natural assets of Patcong Creek and the old cedar swamp must be credited for the prosperity of the early Village of Bargaintown. Damming the creek provided timber for the building of homes, businesses and ships. If you enjoy a relaxing, spellbound hour, pick a calm, sunny day in early spring or late fall when the water is cold and clear. Beg, borrow or rent a boat and row out upon Bargaintown Lake. Wear sunglasses to dissipate the sun's glare on the water surface and the visual effect is the same as a glass bottomed boat. You cannot help but be fascinated by the skeletal remains of the once spectacular stand of grandiose cedar trees. Water worn and eerie in their shapes and unusual positions, huge stumps, logs and branches populate the lake bottom. Many stumps are three to five feet across. Stripped tree tops twenty to thirty feet long and a foot to two feet across lay where they were discarded. Branches twine in tangled confusion. The entire lake is a watery graveyard for a butchered forest primeval. There is nothing from the past I would have rather seen than these straight, towering cedar giants. Trees of size and dimension such as will never be seen in this area again. The scene will haunt you.

I have quoted liberally from William Lake's recollective sketch of Bargaintown because I thought it to be the most interesting and charming material written about Bargaintown. Mr. Lake was approximately eighty years old when he wrote it and it is a combination of fact and nostalgia. He is repeatedly concerned about the future of Bargaintown.

"I alone am left to tell the story of more than seventy years ago. Who? Who will tell the story of seventy years hence?" "The Post Office at Bargaintown has been stricken from the list of Post Offices in the Department at Washington, ID. C., the name will soon be forgotten; death and decay are written on all of the old shipyards, mills, blacksmith's shop, shoe shop, store's and tavern."

Mr. Lake need not have worried. There are new enterprises, improvements and progress of which Mr. Lake could not have imagined. The descendents of the early families still contribute their talents to Bargaintown, attend its schools and churches, plus all the others that have come to build their homes and live here. Old buildings decay and disappear. The continual waves of progressive change transform the landscape, but the people are the essential ingredient to the future of the locale. We are the living future that Mr. Lake was so needlessly concerned about in 1918, and our children and their children after them secure the coming future of Bargaintown. History is a record of the activities and accomplishments of people. It has no ending.

Beryl D. Mason

Web Page by John Dilks


This Web Page © John H. Dilks, EHTdotCOM
Reprinted from Sketches of Egg Harbor Township © 1964 by the Egg Harbor Township Terecentenary Publications Committee.
Permission to reprint this book was given to John Dilks by William F. Cullen, III, Chairman of the Egg Harbor Township Tercentenary Committee.