English Creek
By Ann Nickles, Margaret Hart
Joseph Henry Bennett and
Interviews with Andrew R. English

Click here for a Historic Map of English Creek 1780 - 1900
The Map opens in a separate window so you can bounce back and forth between the text and the map.

Click here for a Historic Map of English Creek Tax Map 1872
The Map opens in a separate window so you can bounce back and forth between the text and the map.

English Creek: a smart mill stream of Great Egg Harbor Township, Gloucester County which flows by a southwest course of 4 or 5 miles into Great Egg Harbor River, about 5 miles from the Bay....
           ...Gazetteer of New Jersey by Thomas Gordon, 1838.

John English (1690 - 1770)

A photo copy of the 2" x 2" black and white portrait in the home of Andrew R. English.
                       by Joseph Henry Bennett

John English (1690-1770)? was the son of Joseph and Hannah (Clift) English of Burlington N . J. In 1714 John English received large tracts of land at English Creek where he settled, and had extensive sawmills. The maiden name of his wife Sarah is not known. He served as a Justice of the County Courts. He was active in the early religious societies in Great Egg Harbor.

Joseph English (1812-1889) was the son of James and Mary (Lake) English of English Creek. He married Ann West Smith (1816-1900) a daughter of Constant and Eunice (Somers) Smith of Scullville.

He was a farmer and lived on the west side of English Lane in English Creek. He served as one of the first trustees of Asbury Methodist Church in 1852.

He was the grandfather of Andrew Robinson English, who lives across the Lane from the old J. English homestead.



Winter came late to the New Jersey country side in the year 1874. The village of English Creek, nestling along side the Great Egg Harbor River; which leads to the Atlantic Ocean; was humming with its varied activities. For English Creek was a growing community and its residents were enthusiastic as to its potential.

On a cold December day, Israel Smith, boat builder, watched a boat built for John E, Smith, launched from the dock at the English Creek Boat Yard. It was a sturdy vessel with 120 foot keel. As the vessel slowly proceeded down the creek, Israel pulled a small worn black book from his pocket and wrote: "Dec. 22, 1874 - Launched vessel, The EvaI Smith".

As he thumbed thru the pages, he thought, "Thank Goodness, this one went smoothly - the tides and wind just right - not like "The Elizabeth F. Cottingham" - We launched her in January. Took us 'till March to move her to the wharf - yes, here it is.'? Jan. 7, Cut trees for launching and ways from Joseph English. - Launched vessel Jan.3Oth - and finally moved her to the wharf on March 6th. Settled for schooner, Elizabeth F. Cottingham, March 13th and on March 22 she went to sea.

"Now the building of the 'Eva I Smith' sure went slow - made the model Feb. 9th, then cut and carted logs to the mill Feb. 11th. Started actual building Feb. 20th. During April the ground was frozen hard and the creek partially frozen over. Hauled out the keel for the vessel on April 13th. We sure had a slow start. Yes, that was the month Captain John Jeffers, of the schooner L. A. Rommil, stopped to visit. It's nice to see old friends. Told him Japhet Champion went to sea on Feb. 4th and William Jeffers was elected overseer of roads on March 7th. - also Thomas Bevis died April 9th, - poor man, he'd been confined to bed for six years."

"In May it turned real warm - that was good for the crops - and we had quarterly meeting at Asbury Church, May 2nd. Agreed to pay the preacher $800.00 - hope it's not too much. The exhibition at the Hope School was a success on May 19. And yes, hereon June 2nd, the Schooner A. M. Baily delivered lumber to the boat yard. On June 30th, I drew up papers for John B. Ingersoll for a vessel to be built by Elisha V. Alby."

"During July and August we mowed salt hay and loaded it on scows." Drought prevailed and the corn suffered; finally got a shower on August 7th."

"August 21st - "My birthday - I'm 55 years old and feeling like I'm going downhill." Could be - I'm beginning to slow down. Oh well."

"English Creek is really growing tho, and we all have high hopes. Our roads have sure improved. I've made two agreeable trips to Jamestown and Yorktown, Virginia this year; to purchase lumber from Wolfs Mill for the shipyard. Have to start building a Schooner for Enoch Smith - I better stop looking back and look forward."

The Settlement

The steam saw mill located on the northeast intersection of Asbury Avenue and Zion Road, in English Creek was built in 1904 by Oliver A. Lee, George Lee and Samuel Ireland.

It was torn down some years ago. The land is now owned by the Asbury Methodist Church.

Thomas Gordon, writing a history of New Jersey in 1834, said that English Creek was a "smart mill stream of Egg Harbor Township which flows by a southwest course of four or five miles into Great Egg Harbor River, about five miles from the sea."

A grist mill was built a few miles up the creek and later a saw mill utilized the power. A settlement grew up and that, too, was called English Creek after the English family who first settled there in 1714.

As more families moved into the area, the demands of daily living, progressed with the age until by the middle and latter part of the 1800's a church, school, post office and store were firmly established. Also a saw and grist mill, a ship building yard, a blacksmith shop and a tavern.

In addition there were farm products to be sold or traded, forest products, charcoal making, salt hay to be harvested, fish and shell fish, game from the forests; and following the sea itself.

The Grist and Saw Mill on Aaron Somers Mill Pond on Zion Road in English Creek.

Names left to right: Lewis Smith, Alfred Scull & Emma Smith, Caroline S. Smith in doorway, and Christopher Lake English (1844-1917) son of Joseph and Ann W. (Smith) English. Father of Andrew R. English in English Creek.

Forest Products

A large part of English Creek was covered by pine forests along with oak, chestnut and maple. For one hundred and fifty years many of the inhabitants depended principally on forest products of one kind or another for their livelihood; but comparatively, lumber, charcoal and other marketable products.


The pine forests a few miles back from the river supplied the material for making charcoal. An experienced wood chopper could cut two cords of wood a day and the standard pay for years was twenty-five cents a cord.

The wood was carted by horse and wagon to a cleared spot, usually a slight depression, caused by successive burning of vegetation. A small tree was used for a center pole with four-foot lengths of cordwood, two tiers high, stacked against it to form a teepee shaped mound. Over this was placed turf; out from the surrounding ground with a turfing hoe. From four to six inches depth of sand covered the mound. About eight cords of wood were required for a pit.

To fire a pit, the center pole was pulled out, and a fire started at the top; allowed to drop to the bottom of the hole and fed with short lengths of wood. When this was burning satisfactorily the hole at the top was covered with the turf and sand and a draft hole made at the bottom, to regulate the amount of air entering, so the wood charred instead of burning to ashes.

The "burning" took from eight to ten days. As the wood charred, the pit became smaller, eventually "falling in". The draft was cut off, turf and sand raked away, and the charcoal allowed to cool. It was then broken into pieces, loaded in baskets and bags, and hauled to the wharf for shipping.


Great cargoes of cordwood were shipped on coastwise steamers from English Creek Wharf and Betsy Scull Wharf. Most of it was sent to Haverstraw, New York, where it was used in the manufacture of bricks. The schooners returned with a load of bricks.


Shipbuilding was one of the industries, which engaged many of the men of English Creek. Two and three mast schooners were built from the lumber taken from the forests in and around the surrounding area.

The boat yard, located on English Creek, was ideally suited for building and launching. Israel Smith (1819-1885), one of the builders, would first draw up "papers" for the owner, then build a model of the contracted vessel; before actual construction began.

Captain John J. Blackman remembered these ships built at the English Creek Yard by Israel Smith.

Schooner Somers M.D. Scull
Schooner Addle N. Haines
Schooner C . L. Scull
Schooner E .T. Cottingham
Schooner Eva I. Smith

— Captain Zephenor Steelman
— Captain Lamer Blackman
— Captain David Scull
— Captain John Smith
— sold to John Saunders

In addition to building boats, Israel Smith's knowledge and aid were solicited in tiles of trouble at sea. On November 30th, 1877, he was called to Georgetown to free a schooner from a sandbar, the St. Cave Edwards, in charge of a Captain Ireland. It had run aground. This took twelve days and before he returned to English Creek, he visited the House of Congress, the U.S. Senate, the Smithsonian Institute and the Robert E. Lee mansion.

SCHOONER: Emma L. Cottingham

Built in 1875 at Somers Point

3 masted schooner
522 Tons
139' 4" length
34' beam
10' 2" deep
J. B. Steelman Owner

In 1875 Somers Point was in the Township of Egg Harbor. Israel Smith, shipbuilder of English Creek was engaged in the Yard located there. Oil Painting courtesy of Mrs. Edgar Somers.
                                                   Photo by William Hann

Following the Sea

Many of the men and women of this early period in our history followed the sea. Wives were left to care for the farms and rear the children.

John J. Blackman (1852-1938) was born in English Creek. He lived here with his parents until he was thirteen years of age. He then started to sea, sailing on various vessels as cook and then as sailor before the mast. At sixteen he was made mate of the schooner "Althea" sailing in general coast trade. In this service he became a navigator and boasted that he could find his position at sea whenever the sun was shining.

Blackman soon became Captain of his own ship and owned a number of vessels until he retired in 1888 to a farm in Steelmanville.

Many of the boys and men who went to sea never returned. A few monuments in the cemetery have the legend, "Lost at Sea". It is easier to understand the risk involved in shipping in those days of sailing vessels, when we consider some of the local vessels lost at sea.

Schooner Theresa Wolfe - built for Captain John Lee of English Creek in 1875 - Foundered in a heavy gale while lying at anchor in Delaware Breakwater.

Schooner Eliza S. Lee - built for Captain John Lee of English Creek - Lost at sea off east coast.

Schooner John B. Clayton - built for Captain John Clayton of English Creek in 1862 - wrecked off the coast in a storm.

Schooner Rebecca A. Tulane - built for Captain Japhet Champion of English Creek in 1882 - Abandoned at sea off Cape Hatteras.

Salt Hay

All the meadowland along the tidewater produced a salt hay, which was in demand for bedding livestock, especially in city livery stables and for one short period as the raw material for the Harrisville paper mill in Burlington County, northeast of Batsto.

Many farmers had a hay mower and rake drawn by horses. There was great competition for the leasing of meadow land for the hay on both sides of the river. Horses and machinery were rowed over on large hay scows. Horses had to wear "mud boots" made of leather, to keep them from getting mired. Some haying crews mowed by hand with scythes. Small hay-cocks were raked together and two men lifted them on scows by the means of two poles thrust under the pile. When the scow was loaded to capacity, the crew waited until the tide was right and with heavy oars, rowed the boat to one of the available wharfs for shipping.


Some men farmed for a living, but no matter what a man's trade, he always managed to do enough farming to supply his family with food during the summer and to put away sufficient for the winter. Root vegetables, cabbages, and apples were stored in a cellar or cave; other fruits and vegetables dried; and meat and some vegetables preserved by brine method.

In early October the molasses mill was set up for processing sorghum. Buckwheat, wheat, oats, and corn were carted to the mill to be ground into flour products. The miller often took a share of the flour for grinding it, keeping it for his own use and selling the surplus.

Almost every family had livestock; a flock of hens, geese, ducks, turkeys, pigs, a cow, horses for farm work and transportation, and perhaps a calf for butchering.

During the latter part of the 1800's, the families whose livelihood depended on farming found a ready market for their livestock, hay and grain at Weymouth. Hides were sold in Egg Harbor to a shoe factory that was in operation there. A hired "hand" received $10.00 a month.

Current prices at that time were:

l0¢ per pound
l4¢ per pound
14 l/2¢ per pound
16¢ per pound

Country Store and Post Office

In the earliest days most trade was done by barter. Farmers were independent in an economic sense because there were few necessities that they could not provide.

Seamen went out and came back with currency; farmers learned that larger towns afforded a ready market for crops. The country man gradually became dependent on his fellowman and general stores sprang up all over the country.

The supplies handled by these stores were geared to the demand of their particular location.

During the middle of the eighteenth century, post offices were located in the stores. The position of postmaster was most coveted because it naturally increased trade at the chosen store.

Audubon and Wilson

Two of America's greatest ornithologists found the Great Egg Harbor and River with its coves and creeks to be the habitat of the birds they wanted to paint.

In 1813, Alexander Wilson came to the river to study water birds while working on the eighth volume of his great work. He contracted a cold, from a fall in the river near Somers Point and died in Philadelphia, August 23, 1813. Before his death he stated, "many a drawing I made at Egg Harbor River and many a pleasant day I spent along its shores."

John James Audubon made a trip to the Great Egg Harbor River in 1828, traveling with a group of hunters and fishermen, exploring English Creek and the nearby salt marshes. He painted tern, heron, marsh hens, and sea gulls; re-drawing many of his earlier water birds; the sea finch with wild roses-, the yellow breasted chat, and the black poll warbler. In a few weeks he had completed thirteen paintings and had made some sketches.

Methodists - Religion

Asbury Methodist Church

The Asbury Methodist Church was erected in 1852 some 100 feet west of the English Meeting House. This church was destroyed by fire in December of l860. The church was rebuilt in 1863.
                           photo J.H. Bennett 1963

As America was founded on religion - so, too, did religion influence the early beginnings of English Creek.

Methodism in English Creek reaches to the preaching of the first riders of the Salem and Bethel Circuits in 1789-1803 and to the preaching of the first Bishop of the Methodist Church in America - Francis Asbury.

The first preaching in English Creek was at the homes of Joseph Inglishes (English) and David Blackman, stations on the two circuits. By the years 1790-96, the two classes had formed a society. The first Methodist revival occurred in 1796. The results of the revival in the Creek was the building of the English Creek Meeting House. This was located in the rear of the present Asbury Methodist Church just west of the large cedar and north of the privies.

This church was unlighted. Many worshippers brought light with them, and as the congregation gathered, they would place their candles on the beam across the Church; thus affording light for all.

In 1852 the first Asbury Methodist Church was built, upon the site of the present church. Fire destroyed this church on Christmas Eve, 1860. The present church is standing on the same foundation. On one cornerstone is 1852; on the other 1863. Joseph Endicott Smith was the builder of this church and Rev. Edward Waters served as first minister.


English Creek School

The old English Creek School House at the southeast corner of Zion Road and the Somers Point to Mays Landing Road. It was built in the 1850's.

On October 20th, 1963 - Andrew English of the seventh generation of the founders of English Creek, strolled briskly from his front door to the large oak tree standing in front of his home on English Lane. It was a beautiful day - clear and with just a nip in the air. As he stood beneath the wide spreading branches, he looked up at this majestic tree and thought:

"If only you could speak, oak tree, you've been standing here since 1664. You could tell us of the many changes that have come to this community. I remember many and my folks have told me of others.

I graduated from the school, which still stands, at Zion and Mays Landing-Somers Point Road, in 1902. It's a private dwelling now. It was built in 1850 and discontinued in use during the 1930's. I know of two other schools before that. One in the back of the house owned by Art Hanson on Zion Road; the other near the' house owned by the Douglass family on Mays Landing-Somers Point Road. An old trail still leads back to that site. They were in use in the early 1800's.

Now we have a modern Junior High, the H. Russell Swift School on Ocean Heights Avenue."

H. Russell Swift School

On Ocean Heights Avenue, Egg Harbor Township, erected in 1956. - photo by Dan F. Cox.

And across from Harry Scull's service station, William R. Lake had his blacksmith shop in 1885. Before that his shop was at the triangle, formed by Asbury and Zion Roads. Garages and service stations have replaced that trade.

And the Mills; both the grist and saw mill; located in back of Asbury Church at the present Hogan home. The pond there was Aaron Somers Mill Pond, and The mills were in operation in 1800.

Instead of a post office, located in a general store, we have rural delivery. This began in the early 1900's and at that time the mailbox had to be mounted on tall posts to accommodate the high wagons used for delivery. The post office I remember was located in Henry Scull's Store on English Creek Avenue near Mays Landing - Somers Point Road. Our present Mays Landing-Somers Point Road was built in 1914.

Across the road stands the house of my grandfather, Joseph English, built in 1838; and my house was built in l882 by Joseph Endicott Smith, the builder of Asbury Church.

Hmmm, today is a day for remembering. We're celebrating "Home coming" today at Asbury Church; its 100th anniversary. Well I better stop looking back and get ready for the church."

Yes, we the people of English Creek, both the "newcomers" and the natives have a wonderful heritage, and we too have our share in the making of history.


Thesis and research Ann Nickles - Margaret Hart
Journal of Israel Smith (1819-1885) Covering 1874, 1877, 1883, 1885.
Research, maps, books and other data Joseph Henry Bennett
Interviews with Andrew R. English

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.