Township of Ocean, Ocean County, New Jersey

History of Ocean Township

Henry Hudson

In 1609, Henry Hudson, an Englishman employed by the Dutch to start colonizing America, anchored in what is now known as Barnegat Inlet. According to a log of the "Half Moon", his ship, was the remark "This is a good land to fall in with, and a pleasant land to see." He reported a large lake or "drowned land" which of course was Barnegat Bay. The Dutch named the Inlet as Barendegat, meaning in Dutch, Inlet of Breakers.

Over its first one hundred years Waretown, had several spellings from Waier Creek and Waier Mills in 1762; Wiretown in 1802; Waretown, 1809; Weartown, 1828; Wiretown Branch, 1839; Waretown Mill, 1866; to Waretown P.O. 1872. This information was unearthed by Vivian Zinkin for her "A Study of Place Names in Ocean County".

It appears the village developed from a Mill; that of Abraham Waier's, an early settler and a member of the Rogerines (sometimes called Quaker Baptists) who came here in 1739 after being expelled from Connecticut because of their hostilities to the Puritan Sabbath laws of New England. The Rogerines expressed their opposition in several ways, including whittling axe and hoe handles, knitting and sewing at religious services. Their methods of marrying themselves and their belief that since Christ, all days are holy alike and publicly contradicting the preachers, made them peculiar to our early settlers. However, they left after eleven years, but Abraham Waier stayed and built a mill to replace one he had lost in a storm elsewhere and was "generally esteemed". He died March 24, 1768 at eighty-five years.

Our History in Stone

Waretown has two old cemeteries, the resting places of many of our settlers. The largest is Cedar Grove on Bay Street which was founded in 1861, but included an ancient graveyard. It consists of some 500 graves and is still being used (along with a recent one on Route 532).

The other, The Old Presbyterian Graveyard (also called Union) lies between Route 9 and Main Street. It included a small church until the 1930's. There are over 250 readable headstones there. Some stones are so very old that all traces of lettering are gone forever while some others are beautiful monuments. They tell the story that in these hallowed grounds are buried men who were lost in the wars and epidemics in the early days. There are memorials to men lost at sea and, by information from books, we know also that many mariners who lost their lives in shipwrecks off our Coast, are interred here.

At one time there was a small graveyard across the street from the Presbyterian Graveyard, where Abraham Waier and others were buried but there is no trace of it today. Abraham Waier's gravestone was taken and used as a mooring anchor for a boat by some of the local boys in the early 1950's.

During the Early War Years

It has been said that New Jersey was the center of the turmoil of the Revolutionary War, and the shore villages were no exceptions to the involvement. Even our town's settlers were hampered in their efforts to ship their lumber, an important industry, to New York and other markets where it was in demand. British cruisers patrolled Barnegat Inlet, keeping watch for the whaleboats, schooners and other boats that our local men had loaded with cargo, and which were hidden in the coves and rivers; the Privateers were keeping close watch for a chance to sneak out. If they escaped the watchful eye of the enemy and had a successful trip, the profit would well be worth while. But if they were captured, which they so often were, it meant loss of boats and cargo, usually by fire, and the possible capture of captains and crews. Another bone of contention was the salt works; salt was indispensable in those days as a preservative for meat and fish as well as a gun powder ingredient. There was a salt works near Soper's Landing (located between Barnegat Beach and Pebble Beach) where the Colonists derived salt from the bay water by evaporation. It was one of the orders of the "Refugees" to destroy the salt works.

Joseph Soper and his son Reuben and their families lived near Soper's meadows. They were Patriots under the command of Capt. Reuben Randolph of Manahawkin and were the subjects of harassment by Capt. John Bacon of the Refugees. The Soper men often slept in the swamps adjacent to Lochiel Creek. On one occasion the notorious Bacon plundered the Soper home during a robbery expedition and stole a shirt, which later became his "winding sheet". He was killed wearing it between West Creek and Tuckerton (Clam Town), but not before he had led the attack on Long Beach and during that terrible massacre Reuben Soper and others were killed as they slept.

Another dreaded Refugee leader was Davenport. Although his usual stomping grounds were the Toms River areas he frequently came this way. In 1782 he helped with the attack on Toms River that left the town in burnt ruins. A few months later he led two barges filled with eighty picaroons down Barnegat Bay to Forked River. They went ashore and helped themselves to supplies from a farm, then destroyed the salt works of a patriot, Samuel Brown, who barely escaped capture by hiding in the swamp. The barges then separated, one going up coast, and Davenport and his barge headed toward Waretown with the intention of destroying Newlin's works and maybe some at Barnegat. As their barge approached Oyster Creek they saw an American boat coming toward them. Davenport would not heed his men's pleas to turn back saying they were more in number and would make short work of the Americans. He could not have known of the swivel cannon in the American boat, but as he stood up to urge his rowers on, he was struck and killed by a ball. The boat capsized in a few feet of water and the picaroons scattered to the shore where they begged food of the Quakers, hid until nightfall, then left the area.

A couple of miles back from the bayshore and running parallel to it, was the King's Highway, a stagecoach trail. There is a house nearby that was built in 1735 and a story that has been passed down through the years how one night six men of the Continental Army, being pursued by the British, stopped at that house. The soldiers were hidden and the six horses slept in the dining room. At the time the house belonged to a Camburn.

The War of 1812 found its way to our shores also. Commodore Hardy in his 74 gun flag-ship, the "Ramillies", patrolled the inlet blockading the coast. As before the Privateers tried to make successful trips to other ports with cargos of lumber and other goods. Several of our Captains - Birdsalls, Sopers and others were caught and the area's schooners, "President", "Greyhound" and others were captured and burned. As in the earlier war, Waretowners witnessed many exciting scenes from the shore, shipwrecks of war and contests between the British and Americans to capture crews and cargoes.