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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cold Case- Job's Creek Accident Revisited

One of today's popular television shows is "Cold Case" where a special team of detectives reopen unsolved cases from years ago. By piecing together a series of small clues, here and there, and a lot of foot work, they are able to shed new light on past events and solve the case.

Well, we've got ourselves a "Cold Case" right here in New Gretna. Seems, detective Robert Mathis from North Maple Avenue, has come up with some information regarding a Job's Creek accident. It is likely that Bob's information is related to the photo presented in yesterday's blog entry. It's worth an investigation to find out.

The accident at Job's Creek.

Here's what Bob had to say . . .

A story I heard my Dad (Walter Mathis) tell several times. When he was a young boy, probably around 1920, there was an accident on the Jobs Creek Bridge. S4 was all dirt, rough and narrow (as you can see from the picture) at that time. Sometimes several cars would come out of New York and race to Atlantic city. This time, two came up on the Jobs Creek Bridge and one tried to pass the other. One hit the bridge and flipped over into the creek. There were 6 or 7 people in the car and all died in the crash or drowned. They pulled them out of the creek and took them up to the Hotel (New Gretna House), where they laid them out on the porch side by side. A lot of people came down and looked at them. He said they were young actors and actresses from New York.

Cold Case Detective Bob Mathis

Pretty interesting stuff there! It's clearly a situation for New Gretna's "Cold Case" squad, so I'm looking to recruit detectives to ferret out more information about the case. Can we confirm the reports of Bob's dad, Walter Mathis, and complete the story?

The best leads would appear to be old newspaper accounts. Should Walter Mathis' account be accurate, it is certain that local newspapers would have covered the story.

The problem becomes "What years should we check for the newspaper story?" I had thought that the photo was taken in the early 1920's since the roadway was paved sometime in 1925, and the photo shows a gravel roadway. But Bob reports that his dad, Walter, was a "young boy" when the accident occurred. That opens the possibility that the accident may have happened prior to 1920, since Walter was born in 1908. I wish I knew what Walter meant by his being a "young boy." So, it would seems logical to check the back microfilmed issues of The Tuckerton Beacon and The Atlantic City Press around 1920 and working backward and forward for a couple of years.

If someone could tell the year of the car models in the photo, it may help to narrow the years that would have to be checked in the newspapers. Any car buffs out there who can help with that?

Unfortunately, the closest place that I am aware of that would have microfilm copies of The Tuckerton Beacon is the Ocean County Library on Washington Street in Toms River. That's where you blog readers come in. I am asking for a volunteer who lives in the Toms River area to take a trip to the Ocean County Library and crank through the microfilm of the The Tuckerton Beacon from 1920+ to look for an account of the Job's Creek incident. You can be a valuable member of our New Gretna "Cold Case" team. Any takers out there?

Meanwhile, I have to find out where back copies of The Atlantic City Press are located. I could use some help there, too.

Let's hope that we are able to shed more light on this interesting situation in the near future. It all depends on you "Cold Case" detectives out there. As Sherlock Holmes said to Dr. Watson, "The game is afoot!"

Pete S.


  1. Pete: Perhaps a nudge in another direction would help in resolving the "Jobs Creek Crash". I believe the newspaper trail should lead to the county seat, Mt. Holly. I recall reading a article on New Gretna about a jobs creek accident about 1920. The paper was Mt. Holly Herald/Burlington County Times. If passenger death was involved the legal records would have to be generated in Mt. Holly making easy access
    for newspaper story. The ball in your court.
    Clif Brown

  2. The NY Times did a surprising amount of news stories about auto accidents even as far south as Atlantic City before World War II. It is standard practice to try to find a brief mention of a story in the NY Times to find a date and then use that date in the local unindexed papers. Articles before 1925 or so are free in the archives on I found quite a few auto accident reports from Atlantic City through Tuckerton area in this period but nothing sounded quite right. Maybe someone with more knowledge of the local geography and what the NY Times might have called the area should try.

  3. Where exactly is Jobs Creek bridge?

  4. It is a small bridge on Route 9 about one mile north of the parkway bridge over the bass river.