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Friday, April 24, 2009

NOW AND THEN- The Lafayette Gerew Store

We tend to think that the things we see around us don't change much. The truth is that they do but, often, the changes happen so slowly that we tend not to notice. Such is the case with the old Lafayette Gerew store on Hammonton Road, the subject of today's NOW AND THEN Blog commentary.

Today there is little evidence that the large, yellow sided house that huggs Hammonton Road was originally a store servicing the Frogtown area of Bass River Township.

The old Lafayette Gerew store on Hammonton Road is now a private home. (November 9, 2005 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

In the early 1900's, this building was a store belonging to Lafayette Gerew who was listed as a sea caption in the 1900 census. That census shows Lafayette as the head of the household with six children - Ira (16), Lewis (13), Walter (11), Harold (6), Owen (5), and Beatrice (3). Lafayette's first wife, Ellen Hickman, who he married in 1883, had passed away on January 10, 1900. The 1910 census shows that he was married a second time to Matilda [Gaskill] in 1903. Matilda died in 1919. Both wives are buried, with Lafayette, in the family plot in Hillside Cemetery, not far from the family store.

Lafayette Gerew and his second wife, Miltilda Gaskill. (Photo courtesy of Lucy Wood Lehneis.)

Lafayette fell ill in the mid 1920's and his daughter, Beatrice and her husband, Tom Wood, moved in with Lafayette to take care of him. Lafayette died January 12, 1928, at age 68. The Wood family took over running the family store for a short time.

The Lafayette Gerew store, circa early 1930's with the Tom Wood family and some friends on the porch. The sign on the right reads "Thomas Wood - Standard Gasoline." The lettering on the truck at the left reads "Fred Hess & Son - Photographers." It was common for photographers to travel from town to town taking family and scenic photos that were often made into post cards. Fred Hess or his son likely took this photo. (Photo courtesy of Lucy Wood Lehneis.)

Tom (1) and Beatrice (2) Wood and their children Betty (3), Lucy (4), and Tom (4) moved in with Lafayette to help with the store when Lafayette's health started to fail. Two unidentified friends (6) and (7) are also in the photo. (Photo courtesy of Lucy Wood Lehneis.)

(l-r)- Ira Gerew, Sr. (Beatrice's brother); Beatrice Gerew Wood; Betty Wood Kmetz (Beatrice's daughter); Mary Gerew; Ella Gerew (Ira's wife); and Jesse Thomas Wood, Sr. (Photo courtesy of Lucy Wood Leheis.)

The 1930 census shows the Wood family living on Hamonton Road at the Old Lafayette Gerew store with Tom listed as "Jesse Thomas Wood", a "carpenter", and Beatrice as a "Proprietress." This can be somewhat confusing, as Tom never went by his first name, Jesse. The census indicates that Beatrice ran the store while Tom worked outside the home as a carpenter. I don't know how long they operated the store. Perhaps some "old timer" out there can enlighten me as to when the store changed hands.

The store was eventually sold to the Schroeders and then to the Louis Sears family, but those are stories for another time.

Pete S

PS- For more information on the Lafayette Gerew family see John Allen's article "The French Connection: The Allen and Gerew Families" on page 8 of Issue #12, June, 2002, of the Bass River Gazette. You can read it by clicking on the link below and going to page 8.


  1. Hi Pete: When I read this account and saw the name Ellen Hickman, something rang a bell. I got to looking in my Adams-Leeds geneology and sure enough there is a Sophia Hickman, father Joseph and mother Elizabeth. The time frame is just about right for the dates you give. Sophia was Risley Adams wife and mother of Edward Page Adams, my great grandfather. Is there a connection here? Thanks
    Beverly Mathis Robinson

  2. Is there a way I could get in touch with Lucy Wood Lehneis? We share the same last name (which is rare) and I was wondering if there was a family tie. I don't know much about my father's side of the family (Lehneis).

    1. Sadly, Lucy passed away 7 Feb 2010. She had shared her Gerew family genealogy research previously. She married John B. Lehneis (1922-1998). They lived in Egg Harbor City, NJ. Hope that helps.

      John Allen