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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Don Maxwell Remembers Bill Butcher

In our recent journey regarding the identification of Mrs. G. Seel, Don Maxwell mentioned Bill Butcher. The connection was that both sold Supplee ice cream. A few days ago, I got another email from Don with some more of his memories about Bill Butcher. I thought I would share them with you.


A little info on Bill Butcher, what little I know. I don't know which branch or family of Cramers he was from, but I think it was from Charles Cramer of the Leektown area. Also, he was close to the Norman Cramer family, as Norman's dad, Earl Cramer, talked about him a lot and called him Cousin Bill. Remember, I was practically raised with Norman as his mother and father and my mother and father had double weddings. They were married together on the same day, October 20, 1923, at the same place. I think it was the Presbyterian minister at the time, as mom was a devout Presbyterian and wouldn't have had anyone else.

Earl and Elizabeth French Cramer were married the same day as Donald Maxwell's paretns, Curtis and Dorothy. (Photo courtesy of Norman and Leila Cramer.)

Anyway, Norman's father, Earl, was born and raised in Leektown. Norman's great-grandfather was Charles Cramer who a calvary man in the Civil war. Norm has showed me his calvary sword with his name inscribed on it.

What Bill Butcher's father name was, I don't know. Bill and his brother, Ward, both went down in the Vineland area and became glassblowers. They retired back in their hometown, New Gretna. Ward was somewhat of a recluse, as he lived in an old shack on Rt. 9 on the old Meadow Road going over to the old iron bridge crossing the Mullica. He was an old bachelor and lived alone. He finally was killed one day when he wasn't looking and stepped out in front of an express truck from Barnegat on its way to making a delivery in Atlantic City. The trucking company name, as I remember, was Bellefontaine Trucking, as it went thru New Gretna all the time.

Back to Bill. My father and I had a fellow from Tuckerton working for us at the time named Jeff Cramer. He was originally from New Gretna in the Greenbush section. His father's name was Renard Cramer. Jeff had a sister, Olive, who married Jack Wiseman. Cassy Heinrich, Myrtle Falkenburg, and Renard Wiseman were jeff's neices and nephew.

John and Olive Wiseman at their 50th wedding anniversary celebration. (Photo courtesy of Myrtle Wisemand Falkinburg.)

Jeff worked for us all through the 1950's, and he used to tell me about Bill Elwood as he called Bill Butcher. Elwood was probably his middle name. Jeff said at one time Bill Butcher joined a religious sect that grew large long beards - on the men, naturally. He said Bill Butcher spoke in "thees" and "thous" and used biblical terms and speech.

One day, Jeff said Bill was underneath calking and painting a boat he had hauled out for repairs . He accidentally calked his long beard in the caulking and while trying to get it out of the seam, he accidentily upset a pail of red copper paint all over himself. Well, he finally got loose and came out from under using a few choice words. He went home, or somewhere, and shaved off his beard and severed all ties with his fellow sect members.

Another thing is that's how Otto Kalm and his wife came to New Gretna. They met Bill Cramer somewhere and develeped a friendship which brought them to New Gretna. Dave and Fred Kalm and Claire Allen might have some insight on that phase of Bill's life.

Otto and Monica Kalm
(Photo courtesy of Claire Kam Allen)

I believe Bill's first butcher shop was where Levi Downs barber shop was. I remember getting a ride home from visiting my grandparents, the Maxwell's in Wading River, as Bill had a meat route that went to Wading River. When we got back to New Gretna, we stopped right in front of where Levi's barbershop was. That was before it was a barbershop. I remember asking my father what Bill Butcher did for a living in his younger days, and he said Bill was a glassblower down in South Jersey. The reason I asked was because he had much more than most people at that time when the depression was still on. He always had a nice new car, always a Pontiac, several nice shiny new guns, and a nice houseboat moored up Bass River off Doughty and Joe Cramers dock. He also had a house in Leektown, probably the one Phyllis Briggs was talking about.

I remember, just before WWII started in early 1941, Bill bought a brand new Pontiac coupe and had it all during the war. He also had the best rabbit dogs in town, as he loved rabbit hunting. I remember Earl Cramer, Norma's father, and even Norman when he was a boy going rabbit hunting with Bill. If someone had a better dog then Bill, he would buy it.

Bill died sometime in the late 1940's, and i don't know whatever happened to his wife, Ann. I do know they never had any children. That's all I can think of about Butcher Bill.

Don Maxwell

Wow, Donald sure has an excellent memory! It's great that he would take the time to write down all those interesting old New Gretna stories. Otherwise, they would be lost. I hope we can encourage him to do some more writing that can be shared here at the Blog.

I thought I would also share some genealogy regarding Butcher Bill. The following information comes from Jean and Murray Harris' book, "Descendants of William Cranmer of Elizabethtown, NJ".
William H. Cramer, son of Ellwood (2541) and Sarah H. (Stackhouse) Cramer, born 2 October 1873 at New Gretna, married about 1898 Anna Patience _________, born May 1877. In 1900 he was a glassblower in Glassboro Township, in 1910 he had a restaurant in New Gretna. He had meat markets in Tuckerton and in New Gretna in 1931. In New Gretna his shop was at the rear of Schaeffer's restaurant in the building owned by Ashton Lamson. This building was destroyed by fire on 1 April 1931. He was known in New Gretna as" Bill Butcher". Children:

i Anna Upton may have been an adopted daughter. She worked with him as a butcher.
I found the Harris' comment about Anna Upton revealing, as it helped me to solve a puzzle I was having with a circa 1940's photo that I found in Marian Broome's attic labelled "Annie Butcher". The Annie in the photo was clearly too young to be Bill Butcher's wife who would have been in her 60's in the 1940's. It appears as if Anna Upton, mentioned by the Harrises, may have been known as "Annie Butcher" as was Bill's Wife, Anna.

Annie Butcher, circa 1940's
Courtesy of Marian Broome

While the Harris helped clear up my confusion regarding the Annie Butcher in the circa 1940's photo, their description of the location of Bill Butchers New Gretna Butcher Shop left me scratching my head. Welcome to my world!

The Harris' description seems to refer to the north-west corner of Rt 9 and North Maple Avenue (See # 2 on the areal map below). That is where, I believe, Ash Lamson's restaurant stood before it was destroyed by a fire in 1931. I don't ever remember hearing that Butcher Bill had his Butcher Shop there.

The intersection of Route 9 and Maple Avenues. 1- The site of the old New Gretna House; 2- The old Rustic Inn, now boarded up; 3- Present day "Munchies"; and 4- Vacant Lot. The house in the upper right corner was the home of Curtis and Dot Maxwell where Donald Maxwell grew up.
All the stories I have heard about Butcher Bill's shop placed it about where the present day "Munchies" deli is located - #3 on the map. This is also the location described by Don Maxwell in the January 27 Blog entry. Donald placed it " . . . on the S.E. corner of South Maple Avenue (commonly called Eel Street in those days), sort of diagonally across from our house next to the Rustic . . ."

It's possible that both the Harrises and Don Maxwell are right regarding the location of Butcher Bill's business establishment. Bill could have moved his operation and, thus operated out of two New Gretna locations.

I was able to trace Butcher Bill through a variety of censuses, spanning 50 years, from 1880 as a 7 year old boy through 1930 as a 53 year old merchant.

The 1880 Bass River Township census shows our William H. Cramer, age 7, living on a farm with his parents, Elwood and Sarah, and two younger brothers, Harry and Calvin.

Just 4 families down the same 1880 census page we see the Charles Cramer family. The Elwood Cramer family is listed as Family 111 and the Charles Cramer family as Family 115. This confirms a connection between Elwood Cramer and Charles Cramer and relates to Donald Maxwell's statement - " I don't know which branch or family of Cramers he (Butcher Bill) was from, but I think it was from Charles Cramer of the Leektown area." Jean and Murray Harris' genealogy of Ellwood Cramer (near the end of today's blog posting) proves Don Maxwell correct, as it identifies Charles A. Cramer as the father of Elwood Cramer and, thus, the grandfather of Butcher Bill.

Unfortunately, the 1890 census is not available, as it was destroyed in a warehouse fire. That takes us to the 1900 census where we find William H. Cramer living in Glassboro. Bill, now 25 years old, has married Patience A., age 23, two years earlier. They have no children. His brother, Ward, is living next door with a wife, Olga, and a 2 year old son, Arnold. Both Bill and Ward's occupations are listed as "Glassblower". Again, this confirms Donald Maxwell's story - " . . . he [Donald's father Curtis] said Bill was a glassblower down in South Jersey." and "Bill and his brother, Ward, both went down in the Vineland area and became glassblowers." I guess you could say that Glassboro is in the Vineland area, especially from the perspective of a New Gretna resident.

By the 1910 census, we see that Bill has moved to Bass River and was operating a restaurant. His wife is listed as "Anna P." rather than the "Patience A." noted in the 1900 census. I'm sure it is the same person but with middle name listed as a first name and visa versa. We can't be sure if Bill was running a butcher shop at that time, but it's possible.

Bill and Anna seemed to have disappeared at the 1920 census. I could find no trace of them. It is likely that they lived in either Bass River or Tuckerton and continued to run either a restaurant or butcher shop, perhaps both. Any help locating Bill and Anna in 1920 would be appreciated.

They resurfaced in Tuckerton in the 1930 census. Listed as "William H.", Bill is now 53 years old and his wife, Anna, 50. From the years married census columns we see that they were married in 1880 while in their early 20's. The occupation column notations, "proprietor" and "West market", show that Bill is still operating a market business, probably a butcher shop. I have heard that Bill operated butcher shops in both New Gretna and Tuckerton, so it is possible that he was still operating a butcher shop in New Gretna while living and operating a market in Tuckerton.

Taking a look at Butcher Bill's parents' family as presented by the Harrises (see below) may help in recognizing of Bills brothers and sisters who might be known be some of our Blog readers. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with any of Bill's siblings and don't have any photos of them. The family's roots seem to be in the Glassboro area rather than New Gretna. This jives with Don Maxwell's January 27th Blog recollection that " Bill Butcher . . . went into the butcher business after he and his brother, Ward, retired from the glassblowing business somewhere down in South Jersey."

Ellwood Cramer, son of Charles A. (2217) and Elizabeth (Adams) Cramer, born 27 January 1843 at New Gretna, died 29 January 1925 at Glassboro, married at Egg Harbor City 23 August 1872 Sarah H. Stackhouse (Stackers on marriage certificate), daughter of Michael and Elizabeth (Headley) Stackhouse of Millville, born 11 April 1853, died 30 March 1934 at Glassboro. They are both buried at Manahath Cemetery in Glassboro. Ellwood was a sailor for a number of years before settling at Glassboro. Their children:

i William H. Cramer, married Anna Patience ____________.
ii Harry Ward Cramer, married (a) Olga B. _______ and (b) Eliza Spangler.
iii Calvin Cramer, born April 1879, married (a) Esther Stow and (b) Anna M. Deckman.
iv Ervin B. Cramer, born 7 August 1882 Bass River, died 1893, buried Manahath Cemetery, Glassboro.
v Stanley Cramer, born 3 February 1885 at Bass River
vi Alice A. Cramer, born 2 October 1889, lived in Glassboro in 1934. (Informant on mother's death certificate)
vii Rose Cramer, born May 1892.

Well, thanks to Don Maxwell we sure know a lot more about Butcher Bill. It's always satisfying when another piece of New Gretna history falls into place.

Pete S


  1. Hi Pete: Fascinating as usual. A question. Are the Wisemans mentioned in this installment related is some way to my great-great grandmother Louisa Allen, Allen, Wiseman's second husband Jacob Wiseman? I cannot find out anything about him except (I think) his son's name John. Thanks
    Beverly Mathis Robinson

  2. Pete,

    I remember Bill Butcher well. My Dad and Bill did a lot of duck hunting together. In fact Bill gave my Dad most of his stool ducks and snipe stools back in the late 30's or early 40's. They were all hand carved, and I sure wish we had taken more care of them. But they were well used. I can remember lining them on the rail of the sneakbox for them when they went ducking. Annie Butcher as we called her, used to come around the town selling meat from a small truck. She would always give us a raw hot dog or a slice of baloney. I remember all the vendors. Annie had the meat wagon, John Barnes delivered bread. Roland Mathis was the ice man. He would always chip off some ice for us kids on a hot summer day. Dell Downs took orders, and then delivered for Clarence Mathis grocery store. Kligerman delivered milk. Also Herman Wunsch delivered milk. So put all that, with clams, oysters, and fish, and we didn't have to go far for food.

    Dave Kalm

  3. Pete,
    The Bill Butcher blog wrap with input by Don & Dave provided more info than what is in my memory bank. Butcher Annie had the unique habit of ringing a hand held bell to alert the homeowner of her presence. The vehicle was always well kept and clean. It was made from a panel truck body that opened from the rear revealing a butcher block, knives and display shelves for the meats which were kept fresh by ice. As Dave said – kids were rewarded with a slice of baloney and occasionally a slice of liverwurst depending on the amount of your parents purchase. Don stated Bill was dedicated to Pontiac vehicles yet I believe the delivery wagon was a Dodge, because the hood ornaments was a Ram, unlike the Pontiac hood ornament of a Indian. Maybe you have a photo in the archives? All these home delivery salespeople provided an excellent conduit for spreading local happenings (gossip). Del Downs smoked cigars and the aroma lingered on after his departure, especially in the winter.

    Clif Brown

  4. Clif,

    Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of Bill Butcher's delivery truck or any other New Gretna delivery truck. It would be great if someone out in the Blog-O-Sphere had one to show us.

    Pete S