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Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Tuckerton Side Car Photo Mystery

I received an email from a history buddy, Pete Hamilton, the Web Master of the West Jersey History Project web site. He also hosts a sister site on Facebook where Richard Gibbs posted a photo of an interesting Tuckerton scene from the 1890's. Richard knew the photo was taken in Tuckerton but could not identify where it was taken. Pete was hoping that I could help.

Tuckerton, 189_ was written on the back of the photo.

Unfortunately, I had no idea where the photo of the horse drawn railroad side car was taken. There were; however, some obvious clues: railroad tracks, a gravel road, a farmhouse nestled in trees, a barn, and a windmill. I decided to take the photo to the Tuckerton Historical Society. Perhaps, someone there could put the clues together and figure out where the photo was taken.

There were many clues on the 189- photo.

I was not disappointed. Patti Richmond, President of the Tuckerton Historical Society, took one look at the photo and said that it was probably taken on Route 9 just north of the present day 7-Eleven. She remembered hearing from old timers that a spur of the old Tuckerton railroad crossed Rt 9 at that location on its way from the main track to Edge Cove on Little Egg Harbor Bay. She also said that the house in the photo was still standing.

Following is a map showing the Tuckerton Railroad route from Tuckerton to Whiting, New Jersey. Take note of the spur which run down to Edge Cove.

The Tuckerton Raidroad by John Brinckman, p 108

My next task was to document Patti's opinion of the photograph's location. Was it at the intersection of present day Rt. 9 and the old Edge Cove railway spur?

The Woolman and Rose 1878 map of Tuckerton reveals some important clues.

Woolman & Rose 1878 Atlas of New Jersey Coast
Partial Tuckerton map, page 309

The map shows that the Edge Cove spur crossed two roads on its way from the main line to Edge Cove - Wood Street and Main Street (present day Rt. 9). An onsite visit to both of these locations with the photo and the 1878 Woolman and Rose map in hand indicated that the building locations and styles and the road angles at the Wood Street intersection did not line up with the photograph. The Main Street intersection was more promising!

Following is a present day aerial photo of the Main Street-Edge Cove spur intersection site. Unfortunately, there are no existing remnants of the old spur to exactly pinpoint where it  crossed Main Street. However, clues from the old photo and the Woolman and Rose map, when placed on the aerial map, give a good indication of the spur's location.

Present day aerial map courtesy of Bing Maps

The spur ran parallel to a creek which passed under Main Street. The creek is not there today; however, the creek bed can still be seen in a wooded area west of Main Street. 

The creek in 1878
Woolman & Rose Atlas of New Jersey Coast

The Captain's Carpet property, at the intersection with Tip Seaman Drive, now covers the old creek bed to the east of Main Street. A swale can be seen to the right of the building, its indentation a remnant of the old creek bed. It is likely that Tip Seaman Drive was built over the old Edge Cove spur roadbed.

Captains Carpet now stands at the corner of Tip Seaman Drive and Rt. 9.
It sits on the old creek bed which ran parallel to the Edge Cove spur.
August 29, 2012 photo by Pete Stemmer

A comparison of the roof line and chimney location of the farmhouse in the old rail car photo to that of an existing house also matches. The barn in both the old photo and the Woolman and Rose map are long gone.

The farmhouse in the old photo, today.
August 29, 2012 photo by Pete Stemmer

Perhaps the most famous owner of this house was Frank Austin, the first mayor of Tuckerton. 

Frank Austin, the first mayor of Tuckerton

I believe Austin lived in this house in the 1890's when the old horse drawn rail car photo was taken. The 1900 Little Egg Harbor census confirms this as Frank, his wife, Sophia, two children, and a servant were listed as living on the north side of East Main Street.

A review of his neighbors listed on the surrounding census pages, which are too large to post here, show that two Jones families lived adjacent to Frank's home and the Lippincotts lived across the street. This agrees with the surrounding families listed on the 1878 Woolman and Rose map. Austin had to have moved to this house between 1878, when the 1878 Woolman and Rose map shows A. Parker living there, and the 1900 census. 

Shirley Whealton, my genealogy mentor and history buddy, told me that she either read about or saw a photo of Frank Austin's house with a windmill in the yard. Unfortunately, she couldn't remember specifically where she got that information. I have not been able to document her claim; however, the windmill in the old photo Tuckerton side car photo tends to confirm it.

I took the following photo from the spot that, I believe, the photographer stood who took the rail car photo. The old Edge Cove spur would have run just past the Rt. 9 cross walk. Somehow, I believe the view looked better a hundred or so years ago.

Well, that's my tale of the mysterious Tuckerton side car photo. I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I have.

Pete S

PS- Those of you out in the Blog-O-Sphere who enjoy New Jersey History should pay a visit to Pete Hamilton's web and Facebook site. The Facebook site has tons of interesting New Jersey photos and post cards. You can visit them by clicking on the links below.

CLICK HERE to visit the
West Jersey History Project Web Site

CLICK HERE to visit the
West Jersey History Facebook Site

PPS- The 189_ photo of the railroad side car is reminiscent of the Clamtown Sail Car May 6, 2009 Blog entry. Click on the sail car photo below to see that entry.


  1. I was just looking at the 1895 Sanborn fire insurance map for Tuckerton and see a windmill noted behind the bank (now Tuckerton Liquors) and the funeral home. There are still concrete piers there that may have been associated with the windmill. Perhaps this is the windmill in the photo? German Georgieff

    1. Great idea to look at the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for Tuckerton; however, I don't think the windmill behind the bank is the same windmill that is in the photo.

      Pete S

    2. the concrete piers behind the old bank/funeral home are the base of the old TUCKERTON water tower, seen in many old town pictures. arnold cramer

  2. My good history buddy, Shirley Whealton, tells me that the concrete foundation at the rear of the old bank, now a liquor store on Rt 9, is from an old water tower, not a windmill.

    Pete S

    1. Thanks, Pete and Arnold. I've wondered what those were for years!


  3. Pete-

    The stream (as we referred to it) is still there and allowed water to run off from an old bog (I think) behind the AUSTIN house toward Wood street. (east of the current little shopping center) We used to ice skate on it as kids (Now built up with houses).

    Also, the stream runs to the bay, east of TIP SEAMAN Blvd and next to the raised roadbed for the Edge Cove spur. It goes under TIP SEAMAN BLVD behind DR. SCHNEIDER's former home on CEDAR STREET. It was, and still is, very swampy there, and we used to play back there, as TIP SEAMAN BLVD did not exist then.

    Going toward the bay , TIP SEAMAN BLVD was cut through an old gravel pit that we referred to as Indian Hill. It was probably used for the Edge Cove spur roadbed. I think if you walked back there today the remnants of the raised roadbed can still be seen just east of the stream.

    Arnold Cramer

  4. Great job on spotting the location. I now understand that determining histories isn't an easy job and makes me think why carfax offer vehicle history reports fees are relatively expensive. But I still prefer cheap carfax reports alternatives.