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Bizarre History of Cape May | Cape May Gazette

The Bizarre History of Cape May with Jacob Schaad Jr.

Bizarre History of Cape May > Cape May has its fair share of sea tales

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Tuesday, October 01, 2013 09:14 pm

The approach of Columbus Day inspires the retelling of some sea stories of war and peace in Cape Island at a time when ships and boats ruled the oceans. The stories speak of heroism and tragedy as events touched the shore and sometimes intruded on it.

The very early history of what was later to be known as Cape May features the names of such seafaring explorers as Christopher Columbus, Henry Hudson and Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, the latter credited with having founded the cape and with having named it after himself. As the pages of the calendar turned into the 19th century other stories of the sea emerged with less famous names but still occupying places in the history of Cape May County.

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Bizarre History of Cape May > Work came before school in early Cape May

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Tuesday, September 24, 2013 05:55 pm

Check out the credentials of Abraham Reeves, circa 1857.

Born in Lower Township on Oct. 22, 1802 the man who became known as “Uncle Abe” was elected as an assemblyman in 1857 and re-elected two years later as the Civil War was growing closer. First politically aligned as a Whig and then a Republican, he had served in 1846 as a freeholder and held municipal offices.

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Bizarre History of Cape May > It took a long time before Cape May was official

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Friday, September 20, 2013 04:58 am

The wheels of government, like those of justice, tend to grind slowly, as those in early Cape Island, later to be renamed Cape May, were to discover.
Although it was to function promisingly as an up and coming seashore resort through the arrival of the 19th century, Cape Island wasn’t formally incorporated as a municipality until 1851. It would take 18 more years and the passing of a Civil War before it was to acquire its present name of Cape May in 1869.

Cape May County became official long before that on Nov. 12, 1692 by an act of the province’s Assembly. It was part of three counties and earned its own identity, the legislators said, because it “was well situated for trade” and there was an increase in the number of families, “there being no greater encouragement to the settlement of a place.”

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Bizarre History of Cape May > Swain family has deep roots in Cape May

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Friday, September 13, 2013 06:34 am

At the funeral of the first mayor of West Cape May, his pastor at the Cold Spring Presbyterian Church delivered a Biblical message that did not necessarily apply to the mayor but was relevant to others then and even to those of today.

“Be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh,” preached the Rev John L. Landis, who served as pastor at the historic church from 1886 to 1890.

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Bizarre History of Cape May > Ocean has been a resource, and dumping ground, for Cape May

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Saturday, September 07, 2013 06:34 am

The ocean that touches the county’s shores and sometimes invades inland has been a friend and foe during the long history of Cape Island, later named Cape May.

People come here to swim in the ocean, surf in it, fish and boat in its waters and some of them to sun tan their skimpily clad anatomies on the fringes of the ocean. But there are some, history has told us, who have not treated the ocean kindly. They have dumped their sewage in its waters since as early as 1922 and as tourism began to increase in the 1960s, and as awareness increased, ocean pollution closed the waters to the public and the cape’s reputation for being a healthy place to visit was tarnished.

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Bizarre History of Cape May > Did a newspaper kill one of Cape May’s favorite sons?

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Wednesday, August 28, 2013 12:00 pm

The big news in Cape May on Nov. 22, 1897 was the unexpected death of a favorite son two days after he suffered an apoplexy while reading a newspaper.

The obituary of George Hildreth does not detail what newspaper or article he was reading but some of the shocked locals may have thought that what he read influenced his sudden demise because at the age of 75 he was otherwise considered to be a healthy man. An article in the Cape May Wave, in fact, described him “as being of stalwart mould and possessing robust constitution.” Another story said “he enjoyed robust health and was active and robust as many young men.”

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Bizarre History of Cape May > In 1884, West Cape May came into its own

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Monday, August 19, 2013 10:02 am

The year 1884 was an important one in the nation’s history. Peace had settled on the land. The wounds from the Civil War had mostly healed, albeit with some scabbing, and the guns were not to sound again for another 14 years when a short-lived war from April 24 to Aug. 12, 1898 was to break out on Cuban soil.

This was the year that the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, was born. It was the year that the nation’s first long distance telephone call between Boston and New York City was transmitted. Alaska became the nation’s first territory in 1884 and Grover Cleveland was elected as the only president from New Jersey in its long history.

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Bizarre History of Cape May > 13 years later, Lower Township murder case was resurrected

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Saturday, August 10, 2013 03:01 pm

 For a while, life settled down in Lower Township after the murder on Aug. 17, 1871 of the 35-year-old Jonathan Hoffman and the tragic fatal accident five years earlier of his 68-year-old father, whose horses pulling the wagon he was driving ran amok and threw him to the ground.

It was a grim period for people with famous names of early Cape May history. At about the time that father Jonathan Hoffman was sent to his death, William Eldridge, bearing a well-known surname of the time, suffered an accident when a falling pole struck him on the head and he died a few hours later.

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Bizarre History of Cape May > Murder of Jonathan Hoffman a ‘who dunnit’ of 1870’s Lower Township

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Saturday, August 03, 2013 04:45 pm

(Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series.)

One of Cape May County’s oldest unsolved murders occurred 142 years ago in Lower Township. The crime has since had enough turns and twists to qualify for an Agatha Christie mystery.

Its clues and plot have long been spread out in newspaper articles and documents at different official venues in county government. But unlike the works of Christie, the final chapter revealing the guilty party cannot be found because no one appears on record as having been arrested and convicted, though many suspects were questioned during a 12-year period.

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The Bizarre History of Cape May > Did Lincoln and Captain Kidd really visit Cape May?

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Sunday, July 28, 2013 11:15 am

Having lived two centuries apart from each other, it would appear unlikely that William Kidd and Abraham Lincoln had anything in common. But their stories do have long distance similarities about whether they were or were not in Cape May, as well as in other respects.

Captain Kidd, who some historians claim was a pirate and others defend as a heroic privateer who got a bad rap, is the subject of celebrations every summer when North Wildwood and Cape May hold special events inviting thousands of kids to dig for treasures that Kidd allegedly buried in the sands here sometime in the late 17th century.

That is mostly fantasy, conceived to encourage tourism based on the legendary accounts of Kidd’s presence here. But its modern day motives work very well, judging from the sizes of the attendance.

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