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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 > 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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Bizarre History of Cape May > Spanish flu victims were ‘piled in the street’ in 1918 Cape May

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Saturday, July 20, 2013 07:21 am

 The first war against Germany was nearing its end in 1918 when a far deadlier enemy arrived to challenge Cape May and the rest of the world.

This enemy fired no rifles, threw no hand grenades, dropped no bombs on people. In fact, it was invisible until its tragic effects were seen on the lifeless bodies of its victims.

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Bizarre History of Cape May > County ‘almshouse’ was 19th century’s version of social safety net

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Sunday, July 14, 2013 07:34 am

 It is interesting to observe in these days as we argue about the best way to pay for healthcare that there was another time in the United States when our forefathers attacked the problem in a simpler and, perhaps, not as professional manner as today to help the indigent and the ill.

No one had ever heard then of such things as Medicare, AARP, Social Security and private insurances. Mention CAT scans to anyone and they might have thought you were talking about the family feline.

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Bizarre History of Cape May > Cape May went from celebrating King George’s birthday to a new nation’s

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Thursday, July 04, 2013 04:35 pm

 Given its longevity and its claim that it is the oldest seashore resort in the nation, Cape May, nee Cape Island, can also claim that it is among the first (if not the first) seashore places to celebrate the Fourth of July.

There is evidence, in fact, that they liked to celebrate in general at the cape long before the Revolution, when the colonists were friendly with the king. Every year they held long distance birthday parties for King George III although, of course, he wasn’t here to blow out the candles. They rang bells, started bonfires, held what they called processions which probably were parades, and made glowing speeches in his honor.

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Bizarre History of Cape May > Cross-dressing New Jersey governor was a headache for Queen Anne

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Friday, June 28, 2013 12:00 am

It was time, declared Queen Anne of Great Britain, for her to send someone to govern at that wild place on the other side of the ocean renamed New Jersey.

She wanted it to be peaceful over there because she had enough on her plate in England, not the least of which was 17 pregnancies in 17 years of her 49 years of life. Certainly she didn’t need any more controversy from foreign shores. So she kept it in the family by sending her cousin, Edward Hyde, to become the first officially sanctioned governor of New Jersey, which combined East and West Jersey.

Whether she chose him for his qualifications or because she wanted to see him far away from the throne has not been clear in history.

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Bizarre History of Cape May > Enemies accused early Royal governor of being a cross-dresser

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Saturday, June 22, 2013 05:54 am

When locals talk about Cape May history, the conversation usually traces back to the colorful 19th century hey days of visiting presidents, huge hotels and the high profile get-togethers that accommodated them.

Much of this was shaped, however, by the events of two centuries earlier in the 1600s when there were no inklings about a place called Congress Hall or boardwalks or something called parking meters.

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Bizarre History of Cape May > Ben Franklin’s connection to Cape May made through a woman’s cap

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Saturday, June 15, 2013 12:49 pm

 It can be said, albeit without certainty, that Benjamin Franklin and his wife Deborah have a historical connection with the bayside section of Town Bank, now part of Lower Township.

In his book, “Cape May County, New Jersey, The Making of An American Resort Community,” author Jeffery M. Dorwart says Franklin “according to tradition visited kin on the Jersey Cape.” He adds that Franklin encouraged Jacob Spicer, one of the first white settlers and land owners here, to develop a knitted mitten, cap and stocking industry that was to employ Cape May County women on their spinning wheels. It turned out to be a profitable business in the 1750s.

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