Sunday is Somers Day

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An artist’s rendering of the Richard Somers Monument.

SOMERS POINT – If this town had a favorite son, it would be Capt. Richard Somers, who is honored here in a ceremony each year.

Richard Somers Day will be observed 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9 on the grounds of Somers Point City Hall, 1 W. New Jersey Ave. In case of rain, the event will be moved to Council Chambers inside City Hall.

Somers is remembered for his bravery in battling the Barbary pirates. While captaining the U.S.S. Intrepid, Somers died alongside 12 crew members when their explosive-laden ship prematurely detonated in Tripoli Harbor, Libya on Sept. 3, 1804.

The men were buried in mass and unkempt graves in Tripoli and the return of their bodies has been a controversial topic to this day.

Despite his tragic end, the tale of Somers begins here at Somers Mansion which overlooks the Great Egg Harbor, which by many accounts is the body of water where Somers first learned to sail.

Since Somers’ death 208 years ago he has been memorialized throughout the nation.

Last July, officials here met with those from Somers, N.Y. located in Westchester County and named for Somers in 1808.

Currently, the Somers Point Historical Society is undergoing a campaign to create a monument in the park adjacent to the Atlantic County Historical Society on Shore Road. Its most prominent feature, according to historical society president Sally Hastings, is a bronze bust of Somers, a duplicate of one currently on display in Somers, N.Y.

Hastings said Wednesday the society is 45 percent toward its goal of $35,000 for the monument.

She said in recently history, Bill Kelly’s book, “300 Years at the Point,” and groups like Liberty and Prosperity have put Somers back in the spotlight.

Hastings said it was Somers’ courage that appeals to her.

“They all knew they could all die on that fire ship and they knew if there were any chance of being captured they would blow it up themselves; which may have been what happened,” Hastings said. “They were willing to move forward and complete the mission and if the mission wasn’t completed, they were willing to sacrifice their lives one way or the other.”

Hastings is also the director of the Intrepid Project which has sought to re-patriot the remains of Somers and his crew.

In January, U.S. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (R-2nd) lauded an amendment he sponsored to the National Defense Authorization Act which instructs officials from the Navy and the Department of Defense to conduct a feasibility study into returning Somers’ and his fellow Navy commandos.

Hastings said he expects those results early next month.

“He’s not forgotten. It’s amazing more than 200 years later he is still remembered. He’s been greatly honored in our country for hundreds of years and there’s still a lot of Somers descendents that live in this area,” Hastings said.

She noted that seven ships in this country’s naval history have been named U.S.S. Somers and another four named U.S.S. Intrepid.

To aid the monument fundraising effort, there will be a wristband day 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22 at Playland's Castaway Cove, 10th Street and the Boardwalk in Ocean City. Wristbands are $10 for unlimited rides.

There will also be a Somers Point Historical Society booth at Good Old Days on Saturday.

The program is co-sponsored by the City of Somers Point, the Somers Point Historical Society, and Liberty and Prosperity.

Tours of Somers Mansion and the Somers Point Historical Museum are available preceding and following the program. Call the Somers Point Historical Society (609) 927-2900.


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