014 206 090 5
JONATHAN PITNEY, M. D.
FIFTY YEARS OF PROGRESS
COAST OF NEW JERSEY.
PREPARED AT THE REQUEST OF
The New Jersey Historical Society,
AXD Eead at their Meeting in the City oe Newark:
May 20, 1886,
EEY. ALLEN H. BROWN.
NEWARK, N, J. :
DAILY ABVEBTISEE PRINTING HOUSE.
JONATHAN PITNEY, M. D.
FIFTY YEARS OF PROGRESS
COAST OF NEW JERSEY.
prepared at the request of
The New Jersey Historical Society,
And Bead at their Meeting in the City of Newark
May 20, 1886,
REV. ALLEN H. BROWN.
NEWARK, N. J. :
DAILY ADVERTISER PRINTING HOUSE.
JONATHAN PITNEY, M. D.
It has been suggested to erect in Atlantic City a statue, or
a monument to the memory of Jonathan Pitney. Atlantic
City itself is his monument.
In a orief biographical sketch in 1848 he wrote to his son
thus: ''About one hundred and fifty years ago, as near as I
can ascertain, my great-grandfather and his brother came to
this country from England, to enjoy civil and religious lib-
erty, of which they were deprived at home. My grandfather
was born in Morris county. At the commencement of the
Eevolutionary War he was an ardent Whig. He, and a
preacher by the name of Kennedy, traversed the county to
encourage the people to resistance and the young men to en-
list in the cause of the country. By this means he became
obnoxious to the Tories, who twice plundered his house of all
they could carry off, and finally, in controversy with a Tory,
he received a blow from which he died. My maternal grand-
father was a soldier in the Revolutionary War at Haddonfield
and Red Bank, and served during the War. His brothers were
all soldiers; one died early at Ticonderoga. My father was too
young to be engaged in the service of the country in the Rev-
olutionary War. I was born and educated in Morris County.
In 1830 I removed to this county and have resided here
Jonathan, the son of Shubal and Jane Pitney, was born in
Mendham, Morris County, New Jersey, October 29, 1797.
He received a part of his early education at Fairchild's
*Ezra Fairchild, at Mendham, many years ago, had a famous classical school
and educated many young men for Princeton. He afterwards removed Ms school
to Plainfleld and finally to Flushing, L. I., where he died. He was a brother of the
late Dr. Elias R. Fairchild, of the American and Foreign Christian Union, who died
at Morristown. Both were sons of Ebenezer Fairchild,who was for fifty-seven years
an Elder of the Presbyterian Church of Mendham, and nearly one hundred years
old when he died.
4 JONATHAN PITNEY, M. D.
After enjoying such advantages for education as his own
county afforded, Mr. Pitney turned his attention to the pro-
fession of medicine. He prosecuted his medical studies in
New York, attending lectures in the medical school of Co-
lumbia College, where the late Dr. Valentine Mott was Pro-
fessor. He also studied in the office of Dr. Woodruff. After
his graduation he spent two years in the hospital on Staten
Island and then practiced a short time in and around his na-
tive place. In 1820, on a bright May morning, he rode into
Absecon on horse-back, and for the space of almost fifty years
tliereafter he was probably the most influential physician of
In 1831 (April 21st) he married Miss Caroline Fowler, an
amiable lady, eminent in all domestic virtues and much
younger than her husband. Tall in person, with a promi-
nent aquiline nose, with long flowing locks brushed back-
ward from a high forehead and enveloped in his long cloak,
Dr. Pitney was a man to arrest attention and inquiry. It
was his ambition to make his influence felt for the benefit of
the community in which he lived. A man of decided con-
victions, he was ever ready to assign reasons for his intelli-
gent views. With indomitable will he seldom failed to ac-
complish his plans.
AS A PHYSICIAN.
In old Gloucester County, before Atlantic County was
formed, he entered upon a practice extensive and arduous.
Not only was he called from one Egg Harbour Eiver to the
other, but oftentimes were his services required in the regions
beyond. The Doctor, occupying for so many years such an
extensive domain, regarded with rather a jealous eye any
encroachments upon his territory. This, of course, made
him rather exclusive towards other physicians who might
trespass thereon. His hatred of quackery, or of any sem-
blance thereof, was intense. Doctor Pitney's method of diag-
nosis was chiefly by inspection. Having studied medicine
prior to the days of auscultation and percussion he placed but
little reliance upon them; but every feature or expression
that appealed to the eye had its significance with him, and he
rarely gave it a wrong interpretation.
FIFTY years' progress IN SOUTH JERSEY.
lu civil life lie was honored by his fellow-citizens with im-
portant positions. In 1837, living more than fifty miles from
the comity seat, he had much to do with the division of
Gloucester County and the erection of its eastern half into
the county of Atlantic.
At the first meeting of the Board of Chosen Freeholders of
the new county, held at May's Landing May 10, 1837, Jona-
than Pitney, one of the two representatives from Galloway
Township, was elected the first Director of the Board and
was sent to Trenton to receive the surplus revenue which was
apportioned to this county by the State. For many years he
was the Postmaster at Absecon.
In 1844 he was the delegate of Atlantic County to the con-
vention which sat in Trenton from the 14th day of May to
the 29th day of June to frame the Constitution of the State
of New Jersey. In that convention Burlington County had
five delegates, Essex County had seven; but Hudson, Cape
May and Atlantic Counties were entitled each to only one
delegate. Jonathan Pitney wa§ the honored delegate from
Atlantic County and served on the committee on the " Ex-
ecutive Department," having as his associates on the same
committee, Joseph C. Hornblower, Eobert S. Kennedy,
George H. Brown, A. Parsons, Martin Ryerson, and E. P.
Thompson. (See Journal of the Proceedings, 1844, p. 43).*
In 1848 Dr. Pitney was nominated by the Democratic
party, of which he was a life-long advocate, as Eepresentative
to Congress from the First Congressional District. He failed
of election, however, and among the causes of this failure
was i:he reluctance of the people of his county to part with
his services. Many voted against him simply because they
would rather have him at home as a physician than at Wash-
ington as a legislator.
*In a family Bible he made tliis record: " Jonathan Pitney's. Bought with money
received for pay as a member of the Conveution that formed the new Constitution
of New Jersey. July 3rd, 1844."
JONATHAN PITNEY, M. D.
WRECKS AND LIGHT-HOUSE.
From November 27, 1844, to December 8, 1865, Dr. Pit-
ney, as Notary Public, received the protests of captains,
whose vessels had been wrecked. Among his official papers
are now found the data of about seventy-eight vessels wrecked
during the above-mentioned period. All these protests or
affidavits mention the names of the vessel and the captain or
master; tlie port of departure and the destination; the date of
the wreck and the extent of the damage or the probability of
total loss. More extended affidavits by the crew give a full
and interesting account of the disaster to nine vessels, viz. :
1. The .Schooner Baltimore, Captain Samuel Jarvis, of
Newark, N. J., "capsized May 12th, 1840, on her voyage
from Newark to Pliiladelphia, and has since drifted ashore
on Absecon Beach, wliere she now lies."
2. The Schooner William Young, Captain William Somors
wrecked on Peck's Beach February 1st, 184G.
3. Schooner Yazoo, of Baltimore, Md., Caj)tain Wm. 11.
Harrison, March 25th, 1847, struck on the north bar of Ab-
secon Inlet. All hands lashed to the rail to prevent being
4. Schooner Margaret and Elizabeth, of New York,
wrecked on the bar of Absecon Inlet January 7th, 1847.
5. Brig Potapsco, of Boston, Mass., wrecked and stranded
September 28th, 1847, on the south bar of Absecon Inlet.
Got off on the 30th and brought into tlie inlet.
6. Brig L'Orient, of Newburyport, Mass., driven ashore
and stranded October 7th, 1847.
7. Schooner Village Belle, December 22d, 1853.
8. Barque S. J. Eoberts, of Providence, R. I., from Mar-
seilles, France, cast ashore Februarv 22d, 1854, on the south
9. Schooner Mari:i, of London, cast ashore March 8tli,
Tlie manuscripts give extended accounts of the loss of the
above-named vessels, attested by the crews.
One of the most heart-rending disasters uj)on our coast oc-
FIFTY years' progress IN SOUTH JERSEY. 7
ciirred on April 16fch, 1854, when the ship Powhattan, on a voy-
age from Havre to New York, with two hundred and fifty of
the better class of German emigrants, was driven ashore in a
northeast storm. One narrative says that, including the
crew, three hundred and eleven lives were lost, and it is not
known that one escaped. Scores of dead bodies came ashore
upon Brigantine, Long Beach and Absecon Beach. The
knowledge thus gained of so great danger and loss of life, as
well as of property, prompted the philanthropic Doctor and
otliors to urge upon Congress the erection of a light-house.
Between 1834 and 1840 the proposal had been agitated, and
encountered much prejudice.* After a great expenditure of
trouble and money, a Congressional appropriation of 15,000
was at last voted upon the proviso that a satisfactory report
should first be made by a competent official of the Navy De-
partment. Commodore La Vallette was commissioned to
make the aforesaid report. He visited the beach; examined
the coast and requested a letter from Dr. Pitney on the sub-
ject. In this letter Dr. Pitney explained his own original
notion of prismatic lights. Notwithstanding the exertions of
the Doctor, the Commodore made an unfavorable report, and
the light house project slept for several years.
The Doctor was not disheartened by his first failure. In
1853, after the railroad had been surveyed, he started the
ligiit-liouse question again. With his own hands he circu-
lated petitions for signatures, and wrote to Congressmen and
jiul^lished articles in the newspapers advocating the project.
The disaster of the Powhattan, only a few months later, must
have stimulated every friend of humanity. The result of
these labors was the granting of an appropriation of $35,000
for a light-house and an additional one of $5,000 for a buoy.
Thus, Atlantic has to-day one of the best light-houses in tlie
country, which, with later improvements, cost upwards of
$50,000 in the aggregate. The buoy, however, lias disap-
peared. The light is classed as first order; fixed white light,
one hundred and sixty-seven feet high. The tower was first
illuminated in January, 1857, nearly three years after the loss
of the Powhattan.
* See History of Atlantic City, pages 61 and 62.
8 JONATHAN PITNEY, M. D.
Since the erection of Absecon light, comparatively few-
wrecks have occurred, and with the additional life-saving ser-
vice few lives have been lost.
CAMDEN AND ATLANTIC RAILKOAD AND ATLANTIC CITY.
The last public service of Dr. Pitney, as the prime origi-
nator of a railroad across the salt meadows to the sea, together
witli all its actual and far-reaching possible results, seems to
sur])ass in importance all that went before. It was his ambi-
tion not to live in vain; his puri:)ose, to benefit his fellow-citi-
zens. It is not here claimed that the construction of the
Camden and Atlantic railroad, and consequently the erection
of Atlantic City, were duo to him alone; Init more to him
than to any other one person. The credit of all great works
must be distributed. In obtaining the charter, and after-
wards also, Dr. Pitney was efficiently aided by his neighbor,
Gen. Enoch Doughty, an extensive land-owner of Atlantic
county. They soon enlisted Joseph Porter, Andrew K. Hay,
Tliomas Richards, William Coffin, W. Dwight Bell, Stephen
Colwell and others, who owned glass factories, iron furnaces
or large tracts of land, through which the new railroad would
'' In the words of another,* *' There seems to be little doubt
that Dr. Pitney was the real founder of Atlantic City — the
spirit that first appreciated its wonderful curative powers,
and placed effectively before capitalists its attractions as a
watering place — dryness of atmosphere, bathing facilities,
gunning, lishing and sailing privileges, with its ju'cximity to
Philadelphia. It had long been known to a few, who had
struggled through bush and sand, with slow-going teams, as
a great health lift; but to the multitude it was known, if
known ;it all, as a lonely region, so inaccessible and remote
from the line of the march of empire, as to be seemingly se-
cure from the intrusion of iiopulation and totally lieyond the
reach of man's transforming energy. But Dr. Pitney was
often called to the island in the discharge of his i)rofessional
* History of Atlantic City, p. 45, by A. L. EhkHsIi, 1S84.
FIFTY years' progress IN SOUTH JERSEY. 9
duties, and never missed an o])2Jortunity of strolling along the
beach to breathe the exhilarating air that then swept in from
the sea. He marked the continuous chain of sand hills, that
then ran along the beach just above high tide line, which was
then about one hundred feet south of what is now Pacific
avenue, and recognized what a charming place it would be
for summer homes. A desire sprang up in his breast to
make the delectable spot accessible to the great business cen-
tres of the Union, and more particularly to Philadelphia.
Imbued with a firm faith in its immense value as a seaside
resort, he saw that railway communication only was necessary
to cause the waste place to blossom as the rose. His faith
was strong and his enthusiasm correspondingly great. * *
The Doctor first made known his determination to organize
a railroad company to General Doughty of Absecon, who
zealously seconded his effort."
Their first attempts to obtain a charter met some opposition
and delay. Later, the Doctor went to Trenton himself, and
after a contest, the necessary legislation was procured on the
19th of March, 1852.
Some of the chiefs of railroads of that day, who afterwards
strenuously opposed the Air Line railroad, withdrew their
opposition to the charter of this Atlantic road, because they
did not believe that it would ever be constructed. Who,
said tliey, who ever heard of a railroad with only one end ?
After unexpected difficulties and delays, the road was opened
for passenger traffic on July 4, 1854. The results of the con-
struction of that pioneer road are not to be measured, nor
limited by its own immediate success; nor even by the build-
ing up of a new city, with two other competing parallel rail-
roads, running from Philadelphia to the new city by the sea.
By shortening the time and increasing the facilities of
transi)ortation; by stimulating the construction of other rail-
roads; by opening to settlement large tracts of land, which
had been practically inaccessible; by the increase of popula-
tion; by the enhanced value of property; by all these results,
the system of railroad enteriirise which was thus inaugurated
and proveu to be possible along the coast, has revolutionized
that portion of New Jersey.
10 JONATHAN PITNEY, M. D.
The sea-coast from Sandy Hook to Cape May was well
known to our brave watermen, who there had their homes
and there built vessels for the coasting trade. But to reach
these homes overland, from the chief cities, by the slow-going
stage-wagon, consumed a day and a good part of the night.
Now, every important point is accessible in from two to four
hours, and express trains with parlor cars run from the Dela-
ware river to Atlantic City in ninety minutes or less.
Thirty-three years ago, the only railroad running in the
southern half of New Jersey was the New York line from
Camden, via Bordentown to South Amboy. Its branch of
eleven and a half miles, from Jamesburg to Freehold, was
opened July 18, 1853, only one year before the Camden and
Atlantic. Now, more than five hundred miles of road have
been constructed, covering the land with a network of rails,
to Penns Grove, Salem, Bridgeton, Bay Side, Port Norris,
Cape May, and all along the coast.
It was not difficult to construct a road over the fertile lands
of Monmouth; nor through the sandy pines; but it was a
problem how to construct a road which could withstand the
storm tides and the ocean's waves rolling over many miles of
salt meadows and submerging the tracks. " Most of the old
settlers of that section opposed the scheme, and doubted the
practicability of the project. Quite a number said that it
would be absolutely impossible to get a train of cars across
The difficult problem having been solved successfully by
the Camden and Atlantic company, the example has been fol-
lowed under similar conditions to Holly Beach and Anglesea,
Sea Isle and Ocean City, Long Port, Beach Haven and Bar-
negat City, Seaside Park, Berkley Arms and Mantoloking;
while without the crossing of meadows. Bay Head, Point
Pleasant, Brielle, Sea Girt, Manasquan, Villa Park, Spring-
Lake, Como, Ocean Beach, Key East, Ocean Grove, Asbury
Park, Deal Beach, Elberon, Holly Wood, West End, Long
Branch, Monmouth Beach, Sea Bright, Highhinds and Atlan-
tic Highlands, are more easily accessible by many trains from
the north, as well as from the south.
FIFTY years' progress IN SOUTH JERSEY. 11
LANDS OPENED TO SETTLERS.
Lands, which were held in large tracts by the owners of
iron furnaces and, ghiss factories, were doubly closed to the
settler and, for agricultural purposes, were despised. Having
now become accessible and better known, they are more high-
ly appreciated for productiveness as well as for healthfulness.
In producing heavy grain they may not compete with western
farms at the present low rates of transportation; but for the
cultivation of fruit and everything which grows upon a vine,
and as market gardens for neighboring cities, many of these
lands, under judicious, intelligent and industrioiis cultivation
are well adapted. If any are skeptical, let them visit and sue
for themselves Hammonton, Egg Harbor City and Vineland;
each with their thousands of inhabitants who have lately
turned the wilderness into a garden. Gradually, the remain-
ing large estates must be brought into the market for iiidus-
trious settlers; the valuable water-powers, now idle, will be
utilized for manufacturing purposes, as in other places,* and
and by all causes combined the population must increase in
the future more rapidly than in the past.
INCREASE OF POPULATION.
The effect of railroads upon population is i)atent. The
prosperous settlements last mentioned, with their thousands
of people, are upon lands which only a few years ago were
covered with timber, where the hunter })ursued tlie fox and
the rabbit, or the deer and the bear. Taking tlie four coun-
ties, Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May, which lie
along the sea, and omitting for the present the eastern town-
ships of Burlington County, which extends from the Dela-
ware Eiver to the ocean, the population of those four coun-
ties in 1850, before they had any railroad, was 55,739, and
in 1885, 111,010; an increase of 100 per cent, in 35 years.
At the same rate of increase, their population doubling in 35
* e. g., MilMlle and May's Landing.
12 JONATHAN PITNEY, M. D.
yeurs will be 233,020. But wliou we take into account the
recent more rapidly accelerating rate of increase, and then
add the eastern townships of Burlington County, it is not
impossible and it does not seem unreasonable to anticipate,
without counting summer visitors, that the permanent popu-
lation of the shore counties, which was in 1850 about 60,000,
may increase by the year 1900 to a quarter of a million.
POPULATION OF COUNTIES.
1850 18G0 1880 1885
Moninouth 30.313 39,340 55,538 62,324
Ocean ..-10,032 11,176 14,455 15,586
Atlantic 8,961 11,786 18,704 22,356
Cape May - - - - - 6,433 7, 130 9,765 10,744
55,739 09.438 98,462 111,010
Burlington 43,203 49,730 55.402 57,558
POPULATION OF THE STATE.
1790 1820 1850 1860 1880 1885
184,139 277,420 489,555 672,035 1,131,116 1,278,033
ENHANCED VALUE OF PKOPERTY.
As to the enhanced value of lands, especially of sea-side
sands, wliicli were once regarded as " Littleworth," we are
not left wliolly to conjecture. It is published that Dr. Pit-
nev purchased for the C^amden and Atlantic llailroad or the
Land Company, two hundred acres, now embracing the cen-
(rc of Atlantic City, for seventeen dollars an acre. Many a
building lot in that city now commands double the price
which was ))aid for those two hundred acres. The assessed
valuation of property, and usually below the actual value,
was for Atlantic City in 1885, $2,602,312.50.
Asbury Park affords another illustration of enhanced value.
In 1869 it was assessed at $15,000, and in 1885 at nearly two
millions. Ocean Grove also might report similar progress,
while beyond, at Elberon, Holly Wood, Long Branch, Mon-
mouth Beach and Sea Bright, numerous palatial residences
are of the most costly style.
FIFTY years' PKOGRESS IN SOUTH JERSEY. 13
Standing sometimes at the mouth of a mighty river as it
empties into the sea, we do not forget that many confluent
streams have combined to make the flood of waters, and yet
it is interesting to trace the main stream to its source and to
find the little spring or fountain from which it started. So,
too, as we contemplate the marvelous results of the combina-
tion of railroads in South Jersey, pouring their traffic to the
ocean, we cannot forget that the Camden and Atlantic was
the pioneer, the first to cross the State to the ocean,
and that Dr. Jonathan Pitney was one chief originator
of that enterprise and that he came from the hills of Morris
To him a fellow- practitioner bears this testimony: "Dr.
Pitney was a prominent man in all the interests of the
county. His plans for its agricultural and material develop-
ment were wide and far-seeing. He took a warm interest in
education and had l)een for many years trustee of his school
district. The cause of religion found in him ever a prompt
and liberal supporter. As a man, he was benevolent and
kind, hospitable and social. He was possessed of an indom-
itable will and energy, and acuteness of intellect and orig-
inality, and depth of thought. His knowledge was wide and
extensive in various branches of science; although medicine
was his favorite study, which never lost attraction while life
lasted. In all the recent advances in the theory or practice
of medicine he was well versed. For two years, declining
health confined him to his house, and after the gradual de-
cline of consumption he died on Saturday morning, August
7th, 1869, in his seventy-second year, leaving a widow and
Before bidding farewell to the subject some may ask, what
were Dr. Pitney's religious views? Possibly to the asperities
and slandersf which too often disgrace political strifes, we are
indebted for the little autobiography which was quoted at the
beginning. That manuscript of October 3, 1848, thus ad-
*See Somer's Medical History of Atlantic Connty, pp- 9 and 10.
tSome political enemy had charged that he was an infidel.
14 JONATHAN PITNEY, M. D.
dressed his son, then in his eleventh year: " Dear Son —
To correct some errors concerning myself perhaps it may
be best to write you a small sketch of our family history.
(And after giving the above account of his ancestors, adds):
I was brought up in the doctrines and discipline of the Pres-
byterian church, and still think them right. Upwards of
twenty years ago I joined the Gloucester County Bible So-
ciety. Last winter, I became a member of the Atlantic
County Bible Society, and on the nomination of Mr. Louden-
slager, the Methodist preacher of the circuit, was elected
President of the Atlantic County Bible Society, which ofhce
I still hold. As to my political opinions, I adopt the Balti-
more Convention Platform." To us, now, his religious opin-
ions are more important than his political. From the time
that a Presbyterian missionary, exploring tlie county, found
him in 1847, bis house was ever open to the traveling minis-
ters of that cliurch. For several years he paid the rent of a
hall for religious worship, and was a constant attendant, and
later was a trustee of the church. Once lie remarked, ''There
is a good deal of the Quaker in me. I have often enjoyed
Friends' meeting as mu( h as any other." Probably he meant
that, to his apprcliension, religion was a question between a
man's own soul and his Creator, and that the inner experience
was more important than tlie outward expression. While we
regret that he was not a professing member of any visible
church, yet in connection with a marked change in his later
life, there is consolation in the recollection that his dying
testimony, the last utterance of his lips, was in these words:
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy
staff they comfort me."
"-itJKHKY OF CONGRESS
014 20S 090 5 n