Not too long ago, my son and I took a stroll around Woodbury, New Jersey. It’s a historic town going back a few centuries. Woodbury was founded in 1683 by a Quaker named Henry Wood. He originated from Bury, England. It’s been the county seat of Gloucester County for over two centuries. I’d say it’s a transitioning town now.
Wood Family Burial Marker.
Notes: Inscription reads: “Wood Family Burial Ground. A portion of the land deeded in 1682 by Edward Byllings of Westminster to Henry Wood, Sr. and John, his brother, of Bury, County Lancaster, England, and claimed by the family on arriving here, and becoming the first settlers of Woodbury. It was earlier used for burial by the Indians. Here was buried the above named Henry Wood Sr. who died Aug. 19, 1686. Aged 84 years. John Wood devised this as a burying place for those who should come after him. ‘Remember the days of old. Consider the years of many generations.’ For this intent this stone is erected by the Gloucester County Historical Society. A.D. 1912”
Get it? Combined with his last name “Wood” and the town where he was born..”Bury”? Hence, the Woodbury name.
Farmerettes at a farm in Woodbury. Photo taken between 1920s-1940s. NJ Archives.
They’re in the process of revitalizing Broad Street back to its former glory. One of my most admired historians of South Jersey, Frank H. Stewart, called his home here. Most of South Jersey’s parks would not exist if it wasn’t for him. Anywho, I’m not going to bore you with the history. Lets go on a little tour!
Here’s a neat map of Woodbury from the 1880’s. From the library of congress.
At the corner of Evergreen and Cooper Street is this green beauty. This is the oldest surviving Conrail Watchman’s Stand in all of New Jersey. It originally sat at N. Broad and Park Avenue. It was relocated and refurbished here in 1985. You will see crossing guards still using this booth in inclement weather.
Along Cooper Street- The old trolley line.
This Georgian Revival home was built in 1903 for Judge Lewis Starr and his wife. It is located at 275 Cooper Street. The front walkway use to go straight to Cooper Street because a trolley line use to run directly on the street. The owner after Judge Starr transferred the walkway to Woodland Avenue. Formal gardens once extended out to the beautiful lake.
Bridge built in 1927.
More alluring homes along Cooper Street.
We’re going to do a tour of Broadway now…. Starting with the cemetery near the Colonial Diner.
Here is the old site of the Presbyterian meetinghouse that once resided on this property. The first Presbyterian meetinghouse was built of logs in 1721 on land deeded by John Tatum to Alexander Randall, Peter Long (Alexander’s father-in-law) and others for a church. Alexander was the only surviving trustee of the church in 1768 when he conveyed the property in trust to John Sparks (his son-in-law.) In 1803, John Sparks re-conveyed to new trustees, who included General Franklin Davenport (a descendent of the sister of Benjamin Franklin.)
Source: “History of the Counties of Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland, New Jersey with Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Citizens” by Thomas Cushing, MD and Charles E. Sheppard, Esq., Philadelphia, PA, Everts & Peck 1883: page 177
The new church location is at Broad and West Center Street.
In this cemetery lies one of Woodbury’s reportedly most-famous residents, General Franklin Davenport. He is the nephew of Benjamin Franklin. He was born in Philly and went onto study law in Burlington. Davenport was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1776 and practiced in Gloucester City, NJ. During the Revolutionary War, he enlisted as a private with the New Jersey militia. Thus climbing up the ladder and gaining rank to General.
After the war, he was appointed to the United States Senate as a Federalist to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of John Rutherfurd, and served from December 5, 1798, to March 4, 1799. He then was elected to the US Congress from March 4, 1799 to March 4, 1801. The General then came back to Woodbury and resumed his law practice until his death in 1832.
Further down Broadway (and heading further into the downtown area) is the Goodwill Fire company located at 642 North Broad Street. It was founded in 1887. It is no longer in use, but still used to hold equipment for the township.
The First Baptist Church in Woodbury founded in 1857. It was the first baptist church to be in Woodbury. It’s located at 544 along Broad Street.
Our next stop is 111 North Broad Street present-day Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse. This was known as the Wilkins’ Inn or Paul Hotel. The legend is brick leftover from the meetinghouse (across the street) was used to build this beautiful baby. It is reported to have been constructed in 1737. Until 1975, it was the oldest inn in continual operation in all of Gloucester County.
Across the street, is the old Quaker meetinghouse. It was built in 1715 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. This meetinghouse was used as a hospital by the Hessians during the Battle of Red Bank.
Marker in front of the historical society. On this site, General Cornwalis set up his headquarters during the Revolutionary War. Cornwalis was British. An educated aristocrat with military training. He was forced to surrender his troops in 1781 to American & French forces at the Siege of Yorktown. This surrender ended the Revolutionary War.
At 58 North Broad Street is the Gloucester County Historical Society. They purchased the home in 1924 and it has been aptly named the Hunter-Lawrence-Jessup house.
Hunter was a tea burner and educator and owned the house from 1792 to 1798.
Then, Captain John Lawrence took ownership (he was born in Burlington). He lived here with his younger brother James. James was in the navy and was seriously injured on the deck of his ship fighting in the War of 1812. His dying and most-famous words were, “Don’t give up the ship,” a phrase adopted as a U.S. Naval battle cry. The famous phrase still used today.
For judge and civic leader, John S. Jessup, purchased the home in the later 19th Century. In a publication written upon his death, the Woodbury Constitution mentions this about Judge Jessup, “As the law Judge of Gloucester County for a number of years, he was spoken of an upright jurist who dealt out justice without fear or favor, often times tempering justice with mercy where the demands of the law had been satisfied and leniency was an avenue through which the best results might be obtained, as viewed from the Bench. Judge Jessup will be missed by a large circle of friends and an extensive clientele in the legal profession.”
The Gloucester County Historical Society is a wonderful museum covering centuries of local history and is something you need to see in your lifetime.
At 19 North Broad Street is the old Woodbury Trust Building. It was a bank constructed in 1887 and is used as the Surrogate’s Court connected to the court house via a two-story walkway.
19 South Broad Street is the Kemble Methodist Church which was constructed in 1888. Last year, it celebrated its 125th anniversary. The church was named for the daughter of William H. Kemble. William was a millionaire and invested in cable car routes across the country. This church is a knockout. Yummy married her husband here in 2010.
The Presbyterian Church, in Woodbury, was organized in 1721 at the graveyard I mentioned previously. A log cabin was constructed for services as well as the cemetery resided on the property. In 1777, during the Revolutionary War, the British occupied the log structure as a commissary. After the war, the congregation refused to worship in the building. They said it was haunted. The congregation moved and used The Academy (which was a private school) for services which were held there until 1834. The “new” church seen in this picture was built in 1834.
Our next stop is 31 Newton Avenue. This home was built in 1893 in a Queen Anne Style by M.W. Newton (the street was named after him.). He and G.G. green are credited as having the greatest influence on the development of Woodbury of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Newton was also the innkeeper of G.G.Green’s Hotel.
More homes above on Newton Avenue which is part of the Newton Historic District in Woodbury.
From a marker on the front of the station: Built in 1883, the Eastern Stick Style Woodbury Train Station is a symbol of Woodbury’s most vigarous period of development. It is a key structure in the Green Era Historic District, listed in the New Jersey Register of Historic Places in 1988. The Woodbury Old-City Restoration Committee restored the train station in 2000 with the assistance of the New Jersey Historic Trust, State of New Jersey. It is now a restaurant which is pretty cool.
Well, this walk was a lot of fun! I know I missed A LOT of places and I do apologize. there’s so much history that you could write a whole book on this lovely historic town. However, I hope you enjoyed this little tour.
Until our next adventure, my friends!
P.S. Don’t forget to check out this walking tour! (It’s pretty neat.)