Maurice River Recollections Project
River Reaches

The Maurice River Reaches Project
Bridges: The Future with a Past - Part II

In the late 1790's, Joseph Buck plotted out the streets for the town of Millville. For at least 50 years before Buck settled there along the shores of the Maurice River, other travelers and entrepreneurs were crisscrossing the region. They knew the area as Shingle Landing, and later as Souder's Swill, after a local tavern.  There aren't too many details about the earliest river crossings over those upper reaches of the Maurice River during this period, but what has been uncovered illustrates that the first wooden span served as a bridge to Millville's prosperity.

Shingle Landing existed before the early mills were established along the banks of the Maurice River. It existed before the establishment of Union Pond. An early deed pinpoints Shingle Landing, describing a location on the river's eastern shores "by the side of the Maurice River, a little above the lower Shingle Landing and little below the uppermost landing where vessels used to come to load and a little above where Maurice River bridge now stands."

During those early years of the 1700's, a single ferry operated by William Dallas, some 20 miles down the river, and one rudimentary bridge, near Shingle Landing, provided the important links across the Maurice River.

Historian Lucius Elmer provided the details about the early bridges at Shingle Landing. In his 1869 book History of Cumberland County, Elmer described an early bridge (circa 1754) that spanned the Maurice River "above the tide, a little below the entrance of Lebanon branch and thence across the Menantico at Leamings Mill." This bridge was part of the King's Highway that stretched "from Cohanssey Bridge (Bridgeton), past a tavern at Beaver Dam, and on toward the Maurice River."

Elmer's research uncovered a court document that authorized a fine of ten pounds against the township of Maurice River if this bridge was not repaired and made passable. Elmer reported that shortly after this court action, "a public road was laid from Berriman's (Berryman) Branch near Leaming's Mill, to Shingle Landing on the east side of the river. A bridge on log cribs was built across the river." In 1756, a public road was laid on the western shores of the Maurice River leading from this bridge to the vicinity of one of the area's earliest residents, Lucas Peterson. The location became known as "New Bridge," and, later, "Maurice River Bridge."

In the 1700's, William Penn's sons owned considerable acreage in the region. Sometime around the 1790's, the Penn brothers sold their woodland properties to the gentlemen who established the Union Company. This began a period of industry and development that prompted Buck to propose the establishment of a town called Millville.

The Union Company built a dam to create Union Mill Pond, with large floating gates that allowed logs to be floated down river to market.  While logging was the primary industry, Elmer noted that new industries were beginning to take hold. Even so, "the bridge was without a draw for the passage of masted vessels." In 1807, a new bridge was built. Elmer wrote that it was built with "a draw or hoist, a little above the site of the original structure..."  Elmer also described the succession of replacement bridges that were constructed on or near that site in 1816, 1837, and 1861, meeting the needs of the growing town and the changes in the industrial landscape. 

As industry moved from logging to iron casting, glassmaking and the cotton manufacturing, Millville prospered. The following observation, from 1844, was recorded in "Millville, NJ History" (Historical Collections Of The State Of New Jersey; Barber And Howe):

"The following view was taken on the western bank of the river, a short distance above the bridge. On the left are seen the extensive glass-works of Scattergood, Harverstick, & Co.; on the right the central portion of the village; and on the extreme right, the large glass-works at Shutterville, in the lower part of the village. There is also near the village an iron furnace, belonging to D. C. Wood, Esq. These three establishments unitedly employ about 300 men. About 3 miles above Millville is a dam in the river, from which a canal is cut to the village, for the supply of waterpower for the works. Large quantities of wood, lumber, and charcoal, are exported from here; and the river is navigable for vessels of 100 tons. Millville is thriving, and inhabited by a hardy, industrious population."

After Richard D. Wood purchased Union Mills in 1851, he constructed a more efficient dam at Union Pond. By 1869, the Millville Turnpike, a stagecoach route, and a steamship company helped moved people and goods around the county and beyond. By the early 1900's, a wooden catwalk was constructed over Tumbling Dam, making it possible to cross the Maurice River on foot. The bridge at Millville remained the primary link over the upper reaches of Maurice River for other traffic. Today this crossing, the Main Street Bridge links center city Millville with the highways of progress.

A Future with a Past
Part I
Part II