Maurice River Recollections Project
River Reaches

The Maurice River Reaches Project
Ferry Crossings Clue to Reach Names - Part III

Modern maps of Cumberland County don't give many clues about life in by-gone eras. There are a few place names that have held fast, and those names help us to imagine a time when the Maurice River was both a resource and a mode of transportation. The names Spring Garden Road and Ferry Road (on the western bank in Commercial Township) and Ferry Lane (on the eastern bank in Maurice River Township) are vestiges of that time.

It wasn't too long ago that a low tide would reveal remnants of the pilings from the Spring Garden Ferry Landing. And even though these remnants are no longer visible, there are still a few surviving documents indicating that the ferry at Spring Garden played a significant role in the growth and development of the region.

In 1792, Uriah and Rebecca Mayhew acquired a tract of land on the western shore of the Maurice River. There they built a home. Cumberland County historical records show that this "typical South Jersey farmhouse for the era," remained in the Mayhew family until 1934. Known as the Ferry House, or Patty's Place, the structure, with its subsequent additions and improvements still stands at Buckshutem and Spring Garden Road. This private residence is listed on the register of Commercial Township's historic structures.

In his article "Some Historical Notes Concerning the Maurice River" (Vineland Historical Magazine; January -April 1965), historian Herbert W. Vanaman noted that "the Spring Garden Ferry was put into operation by Abraham Reeves, one of the very early land holders in the Maurice River area." Reeves owned a large tract of land on the western shore of the Maurice River. Map collector Charles Hartman also indicated that the ferry was called "Reeves Ferry" on his compilation map of early surveys. Whether the Mayhews ever operated the ferry business is unclear. There are, however, surviving documents, including a survey map dated 1810, that link Philadelphia businessman John Elkinton, Esq., to the ferry service.

* Hannah and Abraham (or Henry, by one account) Reeves may have established and operated the ferry.  There is evidence that their land was deeded first to their son, Steven Reeves, and then to Steven's daughter Ann Elizabeth Lee, but documents bearing the Elkington name seems to indicate that Steven Reeves did not operate the ferry business, but rather leased it out to Elkinton. In 1850, Lee sold the ferry and 20 acres on the east side of the Maurice River - and three acres and a landing on the west side, plus all the ferry equipment to John Fries. (That ownership is noted in the 1869 Atlas of Cumberland County. Fries finally sold all that was left to the business in a sheriff's sale in 1880. The final date of this ferry operation, as noted in the holdings of the Cumberland County Historical Society,  is 1867.)

One surviving Cumberland County document, dated May 12, 1813, shows that, during this period, the ferry was operated by Joe Elkinton.  The document, an invoice, shows the rates of ferriage at Spring Garden Ferry: "Four horse wagons and load 37 1/2 cents, 2 horses 25 cents, horse and sulky, chair bar wagon 19 cents, horse and rider 12 1/2 cents, every adorned horse 6 1/4 cents, every horned creature 6 1/4 cents, foot person 6 1/4 cents, half dozen sheep or calves or less 12 1/2 cents by the County Board of Freeholders (See minutes of the board)." Later research notes stated that these rates "were reduced May 9, 1821. On May 8, 1822 rates were raised but not to the old standard."

What is known about other ferry crossings on the Maurice River is less detailed. Notations on various maps fill in some of the gaps. Local historian Charles Hartman included some of them on the compilation maps he created in 1959 and 1974. The Hartman maps, based on early surveys dating back to 1831, include some of the names that are attributed to the reaches of the Maurice River. On Hartman's maps, the Compton Ferry Service operated between the roads we know as Old Ferry Road and Ferry Lane, which led to downtown Port Elizabeth. In the 1850's, the Chas. Cooks Ferry Road ran just south of the Yock Wock Meadow and led to the Cook Ferry Landing, a Maurice River crossing to Leesburg. Today's maps include Cook Road, and old timers tell about the Cook family's farms along that stretch of the Maurice River near Port Norris. The Hartman maps also indicate an "ancient ferry road" than runs along the southern banks of the reach at Mauricetown, to a landing that ferried travelers across the river to Dorchester, landing just south of Crowder Run.

Other interesting notations on the Hartman maps show a road on the eastern shores of the Maurice River, across from Port Norris, that was once called William Dallas Ferry Road. In a later era, this road was the entrance to the place known as Menhaden, or Fish Factory, also named on Hartman's maps. Hartman also attributes the name "Reeves Ferry" to the ferry service at Spring Garden, but no date is given for the Reeve's ownership.

With the disappearance of ferry operations and small commercial wharves, we are left with names that tie into the landscape but give us little detail on the history of those places. On a list of Place Names compiled in 1915, the (anonymous) author refers to meeting minutes from 1870, which mentions Carrell's Ferry, operating "from the meadow along the Maurice River, above Mauricetown and opposite Bricksboro." David Compton and John Russell are mentioned in these minutes. Another name surfaces in connection with one of these Maurice River ferry landings. One early document ties Jesse Eldridge to that ferry in 1811, In his column "Ramblin' 'Round, written in July 1963, journalist Virgil Johnson wrote that Eli Eldridge operated a ferry from Buckshore to Cutoff Road opposite Haleyville. He added that Eldridge owned "the Buckshore hotel."

The origin of the name Spring Garden also eludes historians. It was interesting to learn that the Philadelphia neighborhood that became known as Spring Garden did not get that designation until well after the Spring Garden Ferry was established on the Maurice River. One name from the past that is also familiar today is Matt's Landing. Many know it as the road to good crabbing in these parts. In other eras, this point on the lower eastern shore of the Maurice River served as the connection between Heislerville and a railroad station dubbed "Link City", where strawberries were sent off to market.

During the height of Cumberland County’s agricultural and oyster industry boom, tug boats, often owned by railway companies, replaced the ferries and provided service across the Maurice River. By the 1880's, the Spring Garden Ferry and the Mauricetown Ferry and other ferry services had ceased operation. Progress, in the form of a bridge, was built at Mauricetown. A new era, with a slate of new names, continued the fluid evolution of the Maurice River and its environs, slowly shrouding the history that laid the foundation for progress. That's why it is important to safeguard what we know and to continue the search for more of the clues that reveal the story of the Maurice River.

Ferry Crossings
Clue to Reach Names
Part I
Part II
Part III