About the Port Norris Historical Society

The Port Norris Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the history of our unique village, located in Commercial Township in Cumberland County, NJ.

Rachel Cobb, President
Faye Hickman, Vice-President
Gloria Guidera, Corresponding Secretary
Mary Linda Lacotte, Recording Secretary
Joyce Massey, Treasurer
Elizabeth Hoffman, Co-Treasurer

Eileen Bernhardt
Virginia Campbell
John Hickman
Sam Ricci
Richard Smith

Honor Roll

Alvina J. Baum, Founding Member, Secretary, Trustee and Legend (2007-2022)
Rev. Ernest Barnes, Lifetime Honorary Trustee, Legend


Virginia Campbell, Rachel Cobb, Gloria Guidera

Deeds of Gift; Pat Smith
Pat Smith Chair, Rachel Dolhanczyk, Mary Linda Lacotte, Rachel Cobb, Faye Hickman, Joyce Massey

Chair Eileen Bernhardt, Gloria Guidera
Robin Berry and Rachel Cobb

Co-Chairs Sam Ricci and Elizabeth Hoffman
Richard Smith and Rachel Cobb

Chair Virginia Campbell

Virginia Campbell, Rachel Cobb, Gloria Guidera

Chair Joyce Massey

Welcome Committee
Faye Hickman, Pat Smith, Rose Ann Smith

Building Renovations
Chair Richard Smith
John Hickman and Rachel Cobb

Legends Program
Chair Mary Linda Lacotte
Rachel Cobb, Pat Smith, Faye Hickman, Virginia Campbell,
Belinda Hall, Joyce Massey and Gloria Guidera

By Laws
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Honor Roll Criteria

The Port Norris Historical Society (PNHS) is dedicated to preserving the history of our unique village and the memory of those deceased individuals selected for our Honor Roll. Those persons chosen will have served as an Officer or Trustee of the PNHS Board of Directors for a minimum of ten years, embraced the Mission Statement of the PNHS and demonstrated respect for all individuals, regardless of their affiliation with the PNHS. All persons nominated to the Honor Roll must receive a unanimous vote from the current PNHS Board of Directors, which shall also have the authority to override the above criteria, provided it is a unified decision.

Port Norris Historical Society Founded 2007

FIRST PUBLIC MEETING - History of Port Norris

Following a suggestion at a Port Norris Cemetery meeting, Liz Hoffman invited a variety of people who had grown up in Port Norris in the early 1900’s

Attending were (in alpha order): Alvina Nickelson Baum, Warren “Barney” Berry, Lester Dagastine, Liz Hoffman, Warrington “Barney” Hollinger, Rita Hoffman, Bill Horseman, Ed Horseman, Jim Husband, Walt Kunkle, Doris Sheppard Moore, Mary Ella Nickelson Morie, Bill Riggin. And Doris Corson Tomlinson (Stepdaughter of Dr. Day)

The meeting was taped and this information was taken from that tape.

Both Barney Hollinger and Doris Sheppard brought copies of a map of Port Norris circa 1876. The homes that were shown on that map were mostly not familiar to anyone present. It is known that the house we were meeting in now, 2510 High Street, was built by Sam & ------ Lake in 1891. Samuel Shinn had a store on the Corner of High and Main. He built the Sharp House in that location in 1882. David Hollinger’s house is now Mazzola’s house and J. Hollinger owned the third house on Market Street. According to Barney Hollinger, the Hand family owned a lot of land at the end of Main Street known as “ The Peak of the Moon” C.W. Hand sold to the Hollinger family. The Hollinger Homestead is no longer standing.

Dick Smith’s mother was formerly Jane Robbins. She was raised in the house next to Hoffman’s Funeral Home. The house is now an extension of business used as a showroom. Her father was Henry Robbins (?) David Robbins……….

Doris Moore had another map

Jonas Wesley Adams, grandfather of Mary Ella and Alvina Nickelson, built a double house on the corner of Church and Brown Street. The Nickelson family lived in half the house. Alvin Nickelson was an oysterman .In the early 1900’s. Lee and Alma Robbins lived on the corner across the street. The third corner housed the Harry Webb family and on the fourth corner was a smaller, newer house owned by Robert and Jane Adams. Edward “Jellybean” Adams grew up in that home. Prior to the Adams’ there was a cement block operation run by Frank & Theresa Damico.

Liz Hoffman said that she got a call about the Shinn Monument in the GAR cemetery. They asked why it was in Port Norris and why there was a monument to a soldier who was not an officer. The monument is of Jacob C. Shinn who was an enlisted man in the Civil War. He was a brother of Samuel Shinn. He is buried in Haleyville Cemetery and it was speculated that he was the only man from the area to be in the war. Perhaps his brother had some influence. Some people may not know that the Grand Army of the Republic was, in fact, a well organized Veterans group for the benefit of the civil war vets. There were posts in many towns that had civil wars veterans. Port Norris’ was Post #6.

Jim Husband lived on what is now North Avenue across from the Methodist Church. The house is no longer standing. He had a paper route in that end of town down Temperance Street. He recalled the Hossicks(?) and Dare Peterson lived just across from the Methodist Church. Other names he mentioned were: Dave Dunham, Paul Garrison, the Lake family, Joe Compton, the undertaker, and the Perrys.

Western Union office was by the railroad track. ( It was impossible to tell the locations from the tape.) There was a blacksmith shop on Main Street in 1905. The names Wilson and Cantoni were mentioned in connection with that. According to Doris Corson Tomlinson, there was a school in North Port Norris on the corner of Sockwell Lane across from Garrisons.

Dr. Sharp had an office in back of the Baptist Church where Paul Banks lives. Les Dagastine remembers walking his sister there at night after she put a crochet hook through her hand.

E.J. Cook lived in the house where Flora Robbins now lives. He was an oysterman and an officer in the Baptist Church.

Isaac Reeves had the second house from the RR track then Boyd Fagan. It had a big wrap around porch and there was a huge cellar for storing cranberries.

The Dagastines had a canning house in the 20s. They had a theatre across from the bank. It was called the “New Joy” and showed silent movies. Mary Harris played the piano. Later they had records. It closed in 1932 or 1933.

On the corner of Main and Market Streets, there was an American Store. It was a three story building with the Knights of Pythius Hall on he second floor. Ted Turpin managed it for years and later Robert DuBois. Port Norris High School put on their plays there.

The building next to John Law’s was a store and there was a Chevrolet Car Dealership in the building that now is Newcomb’s market. On the vacant lot next door, there was a movie theatre in the 1940s. Vic Hruza was a shoemaker. So much of the town is gone.

Tasker Robbins lived in the house on High Street where Rita and John Hoffman now live. The Buzby House is now Holly Manor. Miss Buzby was the school principle. Barney Berry’s family (Miller Berry) lived on Brown Street. Also Dave Berry and Reba Berry. They had dairy cows. Barney says there were 13 children and two parents. There was always food on the table.

Back on Main Street, Gertie Hand had a dry goods store before Temperance Street. Kelberg’s store was on the corner opposite the bank. Gertrude Nickelson Bailey lived there during the war while Merle was in the Navy. Craig Bailey was a baby there. Gert used to tie him to the radiator so he wouldn’t fall out the window. Down the lane across the ditch was the Advertiser Press Building. Barraclough’s published the paper. Bill Horseman woked there as a young man. They were celebrating their 40th anniversary in 1946. Next on Main (going toward Temperance) was Godown’s store, Garrison’s Café and the Pool Room. Mary Ella remembers her uncle going to the pool room and sending her into the Sweet Shoppe.

Discussed were the Rodeo/Circus at Peak of the Moon. An ox-roast behind Newcomb’s store (now Dino’s). Back of Goldblatt’s, there was a half-mile track behind the shucking houses. There were 500 Chincotegue ponys. There was a Toby Tyler Tent show near the firehouse. At Christmas, Santa came and rode the fire truck giving out candy to the children.

Shellpile was once a self sufficient community with a theatre and stores. Howad Sockwell had a wood business in Shellpile. Les Dagastine chopped wood for him.

Someone asked about the bake shop. Joe Dagastine had a bake shop in what had been the Bacon family’s double house where Dagastine’s gas station was.

Dr. Austin Robbins had a dental office where the VFW was. Frank Wheaton, Jr. bought the property. He was planning to refurbish houses as an investment but that did not work out.

Someone asked about the Opera House. – decided that it must have been the K of P hall. A picture of a tressle bridge was passed around. Barney Hollingers son found it on the internet. No one was able to identify it.

Les Dagastine remembers his Dad piling all the children in a wagon and taking them across the river toward Dividing Creek. He believed that crossing the river would rid the kids of Whooping Cough.

Brown Street stopped at Dickie’s Ditch. There was a dump where the fire house is now. On that end of Brown Street were Clyde Phillips, Sophie Hunter, Court Smith, Ogden, Fenton & Sue Anderson. Beside the bank was Almeda Owens.

Everyoone tried to remember what was on Main Street. Mentioned Pritchard’s Store, Chevie Garage, Feed Store, Barber shop (now McLean’s Insurance), Pool Hall. Joe Biali’s, Ed Friswell Plumbing. A&P, Gas Office sold appliances, Kelberg’s, Godown’s Clothing Store and Tony Ogden’s Ice House. There were 39 stores, (now 8), 2 markets, 18 grocery stores at one time, 3 car agencies, Bank. Barney Berry’s grandfather and Joe Newcomb started a bank and lost money. Fish store next to Dickie’s ditch.

Dick Smith brought three albums of old pictures that were of interest to everyone.

After the meeting, Barney Berry brought Liz a picture of Main Street as painted by Barbara Adams. It will help to recreate how things were.

It was decided to have another meeting on July 17th. [2007]


Photo taken December 11, 2007 at the Port Norris Meeting Hall.
Photo: Rachel Cobb

Port Norris Historical Society Meeting 2007