Historical Sketch of Port Norris

Harry C. Barraclough is PNHS Legend
Recognized as a Legend of Port Norris on November 16, 2008 Click Here

The historical sketches below were written in the early 1960's.

By Harry C. Barraclough

The J. C. Shinn Post No. 6, Grand Army of the Republic met in their own Hall (now Cobb’s Store) on Friday nights and Gibson’s Marine Band held band rehearsals and their regular meetings on Saturday nights in G. A. R. Hall. This organization was led or directed by Joseph P. Gibson and was a real live organization, playing for many different affairs.

On Tuesday nights Cumberland Castle, No.65, Knights of the Golden Eagle met in Knights of Pythias Hall. The Knights of the Golden Eagle were organized November 5, 1892 with the following charter members: Gibson C. Andrews, Edwin L. Newcomb, Belford Harris, Roscoe Shull, Frank G. Deamer, B. L. Bates, Wilson L. Shropshire, Jesse R. Pritchard, Benjamin F. Butler, Richard Lacey, Everett Hollinger, Oscar Buzby, Sylvanus A. Ladow, David Ott, Eli Hollinger, Charles Harris, and Charles Petitt. The charter was granted at the Grand Castle session held at Trenton on September 5th, 1893, signed by Joseph Arnold, Grand Chief, and E. D. Senseman, Grand Master of Records. They met in the Knights of Pythias Hall until the Hall was burned down to the ground on Wednesday, January 15th, 1902. On Thursday night, January 16th, they called a special meeting at the home of Past Chief Frank B. Robbins to make arrangements for a new meeting place and they were told they could meet on Tuesday nights in the G.A.R. Hall until the K. of P. Hall could be rebuilt. They met there from January 21st, 1902 until February 10th, 1903, and moved their new quarters in the K. of P. Hall on February 17th, 1903, where they met until just a few years ago, when the Hall was sold and they had to move. They now meet in the Jr’s. Hall, next to Laws and Henderson’s Tire and Paint Store, on Main Street.

The Castle had a membership in the late 1800’s of 153 and at that time the per capita tax paid to the Grand Castle was 36 cents per member - now it is $1.50. When the Hall burned, Oscar Buzby was Master of Records and when he discovered the Hall to be on fire, he made three trips up to the third floor and saved the books, charter, and seal. The Noble Chief, James R. Morris, had a ritual at home, everything else was destroyed. They purchased new regalias and other paraphernalia from Louis E. Stilts and Brother, of Philadelphia. The membership is now 75 and new applications are being received all the time.

The local officers at this time are: Lester O. Corson, Past Chief: Richard Riggin, Noble Chief: Williams Biggs, High Priest: Edward O. Gibson, Venerable Hermit: Clyde A. Phillips, Vice Chief: Harry C. Barraclough, Master of Records: Harry R. Lore, Clerk of Exchecquer: Robert F. Fraint, Keeper of Exchecquer: Willard C. Treen, Sir Herald, John R. Hoffman, First Guardsman: J. Marshall Lore, Thomas R. Torpey and Samuel Riley, Trusties: John R. Robbins, Representative to the Grand Castle.

Historical Sketch of Port Norris
By Harry Barraclough

I remember my first visit to Port Norris, it was on Monday morning, February 4th, 1896. My father came to see about a house to move into, and I came with him. We came to the Bivalve side of the river on the steamboat “West Jersey” and at the place we landed there were four oyster boats we had to climb over, to reach the wharf and to say the least I was scared I was afraid I would slip into the river as I stepped over the iron rollers where the dredge chains rolled over in hauling in the oyster dredges when filled with oysters.

It was real cold that morning, there was plenty of ice in the river. I told Pop I didn’t like it if I had to live where I had to climb over boats to get to Port Norris.

That night we stayed at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Heritage. Mr. Heritage was then the Postmaster and lived in the building just recently vacated by the N.J. Bell Telephone Co., corner of High and Main Streets.

The next morning we went to see Mr. Rixsom Robbins, who owned “The Mansion” as the house next to the present Post Office, was called. He took us to look at the house, which we rented. He told me to go up on the third floor and that I could see the Delaware Bay from the window. I thought that was great to be able to see the water from our house!

We, at the first had a little hand printing press up on the third floor but it made too much work going up and down the stairs and Pop got tired of that and moved the type and press down stairs to the front room in his office. He was a Commissioner of Deeds and Notary Public, did collection work and later became Justice of Peace, (which office he held until he moved to Silver, N.J., in 1915.)

I sold the Millville Daily Republican, that is why I remember where most everyone lived in town at that time. My father picked up what he knew of printing by hanging around with Charley Newlin, who was the son of John W. Newlin, then publisher of “The Republican”. That’s how I got in on printing, by helping after school and on non-school days. In 1898 he had a printing office at Bivalve on the west side of the water tank, it was a small one-room building. The thing I remember most vividly was how hot it was walking up to Shell Road after work in the afternoons. It was a real shell road then, too!

I remember nights when the men used to sit in Pop’s office around the “old egg stove on a winter night and swap “tall tales” of the Civil War and other things. I remember Mr. Henry Lee, an old soldier, who lived next to where Mrs. Emma Dillahey now lives: he told a story of when he was first married he moved there, there was a small stream ran through his yard and he had a hen setting duck eggs and he said when they hatched, the hen “took them for a stroll” and he said when those little ducklings spotted that water they made a bee-line for it and jumped in the stream and the hen didn’t know at first what to make of it she ran up and down the bank but couldn’t get in the water herself, but the next day when she was let out she took them down to the stream and sat on the bank and watch them swim. The next time he set her on chicken eggs and upon hatching she took the little chicks down to the stream and the hen didn’t know why they wouldn’t go in the water the same as the ducklings so what did she do, he said, but picked them up by the back of their necks and threw every one of them in the water. He said “do you know, if I had not been there, every last poor chicks would have drowned.” This is not a “fish story” but it might be a little far fetched chicken story!

Historical Sketch of Port Norris
By Harry Barraclough

Well folks, let’s take a journey west on the south side of Main Street from the old Knights of Pythias Hall, which was totally destroyed by a fierce fire either 1809 or 1900. I cannot find out just the right date, (if any of our readers know, will you please tell me?) The data I am giving here is between the years of 1896 and 1900 at the turn of the century: We’ll start with the house now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Earl Blizzard, it was then the home of David R. and Carrie Lake and daughters Mary and Myrtie. Then we come to the “Mansion” as it was then called, this was occupied on the east side by my family: the center apartment by Jacob and Lizzie Trout and daughter Sally and son Luis: the west side by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Smith and daughters Rhoda and Mazie and Mrs. Smith’s sons and daughters from a previous marriage, Mrs. Alice Huntley, Mrs. Jane Brelsford (later Mrs. Gus C. Westcott), Arthur and George Brelsford. The building now occupied by the Post Office was not built yet that was built later by Charles B. and Sara E. Robbins as a store and later occupied by Michael A. Smith as a grocery store, who sold to Heisler Silvers. It was later occupied by Elmer A. Anderson before being used as a present Post Office.

There was a vacant lot next to the “Mansion” which was used for circuses, merry-go-rounds, medicine shows, various celebrations were held there before the present building was built by Mr. and Mrs. John Willan, now the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Ringgold.

On the southwest corner of Main and Bacon Streets was the home and office of Dr. and Mrs. Stetson L. Bacon, they had a daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Bacon Walling, who was very prominent in New York society and a writer, the son Ray, was a prominent New York lawyer, ( I worked for Dr. and Mrs. Bacon; kept the yard cleaned up, fed and bedded the sorrel mare and got her ready for the Dr. to start out or his morning calls.) John Ringgold bought the property, had the house removed and has a nice lawn on the corner and raises flowers on the back of the lot.

The home of the late Edith Maxfield was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Firman Blizzard and daughters Emma and Ida, Emma later became Mrs. John Owens and Ida married Jack Kelly from Philadelphia, who came here to play baseball on the Port Norris Athletic Club team when they had a fenced infield and played big teams. I remember the day the New York “Bloomer Girls” walloped them - some game! That’s when Walt Sharp, Wilber Robbins, Charlie Robbins, Les Godfrey, Clarence and Dave Robbins, Jack Kelly, Burton S.

Robbins were all crack players, and a hard team to beat too!
Next was the residence of Robert L. Lake, the printer, who has his print shop in the west side of the old Knights of Pythias Hall. Olin Newcomb used to work for his uncle as a printer. This house was the home of Captain and Mrs. Addington B. Campbell for a number of years and is now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Earl Kessler and family.

The residence now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Robbins and family was the home of Captain and Mrs. E. J. Cook and family, son Frank was physician in Laurel Springs, NJ and daughters Misses Sarah and Edith. Next was the residence of Captain and Mrs. Howard W. Sockwell and sons Henry and Herbert, who now lives in Vero Beach, Florida. This property is now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Gerbereaux.