Port Norris Legends

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Legends of Port Norris

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Thomas Hand
b. 1818 - d. 1890

Research shows that Thomas Hand was born in 1818 possibly in the West Creek area. As a young man of 17, he sailed a boat from the Maurice River to Philadelphia for Richard Robbins. (Notice that these are still familiar names in our area). After a few years, Thomas bought his own boat and eventually became the owner of several boats.

Around 1850, he bought 8000 acres of marsh land. At this time, there were only 20-30 houses in Port Norris. Ever the entrepreneur, Thomas opened a grocery store in town. Later he established a Ship Chandlery in Bivalve. He started several other businesses including the only marine railway in town for the purpose of repairing boats.

Once established, he served on the Board of Freeholders for 15 years. At the time of his death in 1890 he still owned 18 houses in Port Norris.

His son,Thomas Hand, Jr, and a brother or cousin John Collins Hand carried on the businesses and together they had a large oyster shipping business as well.

Among the properties sold were a corner property to the Port Norris Methodist Church in 1868 and acreage to the Cumberland & Maurice River Railroad in 1883.

Two years ago a friend of the society sent a beautiful certificate made out to Thomas Hand, Jr. It is numbered, dated 1899 and signed by John Quincy Adams. We were excited and thought we might have a valuable treasure. Actually these certificates were issued by the hundreds to anyone who donated $10.00 to the Betsy Ross Restoration foundation in Philadelphia. We discovered that it is valued at about $60 because it is in such beautiful shape but to us it has great value. Our friend is the great granddaughter of Thomas Hand, Jr, the granddaughter of Linda and Harvey Hand and the daughter of Marjorie Blackman. Her name is Ethalinda Blackman. Tommy Hollinger bought the Hand homestead on Main Street and is now refurbishing it.

Thomas had a sister Mary Jane Hand who married Dick Smith’s great grandfather Henry… How closely our history is tied to our past.