South Jersey Heritage: A Social, Economic and Cultural History - R. Craig Koedel
Because South Jersey appears on no map, a line from William Penn, slightly modified, is appropriated by the author to introduce this narrative: "That there is such a place as South Jersey, is certain." Just as surely, it has a history well worth the telling.
Unlike West Jersey, which existed as a separate province for nearly forty years, South Jersey has never been a political entity with precise boundaries. However, the term has been used informally for more than a century to designate the southern portion of New Jersey. It is incumbent upon the user to provide his own definition.
From a low midland of scrub pine and oak, the region slopes toward the marshy inner and outer coastal plains. It is an area bounded on the north by the Pine Barrens, lying between the waters of the Delaware on the west and the Atlantic on the east, and reaching southward in the shape of an inverted pyramid to a point where the bay and the ocean meet. The present-day counties that South Jersey comprises are Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, Camden, and Atlantic, along with the areas of Burlington and Ocean Counties that border on Pennsauken Creek and the Mullica River.
South Jersey is the "Garden" of the Garden State. Although the types of farming have changed, agriculture continues to be the economic mainstay of most of the region, as it has been since colonial times, Shore tourism and industrialization along the Delaware River are the chief exceptions. This rural society is distinctive within a state that is otherwise heavily industrialized and densely populated.
In a sense, South Jersey is a historical entity, separate from the rest of the state. Its patterns of social, economic, and cultural development were different from those of the northern counties. The ethnic and religious backgrounds of its colonial settlers were more various. On the other hand, the new Immigration of the late-19th century introduced less national and cultural diversity into South Jersey than it did to northern New Jersey. Historically, Philadelphia has been the metropolitan center toward which the interests of South Jersey people have gravitated, whereas New York has been the focus of the north.
Writers of New Jersey history have tended to emphasize the past of the more populous corridor counties that lie between New York and Philadelphia -- the New Jersey that comes to the mind of most Americans whenever they hear the state mentioned. This is reasonable, since presumably there is a connection between a quantity of people and the amount of history they create. However, these narratives are of limited interest to residents of the southern counties, whose history is manifestly different from that of their northern neighbors.
The purpose of this volume is to provide a brief, but comprehensive, account of South Jersey from the early explorations to the present. It is intended, by doing so, to make the reader aware, as well as both proud and critical, of his heritage for whatever personal enjoyment he may derive from it, and that he might be enabled thereby to place South Jersey’s present, with its problems and prospects, in an historical perspective.
The author wishes to express his appreciation to the area’s county, college, and university historical libraries for the use of their facilities, with special thanks to Rutgers University, Princeton University, Glassboro State College, and the Presbyterian Historical Society for making their manuscript collections available to him, Special acknowledgement is given to Mr. Elmer Woods, Research Librarian at the Daniel Leeds Library, Atlantic Community College, who was diligent in securing rare and out-of-print books needed for this research. Thanks is given also to friends and students for making their private collections available, offering helpful criticism of the text, proofreading the manuscript, and checking the index. For her research, transcription of handwritten manuscripts, preparing the index, proofreading copy, and for her patience and understanding through his months of work on this project, the author is indeed grateful to his wife.
R. C. K.
Absecon, New Jersey