Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ebeneezer Tucker, of Tuckerton, N.J.

I’ve been wearing the same old pair of jeans for a few weeks now, in order to jog my memory so I would write this blog. I bought them last summer under a strange set of circumstances which has to do with death and cemeteries. You’ll see.

In the summer of 2015, I flew off to a distant land to attend the funeral of my friend’s wife. The day of the funeral coincided with the week my wife and I rented a place on the Jersey shore. Plan was that she and my daughter would drive down to the shore (from where we live in Philadelphia), then I would fly back to Philly after the funeral and drive to Long Beach Island, where we would be staying.

A hectic week, that was. I flew back to Philly on a red-eye flight, and caught a few hours’ worth of sleep at home. Next morning I threw my stuff in the car and headed to LBI to spend the remainder of the week at the shore. I was quite diligent about including my photographic gear in that stuff, as I’d planned to stop at a cemetery I’d never been to on the mainland opposite LBI. Tuckerton, New Jersey, was my stopover destination, a small fishing village on the bay.

On scenic Route 9, in South Jersey!
Just about the time I was to get off the Atlantic City Expressway and head north on Route 9, I had one of those heart-stopping realizations – I had forgotten my clothes! I remembered the camera gear, of course, but I neglected to grab my suitcase with a week’s worth of clothes! Atlantic City was an hour south of Philadelphia, so there was no way I was turning back. But I didn’t want to be late getting to the shore to see my wife and daughter. What’s a guy to do?

This guy figured he had two options:
  •       Stop at the Atlantic City outlet mall and blow a few hundred dollars on casual clothes; or
  •       Stop at the Goodwill on the Black Horse Pike just outside AC and blow but a few DOLLARS on a week’s wardrobe!
I opted for the latter. I think I spent a total of thirty dollars. My wife would be appalled, of course, but hey, when in a pinch….

On scenic Route 9, in South Jersey!

So anyway, these jeans I’ve been wearing the last week, they were one of the thrift shop scores. Half the clothes I threw away since last summer, but a few shirts and these cheap jeans I kept. Every time I looked at them, I thought, “I gotta write that blog.” So they served that purpose, at least.

On scenic Route 9, in South Jersey!
Every photographer who travels the fine roads of New Jersey knows that Route 9 is a visual feast of roadside attractions, such as giant milk bottles, tiny Victorian houses, and dinosaur statues. And that’s only within a ten-mile stretch. Eventually I made it to Tuckerton, where a friend of mine lives. My stop was not at his place, however. It was Old Methodist Cemetery, a new notch on my “Cemetery Traveler” belt. (This cemetery, by the way, is also called Greenwood Cemetery on some maps.)

Old Methodist Cemetery, Tuckerton, New Jersey

This cemetery is tiny – maybe it takes up the space of sixteen single-family homes. An easy analogy, as Old Methodist is in a residential area, surrounded by single-family homes. The major cross street is North Green Street, a few blocks north of Route 9, or Main Street, as its called here in Tuckerton.

A permanently ajar rusty gate at the corner entrance and low stone walls on two sides separate its overgrown grass from the well-manicured middle-class lawns around it. As is my wont, I seldom do research on a cemetery BEFORE I visit it. Sure, I miss stuff that later on I kick myself for, but generally, I like surprises. So, coming upon old Ebenezer Tucker’s tall white marble obelisk was a bit exciting.

Ebeneezer Tucker's monument at rear
I kind of figured this sleepy little fishing village had a founder named Tucker. Tucker, oddly, was born in Tucker’s Beach, New Jersey, but later moved to what is now Tuckerton, which was in fact named after him.  So what did he do that was so noteworthy as to have the town named after him? consider the following excerpt from the website

"It was from Ebenezer Tucker (1758 – 1845) that Tuckerton received its name. In March 1789, Mr. Tucker hosted a feast at 'Clamtown' for the residents at which time they officially changed the name to Tuckerton. Tucker was prominent as its first Collector of customs; a soldier of the Revolutionary War and served at the battle of Long Island. He was a member of Congress from New Jersey 1825-1829; a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas; Justice of Court Of Quarter Sessions and Judge of the Orphans Court."

That’s all very quaint, and it's not surprising that the locals put him on a pedestal for his good deeds. But there's a little known fact about Tuckerton, this sleepy little seaside village, that surprised me - and made me wonder why Tuckerton is not better known outside of South Jersey. The website,, states:“Tuckerton became the Third Port of Entry of the United States, with Ebenezer Tucker appointed Collector; his  commission bearing date March 21, 1791 signed by George  Washington, president and Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State.”

Odd Fellows Symbol on headstone
Apparently, Ebeneezer Tucker was quite a big deal, as was Tuckerton itself! What were the first two points of entry into the United States, you may ask? New York City and Philadelphia. At one time, for sure, Tuckerton played a major role in the growth of our nation. Today, people might think it unusual for a town this small to have THREE cemeteries, but then back in the day, it's population must have been much larger.
Walking through Old Methodist Cemetery you certainly do get a sense of history. Some of the headstones are very old, dating to the late 1700s. Established in 1699, Tuckerton was originally called “Clamtown,” as you read above. Tuckerton must have been a major source of this sea food before it was all fished out. So let's see, what else can I tell you about this little graveyard?

New Jersey State Seal
One thing that baffles me is the fact that, given the hard Atlantic coast weather, with the ocean salt spray and all that, why the detail has not worn off the soft marble grave markers? Further inland where there is more pollution and acid rain (I assume), such detail has long vanished from similar stones. Here, you can see the Victorian symbols of death quite clearly, the willow, the lamb. Even the New Jersey State Seal on old Ebeneezer Tucker’s 1845 marble obelisk is still plainly visible!

References and Further Reading: