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The Gateway to Long Beach – 2

continued from long-beach-island-history-and-tales

The Clamtown Sailcar

Baymen – oystermen and clammers – continued to use the Edge Cove dock. Here they cleaned, sorted, counted and packed their oysters, clams and fish. They had been quick to grasp the opportunity afforded by the railroad in making it possible for them to ship their seafood to profitable city markets. They were no longer dependent on coastal schooners. But when the spur to Edge Cove was abandoned they were confronted by the problem of how to convey their sacks, boxes and barrels each day from the dock to the mainline of the railroad.

The problem was solved in true bayman fashion. The old flat car was converted into a land-going ship! It was fully rigged with a mast and sails. The old spur line tracks offered a smooth and reefless channel. So expert were these baymen in sailing this fat car that few trips were missed no matter from which direction the winds blew. The sight of a fat car – under full sail-and loaded with boxes and barrels – speeding across the meadow bafled visitors.

The Clamtown sailcar, as it was called, was unique and served the baymen for several years. Had there not been an accident it would probably have run indefinitely. In those days Tuckerton made much of celebrating Halloween. On such a night some of the older boys decided upon a ride on the sailcar. They were probably too eager for speed and the sailcar jumped the track at a curve and went into a ditch. There some of its rusting parts may still be seen.

A Quaker Meeting House and a Wireless Station

“Meeting House Pond” is two miles south of Tuckerton on the Wireless Road. This pond was first to freeze in winter and was used by children for skating. It was so named because there was once a meeting house in the nearby woods. The pond is part of Caldwell’s Run.

It may seem incongruous to speak of an ancient Quaker meeting house and Wireless Road in the same sentence but Tuckerton did have the highest wireless tower in the world. It was the second highest man-made structure of its time, only surpassed by the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The Tuckerton Wireless Tower, known throughout the world, was on Hickory Island. Construction was started in 1912 and completed in 1914. It was built by a German company and at the time was the highest landmark along the Atlantic coast. The huge triangular open tower originally extended eight hundred and fifty feet above the meadow. Some years later, while the tower was still in use, seventy-five feet were removed from its top to increase its power. It was a wonderful beacon and landmark with its flashing red blinker light. In clear weather, either by day or night, the structure and installation could be seen for miles.

The Wireless Tower at Tuckerton is gone. On December 28, 1955, wreckers cut several supporting cables and the structure crashed to the earth. There seem to be plans to develop the hundreds of acres surrounding the tower site into a resort. If this is done some of the houses will be no larger than the huge concrete anchors that held the supporting cables of the tower.

Speaking of anchors recalls Anchor, or Anchoring, Island often mentioned in the log books of coasting vessels and shown on old maps. The Island, some fifteen acres in area, was located in the Bay opposite Great Egg Harbor Inlet, an inlet which has been closed for years and now has new channels on either side of the old location.

Anchoring Island was washed away many years ago and some twenty feet of salt water today rush across the old site. The Island’s name was very appropriate since vessels anchored in its lee to wait out a blow or for a change in tides. It was a natural haven for sailing ships in bad weather.

Decoys and Boats

The Tuckerton area was justly famous as a center of the art of making decoys for hunting. Skilled artisans made decoys of wood, tin or iron to represent snipe, ducks or geese. Harry Shourds had a national reputation for making various types of decoys and shipped them all over North America. John Bartlett and Ernest Smith were also outstanding decoy makers. Specimens of their skill are now collectors’ items.

What are now called motor boats were known as launches prior to World War I. Like the early automobiles, the engines coughed, smoked, balked and sometimes failed completely. Jason Fenimore, of Harvey Cedars and Manahawkin, had a most appropriate name for his launch- “No Go”-which was boldly painted on the bow. It was an event when it returned to its dock under its own power and a pushing pole was part of the regular equipment.

Sailboats were very important in the pre-motorboat era, and sailing them called for great skill. Captain Samuel J. Smith, of Tuckerton, ferried all of the lumber needed for the construction of the Baldwin Hotel Annex across the Bay in his cat yacht “Broadbill.” Captain Will Smith carried the mail across the Bay from Tuckerton to the south end of Long Beach. He usually sailed the mail across in his boat. But in winter, when the Bay was frozen over, he pushed his way across in a sneak box fitted with brass runners. One winter, when the Bay ice was eighteen inches thick for several weeks, he walked the several miles back and forth with the mail.