A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

History: Gypsies in Oak Shades (1920)

The 12 Aug 1920 edition of The Matawan Journal announced that the recent sale of the Metsgar tract at Oak Shades would end the use of the property by gypsies..

"This will put an end to the happy hunting ground of the wandering Gypsies that have frequented it for many years."

Mrs Holmes Stilwell, the most recent owner of the tract, broke up the property into building lots and sold them to individuals named in the article, many of whom were already building homes on the property.

The sale of these lots did not end the unwelcome visits. The gypsies returned to Oak Shades the following year, according to the 12 May 1921 edition of The Matawan Journal.

"Gypsies have again settled in Oak Shades for their annual summer stay. Instead of the picturesque van of days of yore they now travel by automobile."

There is scant evidence of the gypsy problem in Oak Shades in earlier editions of the newspaper.


Melissa Stilwell, age 28, was the wife of Holmes M Stilwell, age 33, huckster, in the 1880 Federal Census. They were boarders in the home of Benjamin and Jane Carhart in Raritan Township. Their son, Daniel Stilwell, was 8 years old.

Holmes and Melissa Stilwell were enumerated in Matawan Township in the 1895 State Census.

From 1906 to 1910, Holmes Stilwell was listed in the city directories of Asbury Park. The Stilwells were living in Bridgeton, NJ in a 1913 city directory.

As for the Metsgar tract in Oak Shades, the origins of that description of the property are unclear. Perhaps there is some connection to a prominent resident of Keyport named Capt Peter Metsgar?


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