A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

History: Prospect Grove (Money Island)

Before Cliffwood Beach was developed in the 1920's, the area was known as Prospect Grove or Money Island.

The 31 Jul 1886 edition of The Matawan Journal contains the first reference I can find of Prospect Grove, a social venue for swimming and entertainment along the shore at what is now Cliffwood Beach.The article suggests that Prospect Grove was also known as Money Island.

The 23 Jun 1888 edition of The Matawan Journal announced the annual opening of Prospect Grove on 19 Jun 1888. The grove had a pavilion, bathing-houses, seats, tables, etc, making it the finest place in the region for picnics and pleasure parties. The grove served ice cream, refreshments, and all Temperance drinks. Sociables were held every Tuesday and Thursday evening. Good music was always in attendance. Clam-bakes could be arranged at short notice.  P M Barber was proprietor. 

The proprietor likely was Peter Barber, born about 1844 in New Jersey, who was living in Matawan Township in the 1880 Federal Census along with his wife Celia, their six children and his mother. He was a farmer by occupation.

The same ad appeared a year earlier for a 1 Jul 1887 opening. See the 25 Jun 1887 edition.

P. M. Barber operated the grove at the beach in Cliffwood on Wednesday and Saturday evenings during the summer of 1889, according to an advertisement in the 27 Jul 1889 edition of The Matawan Journal.. Offerings included music and refreshments at social events such as picnics, pleasure parties, and clam bakes.

Joel A Walling built a photography wagon and took it down to Prospect Grove in 1889 and did a thriving business, according to a Forty Years Ago history piece in the 23 Aug 1929 edition of The Matawan Journal, pg 4.

The 2 Aug 1890 edition of The Matawan Journal talked about Sunday School groups from Morganville and Brick that picnicked at Money Island.

The 4 Aug 1894 edition of The Matawan Journal said, "Large crowds gather at Prospect Grove to get the benefit of the sea breeze. There is dancing held at the grove every Saturday evening.

The 27 Jul 1895 edition mentioned a Sunday School group visit to Money Island by a Morganville church. 

The 27 Jun 1896 edition of The Matawan Journal declared that Prospect Grove was open for the season under the management of George Birch for music and dancing on Thursday nights, and good boating and bathing. The ad said it was "a pleasant place to spend a day and evening at the seashore." (The same ad appeared in the 27 Jul 1895 edition of The Matawan Journal.)

The 16 Aug 1900 edition mentioned a Sunday School group from Cliffwood that would be visiting Money Island.

Prospect Grove is mentioned in a scientific publication in 1904, but it isn't clear how they derived the name of the place for their publication. They described the grove as being found along the Raritan Bay southeast of Cheesequake creek. The publication, which can be found online, is The Clays and Clay Industry of New Jersey, by Heinrich Ries and Henry B Kummel, which is The Final Report of the State Geologist, Vol IV, New Jersey Geological Survey (Trenton, 1904), pp 166 ff (Google eBook). The section of the book is called Cliffwood Lignitic Sands and Clays. It discusses the geologic and geographic attributes of particular kinds of clay in the Cliffwood area, which was famous for its brickyards in that time period.

In the summer of 1905, the Olive Branch Grange held its second annual picnic at Money Island, according to a 25 Years Ago historical piece in the 1 Aug 1930 edition of The Matawan Journal.

The 15 Jul 1915 edition of The Matawan Journal spoke of an outing by boat to Money Island to collect clams for a clam bake. "Misses Mildred Morton, Dorothy Dennis, Ethel. L Lewis, and Mabel Emmons, togethet with August Kattner and Harold Close enjoyed themselves at Money Island on Friday. The trip was made by motor boat and enough clams were gathered to have a clam bake at Miss Lewis' the same evening."

The 30 Sep 1915 edition of The Matawan Journal looked fondly at the nearly forgotten Money Island. "That Money Island has not been forgotten by picknicers is evidenced by the fact that the Whitlock family with their friends enjoyed a very pleasant day there on Saturday."

Another scientific reference is in the May 1916 edition of The Journal of the New York Botanical Garden, which mentioned the oak trees in Prospect Grove. "The March conference of the scientific staff and registered students of the Garden was held in the laboratory of the museum building on the afternoon of April 5. Mr. W. A. Stowell reported on the results of his investigations of the oak hybrids of Cliffwood, New Jersey. During the past summer Mr. Stowell made an intensive study of the tree population of Prospect Grove, near Cliffwood, which is the type locality for the hybrid Quercus Rudkini. A portion of the grove, about twelve acres in extent, was found to contain nearly all the oak hybrids of the region." The article continues with details about an oak census done by Mr Stowell.

The 19 Jul 1917 edition of The Matawan Journal mentioned a camping trip to Money Island. "Edwin H. Dominiik, Edward M Hyer and Alfred Davis spent the weekend camping at Money Island."

The 25 Aug 1921 edition of The Matawan Journal mentioned families from Browntown and Matawan who picnicked at Money Island.

The 8 Sep 1921 edition of The Matawan Journal had a front page story about a group of men from South Amboy who drove to Cliffwood one evening and assaulted one of the daughters of Isaac Johnson at the shack they lived in near Money Island. Melinda Johnson supposedly shot one of the men twice in the stomach, but the police couldn't find the men involved. The women had a "hard" reputation, having never attended school, etc. Isaac Johnson had actually left home because things were so bad at the shack.

The 1 Jun 1923 edition of The Matawan Journal contained this news story of the sale of Money Island to the developers of Cliffwood Beach.


Was Hiding Place for Captain Kidd and His Treasures Which Gave Spot Its Name.

Cliffwood Beach, better known as Money Island, has been bought by Morrisey & Walker, the greatest coast developing company in the State. The price paid is said to be $200,000.

Possession of .this tract has long been sought by real estate men from New York to Philadelphia. The property was formerly owned by Miss Eleanor Clark of New York, who during her life, considered and refused the offers of many who sought to purchase it for home or commercial purposes.

Very serious consideration was given to the property as a terminal for rail and seaport, both for local and foreign freight. Surveys were made. Many times it was reported sold. The Standard Oil Company contemplated building a great oil storage plant, utilizing the fine harbor for shipping purpose. Even after the death of Miss Clark about two years ago, every effort was made by real estate men to purchase
the estate. The property was left to a niece, Miss Minnie S. Keyes of New York, from whom Morrisey & Walker made their purchase.

The tract comprises about 350 acres, in the center of which is a beautiful lake, known as the "Duck Pond. Much of the land lies high above the water, great cliffs overlook the bay. These are wooded with pines and oaks and have for years formed a favorite picnicing ground for those wishing a beautiful and secluded spot. There is a gradual slope to the beach which is one of the finest sandy stretches on Raritan Bay. This is pure beach sand extending for two miles and a half.

It was the fine harbor and secluded cliffs, no doubt, that enticed Captain Kidd to choose it as a hiding place as he played upon the seas and because it was the storehouse for his treasures he secured as a pirate it became known as Money Island. Almost every child who has picnicked in the woods on
these cliffs and bathed along the beach knows the story of Capt. Kidd. . . ."

A Mar 1924 edition of The Matawan Journal reported, "Cliffwood, more often called "Money Island" because it is supposed to have been the hiding place of Captain Kidd's treasure, is yielding to the demand for greater shore resort development. This attractive stretch of beach, with its dense woodland and pretty lake, will be opened by Morrisey and Walker." This, according to a Looking Backward historical piece in the 30 Mar 1972 edition of the paper.

The 31 Jul 1931 edition of The Matawan Journal reported, "Many people from around Hillsdale drove through Matawan on Thursday to Money Island. There must have been close to 100 wagons and each contained from four to six persons. Some Freehold residents were also noticed driving through town to the same resort."

The 27 Jun 1957 edition of The Matawan Journal had the above photo story. It identified Money Island as including the shoreline between Matawan Creek and Whale Creek. It also included Treasure Lake.

A brief history of Cliffwood Beach in the 7 Jul 1994 edition of The Independent said Prospect Grove and Money Island were actually early names for Cliffwood Beach. The ads sound more like Prospect Grove was a commercial venture than a geographic or maritime location. Neither the 1873 nor 1889 county atlas identifies the shoreline at Matavan as anything except Raritan Bay. There are no references to Prospect Grove after 1916 and only one reference to Money Island after its sale in 1923.


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