A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Kayak's View of the Matawan Shark Attacks

A few years ago, a kayaker made the two videos below on a stretch of Matawan Creek near Dock Street in Matawan. The site, which is circled in light blue on the map above, is behind Aby's Restaurant and Key Autobody, et al, which are just across Main Street from the big railroad parking lot where the flea markets are held.

The videos claim to show the place where Lester Stillwell and Stanley Fisher were killed in a vicious shark attack in July 1916. And they show the spot where they claim Lester's body was recovered.

The second video shows a lot of pilings in the creek at low tide. Most of those are what remains from the old railroad trestle fire of 1946. The land was built up to the north of Aberdeen Road to replace the trestle, leaving a small outlet through which Matawan Creek now flows.

Matavan (detail), Wolverton's Atlas (1889)
The other pilings shown in the second video are the remains of the old steamboat landing at Dock Street. The creek was more substantial before two dams were built, an earthen roadway was built to convey the railroads, and the Garden State Parkway came along. The creek was wide and deep enough for the propeller steamboat S S Wyckoff to convey passengers and goods between New York City and Matawan in the 19th century. Multiple brickyards were built along the creek to facilitate shipping of their goods.

The Scots Presbyterians landed at Matawan Creek in the 17th Century and established a number of churches in the area, including communities at Wickatunk, Old Tennent, and Mount Pleasant (the present day First Presbyterian Church of Matawan).

The original local articles about the attacks are available online. The 13 Jul 1916 edition of The Matawan Journal contains the breaking news and the local response. The 20 Jul 1916 edition has reporting on the funeral of Stanley Fisher and the discovery of Lester Stilwell's body.

See more details of old local maps from Wolverton's Atlas here.

Matawan Creek (1)

Matawan Creek (2)


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