Town on the River

Eli Budd’s accomplishments infiltrated plans to establish a town on the Manumuskin River.

by Vince Farinaccio

By the middle of the 19th century, the Manumuskin River shared its name with a community that was developed after the iron mill, forge and workers’ settlement instituted by Eli Budd in the late 18th century. Today, online sources identify this location as an unincorporated community between Millville and Mays Landing in Maurice River Township. Yet the ghost of Budd’s accomplishments hovered over the plans to establish a town.

An advertisement in the form of a brochure issued by A. Cole & Co. was used to promote the territory. Although its reprint in an issue of the Vineland Historical Magazine is lacking a date, the information in the opening paragraph contains a hint of the timeframe.

“Within the last four years, three railroads, the ‘West Jersey,’ the ‘Millville and Glassboro’ and the ‘Cape May and Millville’ Roads, have been laid in South New Jersey,” it reads. If, for a moment, we examine the history of these rail lines, it’s possible to determine when the brochure was issued.

Work on the West Jersey Railroad had begun in July 1855 and tracks from Camden to Woodbury were completed by August the following year, with passenger trains running by April 15, 1857.

In 1859 Richard Wood was granted a charter for a rail line connecting Millville with Glassboro and, according to Don Wentzel in a South Jersey Magazine article, the Millville and Glassboro Railroad was incorporated on March 9, 1859. That fall, the construction of the 22-mile rail system began and was completed the following year, with operations beginning in October. Shortly thereafter, it connected with the West Jersey line to Camden.

The railroad from Millville to Cape May was granted a franchise on March 15, 1860. Construction began in spring 1862 but, after 10 miles of track had been completed, the company ceased work in the town of Manumuskin. The project was completed the following year.

Taking into account the four-year timespan referenced earlier, it’s reasonable to conclude that the A. Cole & Co. brochure was issued around the time the Millville and Cape May line was completed in 1863 since the ad also mentions the proximity of that particular rail line to the town in its second paragraph.

“By the construction of these railroads a large extent of territory, extremely favorable for agricultural purposes, have been open to settlers who have been pouring in with almost unprecedented rapidity,” the brochure proclaims. “A great impetus has been given to the growth of the towns along the lines of these roads, and new villages have sprung up, among which is the settlement of Manamuskin…”

And for readers who caught the oddity of the spelling of the town’s name, this is not a typo. The entire ad uses this spelling for both the town and the river.

Within its second paragraph, the brochure alludes to the legacy of Eli Budd without mentioning his or his family’s involvement with the area. “Adjacent to the line of the Cape May and Millville Railroad is a tract of land, containing twenty thousand acres, lying in a solid body,” it reports.” That acreage is what Budd purchased when he relocated to this area from Burlington County in approximately 1785.

The text also refers to the village, “the centre of operations in the enterprise,” no doubt the area in which workers at the Budd furnace, forge and grist mill had lived in the earlier part of the 19th century. And there is a description of how there are points in the “Manamuskin Creek, or River…where two dams have been thrown across the stream, affording heavy waterpowers [sic].” The Maurice River Township website reports that Budd had “created the power for his new complex—Cumberland Iron Furnace—by damming the Manumuskin, creating a pond twice larger than at present [day].”

The introductory section of the brochure concludes with a reference to “wide village avenues” and declares its intention for the remainder of the ad: “Having thus, briefly, attempted to give a general idea of the nature of the contemplated enterprise, we shall now proceed to consider, somewhat more in detail, the advantages connected with it.”

And we’ll examine what those advantages were in the next installment of this series. n

Next Week: The River and the Budds

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