[Genealogy Home Page] [Contents page] [Next Chapter]

1882 - 1887


               JANE LYDIA DISBROW

     For nearly two centuries now the Disbrows had cent-
ered about Matawan, but in the year 1881 Louisa Lane
came to what must have been for our little family a tre-
mendous decision.  In the 17th Century Henry Disbrow's
father had left England to try his luck in a new land;
at the beginning of the 18th Century Benjamin Disbrow
had left the comforts of civilization in New York to
settle in the wilds of Monmouth County; now our little
family of four, three generations of pioneers, decided
to leave home and friends and security, as had their an-
cestors before them, and strike out for themselves in a
new and nearly undeveloped community in the sandy pine
wastes along the seashore of southern Monmouth.  Why?
     Well, in the first place, this new development had
become readily accessible.  The period following the
Civil War was a rail-road building era and Matawan was
not to be left behind.  The laying of a single track
from South Amboy to Long Branch was completed on June
21st 1875, after Matawan residents had bought one-third
of the original issue of common stock - to the great dis-
may of less-moneyed Keyport, whose townsfolk purchased
only a few thousands worth of shares and so saw their
community left off the route.  Rubbing salty words into
Keyport's wounded pride, the Matawan Journal commented on
May 1st of that year -
     "The Keyport Weekly charges that people from Mata-
wan `paid $100,000 to bend the railroad line to suit her
purposes, avoiding the straight line which would have
accommodated Keyport.'  Just so, brother; and to think we
are also guaranteed 7% a year for our money."  Nasty!
Opening ceremonies with President Grant and 500 other
guests present were held in Long Branch a few days after
the completion of the line.  The first schedule called
for six passenger and one freight train each way daily.

JANE LYDIA DISBROW The following year this track was extended to a village called Squan Village (later Manasquan), passing on its way through a new development on Shark River known as Ocean Beach which had just come into being as a summer resort as we shall shortly see. Perhaps a little side- light on this area might be helpful here. The first Dutch settlement in New Jersey was at Pa- vonia (Hoboken) in 1630. Within the next fifty years, especially after the take-over by the Duke of York in '64, thriving settlements sprang up all over the Province. Along the Monmouth shore was Shark River Settlements (to- day's Belmar) and the Squan River Settlements (later Squan Village, still later Manasquan). These were in the late 1660's; Penn's first landing wouldn't happen for years yet - not till 1682 in fact. There is a local legend that, in the autumn of 1683, after all the crops were harvested and safely stored in the barns, a young lad, with more intellectual curiosity than most, heard vague rumors of new settlements on the west shore of the Delaware somewhere and decided to have a look-see for himself. So he packed his saddlebags for a long journey, mounted his old mare Nelly and, to the accompaniment of much head shaking by his family and the neighbors, set off through the forest and across the pine barrens. It was nearly Christmas when he got back and, as he slid wearily from the saddle of hiss exhausted mare, the whole village gathered around. "What of the new settlements?" his father wanted to know. "Well, they's 3 - 400 head o' folks there by now, busy as bees, layin' out big, broad streets, and buildin' cabins all over the place. They're callin' it Philadel- phia." 113
JANE LYDIA DISBROW "Is it bigger'n Squan?" "Got to admit it's a little bigger right now but it'll never amount to much." "Why not?" "Well, in the first place, it's too fur from Squan." History telleth not what were his other reasons but I'm sure that, at that time, this one alone seemed all sufficient. The recorded history of the area actually antedates the Dutch settlements slightly. On September 10th 1609 Henry Hudson entered New York Bay after a long voyage beating up the Jersey coast from the Delaware Capes, map- ping, taking soundings, anchoring each day before dark- ness fell. Toward sunset on the evening of September 2nd, the Half Moon cast anchor in 10 fathom, two leagues off shore from a small inlet. To the north, for the first time they could see the blue outline of mountains. Now, since Shark River is the last inlet before a north-bound ship reaches Sandy Hook and, since it is the only inlet from which the hills of Atlantic Highlands are visible from six miles off shore, there seems little doubt that Henry Hudson was our first summer visitor. Just where Shark River got its name is uncertain but it appears in early 18th Century maps. During the Revolution, as we have seen, it was known as Shark River Settlements and boasted a Salt Works and had scattered farms. And so it remained unchanged till after the Civil War. Then the same restless surge of new development that gripped the entire nation started reaching south from Long Branch, a summer resort which long antedated the War. First came Asbury Park and Ocean Grove in 1869 and then, on August 18th 1872, a development company was formed known as "The Pleasant Beach Association," whose 114
JANE LYDIA DISBROW president was a Judge William S. Yard of Trenton and whose local manager, also a director, was the Judge's nephew Harry H. Yard. On January 18th 1873 the name of the company was changed to "The Ocean Beach Association." As I piece together this family chronicle, odd bits of information keep turning up. At Fort Monmouth a fellow worker showed me what today would be called a promotional brochure, a 4-page printed newspaper depicting the beaut- ies and advantages of this new town by the sea. It is dated July 1875 and contains so much of interest and gives so clear a picture of our town at that date, the hopes and enthusiasms of its founders, and the very real basis for these expectations, that I feel compelled to quote it at some length. Here, for the first time, you are introduced to the River which came to mean so much to me, the Beach, Silver Lake as a tidal salt-pond still connected to the Sea, the rail-road and bridges still only on paper, the wind-twis- ted cedars that lined the river banks. Here I learned for the first time that Ocean Beach was the offspring of Ocean Grove, and why. But to get on with the paper itself. It is headed - OCEAN BEACH THE NEW SEA-SIDE SUMMER RESORT PUBLISHED BY THE ASSOCIATION July 1875 No. 2 Ocean Grove, originally designed purely for a Camp Meeting Ground and intended to be occupied for but two or three weeks, was established in 1869 when the first Camp Meeting was held there. The tract was laid out with this in view; but the original tents soon started being re- placed with "wooden tents" as being more economical and affording more protection against storms than did canvas. The idea was a new one and proved to be something more than its projectors imagined. It answered a popular nec- 115
JANE LYDIA DISBROW essity. A `cottage-by-the-sea' was hitherto associated in the public mind with the extravagant style and ex- pense of the fashionable summer resorts of Long Branch and Cape May. Here was developed the idea of social life at the sea-side, with all the ordinary comforts and luxuries of the home but without the glitter and show and consequent extravagant style and expenses of the fashionable hotel with its enormous prices and its dis- sipations; the `home', with all its blessings and influ- ences, was transferred to the `wooden tent' - the cheap `Cottage-by-the-Sea.' The success of Ocean Grove was marvelous. Instead of what had been the Camping Ground there stands now in 1875 a flourishing City which has already twice overflow- ed it boundaries and annexed new territory to accomo- date its teeming population. Instead of the two week's Meeting, families commence to occupy their cottages in May and June and remain until September, and many until late in the Fall. Sometime during the summer of 1872, a number of gentlemen owning cottages and residing in Ocean Grove, feeling crowded by its great population....formed an Association and negotiated the purchase of a tract in the immediate neighborhood which they resolved to lay out into lots and avenues on a liberal scale, with an eye to all the requirements of health and comfort. The site selected for this new enterprise was one with which some of the gentlemen connected with it had been familiar for many years. It is located on the south bank of Shark River about three miles north of the pre- sent terminus of the Farmingdale and Squan Village R.R., and about eight miles south of the Long Branch terminus of the New York & Long Branch R.R. It may be reached from either terminus by staging over good turnpikes on 116
JANE LYDIA DISBROW both routes. The tract, known as the Peter White Farm, contained about 400 acres with a front on the Ocean of one mile, and a front of 1½ miles on Shark River - a beautiful stream which here empties its waters into the Sea. Near the center of the tract is a beautiful lake of water clear as polished silver; it is fed by two fresh-water brooks and occasionally, at high tides, it receives the salt water from the Ocean in sufficient quantity to keep always highly impregnated with salt. A substantial plank walk entirely surrounds it and a broad roadway (Lake Ave- nue) encircles it. The River is well provided with row boats and even yachts for sailing and fishing parties. Experienced watermen are always ready to sail the yachts and pilot parties to any point desired or to point out the best fishing grounds. The lake is also well provided with boat and furnished both safe and ample facilities for indulging children in the pleasure of rowing and sailing, as it is only three feet deep. To speak of the beneficial effects of sea-bathing generally would be superfluous - every intelligent person has a familiar knowledge, from reading or experience, of its recuperative qualities. As a medical remedy, no in- valid should indulge in it without the advice of an ex- perienced physician. The beach at Ocean Beach has no superior, if indeed it has an equal, on this coast. While at some well known points elsewhere the beach is gradually washing away by action of the waves, here the land is steadily encroaching on the sea from the same cause. A sand bar has formed a short distance from the shore, which breaks the first shock of the waves; inside this bar the water deepens again until it approaches the shore. Bathing Houses and Safety Ropes etc. have been provided by the Association and no pains nor ex- 117
JANE LYDIA DISBROW pense will be spared to make this feature of the enter- prise as perfect as possible, and available to all. The lots are all 50 feet by 150 feet deep. Over 60 fine cottages have already been erected. Two good board- ing houses are in operation. Business men can safely leave their families at Ocean Beach. Visitors find a magnificent bay and river skirted by high bluffs which are covered with trees of large growth; a beautiful lake of salt water in the center of the tract; fine avenues laid out at right angles and terminating with Sea and River views." * * * A PICNIC AT THE BEACH Last Monday morning two large stages left Ocean Grove with a party of twenty, most of them from Troy, N.Y., bound to have a good time down at Shark River." After a bath at the Beach we went beyond the River (F St.) Bridge to eat our dinner. Everybody had as much as they could eat and we were too sorry our party was not twice as large for it was a day of perfect enjoyment for all. Everybody was delighted with the look of things at Ocean Beach - the handsome houses, the wide streets, the scenery and all the advantages over any other place on the coast; for if you want sea bathing, you can have your choice of river or lake; if it is fish or oysters or crabs you desire for any meal in the day, you have only to say so - Shark River oysters are celebrated. As a result of our day's visit, three of our party selected lots and expect to build before next summer. * * * We learn that the difficulties in the way of the construction of the new Railroad between Long Branch and Ocean Beach have been removed, and the work between those 118
JANE LYDIA DISBROW points will be prosecuted to a speedy conclusion. Work was resumed on the road several weeks ago, on the bridges over Shark River and other streams, and a gang of 200 men will be put on the road-bed next Monday. Most of the road-bed was graded over two years ago and will now re- quire but little labor to make it ready for the ties and rails. The President asserts with confidence that pass- enger trains will be running on this road by the 2nd of July next. To make the road complete we want the exten- sion from Squan Village to Ocean Beach, which it is rumor- ed the Penna. R.R.Co. mean to construct immediately, the necessary legislation for that purpose having been passed by the last legislature. Six daily trains each way be- tween Ocean Beach and New York will be run on the new Railroad. Meanwhile the `Ten Cent Stage Line' between Ocean Grove and Ocean Beach commenced running on the 1st inst. (July 1875) and will be continued throughout the season. * * * From "True American", June 24 1875 - Articles of As- sociation of the Long Branch and Sea Girt Railroad Co. were filed in Trenton on Friday. The road begins at a point on the New Egypt and Farmingdale R.R. at Ocean Beach and terminates at or near Squan Village, and will be about 4 miles in length. The charter is to run for 999 years and the Articles of Association are dated May 28th 1875. (At a meeting of R.R. presidents in New York, the President of this magnificent property is said to have remarked to the President of the Pennsy - "My road may not be quite as long as yours, but it is just as wide." * * * 119
JANE LYDIA DISBROW ADVERTISEMENTS Ocean Beach House J.M. Bergen, Prop. Cor. 5th & F White House Joseph Newman, Prop. Cor. 7th & F Steven Bennett Restaurant Cor. 5th & F William H. Hutchinson Carpenter & Bldr. Cor. 7th & F David VanNortwick Bread & Cake Baker F St. nr 6th Clark & Scudder Real Estate & Ins. Cor. 8th & F (Henry D. Scudder, Civil Eng'r) Samuel Van Brunt's Stage Line - Between Ocean Beach and Ocean Grove - Fare 10 cents - Stages leave Post Offices at Ocean Grove and Ocean Beach every hour. * * * So, not only was this new development easily access- ible from Matawan but it sounded like a most desirable place. Further, as we know from Capt. John's letters, Rutus (Pony) Disbrow was now a brakeman on the new N.Y. & L.B.R.R. and no doubt had glowing tales to tell of the future of these new resorts of Ocean Beach and Asbury Park. Lots in already established Long Branch had sky- rocketed with the coming of the R.R. and the same thing was to be expected at these newer places. Several prom- inent Matawan residents were behind the Ocean Beach ven- ture. By 1881, when Louisa Lane first came down to look things over, Harry Yard had completed all the streets fairly well; he had bought up many of the Centennial Ex- position buildings and moved them down to Ocean Beach where he had re-erected them as hotels and public build- ings - the Colorado Building became the Colorado Hotel, the Delaware Pavilion became the Delaware Hotel, the huge Mechanics Hall became the storage shed of the new Lumber Yard, etc. Hundreds of new homes had been built since the pitiful 60 of 1875. In fact Ocean Beach was now a hustling but tiny community of maybe 200 permanent residents with a school, post-office, and at least three churches. At first she hesitated between Asbury Park and Ocean Beach - in fact she actually bought the lot at the corner of Cookman and Bond in Asbury Park - but after 120
JANE LYDIA DISBROW weighing the advantage of Shark River, particularly the view she had from the lot she finally chose at the corner of 9th Avenue and F Street where the Bank now stands, a view of Shark River at sunset that she often spoke of to me in after years, besides which it was in the business heart of the village. I still think it was a logical de- cision. Ocean Beach had everything its rival had and, in addition, it was bounded on two sides by the River which was in reality a small tidal bay two or three square miles in area. What she had no means of foreseeing was the vastly different character of the two guiding spirits James Bradley of Asbury Park and Harry Yard of Ocean Beach. On this lot she proceeded, in the early spring of 1882, to build her new home, a two-and-a-half-story build- ing with a little Confectionery and Notions Shop facing the main street just as in Matawan with the home entrance on the more secluded 9th Avenue side. The material, of course,, came from the now well-established Warman Lumber Yard at the S.W. corner of 12th Ave. and F Street, three blocks away and across the street from the new school where Jane Lydia was to start her career as a school teacher. The months dragged on while your Grandmother, now sixteen, was finishing her last year at Glenwood and ta- king her teacher's exams as we have already recorded. Finally, in August 1882, all was ready and Louisa Lane and her oldest daughter Jennie moved down to the new house, leaving Edna Louise still in Matawan with her Grandmother Higgins until the lease on the old house at the corner of Fountain and Main should expire. To the young people the contrast between the old colonial town of Matawan and this new, crude summer re- sort of Ocean Beach was depressing - Matawan with its 121
JANE LYDIA DISBROW shady streets over which ancient trees made a Gothic arch, streets lined solidly with comfortably old, long-lived-in white 18th and early 19th Century houses, each with its green-shuttered, many-paned windows; Ocean Beach with its barren, sandy wastes of scrub pines, its still un- drained swamps, its broad yellow-graveled streets glar- ing in the hot August sun, looking even broader and yel- lower and more glaringly desolate in the few spots where young sapling shade-trees were just taking root in their obviously unaccustomed soil. The summer colony stretched along the Ocean Front from about Tenth to Second Avenues, reaching back at the most to B Street. Between this and the "Village" on the main highway so imaginatively christened F Street, was an unpeopled stretch of pine woods and swamp. The streets which had looked so definite on the map were just gravel roads. Aunt Lou tells how she feared the snakes which she was likely to meet on the long walk from her house to the Beach, past Silver Lake which then, despite the map, still extended to 9th and E where there was a big ice- house (another of the Centennial Buildings) across from the Presbyterian Church. Eighth Ave. crossed the lake on a wooden bridge with white-painted rails as late as when I was five or six. The old summer residents, even when I was no longer a boy, still spoke of "going to the village" when they meant coming down town to the shops. Mother says - "The very first thing that we noticed was the humidity in mid-summer - clothing and everything we touched seemed almost at the point of saturation and, in consequence, sticky and clinging - but we soon became accustomed to it. A pleasanter thing was the almost un- obstructed view from our home of the wonderful sunsets over Shark River with the wooded hills beyond. A little to the left, at the foot of 10th Ave., was Buhler's Pa- 122
JANE LYDIA DISBROW vilion with its long pier extending into the river, where one could hire a row boat to spend the day crabbing, or in a sail boat, or take a cruise in the Annie B., a big steam launch. The walk to the Beach and the Boardwalk was usually via Ninth Avenue, about five blocks, with woods on both sides and scarcely a building except the ice house. Within a block of the ocean we passed the Carleton Hotel, the largest and best at that time, owned and operated by Mrs. Stoyle from Philadelphia. In those early days there was not so much of hotel life - the homes on the ocean front being owned and oc- cupied by old families from Philadelphia, Trenton, and Newark - Dr. Jayne, the Lyons, Dr. Breeds, Dr. Bliss, Fredrick Lefferts, the Richardsons, Sheets, Ripleys, Howes, Adam Extons, Chas. Fletchers, and many others. It was a pleasure then to `take a walk in the boardwalk' early summer evenings where you were sure to meet the same old residents and their progeny year after year, and Ocean Beach was very dear to all of us. Gordon's Pavilion at 5th and Ocean was a noonday rendezvous on Sundays for church-goers from the Epis- copal Church on 5th Avenue and the Presbyterian Taber- nacle (another Centennial Building) at 7th and A. Old friends would there meet for greetings and chats. It was an opportunity for the younger folks to note the latest styles in summer dress, The services in the big open-air Tabernacle, used only in summer, were generally conducted by noted preachers from all over the country who chanced to be summering in the neighborhood - Dr. George Strobridge, son-in-law of Dr. Kidder an old sum- mer resident, was one of these gifted speakers." When Jane accompanied her mother to Ocean Beach that summer she had no idea that she too would become an "old resident," for she thought she was merely bridging a gap 123
JANE LYDIA DISBROW till her school in Morristown should open in September. But it almost immediately developed that there was a va- cancy in the little two-room school at 12th and F, an un- graded school presided over by a Mr. Crego - known as Squire Crego, since he was also a Justice of the Peace. With no difficulty whatever she succeeded in qualifying and so gave up the Morristown position to her cousin, very much thrilled at the thought that she, at sixteen, was now a full-fledged school teacher. Which shows how small happenings may completely change our lives and the destinies of succeeding genera- tions; for had your grandmother not taken this place in Ocean Beach it is unlikely that she would have gone to the office of Warman's Lumber Yard on some errand for her mother and there met the new book-keeper, a young man of twenty-two from Pennsylvania named Willard Sterner. How he chanced to be at that precise spot, at that precise moment, we shall duly see when we come to the chronicle of the Sterners in the next volume. The following year, 1883, Grandma Higgins came down bringing Edna Louise, and now our little family of four was once more united under the same roof. Mother says - "In some respects our migration to Ocean Beach did not prove a success. The little business, owing to the adjacent booming town of Asbury Park, was not too prosper- ous - three very trying blunders in the construction of our home due to our inexperience in such matters, were a source of great worry to our mother. But I'm afraid such matters did not weigh so heavily with me that first year. I was deeply absorbed in my teaching - and it was that summer that I met your father! Need I say more?" Of the next five years I know little. On at least one occasion, it is interesting to note, the young couple had tea with Squire Crego in his home at 606 Seventh Ave. 124
JANE LYDIA DISBROW the house you all knew as home for so long. Forty years later, when the many layers of old wallpaper were being removed from the front room (parlor to them), we uncover- ed one deep down which showed a dark tercotta paper, with a large oriental pattern so typical of the period, which Mother recognized as being the very paper which had graced the wall that far-off day in the Eighties. It was during this time that Edna Louise was attend- ing the Asbury Park High School then, as in my day, at Summerfield and Bond. She too passed her Teachers' Exam but she never took a school although, upon occasion, she substituted for her sister Jennie in the new school, a towered brick structure I was later to know so well, which had replaced the old wooden two-roomed building. Jane and her Willard were married in the house at 9th and F on June 22nd 1887 and so Jane Lydia Disbrow passes out of the story, at least by that name, and becomes mere- ly Mrs. W.J. Sterner. That Fall they started the house at 607 Sixth Avenue and the work continued throughout the winter of 87/88, interrupted briefly by the Great Bliz- zard of March 1888. Mother tells how she and Dad used to walk around to see how their house was progressing, never missing a day till the blizzard came. When they did see the house again, there was still one great drift cresting higher than the dining room window and reaching nearly a- cross the room. In May the house was finally completed and the newly-weds moved into their new home, the house which you have always known as "Ma's House." And here let us leave the happy couple for a short while in order that we may back-track across the Centuries and across the Atlantic to the German Palatinate and thence to the wilds of the Alleghenies in the early 18th Century, as I tell you the very little I have so labor- iously dug up about the Sterners and explain, as best I 125
JANE LYDIA DISBROW may, how it was that Willard Sterner chanced to be in Warman's lumber office that summer day in 1882 when first he met Jennie Disbrow. Jane Lydia Disbrow/Sterner still lives on in the house into which she moved as a bride so long ago*. She lives alone in the old house, but not really alone for it is crowded with the memories of seventy years and is visited almost daily by her descendants - her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren. And at holidays, especially at Christmas, the old house swarms with them; for they all love to visit "Ma's House." Long ago she wrote of the warmth and graciousness of her grandfather's house in Maiden Lane; she has more than recreated it here for all of us. At ninety-one she is the same lovely lady her pic- ture shows us at nineteen. I am sure that, could old Cap'n John have known "Lou's girl Jennie" as we have known her; if he could come back and see her as she is today; he would say, in all sincerity, that here again was "One Worthy to bear the Name of Disbrow." 126
* NOTE: Jane Lydia (Disbrow) Sterner died on August 31st, 1957 in Neptune, Monmouth County, NJ, at the age of 91 years, 5 months, and 29 days. -Todd
[Genealogy Home Page] [Contents Page] [Next Chapter] [Top of page]
Last updated September 20, 1995.

Todd L. Sherman (genealogy at alachuaskywarn dot org)
© Copyright 1995/1996/1997 by Todd L. Sherman. All Rights Reserved.