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Chapter 7 - Willard Sterner

                    1859  1889

     So far you have already been told the story of your
grandfather's life, so far as it is known to me, from the
time he was born on November 12th 1859 at Indian Hill up
to his being given the little school at Rockport in 1881.
"Dadoo," as you children always called him, was only three
when his father left for that brief and disastrous Army
career which culminated in the twenty years of exile, so
that it is unlikely he had any real boyhood memories of
his father such as did his older brother Henry.  Nor did
he ever tell me much of his boyhood at Indian Hill or
later at Nescopek.  I do remember how I was impressed by
his story of the day he was huckleberrying and heard a
rustling on the far side of the bush he was working.

     "Get your own bush," he called out angrily, darting
around to the other side - where he found himself staring
into the equally frightened face of a bear cub about his
own size.  He departed thence hurriedly since he well
knew the outraged mother bear would soon appear to take
a violent part in any argument he might start.

     As he grew older he, even more than the other two
boys, was firmly resolved to make something of himself
and be different from his farmer ancestors, although he
too loved the soil.  Whether his resolve was stiffened
by his mother or whether, as I suspect, his future course
was based largely upon a desire to be as different as
possible from his father, he probably didn't know himself.
Certainly he never in his long life smoked, nor drank,
nor gambled, nor idled away his time on what he consider-
ed unremunerative things.

     In 1881, before he had graduated from Millersville,
came the chance at Rockport, as I have already detailed.
That school year was not yet out, however, when he heard
through a classmate of an opening at a place called Ocean
Beach, N.J., where a man named Harry Yard had a Building

WILLARD STERNER Supply business whose manager, Thomas Warman, needed a book-keeper. He immediately wrote for the position, got it, and directly after the close of the school year in 1882, shook the coal dust of Carbon County from his feet and journeyed down here to Monmouth County. He found the same crude, raw, undeveloped community that Jane Disbrow was to discover a month or so later. He liked the new work and fitted in at once. In a few months Harry Yard was running the Ocean Beach Association full time and turned the Lumber Yard over to Harry Warman and, before too many years, Willard Sterner was manager. Those first years when Harry Yard was running the Association must have been interesting. But on April 7th 1885 the townsfolk who now numbered perhaps 300, incor- porated themselves into the Borough of Ocean Beach, so that, from that date, the village had its own government quite independent of Harry Yard. Yard seems to have been a positive character with strong likes and dislikes and a disinclination to surrender his erstwhile authority and this kept things in a continuous turmoil. As the tiny community continued to grow in spite of the disputes, t here developed more and more resistance to his arbitrary methods and there were continuous law-suits. I recently came across an 1887 copy of Killenberg- er's Pocket Gazetteer of the State of New Jersey, pub- lished in New Brunswick and based upon the State Census of 1885: OCEAN BEACH A post borough and a delightful summer resort in Wall Township, Monmouth County, on the Shark River within one half mile of the ocean, and on the Long Branch Divi- sion of the Pennsylvania and of the Philadelphia and Read- ing Railroads, two miles south of Ocean Grove, eight 33
WILLARD STERNER miles south of Long Branch the nearest bank location, and twenty miles E.S.E. of Freehold the County Seat. It has a good beach for sea bathing, while the river affords ex- cellent facilities for boating, fishing and crabbing. Here are several hotels, a church, a weekly Newspaper - The Shore Gazette, numerous cottages, and express and telegraph offices. Population 359. An accompanying map shows Avon still known as Key East; and the population of Asbury Park as 2124, Ocean Grove 1177, Long Branch 5140, Matawan 1445, Red Bank 3186, and Manasquan 1250. * * * Meanwhile there was a growing feeling that the name Ocean Beach was not distinctive enough. Harry Yard sug- gested the name be changed to "Elco" and actually marshalled enough strength to do this so that on April 18th 1889 that name was officially adopted. Then it be- came noised about that this name was an abbreviation of Yard's own name for our fair town - namely "Hell's Cor- ners" - and there was more excitement with a mass meet- ing and a grand rally of the "better elements." Some- one suggested the name "Belmar" from the Spanish meaning "Beautiful Sea," as being more appropriate and infinite- ly more euphonious. After considerable debate pro and con, the name BELMAR was finally adopted at the big meet- ing of May 14th 1889, although it was not officially reg- istered at Trenton until early the following year. But we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves. It was in the early autumn of that first year of his arrival in Ocean Beach that the new book-keeper at War- man's Lumber Yard met the new school teacher Jennie Dis- brow when she came to the office with her mother to dis- cuss some detail of the new home at 9th and F. What be- fell thereafter, we have already covered under the story 34
WILLARD STERNER of Jane Lydia Disbrow. The year after the great blizzard of `88 was note- worthy for three things: First, it was the Centennial of our Constitution. Second, as we have already seen, the name of our town was changed from Ocean Beach to Belmar. Third, and by no means last, it was the year in which Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Sterner announced the arrival of their first-born, Jay Willard Sterner.


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Last updated November 26, 1995.

Todd L. Sherman (afn09444@afn.org)
© Copyright 1995 by Todd L. Sherman. All Rights Reserved.