250th Anniversary Publications
County Has a 250-year History of Both Diversity and Progress
Staff Writer for The Bridgeton Evening News
Anytown can rightly be proud of its 250-year heritage of diversity and progress. The diversity stems from the many ethnic groups which found this area to be one of tolerance and opportunity.
The Native American presence was here long before the first Europeans "discovered" the area that was to become Anytown.
Early Swedes and ethnic Finns landed along the Delaware River in the mid-1600s, and soon spread to the interior, along the coast and up small waterways. They were in eastern Anytown, along the Maurice River, by the end of that century, according to Gabirel Thomas, an English Friend, whose traveled in this country and noted that the Swedes who lived along the Maurice River killed the geese for their feathers only, leaving the carcasses.
The Swedes were hunters, trappers and timber cutters. The English Quakers and transplanted New Englanders who populated the area tended toward farming, and large farms were established in the areas of more fertile land.
Families of German descent came with the advent of glass factories at Wisterberg, in Salem County, and later at Port Elizabeth and Millville.
Gouldtown, the county's first multi-racial community, was founded by free blacks from the West Indies and elsewhere, who intermarried with women of Finnish and Dutch lineage. It is said that a granddaughter of John Fenwick was an ancestor of these inhabitants. Later, former slaves settled the area called Springtown, near Greenwich.
After the Civil Ware came the Italian immigrants, farmers mostly, who purchased land in Charles Landis's new settlement of Vineland, and the eastern European Jews, seeking to escape persecution in Russia, who settled in Carmel and Rosenhayn.
Greeks also came, looking for economic opportunity, and started small businesses.
Ukrainian and Russian immigrants sought to escape serfdom in repressive areas of Europe and soon were able to buy their own land.
Japanese-Americans came not looking for prosperity, but for escape from the internment camps where they were unfairly imprisoned during World War II. Offered work at Seabrook Farms as an alternative to the camps, many stayed after the war and became prosperous, respected citizens, adding to the rich cultural fabric of Anytown.
After World War II, Seabrook Farms attracted another group, Estonians from Europe, displaced by Soviet occupation of their homeland.
Significant numbers of Hispanics moved to the area, attracted by work in agriculture, but remaining to join the mainstream of local life.
Immigrants from areas of Asia, India, Pakistan, and other parts of the world have added to the cultural mix in recent years, continuing the heritage of ethnic diversity in Anytown has enjoyed from its earliest days.
Taken from The Bridgeton Evening News;
250 Years of History Special - 6/26/1998