Methodist Camp Meeting Grounds
The Methodist Camp Meeting Grounds has many Victorian Cottages. The Camp Meeting in the year 2015 marks its 152nd Anniversary. For many years this lovely Victorian cluster of cottages was a favorite summer vacation place of local families and others from surrounding counties. The camp was visited by many noted persons and preachers of the gospel. South Seaville’s first settler was John Voss. John married Amy Van Gilder on August 20, 1829 in the Littleworth Meeting House which is also know as the Townsend House. It was destroyed by a forest fire but later rebuilt in 1873, 150 yards from the original site. Voss’s grandson, Vernon Smith, invented machinery that released asbestos from rock thus introducing asbestos shingles for homes at a reasonable prices. His other grandson; Elmer Smith invented the Steam Turbine Engine for General Electric. John was responsible for building of the Masonic Temple. He donated the land and fifty percent of the money to pay for the building of the Parsonage of the Calvary Baptist Church, where a memorial plaque bears his name. His generosity has benefited the village in many ways. He donated the land and one half of the money to build a Regional High School in the Township. He also set up a trust in 1072 to make scholarships available for students of the township. A regional high school has not been built to date.
Jalma Farms – Living History
Although she is the fourth consecutive Alma to farm the 130-acre Ocean View plot that has been in her family since the 1800s, Alma VanGilder Waltz George enjoys little advantage over most women in farming. Female farmers are a distinct minority in the county, the state and the country. Of the 9,071 farms in New Jersey in 2012, women were the principal operators of 1,832, or about 20 percent. Of the 7,352 total acres farmed in Cape May County in the same year, 666 acres — less than 10 percent — were under the direction of women, said Jenny Carleo, of the county Rutgers Cooperative Extension.
While George’s roots in Cape May County are deep — she is the eighth generation to live in either Upper Township or Dennis Township since before the Revolutionary War — and her family’s tenure on the farm extends back five generations, her farming experience is recent, which mirrors the growing nationwide trend in female farmers. George cultivates specialty crops, beach plums and aronia berries, doing what Carleo calls “hand labor” to supply a niche market, the stronghold of female farmers across the country.
“As far as developing the historical farm knowledge, they’re starting at square one,” Carleo said of female farmers. “There’s easier access to that information for a man, just based on gender.” Carleo said men who grow up working on farms inherit essential knowledge, as well as land, to operate a successful agricultural venture. Women, she said, have traditionally been given the roles of bookkeepers and marketers, and so lag men, especially in the mechanical aspect of working the farm. That’s true in George’s case, too, even though Jalma Farms – named for Alma George and her husband, John – has been handed down through four generations of women, starting with Alma VanGilder Anderson (1861-1939). While George’s great-grandmother, whom George calls Alma No. 1, farmed the land, Alma No. 2, her grandmother, Alma VanGilder Anderson Patterson (1888-1959), and Alma No. 3, her mother, Alma VanGilder Patterson Waltz (1930-2012), did not. Instead, they had tenants work the land.
Back to her roots
Alma No. 4, Alma VanGilder Waltz George, has taken up the family birthright. Following a career in real estate and mortgage brokering that ended with the dual blows of contracting Lyme disease in 2004 and the real estate downturn that began in 2006, she started tending the farm — which is divided by Route 9 and contains 30-acre Magnolia Lake across the road from her homestead — and operating it as a business in 2010. “Alma No. 1 oversaw the running of the farm,” said George, who noted that tomatoes were canned on the property in the early 1900s. “Then it skipped two generations. Alma No. 2 and Alma No. 3 worked with other farmers to farm it.”
George has concentrated on beach plum and aronia production, tending to 2,000 beach plum trees and 500 aronia berry bushes in her orchards. She makes four kinds of jam and sells it five days a week at farmers markets in Brigantine, Margate, Ocean City, Sea Isle City and Stone Harbor — plus in limited outlets, including the Wetlands Institute in Middle Township and Tuckerton Seaport. Aronia, a native American berry also known as a chokeberry, is gaining recognition as a superfruit packed with cancer-fighting anthocyanins and antioxidants. It eclipses the health benefits of the beach plum, which is still considered a powerhouse and is the antioxidant equivalent of the cranberry. George markets her beach plum jam — made from a recipe she had to create because the two generations before her failed to master the art — as a “sweet treat from the shore,” capitalizing on its status as the official fruit of Cape May County. Working with aronia excites her more. “There is pharmaceutical research being done on the aronia berry,” she said. “It has so much potential.”
Through the centuries, various crops have been grown on the farm, which has been under VanGilder ownership since George’s great-great-grandfather, Thompson VanGilder, purchased the circa-1680s property in 1836. Salt hay, watermelons, bush lima beans, pumpkins, soybeans, even Christmas trees have been grown on the land, George said. Johannes (Jan) van Gelder (1634-1697) was the first of George’s ancestors to come to America, arriving from Holland in Queens, N.Y., in the mid-1600s.
Two generations later, van Gelder’s grandson and namesake, Johannes van Gelder (1698-1758), left New York and settled in Upper Township. According to family lore, George said, her Dutch ancestors were pig farmers in New York, with their operation located at what is now the site of the New York Stock Exchange. With his fourth wife, Johannes van Gelder had Isaac van Gelder Sr. (1750-1813), the first of George’s direct ancestors identified as buried in the Petersburg section of Upper Township. His son, Ezekiel Vangilder (1781-1850), was the first generation to be given the surname Vangilder instead of van Gelder. Ezekiel Vangilder’s son, Thompson Vangilder (1809-1891), is the first of George’s ancestors to own the homestead and to be buried in the Ocean View section of Dennis Township. Thompson Vangilder, with the second of his three wives, was the father of Alma VanGilder No. 1, where again the spelling of the family name changed slightly. Through a complicated inheritance structure, Alma VanGilder Waltz George has come to own the majority of the ancestral property. Her direct line — which can be traced back 10 generations in the New World — ends with her, as she has no successors. George, 55, said she would like to see the farm preserved as open space, and perhaps have the larger of the two homes on the plot operate as a bed-and-breakfast. [Source: Press of Atlantic City web site. Posted: Saturday, July 12, 2014 2:00 am By CINDY NEVITT Staff Writer]