Travel in old Gloucester County was not easy. Early settlers made their homes on the banks of creeks and used these bodies of water as their main methods of transportation. In 1687, a ferry was authorized between Gloucester City and Philadelphia. Six years later, John Reading of Timber Creek (Westville) was authorized to establish a ferry both over Timber Creek and from Gloucester City to Wickaco (Philadelphia) Reading’s rate “for a single man and horse was two shillings and six pence; and four shillage per head for more than one horse or cow … And five pence per head for men without horses or cattle over Gloucester River (Big Timber Creek) .”
Highways then were non-existent. When over-land travel was an utter necessity, it took place along the Indian Trail which ran from Salem to Burlington. This trail ultimately became the route of the “Salem Road.” In 1681, it was enacted by the “General Free Assembly” held at Burlington that:… “there shall be a highway surveyed and set forth between Burlington and Salem, the same to be begun at or before the first day of the second month next, and that twenty men in the whole shall be appointed for said work, ten thereof from Burlington and ten from Salem.”
This highway, as mentioned previously, was later to become the Kings Road or Highway and was fairly well laid out but not completed by 1688.It was little more than a bridle path through the forests and woods.
As the Kings Road began to be completed, the need for bridges became apparent. Francis Collins was engaged in 1687 to “make a sufficient bridge over ye upper Branch of Gloucester River (Big Timber Creek) and allsoe to marke out ye way playnely and sufficiently from ye said Bridge to and through the Indian field in ye upper side of said Bridge…”
Later records show that a new truss bridge was built at Buck Tavern at a cost of $6,349.61 ½. It is interesting to know that this was the first truss bridge in Gloucester County and it was the first of the type patented by Ithiel Towne, ever erected.
In 1828 we find that “John Wilkins and George Cattell operated a ferry between Philadelphia and the New Bridge at Buck Tavern.” This means of travel was the schooner “Hope.”
Another interesting item records that “a legislative act was passed prohibiting all kinds of travel across the Truss Bridge at Buck Tavern, at a faster pace than a walk under a penalty of five dollars.”
According to the following advertisement, Buck Tavern was well supplied with stage in the earlier part of the century.
Washington Glass Works
The stage will leave Squankum on Mondays, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 7 o’clock by way of Cross Keys, Creeesville, Good Intent Factory, Almonesson Mills, Woodbury, Westville, and Toys Ferry Camden.
James L. Plummer
Stagecoaches were made obsolete with the birth of the railroad. Stronger and sturdier bridges made the railroads possible. The first pieces of track of the Camden and Amboy Railroad were laid in 1831. The first locomotive was placed in service on November 25, 1837 on the Camden and Woodbury Railroad. John D. Campbell was proprietor of the Camden and Woodbury Railroad which operated three trains each way daily excepting Sundays. The fare from Woodbury to Camden was 25 cents. The fare remained the same until 1942 when the Federal Government required a tax of two vents applied to this fare.
In an advertisement of the schedules and fares commencing Monday January 29, 1838, Joseph Coates was superintendent and Benjamin Wilkins conductor, Trains left Woodbury at 7:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 4:00p.m. and left Camden at 8:30 a.m., 2:30p.m. and 5:00p.m.
Railroad service increased until there were twenty to thirty trains a day through here. The lines were known as the West Jersey Railroad, the Pennsylvania Reading Seashore line was electrified from Camden through Westville to the shore. The old power house on River Drive Avenue is the last remnant of the electrified railroad.
Passenger service through Westville ended on February 5, 1971. The last passenger train to Millville passed through here at 5:52 p.m. with one diesel car.
In 1850, the Gloucester Turnpike Company obtained a franchise to construct a road from Woodbury to the town of Gloucester on highway known as “Jersey Avenue.” The first toll was collected January 13, 1851.
Original purpose of the tolls on all turnpikes was to pay the upkeep of the roads. Although dividends were good, the first few years, the increase in travel and cost of equipment to keep the roads in condition plus the steady need of repair, kept pace with receipts.
Gloucester Turnpike was the direct route from Gloucester County farms to the market in Philadelphia by Gloucester Ferry so it was a moneymaker from its opening. Collections on this turnpike through Westville exceeded expenses. Not long after opening, collections amounted to over 4300 a day. In 1898 a toll of one cent per mile was placed on bicycles. In 1905 a toll of one cent per mile was placed on an auto with one or two people and two cents per mile for an auto with more than two people.
The Buck tollgate was relocated at the junction of Browning road and Broadway (Brooklawn). Still later it was moved to “Pine Grove”- junction of jersey Avenue and Broadway (Gloucester).
Toll road history gives the local names and distances computed from Gloucester to:
Pine Grove (South Gloucester) 4080 feet
Brownings Road (North Brooklawn) 6296 feet
Haddonfield Road (South Brooklawn) 8106 feet
Westville (Plums Hotel) 9505 feet
South Westville and Victoria 13005 feet
Howell’s Road 17145 feet
Hessian Run Road (Toll Gate) 18669 feet
Red Bank Avenue 21940 feet
Old Gloucester Turnpike was intersected by a road known as Buck Tavern Road, which extended South through Deptford Township to the coast. This road once also called Silver Lake Avenue is currently known as Delsea Drive because it extends from the Delaware River to the sea ( Atlantic Ocean.)
Gloucester Turnpike was closed May 16, 1921.
Trolley service through Westville from the Camden ferries was a popular method of travel until 1926. The trolleys crossed a trestle from Gloucester to New Bold and another trestle through Washington Park to National Park or Woodbury and ran through Woodbury to Mantua or out Cooper Street to Blackwood. Remains of the Gloucester/Westville trestle still are visible across Timber Creek. The ties from the trestle were used a firewood by Newbold residents during the depression of the thirties.
Westville was called the Gateway to South Jersey because Delsea Drive, Broadway and Crown Point Road all lead to important spots in South Jersey. In the late 20’s the Delaware River Bridge and new bridges over Timber Creek alleviated ferry service from Camden to Philadelphia. In recent years, Routes 130 and 295 plus Atlantic City Freeway and Expressway have greatly reduced the amount of traffic through the town. However, we like to think that just as Westville was the gateway to Fort Mercer, it is still the gateway to most of Southern New Jersey.