Through many years, there developed in the Colony of New Jersey an overland route, called the Great Road, running from Perth Amboy to Burlington and through to Salem. The road was later called King’s Highway. It crossed Big Timber Creek where Westville now stands, therefore, it was quite natural that some sort of town should develop .since fords of the large streams were few prior to and at the time of the American Revolution.
As the stages crossed, Big Timber Creek there was often need for a stage stop. Thomas West built a tavern a few hundred yards away from the creek. This tavern quickly became a favorite stopping place for the travelers going to or coming from the lower countries. The oldest record of ownership of the land on which the tavern and eventually the town was built is probably contained in a deed dated September 15, 1703 which shows that Daniel Coxe purchased “400 acres of land around Timber Creek in the county of Gloucester for 44 pounds of money of Pennsylvania.”
However, the record of ownership of the land on which West built his home and tavern is in a Gloucester County Deed filed in the Surrogate’s Office in the county Court House. The original grant consisted of 600 acres. Samuel Carpenter sold 400 acres to Samuel Ladd. However, before the conveyance was made Samuel Carpenter died. Hannah Carpenter, wife and sole executor of the estate sold the 400 acres to Samuel Ladd under deed of May 28. 1714.
Later, Ladd died and this part of the estate was conveyed to his sister Deborah Land West, wife of Thomas West, traditional founder of Westville.
Eventually, Deborah West conveyed the land to other persona.
(Thomas West died in 1770.) Deborah West conveyed the land as follows!
1. 13 acres to Robert Price – Hay 30, 1772. Robert Price in turn deeded the 13 acres to his son, Robert Frederick Price. Robert F. Price’s executors – John Brick and George Sparks, sold the thirteen acres to Charles West under deed of January 27, 1787.
2. 30 acres to her daughter, Mary West, who married Samuel Denny. Samuel and Mary Denny deeded the 30 acres to Charles West under deed of April 8, 1786.
3. 357 acres to her son, Charles West. (He received this remainder upon the death of his mother.) Thomas West build two important structures on this land owned by his wife. One, his home, estimated to have been built about 1746 still stands on River Drive Avenue at Sixth Street. The house has been altered many times but was restored to its former beauty and is recognized as an historical landmark in the county.
The other, Old Buck Tavern, has had quite an interesting history.
There are many different versions of how “Buck Tavern received its name. The most popular one was that Thomas West employed an Indian called “Old Buck.” The most accepted theory is that West build the Inn, he put a mounted deer’s head over the door and thus the tavern acquired tavern nick- name “Sign of the Buck.” Others prefer to believe that deer hunters would meet there after a day’ a hunting in the area. Many times there were deer hanging outside as the boys enjoyed themselves inside.
Soon the bridge across the creek became known as Buck Bridge, the tavern as Buck Tavern and for many years the whole community that grew up around it was known as “The Buck or “Buck Tavern.”
Although the Tavern apparently never attained any outstanding distinction as headquarters for Revolution or British soldiers, destruction of the creek bridge by local patriots slowed down the Hessians enroute from Haddonfield to Red Bank to fight the Battle of Fort Mercer.
Stephen Decatur, a post Revolutionary figure of distinction, (Commodore of the C. S. Frigate Shannon) lived at Buck Tavern with the West family while he studied at Woodbury Academy. James Lawrence went to the Academy with Decatur. Both earned their fame as early naval heroes of the War of 1812.
Other early proprietors of Buck Tavern were: Henry Sparks, Henry Wood, Micajah Clement, Samuel Jennings, James C. Dillon, Joseph Hillman, William Hopper, Thomas Knight, Thomas Wilson, Samuel S. Kendrick. Eventually the property came to John M. White. In 1821, the trustees for the creditors of White advertised all his properties for sale, among them being Buck Tavern, which was described as follows: “Buck Tavern House, Stables, Sheds, etc. and 40 acres of land adjoining lying between the creek and the Glassborough roads of which 15 acres are meadows on the creed adjoining the road leading from the Creek to the House. Also, a good orchard of the best fruit.”
“The above property is finely situated for a village; lying on the main stage road from the. lower counties of the State to Philadelphia from whence by the use of Steam Boats, the distance through a heavy sand to because of the shallow waters, Hudson weighted anchor and sailed north to discover the river which today bears his name.”
The next visitor to what we know as the Delaware River was Captain Cornelius Jacobus Mey who headed an expedition into the Delaware River area. In 1613. Crude maps of that period listed the river as South River (from Dutch word Zuydt meaning South) to differentiate from the Hudson River known as the North River. Mey was much Impressed with the Eastern shore of the river. His reports so Interested the new Dutch West India Company, successor to the New Netherlands Company, that he agreed to plant a colony for It In the new world. By March 1624, Hey was enroute to the Hudson River with some 30 families aboard the ship, “Wieu Nederlandt”. Sixteen of them were brought to the Delaware Valley by Captain Mey between the months of May and October 1624. While Mey was exploring the waterways, another Dutchman, Cornelius Hendrickson, skipper of the “Onrust” (Restless) was also exploring the Delaware River. He probably sailed further up the Delaware River than any previous Dutchman. He noted on August 19, 1616 that he had discovered “certain lands, a bay and three rivers situated between 38 and 40 degrees.” He was mating reference, no doubt to Oidman’s, Mantua, and Raccoon Creeks. Hendrickson Is recognized as the first man to set foot on the shores of the Delaware Valley and he was surely the first man to sail up the river to about where Philadelphia stands today. He was the first to chart the course of the river after Ills visit to these shores in the summer of 1614. His first nap also Included the Schuylklll River and added the name of the Indiana living along the rivers.
After Cornelius Mey established the first white settlement on Burlington Island, he established Fort Nassau In 1623. The site of Fort Nassau has been a subject of much controversy, the Hon. Franit H. Stewart, president of the Gloucester County Historical Society has set the site as back of what is now Brooklawn, at the mouth of Timber Creek, just west of where Big Timber Creek, Little Timber Creek and the Delaware join. Records show that the Dutch trading post was “about fifteen leagues up the river on the eastern shore. The Dutch had built two strongholds or forts, largest about 16 miles up the river on the eastern shore, called Nassau”. In 1651, Peter Loursenson, a Dutch sailor sent to the Delaware, commented that Fort Nassau consisted of a trading house with ten or 12 servants belonging to It. Records further show that in 164j Nassau was occupied by 20 men and was used by the Dutch until 1651. In 1651, Fort Nassau was abandoned. Its cannon and other weapons were installed at Fort Casisnir (at New Castle). Its last trading commissioner Andries Hudde, served in the same capacity in the new fort. The abandoned fort remained a landmark for many years. In 1750, Acrelius, pastor of the Old Swede Church, Philadelphia, wrote in his diary, “Nassau is still standing two and a half miles north of Manias Hook (Hantaes hoeck).”
History shows that the Dutch, Swedes, and English vied for possession of the settlements along the Delaware. Eventually the Swedes submitted to the rule of the Dutch and the Dutch submitted to the rule of the English. With each change of ruler the Delaware was renamed having the following names before it finally received the name it still has: Zudt River, Nassau River, Prince Hendrick River, Charles River and the De la Warr.