SPAN OF A CENTURY, 1828-1928
100 YEARS IN THE HISTORY OF CAMDEN AS A CITY
Compiled from notes and data collected by Charles S. Boyer, President Camden County Historical Society. Published by Centennial Anniversary Committee of Camden, New Jersey. Additional Photos and Notes by Phillip Cohen in 2003.
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The Camden Water Works Company was incorporated by an act of the Legislature approved April 2, 1845 and authorized “to supply the city of Camden with pure water under such terms, regulations and conditions as city council shall by ordinance ordain and establish.” The principals in the company were Isaac Cole, Benjamin W. Cooper, Charles Kaighn, Henry Allen, William Folwell, Nathan Davis, Benjamin T. Davis, John W. Mickle, and James Elwell. The company became familiarly known as the “Henry Allen Company”.
The original plant was located on a lot 30 by 90 feet at what was then the foot of Cooper street (later the center of the Esterbrook Pen Works), and was purchased from William D. Cooper for $400. The iron pipe laid by the company came from Jesse Richard’s furnace at Batsto. The supply of water was turned into the mains on November 1, 1846.
In 1854 by a supplement to its charter the company was authorized to increase its capital stock and to hold lands outside the city limits, and it built a plant at Pavonia, which continued to supply water to the city until 1870, when under an act of the Legislature Camden purchased all of its rights and appurtenances for the sum of $200,000.
The city operated the plant at Pavonia from 1870 until the spring of 1899, when the new plant at Morris Station, on the Delaware River just below the mouth of the Pennsauken Creek, was completed and in full operation, and since that time the Pavonia plant has been kept as a reserve station.
In 1903 the supply as taken from the Delaware River became so polluted that a general agitation was started to secure another source of supply, or a method of improving the quality of the supply then used. The report of the expert selected by the city recommended that the Delaware River still be maintained as a source of supply, but that the water be first subjected to sand filtration before running into the service pipes. This, however, did not meet the approval of many citizens, and finally bids were opened on September 3, 1895, by the Water Committee of City Council for furnishing Camden with an improved supply of water. Nothing was done with these proposals, but instead it was decided to sink some test wells to ascertain the character, quality, and quantity of the subterranean waters. The present Morris Station site was selected and finally on April 2, 1896, bids were received and opened for the construction of a plant to furnish 20,000,000 gallons daily supplied by the artesian wells. The contract was awarded to George Pfeiffer Jr. on June 24, 1896 for the sum of $600,000. After considerable trouble, due to the wording of the contract as to time-limit and actual capacity of the plant constructed under the specifications, the city finally seized the plant under authority of a resolution of City Council of January 20, 1899. The city has been supplied entirely with artesian well water since the Spring of 1899.
Under the provisions of the act creating Camden County an election to choose a County Seat was held on August 12, 1845. Camden received 1062 votes, Gloucester 822 votes, Haddonfield 422 votes, and Mount Ephraim 33 votes; a total of 2339. The act required that the place chosen should poll a majority of all votes cast. No one place having secured this majority, a second election was held on April 28, 1846, with a similar result. Of 2004 votes cast, Camden received 963, Mount Ephraim 527, White House 328, Chews Landing 98; and 98 votes were scattered to different places.
The third election was held on June 2, 1846, and the votes was Camden 1440; Long-a-coming, which is present-day Berlin 1550, and 3 votes were scattered, a total of 2944 votes. Legislation and legal proceedings, however, followed this election and Long-a-Coming was denied her victory/ The question as to the conduct of the election was taken to the Supreme Court which decided against Camden and then on a writ of error to the Court of Errors and Appeals which also decided against Camden. In the meantime, plans were being made to erect County buildings at Long-a-coming, but before the plans were completed the Legislature, in march of 1848, directed that another election should be held for the selection of a county seat. This election tool place April 7, 1848 with the following result: Camden 2445, Haddonfield 794, Long-a-coming 705, a total of 3944 votes. This apparently settled the place where the county buildings should be located. Notwithstanding the result, the Board of freeholders refused to abide by the decision, and it was only after a peremptory order had been issued by the Supreme Court that a committee was appointed, on December 1, 1851, to select a site in the city of Camden.
The selection of a site in Camden opened up another controversy. John W. Mickle, who had been active in the Legislative fight, was president of the Federal Street Ferry Company, and Abraham Browning, who had led the legal fight, was, with his brothers, heavily invested in the Market Street ferry. it was believed that the location of the Court House would have a large influence in determining to which ferry the travel might be diverted. As a compromise, the building was finally located on the nearest lot to the river which would be midway between the two principal streets leading to the ferries, namely, Market and Federal Streets.
A paper mill with a capacity of 45 tons of paper a month was erected on Cooper’s creek, north of Federal Street and extending from the creek to Twelfth Street, then known as Paper Mill Road. The mill was erected by James Collins and the heirs of Marmaduke E. Cope, and operated by James and Robert Greenleaf. It ran until March of 1854, when the operators made an assignment.
Abraham Browning was appointed Attorney General of New Jersey in January of 1845.
John F. Starr, who had previously leased the iron foundry of Elias Kaighn at the foot of Stevens Street, built the Camden Iron Works on Bridge Avenue. In 1846, his brother, Jesse W. Starr, became associated with him under the name of J.W. & J.F. Starr, and another foundry was built on Bridge avenue below Second Street. In 1847 the firm purchased from the estate of Richard M. Cooper land on Cooper’s Creek and the buildings erected there were completed in 1849. The Camden Iron Works Company was incorporated March 21, 1866 with a capital of $300,000. The Starr Brothers controlled practically all the stock.
On December 1, 1868 the firm of J.W. & J.F. Starr was succeeded by Jesse W. Starr & Sons, the firm including Jesse W. Starr, Benjamin A. Starr, and Benjamin F. Archer.
In 1883 the control of the company was secured by R.D. Wood & Company who conducted the business until 1920. In 1923 much of the property was purchased by the city for a Civic Center. One of the large buildings was remodeled as a Convention Hall and was opened in the latter part of 1925.