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A Brief History of Ocean City, New Jersey
Known first as Peck’s Beach, a seven-mile stretch of sand dunes, meadows, and cedar swamps was probably named for John Peck, a whaler who used the island as a staging spot for his whaling operation. The island had served as a summer fishing camp for local Indians, a grazing land for cattle driven out from the mainland, and an occasional hunting or picnic spot for mainland residents who would come out by boat. Original ownership of the land was by the Somers family. Several individuals had made their home on the island, most notable of which was Parker Miller who had served as an agent for marine insurance companies. He and his family lived in a home at about what is now the southwest corner of Seventh Street and Asbury Avenue.
In 1879 four Methodist ministers, Ezra B. Lake, James Lake, S. Wesley Lake and William Burrell chose the island as a suitable spot to establish a Christian retreat and camp meeting, on the order of Ocean Grove. They met under a tall cedar tree which stands today at 6th Street and Asbury Avenue. Having chosen the name “Ocean City”, the founders incorporated the “Ocean City Association”, laid out streets and sold lots for cottages, hotels and businesses. The Tabernacle was built between Wesley and Asbury Avenues and between 5th and 6th Streets. Camp Meetings were held by the following summer.
From these beginnings Ocean City has grown into the town we know today. The first bridge was built to the island in 1883. The railroad soon followed. The first school began in 1881. The boardwalk grew and was relocated several times. The ship Sindia joined other shipwrecks on our beach. A large fire in 1927 changed the town significantly.
This brief history is only meant to tempt you to learn more about Ocean City. Many books are available in our Gift Shop and Library on these subjects.