About the Island

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history in ocean city new jersey

In 1700, whaler John Peck began using the barrier island as a storage place for freshly caught whales. Eventually known as Peck’s Beach, the island had several purposes: it was an Indian summer fishing camp, cattle-grazing area, and sometimes mainlanders would boat over for a picnic or to hunt

In the mid-19th century, Parker Miller and his family became the first year-round residents. The Millers lived at what is now the corner of Seventh Street and Asbury Avenue. Parker worked as an agent for marine insurance companies, raised cattle and farmed.

In 1879, four Methodist ministers (Ezra B. Lake, James Lake, S. Wesley Lake and William Burrell) purchased Peck’s Beach to create a Christian seaside resort and camp meeting place. The men came together under a cedar tree (which still stands at 6th and Asbury) and formed the Ocean City Association. The group built streets and sold commercial and residential lots. They built the Tabernacle, which still remains between 5th and 6th Streets and Asbury Avenue. Camp meetings began the following summer. Soon residents built homes, hotels, bridges, railroads and schools. The boardwalk was built and rebuilt several times due to damage from natural disasters.

In 1901, the legendary Sindia ship came close to shore and sunk. Part of its mast remained above the ocean to onlookers’ delight. Only recently did the Sindia sink completely underwater.

Part of the original four’s wish, that Ocean City remain a pure retreat that exemplified the Christian mindset, still remains today as strong as the cedar tree they first met under. Historically, Ocean City is a dry town—there is no public drinking anywhere on the island. Some residents and tourists alike seem to appreciate this law that sets the island apart from any of its surrounding towns.

Visit the Ocean City Historical Museum at the Community Center, 17th & Simpson, or online at www.ocnjmuseum.org for a complete history of Ocean City.