A "Little Treasure by the Bay," according to the newly unveiled township motto, Little Egg Harbor is both seeking to preserve its history while advancing into the 21st century.
Originally part of Burlington County, Little Egg Harbor took its name from the portion of the bay called Egg Harbor by Dutch sailors because of the great quantities of sea gull eggs found in nests along the shore. Little Egg had its share of privateers, smugglers, pirates, and other ruffians that were part of early Jersey Shore history. The first recorded account of the area was made by Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey who sailed the harbor area in 1614.
Early settlers of the township were the Andrews, Falkinburgs, Shourds, Ongs, Willets, and Osborns. Edward Andrews settled on the east side of Pohatcong Creek, while is brother, Mordecia, settled on the west side.
Henry Jacobs Falkinburg, Sr. was the first white man to settle in the township. He arrived sometime prior to 1698 and began trading merchandise with the local Indians, securing the properties later known as Osborn and Wills Islands and a number of farmlands. Later, Falkinburg, who could speak fluent Lenni-Lenape, acted as an interpreter between the Indians and settlers in the area.
Within the township are sites where both archaic and woodland material has been found that prove that prehistoric man was in the area for over 5,000 years.
Early settlers in Little Egg who did not farm began building boats, getting timber from the surrounding forest for hulls. One of the first recorded ships of the township was a sloop belonging to Thomas Ridgway Sr. John Mathis Sr. was also an early ship owner. His vessel was commanded by his son Daniel and sailed the West Indies routes.
The gathering of clams and oysters was also profitable and it was not long before Philadelphians and New Yorkers were dining on shellfish harvested in Little Egg Harbor.
The township eventually broke from Burlington County and became part of Ocean County, and the Tuckerton section of Little Egg became an entity unto itself.
Little Egg Harbor is famous for two historic sites: the Pulaski monument, marking a 1778 Revolutionary War skirmish; and the location of the former Great Tuckerton Wireless, an 865-foot structure built by a German company in 1912.
Today, Little Egg Harbor Township surrounds Tuckerton on three sides with a land area of 45 square miles. It includes West Tuckerton, Parkertown, Osborn Island, and large developments like Atlantis, Mystic Island, Holly Lake Harbor, Deerfield Park, Tuckerton Gardens, Spring Valley Lakes, as well as a part of Warren Grove.
The township has two elementary schools (Frog Pond and George J. Mitchell) and is home to Pinelands Regional School District (High School and Junior High School), which also accept students from Tuckerton, Eagleswood, and Bass River.
The Township Committee made strides in establishing the Little Egg Harbor Recreation Complex, located off Route 539 and Tuckerton Manor, and it includes baseball, Little League, football, softball, and soccer fields as well as a band shell, gazebo, roller hockey rink, and passive recreation areas.
Also accomplished in 1998 was the formation of the township Historical Preservation Society. The commission will assess historic properties in the township and help tailor the municipality's master plan in light of these structures to protect them for future generations.
Published in the Southern Ocean Community Guide 9/23-24/98, Times-Beacon Newspapers; edited by K. Pennell 1/2014.