To the Editor:
I was reading your post and thought I would give you a little history on the original use of ground rent. On a map of either 1871 or early 1872, it stated that the plan of leasing, instead of selling the lots, had been adopted to prevent any person from using his lot for purposes that would be an annoyance to other lot holders.
As far as the use of ground rent in the early days of Ocean Grove, during the Stokes era and beyond, the use of ground rent was for public services for the lot holders. In a book published in 1919, entitled “The Story of Ocean Grove 1869-1919” written by Morris S. Daniels… it states:
“If it is conceded, for the sake of argument, that the ground rental corresponds to a tax, it may also be said that it is expended by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association for the benefit of the leaseholders.
It is doubtful “if in all the land there is another place where the people receive so much attention at so little cost.” The Ocean Grove Association “lights the public streets and avenues the year round;” it polices the grounds, summer and winter; removes the garbage from the doors of the producers. It takes sanitary supervision of the entire place. It keeps the the streets in order, maintains the board walk and many of the sidewalks. It provides public pavilions and seats for the free use and accommodation of the masses. It sprinkles many of the streets during the dry and dusty days of summer. It provides parks, fountains, lakes, and flowers, and does a thousand other nameless things for which the leaseholders have contracted to pay a small ground rental, which thus far has never exceeded $10.50 per lot, which is the maximum ground rental which can be charged under the leases already made. The ground rentals amount to about $18,000; but much more than this sum is required for the purposes mentioned and is made up by the Association.”
Here are a few other interesting facts concerning ground rent beginnings. In the first 4 years of Ocean Grove’s existence the OGCMA didn’t require any ground rent from their lease holders. After this period they only required $2.50 from their lot holders. In 1880, they upped the ground rent to $5.00. In 1883, owing to the expense incurred in erecting a fire house on Olin Street, the ground rental was increased to $7.50. It was thought that the lot holders should share in the expense, since it was to their benefit.
In the early OGCMA annual reports the Camp Meeting Association was much more transparent and open about their ground rent and its uses. They would give an accounting of what they received and gave exact breakdowns of what it was used for. They were also more reluctant to raise it, even though for years the funds received through ground rents were insufficient to cover the expenses of the public services. They seemed to have more of a conscience about the burden that was placed upon the lot holder.
I have a great appreciation for the CMA and enjoy participating in their many programs. I also have a concern for their future and that more will be stripped away from them in coming years if they continue on the path they have been following… for “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Proverbs 16:18-19
Justin Truth is a blogger who writes about Ocean Grove history. His blog has a few entries and they are quite interesting, especially the one about President Grant visiting the town and also a piece from an Irish publication in 1874 about a “Sunday at an American Camp Meeting.”
Ocean Grove, New Jersey, February 22, 2017.
Blogfinger would like to thank Justin Truth for sharing his information with our readers. We asked him for some information about himself. After all, he showed some courage and answered our call for information sharing in Ocean Grove. This is his response:
“Thank you, Paul, for taking notice and interest in my recent comment concerning the ground rent issue. I choose not to reveal my identity at this time, as to avoid being caught up into a fire storm of controversy. I am a lifelong resident of Ocean Grove, having been involved in all of the OGCMA programs growing up, as well as in the present time. I have roots which go very deep in Ocean Grove, as well as in the surrounding area.
I’m just an ordinary guy, who is interested in Ocean Grove history and began researching for accurate information. It is my desire for others to become more interested in our history and this is why I began my blog.
It is my hope for people to begin to research themselves, considering all the information we have at our fingertips today. I would rather give people the tools they need to find the actual historic records, than to have them look to me as the authority on the subject. I like for the historic records to speak for themselves. I have included a link to the map I referenced in my comment.”
Regarding the second sentence in Justin’s letter to the editor, the link below is for the 1870 map that he sent which proves that lots were leased from the very beginning and were not sold. You can enlarge the map and read the relevant section on the left side.
As for the fact that the citizens of OG early on were enjoying nearly-free services from the Camp Meeting Association, the CMA preferred to offer certain services such as police and the local court. The CMA wanted total control in the Grove including their wish to establish and enforce blue laws. Their motive was to perpetuate their “Christian sea-side community”
During those years, the citizens paid taxes to Neptune Township, and those taxes probably would have provided for those services had the CMA not insisted on doing it themselves.
However, the CMA did offer many nearly-free services enjoyed by Grovers which are listed in the Justin Truth letter, and many continue to this date. And Neptune likely offered services such as schools, utilities, sewage, and water during the years when the CMA ran the town but was part of Neptune Township. So the taxes did pay for Neptune services.
There were some protests and suits in the past over these Neptune tax issues, but the CMA always prevailed—until the NJ Supreme Court ruling in 1979.
Here is an item from the Blogfinger OG History Timeline. “1898: Ocean Grove’s “lessees,” who pay property taxes to Neptune Township, want the CMA to pay the taxes to Neptune. A suit is brought by the homeowners, but in 1900 the NJ Supreme Court sides with the CMA.”——PG
Below is a link to the Blogfinger Timeline:
CAST OF DAMES AT SEA (Bernadette Peters’ career was launched in this role, 1969:)