Posts Tagged ‘REv. William B. Osborn’

Photograph from “Pioneer Days of Ocean Grove” by Mrs. W.B. Osborn


By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @ Blogfinger.   (First posted on BF in 2010)

Several weeks ago we received a flyer about an event sponsored by the Old Corlies Preservation Association (OCPA). It seemed innocuous enough when we posted it, until we read to the bottom where it said, “Hamilton—the birthplace of Neptune and Ocean Grove.”  Hamilton is the site of an early settlement near Old Corlies Road. Its earliest name was Shark River Village, then Greenville, and then it was called Hamilton in 1875, after the founding of OG.  There was a church there, but it burned down in 1940 along with all its historic records.

Their claim was surprising, because it didn’t agree with the usual narrative of Ocean Grove’s founding.  We contacted the OCPA and received an unsigned email linking to a YouTube video. Their claim is based on the assertion that Ocean Grove’s founding father Reverend William B. Osborn, was working for the Hamilton church when he went off to start the community of OG.  This seemed like a pretty flimsy linkage, so we hit the history books.

According to our references, Rev. Osborn promoted the camp meeting concept with the support of the Methodist Conference in New Jersey, and it was his energy, commitment, and enthusiasm which resulted eventually in the founding of Ocean Grove.  The idea was first presented in 1867 at a national camp meeting conference in Vineland, and the group appointed Rev. Osborn as their official agent to find a suitable site in New Jersey. After an extensive search up and down the Jersey coast, the site now known as Ocean Grove was chosen by Osborn in 1868. Rev. Osborn named the town and he recruited a group of supporters from places like Farmingdale, Philadelphia and Long Branch.

A group of them set up tents in the summer of 1869 and had the first prayer meeting on July 31, 1869, among the bushes, trees, briars, and dunes at a location now known as Founders’ Park.  In December 1869, the founders met in Trenton and set up the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. Rev Osborn was named as the first superintendent in Ocean Grove and he was also assigned a part time job  to help support his family, performing Sunday services at the church in Greenville (later known as the Hamilton Methodist Church).

Our historical sources give Rev. Osborn credit for the founding of Ocean Grove, but Mr. Ted Bell, Ocean Grove historian, tells us that more research will be necessary before we can come to a definite conclusion about the Hamilton claim. In any case, it seems clear that the claim should be formally evaluated by the Historical Society of Ocean Grove  and the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association,  in order to set the record straight.

Editor’s note:  Subsequently, the OCPA gave up its paternity claim regarding Hamilton as the “birthplace” of Ocean Grove.   PG, editor.



1. History of Neptune Township. “Four Score and Five”. 1964

2. History of Ocean Grove. Gibbons. 1944

3. History of Monmouth County, 1964

4. “Pioneer Days of Ocean Grove.” Mrs. W.B. Osborn   c1910. This book was written by Rev. Osborn’s wife, but her first name is not given in the book.

5. “Footprints in My Own Life.”  An autobiography by E.H. Stokes, 1898.

6. Mr. Ted Bell, historian.  Historical Society of Ocean Grove.

7. Mrs. Marion Bauman, director of the Neptune Township Public Library

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