Reminiscences of a Cape May Working Family - 1800-1920 ( The Voss Family)

Another fine article from The Cape May County Magazine of History and Genealogy,
June 1942, Volume II, Number 4

Mrs. Terry's Reminiscences

As Told to Edward M. Post

     Mrs. Susan Swain Voss Smith Terry of South Seaville was born December 28, 1849 and died July 2, 1928. She was the daughter of John Voss born 1800 who married in 1829 Amy Van Gilder, born 1807.
     Susan Swain Voss married 1874 Charles S. Smith who died in 1900. They had four children, Charles Vernon Smith, Harriet Hull Smith, Elmer Smith and Amy Vos Smith. In 1907 she married Charles M. Terry. During the later years of her life she was an invalid and confined to her bed, but she had a brilliant mind and wonderful memory. She has given the following word picture of her day and time.
     My father was born in Delaware and came with his parents to Petersburg. He was bound out to David Townsend living with him until he was 21. He suffered the usual hardships of a bound boy and received but little education. After marrying Amy Van Gilder they lived in the David Van Gilder homestead and then on the John L. Smith farm between the Sea Isle City turnpike and Magnolia Lake at Ocean View. Later he bought a tract of woodland at the head waters of Magnolia Lake and people inquired if he was planning to starve. Nothing daunted he cleared the land and in 1840 employed Benjamin Hall of Court House to build him a farm house which was burned in 1873, having caught fire from a smoldering stump in a neighbor's field. He then built the home where I spent my life at the end of Seaville Avenue at South Seaville. He kept two teams of horses, Prince and Pierce and Old Fan and Young Fan, and also a team of mules Jack and Jennie. Most of his life he cut grain with a cradle, but lived to use a reaper and corn planter. After harvest time the two Fans were used in the tread mill to drive the threshing machine at home after which they would take the equipment from farm to farm threshing for such farmers as Reuben Townsend, Ephriam Eldredge, and Franklin Hand near the Court House.
     My brother, Ezekiel Voss and Lopper Grace ran the thresher often sleeping in the barns beside the team and machinery, and living on the best that the farmers' wives could provide. When winter came on the teams were used in the cedar swamps from dawn till dusk and mother knew of their returning by candle light for Prince would whinny with delight at the sight of the home lights. Every autumn father butchered one beef and three or four hogs for winter food. Butchering and Ice filling days were the gala days of childhood and the days were rounded out with Cape May style of chicken pot pie which Aunt Jane Lloyd was an expert in making. When the West Jersey and Seashore R. R. (then called the Cape May and Millville R. R.) was put through in 1861 father boarded two gangs of men who were working for the Superintendent. Jere Wanrensaleer, and when the road was finished father had to take sisters Ella and Sarah to the Court House as witnesses in order to get his money.
     The Section Boss, Frank McAdams used to brag on the coffee mother made. It was no poor grade coffee that she furnished, but pure Cape May coffee made of sweet potatoes cut into small cubes roasted hard and ground, then mixed with essence of coffee. It made a drink far superior to the coffee sold in those days for 60 cents a pound. Father acted as section boss between Swain Station and Mt. Pleasant until his health failed and he passed on in 1880, aged 80 years.
     Baking in the old brick oven was a great curiosity. While the oven was still warm from a previous baking it was filled with old kindling which became dried out with the heat. On baking days a roaring fire was made in the oven until it was thoroughly heated, then the fire was pulled out into the fireplace. The oven was then filled with bread, cake, pies and pudding, all cooking at one time from the stored up heat of the oven. They looked nice and tasted even better. John Hildreth and his son Allie Hildreth boarded with father a long time after the railroad came. They ran a stage coach between South Seaville station and Beesley's Point and since they had to travel in the darkness morning and evening to meet the trains and carry passengers and mail also, they placed sleigh bells on their horses, and in a cool frosty morning you could hear the merry music of the bells miles away in ample time to be ready to meet the stage. Seaville Avenue was cut through in 1867. It was heavily wooded at the time on both sides. In the fifties father kept a nice flock of sheep. These were sheared in May, then often would come the cold storm which was called the sheep storm, and the poor naked sheep would huddle close together to keep warm in the barn. Then came wool washing with indigo and chamber lye. Some of it was dyed. After dyeing mother would grease it a little, card it and she and sister Sarah would spin it. (Often have I had my hair caught in the spindle when getting too near). After spinning it was wound into balls and knit into socks and stockings that were noted for their wearing and warming qualities. The remaining wool was sent to the East Lake Woolen Mills in East Bridgeton by Issac Dubois who came through the County gathering it in a great covered wagon, taking it from the farmers and returning it woven into cloth and blankets. Calvary Baptist Church was built by Willets Wheaton in 1855. Father was for many years its sexton. The previous church was lighted with candles sitting in boards, but in his day they used camphene (rectified turpentine). The old Calvary Church which stood in the rear of the present yard was sold to Aaron Townsend who used it to house a windmill. Sarah Williams lived with the family and when year later she married Zebulon York she received a pair of home made blankets, the same as father gave his own children. The children of John and Amy Voss were:

                              Jermiah who married Henrietta S. Wilson
                              Amos married Anthea T. Corson
                              Ezekiel married Hannah M. Preston
                              Sarah married Alexander Smith
                              Elmira married Charles M. Preston
                              Susan married Charles S. Smith
                              Joshua, a twin brother of Susan died in infancy