Cramer Hill

(Prowell, George R. The History of Camden County.  Philadelphia: L. Richards & Co., 1886, pp.757-759)

For many years previous to 1874 that portion of Cramer Hill first laid out into lots on the south was unoccupied. A small colony of colored people had located to the northeast, and nearer the river, and called their settlement East Camden. The only resident on South Cramer Hill was an old colored woman, known to the residents of Spicersville as Aunt Rosy. She had a small hut on the hill, and was in reality a squatter, having taken possession of the land which belonged to Thomas F. McKeen. In 1874 Alfred Cramer and Joseph F. McMasters bought sixteen acres of McKean and laid out a town-plat with two hundred and forty building lots, and that year erected the first house and store at what is now the corner of Cooper Street and Westfield Avenue. Alfred Cramer occupied the dwelling, and early in 1875 the first Baptist Sunday-school in Stockton township was organized in this building. The teachers were Mr. and Mrs. Price, Miss Lydia Wright, Miss Sallie Wright and Mrs. Alfred Cramer. In 1883 the First Baptist Church of Cramer Hill was organized. William F. Miller built the second dwelling house in 1875.

In 1876 Joseph Cramer, brother of Alfred Cramer, bought the store and dwelling and opened a general store. The Sunday-school teachers, with the assistance of the Trinity Baptist Church of Camden, built a frame Mission Chapel and fitted it for school purposes. A large double frame house was built by the Rev. Sumner Hale, and two double houses were soon after erected for Isaac Stone, David B. Ristine, Charles E. Allen and Alfred Cramer. Other early settlers were William Morse, John D. Jeffries, Henry Stoeckle and Alexander Dick.

In 1884 Joseph M. McMasters was appointed at Indian agent and removed to Nevada, and Alfred Cramer bought of Joshua R. Jones a tract of land and divided it into one hundred and twenty-five building lots, and of the Pitman heirs land for fifty lots, and in 1885 he bought land of Samuel H. French and laid off one hundred and thirty-five lots, and in the same year extended his lines over the line of the Camden and Amboy Railroad by the purchase of one hundred and sixteen acres of farm land from Lemuel Horner, which he divided into sixteen hundred building lots. The deed for this tract contains a clause preventing the sale of intoxicating drinks. In 1886 he bought of William B. Cooper land for one hundred and twenty lots and other miscellaneous lots, making altogether three thousand building lots. Of these, twelve hundred are sold to individuals who have built and are building and improving the land.

The town-plat is well laid out; the avenues and streets are graded and sixty feet wide, with shade-trees on each side; the dwellings are set back some distance from the street, and all buildings erected must be of the required standard; hence all the residences are well designed and many fine buildings are now to be seen in the town. Cramer Hill at this time (1886) contains one drug store, five general stores, one shoe store, one printing house and a number of small shops, and over two thousand inhabitants. Joseph Cramer conducted the first store in connection with the post-office. Henry Stoeckle started the second store in 1883. There are four schools, with about three hundred scholars.

THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF CRAMER HILL is located on the corner of Cooper and Master Streets. This church is the outgrowth of a mission-school, which was organized in the first store built in Cramer Hill, in 1875. For several years Clarence Woolston, a student of Bridgeton Seminary, and afterward a graduate of Crozer Theological Seminary, conducted services in the chapel, which was built in 1876. Wilson English, of Camden, and other students of Crozer occasionally assisted. In 1881 the Rev. Alfred Caldwell became the first regular pastor of the chapel. In September, 1883, the mission was organized by a conference of the delegates of the West Jersey Baptist Association, and among the constituent members were John P. Jeffreys and wife, Andrew Morris and wife, Thomas Hollows and wife, Joseph Cramer and wife, William Frazier and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Griffey and Miss Lydia Stone. The Rev. A.J. Hay was called as pastor to the church, and at this time (1886) still officiates. There are ninety regular members of the church, and two hundred and seventy scholars in the Sunday-school, under the care of Andrew Jenkins as superintendent. Miss Mary Hill is the organist of the Sunday-school. This congregation is now organizing a mission in North Cramer Hill, at the corner of Grant and Horner Avenues, where three building-lots have been donated for that purpose by Alfred Cramer, Esq. Lemuel Horner and Joseph Cramer, each contributing one hundred dollars, and a large number of the citizens have contributed smaller sums for the same purpose. The congregation is now preparing for the erection of the mission chapel.

ST. WILFRED PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHAPEL.- A number of the citizens of Cramer Hill, who were desirous of establishing a church of this denomination in the town, met at the house of Arthur Matthews, in 1884, and determined to contribute weekly sums as subscriptions toward the erection of a suitable place of worship. Among the contributors were Frederick Jones and wife, Arthur Mathews and wife, George Gilbert and wife, Edward Hankin and others. In 1885 sufficient funds were raised, and by September of that year Jeffreys & Jenkins, contractors, had completed a neat, one-story frame chapel, twenty by thirty-three feet and twenty-four feet high, with cupola and bell. It was dedicated September 27, 1885, by Bishop Scarborough. Ministers were supplied until October, 1885, when the Rev. H.B. Bryan became the rector. A Sunday-school was also early in progress. At the present time (1886) there are forty-three members of the church, and fifty-one teachers and scholars in the Sunday-school, with Frederick Jones as superintendent.

THE HOSANNA METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH (colored), at Cramer Hill, originated from a series of religious meetings held in the house of Miss Hetty Waples, on Saunders Street, in 1862. Nine persons became members of this meeting under the ministration of Elder Peter Gardiner. In 1863 these meetings were held at the houses of John Collins and Peter Walters. Caleb Walters, the father of Peter, was an earnest worker, and was known as the founder of the "Little Hosanna Church," as it was called, a small, one-story frame building, sixteen by twenty feet in size, built on Saunders Street. In this church the congregation worshipped until 1871, when Elder William Grimes rebuilt the church and enlarged it to twenty by forty feet in dimensions. The pastors who have been assigned to this congregation are the Revs. Peter Gardiner, Henry Davis, Joseph Stewart, George E. Boyer, Francis Hamilton, Theodore Gould, James Watson, Jeremiah Turpin, William Grimes, John Cornish, I.J. Hill, Isaac I. Murray, Jeremiah Pierce, Robert Dunn, George A. Othello, Benjamin Timothy, Isaac J. Hill, Littleton Sturgis, George A. Mills, John Whitecar and Francis F. Smith, the present pastor. There are twenty-seven members. The Sunday-school has been in progress since the formation of the church. William L. White was superintendent for several years. At this time (1886) there are thirty-nine teachers and scholars in the Sunday-school, with Wilson Watson as superintendent and George Price assistant.

UNION MISSION, at Cramer Hill, also called the Aurora Church, was built through the influence of Mrs. Francis Maxfield in 1885. Meetings had been held in her house four years previously, and through her efforts and by small contributions of the colored citizens, a small, one-story frame mission chapel, twelve by eighteen feet in dimensions, was built. The Rev. James Chamberlain was the first minister; he was succeeded by the Rev. James Bowser. In 1884 the Rev. William Camomile was sent as pastor, and in 1886, the present minister, the Rev. James K. Johnson, officiates. There are but few members of this church. The Sunday-school is under the care of Mrs. Cassie Stewart as superintendent.

ALFRED CRAMER is a descendant of David Cramer, a native of England who emigrated from England to this country with his wife about the middle of the eighteenth century, settled on Long Island and there followed his trade of a moulder. He had eight children,— Jeremiah, David, Isaac, Joseph, John, Mary, Abigail and Elizabeth.

When Joseph, the fourth son, who was born in 1780, was eight years old, his father removed to Cumberland County, N.J., when he continued his occupation. Joseph became noted for his skill in mathematics, was self-educated, taught the English branches in the schools of Philadelphia, and other places, and later in life published an astronomical map. Joseph married Deborah, daughter of David Van Hook, of Port Elizabeth, N.J., who owned the mill at Schooner Landing, where he and his wife died, each at the advanced age of nearly one hundred years. Their children were David, John, Joseph, Isaac, Selinda, Rachel and Mary.

Isaac Cramer, the fourth son, and father of Alfred Cramer, was born near Blackwood, N.J., April 22, 1820. When sixteen years old he was apprenticed to the wheelwright trade in Philadelphia with William Haskins, on Maiden Street, between Front and Frankford. After completing his apprenticeship he returned to New Jersey, locating at Kinzeytown (afterwards Creesville), where he worked for Joseph Monroe. In 1841, he married Mary, daughter of Ephraim and Anna Bee, of Bee Corner, now called Salina. They had four children,— Hiram, a member of the Twelfth New Jersey Veteran Volunteer Infantry, who was killed at the battle of Chancellorsville, Va.; Joseph, married Elizabeth, daughter of John and Mary A. Merrill, of Woodbury, N.J., and is in business at Cramer’s Hill; Mary died at the age of thirteen; and Alfred, who married Priscilla A., daughter of John and Elizabeth Wright, of Camden, by whom he had five children,— Alfred, Ida M., Lydia P. (deceased), Estella I. and Lois V.

Alfred Cramer was the second child, and was born near Blackwood, December 12, 1844. He remained with his father upon the farm until he was of age. Farm-work did not suit his taste, and he became a canvasser for books. This proved a valuable experience to him and helped to fit him for a business career. His father opened for him a store in Creesville, which he conducted for five years. After that he came to Camden, where he engaged in the coal business with his father-in-law, John Wright, for four years. About this time he turned his attention to real estate, and began to purchase land with a view to laying out a town, and Cramer’s Hill is the result.

Mr. Cramer carried through his plans against the advice of friends, and his success is due to patient industry and faith in his undertaking. He has sold five hundred lots to families, many of which were paid for in monthly installments, and many are now owned by skilled mechanics and tradesmen doing business in Philadelphia. Mr. Cramer is still adding largely to his original purchase.

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BJ Swartz
Updated September 9, 2015