The fascinating history of Cattus Island County Park

When I was a student at Citta Elementary, we went on a field trip that every elementary school class in Toms River took: Cattus Island County Park.

I was 9 years old, obsessed with Steve Irwin and loved finding new hobbies. When I found out that kids could volunteer with the reptiles at the park, I was so excited!

I was a junior naturalist and lumberjack throughout my childhood and adolescence so many volunteer hours.

One day I spent my volunteer shift going through land documents and park history pages. I was amazed at how far back the people lived on the property.

The area where the park is located today was surveyed and claimed by the Netherlands in 1616 by a Dutch explorer named Captain Cornelius Hendrickson as he sailed through Barnegat Bay.

Cattus Island Barnegat Bay

Chelsea Corrine

The land was then purchased in the 1680s by the Secretary and Registrar of the Board of Proprietors in England.

Let's rewind to the late 1750s when Joseph Page purchased the land and established a farm a few years later in the 1760s.

During the Revolutionary War, Joseph Page's son Timothy Page was in the local militia. Not only was he in the militia, he was also a privateer.

When I discovered this, I was immediately fascinated.

A privateer was essentially a legal pirate. The Continental Congress would hire men to carry out raids on British ships.

Page and other privateers lured British passengers through a cove into Barnegat Bay until they arrived at Toms River, where they ran aground. The privateers then attacked the ships and stole the goods on board.

I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that Timothy Page and Joshua Huddy, who commanded privateers at the Toms River blockhouse downtown, worked side by side.

Years later, the Page house burned down and the land was sold to a man named Lewis Applegate.

Applegate moved to the country in 1842 and built a sawmill on the site.

He kept the property for just over 20 years before selling it again to convert it into a resort.

Could you imagine Cattus Island as a holiday resort?

Barnegat Bay on Cattus Island

Chelsea Corrine

If you have ever walked the main path from the nature center to the bay, you have passed the old farmhouse on the right that was built by the Cattus family.

John Cattus purchased the land in 1895 and some of what he built still remains.

As you walk down the main trail and transition from the first wetland area into a more wooded area, there is an entrance to the blue trail on the left. This path takes you to a clearing in the bay where you can see some remains of a boathouse at low tide.

If you continue following the main path you will come to a clearing on the right.

The old farmhouse is located in this clearing. There are photos and information about the Cattus family and the house in this area.

As you walk around, you can see parts of the house foundation on the other side of the path.

The sons sold the property to developers in the early 1960s and unfortunately the farmhouse burned down in the 1970s.

My favorite photo of the house that you can see in the park is the staircase with a painting of insects cascading down the railing. (I always think it's mosquitoes, but I could be remembering wrong).

The county purchased the property in the early 1970s and the park opened to the public in 1980.

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