The Beachcomber

Five Generations of King Family: Models, Makers of Area’s ‘True History’

By VICTORIA FORD | May 26, 2017
Photo by: Victoria Ford An old postcard, circa 1905, shows Elmer King with his horse standing out in front of the Parkertown Store and adjoining residence. The building still stands at 829 Main Street in Little Egg Harbor.

Kathryn King believes a lot of the history Long Beach Island’s residents and visitors take for granted is actually skewed, reflective of a certain prejudice verging on classism in favor of the prototypical “wealthy Philadelphia businessman” who came to LBI seeking respite or refuge from real life.

Rather, the true history, she says, lies in the stories like those of her family, the Kings – educated and educators. Doers. Driven, cultured, brave and hardy people who began to make their homes in the LBI region as early as 1860 and whose common thread was service in one form or another.

She has been researching and collecting information about her ancestors for 30 years, using libraries and historical societies as guides in her exploration. For her, connecting the dots is “a really interesting way to look at the history of an area”; to some extent it’s rooted in familial pride, “but it’s also just such a good story, isn’t it?”

Moreover, according to Kathy, those early year-rounders (along with the Parkers, Spragues, Cranmers, Ridgways, Pharos and others) were the founders of the area in that they were the decision makers who shaped the landscape, economy, culture and relationship between the Island and mainland for ensuing generations.

“Who do you think was around to make this place actually grow?” King asked over tea, a pile of enchanting old photos, documents and other materials spread out on the table.

The lakeside park in Manahawkin near the Rita’s Water Ice is named A. Paul King Park in honor of Kathy’s grandfather, Adrian Paul, who was born in 1892, graduated from Rider College in Trenton in 1912, then taught there and in Rhode Island; worked as Beach Haven borough clerk starting in 1916; and served nine full terms (27 years) as an Ocean County freeholder, from 1936 until his death in July 1964. He was a governor-appointed member of the state Beach Erosion Commission and sat on the Ocean County Planning Board.

According to Kathy, he was also Beach Haven’s postmaster and principal of Beach Haven Elementary School, as well as a magazine editor, avid gardener/horticulturalist and accomplished amateur photographer whose images earned medals in international competitions.

When he died, at the age of 72, The New York Times ran an article about his life, education and work.

“He also had been an active worker in the Pinelands Re­gional Planning Board, which sought to install a major jet­port in the county,” the article read. “Last year Mr. King received an honorary degree in educa­tion from the Glassboro State College for what was described as his contribution to public understanding of projects de­signed to improve the state’s economy. … (He) had also been a founder and president of the New Jersey Resort Association and a president of the New Jersey Association of Boards of Chosen Freeholders.”

Farther back, Joe King, born in 1835, was the legendary carver whose sculptural decoys today are worth a fortune to collectors. In 1995, Decoy Magazine featured him as one of the state’s earliest commercial decoy makers – and a controversial one, given the questions surrounding his work, regarding both inspiration and attribution.

Joe had been well educated as a boy and left his family’s Burlington County farm as a young man to make a life for himself at the shore, first as a sailor (Barnegat and Tuckerton were ports) and off-shore fisherman and later as a bayman and commercial decoy maker for over 40 years. He married Margaretta Parker in 1862, and they had four children, three girls and a boy, Elmer, who was named after Joe’s brother who had died when they were kids.

Kathy describes her great-grandfather Elmer as a “hustler.” When he married Zetella Cranmer (whose father was a schooner captain and whose brother was Clarence the lighthouse keeper) in 1890, the two left the area for a few years to check out Millville, where they had their first son, Adrian Paul, and then returned to Parkertown. Elmer ran the Parkertown Store and lived in the house next to it, and a few years later moved the family across the bay to Beach Haven. There, they had two more boys, Arthur and Howard. Elmer built an ice plant on Centre Street and supplied local industry; Kathy said he built the 1916 boardwalk, which was a mile and a quarter long and got washed out in the Hurricane of 1944; he also built multiple houses, a hotel and other buildings, including Surflight Theatre’s Cast House.

A. Paul married Sophia Marshall of Beach Haven, whose father worked with Thomas Bond at the lifesaving station in Holgate. They raised four boys in Beach Haven: Earl, Adrian Paul Jr., Howard and Ronald. Earl was Kathy’s dad, who married Helen Quaid, a Southern Regional schoolteacher. Earl was in the Merchant Marines and worked on Atlantic Richfield oil tankers. He and Helen stayed in Beach Haven and raised three girls, Kathy, JoAnn and Michele.

Kathy’s Uncle Adrian has had several occupations, including Beach Haven borough commissioner and auto mechanic. His garage on Engleside Avenue was the one that housed Surflight Theatre in the 1950s and ’60s.

Her cousin Michael “Mickey” King (whose father was Howard, A. Paul’s brother), has lived his life in the true Barnegat Bay tradition, as a bayman, fisherman, hunter, trapper, boat captain, carpenter, onetime public works assistant superintendent in Beach Haven, and winner of the Hurley Conklin Award. On that same generational limb of the family tree, another cousin, Adrian Paul III, has continued the family’s legacy of public service with his work in the Office of the Ocean County Clerk.

Kathy herself spent time working in journalistic and governmental capacities before finding her calling in substance abuse counseling services.

Her eventual goal is to compile all of her research and notes into one cohesive volume, to put together a more complete picture of her lineage and her relatives’ contributions to the rich history of Southern Ocean County.

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