Historical and Archival Research, the Petty’s Island Preserve

Pennsauken Township, Camden County, New Jersey


In 2016-17, for the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust (NJNLT), Hunter Research undertook historical research on the land use history of Petty’s Island, a roughly 300-acre island surrounded by tidal flats in the Delaware River between the cities of Philadelphia and Camden. The NJNLT, with the help of a conservation easement, has established the Petty’s Island Preserve and is preparing to manage the island’s exceptional wildlife and plant habitat for the enjoyment and educational benefit of future generations. Our historical study was performed in support of planning for historic interpretation of the island and resulted in a comprehensive 550-page report organized around a series of 15 historical themes. The history of Petty’s Island is multi-faceted; themes that form parts of the island’s story include the history of aboriginal peoples, European settlement and early property ownership, state and municipal boundaries, meadow banking and livestock, lotteries, slavery, fisheries, river channels and navigation improvements, ship graveyards, shipbuilding, defense, recreation, lore and legends, oil and bulk materials handling and natural resources preservation. The report includes an extensive list of references and appendices presenting a range of maps, aerial photographs, historic images and photographs, a table of property owners and newspaper articles.