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

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

I was a Junior Naturalist throughout my childhood into my teenage years, logging so many volunteer hours.

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

The area where the park currently exists was recorded by a Dutch explorer named Captain Cornelius Hendrickson in 1616 and was claimed by the Netherlands as he sailed down the Barnegat Bay.

Cattus Island Barnegat Bay
Chelsea Corrine

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

Fast forward to the late 1750s when Joseph Page purchased the land and a few years later in the 1760s built a farm.

During the Revolutionary War, Joseph Page's son, Timothy Page, was in the local militia. Not only was he in the militia, he was 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, would lure British trips through an inlet, into the Barnegat Bay, until they would arrive at the Toms River where they would run aground. The privateers would then raid the ships and steal the goods on board.

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

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

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

He kept the property for just over 20 years before the property was sold again to become a resort.

Could you imagine Cattus Island being a resort?

Barnegat Bay at Cattus Island
Chelsea Corrine

If you've ever walked the main trail from the nature center to the bay, you would have walked past the old farmhouse site on your right that was built by the Cattus family.

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

As you walk down the main trail, just as you go from the first marsh area to a more wooded area, there is an entrance to the blue trail on your left. That trail will take you to a clearing on the bay where you can see some of the remains of a boathouse during low tide.

If you continue on the main trail, you will come to a clearing on your right.

92.7 WOBM logo
Get our free mobile app

This clearing is the site of the old farmhouse. There are photos and information about the Cattus family and the house around this area.

As you walk around you can see parts of the house's foundation across the trail.

The sons sold the property to developers in the early 60s, and sadly in the 70s, the farmhouse was burned down.

My favorite photo of the house that you can see at the park is of the staircase with a painting of insects tumbling down the banister. (I always think it's mosquitoes, but I could be misremembering).

The county bought the property in the early 70s and the park was opened to the public in 1980.

Childhood Memories from the Jersey Shore

Why You Should Never Move Out of New Jersey

People really like to hate one New Jersey, but the state is one the best states to live in.

More From 92.7 WOBM