Tavern at Helms Cove Was First of Many
The southern part of Penns Grove now known as Helms Cove was a village in the 1700's, and was shown on early maps before the name of Penns
Grove came into existence which was not until 1821. Two hundred fifty acres around the Cove and the southerly part of Penns Grove was owned by
Andrew Helms and his wife Catherine.
All evidence points to the fact that they built the brick house now known as the Carl Summerill house on East Maple Ave., as they acquired the land in
1758 from Catherine’s father John Mounson.
Andrew Helms in March 1771 applied for a license to keep a tavern and ferry in Helms Cove. This petition was signed by Charles Dalbow, Cornelius
Blom, Thomas Webber, William Summerill, Henry Peterson and others. This continued as a tavern with various owners into the 1800's. It was heired by
Robert and Frances Walker who were the children of Catherine Helms Walker the widow of Michael Walker.
Catherine and her second husband John Diver sold some of the land to James Sherron, Jr. in 1819, who started a store on the property. Sherron sold
the property which was near the river to John Summerill II, February 7, 1829. His son John Summerill III began keeping the store there in partnership
with his father. His two sons John Summerill IV and Joseph Carney Summerill inherited the property from their father and operated the store until August
1904 when it was leased to S. R. Leap and Son, the leading General Store at the foot of Main Street. This Cove Store, as it was known for years, was a
general store and the brothers brought in lumber by schooner from the south during the summer unloading it at the small wharf on which the Riverside
Apartments now stand.
During the shad fishing days of the 1880's and 1890's when that industry was the principal Industry the Summerill Bros. Handled a special linen thread
from Ireland for shad nets. This thread was the best thread in those days for shad nets and the Summerill Bros. Copyrighted it under the name of
“Golden Irish”. Many years it took an investment of $30,000 annually to handle this business. The thread was sold to fisherman from Maine to Georgia.
Shad fishing as an industry had waned and by the time World War I started it was almost extinct. The oil refining industry, north of this region at Marcus
Hook, polluted the river so that the shad almost disappeared from the river. This applies right at the present time also.
Andrew Helm’s license granted by the court was not only to keep a tavern but also to operate a ferry from a landing at what is now the foot of Maple
Avenue. Here was a natural sandy shore which at high tide.
BOROUGH OF PENNS GROVE
SUPPLEMENT OF PENNS GROVE RECORD
AUGUST 14, 1969