The history of Ventnor New Jersey must include the history of Atlantic County, Absecon Island and Atlantic City. Several articles have been written online claiming the earliest inhabitants of Absecon Island were the Lenape Indians “who would travel over the Old Indian Trails from the mainland to the island to spend the summer months” fishing, vacationing and getting relief from the summer heat. While this romantic notion may be true the Lenape would face a logistic problem of transporting drinking water, the nearest supply would be at Patcong Creek in Bargaintown a ten or twelve mile walk through the marsh or a canoe trip across Scull Bay. Recent research claims the Lenape did not migrate or move to different locations with the season but would make excursions and hunting trips in areas surrounding their village.
Surely the Lenape were visitors to Absecon Island and quite likely they were frequent visitors walking across a 5 mile trail through the marshland or traveling by canoe down the Great Egg Harbor River, crossing the bay and navigating through the Island Waters Thorofare to land on the southern part of Absecon Island and there to spend a few days on the beach swimming in the ocean and enjoying the cool ocean breeze. Other than these visitors Absecon Island remained mostly uninhabitated until the 1700's.
The first recorded owner of Absecon Island was Thomas Budd, an Englishman, who arrived in Atlantic County in the late 1670's. The value of beach front property on Absecon Island at that time was $0.04 per acre. For the next 100 years the Island was visited by Indians, hunters and settlers of the mainland. Jeremiah Leeds and family were the first to build homes on Absecon Island in 1783, the home and farm was called the Leeds Plantation. In 1838 Leeds wife opened a tavern called Aunt Millie’s Boarding House located at Baltic and Massachusetts Ave, this is considered the first business on Absecon Island.
Trolley service began in Atlantic City in 1893 and extended out to Ventnor in 1900. The trolleys ran till 1955. Atlantic City’s famous jitney service started up in 1915, with a ride around town costing just 5 cents. Ventnor, Margate and Longport were known as South Atlantic City in the 1800’s. Ventnor received its name from the suggestion of a couple (Mr. and Mrs. Bartram Richards) who traveled to Ventnor England a beautiful seaside resort which reminded them of the beauty of South Atlantic City. In 1889 the name was adopted but did not become official until Ventnor was incorporated as a city in 1903.