A Great Place To Start - If you’ve visited the Jersey Shore, you’ve doubtless seen the racks of history books on sale at many shops and stores along the coast and inland towns. There’s a book on the history of almost every borough and township, and there are literally dozens and dozens of others on topics from lost amusement parks to maritime disasters.
They are all well done and fun reading, but often lack the larger context to understand why certain of these historical events happened in the northern coastal area of New Jersey, and not elsewhere. John Schneider’s excellent new book, “A Historical Journey Across Raritan Bay” (The History Press; 221 pages, $23.95; available: http://www.AHistoricalJourney.com), should be on the top row of these display racks with a sign reading “This Book Is A Great Place To Start.”
Mr. Schneider’s book uses Raritan Bay not as a delimiting region, but rather, as the center of 400 years of history that is as much the history of America as it is of the northern New Jersey coastal region. His stories take us up the Hudson River to Albany, or down the coast to Cape May, but remain centered on our Bayshore region. As the history of Monmouth County and the greater Raritan Bay area is inseparable from the history of New York City, such information is included here, where others focus only on what happened within discreet borders here or there. This is a major strength of the book, the flexible approach to what is considered Raritan Bay history. Written in a breezy, conversational style, e.g., “…maps were being drawn left and right…” makes this fun and accessible reading. Few stories are given overly lengthy treatment, so there’s room for almost every important event that’s happened in this region, 400 years condensed into 221 pages. In Mr. Schneider’s capable hands, this is a triumph. A former marketing executive, Mr. Schneider has devoted years to studying and capturing regional history. He is producer and host of a weekly television series called Raritan Bayshore Living, shown on Comcast and online, now in its sixth year.
“A Historical Journey” starts chronologically, with a detailed treatment of the early explorers and settlers, and proceeds through the Revolution, the Civil War and the era of slavery, and on through the years, up to roughly the 1960’s. Some of my favorite chapters were the stories of all of the lighthouses in the region, including those you see in Raritan Bay if you take a ferry or a boat ride. Each has a great story of its own; likewise the old forts that still stand on the islands around New York City make compelling reading. Sandy Hook comes in for detailed treatment, from the original indigenous Lenape through all of the military development and building of forts, the proving ground, the Life-Saving Service, etc. Patriot martyr Joshua Huddy and the escaped slave turned Loyalist raider Colonel Tye are present, as is submarine inventor Simon Lake and English Channel swimmer Gertrude Ederle.
Nitpickers who already know a lot about the history of this region might note that one chapter is entitled “Who’s On First,” but that the book fails to note that the person who uttered that famous line, legendary comic actor Bud Abbott, of Abbott and Costello fame, was born in Asbury Park. But Mr. Schneider chooses to avoid local celebrities, so there’s also no mention of Bruce Springsteen, or Jack Nicholson, or Count Basie, so this reflects a choice, not an oversight, and the author is consistent on this point. Or that the chapter about the Civil War includes mentions of Ulysses S. Grant, but there’s no mention that it was Grant who put Long Branch, and the northern Jersey shore, on the map as a popular summer vacation destination, when he summered there during his presidency. In my view, however, this does not detract from the overall quality of the book.
Visitors, newly relocated families, students, anyone who is interested in learning more about any aspect of our regional history would do well to start first with “A Historical Journey Across Raritan Bay,” which provides both historical and chronological context for all of the hundreds and hundreds of amazing stories that mark our rich and colorful past. It’s a great read, and should find a place on your shelf this summer. - John R. Barrows, Editor of Monmouth Timeline
A Historical Journey Across Raritan Bay is well written and extremely informative. Being a local clam digger, having grown up in Union Beach I found it to be extremely authentic and has increased my knowledge of the fabulous history of the area. - John Williams, Jr (Ocean Township, NJ)
A Historical Journey Across the Raritan Bay is the most comprehensive history book I've ever read on the Jersey Shore. Not just pictures, it goes over the history of our AREA from geological changes to cultural changes from the beginning of time to today. And it's a joy to read because of John's wit to keep it light and entertaining. - Alan Placer (Howell, NJ)
The geography addressed in John Schneider’s “A Historical Journey Across Raritan Bay” is so rich in historical content, it’s often difficult for historians and writers to capture all the facets and angles. What John has done, with his light and easy writing style, is to allow the reader to grasp the totality of this incredible space across thousands of years of history. It’s a history book for historians and casual observers alike, which is a clever balance not many can achieve. - Chris Brenner, Navesink Studios
The book is a collection of well-organized vignettes, recounted with the easy elegance that has become Mr. Schneider’s trademark. He has an impressive résumé as a local film maker, telling sweeping stories through moving images. With "A Historical Story Across Raritan Bay" he has effectively flipped the script, using his storytelling skills to conjure up a vivid picture of the past through the written word. - Mark L. Stewart, EDGE Magazine
Growing up in the bread basket of the Highlands, NJ, I’ve always embraced the history of my surroundings. John’s book was a refreshing dose of highlighting the importance this body of water played on the birth of a nation. Love love love. - John Forsyth (Atlantic Highlands, NJ)
A Historical Journey Across Raritan Bay is a richly woven story that guides us through the centuries. John Schneider’s contemporary conversational style fills the pages with tantalizing tales of intrigue and discovery. A book worth the voyage and all its adventures. - Susan Gardiner (Montgomery Village, MD), Author of Sandy Hook’s Lost Highland Beach Resort
What a thrill to read about the history surrounding Raritan Bay from John Schneider's unique point of view. I've seen hundreds of his television programs and found it fascinating to read a book which created such wonderful visualization in my mind. It felt as though I was watching one of his historical documentaries on television. I guarantee this is an excellent read which is hard to put down and one of those books which can be read more than once. - Karen Oliver (Arlington, VA)
It's fascinating and beautiful and destined to be a classic on NJ history. Great read, a real page turner. - Robert A. Mayers (RevolutionaryDetective.com), Historian & Author
John is a great speaker and loves to talk. His voice is on every page. - Randall Gabrielan, Historian & Author
Awesome‼ John is always interesting, a great book. - Sasha Morford (Highlands, NJ)
It's a wonderful book written by a very talented author. - Wanda Radowski (Highlands, NJ)
Five stars!!!!!!! Very good and informative. Before reading this book, I was not aware of all the history that went down in this area. It's written in a style that is enjoyable to younger people as well as older people. I especially enjoyed the chapters on Sandy Hook/Fort Hancock. The images and photos were great as well. Ten out of ten - I would definitely read again! - Bella Fernandez, Age 12 (Highlands, NJ)
A thorough and engaging look at our beautiful bay. From dinosaurs to the present day, Schneider paints a portrait of life around and on the Raritan Bay that should not be missed. - Janet Torsney, Director - Keyport Free Public Library
A Historical Journey Across Raritan Bay is woven so intricately and so beautifully intertwined, yet breezy enough to easily read, comprehend, remember, and thoroughly enjoy. It is chock-full of information in story-like form - some expected, some unexpected - and filled with so many interesting tidbits of information and history you were not even aware you did not know. The photographs, illustrations and maps scattered throughout enhance the narrative well, and the author’s use of humor sprinkled here and there make you stop and smile. - Cory Ebischbach
I LOVE this book! You keep writing and I'll keep reading!! - Bill Montgomery
For those who seek information about the Raritan Bay and the adjacent lands, John Schneider’s new book “A Historical Journey across Raritan Bay” is highly recommended. Local historians will find the information informative and well researched. Contributors and references are listed providing readers an opportunity to gauge accuracy and do further research in areas of interest. Readers will travel with John in his boat, “The Casalecki,” back billions of years to the formative eons of earth itself. Then, you will move at the speed of light to the meteor that hit the Blue Planet, the Ice Age and all those natural phenomena that created various heights and valleys, including the Raritan Bay and the streams that feed that body of water. The rich history of those who lived by or traveled across, and the creatures that lived beneath, quickly fill up the 216 pages of this soft cover book. As a historian myself, I found the writing style informative and enjoyed the mixed in touch of John’s humor, even to the naming of some of the chapters such as “You Did What?” By his own admission, John notes this is not a fast paced action movie. It is however, broken into multiple chapters and sub chapters which allows you to read what you like first, as I did. This format is excellent for later research. As many often do, a quick read first and an eventual full read next stormy day. I look forward to a cover to cover thorough read, as will you if you enjoy local history. - Author Tom Gallo
"...a book that is both educational and factual, as well as entertaining and interesting because of his personal analysis of historic events. The in-depth explanations of how various parts of the bay were formed adds a new and exciting level to historic books about Monmouth County." - Atlantic Highlands Herald
"I really enjoyed your book! I’ve lived in Leonardo my whole life and had no idea about more than half the things that you mentioned in this book. It was definitely an interesting read, and something I will definitely dive back into in the future!" - Taylor Merriam
"I learned many historical facts and laughed all along the way. It was a whimsical journey through time!" - Alan Placer