By Ralph Grassi

Rooted just 20 yards or so off the southwest corner of Wildwood and New Jersey Avenues* in Wildwood, New Jersey stands the trunk of an old cedar tree which is possibly the oldest tangible remanent of the island's past. It was here before the settlers came, at a time when a primeval forest flourished, dominating this barrier island from the bog to the beach. The early pioneers called it Methuselah - for at the turn of the 20th century this great cedar tree was estimated to have been 500 years old. At some point during the last century Methuselah died, however it still stands tall to this day. Many people stroll by this tree on a daily basis completely oblivious of its historical significance... there isn't even a marker to identify it. The excerpt below was taken from the book "Wildwood - Middle of the Island" written by local historian George F. Boyer and published in 1976. In this passage you will learn more about this enduring tree and perhaps be inspired to stop by and pay homage to it on your next visit to the Wildwoods.
*In his book George Boyer has the location of 'Old Methuselah' being the south side of the Lion's Center at Oak and New Jersey Avenues. It is actually located on the north side of the Lion's Center at Wildwood and New Jersey Avenues.

The trunk of "Old Methuselah" still stands at Oak and New Jersey Avenues, thanks to the Wildwood Lion's Club. In 1968, while planning the Lion's Center, this venerable tree stump, braced with iron, was in danger of destruction. In the early days, "Methuselah", then estimated to be five hundred years old, was a handsome cedar. First the natives nailed a sign on the tree stating that it was here before Columbus, then more signs were added until the proud old tree gave up the ghost and died. Fortunately a tree lover put iron braces around the body and the Lion's Club (after much insistence from the Wildwood Historical Society) gave orders when building the center to save the tree. "Old Methuselah" had historical value. Indians passed on a trail directly under her branches. This path became the only road between Anglesea and Holly Beach when settlers came. Later, again widened, it became the railroad and still later New Jersey Avenue. John A. Ackley, a Vineland auctioneer and one of the early pioneers of the resort, held his first auction sale in the shade of "Old Methuselah". From the success of that sale in 1902, he became one of the leading real estate men in Wildwood. When ground was broken to build the Baptist Church on Pine Avenue in 1890, a huge crowd of visitors held services at the tree while the Elmer Social Band played "All Hail The Power of Jesus Name". Under the shade of "Old Methuselah" the local governing body met in 1906 to discuss a new city hall and the board of education, in 1909, held an outdoor meeting in the same spot to plan a new school. It seems a little strange now, but the first attraction in Wildwood when it was founded was not the beach front but Magnolia and Cedar Park with the fine trees. In 1894 a reported for the Five Mile Beach Journal wrote, "It is an outrage the reckless manner in which the trees have been cut down in the woods of Holly Beach and Wildwood. If such destructive work is allowed to continue, it will be but a few years before this beautiful forest will be a thing of the past."The forest is now a thing of the past. That, of course, is the price of progress. At the beginning the native enjoyed the forest with its trees and flowers, a veritable paradise. As Wildwood grew, more attention was paid to the attractive beach, the finest on the New Jersey coast.

Pictured below are some of Wildwoods earliest postcards which showcased the natural beauty of the island.

Copyright 2013 Ralph Grassi