Carmel was formed from an area purchased by land developer W. H. Miller. The location, near Millville and Deerfield and southeast of Rosenhayn, was first cultivated by German immigrants. However, when the output disappointed these first settlers, they moved back to Philadelphia and left the land open for new groups. In 1882, seventeen Jewish families settled the area for agricultural purposes. Originally, the families rented homes from Miller. 1 They were responsible for clearing and working about 20 acres each. The labor was intensive:
“This people struggled hard, working from the earliest dawn until late at night, with the most determined energy, for a period of seven years…” 2
Town center in Carmel.
Michael Heilprin, a member of the HEAS and supporter of Jewish agricultural pursuits, helped the colonists when possible. When the HEAS dissolved in 1883, Heilprin continued aiding the settlers through the Montefiore Agricultural Aid Society (MAAS). Eventually, the residents began purchasing mortgages and building their own homes. By 1888, Carmel had a population of 286 but faced a crisis. By that time, Heilprin had passed away and the properties were being foreclosed on.
“…it then became evident that, unassisted, the people could not longer sustain themselves, as the Building Associations were foreclosing the mortgages, and property after property went under the hammer, the poor settlers were completely disheartened.”3
A committee was formed to ask Baron de Hirsch for aid. The colony was able to survive with a $5,000 total grant, partitioned out in individual sums of from $50 up to $200. This aid allowed for the continuation of the settlement:
“Seldom has a sum of five thousand dollars been more successfully applied, and with better results, than Baron de Hirsch’s fund in aid to the Carmel colonists...the external as well as the internal appearance of the Carmel Colony has considerably changed.” 4
Bathing area in Carmel, 1907. Courtesy of Mickey Smith.
Like other agricultural communities in southern New Jersey, the land was unique to certain crops:
“The soil at Carmel is very good, resembling the soil at Alliance and Woodbine; it is a light sandy loam, easily worked, responding readily to manure and fertilizers, and is well adapted to raising vegetables. melons, berries, grapes, peaches, pears, etc., but not heavy enough for cereals…The crops of white and sweet potatoes are very abundant and bring large sums and returns; some of the finest melons in New Jersey are raised at Carmel, and the berry and grape crops are of a very high standard.” 6
The colonists supplemented their diets by raising cows and chickens, as well. They traded extra eggs for other necessities. Eventually, they cultivated enough grapes to make wine to sell. As the colony grew, other buildings and businesses were added.
Irving Ave. in Carmel, 1907. Courtesy of Mickey Smith.
1. Tom Kinsella, Growing American: The Alliance Agricultural Colony in South Jersey-A History (Galloway, NJ: South Jersey Culture and History Center, 2021), 34.
2. William Stainsby, The Jewish Colonies of South Jersey: A Historical Sketch of their Establishment and Growth. Bureau of Statistics of New Jersey: Camden, 1901, republished (Galloway: South Jersey Culture and History Center Press, Stockton University, 2019), 29.
3. Stainsby, The Jewish Colonies of South Jersey, 29.
4. Moses Klein, Migdal Zophim (Philadelphia, 1889). Republished as Migdal Zophim and Farming in the Jewish Colonies of South Jersey (Galloway, NJ: South Jersey Culture and History Center, 2019), 75.
5. Stainsby, The Jewish Colonies of South Jersey, 30.
6. Stainsby, The Jewish Colonies of South Jersey, 31.