In 1638, the New Sweden Company financed a group of Swedes and Finns to travel to the New World to establish a colony for trade with the Native Americans and to learn about the land. These early settlers traveled up the Delaware River, entered the Christiana River, and settled at a natural rock landing. There they built a fort, naming it Fort Christiana after their Queen Christiana of Sweden. Today we know this area as Wilmington, Delaware.
Some of the colonists migrated across the Delaware River into the area that is now known as the Township of Pennsville, Salem County, New Jersey, where they found the area more suited to farming for those who were not interested in the trade business. The Swedes settled in an area that at one time had been called Churchtown, and the Finns called their new home Finn's Towne. Records of land purchases by Swedes and Finns date back to 1660.
Church Landing Road is so named because this is the landing used by those courageous Swedish colonists who crossed the Delaware River to attend church services with the colonists at Crane Hook Church, established in 1667, until Holy Trinity Church was built in 1699. Services were Lutheran, conducted by the missionaries who had been sent by the Swedish Missionary Society. Church Landing Road was also used by the colonists from Delaware when joining with the New Jersey settlers for weddings, funerals, and special services.
These people were deeply religious, but it was very difficult for them to get to church, since crossing the Delaware was no small feat in any season. First, the colonists had to cover several miles by foot, along newly cut trails through the woods to reach the river's edge. They had to launch their boats and risk being buffeted by gales from the bay, tossed by fishnets in the spring and fall, and locked in midstream by ice floats in winter. It was no wonder that the Jersey settlers finally broke away from the Christiana and Wicaco Churches, to form an independent congregation of their own at Penn's Neck.
In 1714, they decided to build their own church on land donated by Jean Jaquett. The logs used to build the church were donated by the congregation. The church was dedicated on March 31, 1717, by Dean Andreas Sandell as a Swedish Lutheran Church and was named St. George. Priests were sent from Sweden until 1792 when the area came under English rule and changed from Swedish Lutheran to Episcopal.
The Swedes who lived in New Jersey were scattered about on farms. They were farmers, shepherds, woodsmen, and fishermen, well accustomed to the rigors of rural life. Many of them had established their homes across the river because the Jersey side afforded them better fishing places and grazing grounds for their cows, sheep, oxen, and horses, and here they could let their hogs run wild without disturbing the peace.
The Delaware River has always been a strategic maritime area. In the seventeenth century the rivers were their highways. Samuel Sparks, in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, was known as a shipper of vegetables and fish to the Philadelphia markets by way of the Delaware River, departing from the foot of Church Landing Road.
Beginning as a path, Church Landing Road is one of the oldest roads in our township. It has kept its name even though it is no longer used as a departure site for crossing the Delaware River to attend church services, carry on business, or attend social functions.