The history of the McCullough family in Strathmere - McCullough Family Photos

The following letter was written by Jane Johnson (aka Jean) around 1999. Her parents were George & Catharine McCullough. Her family came to Strathmere in 1909, and they established several businesses, and really helped to develop Strathmere. Jean was the youngest child and was born in Strathmere in August of 1915, on the 3rd floor of the country store that her parents ran. She wrote this letter to preserve a history of her parent's contribution to the town. It was passed on to me by her nephew Ken Weaver.


  • Early Strathmere

    No true story about the early years of Strathmere would be complete without mention of George & Catharine McCullough, and their role in its development. Mr. & Mrs. George R. McCullough arrived in Strathmere in the early summer of 1909. They had come to Strathmere, with their three small children, on a Seashore excursion train from Philadelphia with a group of people to attend a promotion. It was probably sponsored by the Pennsylvania Railroad, for whom George worked. The promotion was held at a house at the foot of Vincent Road which housed offices. The house had a large porch on the ocean side that overlooked rolling sand dunes and a wide beach. From this porch, chances were sold, prizes given, and auctioneers and realtors auctioned and sold lots. A party atmosphere prevailed. A picnic lunch was given everyone. In the afternoon, George and Catherine were offered the two lots on the corner of Tecumseh Road and Commonwealth Avenue (where the store stands today) on the condition that they would have a store built and supply food and other staples so that those building homes could buy food.

    The offer was accepted and by the summer of 1910 the McCulloughs were open for business. The store was on the first floor; the upper two floors were living quarters. Across the street from the store were trolley tracks running to Sea Isle and two sets of train tracks: the Reading and the Pennsy. Diagonally across the street was the large wooden barrel on stilts that held the water for the island. The barrel had 'Strathmere Water Works' printed on the side and an artesian well beside it.

    After the first summer, the living quarters had not been winterized so the McCulloughs returned to Philadelphia. In the spring of 1911 they came back to Strathmere, now with four children and two women to care for the children and keep the home. The store did not close again. In 1912, George McCullough was appointed Postmaster, Catharine his Assistant, and a U.S. Post Office was placed in the store. Catharine learned to butcher meat and took the trolley to Sea Isle to bring back fresh vegetables and fruit to add to all the canned goods and foods in the store. She also sold sandwiches to the fishermen who arrived every weekend on the trains. There were excursions on Saturdays and Sundays crowded with people to fish.

    The business was good but in the early 1920's (perhaps 1923) the McCulloughs bought the house that is now the Strathmere Motel, at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Sherman Road, and moved the Post Office there , and sold the store to a Strathmere couple, the Pfeiffers.

    In 1934, Hugh Jean (??) St. Owen became Postmaster and the Post Office was moved to the north end of Strathmere. In their new location, George and Catharine soon added the Strathmere Real Estate Company. Some time after that, George saw the need for financing the new homes being built, and with the cooperation of people from Strathmere and Sea Isle was able to organize the Strathmere Building & Loan Association. The B&L was quite successful and stayed in business until George's death in 1948. At that time it was liquidated, the shareholders getting back the moneys due them plus interest.

    Sometime in the mid-1920's (1925?), the Strathmere Civic Club was organized with Catharine McCullough as president. The women held card parties and dances in the school house to make money. When they had enough, they hired a lifeguard - the first in Strathmere. He was John Trainor, a Physical Education major at Temple University. The Civic Club also bought a stand and a boat, both saying 'Strathmere Beach Patrol' on them. John Trainor was the lifeguard for many years with helpers hired for the weekends.

    Brighton Shores was a development at the north end of Strathmere on the ocean side, developed by people from Ocean City some time between 1925 and 1927. Until that time the 'point' had been covered with large sand dunes with sea grass, bayberry trees and beach plum bushes growing on top. The developers leveled the dunes and pumped in more sand to make the island wider there. The stock market crash of 1929 stopped the building of homes on that land for a few years. It may be that changing the shape of the island at the mouth of the inlet had something to do with the filling in of Corsons Inlet. The inlet, at the time the store was built, had a large deep channel making it possible for large boats to reach the ocean. Frank Cobb ran a fishing party boat for years through there. Later Charlie Schaeffer ran a party boat, the 'Starfish' until the channel was too shallow and no longer marked by the Coast Guard, and he moved the business to Townsend's Inlet.

    Jane R. (Jean) Johnson


Ken Weaver also added the following information on the family's history. Some of the information is remembered first hand and part of it has been handed down in family stories.

The family came to Strathmere on a day trip, as mentioned in Jean's letter. It may have been the trip mentioned here - In this old newspaper ad . That old ad doesn't have a date, but it about the same time that they went to Strathmere. It is for a train excursion, and it mentions that 2 lots would be given away as part of the promotion by a land developer, to get people to buy & build homes in Strathmere (which was still known as Corson's Inlet then) The McCulloughs were given the land with the stipulation that they build the store to supply the townspeople.

His Aunt Jean was the youngest of the 6 McCullough children and she was born in the old country store. The children attended grade school at the old one room school on Vincent. They took the train into Ocean City to go to high school.

After the family sold the general store, they moved to the house that would later be rebuilt as the Strathmere Motel. The post office was run there by George & Catharine until it was moved and a new postmaster took charge. According to post office listing, the next postmaster was a Mr. Corson. George & Catharine were then able to work on the real estate & loan companies. George also worked as a traveling auditor for the Pennsylvania railroad, which left Catharine to look after the businesses and their children too. After George and Catharine's deaths and one too many bad storms, the family moved away from Strathmere. When the home was sold, it was converted to the Strathmere motel, around 1951. The pitched roof was removed and the front and back were extended.

Also, the Strathmere Building & Loan was liquidated in 1963 or 1964. It was done because of all the new requirements made by the government and state for small B & L`s. The meetings for the company in the last few years of business were held in the Andress house at Tecumseh and Bayveiw. Jean`s sister Delphine was the secretary (she was the one who was the leader and took care of the books) Charlie Shaffer was the president, Ed Andress was the vice president. Vince Lamana (the Mayor of Sea Isle), Mary Town and Nick Pessolano were directors. They sold the company to Cape May Savings & Loan (today called Cape Savings Bank) at 100% of value. The money was given to the shareholders plus moneys that were in reserves. The sharesholders had paid 1.00 per month for each share they held.

Grandson Ken & his family started returning to Strathmere in the 1970's, staying for weekly vacations at the Bayview Motel (where his daughters learned to swim in the pool that use to be there) and also renting different nearby houses. They decided to buy a home here in 1997. Now his children and grandchildren can enjoy the town that his grandparents worked so hard to help develop.

McCullough Family Photos

Strathmere Home