With Hamilton Township set to turn 200 in February, there's no better time to start learning the area's history.

Fortunately for local history buffs, the Township of Hamilton Historical Society is bringing back its popular speaker series in time for the township's bicentennial.

"We're covering some very fascinating parts of our history," John Ash, the society's president, said. "I don't think a lot of people know much about the early history of Hamilton Township."

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The historical society will hold the first of its four-part speaker series at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Fellowship Hall of the Presbyterian Church at 6601 Main St., Mays Landing. Group member and historian Dottie Kinsey will discuss the early history of Mays Landing, including who, when and how the town was settled.

One of the intriguing aspects of the township's early history is the privateering economy. As what were essentially government-sanctioned pirates, privateers patrolled the U.S. coast during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, capturing British ships and selling them to the highest bidder.

Many successful privateers made Mays Landing their base of operations, Kinsey said.

"This is where the privateers would come up and auction off the ships they captured out in the ocean," Kinsey said. "Quite a few got auctioned off here."

Ship building historian Dave Clayton will discuss early 1800 shipbuilding in February. Archaeologist Richard Regensburg will visit in March to discuss the Native Americans and prehistoric inhabitants of South Jersey. Historians Dennis Niceler and Paul W. Schopp will present on the Weymouth Furnace in April. These programs were selected based on polls given to attendees of last year's speaker series.

The talks will be held at 7:30 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month in the fellowship hall. There will be refreshments and time for Q&A with speakers after each presentation. Attendance is free.

While the historical society often brings in guest speakers for its meetings, last year was the first in which they invited members of the community to attend.

While the society's coffers are stretched thin and is in need of new members, the point of the talks is not to generate funds or membership. It is to inform residents of the rich history of the township they call home.

"Each year, we try to pick stuff that touches on Mays Landing," Carl Farrell, the series director, said. "It's more of a public service. We're proud to do it, because we're proud to give the facts."

For more information about the Township of Hamilton Historical Society or its 2013 Speaker Series, contact Farrell at 609-909-0272 or aps.historynj@comcast.net.

Contact Braden Campbell:

609-272-7415

BCampbell@pressofac.com

If you go

What: Township of Hamilton Historical Society Speaker Series: Early History of Mays Landing.

When: Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Fellowship Hall of Presbyterian Church, 6001 Main St., Mays Landing.

How much: Free.

More info: Call 609-909-0272 or email aps.historynj@comcast.net.

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