In celebration of Black History Month, it's a great time to celebrate a philanthropist whose generosity made it possible to fund several park and recreation projects in Mays Landing.

According to a Facebook post by the Hamilton Historical Society, the man was John Underhill.

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If the name sounds familiar, Underhill Park is named in his honor. It's the sports complex that includes baseball and softball fields, and football fields on Old Egg Harbor Road in Mays Landing - not too far from the center of town.

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It was Underhill's money that also helped fun the War Memorial Park, right in the center of Mays Landing.

In the post by the Hamilton Historical Society, it's noted that Underhill, at that time "the only African American resident of Mays Landing."

Apparently, the fountain at War Memorial Park was also made possible thanks to Underhill. An article from waymarking.com, has this to say about the fountain:

This entire fountain is dedicated to a single citizen of Mays Landing. This fountain is located in the middle of Veterans Park in the center of town. The fountain has a beautiful female sculpture at the top and neat little frogs on the coping which surrounds this circular water feature. There is a medium sized granite marker which doubles as a water fountain at the western end and another as well which have two different inscriptions. The first inscription reads:

"In Memory of John W. Underhill Negro Citizen and Public Benefactor.Years of his life were spent near this park and the school to which he bequeathed the savings of a lifetime - that the park be improved and beautified to promote the health and education of our youth."

Another plaque reads:

"John W. Underhill. Fountain Erected in 1932 by the township committee
of Hamilton Township in grateful recognition of his generous bequests
to Mays Landing."
The center statue is situated about 10 feet above the park. It features a full-length female figure in bronze. She wears classical clothing. She balances on her proper right leg. Her proper right hand is raised to her mouth and holds a small cup to her lips. She holds the hem of her skirt out with her proper left hand. The sculpture stands on a polished granite fountain pedestal which stands in the center of a octagonal concrete fountain basin.

An article about Underhill appeared in the Press of Atlantic City in 2015, and talked about Underhill:

John Underhill was a beloved black man in Mays Landing when the times were not so good to blacks in south Jersey and in the southern United States. No one here knows when he arrived here or why he came, but the local businessman who owned a candy shop and extended kindness to children was celebrated at his death in 1925. In his will, he left money to build a gymnasium, fountain and benches in what was once named Underhill Park. He was laid out during his funeral at the town courthouse as the community filed in to say their goodbyes almost 90 years ago. He is buried in Union Cemetery in Mays Landing and his grave is marked with one of the largest monuments.

 

Here's the post, from 2020, from the Hamilton Historical Society.

John Underhill, the only African American resident of Mays Landing, when he passed away he left monies to build a park...

Posted by Hamilton Historical Society on Sunday, February 2, 2020

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