READ'S duties as collector of the port of Burlington probably did not consume a great deal of his time, but through this office he had his finger upon the pulse of New Jersey's commerce and industry. Burlington was one of the three authorized ports of entry of colonial New Jersey. Of the others, Perth Amboy was the focal point of shipping in East New Jersey; Salem the commercial center of the southern counties.
With the growth of the colony, the primary occupations of fishing and agriculture had gone forward, while side by side with them, and out of them, had risen home and village industries which now fed a constantly growing commerce. Bordered by a long coast line, indented by numerous bays and harbors, and pierced by navigable rivers and creeks, New Jersey offered exceptional facilities for water travel and trade.
Whalers and fishermen from New England had early visited New Jersey waters about Cape May, and an export trade in oil, whalebone, and fish, largely with Spain, Portugal, and the Canary Islands, had followed. As the settlers pushed inland, they had close at hand the natural resources for the beginnings of industry. Primeval forests stood ready for the cutting, and the network of small streams offered abundant water power. Every few miles down their winding courses wooden dams widened out the narrow creeks into placid millponds, and sawmills rose on the thickly wooded sites. From these mills came the harvest of timber, of shingles, of barrel staves, and of pipe staves that found their way to seaport and shipyard, to growing town and village. From the pine forests came quantities of pitch, tar, turpentine, and rosin.
The sawmill frequently heralded the beginning of a permanent settlement. As the forests gave way to cultivated fields, gristmills rose beside the sawmills, or replaced them. Around