Guinea History

The area of Gloucester County known as Guinea began to be defined by land patents in the 1600s.

  • The Lower Gloucester land patent was granted in the 1650s, first by John Perrin in 1651 for 400 acres and then by Edward Dobson in 1653 for 950 acres.
  • A portion of the Dobson property would much later be called “Bena”, supposedly after a woman that one of the Hall brothers fancied as told in local folklore.
  • The Halls were the original owners of the general store before its purchase by Clarence Benjamin Rowe, Sr., in 1920 (the year “Buck” was born).
  • New Route 17 was constructed in 1926, which straightened out, extended, and formalized the route as the main artery in the county.
  • The Coleman bridge was constructed in 1952; previously Lower Gloucester was only accessible by ferry.

Included now in the area called Guinea are the communities of Achilles, Bena, Jenkins Neck, Maryus, Perrin, Rowes Haven, Severn, and Big Island. Located near Gloucester Point, the area has been the center of the county’s seafood industry. Some family names among those who work the water are:  Brown, Shackelford, Rowe, West, Jenkins, Green, Kellum, King, Bonniville, and Belvin.  The industry, although changing, remains a cultural core of the community, and the fishermen are known locally as “Guineamen.”

The origin of the name “Guinea” is uncertain. Residents have been referred to as “Guinea” at least since 1730, but did the name come from:

  • The exchange of British Guinea coins after the American Revolution?
  • Old maps that showed the Guinea marshes?
  • Merchant trade from African Guinea?

History continues to be written today as the seafood industry and family connections with the water distinguish this community.