James H. Carey was born in Pennsylvania in October of 1838 to parents James and Catherine Carey. During the 1850 Census, the Carey family resided in Lower Dublin Township, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. In 1860, the Careys relocated to Camden. At that time, James Carey Sr. served as a steamboat pilot on the Delaware River, while both James H. Carey and his older brother Edward worked as deckhands.
When the Civil War erupted in 1861, James H. Carey enlisted in the United States Navy. He played a significant role as part of the crew on the U.S.S. Monitor during its historic battle with the C.S.S. Merrimac in 1862.
Following the war, James Carey settled in Camden. Prior to the establishment of the professional fire department in 1869, he served as a volunteer firefighter. On October 9, 1872, he officially joined the Camden Fire Department as an extra man with the Hook & Ladder Company, known today as Ladder Company 1. His tenure with the Hook & Ladder Company continued until May 7, 1874, during which he resided at 445 Morris Street. (Note: Morris Street was renamed Washington Street in 1882.)
James H. Carey rejoined the Camden Fire Department on April 8, 1876, filling the vacancy left by Charles Elfreth. He served as an extra man with Engine Company 2 for one year until Charles Elfreth’s reinstatement on April 8, 1877. At the time of his 1876 appointment, James H. Carey resided on Henry Street, south of Benson Street.
By the time the 1878-1879 Camden City Directory was published, James H. Carey had moved to 1232 South 3rd Street. He continued to live there until 1880, when he moved to 215 Royden Street. During these years, he pursued various occupations, including captaining a ferry boat on the Delaware, working as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and engaging in laborer jobs.
In the 1900 Census, James H. Carey lived at 642 South 2nd Street with his daughter Lizzie. By 1910, Lizzie had married George Thomas, and James Carey relocated with them to 820 State Street in North Camden, where he spent the remainder of his life. As late as April 1930, James H. Carey was still living.
James Carey played a significant role as part of the crew on the U.S.S. Monitor during its historic battle with the C.S.S. Merrimac in 1862.
“The amusing part of the battle,” said Captain Carey with a chuckle “was when we turned the hot water hose on them.”