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Settlement in the area of Sea Bright began in the early 1840s, with a fishing community of simple shacks near the beach dunes that was called “Nauvoo”. While many local historians had interpreted the name as a Native American word, the origin of “Nauvoo” is Sephardic Hebrew, from the same word that Mormon leader Joseph Smith gave to the Illinois town he founded in 1839. Meaning literally “beautiful or pleasant place,” New Jersey’s Nauvoo might well have been named by Smith, as he visited Monmouth County in 1840.

One of the earliest accounts of the barrier beach, published a dozen years before Sea Bright’s existence, describes a steamboat journey from New York to the Ocean House, a low rambling wooden structure situated on the beach opposite the mouth of the Navesink River. Built in 1842, this first hotel on the sandy strip offered “excellent fishing, fine sea bathing and capital accommodations” for three hundred patrons. Around this time the Sea Bright Skiff was developed in the Northern Jersey Shore. At the Ocean House one “found a number of beach carriages”, as they are called, awaiting the arrival of the boat from New York City to take passengers to Long Branch.