Emilio Carranza’s Last Flight

Few people have probably heard of the events that transpired on July 13, 1928 in Burlington County. Even fewer people would known that during the age of the great aviators, Mexico would have their own Lindbergh – a figure of great patriotism and a hero to the Mexican people.

The residents around the area of Chatsworth and Tabernacle in Burlington County, however, know of the events. Lost in the seclusion of the Pine Barrens, a lone monument made of stone quarried around Mexico City stands guard in a clearing off Carranza Road, near the ruins of Friendship and the Wharton State Forest.

Emilio Carranza, the great-nephew of President Venustiano Carranza, was chosen by the Mexican government to make a good-will flight non stop from Mexico City to Washington in formal response to a similar flight that Charles Lindbergh had flown the previous December. He took flight in his Ryan monoplane on June 11, 1928 and landed in Morresville, North Carolina, where he ran into heavy fog. He had, however, failed to complete his mission, and planned to make another flight from New York to Mexico City.

After a stay in Washington and New York, he took off from Roosevelt field on July 13th. It had been a day of severe thunderstorms, and he left thinking it would be clear as he moved south. As he headed South, he ran into another storm over the Pine Barrens, and lost control of his plane, coming down in Tabernacle Township, near where the present memorial stands today. A Chatsworth resident and his wife came upon the wreckage while gathering blueberries, and a few days later a salute was fired as the body left Penn Station on it’s sad trip back to Mexico City.

The monument was erected by the Mount Holly American Legion Post 11, and is inscribed both in English and Spanish:

Messenger of Peace. The people of Mexico hope that your high ideal will be realized. Homage of the children of Mexico to the aviator Captain Emilio Carranza, who died tragically on July 13, 1928 on his good will flight.

A Remarkable Indian

From “Salter’s History of Monmouth and Ocean Counties,” by Edwin Salter, E. Gardner & Son, Bayone, NJ 1890.

The following is an additional well-authenticated account of that noted Indian character, INDIAN WILL, originally furnished to the Shore Press:

Long, long years ago, when this section of country bordering on the Atlantic ocean was one continuous wild waste, with nothing save stinted pines and scrub oak to greet the eye of the unfortunate wanderer who might be traveling this way, there was a kind of half civilized Indian, who lived at Indian Field, at the head of Shark River, and was known to the inhabitants around as Indian Will. His old cabin was a half civilized looking affair, composed of mortar, stone, logs, and hides, the latter formerly covering the animals that were so unfortunate as to fall beneath the fatal point of his index finger -for legend has it that Will was gifted with a strange power; whenever an animal or fowl became the object of his desire all he bad to do was to point at it with his index finger, and the same would fall dead, as if stricken by a bullet or a flint-headed arrow.

According to Indian fashion, Will was a married man; his squaw came, so it is said, from the western section of New Jersey, and like himself, was from the old Delaware, tribe of Indians, whose early history is enshrined in quite a halo of glory. Will was, despite his half civilized life, a true Indian, possessing all the stoicism of his race, and the same indifference to the taking of human life, when it in any way conflicted with his whims. Hannah, like all Indian wives, of the two, — she and her husband — had the hardest time of it. She dressed the game and cleaned the fish, and, in fact, did all the work there was to be done in and around the cabin, while her lord and master, Indian Will, was off on fishing excursions, or in the forest of stinted pines, pointing his finger at a limping rabbit, opossum, or quail, as it chanced to be.

One day Indian Will was out on a hunting expedition, and left Hannah, who was sick with the measles, to get along the best she could in the lone cabin. In a little patch just back of the cabin Will had managed to get up sufficient gumption to plant some beans, and at the time to which we refer they were ripe and ready for picking. As I said just back, Hannah had the measles; her appetite was not of that kind that made what she, had been eating heretofore palatable; she hardly knew what she did want; she hankered after something, and in an unfortunate moment her eyes rested on the beans; they were just what she wanted; so, without caring, or at least heeding the consequences, she picked them and put them in the iron pot in company with a bit of opossum. The fire was soon blazing on the rude hearth, over which hung the sooty crane, from which was pendant the iron pot containing the beans and opossum. Hannah ate heartily of the savory dish, and the results were, as far as her feelings were concerned, decidedly beneficial, but as far as her future welfare was concerned it was otherwise. The legend saith naught of the extent of time Will was absent, but, at all events, when he returned he noticed, the first thing of all, that some one had been in his bean patch and annihilated all hopes of his anent the anticipated feast. Hannah was still under the influence of her pleasant repast when she was confronted by her infuriated lord.

“Who,” he exclaimed, “has eaten my beans?”

Poor Hannah, with a stoicism peculiar to her race, replied, “I did!”

“Then you shall die,” exclaimed her savage mate; “I will drown you!”

Poor Hannah made no reply, save a pantomimic one, which was the embodiment of resignation.

Indian Will was unrelenting. He commanded his dusky spouse to direct her footsteps to the neighboring river, which was in full view of the cabin, and followed with strident gait close behind her. Arriving at the water’s edge, he seized the unresisting offender, and, with apparent ease, plunged her head under the element. After holding her there for a number of minutes he drew her head out, when she gave a few gasps, indicating that life was not extinct. Will again plunged her, as before, and when he again drew her out, poor Hannah was dead. The place where she was drowned is still known as Deep Hole. Neath a gnarled willow in the immediate neighborhood, he buried her, with her feet toward the West; by her side he placed a pone of Indian bread and some game, so that she might have something to eat while on her journey to the happy hunting ground. This being done, the savage went about his business, perfectly unconcerned, but in all probability pained somewhat to know that in the future he would have to be his own servant. Time passed on, I know not bow many weeks it was, when Hannah’s brothers began to wonder why they did not hear from her, or why she did not pay them a visit, as it had been her wont in times passed. Among themselves they got to talking over the matter one day, when it was decided among them that the brother, who rejoiced under the un-Indian name of Jacob, should pay a visit to Indian Field and ascertain how matters stood. Jacob’s journey was on foot, so it necessarily took him a number of days to accomplish the task. Arriving at Will’s cabin, he found him just preparing some game for the appeasement of his gastric longings.

Jacob was surprised — that is, in the sense that an Indian is surprised – to see the mate of his sister in such an ignoble occupation, and asked Will where Hannah was.

“I drowned her,” replied Will, “because she ate my beans.”

“She was my sister,” rejoined Jacob, “and it falls on me to avenge her death, so you must prepare to die. Let the struggle between us take place by yon bank, so that the same water that beheld Hannah’s death may also witness thine.”

“Will Hannah’s brother permit me to eat, and join with me in the feast, ere we embrace in the death struggle?”

“Be it so,” replied Jacob, and both sat down and ate of the food, while their respective faces betrayed no signs of the ominous thoughts that were burdening their minds.

During the repast not a word was spoken by either Will or Jacob. The ceremony was eventually over, when the two walked in single file, Will leading the way, until they came near to the place still designated as the Deep Hole; here they stopped and for a moment stood face to face. Jacob was the first to move; he rushed forward and in an instant they closed in on one another. The struggle for mastery lasted for some time, but at last Will’s foot came in contact with a stubble, and down he went, with Jacob at the top; the latter then pulled from his belt a long keen knife, with which he intended to fulfill his mission. Jacob had his victim, as it were, pinioned to the ground, and at his mercy, but being, as it were, controlled by a spirit of magnanimity, he said:

“He who brought Hannah to an untimely end can now cast his eyes to the West, and for the last time gaze on the setting sun.”

Will availed himself of the opportunity, and when doing so, Jacob, thinking his victim secure, began fumbling around his belt for a bit of Indian weed, for he became possessed with an irresistible desire to exercise his molars, and in an unguarded moment relieved his arm from confinement, and seizing a pine knot, dealt Jacob a powerful blow in the temple, and over lie toppled, as lifeless as a defunct herring.

Having escaped from his peril, Will arose from his late uncomfortable position, and with a grunt of satisfaction gazed on the prostrate form of his would-be slayer. He did not take the trouble to bury his victim, but left him where lie died, thinking the wild beast and buzzard could attend to the case better than he could.

A number of days following the last mentioned fact some circumstances led Indian Will to pass by the spot where it occurred, when from some cause he fancied he heard the body snore, so he came to the conclusion that Jacob was only enjoying a long sleep, and fearing lie might awake at any time and give him further trouble, jumped several times on the body, and, finally, after satisfying himself that Jacob was dead, indifferently covered it with earth and leaves and passed on, and from all indications thought no more of it.

Will was an Indian, and so, for that reason, remorse was something that never bothered him. The days went by as days before the late tragic event had gone. He wandered through the echoing forests, and during moonlight nights lie indulged in his favorite pastime of bringing down the opossum and coon by the pointing of his fatal finger. When not engaged in hunting he would linger around the old village inn or his secluded cabin, and revel in imaginary bliss by drinking the white man’s firewater whenever lie could get it.

One day he was stretched out at full length, under the shade of a tree which stood by his cabin; he was not sleeping, but evidently was taking his ease, when lie was brought to a realization of imminent peril by the appearance of Jacob’s three brothers, who from the fact of his not returning according to promise, led them to come in search of him, and also to inquire into the matter that was the cause of his journey.

Will made no effort to evade the questions that were addressed to him by the three brothers. He told them poor Hannah was dead; that lie drowned her because she ate his beans; also that Jacob was dead; contrary to his expectations, in a death struggle Jacob was the victim and not he.

The three brothers heard the story, at the conclusion of which they in unison gave significant grunts, when one, who acted as spokesman, told Will his time had come, and that lie must make himself ready for death.

With evident resignation, Will told his brother that he was willing to die; that life had ceased to possess its charms; but he made one request that was that they procure a gallon of firewater, so that they together might have a happy time before he took his final departure to join his poor Hannah in the land of the Great Spirit. The brothers assented to Will’s request, the firewater was procured, and in the cabin of the condemned Will the happy times commenced. The brothers were not backward in drinking liberally of the firewater, and in due course of time were fully under its influence, and eventually dropped, one after the other, into a drunken slumber. Will, in the meantime, though be begrudged the brothers the whiskey they drank, made up his mind that life was dearer than it, and so pretended to drink a great deal more than be actually did, and from all indications was as drunk as they were; but when snoring on the part of the three avengers commenced, Will cautiously assumed a new role, and began business. Will procured a tomahawk, which was near at hand, and began the work of destruction. The brother who received the first attention evidently did not know who struck him, but the second one who was the recipient of the murderous blow was aroused to that extent that he was enabled to give birth to several unearthly sounds before he resigned his hold on life. The noise made by the expiring Indian aroused the third brother, and would have been the means of frustrating Will’s plan, had not the latter’s dog dashed to the rescue; he was a knowing canine, and seemingly comprehended the whole affair, for he seized the awakened Indian by the throat and held him in position until his master came forward and culminated his murderous plan. Will stood up in his cabin, and looking upon the bloody work lie had accomplished, stoically said: “Poor Hannah’s gone — for good brothers gone too — all because poor Hannah ate my beans! Ugh!”

Without much ado Will dragged the bodies of the defunct Indians out of his cabin, and to a spot a few rods distant gave them what lie thought to be a proper burial. He then returned to his cabin and resolved himself into a committee of investigation to ascertain the quantity of whisky left for his consumption.

Following his last achievement Will came to the conclusion that poor Hannah’s relatives would give him no more trouble. The months rolled by and lie still continued his life of hunting and fishing but for some reason a kind of cloud seemed to hang over his life; perhaps it was owing to the fact that Will’s love for firewater increased and interfered with his success in obtaining that which enabled him to purchase the “Oh, be joyful.” Near Indian Field, in Will’s time, there stood an inn, the like of which were common in those days, where whiskey was unblushingly sold, for every one was privileged to become tipsy if he only possessed the necessary wherewithal. At the bar of this old inn, at the time to which I have a particular reference, Indian Will had become an habitual hanger-on; he neglected his former occupation of hunting and fishing, and owing to this fact was frequently without means to purchase his favorite beverage. Will had already became a debtor to the innkeeper, and so, when lie asked for more whiskey on trust, he was flatly refused; his only reply to the innkeeper’s flat was an habitual “Ugh!” and with the tread of offended dignity he strutted out of the room, and directed his course toward the beach.

Whether Will’s journey to the beach was for the purpose of philosophical meditation is a question that has never been fathomed; at all events, to the beach he went, and with eyes directed toward the incoming waters proceeded to pace down shore, leaving his moccasin prints in the shimmering sand. Will had not proceeded far in his stroll when lie discovered, much to his satisfaction, a number of pieces of shining metal half buried in the sand. He eagerly stooped down and picked, them up, and, contrary to his expectations, they proved to be Spanish dollars. In these dollars Will saw visions of firewater, and pushing his search still further, he was rewarded with a handful of the Spanish coin. Thinking that the quantity of money in his possession was sufficient to purchase whiskey enough to satisfy his desire for days to come, he withdrew from the beach, and with a vigorous and consequential step directed his course toward the old inn.

Will’s entrance in the barroom was a source of surprise to those there congregated, who had so recently seen his departure, and their surprise was increased when lie strutted up to the bar and threw thereon his handful of dollars, exclaiming at the same time:

“Now will you let Indian Will I have more whiskey?”

The innkeeper surveyed with mingled greed and astonishment the profuse outpouring of that which was a scarcity in the neighborhood and before Will bad time to again express his desire, took down the whiskey decanter and tumbler, and told him to help himself. Owing to Will’s recent impecunious condition he had been without his usual portion for an uncommon long time, so the present occasion, so far as the magnitude of the potation was concerned, was an uncommon one. Owing to the transformative qualities of the whiskey, Will’s truculent demeanor gave way to one of a more affable nature. So the innkeeper also assumed the affable, and, after lie had safely stored away the Spanish dollars, persuaded Will to follow him into a private room, where he underwent a cryptic examination. The result of the interview was simply this: Indian Will agreed to conduct the innkeeper to the beach and show him where the Spanish dollars were found.

The innkeeper did not think it policy to go immediately to the beach, and so retained Will in voluntary confinement for a while. One after another left the old hotel, until finally the guests were all gone. At last the two, Will and the innkeeper, started for the beach. Arriving at the spot where the coin was discovered they began searching for additional treasures. As the waves receded the innkeeper discovered a kind of iron chest, half buried in the sand. Fortunately the tide was falling, and enabled the treasure trove hunters to obtain possession of the trunk without much trouble. With their united strength they brought it high upon the shore, and a brief examination convinced the innkeeper that he had possession of the treasure box from which came the coin obtained by Indian Will. From the action of the elements, the box had been unjointed enough to enable the coin to escape. Suffice to say that the chest was, as soon as circumstances would allow, taken to the inn, which upon examination proved to contain a princely sum of money in Spanish coins.

From the time of the discovery of the iron chest, the life of the innkeeper, or otherwise his mode of living, underwent a radical change. He soon relinquished his hostship of the inn and built a residence more to his liking in the immediate vicinity. The fact of the discovery of the treasure trove was in a measure a secret between the innkeeper and Indian Will. Of course there was a great deal of talk about the innkeeper’s sudden rise in point of wealth; there were surmises in reference to it, and they frequently fell little short of the mark; in fact the old innkeeper acquired considerable real estate, and this, when lie had done with the things of earth, passed to his children, whose descendants to this day still dwell along the shore, and can thank the old ocean and Indian Will for whatever wealth they possess.

Indian Will, after the find, ceased to live in his old cabin, and became a part and parcel of the innkeeper’s household; his wants were few, and were ungrudgingly provided by the innkeeper – the principal wants being tobacco and firewater.

Tradition has it that Indian Will bad two half grown sons, who, like the ordinary urchins of our time, delighted in having to do with pyrotechnics. They got hold of their father’s powder horn one day and in some way ignited its contents; it flashed up and horribly disfigured both of their faces. Like the Spartans of old, Indian Will did not think it to their benefit, or to those perfectly formed, for the young backs to continue longer on the face of the earth, so he killed them and buried them in Indian Field. Their names, so it is said, were Dick and Dave, and their mounds are still to be seen, as corroborations of the tradition.

Poor Hannah and her brothers — if the stories of the credulous are worthy of serious attention — “did not sleep quietly in their graves.” At intervals in the last fifty years, local gossip have said that during the moonlighted nights of autumn — about that stage of the season’s progress when the hue of decay has enstamped itself on the foliage of the forest, and the withered blades of corn rustle in the faintest breezes – they have seen the diaphanous forms of the unfortunates rise suddenly from the earth, float gracefully along for a distance, and as suddenly disappear. There is nothing traditionary that indicates that he who should have been was ever “haunted.” According to the most authentic versions, the closing years of Will’s life were in harmony with his plane of thinking; perfectly happy, he lived to a ripe old age, and died some seventy-five years ago, the last of his tribe, and was buried at Indian Field. Contrary to what should have been his just deserts, Indian Will, during the last of his career, “lived in peace, died in grease, and was buried in a pot of ashes.”

The Rise and Fall of Harrisville

The fire came without warning. Sweeping through the area, it engulfed the mostly abandoned village. Flames licked through the mill like it was candy. Large wooden supports, now dried, weakened, and blackened, gave out and with a crash the roof caved in. The remaining buildings were soon gutted – the village itself totally destroyed. A calm quiet filled the village the next day as the last people who hung on after the mill closed sifted through the charred remnants of their homes, filled their wagons, and turned their back on the place they had called home. No longer would the chorus of hymns be heard from the church. No longer would the playful laughter of the campers from the Atlantic City YMCA be heard on the lake. Except for someone passing through on the way to Chatsworth or Green Bank, the village lay totally empty – stone spires and charred timbers the only witness to one of the most successful of the Pine Barrens towns – Harrisville.

Before Harrisville was called Harrisville, it was McCartyville. Before that, the place was likely named after some of the many entrepreneurs that started operations there. The first mills started near the site that would later be known as Harrisville were a combination saw and grist mill founded by Evi Belangee, Jr. between 1750 and 1760, and the Wading River Forge and Slitting Mill, founded by Issac Potts in 1795. Potts, who also founded nearby Martha Furnace two years prior.

Martha Furnace was a large iron blast furnace a located short distance up the Oswego River from Harrisville. At it’s peak, the furnace supported nearly 400 people in the town proper as well as the nearby town of Calico. Pig iron was the chief product of Martha, although larger items such as firebacks, stoves, sash weights, etc. were also produced. There was a demand for finished goods, and as more and more settlements were built in the Pine Barrens nails became a hot commodity. Recognizing this, and the fact that there was abundant water power nearby, Potts erected his forge and slitting mill to process pig iron from Martha as well as nearby Speedwell furnace.

Potts was more of a real estate speculator than an ironmaster, and in 1797 sold the forge and slitting mill to George and William Ashbridge and Joseph Walker. A few years later he sold Martha Furnace itself. Hard times were descending quickly on the iron industry in the Pine Barrens, and the property changed hands often. Around 1832 William McCarty, Thomas Davies, and Issac Ashmead became the latest in a long series of owners of the site.

The writing was on the wall for the iron industry in the Pine Barrens. Knowing that it would be foolish to continue operating the slitting mill as furnaces nearby were closing down, McCarty and Davies turned their attention to paper after McCarty bought out Ashmead’s interest in the property. In 1834 they obtained a mortgage for $10,000 and began work on a new mill to produce paper.

Work began on a canal to divert water from the old mill pond (now Harrisville Lake) to a new mill built a short distance from the lake. This canal, designed and engineered by McCarty, ran for just over three-tenths of a mile and was dug entirely by hand labor. Fortunately labor at that time was plentiful, as there were many unemployed iron workers. Workers were paid 9¢ per hour to dig the nearly fourteen foot deep canal. In addition to the main canal, a smaller canal was dug to power the grist mill and a saw mill. This smaller canal was a diversion from the main canal and reconnected with it before it crosses modern day Rt. 563.

Paper was made from salt hay harvested from nearby meadowlands. Wagons arrived daily with new loads of hay, as well as loads of scrap paper, rags, and other old cloth products from New York or Philadelphia. Rags and old cloth were sorted, cleaned, and buttons, seams, and metal fasteners removed. This material was then sent through a rope cutter machine that reduced the material to shreds. This raw material was then wetted down and dumped down a chute into the prepared stock house. From there the stock would be brought to two stone vats in the main mill to be boiled and reduced to a pulp with rotating knives. Later, in the Harris era, these vats were no longer used and the stock brought to the rotary boiler room, where chemical action replaced the knives. (Incidentally, the paper factory at Harrisville was likely the first water polluting industry in the Pine Barrens. After cooking the pulp in the boilers, the excess waste water and acids were dumped directly into the mill tailrace.)

The salt hay itself was processed differently. The hay was brought to the bleaching house, located at the southerly end of the mill. It was cooked with soda ash in large tubs. Then it was washed several times and brought to bleaching tanks. The stock was then boiled with lime and chlorine, which further reduced the hay to pulp. Then the pulp was washed again and beaten with knives to the required consistency. Until the pulp was used to make paper, it was held in stuff-chests, which were wooden tanks that were constantly agitated to keep the pulp from settling. This also helped further clean contaminates out of the pulp that may have remained from the bleaching process. From here, the pulp was pumped to the paper making machines.

The pulp was fed into a machine which agitated and matted paper on a continuous belt screen. The paper moved through this machine at a rate of 20 feet per minute. A press squeezed the remaining water out of the pulp before it was pressed under a series of rollers. The paper then traveled up through the machine to the second floor of the mill where it was fed into the sizing machine. The sizing machine starched the paper. Finally, the paper was passed under a polished iron roller known as a glazing calendar that provided a final finish to the paper and added strength.

The paper produced was 30 inches wide, and was sold in either rolls or cut sheets. There was a power cutter that would cut the paper to required lengths. The paper would then be lowered out the Southern end of the building to barges. Around 1861 the paper was hauled by mule train to Harris Station, 11 miles away, near Hampton Furnace to make the trip by train to market.

McCartyville, as it was now known, grew prosperous very quickly. In addition to the paper mill, which was one of the most advanced in the country at the time, a grist mill, two sawmills, and a company store were also built. This store generated a profit of nearly $3,000 annually. To house his workers, McCarty built several cottages a short distance away from his mill. He also constructed a dining hall and dormitory, where workers could have a hot meal each night in exchange for a weekly fee taken from their pay. Across from this dinging hall, McCarty built himself a fine mansion. Plans were drawn up for a second paper mill to further increase output.

Disaster struck in November of 1846. A fire broke out at the paper mill and heavily damaged the building. In 1847 the Wading River Manufacturing and Canal Company, as McCarty’s enterprise was called, repaired the building and began processing paper again. However, the financial strain of rebuilding the mill was too great for the company to survive for long. The property was sold at a sheriffs sale. McCarty was able to buy back one quarter interest in the property, but at this point in time it was too late. The mill was idle, and McCarty sold his interest in the property to Thomas Albert Haven.

On May 1, 1851 Richard Harris and his brother Benjamin gained control over the property. There were some legal problems that did not get resolved until 1855 due to the death of Thomas Albert Haven and his heirs subsequent wrangling over the property. In 1856 the Harrises obtained a mortgage for $7,552.86 from John H. Simon who controlled the remaining 3/4 of the McCartyville property. Simon agreed to finance the Harrises purchase of the property if they offered their own quarter as security. The Harris brothers agreed, and on November 2, 1856 finally had full control over the property. By 1858, several other Harris brothers and their father bought and sold interests in the property. Around 1858, after the mill had been put back into operation, the sole owners of Harrisville, as it was now known, were Richard and his father John. John, however, only wanted to offer financial and management assistance to the company. The real leader behind Harrisville’s day to day activities was Richard. John Harris retired from the company in 1866 and returned to his native Philadelphia.

Harrisville went through a period of rapid expansion. In 1858 Harris obtained a mortgage for $12,000 and paid it back within 5 years. It is likely then that he built the two mansions opposite the mill, modernized the mill, created the Harrisville Public School, and added several other buildings to the property. The former McCarty mansion and opposite dining hall were split into two-family houses. The main canal was enlarged, and in 1865 a booster canal was dug between the West Branch of the Wading River to the Oswego to increase the level of the lake. In 1866 the artesian well was dug and subsequently abandoned due to the high iron content in the water.

Around 1867 the famous Springfield Gas Generator was installed at Harrisville. This allowed gas powered illumination for some of the homes, as well as streetlights along Main Street. The generator house, located under what today is Rt. 563, had a large tank for storing gasoline. Air was pumped over this tank which vaporized the gasoline and forced it under pressure to the various light fixtures throughout the village.

By 1877 the town was beginning to feel the effects of age and competition. More modern mills both outpaced production from the nearly fifty year old Harrisville mill and had better connections to railroads. A new mortgage for $20,000 was secured in 1888, but by 1891 the property was in foreclosure and sold in a sheriff’s sale. The property was subsequently bought and foreclosed on again, being bought by a mysterious stranger on June 13, 1896 for $30,000. This stranger, when called upon to pay the 10% down payment for his winning bid, announced that his pocketbook, containing a certified check for $25,000, was missing. Finally, after being verbally assaulted by several of the other bidders, the stranger fled never to be heard from again. A new auction was held, with Mark Sooy, an agent for Joseph Wharton winning the auction for $12,000. When it was time for Sooy to pay the 10% deposit on the property, Elias Wright, another agent for Wharton, collected checks from Sooy and Jerome Grigg. He presented the sheriff with three checks from Joseph Wharton, totaling $1,200. The crowd was outraged at the fact that he had employed shill bidders, and Wharton held his breath if the sale would be invalidated. It was not, however, and on July 16, 1896 the deed was presented to Wharton.

The village was still in remarkably good shape when Wharton took posession. Several of the families who had worked at the Harrisville mill still continued to live at the site, resorting to berry picking to eak out a living. The two mansions were in fine shape, one of them still containing furniture owned by Richard Harris. This was later moved to the house in New Gretna that Richard and his brother Howard were living in. The mill itself had been damaged by another fire and was nearly useless. Wright suggested to Wharton that the mill building be torn down and the machinery sold for scrap. It was estimated that $100 would be realized for that effort. Wharton, thankfully, never headed that advice. The Broome family, longtime friends and employees of the Harrises, were allowed to live in the smaller mansion rent-free if they would act as caretakers of Harrisville for Wharton. Wharton invested some money into repairing the dam at the pond as it was Wharton’s intention to dam as many of the ponds and rivers in the Pine Barrens and transport that water to Philadelphia. After the New Jersey legislature banned the sale of New Jerey water outside the state, Wharton turned to agriculture and likely leased some land to a cranberry bog operation nearby.

In 1909, after Wharton’s death, the YMCA of Atlantic City finally obtained permission to use the Harrisville site as a summer camp for boys. Wharton himself forbid it, but his estate seemed to be more open to the idea. Several of the buildings were converted into camp offices, kitchens, etc. In the spring of 1910 a group of boys became the first campers at Camp Lyon. Finally, in April of 1914 a forest fire swept through the town and obliterated the remaining structures.

Vandals and treasure hunters swept down on the village. Gone were all of the iron gas lights. Stone was carted away. Years of erosion and weather took their toll on the town. The mill walls, which were all still standing after the fire, crumbled. Today, only the South wall and a small spire from the North wall stand. Two walls from the grist mill still stand, barely. In the 1970s the state erected a chain link fence around much of the main mill to protect it. Unfortunately the damage has been done and it is very likely that much of the remaining ruins will be gone in the next fifty years.

Explore The Ruins of Harrisville with Barbara Stull, courtesy of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance

Ghosts of Old Jersey Fiddlers Still Haunt the Back Woods

Whenever I walk the Tallertown road, the ghosts rise up around me. There is, to begin with, the ghost of the town itself for in these days no one seems to be sure if the village, now only a scattering of weather black houses, was Tallertown or Tylertown. Up to now, or not long ago, it had been Tylertown to me because. old men like Constant Ford and Vill and Lonzo Nichols had associated it with a long-gone family of Tylers. More recently my friends in Hermann, or Hermantown, where they used to make glass along the Mullica River and beyond Charcoal Point, from where cordwood was shipped to heat pre-coal New York, began calling it Tallertown or Tallowtown, because this was where quantities of “tallow trees” grew.

Here, then, and within the shadow of Hanover Furnace now swallowd up by Fort Dix, early Jerseyans knew how to boil what they called “tallow trees” in order to obtain a wax from which they fashioned their rude candles. I must not complain, however, for they still use the next best appropriate illumination – oil lamps. None has known that intruder, electricity, which recently spoiled the quaint interior of the ancient Green Bank Church.

For my part, I thought that I had finished with Tylertown or Tallertown, as the case may be. I went that way to Bulltown, another glass kiln, long ago, and, even in an earlier day, I traveled with Warner Hargrove along the brushy path which still is dignified with the name, Washington Turnpike. This is the road, straight as a ramrod from Batsto to Harrisville, past the cellar-holes of a little known Washington, N. J., that Joseph Wharton built with his own money across what he expected to be a Philadelphia water-shed.

It was a letter from Hoills Koster, probably written so painstakingly by the light of another oil lamp, that called me back – this time to the weird tune of phantom fiddles.

Old-time fiddlers widely known

“Hearing often of your interest in the violin,” wrote Hollis, that native of the Mullica shores whose name is known to botanists almost everywhere, “it might be well to touch upon the violin in folk lore, if you have a mind. Although we can only hope to scratch the surface, at the beginning, which is the way of most violinists, it will no doubt prove a rich subject. Relying entirely on what comes to me now, let’s talk about a few things that have happened in this section:

Many years ago, I have been told, the three taverns on the old Quaker road – Quaker Bridge Tavern, the Mount Tavern and Washington Tavern – held party nights once a week. One week the Mount will hold a party, the next the Washington Tavern took its turn, and so on. Folk from miles around attended and the region produced some particularly fine fiddlers, we are told. Their reputation, at any rate, seems to have survived a hundred years or more, Naturally, so have their ghosts.

Bill Birdsall recalled the excitement that followed when violin, music was heard in the dark of the night from the old Joe Miller place at Tallertown. Of course, Jeremiah Ford’s sons, David and Thomas, had been notable and lived nearby. I find “David Ford, Fiddler” entered in an old account book of the 1850’s, written so to distinguish him from David Ford, of Tulpehauken, and David Ford, of Frogtown. A violin heard at times in the past at Hermann was said to connect with Asa Ford. I find, however, that a later Asa Ford, who played the instrument, was indicated. But more on Asa Ford, the fiddler, later. Before Bill Birdsall died, he laughed the whole matter aside by explaining that the “music” resulted when two limbs of the trees would be rubbed together by the wind – but he always spoke of it as if he were never quite sure

Johnnie Johnson, now at Anchorage, Alaska, has been concerning himself with some of the old names along the Tallertown road – and we have exchanged a deal of correspondence. We have been trying to find out, for instance, why the king snake is known in the Pine Barrens here as a “wamper.” Naturalists had supposed that this word was a corruption of “swamper” but we felt this theory was not too strong. We soon had string of words meaning to undulate, etc., from the Scotch, Dutch, old English and other sources. We also remembered the wampum snake but feel that we have as yet proved nothing.

But Haze Wobber gave me a fine example of the manner in which words at times can be corrupted. It seems that an old-time woodchopper, having ground his blade unusually fine, tested it on a pine tree somewhere between the Mount and Tallertown. The bit broke off in the tree, that tree became known as the ax-bit pine. Many years later, Haze tells me, people were calling it the “acklby pine.”

“While we are concerned with the environs of Tallertown we might as well note Kate’s Money Tree, known also as “The Haunted Pine” and as the Haunted Stump.” Kate Ford, wife of one of the Jeremiahs, used to explore the forests with a “money spear.” And you might make a note there that the name that has troubled us so long, Aunt Bash Ford, was actually Barsheba Ford . . .”

Let me break in here to say that in company with Will Nichols and Hollis we have located the stump behind which, the legends say, an unidentified ghost is known to lurk at certain times of the year. It isn’t far beyond Tallertown and, at least by day, it appears far from extraordinary. However, it was the late Bill Birdsall, brother-in-law of Will Nichols, who said that on at least one occasion a cold hand touched the back of his neck as he passed that way. “And Bill wasn’t given to believing in that sort of thing.” Will assured me.

Money spear just pointed stick

“What,” I demanded of Hollis, as we hurried along, “was a money spear?” I had concluded that it must be some new variation of a divining rod but Hollis told me I was wrong. It was to all appearance just another pointed stick, he said. Whatever powers there were seemed to belong to Kate Ford although whether her poking about in the Jersey “desarts” ever resulted in the discovery of buried treasure is something I have not found out. It was at this point that Hollis, in the midst of an impromptu lecture on the difference between two-leaved pine, stood still as if to listen. I thought that he was about to reveal that his sensitive ears had just picked up the wavering whine confected of rosined horsehair on catgut. But it was something more important than that.

“I wanted to tell you,” he said, “that the herring are up as far as Lower Bank and that thinking of them the other night brought back an old song they used to sing here along the Tallertown road.” Hollis refused to attempt the tune but he did recall the words so that at least one more New Jersey folksong was added to my meager store:

“Looked down the river, heard the herring coming;

Looked up the road, saw the folks a-running;

Some had a saucer, others had a cup

They were all raising hell ’cause the herring was up!”

Which, while you imagine an appropriate setting full of rhythm, perhaps with fiddle accompaniment, gives me the chance to recall the occasion when a forgotten pastor of the Green Bank Church was interrupted in the midst of his sermon. A bashful member of the congregation had made his way to the platform and had handed up a note. The parson nodded and as the intruder returned to the back of the church he said: “The sermon, friends, will end right here. So will the service, however, both will be resumed this evening when, I think, we will have even more reasons to give thanks to God. The good brother has just brought me word that there are herring in the river. Go get ‘em!”

I recalled the episode and Hollis merely smiled. “As long as you are on the subject of God,” he said, “you might take note that over on the Tuckahoe River people used to answer a query as to where they might be from with ‘Tuckahoe, God bless you!’ Some say that when the herring were up and the Tuckahoe folks in no mood to tarry another word, probably profane, was substituted for bless’ . . .

“Of course,” Hollis Koster continued in his letter, “you have heard of the old statement that when the herring are about, a dweller along the Mullica River cannot remove his shirt. The explanation is, I suppose, that while the fish are in the river, every moment must be spent in catching them. As for the eating of herring, Mullica men always insist that there is but one satisfactory way in which to handle the numerous fine bones for which the species is celebrated – to forget that bones are any impediment to eating, and swallow!

“But back to our fiddlers. Asie Ford had been fiddling at the Mount Tavern one night and then at a very late hour took the ‘lang Scotch miles’ afoot down the old Quaker road toward Tallertown. Today this country is a pine barren wasteland without a dwelling for miles. Then Asa, on his way, after bidding his host, Jonathan Cramer, good-night, would have passed what was known as Noah’s Ark – this was where Noah Sooy lived alone, after separation from his wife, who in turn lived alone some distance away in what we call Polly Sooy Field.

“Asie arrived home with his face scratched and bleeding and in a generally disheveled condition. Perhaps some said, ‘Served him right to be caught on a lonely road at such an unholy hour!’ But Asie had been through a strange adventure, perhaps the natural sequel of a boast he must have made during the evening. He had said he could out-fiddle the devil any time he liked.

Challenged Asie to fiddling match

“Two or three miles southeast of the Mount, a stranger had stepped into the road, accosting Asie with words of anger. He then whipped out a violin and challenged Asie to a fiddling match right then and there. A pine log lay by the side of the road and the two sat down and commenced fiddling.

“Before long the stranger was puffing and blowing. Asie glanced at him, and in a moment deeply regretted the idle boast he had made during the evening. He had not intended to be so drawn into a contest with Old Nick himself. There was little to be done. Asie simply fiddled more furiously. Soon he noticed that the stranger had stopped his fiddling and was listening to his opponent. Asia then stopped, too.

“The devil rose from his seat gazed down at Asie, and suddenly fell upon him, striking him angrily across the face with his bow. Asia recovered in time to see his defeated opponent disappear into the pre-dawn mist which bad commenced to rise like steamy smoke from the chilled turf of the pinelands. Harve Ford’s granny said she could vouch for the tact that her brother, Asie, did return with welts across his face and with a story as startling as it was colorful.”

“To conclude with one more story of the vicinity of Tailertown – Jack Updike says to tell you that a refuge, and of the celebrated pine-robbers of Revolutionary days, was seen in flight with silver plate belonging to Joost Sooy II. The robber was shot that evening through a tavern window – perhaps one called Mount – but the silver was never discovered. Although some legends say the shooting happened near Chatsworth, the plate is believed to be somewhere near.”

Surely you can see how Hollis’s letter spilled over with unspoken invitations, I had expected to go down that way a little later when more than the shad-bush would be blooming and when I could visit with Bill Birdsall’s widow, now in her 70’s, and Abbie (Mrs. Will) Nichols, 93, in what I like to call my unofficial parish. Aunt Mary Birdsall had been ill all winter, they said, and Abbie hadn’t spoken plainly since she suffered a stroke. Now, looking back, although I will freely admit that it was the string of stories linked with the Tallertown road, especially the tale of the devilish fiddling match, that drew me Down Country, my own compensation lies in having seen these old friends.

I can never understand why people far up fading country roads are allowed to grow lonely when a call means so much to them. First time I went to the Birdsall’s you may remember, their house had burned down a few days before. Even so, the fact that nearly everything but their lives was lost failed to keep Will and ‘Lonzo home on the first day of deer season.

On the way to the Nichols’s we passed what Hollis called Molasses Hill. There’s no molasses, of course, and the hill is equally elusive now that the land back of Hermantown is so grown over. Beyond the graved hole is where, Hollis Koster says, Mary Tunis met a bear. Mary was in such a hurry to get away that the lid of her kettle slipped off and molasses dripped all over the ground. The bear, whose attention had been devoted to an ant hill until Mary’s approach, quickly switched to the molasses with evident delight.

“And just who,” I asked Hollis, “was Mary Tunis?” Perhaps, I thought, her ghost was somewhere about this Tallertown road.

“Her husband was Sam Tunis,” Hollis told me. “He was what they always called ‘a water man’ down here. That means he was a sailor. It also means, In Sam’s case, that his wife, Mary, was intensely jealous of him. Although there is no certainty that he consorted with other women, Mary always imagined that he did, especially when he was away on coasters for any length of time. She was the one, you remember, who burned her husband’s musket while be was away, just because she couldn’t show her fury to the man in person. Rare article, Mary!”

Homes for living and for dead

It was not until I sat down beside Abbie Nichols’ making believe I could understand all the things she was trying to tell me, that recalled that she Is Hazleton Birdsall’s daughter and that “Haze” who taught Sunday School in the old one-room school that has been turned into a delightful little house, was my favorite Down Jersey carpenter. “Haze,” whose name will be ever remembered In Haze’s Crossway not far down the Tallertown road, used to build houses for the dead as well as for the living. Nothing could interrupt his careful building of a house except word that someone had died.

Then he quickly brought his work to a halt, climbed down his ladder and went home to his barn to ascertain if the corpse would fit one of the “boxes” he had fashioned and put by in storage. His barn, they say, concealed coffins in all sizes, always of the best wood and Birdsall workmanship. If the measurements of the deceased required a special “fit” Hazieton’s plans would be interrupted still further. The point is, as Will Nichols admitted when Mrs. Nichols couldn’t, In spite of her smiling and chattering agreement with all I said, that from the moment someone died, “Haze” Birdsall took charge.

He prepared the body for burial on what he called a “cooling board” and he used pioneer ways to keep the body in good state until the funeral. In Hazelton Birdsall’s day even preachers were hard to find when wanted and, when a reasonable wait had been undertaken, “Haze” suggested that, in addition to driving his homemade hearse to the cemetery, the bereaved might like to have him preach the funeral sermon at the end of a service which, from all accounts, he conducted very well.

Yes, sweet Abbie, who in spite of the paralysis which has tied her tongue appears far younger than 93, remembered all that. A tear betrayed the fact that she knew all that I had said was part of familiar though fading picture. Will broke in to remember the time Al Nichols lived “up to the Housen place” and Ephraim Sooy’s horse “got scared” as he passed the haunted stump. Minutes later I had persuaded Will to desert his house long enough to travel up the Tallertown road further than he had been, by his own admission, In the last two years, “There’s the stump,” he cried, as we came upon it. “More’s rotted off since I was here but there she be, sure enough. Eph’s horse got scared when something white came out from behind the shaft of it and Eph swore neither he nor the horse knew what it was.

We had moved on to what once was Washington, or Washington Field, site of the parties Hollis described as well as the Inn where “Joe” Mulliner, the Refugee, was captured. Although I have been there many times through the years, I did not know there was ever as much of a town as Will described, “Place had its own school,” he said. “Tom Campinello was one of the last schoolmasters.” Inasmuch as Tom served as godfather for Hollis Koster, I have concluded there was a settlement in what today is a mere clearing in the heart of the pine woods much later than anyone ‘has revealed. The cellar holes are all that remain of houses still standing as late as the 1880’s, perhaps, probably the victims of a forest fire that swept all such century-old relics before it.

“People say the soil is poor,” said Will. “Not so at all. Soil’s as good as any around. I remember when this clearing was a corn field and when there were farms all around. Shreve Wells ran the Mount Tavern, then, and there was a town as big as any around here. Here where the roads meet, cutting into what was the farm, people were happy and – ” What ‘Will wanted to say was that Washington, N. J. – far from the remaining Washington in Warren County – was self-sufficient. Tallertown may have dropped from sight, Quaker Bridge may be less than an empty crossroads, and Harrisville may be but the crumbling ruins of the paper plant I’ve told you about, but there were many years in which whole families lived and moved and had their being in all of them.

There are things you can’t explain

As Will Nichols tried to hide his lost agility and moved beside me as quickly as he dared, showing me that the walls of what many have concluded were those of the tavern were really those of the barn, and then moving by me to find the deep stone-lined well that proved without doubt where the celebrated inn of Nick Sooy had stood, I tried desperately for new light on the fiddlers and their ghosts. Nick Sooy had an inn at Quaker Bridge, too, Will said, changing the subject. Then, as if in deference to me he added: “There are things you just can’t explain and shouldn’t try.”

“Lonzo’s horse, now – he’s scared along here, too. Maybe the town has dropped into a bole, or a lot of holes, and maybe it looks as if everybody but the deer has gone to glory but you just know something’s been left behind. You can just feel it. Same as over to Buck’s Point. Charlie Green used to say the Wilsons lived there and that Quakers lived on the Point before them. He remembered a time when recruiting officers came – the story had been handed down from Revolutionary days – and the women folk said there were no men. From the woods came the ringing of many axes. Demanding an explanation, the officers were told that it was only old Daddy Ford chopping down a bee tree. Odd thing is that there’s always been a bee tree, nigh onto every summer, on Buck’s Point, and that when the nights are particularity still you can hear the ringing of Daddy Ford’s ax even now. By this time he musta chopped a lot of wood, we always say.”

Uncle John was sexton of the Green Bank Church, Hollis added, remembering that still another ghost of the Tallertown road has a part to play in the mystery of the tremendous coffin, shaped like a boat, dug up unexpectedly in the 1800’s. “Body was over-size too,” Hollie said, “and the crazy thing was that the giant, whoever he was, had two full sets of teeth.”

It was, I can assure you, a shivery journey, even though I encountered neither Old Nick nor phantom fiddlers on the Tallertown road. The ghost arose from the shadows all around us, however, and it was something of a relief to return to Hermantown and see something more tangible, a violin they say was by the fiddling Fords. The instrument was proudly displayed by Nick – for Nicodemus – Ford who swore, as country musicians usually do, that hero was a true Stradivarlus. “Play it,” Nick suggested. Although I was trained, long ago, to nudge Fritz Krelsler from his throne, I demurred, pointing out that the bow that was proffered had no hair.

“Don’t need none,” Nick declared. “Hair on bows went out with horses. Fiddlers down this away never seemed to mind. When a tune was wanted they rosined the wood and played. See? Like this!” Without further preliminary, a full-bodied tune emerged, melodic in spite of the scratches required, and rhythmic as well. I knew at once that the limbs of trees, rubbed together by the wind, could never make a sound like this and that the Devil, who came upon Asie Ford In the long dark of the road toward home, could have welted Asie’s face with ease – and with such a hairless stick.

First published in the Newark Sunday Star Ledger, May 9, 1948. Reprinted with permission. Transcribed by Ben Ruset. The Star Ledger requests that you do not copy, retransmit, or link directly to this article. Please link to our homepage at https://www.njpinebarrens.com

The True Story of Aserdaten

A bit of determination and hard work can sometimes pay off, especially for the ghost town hunter. Just today I had finished an article about the legend of Aserdaten, the forgotten town near the Eureka Gun Club in the Forked River Mountains. I had explored the area yesterday and, despite the success of finding Black’s Stone near the Chamberlain Branch at Eureka Gun Club, had come no closer to finding out any new information about the history of Aserdaten.

For over 20 years Beck had been unsuccessful in finding out anything more than a vague and sinister story of a man named Asa Dayton who was murdered because the deer that he was raising in a pen on his property broke free one day and ravaged the little farms that once dotted the landscape in the Forked River mountains. It had been hinted by ever so slightly by Dolf Arens, then the caretaker at the Eureka Gun Club, that he had been murdered and buried in a grave near the door to the club. It seemed that the matter had been put to rest. By the time the story was published in the Newark Star Ledger and later in the book “Jersey Genesis” it seemed like Beck’s theory of the murder of Asa Dayton was correct.

It took one of his readers to finally share the correct information regarding the truth of Aserdaten. Unfortunately this information hasn’t really seen the light of day since it was published in 1959, just six years before Beck’s death. I was fortunate to come across this article, written after Jersey Genesis was published, that finally tells the truth about Aserdaten.

Asa Dayton was a man who did tend a deer farm at Aserdaten for the Stuyvesant Estate. The deer that Asa Dayton raised were red deer, a non-native species. It would be several years later before the state would begin breeding the same type of deer. Besides raising deer, the Stuyvesant Estate was also involved with winemaking and cultivated grapes throughout the area. Dayton died a natural death, luckily escaping the terrible fate that Beck and others hinted at. After his death, a second caretaker Henry Branson took over. It was one of Branson’s ancestors who finally corrected Beck.

Branson lived at Aserdaten as late as 1884, leaving for the town of Forked River as an old man. The house where Henry Branson lived in burnt down one Halloween, leaving just an empty clearing and the remains of the deer pen, the operation having ceased before the Stuyvesant Estate was sold in 1909.

Beck claims that as recent as the 1950s there was a remarkable clearing and cellar hole. Today there is no trace of people ever living there. Aserdaten exists only as a name on old maps, it’s last great mystery now solved.

The Wells Mills Frog Farm

By Robert Blanda.

It was back in 1968, that the Wells Mills Frog Farm first saw the light of day. Even the locals were unaware of the giant 10-, 20-pound, and even larger, frogs that were being dredged up at night, from a secret Wells Mills Road lake, for shipment the following morning to the Fulton Fish Market in New York City. The record catch was a 27-pounder affectionately named Tom, who was kept as a pet, but on a chain.

At this point, for the benefit of you skeptics who may be thinking, “Sounds like another one of those Baron Munchausen tales that those Pineys are always making up,” well, perhaps you’re right – at least in regards to this particular tale.

However, at the time this story got started, there was a believer, a disc jockey known to the farmers only as “Cowboy Joe.” He had just embarked on a Saturday night, 6 p.m. to midnight, country western music and talk show, on the then new FM station WOBM in Berkeley Township.

Cowboy Falls For Frog Farm

Cowboy Joe was sharp, and he had talent. His show was really great, so they say. Apparently Joe was inspired by the homey, Jersey bayshore area atmosphere, so different from that of his regular station up north in Brooklyn.

On the other hand, Cowboy Joe was a city boy. He knew from nothing when it came to bayfolk, Pineys and such. That’s how come he bit the hook, line and pork rind when he first met and became friendly with four local guys – Cliff Oakley and Toby Spatt, both of Manahawkin; Bill Sneddon of Waretown, and Bob Kruysman, known locally as Kaptain Krunch of the same name bait and tackle shop located on Route 9 in Waretown.

It all started when Sneddon and Kruysman checked in at the recently opened radio station. Both men were police officers at that time. A pot of coffee was kept going in the office for visitors.

This was a welcome treat for the officers since there was no other place for coffee on Route 9 back then.

There they met the new announcer and got to gabbing. They were asked what it was like down here, and whether there were any things of special interest in towns like Waretown.

In reply, Bill Sneddon said, “Well, there’s the Wells Mills Frog Farm.”

“Frog farm?” exclaimed Cowboy Joe. The two men, with serious cop demeanor, but as a joke, began to embellish on the frog farm story. Neither could later recall just what made them do it.

“It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing – we got carried away,” Kruysman said, adding “Maybe there was something in the coffee.”

Oakley and Spatt were then brought into the growing conspiracy. The two schemed and they thought up the idea of buying a pair of choice frog legs from Clayton’s Restaurant on Route 70 in Barnegat. They wrapped the purchase in tinfoil and fastened a bow on the package. This they then delivered to Joe along with a bottle of fancy French wine.

The boys were invited into the broadcast room. Oakley, who loved good western music! asked if more Eddie Arnold platters could be played. Pleased with his gift, Joe agreed.

More details about the farm were sought. In unison, they said, “Sure.” Then each tried to outdo the other to dream up some of the more unusual frog farm “facts.” It went something like this.

“We pack from six to eight, sometimes 10, cases each night.”

“How much does a case weigh?”

“Oh, maybe a hundred pounds or so. Only four to six frogs can be fitted into one case. We have to pack’em in standing up.”

“How come the frogs grow so large down here ?”

“They eat up lots of big, fat Jersey skeeters lots of’em. Sometimes we camp out all night and never get bit once. Those frogs get’em all.”

“But we ain’t shipping right now.”

“Oh! Why is that?” asked Joe.

“Drove the price way down, we did. Have to hold back until the price goes up again.”

Oakley then explained how they dredged for the frogs, from a rowboat, using a special jumbosize frog dredge that Spatt had made up. Kap’n Krunch added later, “Yeah, but we trolled for them, too.”

Then one Saturday night Cowboy Joe aired the Wells Mills Frog Farm story. As it so happened, All the startled culprits had gathered in the Oakley cabin as they often did on a Saturday night. Recalled Oakley, “We laughed so hard that tears rolled down our cheeks.”

Reunions Keep Alive Big Frog Stories

The D.J never did learn of the hoax that had been played on him. But then again, who can know for sure whether or not the “Cowboy” wasn’t pulling a leg or two himself?

Thereafter, Cowboy Joe would always play at least one, or even three or four, Eddie Arnold records on his show. With that, he would say, “How are all the guys doing at the Wells Mills Frog Farm?” Soon after, he had to return to his permanent job up north in Brooklyn.

The 20th anniversary of the broadcast of the Wells Mills Frog Farm story on WOBM was celebrated at a reunion held in a backwoods cabin off Wells Mills Road (Route 532) in Waretown on a Saturday in 1988. Present were Oakley, Sneddon (now the police chief in Ocean Township) and Kruysman. Absent due to the frigid weather was Spatt. With snow in the cabin fireplace, who could blame him?

The story was re-enacted, as it is at each frog farm reunion, amidst spasms of laughter. Somehow the story keeps growing, as Piney legends are wont to do.

At the get-together, Kap’n Krunch, with a crododile tear glistening at each eyelid, remarked, “Those were the days. Haven’t caught a 21-pounder since. We overfished, I guess.”

“But we never fished on a Sunday,” added Oakley, “never frogged on a Sunday.”

Then Oakley explained what had happened to old Tom, their 27-pound pet frog. “Broke his chain, he did. I still got the piece that was left.” And breaking up, he dragged out a length of rusty chain. “Last we saw of ole Tom he was three miles west of the landing heading towards Brookville. Never saw him again. Poor Toby took it real had. Tom had taken a special liking to Toby.”

Thus ends the saga of the long-gone, Wells Mills Frog Farm. Or does it?

Note: This page is from an article that appeared in the SandPaper, Wednesday, February 10, 1988 by Cornelius Hogenbirk. Cliff Oakley is now a Park Ranger at the Wells Mills County Park. If you visit the park, look for him and ask him about the frog farm. It will make his day.

Bob Kruysman sold his interests in Waretown and is now retired in Florida.

The Magical Land of La-Ha-Way

This paper, about the area that is mostly Great Adventure Six Flags today, was written for the July 27, 1916 Allentown Messenger by R. P. Dow, Secretary of the Brooklyn Entomological Society and member of the American Museum of Natural History.

(Provided by, and reprinted with permission from John Fabiano, president of the Allentown-Upper Freehold Historical Society.)

On the excellent maps issued by the State of New Jersey and the U. S. Government from the surveys of 1883, a spot just east of the northwest edge of Ocean county is marked in letters of unusual size “Lahaway Plantations.” One might imagine from the map that quite a village was there. Two miles to the west is Prospertown, distinguished on the same map by its large mill pond. To the southeast, about four miles is a town called on the map “Cassville,” but even to-day more generally known by its original name of Goshen. The large towns are all about fourteen miles away-to box the compass, Lakehurst, Lakewood, Freehold, Hightstown, Allentown, Robbinsville (still popularly known by its original name of Newtown), Bordentown, New Egypt, Burlington and Mount Holly.

But there is no village at Lahaway, not even a highway approaching the place. The survey party had floundered long through a tangle of marsh in the pine barrens when they discovered a single inhabited house on a high dry islet. Here they met the owner, J. Turner Brakeley, graduate of Princeton College and the Harvard Law School, who in 1872 decided to forgo the society of his fellows and adopted the hermit life which endured to until his death in 1915. Brakeley knew every path of the whole region, and aided the surveyors so much that in gratitude they put a name on the map, the name of Brakeley’s choosing.

The creek which rises on the spot and flows into the Delaware River has been known for a century and a half at least as Lahaway. The accent is on the second syllable. Farther down most people pronounce it as though spelled “Lay away.” There is a legend that a Jewish pack peddler passed by and stayed a night at the house of a poor farmer. He was never seen again, but thereafter the farmer became wealthy. The peddler was supposed to have much jewelry, and it was surmised that murdered and robbed he was laid away in a secret grave by the bank of the creek. The story is rather absurd, and it is more probable that Indians named the stream. It was from nearby that the Indians carried cranberries to the early settlers near Camden. The first mention of cranberries in literature is dated 1684. They were found wild everywhere in marshy places. So the name of Lahaway Plantations was taken from the creek.

A century ago the region all around Prospertown was much more prosperous than now. Its wealth has faded, but its character remains. Its people are poor, simple, hospitable and self respecting. The stranger coming within their gates likes to come again. But the grist mill below the dam is silent. The last tenant found it too hard to make a living. The saw mill has rusted away. A mile down the road a branch stream was dammed to operate an apple jack distillery, but this dam was washed away many decades ago. People do not drink much apple jack now.

The bogs of Lahaway were famous iron mines a century ago. Prospectors walked through the wet moss thrusting an iron rod far down through the soil. The experienced touch knew every obstacle encountered. Most were cedar roots which never rot. The harder and larger boulders of bog iron ore, masses of red oxide of iron. These were dug out and smelted. The first railways were laid with them. Some of the oldest houses cling with together with nails made from the iron of home making. But this industry, too, has gone the way of progress. It cannot compete with iron digging on the Mesaba, where equally good ore is scooped out with steam shovel, loaded on cars alongside and transported to steamer at a cost of not over a dollar a ton. New Jersey is dotted with blast furnaces abandoned half a century or more ago.

The through stage from Trenton to Toms River and Atlantic City, etc., passed by Prospertown four corners. This, too, has rusted away into the eternal silences. The railroad is roundabout, but it killed coaching.

Years ago Bill Horner’s father made hand shaven baskets of white oak. They lasted a life time and no wetting could hurt them. But the industry is gone, for it cannot compete with cheap machine made baskets which warp to ruin at the first wetting. And so it has come that the people of Prospertown merely till the soil of an unfertile pine barren. No church is there. Religious meetings are in the little school house in the pine woods.

To understand, the scholar first studies his map, especially the geodetic and geological. This tells the story. Across the State, somewhat on the slant and about following the Camden and Amboy Railroad, runs the line of red shale. The whole soil is red with land which makes the pink blush on the sunny side of each peach. This was once the seashore line. The fresh water streams took down another kind of rich soil. They made the land which is now largely grown to rye, the stand of which is fair and tall. In another place, sloping to the west, the alluvium of a geological age deposited soil so rich that the hay is wonderful. The cattle now graze all the unmown lots, and it is no wonder that the place is called Cream Ridge. It flows with milk and honey.

On a line southward from Cream Ridge lies a stratum which no geologist has ever understood. Past Hornerstown as far as New Egypt there lies pockets of marl, a substance of unknown origin, possibly vegetable. The peculiar soil supported once a big industry. It is a splendid fertilizer. But, a quarter of a century ago the phosphate rock of Florida and Georgia was dug up and treated with sulfuric acid. It cost so little that it drove marl as a fertilizer wholly out of the market.

Marl is now coming again into use. It is the base of some of the scouring powders. It is strange stuff, an impalpable powder, feeling soapy to the touch, and always of bright color, green, red, blue, etc. Some remote age the sunlight kissed it and gave it rainbow hues. To Science to-day it has an absorbing interest. It preserves the bones of all animals which happened to die in it. The seashells from the Hornerstown marl are among the oldest evidences of life, perhaps tens of millions of years ago.

Less than half a mile east of Hornerstown railroad station the country changes. Great patches of bare sand support cactus and a gray-green weed peculiar to the seashore. Here begins the land which was ocean bed and which rose from the sea very shortly before mankind was evolved. In geology we call this period the cretaceous, for at this time chalk (which is merely the bones of countless sea creatures) appeared on the dry land. This sea sand now becomes the surface soil all the way to south and east. Lakewood and Lakehurst are in the same geological belt. All, except where reclaimed by cultivation, is pine barren, for this only is the vegetation springing naturally from the sea sand made dry a quarter of a million years ago.

Few readers of the Messenger are unacquainted with the aspect of the sandy seashore on all the low lands from Long Branch to Cape May. We all know how back from the shore lie the dunes, sand, sand, and sand shifted hither and thither by the winter winds. This was the soil of Prospertown, Lahaway, in fact all the way to the coast. Little by little through many centuries plants thrust down their roots and fixed the soil until it no longer shifted, except in isolated spots. Little by little the streams trickled over, dropping clay to keep the soil from blowing around and making swamps of the whole region.

The secret of Lahaway is now easier to explain. It lies exactly on the height of land, the mid-rib of New Jersey, which is almost too feeble to be noticed to the south, but which becomes mountainous west of Plainfield. For untold centuries the sand shifted year by year. Long before the pyramids of Egypt were built the pines took root and began to fasten the soil. The oaks soon followed (there are twenty species of oak tree at Lahaway). The hickory took root and the slopes were covered with mountain laurel, still white and sweet in early June. At one spot the windswept pile is still 179 feet high. At the exit of the creek from the estate the level is 97 feet. A plain was washed from six hundred springs. Underneath, from two to ten feet, lies clay, water proof and giving endless nourishment to plants having roots long enough and strong enough to reach it. On the hillside this clay may be a hundred feet below the surface. Over the clay there has developed a wonderful flora. Feeding on the diverse flora has evolved a wonderful fauna.

Lahaway has been aptly described as an islet of the Delaware River transplanted into the pine barrens. Mr. Brakeley built a lofty stand on each of his two hills, from which one may look many miles around. To the west the woods cut off the view. To the northwest lies Cream Ridge, almost of equal height at the summit. A little east of north is a hill five miles away, higher by sixty feet. To east and southeast lie miles upon miles of pine swamp, low lying, rising a few feet here and there, swamp and dry island, pathless. Anyone losing his way may easily remain lost a day to come out he knows not where.

There are almost no stones in the region, only rounded sea pebbles and irregular masses of pebbles cemented together by liquid iron rust. One such pile lies in the swamp, from which the Indians carried stones for many miles to make the little piles necessary to support their cooking pots.

The prosperity of Prospertown died when the railroads came. The Camden and Amboy was the back door route from New York to Philadelphia. It was a poor line. Passengers had to cross the river from Philadelphia to Camden by a poor ferry boat. They were landed at the shore across from the extreme south end of Staten Island. To continue to New York they had still to take a boat requiring two weary hours. Still, this was better than the old stage coaching. Some years later a railroad line was built across the State, the Seashore and Atlantic. Then branches were projected and built. “Bill” Allen projected and built one of them. It ran 25 miles across an agricultural country, from Hightstown, a thriving town, to Pemberton, which was little except a junction point on the Philadelphia-Seashore line. He got backing from the Pennsylvania Railroad, then beginning to revolutionize the East by railroad transportation, and having leased the Camden and Amboy.

The public traveled thrice as fast and as comfortably as ever before, and at first were properly grateful. But the little line did not pay. There were no factories on the line. One factory gives more freight than fifty farmers do. The farmers produced milk and they demanded an additional train, and early morning to carry milk. This spelled more loss for the railroad. The extra train was refused and the threat was made to tear up the tracks. The sturdy farmers then leased the road and ran trains to suit themselves. The result is a lesson to the entire United States, provided that heedless land might profit by example. The stock of this roadlet, which did not pay operating expenses, now pays ten per cent and never appears in market unless some one dies. It is a remarkable tribute to the zeal and will of Yankee farmers. It now runs thrice as many trains as were once considered possible.

But of course, the railroad ruined the stage line to the county seat, which ran through Prospertown. It was easier and cheaper to take the railroad, although one might have to wait a couple hours at Pemberton. This stage line was wholly forgotten, until the track through the sand was re-discovered by a New York Scientist in May 1916. This side of Bullock’s cranberry bog lie the remains of the foundation of the roadhouse where once a good dinner was served to passengers at 12 ½ cents. Thereafter the land east of Prospertown went further and further toward original wilderness. Miles and miles were without a house, without cultivation.

About 1855 a brave gentleman, Rev. John Henry Brakeley, who had founded the Bordentown College for Women, had married an heiress, and was a naturalist of no mean ability, very often consulted by the authorities of the Smithsonian Institution, tramped the country far and wide. He found Lahaway and recognized its possibilities. He bought it, at first a quadrangle of 201 acres. Later purchases extended it like a maltese cross in each direction. It was to be a mission, in a way. It was to be made a garden to teach the neighbors how scientific farming could be done. Peach orchards, cherries, apples were planted. The culture of alfalfa was subsequently introduced. Fields of fertilized corn grew where now is only pine barren. The wilderness began to blossom like the roses of Sharon. A new era of prosperity seemed impending. The plain was built up into leveled cranberry bogs at great cost. It seemed justified, for the iron fed berries were wonderful, fetching a cent per quart more than any other. Each season the picking gave employment at unusual money to all natives for miles around. Each owner of a piece of wild bog learned how to grow cranberries for himself.

One matter was overlooked. It was in a “frost belt.” There is a geologically peculiar strip of land, about fifteen miles long and four miles wide. Without apparent reason killing frost visit it any time up to June 10 and as early as August 20. The nip the crops terribly, even blighting the cranberries, killing the huckleberry blooms, reducing the strawberry yield to nil and killing all garden truck, sweet potatoes, lima beans and the like. The peanut crop assailed by an independent enemy-the moles. Little by little the peach orchards died. The alfalfa grew to grass. The strawberries yielded little. The great bodies of water grew wonderful pond lilies. But the land grew few salable things.

Here it was that J. Turner Brakeley came in 1872. He had all his father’s zeal and scholarship. Here Rev. J. Henry Brakeley died in extreme old age. The younger Brakeley a divided motive. He was just as keen as ever for the uplift of the countryside. He was a naturalist by taste. He inherited a financial independence. He harvested his berries because the pickers’ wages were needed by the countryside. That is all. If some rare orchid sprouted in his bog, berry culture gave way to the matter of botanical interest.

Once each year the recluse went away. He controlled the local cemetery of Bordentown. Years previously he had bought the Jerome Bonaparte mansion in Bordentown. It was a magnificent place, crumbling when he got it, and thereafter going much further into decay. All winter long he dwelled in the fastness of Lahaway. Little by little his fortifications were built around him. No highway approaches Lahaway, only crisscross woodroads. The way out is easy, the way in only findable by map and compass.

To the east Mr. Brakeley bought a piece of wild land to give him the height whereon he built his lookout tower. To the north he bought a piece lest some lumberman cut timber, whereas the Master of Lahaway never allowed a stick to be felled. To the west he bought a very long narrow strip of land from twofold motive. The ladyslipper orchids grew on it, and he wished to prevent their being picked. Also his purchase would keep neighbors and highways away. To the south he bought land lest some one start a cranberry bog.

Until about 1884 cranberries grew wild in New Jersey. Cultivation was a matter of getting a large number of plants in one place, weeding them, etc. Occasionally some one had by artificial cross-fertilization produced a larger, handsomer berry, but they were not so well flavored as the wild ones. During 1883 a pest was discovered in the bogs of New Jersey which threatened the whole crop. In April and May large numbers of tiny caterpillars entered the bogs and ate the vines. Rev. J. H. Brakeley wrote in alarm to Charles V. Riley, then the Government entomologist at Washington. As the force of field investigators was then small, Riley engaged a young Brooklyn lawyer, who was greatly devoted to insect study, John B. Smith, to become traveling agent at $15 a week to investigate crop pests. Smith afterwards became State Entomologist of New Jersey and Professor of Entomology in Rutgers College, dying there in 1912.

The nature of the cranberry pest was easily ascertained; the cure a much more difficult matter. There are two species of little Pyralid moths, which live for the most part on wild huckleberries, but which found easier food where the cranberries grew thick. The progeny of a hundred moths, say 300 eggs laid by each, consumed an acre a day. To poison them by spraying the vines with arsenic would cost prohibitively, the poison having to be renewed after every shower. J. Tuner Brakeley himself devised the remedy. At the foot of each leveled bog the dam was higher and stronger. At the insects laid eggs in early spring, all the bogs were covered with water, remaining covered until the middle of the following May. Unable to reach the cranberry plants, the moths had to back to their original foods. Therefore all cranberry bogs are winter flooded to this day.

At the first flooding John B. Smith was present. The water rose slowly over the fields always theretofore dry. Myriads of insects climbed every weed to get away. The two entomologists gathered them by the bushel. The whole yield was shipped to the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences to be studied for several years, for unknown forms, rarities, and to gain a comprehensive idea of fauna of this treasure-filled region. About one-third of all the hosts of insects known in the eastern United States have been registered as found at Lahaway.

Brakeley lived, as we have said, the life of recluse. His father stricken by slow creeping paralysis, the Bordentown College was closed and dismantled. Its scholarly founder died at Lahaway in extreme old age. Thereafter the son gathered the berries every year because the people from miles around depended more or less on the berry picking for wages. But his interest in life was rather to watch the bloom of every rare or beautiful flower, to note the spring arrival of each bird, to keep every stick of timber safe from wanton axe, to exercise far and wide a prudent helpful aid in public affairs. The income of his at first ample fortune went mostly to public helpfulness. A few hundred dollars a year sufficed for his simple wants. Skilled labor for the bogs is worth $2 a day as a minimum, and the workers have more than they can attend to. So the bogs deteriorated for lack of skilled repairers. Brakeley income and part of principal went for rebuilding of burned industrial plants, for the beautification of the Bordentown cemetery, and a thousand and one other things. Through Brakeley’s soul surged the melody of unwritten song. It was worked out alone.

Between Brakeley and the young Rutgers professor there grew a strange deep friendship. Brakeley’s researches into mosquito life started the latter on the career from which he is chiefly known and revered throughout New Jersey today. Smith found a second home at Lahaway. A room was known as his. Three meals a day were there for him, whether Brakeley was there or not. But overwork killed Smith at the age of 54, leaving Brakeley a little more lonesome than he understood. Smith was faithful to the Brooklyn Entomological Society, of which he had been non-resident president some years. The friendship, the kindly interest of the sweet-souled hermit was transferred to the secretary of that Society, and in this way Lahaway became far more widely known to science than ever before.

The first glimpse of Lahaway is quite unforgettable. One approaches through the level typical woods of the pine barrens. A little decline through a turn reveals the flat bogs, rusty gray in spring, white with berry blossoms in midsummer, red with fruit in September. Beyond on all sides lie the hills. To the eye at least the height of a mountain is only comparative. Mt. Everest in the Himalayas is the highest in the world, summit seems a climb of half an hour. Pikes Peak seems so close to the Colorado plain that one imagines he could throw a stone to the summit. Yet, if the observer approached for two whole days the sight of the summit would seem no nearer.

At Lahaway the bogs stretch in level plain below. The hills are less than fifty feet above. One can imagine at vast Greek amphitheater, the flat big enough to seat a million spectators, the semicircle around lined with scrub pine, the slope seemingly big enough to seat another million onlookers. Back of the path lies the house upon a knoll. It is simple, unpainted and weather-beaten. Around are barns and other outhouses. Above stand great black walnut trees. The vista to the north includes a single giant sweet gum tree. Beyond, across more bogs, is another bit of highland. It is Mink Island, so called. Another unpainted house is visible.

On the government map a contour line shows the bounds of Mink Island. It is a sandbank, once a wind swept dune. The mink have always fished around its border. In later years the otter has gotten in again, to the terror of all other creatures. A spring on the slope has the sweetest water of all. A fallen, rusted line of barbed wire marks the boundary of Brakeley land. Beyond is the estate of the Star Cranberry Company, which bought and tried for success. The bog was not suitable. The clay bottom cracked and would not hold water. No crop was ever harvested. The $5,000 that the stockholders put in is there yet. All subscribers are dead and gone.

It would be impossible to clear title to add to Natural History this land, almost absolutely worthless. Twenty centuries ago the place was famous. It was the home of a tribe of Indians. They were not aboriginal. They came each year for the fall hunting. It is not hard to trace their path. The men who made and repaired the stone arrowheads sat in one spot of sand where the sun kept them warm in the frosty Novembers. The chips of stone betray their origin. They crossed the Delaware River at Trenton, for they carried big pieces of the hard, compact Trenton stone. They passed by Allentown, Pa., for a black basaltic stone used for axes. They came from the south shore of Lake Erie, where the winter fishing through the ice kept them from hunger. Occasionally they made a long detour. A knife for skinning deer was dug up by the writer and now rests in the American Museum of Natural History. It is of rose quartz, which occurs only within two hundred miles, at Bedford, Westchester county, New York. They did not control the hunting ground undisputed. At least one terrible battle occurred in the plain below, as evidenced by the stone tomahawk, which the chance plow turns up.

The fireplaces are there. Cooking kettles were suspended on piles of bog iron stone, carried from the swamps. Sixteen encampments are still distinctly visible. Here and there around the whole countryside are the remains of smaller camps, some only a single fire where a brave and a squaw spent a week. Through the woods lost arrowheads show where they shot pigeons or partridges. A hostile tribe dwelled east of Cream Ridge. They put up at least one terrible fight in the swamps. Their cooking pots were of cut soapstone or of baked clay. All are so broken that only inch pieces are left.

The weather-beaten house has its history. It was first the center of an abandoned farm. “Bill” Horner, for whose grandfather Hornerstown was named, raised his family their and was general factotum at Lahaway. Later, a well-known physician, broken in health, brought a family and maintained a chicken farm until restored to health and usefulness, getting the place rent free from Brakeley. The timbers are sound, but the only denizens are field mice, the mason bees boring in the posts, the mud wasps building yellow fluted tubes of homes, prey of small insects. The superannuated willow behind the house has a population all its own-moths, beetles, bugs, each to remain as nature dictates, fighting the fight of survival of the fittest. In the sand the pepo spiders burrow freely. Tiger beetles seek prey without let or hindrance.

On Mink Island grows the beach plum and the trailing dewberry. The latter are so soft when ripe that they cannot be shipped. But they make most delectable pies. Hither came each July Mrs. Elizabeth Rogers, for ten years the housekeeper at Lahaway, to pick a peck of dewberries either to stew or for pie. No pie maker in the world quite like Mrs. Rogers. Years ago the writer, at a school in New England, went often with other boys to the house of a woman who eked out her income by selling home-made pie at five cents per cut. One day she announced gleefully that she had all kinds, having just baked yesterday. Being pressed for particulars, her pies were of three classes, “kivered [covered], open-face and cross barred.” So also Mrs. Rogers’ pies of many fruits. Besides, she could cook cranberries in fifty-seven different ways, each more tasty than the preceding. Nearly at the same time she picked the beach plums, relics of bygone ages when the place was seashore. Such plum jam! She picked only on the sunny side of each bush, for on the shady the plums are bitter. The beach plums grow in several places nearby, notably the roadside just east of Prospertown milldam and on the banks of old sea sand a quarter mile east of Hornerstown.

Mink Island slopes westerly into the headwaters of Lahaway Creek. Alongside is the built-up dam to impound the water of the lowest bog, still called bass pond, because in 1866 Rev. J. H. Brakeley stocked it with black bass, all long since dead. On the north side of the dam is the deep forest of deciduous trees, the cool wet ground the favorite home of the black snake. It runs like a deer. When caught it bites savagely with teeth as sharp as a rat’s, but of course it has no venom. There are no rattlesnakes here. The black snakes killed them all ages ago. In fact, there is no dangerous snake. The bright-mottled water snakes are good friends to man, for they feed upon noxious insects. In the dry pinewoods are plenty of pine snakes, much hated by the farmer, for they are most fond of hens’ eggs and newly hatched chickens. I have a specimen from Lahaway 7 feet 3 inches long, and another from whose stomach was cut an uncracked egg of a partridge.

The deer have been so hunted that there are few at Lahaway, although Blakeley hated a poacher. The raccoons moan by night from many a tree. The muskrats are a nuisance, breaking down dams by their ceaseless burrowing. The opossum comes occasionally, although preferring the persimmons and pawpaws of farther south. The gray squirrel is rare; the red squirrel chatters here and there in the woods. The chipmunk, the striped ground squirrel, is ubiquitous, heaping the wild cherrystones at its hole mouth in thousands of decaying trees.

Bird life is in its glory at Lahaway. Very occasionally a bald eagle circles high in the air, only to return to its mountain home. More often the fish hawks follow unresistingly the east wind, but they, too, go back to a seaside home. The great winged herring gulls also come up from the sea, following the lowest land from near Ocean Grove, but they find no food to their liking and they nest in the far north, Labrador or beyond. The lazy blue heron stands meditatively on one leg, especially in star pond, perhaps four feet tall, looking for frogs, taking young eels, not (if really hungry) disdaining pollywogs. On approach of man the great bird slowly expand its wings and flies to another corner of the pond. Thank God, no scoundrel who murders birds for milliners, who get the so-called egrets, has ever entered the sanctitude of Lahaway.

During my many visits to J. Turner Brakeley he conducted me over as many trips through the forest as then seemed to me possible in the time. My own progress was slow, for I often liked to linger a half hour over some ants’ nest stretching for many feet or some strange bird’s nest of some insect haunt. Only after his death I discovered that his favorite walk had been concealed from me as from everyone else. The wood road toward Hornerstown lies in the open sun and all summer long under a temperature which assails the very upper portion of the thermometer. The ruts of the path are many inches deep with dry sand, so that one can make as little distance per hour of walk as anywhere in the world, even in the desert of Sahara, southwest from Egypt, where no plant grows and where a sand storm is more terrible than a western cloudburst.

There is a by-path starting almost from the manor house of Lahaway, at first following close to the westerly road. All the natives know it, but they did not often use it, respecting Brakeley’s wish for solitude. It turns off where stand the three cottages which Brakeley built so that the berry pickers could live with families instead of having a long walk night and morning. It is far most beautiful about the end of May. Then the locust trees at the turn of the wood are in full flower, their great racemes of blossoms hanging down for the accommodation of unnumbered honey bees, their fragrance traveling far and sweet upon the night air.

Then the walk is under the shade of scrub pine and dwarf oak, to the edge of the swamp. Two flowers make it glorious. The blue lupine grows only in very sandy soil, its intensely blue spikes of blossom perhaps a foot long. They attract the bumblebee, but not the honeybee. Did you ever notice that the bees pay great attention to the color of flowers?

The honey bee comes only to those which are white, pale blue or sap green, the bumble bee those which are pink, purple or deep blue. There is a crimson Italian clover, much valued as a plough-in crop, which grows wonderfully here for a year, but does not perpetuate. The reason is that the color does not attract any of our home bees, and therefore fertilization does not go on. All flowers depend for the most part on cross-fertilization by insects.

Without the bumble bee the red clover cannot grow. Many years ago this staple crop was introduced into Australia and grew into richness the first year. But no seed was produced. This was the experience of several years, and no one knew the reason why. Finally a traveling entomologist was consulted. He noticed there were no bumble bees in the region, and finding that the red clover was imported from England, suggested that they bring five thousand bumble bees from the red clover fields there. This done the red clover in Australia produced seed at once and is now a staple crop. We must import the bee which fertilizes the Italian crimson clover. Did you ever notice, too, that the wasps visit almost entirely flowers, which are yellow, red or brown? Each and all of flower kind has its own fertilizing insect.

The lupine has long roots, often six to twelve feet, until moisture is found over the subsoil. The slender, thread-like roots were much esteemed by our great-grandmothers, for a decoction of them was held to be a sure specific for consumption-tuberculosis. This belief exists today among the elderly folks of Prospertown, and it may be safely said that the simple herb remedies of three generations ago are not wholly unfounded in reason.

The other flower giving glory, to the path is the lady slipper, the pink wood orchid, the Cypripedium. From two hairy green leaves rises the flower stalk, a single blossom being as large as a mouse. All orchids are peculiar among flowers. Each blossom has a cup and is absolutely dependent on insect fertilization. In some species the bee entering to get honey is imprisoned within the cup and cannot get out until the flower fades. But its food is so sweet and abundant that she does not care. Many flowers depend on artificial fertilization. The date palm, cultivated for numberless thousands of years, has to be fertilized by hand. A man has to climb each tree and shake the pollen of the male tree into the ovaries of the female.

Many years ago Brakeley observed a sport blossom of the lady slipper. It was a little larger than the normal and almost pure white, but again lost it. By an odd coincidence, while he was describing it, I spied the blossom itself, a little to the north of the main road. This single freak has bloomed true to its type for fourteen years. With an axe we marked it by cross bearings in the scrub pine. Just beyond, past the sand where the wild morning glory (Convolvulus) renders the ground white all around, is a unique patch where the lupine loses its color and becomes almost white or several shades of rosy pink. Near this place there is the home of several remarkable and rare insects. Of them perhaps more anon, but we are losing our way from the path to Emley’s.

Soon the path leads us near the swamp, just after the boundary of the Lahaway estate. Here for the moment the oaks grow tall, precious timber for the wanton who would murder them lumber. The under waters approach the surface, making vegetation everywhere more luxuriant. It is the northeast end of the Bullock cranberry bog. Then the walk turns through the Heyke farm.

The Heyke house is perhaps three hundred feet from the main pathway. Going straight on one comes out through the pines to Prospertown school house. The straightway in the sun is the favorite haunt of the tiger beetles, those remarkable insects which fly with the agility of a bee and creep as rapidly as a ground Carabid. They are the only beetles which catch living prey upon the wing, and I have seen them capture and devour butterflies several times as big as themselves.

The Heyke house has been long deserted, its timbers sound, but every window glass gone and the floor yielding many inches under foot. Of the family I can learn but little. Suffice it the testimony of the nearest neighbor that the Heyke children were well clothed, well bred, and that Mrs. Heyke was a good neighbor whose going left a distinct sense of loss. Nothing is left except the mortgage on sandy soil, almost worthless to the upper corner, where the cranberry bog begins.

From Heyke’s the path becomes only wide enough for single file march. It crosses the old stage route. Alongside in some seasons are piles of cranberries, many hundred bushels. For if those cranberries, held over winter for better prices, go to rot, they are not put back into the bog, but are left in the woods. The bog itself has too much fertilizer, rather than too little fertilizer. The path crosses the bog itself, one’s footsteps becoming wet. In the trees are strange frogs, such as the Hyla andersoni, which were not recently represented in the collections of great museums. Then upward again until we cross a garden patch and to the roadway, the highway from Prospertown to Cassville. Houses are few and far between. Next, to the east, is a bungalow inhabited only by summer visitors. To the west, the first house is three quarters of a mile away, at Prospertown Four Corners.

The house at the end of the path is occupied by the family of Garret Emley. It is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in the whole region. The farm was coveted much by Brakeley, but always withheld by inherited family pride. The house is humble enough. Its walls were reinforced by timbers taken from the abandoned stage coach house in the woods. A tool house was entirely built from the same timber. Across the road a dam ran over the stream, longer ago than our grandfathers can remember, even by hearsay. In this whole countryside, where grass is scarce, the turf is notable from its fresh short clipped green, made by cattle for a century or so. Today three cows graze, three generations in a direct line, the oldest still a good milker. Just across the road is a hill rising a hundred feet of more, the summit mounted by a grove of chestnut trees. They are now all dead, killed by the imported fungus blight which has spread out a hundred miles in every direction from New York. Their gaunt limbs are skeletons to catch the shadow of the sunset.

The Emley house has much to recall it. I do not know in what generation it was built. The doors are cut in half, upper and lower. Thus air could enter from the upper and the children prevented from straying by the lower. The latches are those used in England many centuries ago. They are on the inside and a string passes through gimlet hole to the outside. Here is exemplification of the historic phrase of the “latch string.” A French song, many centuries old, is “tirra la bobbinnete,”-pull the bobbin string and the latch will come up. Beside the old chimney is built a bin, not to keep the sweet potatoes cool, but to keep them from freezing during the long winter.

Second only to Lahaway, the historian and naturalist finds the interest of the Emley farm. The Indians camped at the foot of what is now a corn field and most of the remains of the cook fires have been ploughed under. Wherever they camped vegetation died and never sprang up again. They always chose a sunny spot, and nearby is always to be found a choice spring of water. Mr. Emley has quite a collection of arrowheads and axes picked up from time to time. The naturalist misses here the rich sphagnum bogs, the feature of Lahaway, although it grows freely around what was the mill pond. Here the cranberries grow wild, yielding an annual crop of 20 to 40 bushels, deeper red, smaller, but more distinctly flavored than the cultivated berries, and commanding excellent prices. Under the surface there are several pockets of marl, through one of which the digging of a well uncovered many fossil shells. Close by the road a petrified log, the wood resembling pine, was found, but it has now almost entirely disappeared, having been taken away in small pieces by curio hunters. A similar log about eight feet long was found at Lahaway, buried in sand in the bed of what was once a brook dried up many centuries ago. Still another petrified log of a wood resembling the present day hickory lies exposed below New Egypt.

When I began this series of papers it was with considerable misgivings, not yet cleared, lest they should lack personal interest. For, after all, they must degenerate more or less into essays on natural history, which J. Turner Brakeley loved and which I came to study, as well as to rest and to find a peculiarly pleasant companionship. But during the summer there have been not a few pilgrims to Lahaway who have read these articles and who have followed the various paths to the Indian Village, the old house on Mink Island, Observatory Hill, and the walk through the woods to the Garret Emley farm.

Entrance to Lahaway is now a little easier, since last Decoration Day I tacked up pasteboard direction signs on many trees. Visitors have generally found affable “Bill” Horner willing to take a couple of hours off and show the sights with many anecdotes of his own. He is now William H. Horner, of Lahaway Plantations, Esq., to use the English term denoting landed proprietorship, and this is well, for he has been faithful to Lahaway for many years. No doubt he has now picked his own huckleberry crop and is working overtime to gather the cranberries, the leisure coming later to sit back and enjoy with complacency the ownership of broad acres.

So while a few pilgrims are coming and going over many roads, including the rather sandy one from Freehold or the very difficulty way from Cassville, I may revisit Lahaway by one of my favorite entrances.

On summer Saturdays a train comes through to Hornerstown, but at other times it has proved pleasantest to come to Hightstown or Robbinsville, where Mr. Waddy, who keeps the general store at Hornerstown, will meet scientist or pilgrim or both and carry him by auto anywhere at less than a fourth of New York prices. There is a good road from Allentown and Imlaystown, and pretty good to Hornerstown. For light cars there is no difficulty either way direct through sandy roads to Prospertown Four Corners.

Mr. Brakeley had a favorite remark that there were twenty ways to get to Lahaway, all bad but one. The only way to know the good one was to “ask Billy Quicksill.” Mr. Quicksill is station agent, express agent, telegraph operator, etc., at Hornerstown, and knows every pathway in the whole region. William Quicksill, Sr., who last year joined the silent majority, used to like to come to the station around time and discuss matters, including the famous marl pits, of which he was superintendent for many years, and the queer fossils left in them. To make the direct road to Lahaway, turn the corner through the village, past the post office presided over by Miss Ida Quicksill. Business there is not what it used to be for Mr. Brakeley himself bought over one half of the stamps sold at this office. His letters to me averaged to cost about 40 cents each, for he was apt to enclose a quart jar of specimens and pay letter postage on the whole package!

As you go through the village, at the root of the maple tree by the roadside there lies a chunk of sandstone, weighing perhaps fifty pounds. A close observer will notice that it is well hollowed out. It was once a mortar in which Indians with stone pestle used to grind their corn. Broken pestles are frequently picked up in the fields.

It takes sharp eyes to find the arrowheads, and they are mostly in the woods or near old camp sites. Most of them were cast aside, being broke. It took at least three days to make a fine arrowhead, so the Indians hunted long before abandoning one as lost. The large and finely finished ones, often made of quartz, were designed for deer shooting.

For partridges and smaller birds the arrow was often made triangular and sunk into the shaft without tying. Many arrows found around here are roughly made of shale, a rather soft stone. These were the ones with which the Indian children practiced shooting.

Farther out on the road there lives a lady who is direct descendant of the Indians who used to traverse Lahaway and called it home. When it comes to genealogy, the descendants of the Mayflower are infants in comparison. It is probable that those same Indians owned New Jersey before the Anglo-Saxons reached Europe.

Leaving Hornerstown the road divides, the right branch being the highway to New Egypt, the other branch leading to Prospertown. One cannot miss his way, for it is followed by telegraph and telephone lines numerous enough to supply a city. It is a trunk line to the places on the coast. On either side there are some woods, but for the most part the land is plowed or in pasturage for about three miles. A range of hills to the south shows among the green one large brown wound. This is a stone quarry, the only one for miles around. It was used by the Indians and produces the mortar already spoken of. Two miles down the Prospertown road there is another branch in the road. This is the corner of RFD 2, Cream Ridge. Rain, shine or snow, a carrier delivers mail from here to the junction on the Cassville road beyond Prospertown. Nearby, in the white house close to the road, live Mr. and Mrs. Elisha Jones, both enterprising young people well past eighty and well disposed towards scientists. Their watchful white-breasted collie is on guard, but very amiable and playful when once acquainted. From time to time they have picked up many interesting fossils and there are marl pockets on their land.

The enjoyment of any tramp through the country can be heightened by taking along little bags of sugar and salt with which to make friends. Both horses and cattle get too little of either, and there is nothing more to their liking. I like to stop and give some bossy a lick at a cake of rock salt, after which she will surely follow me to the limit of the pasture. Even the big brown bull will stretch the tether attached to his nose ring to get a taste, regarding me with complete friendliness. Almost all animals and birds crave sugar, and the soft brown variety is the handiest to carry and tastiest. The dogs do not take to the rock salt, but they generally like pretzel or saltine cracker from my lunch basket. After one has passed by, the birds will come down to pick up all the crumbs.

Following still the telephone lines, a road leaves northward toward Freehold. Near the corner is an unpainted house none the less picturesque because in front of it is a grove of chestnut trees all absolutely dead. The blight disease imported from Japan has killed them, as it has everywhere around New York. It is to be feared that twenty years from now few chestnuts will grow in the eastern States.

The wayfarer passes the Lawrence farms, with their big new silos and other evidences of modern farming. On the other side of the road there is a little cottage surrounded by button balls and other old-fashioned flowers. There is little use knocking at the door, for the occupant is one of the few bachelors of Prospertown. Early and late he attends to his own five acres, but between times he is generally working on some other farm. The next one spies are five or more flat spaces north of the road, looking for all the world like magnified gray-brown tennis courts, each a few inches lower than the next. These are brand new cranberry bogs, pride of the Imlay farm. A few steps farther, at a huge imported white pine tree, the driveway goes back sixty yards to the house and here I invariably stop.

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Imlay are comparatively newcomers, for it was rather less than thirty years since they came to this farm from Cream Ridge. To the elect, however, they are Uncle Henry and Aunt Beck, and no other names fit them perfectly. I have never been up early enough in the morning to ask the rising sun when Uncle Henry started his day’s work, but by nightfall he is apt to find a little leisure during which he can tell his many travels, for he was at many army posts in the sixties all the way from Virginia to New Orleans.

Aunt Beck is no less busy, for she has a large house to attend to, three meals a day to get, the bogs need watching, the incubator in the back garden works day and night, and armies of little chicks and ducklings are eternally getting caught in gateways or needing food or water. So she meets the newcomer with a puzzled frown. But if perchance he mentions that an entomologist, she is apt to decide that, although she is housecleaning, she might fix up a spare room and keep him. It requires some planning, for the school-ma’am is boarding there this year.

Soon supper is ready, and such suppers! Mrs. Dow was there with the party of scientists last Decoration Day, and ever since she has made auditors envious by accounts of Aunt Beck’s suppers. Not much “boughten stuff,” but great pitchers of that day’s milk and cream, clotted cream of that which is left over, chickens (yes, for chickens are on all sides), eggs of each gathering, night and morning, vegetables of many kinds picked daily from Uncle Henry’s garden, and jam! (Mrs. Elizabeth Rogers, the famous preserve maker, is Aunt Beck’s sister.) And, too, it costs just the same a week at Aunt Beck’s as a day on Broadway, with no better bed, and provender such as Broadway never dreamed of.

The huge bronze turkey gobbler is a mauvais sujet. Last spring Mrs. Turkey was confined in a pen, for she has a habit of walking her chicks to death. Mr. Turkey enticed away the chicks to walk with him, so he was sentenced to confinement. He resisted and flew, but arrived in a wire fence. First grasp of him was too timid, for he left all his tail feathers behind. I wished to gather up all these feathers for some New York milliner, but, taking feminine counsel, refrained. The next flight of Master Turk brought him again in a fence. Therefrom he was ignominiously dragged into the confinement of a pen. Pride certainly goes before a fall. He was too ashamed to utter a sound for days to come. The little turks stayed near home, almost out of danger of being trodden upon. The little ducks and chickens have more liberty, but they have to be closely watched. One never steps upon a twig without a gasp, lest it be some fledgling chicken. The ducklings may not go freely to the cranberry bogs, for in their unawareness they might be seized and dragged down by some snapping turtle. The humble shall be exalted. There is on record a protest of some slaves in Maryland against the constant diet of terrapin. Now, terrapin fetch something like thirty dollars a dozen on Broadway. The snapping turtle is more delectable than any terrapin ever was. Ask Mrs. Bill Horner; she knows. Moreover, if rightly approached and cajoled, she might be persuaded to set forth a supper of Lahaway turtle, soup or steaks, or a la Maryland.

From the Imlay kitchen once was a hole through the house wall, making exit for a water pipe. This disused hollow is now the home of Mrs. Jennie Wren. Mr. Wren is a useful adjunct, but he obeys his wife’s orders and has nothing further to say. The gray mare is oftentimes the better horse. There is an English folk-song hundreds of years old: “The rosemary grows where the mistress is master.” Jennie designs the taking in of the many twigs to form the nest, and she governs the entrance of all the worms for food for littlings. She scolds her man thoroughly. Mr. Brakeley was very fond of wrens, and there are many nests for them at Lahaway.

One might linger indefinitely at the Imlays, but there is still a full statute mile to Lahaway, and it seems much longer by the sandy road. If there is any local history left unwritten in our eastern States, there is no better text than Prospertown Four Corners. In the first place, its name. I suppose that it spells prosperity, which dwelled there in marked degree in the coaching days. The southwest corner has never been built upon, and carries a grove of native trees. The northwest corner accommodates a white frame house, unoccupied last year, well built, originally costly and surrounded by imported trees apparently fully a century old. It has a history, beyond a doubt, for which let some local chronicler speak.

On the southwest corner is a large cellar, the superstructure having been destroyed by fire. It was a store, and its owner did not consider business good enough to warrant rebuilding. To the south is the little blacksmith forge, itself a relic of stage coach times. Across the road is a large frame house, which looks as though it had once been a public hostelry.

At the northeast of the Four Corners still stand public horse sheds, rarely if ever occupied. These cannot but excite curiosity. A century ago public horse sheds were a recognized institution everywhere, especially beside country churches, where the congregation, if coming at all, had to spend the day. But they are becoming scarce and when age topples them over they are seldom rebuilt. Possibly the storekeeper maintained these-here again some local chronicler may say.

The road to the north passes over the mill dam. The pond runs back a long way. It contains but few fishes, for the dam breaks occasionally and the pickerel are swept down to find haven in some eddy or lose in the eternal contest of survival of the fittest. The bass-voiced bullfrogs remain and are stalked with light in the bow of a boat to be knocked on the head. Their hind legs run four or five pairs to the pound.

There are two mill sluices in the dam. One feeds the grist mill, still sound, though last year it did not have a tenant; the other long since broken down, which fed the saw mill. The old carriage for logs is still there, and even the saw blade, deeply covered with red rust. The shed has partly fallen into a picturesque mass of unpainted drab wood.

Oh, little Prospertown by the edge of the pinewoods! May thy prosperity be restored to thee? May thy mill wheels turn and thy four corners be again busy with profitable industry, thy roads carry many people, and thy citizens be both proud and contented!

But we must away toward Lahaway, lest the hour be late.

Past a couple of houses where the people speak a cheery greeting and over the branch of the mill pond, which is the mouth of the creek flowing the Emley farm, the highroad continues. To the left is a field of sand sparsely covered with grass and red cedar. Here flies in April a beetle which is common enough in the far south, but so rare in New Jersey that a couple of dozen I caught were at once seized at the meeting of the Entomological Society to go into the collections of members. They fly bumblebees, and one has to run to catch them in a net. On the other side of the road live five children who gleefully announced one Sunday afternoon as I passed that they did not want to go to Sunday school and weren’t going to. Confidentially, I think God loves them just as much as the rest, even if they do occasionally throw a handful of sand at some old patient mare jogging by. The older ones are famous scouts and can guide you by a score of wood paths to bog, moor or fen in any direction, and they know, too, the favored trees, which have the crows’ nests. From here it is a few steps to a corner. The highway is northern-most, our path comes next and may be recognized by a glimpse of the school house.

The sign over the door reads: “School No. 4, Jackson Township,” or something like it. But we shall know it only as the Prospertown School House. I have always been interested in it, for Brakeley was proud of it and was attending a school board meeting the first time I ever saw him. Happy chance brought me to Prospertown this year in time to attend the exercises of closing day. The teacher was Miss Mary Grosch, of an old Pennsylvania Dutch family, a Moravian, knowing every hymn in the books, including the simple old Moravian ones seldom heard in our generation, herself a slip of a girl only out of school and barely older than her oldest pupils. They say that this made discipline hard to maintain and vexations often well nigh unbearable.

The closing ceremonies were an event, attended by parents from far and near, by children too young to be pupils, by youths and lasses too old to be scholars. The school possesses a phonograph and a score of records, mostly Foster’s Negro melodies and national and patriotic anthems. Miss Mary herself played the parlor organ and led the singing, for the voices of the chorus were none too strong and the little boys at the end of the line were there to swell the numbers, not a sound issuing from their small throats. Pieces were spoken and a playlet given, wherein a small boy in auto goggles administered medicine of water and pink coloring matter to the dolls of several small girls, with a good moral lesson at the end. I was asked by many if I did not think the scholars made an excellent showing, I replied emphatically yes, but with the addition that if scholars do well half the credit is due to the teacher. Down there are almost as many classes as pupils, which adds greatly to the difficulty of teaching. Time will come when they will look back on Miss Mary with deep affection and gratitude. As it has been in the past it will continue that that there is far more likelihood of great men and women coming out from district country schools than from the great city places of education, where the individual is lost in the whirlpool of numbers.

I can remember but few of the pupils’ names. Bill Horner’s youngest daughter was there with pink hair ribbon, conscientious ideas of duty and an enthusiasm over the entrancing Third Reader. There were three sisters, of Italian parentage, lately moved into the district, who were neither absent nor tardy at school or Sunday school for the entire year, and whose sweet, pretty manners promise glorious womanhood and useful citizenship.

There being no church in Prospertown, the schoolhouse is also place for the Sunday school, which meets each Sunday after dinner. Mrs. Elizabeth Rogers, known to the elect as Aunt Lib, housekeeper at Lahaway, into the region. When she moved temporarily to Ocean Grove, Aunt Beck succeeded her. Then after a year came Mrs. Garret Emley. As it has to be church as well as Sunday school, the grown ups outnumber the children.

You remember that we said early in our papers that no highway went within a mile of Lahaway. The highway, telegraph wires and all, soon crosses Lahaway Creek to the northward. What used to be highway and stage road passes Bullock’s Bog.

For the distance of three stones’ throw the road now goes through tall timber, then emerges into the open where the glare of the sunlight becomes intense on the deep sand. Here the timber was cut not many years ago and the new growth is scarcely head high. It is mostly oak, or the pine tree once cut down never springs up from the root. This was known long before Christ, when a king of some land in Asia sent to a neighboring king a twig of pine. His veiled message was: “When I kill you it will be with all your descendants and relatives, so that stock shall never again appear on earth, any more than a cut pine tree.”

It is wonderful, however, how many things grow in such sandy de-timbered land. The very wagon ruts display more grasshoppers, crickets, tiger beetles, and dung beetles than elsewhere. The lazy Strategus, beetle with three great horns, breeding in rotten wood, here climbs clumsily from rut to rut. Here grows in unusual abundance checkerberries, low bush blueberries, trailing arbutus, many mosses, and many fungi rare elsewhere.

Soon again comes woodland. One path leads to Bullock’s Bog, as a sign, now almost unreadable, says; another to the Heyke house, and this is that pleasanter walk to Lahaway. The straight path is deep and dusty, even though it does go by the Indian camp, the spot of the white orchid, the pink lupine, and the honey bee tree. It is not much farther until the vista breaks through trees over the level amphitheater of the sphagnum bogs of Lahaway, the spaghnum, father of coal and petroleum, the curious formation of which makes Lahaway truly the magical land.

The manor house of Lahaway stands on a slight eminence a couple of hundred feet north of the pathway, itself artificially raised in laying out the bogs. The house was built by Rev. J. Henry Brakeley, but there was an older foundation, for the two red cedars in front of it sprout from an artificial level and have been growing much more than a century. All this mound was once covered with loam carried from a distance, making the lawn grass heavy, whereas it will not grow at all in the sandy soil on the level.

All of Lahaway slopes very gently toward its northwest corner. Here the waters join to make Lahaway Creek. The springs are too numerous to count, but come in three general lines. The best spring of drinking water on the place is on the north slope of Mink Island and was the determining factor in the location of the largest Indian village. Other springs combine to make Star Bog and the stream through it, which flows through Lahaway.

The largest volume of water flows due north, fed by springs beyond the boundary of Brakeley land, making nearly a mile of wild swamp through the tangled saplings on which one would have to flounder knee deep in wet moss. Another branch joins at the corner of the largest of the cranberry bogs, making an independent stream big enough to fill a six-inch main the year around. These combined streams have during countless centuries leveled the land, until there are three feet or so of old sea sand left above the impervious clay bed. All this land was swamp until it was leveled, sanded and grown to cranberries. On every foot of it there once grew wild sphagnum.

What is sphagnum? It is merely a moss which grows as plentifully as any other all over the northern hemisphere. There is scarcely a rain pool southward of Allentown which is not fringed with it. Each plant is a single stalk a few inches long, rich brown except for the bright green bud at the top and the dead root end, which turns pale like any other dead plant. As one generation of the plant dies another begins growth on the top of it, and in this way the beds become three to six feet deep. The plant is longer and larger in the New Jersey bogs that in most other places and is much used by florists, for it will hold water for a long time and thus keep flowers fresh. Every botanist lines his collecting box with sphagnum so that his specimens may be safe for many days.

The European war has within the last six months created a new use for sphagnum in the manufacture of high explosives. Guncotton is nitrocellulose; gun powders a mixture of saltpeter, charcoal and sulfur. In both cases the explosive power is the result of the effort of the nitrogen to get free from its compounds, which it turns from solid to gas so quickly that the air is violently shocked. Our supply of nitrates comes mostly from saltpeter, found most plentifully in Chile, in South America, and the great demand has quadrupled its price.

Nitrogen floats free in the air, being about half its weight, but the chemical abstraction has always been impracticable and exceedingly costly. Now, however, the chemists are working hard to find a cheap method to accomplish it, and a company has been formed, backed by the Standard Oil interests, ready to spend $25,000,000 to get nitrogen from the air. The chemists are also constantly working on the task of getting nitrates more cheaply from those plants, which contain that element abundantly. Among them is the sphagnum.

The sphagnum is also one of the best fertilizers in the world. Its abundance coupled with the peculiar climatic conditions is what gives to Lahaway its matchless variety of flora. It is a well-known scientific fact that many plants will only grow in a soil in which some other especial plant has previously lived and died. Thus the mayflower, the trailing arbutus (which carpets the Lahaway woodland), the chosen flower of the Pilgrim Fathers, only grows where the pine has been and might well be called “the Soul of the Pine Tree,” for the pine, when once cut down never sprouts again. The cranberry will only grow on top of a sphagnum bed. The huckleberry thrives best in a mixture of dead sphagnum and sea sand; the best high bush species is hardly found anywhere else. It cannot be cultivated, nor is it at best when wholly wild.

No friend of Brakeley, no visitor of Lahaway in July, can forget the wonderful huckleberries growing in the artificially made dykes between bogs. A bushel of berries often come from a single plant, of such size that they always fetch a fancy price in market. There are two species on the dykes, one with blue bloom and very large, and there are the marketable ones; the other black, but not in favor in the New York market, although they are sweeter and for pies or preserves are better. A different plant still is the low bush blueberry, which grows wild all through the shady woodland. It is shipped to market more than any other kind, is sweet as honey, but the picking is a backbreaking task.

Many other plants depend on the dead sphagnum, including the choicest of all the northern orchids. These were plants that Brakeley loved best of all. If they took root in the bog, cranberry culture was abandoned at the spot. There is but one clump of Arethusa bulbosa on the whole estate, far down in the wild swamp. It consisted of four roots, the rosy purple flower coming at the end of May. Now there are but three, for Brakeley some years ago yielded to the pleadings of a botanist and allowed one to be dug up, but they are in a spot hard to find and surrounded with iron pit holes, so that the searcher may find himself waist deep in water.

The two swamp pinks, Calopogon and Pogonia, are plentiful and make their glorious show in early June. The field orchid, the deep purple Habernaria, comes in July.

I was in Prospertown on the first of October this year, when the foliage is in the height of its autumnal glory of color. There I saw in great abundance the pure white Ladies’ Tresses, Spiranthes gracilis, rising six inches to a foot in every sphagnum bog, not conspicuous from a distance, but when seen close at hand as beautiful and fragrant as an orchid.

The pitcher plant, the red, yellow and magenta side-saddled flower, is another beauty, which grows only among the sphagnum. A particularly fine specimen grew just south of the pond of the wonderful pink lilies and was carefully hedged in by Brakeley, lest it be mowed down or trodden upon. In this plant last year I found the rare moth which feeds on the root. The entomologists of Newark hunted long for this moth and dug up thousands of the plants around Lakehurst in their effort to find it.

In Ireland especially, but also in Germany and elsewhere, the dead sphagnum cut out of bogs, stacked like cordwood to dry, and is the peat used for fuel. Our own species is not so good for this purpose, but it burns well. Each year it will improve. It is of the greatest interest because it illustrates the first step in the natural formation of coal, petroleum and natural gas. It is especially interesting just now, as I note in the Messenger of a few weeks ago a report that the Washington experts are to begin experiments near Lakewood to ascertain the prospects of oil and gas, and that perhaps $15,000 are to be devoted to the investigation. Every one knows that there are both in New Jersey. There is a spot in the ocean southeast of Sandy Hook known on every chart as the Oil Spot. Here the petroleum rises to the surface, but it takes a very little to make a film on the water conspicuous for a long distance. Whether oil and gas will be found in the State in paying quantities is a different matter.

In peat the process of petrifaction has scarcely begun. The pressure above the dead sphagnum sends out more or less oil to ooze through the sand until it lodges in some pocket of the impervious substratum. Dead wood half petrified by ages of pressure becomes lignite, fuel already much used, though it still has a large percentage of ash. After additional pressure for a geologic age, it becomes coal, the newer bituminous or soft coal, and the older anthracite. Petroleum and natural gas are the lighter elements of this material, driven away through the soil by accumulated pressure.

There was an age in the history of the world when vegetation was vastly more plentiful than now. It is called the Carboniferous Age, for carbon is the element making plants. This occurred before the southern half of New Jersey was raised from the sea for the final time. The whole world looked very different then. The seashore ran through Pennsylvania, northeast to southwest. Dead trees piled up for hundreds of feet along it. The Gulf of Mexico started first away up in Illinois. The Great Lakes extended into Wyoming. Dead wood piled up on all these shores. As the sea receded, or rather the earth was raised, the shoreline, still in Carboniferous Age, went through the middle of Alabama. A lake went a thousand miles north into Canada. In all these places great deposits of coal have been created from the driftwood.

After New Jersey rose from the sea level it was again submerged, to be raised again. The first time was in the so-called Secondary Period, somewhere between the Age of Mollusks and the Age of Fishes. The dead creatures cast upon the shore, the line being roughly from New Egypt to Hornerstown, are among the very oldest forms of life. The animals dying and being washed up on the shore during the second creation of shoreline in the same places were largely mammals and existed possibly so recently that they were hunted by man. A date must be wild conjecture, perhaps 25,000, perhaps 250,000 years ago.

One would imagine, then that the supply of oil and gas in New Jersey coming from vegetation of the Second Period would be too small to be of value, and that if a large supply exists it must be the seepage, the flow by gravity, under the Delaware River from Pennsylvania where the geological source of supply was immeasurably greater.

Let me, however, impress one fact upon every reader of this paper. All mankind are not honest and simple hearted. Even now there are men trying to sell stock in companies formed to search for oil in New Jersey. Nothing is so easy as to work with O. P. money (Other People’s money). At best such promoters intend to get profit without cost to themselves. At worst-well, in the past there have been some notorious swindles. No matter what money we sink, we shall get no return from treasure found on some other man’s property. He himself will take it all, unless he, in turn, is wheedled out of it.

The law of the Jungle has become a familiar term largely through the popularity of Kipling’s Jungle Books. It is the Law of Life, of the Survival of the Fittest, the Extinction of the Weakest, the law kept by all animal kind except man. To man alone belongs the element of mercy, of sparing and forgiving, but to him alone, also, belongs the habit of killing for mere pleasure, of hunting and fishing, not merely for food (for that is the justifiable Law of the Jungle), but for the joyous excitement of the chase.

Some of the cat tribe seem, indeed, to share the practice of unnecessary killing. The household cat will catch far more half-fledged birds than it needs for food, but there is probably present the instinctive idea of concealing a food supply for the day’s when game is too scarce to satisfy present hunger. It is man’s practice to hunt for pure pleasure. “It is such a pleasant day,” says he, “let us go out and shoot something.” And so he catches a hundred trout after he has had so many to eat that he has to throw the rest away. He shoots partridges of quail as long as his cartridges last, not knowing what to do with the birds, but grieving at each “miss’ and rejoicing at each “good shot.” Modern game laws do not allow him to kill as many deer as he would like.

The Law of Survival, too many hunters, has at last made game scarce. Three centuries ago, when the population of Lahaway was wholly Indian, there was plenty of game for all, and the supply did not decrease from year to year. The Indian obeyed the Law of Jungle, killing only for needed food. In this respect he was vastly above his cousin, the white man.

When the Brakeleys bought what they afterwards named Lahaway Plantations they took steps to preserve all life, both plant and animal, except that which was directly injurious. For nearly fifty years the estate was “posted” against trespass with dog or gun. Of course, violations were plenty. Many thousand rabbits have gone illicitly into the stew pot, but, after all, it was in obedience to the Law of the Jungle. They were killed to satisfy hunger, not to satisfy murderous pleasure.

Mr. Brakeley himself was an expert shot with rifle, and occasionally in season brought home a deer. Every autumn he liked to get a few partridges and quail, and took a few wood ducks from the many feeding in the ponds. But, all in all, Lahaway was the safest place in New Jersey for wild animal life, and even today is a veritable bird haven. The deer are very scarce, indeed, for they like to roam far and wide and are never safe from gun. In all my visits to Lahaway I have seen only one, a two-year-old doe cropping the branches of birch on Mink Island. Presumably a fawn was near, but kept out of sight down toward the swamp. I watched the mother for a long time in the idle hope that she might be trustful enough to taste some brown sugar, but the deer, hunted for tens of thousands of years, trusts no one. I whistled and the doe pricked up both ears. It was not the voice of any bird she had ever known. And so one long leap and away.

There is no spot on God’s earth where I love to sit as well as the sandy top of Mink Island. The soft sand retains for weeks the track of every living creature. On that particular occasion tracks were unusually numerous. Those with three toes pointing forward and one behind were the ringed-necked plover, a bird frequent in every ploughed field around Prospertown. They come to stick their long bill in the earth and find grubs. One on Mink Island looked up curiously at the sound of my whistle, then wheeled away with incredible rapidity. As well tame the waves on the shores as these wild plover. The tracks of the rabbits criss-cross like a Chinese puzzle, near together when the times are peaceful, but sometimes showing long leaps. Master Fox also has two tracks, one when he saunters, the other when pursuing.

I like to carry a lettuce leaf in my pocket in early June when I ramble through woods where rabbits breed, for the young are fairly easy to catch and after the first fright become tame enough to settle down in my hands and munch the leaf. They are content to be stroked over the back and the long ears, almost as long as the whole body. The mother Bunny cannot be tamed, but lingers near, watching her baby, and from time to time stamping her feet on the ground to make a noise designed to terrify. The rabbit has no defense except flight, but none will desert her young, even for a minute. I have caressed a little rabbit for half an hour, but the instant I released it, it darted toward the mother and with her disappeared from sight and sound in the fewest possible number of leaps.

The skunk, too, leaves many tracks on Mink Island, stopping often to nose and to dig holes in the ground. From the sand bank one can look over into the pond and watch the wood ducks. This species nests in the tall trees. Forty years ago I watched them from underneath, but it took at least three years to observe how the young birds came to the ponds. One day they would be swimming and perfectly at home. The day before they had been nestlings, stretching up their bills to take food from their constantly visiting parents. Finally I learned through a field glass. The mother took the chicks one by one on her back and flew to the water.

The woodcock roams over Lahaway, its long bill thrust into the wet ground perhaps five hundred times and hour in search of insect grubs or fresh water crustaceans. Once only in my life have I crept stilly and seen Mrs. Woodcock on her nest. The quail run through Lahaway stubble, seeking mostly insects. I have caught many chicks, to caress and let go in a few minutes. Mother generally scurries out of sight.

The partridge is a familiar denizen, frequenting the dry slopes. Her chicks are the color of the fallen leaves, and they hide among them. No little partridge was ever tame enough to take a seed or a bug from my hand, when nestled in my other hand. Each watched its mother, who circled nearby, generally pretending to have a broken wing, and each, when released, hurried to hide in the leaves. The instinct of the hunted goes through countless generations. The Law of the Jungle might spare the little partridge, but man does not.

For over forty years Mr. Brakeley kept a journal. Every evening after supper he went to his den, where he sat until bedtime, which was never before 11. Into that book he copied each daily observation. For forty years the bird movements were chronicled. His favorite was the chimney swallow, which came each spring for many years to renew her nest and never ceased to protest loudly against the wood fire which is almost a nightly necessity at Lahaway. Her coming never varied more than a week, and she left for the South with exceeding regularity. For many years it was not known where the chimney swallows wintered, although many were tagged with metal band for identification. Not long ago one was captured in the mountains of Peru, whither it had come from northern New York State.

Into the Brakeley journal went the nightly record of a particular whippoorwill which used to haunt the porch outside the dining room, attracted, no doubt, by the insects gathering to seek the light. It sometimes arrived by 7:30, but on cool evenings often waited until a little after 8. Many of the wrens were known to Mr. Brakeley as individuals, each keeping to its own nest, many boxes for which had been nailed to pole or barn side. All the birds were chronicled.

The passenger pigeons whose flight was once in such flocks that the sun was hidden have long since disappeared before their human murderers. The little ground dove is still common and quite tame, often haunting the roadway. The many kinds of warblers found Lahaway in the line of easiest progress while going north to nest or returning south. They keep to the woods and are almost never seen in an open meadow. Their nesting places are far north, Newfoundland, Labrador, and even Hudson’s Bay. Every one who knows birds them and loves them. They make sweet, but never loud song; they harm no one except the insects they devour from day to day. There are plenty of other birds which keep to the deep woods.

The Legend of Aserdaten

Seldom is there found such a persistent legend in New Jersey than the one concerning Aserdaten. Located at the intersection of two unnamed sand roads in the Forked River Mountains, its only remarkable feature is the desolation of the area.

Henry Charlton Beck wrote extensively on the area in the book ‘Jersey Genesis’ but even in the 1930s, answers about the town or the people who lived there were not forthcoming. From the reactions that Beck and his friend Ned Knox, an artist from Toms River who was also trying to find out about the area, received from the locals, it was a story that everybody was just looking to forget.

The Cook Topo map of 1886 is one of the first maps that show the name of the area as being Aserdaten. The prevailing theory presented by Beck is that a man named named Asa Dayon started a deer preserve on that spot. I’m not quite convinced of this, considering that it’s unusual to see other Pine Barrens towns with their names bastardized so far from their founders name. It’s my own personal belief that the founders surname was Aserdaten, and that his first name has just been lost to time.

The road to Aserdaten is long and desolate, and when wet is nearly impassable. Fortunately for the explorer it has been rather dry, so the way is clear for an automobile to pass. The road stretches on for miles, and the only features that distinguish the site is the T intersection of a sand road, and a mound of dirt as the main road turns. The road that leads down the T intersection used to run straight to Lacey, but now the large road cut in by a gravel company bisects it near the site of the old Tuckerton Railroad. This road is impassable to motor vehicles, since the gravel company erected barriers near the intersection of the two roads.

On both sides of the road is a featureless forest consisting mostly of scrub pine. A few non-native trees can be found, as well as a chunk of concrete and an old rusted piece of metal. In Beck’s time there were several apple trees, however these are gone today. Beck also was able to find the remnants of a fence, most likely part of the deer pen, and two cellar holes. I have been unsuccessful in finding them. The Pines keeps her secrets hidden well.

Aserdaten seems to have vanished as quickly as it appeared. The story is that Aserdaten was not well liked by the locals, who were tired of their crops being eaten by his deer. He seems to have come to an unfortunate end, and it was hinted very vaguely by Dolf Arens, caretaker of the Eureka Gun Club located nearby. During one of Becks visits, Dolf showed Beck the location of a shallow grave located a few steps from the Eureka Gun Club door. ‘It’s a grave alright, they buried ‘em right in the yard in the old days. Who was it? How should I know?’ Dolph told Beck.

Today the Eureka Gun Club site is in ruins. It’s impossible to tell where the door to the club would have been, although the slab floor of the club can still be seen through the weeds. There is nothing to indicate a grave nearby, and even if it was found, the acidic Pine Barrens soil would have made short work of any remains of poor Aserdaten’s body.

The Eureka Gun Club has a history that stretches back far into the history of this area. The club had been known as the Chisler’s Club, and before that was Collins’s Club. Even today the area has relatively new ‘No Trespassing’ signs posted, and has had much of the tall grass cut or burnt away. Remnants of clay pigeons line one of the field showing that the area is still very much in use.

The club is located near the Chamberlain Branch, which winds through the area. Near the bend in the road at the gun club, a small bridge spans the water. It’s come to be known as Black’s Bridge. A short hike away, hidden on a ridge deep in the woods, lies a stone marked with the inscription ‘1869′ and the letter ‘B’ carved in the side. Beck mentions Arens showing him a stone marked ‘T.G. Black ‘ 1859′ that was as large as a crouching man. The stone that I found was smaller and didn’t have the same marking, leading me to believe that this was a different stone. Perhaps these stones were placed there as part of a survey to mark the borders of Black’s property? In any event, Black was in the area around the same time as Aserdaten. Perhaps Black knew of the fate that befell Asa Daton or Aserdaten?

Both men have disappeared into the unsung history of the Forked River Mountains. All that shows that man was here were the ruins of the Eureka Gun Club, and a lonely intersection of two sand roads in the Pine Barrens.

The Legend of the Jersey Devil

Stretching from Toms River in Ocean County, to Cape May lies a tract of forest that has captivated people since pre-colonial times. Some of the first permanent settlements in North America were in the Delaware River area. Dutch, Swedes, Portuguese, and English settlers all found the area a harsh but profitable area to settle.

In the early years of British Colonials, iron making towns sprang up, converting the local bog iron found in the cedar streams to a crude form of iron – pig iron. These foundries provided much needed ammunition for the American fight for freedom.

But there is something else about these woods that makes it a place shunned by many. The Pine Barrens are truly a world cut off from the rest of society. Within the Pine’s stretches many strange things have happened. Paint Island Spring, a natural hot spring, has been said to cure many illnesses. A tree in Burlington County that a man was murdered in front of is perpetually green – as is a patch of grass in front of it. A huge forest of stunted pines lay nearly in the center of the forest – you could look from horizon to horizon and not see a tree bigger than four feet.

And then there’s one thing that makes many of the locals dive for cover, when eerie screams ring out and cloven footprints appear in the ground – what many of the locals call the Leeds Devil, or to those outside of the pines, the Jersey Devil.


The weather that usually accompanies supernatural events is the standard “dark and stormy night”? stuff. And indeed, this night was one of those nights. Leeds Point, where our story begins, is located on the Southern shore of the Great Bay in Burlington County. Leeds Point today is a small dot on the map, just a few houses that are used only seasonally. Leeds Point, back in pre-colonial days, was a larger community, located conveniently on the Mullica River and the Great Bay.

Like any good folklore, the details of the Leeds Devil’s birth are shadowed by the mists of time. The most commonly accepted belief is that a lady known only as Mrs. Leeds (although many insist that her name was Mrs. Shourds) was blessed with 12 children. Upon finding out that she was pregnant with her 13th, she cried out, “May this one be the devil!”? Her wish was granted. The birth was normal, but accounts say that almost immediately, the infant began changing. It’s skin grew rough and scaly, it’s hands and feet elongated and grew hooves, it’s back sprouted a pair of bats wings and serpentine tail, and it’s face twisted and changed to have the face of a horse. Reeling about, it thrashed everyone in the room with it’s tail and flew up the chimney and off into the night.

The devil began raiding local farms, feeding off of crops and livestock, it’s most favorite animal being chicken, which would either be missing when their owners would check them in the morning, or be found dead, for apparently no reason. In 1740 one of the wandering missionaries that preached from town to town in the Pines exorcised him for 100 years. This may not have been effective, because the Devil was reported seen a few times between 1740 and 1840.

Another theory is that Mrs. Leeds refused food to a wandering gypsy, and that the gypsy cursed her unborn child. Another version has it that someone other than Mrs. Leeds had the child – that a young woman was impregnated by a British soldier, and that the offspring was the Devil itself. The latter is probably just Revolutionary War propaganda, because in the eyes of colonials, the Redcoats were the devil themselves! It should be noted that the British had several campaigns against smugglers and pirates in the area, and that the disastrous Battle of Chestnut Creek was fought not far from Leeds Point.

No matter what the variants on the legend, the basics are the same. It was man sized, with a forked tail, cloven hoofs, and the head of a horse. Sprouting from it’s back were two large leathery bat wings. It’s diet consisted of crops and livestock, but oddly enough, there are no reports of it every attacking a human. Many people believe the Devil to be a harbinger of doom. He has been spotted right before every major war, and legend has it that the Leeds Devil will perform some act of mischief on you if you hold evil thoughts.

The Devil was also not alone in the lonely pines. He has been seen with the spirit of a pirate thought to be one of the infamous Captain Kidd’s crew, killed so that his spirit would guard the treasure. The Devil was also thought to be cavorting with a mermaid out to sea, and a beautiful white clad girl with radiant golden hair.

Week of Terror – January, 1909

Many people had hoped that the new century would see the end to the Jersey Devil. He had remained quiet since the late 1880’s, when he was last seen raiding sheep near the New York – New Jersey border. However, fear and panic struck Burlington county in the latter half of January, 1909 – and a new era of Devil sightings were about to begin.

January 16-23 was a week not forgotten quickly by residents of the Delaware River valley. Thousands heard or saw the devil himself, or his footprints. Factories and schools closed for lack of attendance. Many people refused to come out of their homes unarmed, and that was in daylight. Trolley conductors were armed, and posses roamed the countryside following mysterious tracks that would lead for miles, crawl through areas with less than eight inches of clearance, hop fences, or suddenly disappear. His name also changed. In newspaper articles, he was given names like “jabberwock,” “kangaroo horse,” “flying death,” “kingowing,” “woozlebug,” “flying horse,” “cowbird,” “monster,” “flying hoof,” and “prehistoric lizard.”

Saturday, January 16th was the first day that sightings started being reported. A lone sighting in Woodbury, NJ, and two in Bristol, PA started off the furor. The Woodbury sighting, reported by Thack Cozzens, was quick – he just saw the Devil crossing the road near the Woodbury Hotel. He described it as moving faster than an auto, with two spots of phosphorescence for eyes. In Bristol, one sighting was made by Patrolman James Sackville, later chief of the Bristol Police Department. He described the beast as being winged, but hopped like a bird, with features of a “peculiar animal.” It’s voice was like a terrible scream. The creature fled after Sackville started firing his service revolver. Immediately after, E. W. Minster, the postmaster of Bristol reported seeing the Devil flying across the Delaware River at two o’clock in the morning.

Monday found Burlington in an uproar. Hardly a yard was untouched by them. The contents of many trash cans were strewn about and half devoured. Many people attempted to capture the devil, and the woods were filled with steel traps. Dogs would refuse to follow the tracks of the Devil. Posses combed the woods, shouting “If you’re the devil, rattle your chains.”

The next day, Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Evans awoke to ungodly sounds in their back yard. Peering out their bedroom window, they watched as the Devil perched atop their shed. Evans told the press:

“It was about three and a half feet high, with a head like a collie dog and a face like a horse. It had a long neck, wings about two feet long, and it’s back legs were like a crane, and it had horse’s hooves. It walked on it’s back legs and held up two short front legs with paws on them. It didn’t use the front legs at all while we were watching. My wife and I were scared, I tell you, but I managed to open the window and say, ‘Shoo’? and it turned around, barked at me, and flew away.”

More tracks appeared throughout Burlington and Gloucester counties. This time the descriptions varied. Some claimed the Devil to be the size of a dog, while others claimed it had antlers, and still others claimed it had three toes and was dog-like.

An unidentified policeman in Burlington was sure he saw a Jabbwerwock Wednesday morning. It’s eyes were like blazing coals, he claimed. It had no teeth “and other terrible attributes.”? The Leeds Devil was seen in Collingswood by a posse as it flew towards Morristown, where John Smith saw it near the Mount Carmel cemetery. He chased it unit it disappeared in a gravel pit. Later in the evening, the beast frightened riders of a trolley car in Springside. The driver, Edward Davis, reported that “It looked like a winged kangaroo with a long neck.”

The next sightings happened early Thursday morning, the 21st of January. It’s first stop was the Camden area, where it appeared to the Black Hawk Social Club at 1 a.m. It again frightened passengers on a trolley, circling above the tracks, hissing ominously. Fortunately, it kept with it’s pattern of not attacking humans, and was off into the night. The Devil then flew North to Trenton, where it made tracks in the park and several yards. The Devil also tried to enter the home of Trenton councilman E. P. Weeden, but was foiled by a locked door. Many residents elected not to venture outside of their homes until they were sure the threat of the monster was gone. So frightened were local residents that ministers noted an increased attendance at their churches.

Many poultry farmers also reported missing large numbers of chickens. Further adding mystery to this, chickens were soon found dead with no markings on them. Farmers speculated either choking or fright. They all agreed on one thing – that the Jersey Devil was at the root of the problem.

The monster didn’t limit it’s activities to New Jersey on Thursday, either. He was seen running up the Chester Pike in Leiperville, Pennsylvania running along on it’s hind legs faster than an automobile. This time the devil had skin like an alligator, and was about six feet tall. The Devil didn’t stay for long in Pennsylvania – William Wasso, a trackwalker for an electric railway company, watched as the Devil sniffed the center rail. He then saw the devil touch the rail with it’s tail, and explode, melting the track for twenty feet in either direction. Finding no trace of the creature, Wasso believed that it was dead.

The Devil, however, has a history of being impervious to harm. Commodore Stephen Decatur, a captain in the Revolutionary Navy, was in Batsto testing some ordinance when he spied the Devil flying overhead. He ordered the cannon to be fired at it, but the shot passed right through the beast. It flew away unharmed.

Friday saw the Devil back in Camden, observed by another policeman who described him to be a Jabberwock. By this time, the strain of the events of the week had taken their toll on the citizens of the area. Schools closed, and theater performances were canceled. The Devil was seen in Mount Holly, where William Cronk spied him from his window while eating his supper. The Devil was supposedly captured in the barn of C. C. Hilk in Pennsylvania. Two farmhands had locked him in there while he was riding on a wagon driven by one of the farmhands. Many curious people crossed the Delaware to see the beast, but in it’s usual fashion, it was nowhere to be found.

The Jersey Devil was also not the only strange being to appear this Friday. Dan Possack of Millville had a struggle with “one of the strangest freaks of nature, or a monster straight from the bad place.”? While Dan was doing his chores he heard someone in the backyard walking around, calling out to him. When he turned around, he beheld a “monster beast-bird” about 18 feet high. The visitor demanded to know where the garbage can was, asking in perfectly good English. Dan, terrified, ran towards the barn, but the bird caught up with him. It wrapped it’s sinewy and red beak around Dan’s body. Dan began hitting it with a hatchet that he kept in his belt. He was astonished to see that he could chop splinters out of the body, much like he could out of wood. While he was chopping, the beast whispered something in Dan’s ear, and with a mighty blow, Dan set the hatchet square into the monster’s face. Out popped an eyeball, and with a scream of pain, the assailant took in a long breath, filled it’s body like a balloon, and floated into space.” Mass hysteria was certainly gripping the area.

What is It?

Many theories abound as to what the Leeds Devil was. Many were proposed in seriousness and in jest. Some believed that it was a prehistoric creature trapped in a submerged limestone cave. With plenty of air and a constant supply of food (fish) life could continue, separated from the rest of the modern world. The caves could have been opened by seismic activity. The Grand Banks area is known for earthquakes – could one of these opened up the cave that held the Devil?

Or could it be Mrs. Leeds 13th child? Was there really ever a Jersey Devil? According to Rutgers University Folklorist Angus Gillespie, no. Gillespie tells of the first written tale of the Devil, found in the diary of a woodsman named Vance Larner. Stories of the beast Larner say gradually emerged into the Leeds Point myth. Why Leeds? The Leeds, like many early Pines settlers, had been around the area for ages, and many people carried the surname. It might have been easy to pick the Leeds name. The stories of the Devil haunting the woods might have also been devised to discourage federal agents from sweeping the area looking for contraband – something hard to sneak into New York or Philadelphia, but relatively easy in the Pines. It may also have been the perversion of a mothers warning – “Don’t be out late or the Jersey Devil may get you!.”

Nonetheless, the Jersey Devil in recent years has been quiet. He made a brief appearance in the 1950’s, and aroused many curious citizens to thrash around the bushes of Leeds Point. Maybe he’s silent now because his name has been commercialized. Countless bars and taverns bear his name, as well as a potent drink and a hockey team. Maybe the ever encroaching population that replaces more and more trees with modular homes and Sport Utility Vehicles has driven the devil farther and farther into the woods.

Yet there are many people who refuse to go into the pines, be it daylight or night. The pines are an eerie place, physically separated from civilization only by a few miles, but lost in an age of its own.

“Where stunted pines of burned over forest are revealed in darksome pools, the Jersey Devil lurks”? wrote the late New Jersey historian Henry Charlton Beck. Maybe he’s is right.


Beck, Henry Charlton, Jersey Genesis: The Story of the Mullica River, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, 1963.

McGloy, James & Miller, Ray Jr. The Jersey Devil Middle Atlantic Press, Wilmington, Delaware, 1976.

Mother Leeds Curse, World & I Magazine, November, 1995, Vol. 10, Issue 11, p202

A Haunted Place, House Beautiful, November 1994, Vol. 136, Issue 11, p20

Claim They Have Seen “Leeds Devil”?, Asbury Park Evening Press, January 22, 1909, p2

An Awful Struggle, Asbury Park Evening Press, January 22, 1909, p2

What Mysterious Tracks Are These?, Asbury Park Evening Press, January 20, 1909, p2