The Story of Quaker Bridge

The story of Quaker Bridge begins with the need to cross the Batsto or Mullica River at that place in present-day Washington Township. As Leah Blackman explains, that need arose primarily among members of the Society of Friends who attended a yearly meeting at Little Egg Harbor:

As before stated sometime during the youthful age of the meeting house, there was a yearly meeting established at Egg Harbor, which continued for a number of years, and Friends came from distant sections to the yearly meeting at Egg Harbor.

In the year 1772 John Churchman states that there was a large concourse of people at the yearly meeting then held at Little Egg Harbor [now Tuckerton]. Friends who came from the upper section of Burlington county crossed the east branch of Mullica river, at the place now known as Quaker Bridge. After fording the stream they watered and fed their horses, and then sat down in the shade of a venerable and majestic oak tree and partook of the lunch they had brought with them. Fording the stream was not a very pleasant job, especially for people who were dressed in their “meeting garments,” and finally Little Egg Harbor Friends and Friends of the upper section of Burlington county, agreed to meet at the east branch of Mullica river, at the fording place, in order to construct a bridge as a more convenient way of crossing the stream. They met at the appointed time, and the banks of the stream being heavily timbered with large and primitive cedars a number them were cut down and a bridge constructed of them, and thus came about the name of Quaker Bridge, or as formerly called the “Quaker’s Bridge.”

Writing about Quaker Bridge, many historians suggest the reason the Friends constructed the bridge was to eliminate the numerous drowning that occurred there in the past while fording the stream. A careful read of the historical record, however, strongly suggests that these chroniclers confused and conflated stories about the Swimming Over location on the Mullica near Leeds Point with the site of Quaker Bridge. This bridge quickly became an important crossing place over the Mullica in the region. The well-worn bridle path, and former Indian trail, the Quakers used for their annual pilgrimage soon widened to become one of the main roads between Philadelphia (actually, the ferries in present-day Camden) and Tuckerton. During the American War for Independence, it seems logical that privateers used this Tuckerton Road and the Quaker Bridge, among other routes, to move a portion of their booty to the Quaker City, although I have not found any collaborating documentary evidence for such musings. We can also surmise with some certitude that highwaymen like Mulliner, Giberson, Fagan, et al. made regular runs and raids along this road to Tuckerton.

In 1789, the Burlington County Clerk’s Office recorded a road return for this route, making the thoroughfare that passed over the bridge an official county road. The Quaker Bridge rose to greater prominence during the closing years of the eighteenth century when United States postal officials chartered both the Atsion and the Tuckerton Post Office facilities on the same day: 18 August 1797. Newspaper advertisements placed in that year sought contractors to carry the mail:

PROPOSALS For carrying MAILS of the United States on the following Post Roads, will be received at the General Post-Office, in Philadelphia, until the 31st day of July next, inclusive. New Jersey 67. From Philadelphia by Taunton and Atsion to Tuckerton once in two weeks. Leave Philadelphia every other Wednesday by 3 P M, arrive at Tuckerton on Thursday by 6 P M. Leaver Tuckerton every other Tuesday by 6 A M, and arrive at Philadelphia on Wednesday by 9 A M. (Gazette of the United States, 06 June 1797, Page 4)

The issuance of the mail contract to an independent carrier provided the impetus for inauguration of stagecoach operations between Philadelphia and Tuckerton over the Quaker Bridge route, which started operations in the same year as the opening of the two post offices. The stagecoaches and the attendant servicing needs for the horses, the drivers, and the passengers, warranted having taverns situated from two to eight miles apart. It appears for the first year the stage operated, no tavern stood between “Washington” and Bennett’s Tavern in Evesham (now Marlton), which is really too great a distance for the sake of the horses and the comfort of the people. Although stage operators did not stop at every tavern, it was very important to have such facilities properly placed and spaced. During the second year of stagecoach trips, Ephraim Cline opened his stand west of Atsion at Edgepillock. Gradually, other taverns opened along the route, including one at Flyatem, Quaker Bridge, and Mount.

Arthur Thompson, the oldest son of William and Mary (nee Nieukirk) Thompson, born circa 1773. He obtained a position at the Atsion Forge upon reaching the appropriate age. On 11 May 1797, he married Elizabeth Sooy, the eldest daughter of Nicholas and Sarah (nee Sears) Sooy, who operated Washington Tavern. Arthur must have achieved a rather high level of technical acumen at the forge, for on 13 February 1802, he purchased an interest in the ironworks and the lands surrounding from the executors of Drinker and the executors of Lawrence Salter. In 1808, he then acquired a tract of land “bounding Batsto Creek north of the bridge known as Quaker Bridge, formerly the property of the Batsto Iron Works and purchased from J. [Jesse] Richards by Sooy in 1801.” It was on this new parcel that Arthur and Elizabeth Thompson constructed the Quaker Bridge Hotel, otherwise known as Thompson’s Tavern. He must have completed the building in 1809, for he filed his first tavern license application during that year. A small hamlet of several houses soon nucleated around the tavern.

Certainly Arthur had opened his Quaker Bridge Hotel by 22 June 1809, when Sara Thomson passed from Philadelphia to Tuckerton via this route, as recorded in her diary of the trip (original spelling and grammar retained throughout quote):

Thursday, June 22, 1809. Started for Tuckerton the weather very damp—met with a smart Beau in my walk down the Ferry—he immediately joined and escorted us safe over—we bid him adieu—walked up to the house to take our passage the stage as they called it for to me it had more the appearance of an old Jersey wagon such as they go to market in but there was no use in complaining we started, nine passengers in all, the back part of the stage was stuffed full of bags banboxes without number—one poor old man about 80 years of age—the poor soul was cramed in among them to beshure he had a soft seat but the Ban Boxes they where flat enough and there contents wich where principlely Sunday Bonnets for the Tuckerton Bells—stopted at Haddonfield saw Mrs Bolton very much pleased with her—she made many inquires after Mr Wests family—he was very socible. dined at Ever Ham Pewter plates and Wooden spoons Landlady rather short very good peas and pretty good lamb-currant pie sweet with molasses Left Mr Bennet got pretty well in the Pines and heavy sand caught in a thunder storm Lightning one says O, dear, O my O I wish I was with the old man among the Ban Boxes—the stage leeked spoiled my pretty Bonnet blessed the stage and its proprietors and the old ragged curtains, arrived safe through all our troubles at Quaker Bridge, had a very good supper, clames in abundance good coffee very good beds landlady very kind, Charles complained of the rats said they bit his ear could not discover any mark must of drempt it swears he did not started next morning at daylight very pleasant ride after the rain, the driver polite he stopped several times to pick up magnolies water Lily &c arrived at Tuckerton to dine.

More than a year later, an entry dated 10 October 1810 in the Martha Furnace diary records that Jesse Evans was at Quaker Bridge for the day.

The Curly Grass Fern Story

In a letter written to Zaccheus Collins on 9 July 1818, renown botanist John Torrey recounted a trip made in June of the same year with William Cooper to Quaker Bridge:

The principal difficulty was in keeping to the right road. Hundreds of these little roads cross each other in every direction like a labyrinth, so that it is next to a miracle if you hit the right one. We remained two days at Thompson’s Tavern, where we were very [well] entertained. About this time we found a [consider]able number of plants which were new to us, indeed there were few plants but what we found here. The Drosera filiformis and foliosa ? Ell. were abundant, as well as two species of Utricularia, one of which does not appear to be described. What pleased us more than any plant we found was the Schizea. Cooper found the first specimen. It is a singular little plant, and I first doubted whether Pursh had referred it to the right genus, but subsequent examination has convinced me that he is right. The whole of the plant which we saw was confined to a very small space. There is a small patch of it about forty-five yards from the W. end of the bridge, on the left side as you approach it from Philadelphia, and about twelve feet from the road. I have been particular to mention its locality as this is the only spot where we found [it]. We found abundance of the Leiophyllum and Hudsonia, some of them in flower. The latter plant I am inclined to think is a different species from the one which grows on the sea coast. At first sight you are struck with the long peduncled flowers of the one, and the almost sessile flowers of the other. We found two species of Eriocaulon; one common, tall and with large hemispherical head and tuft of short leaves at the base; the other smaller, with long leaves. They are both ten-striate.

After we left Quaker Bridge, we fared pretty hard. Some places called taverns that we put up at were not fit for an Arab. At a place called the Ten-mile Hollow or Hell-Hollow we expected to sleep in the woods, for it was with difficulty that we persuaded them to take us in. This was the most miserable place ever saw; they were too poor to use candles. No butter, sugar, etc. A little sour stuff, which I believe they called rye bread, but which was half sawdust, and a little warm water and molasses, were all we had for breakfast. For supper I could not see what we had, for we ate in the dark. From this place until we reached Monmouth we found scarcely a single plant in flower.

A specimen of the Schizea (Curly Grass Fern) referred to in the letter can be found in the collection of the Torrey Botanical Club in New York, reportedly collected by Frederick Pursh and J. Leconte, while on a trip with Dr. C.W. Eddy and C. Whitlow. Pursh claimed full credit for the find, despite being reportedly accompanied by Leconte. While various reference to this discovery carry dates of 1805 and 1808, it seems more likely that discovery occurred in 1811 based on an 1812 letter from Dr. Muhlenberg to Zaccheus Collins in which Muhlenberg writes that the Schizea was “…discovered last year by Mr. Pursh and Dr. Eddy.” The year 1811 fits much better with when Thompson opened his Quaker Bridge Hotel than does 1805 or 1808.

The rather scathing statement about Frederick Pursh pushing aside Leconte and taking full credit for discovering the Curly Grass Fern appears to be in keeping with the man’s character. A January 1818 review, published in The American Monthly Magazine and Critical Review, of Pursh’s two-volume work, Flora Americae Setentrionalis or a Systematic Arrangement and Description of the Plants of North America &c. parses no words in casting great aspersions on Pursh and his apparent scurrilous behavior. Here are some quotes from that review:

…The writer of this article knew him [Pursh] in 1804, while he was Mr. Hamilton’s botanical gardener, and he appeared to be intelligent and zealous in his profession, but not equal to the task undertaken; the same opinion is entertained by those who knew him in New-York, at a later period, when he had charge of the Elgin garden.

…Moreover, the new genera Diphryllum, Phyllepidum, Shultzia, Odeneetis, Tsotria, &c. and PURSHIA, dedicated to himself!! Published by C.S. Rafinesque, in the Medical Repository of New-York, 1808, No. 44, of which Mr. Pursh must have had knowledge, and has willfully omitted for some purpose which can only be guessed at. He has introduced in his Flora many of the naturalized plants, which form an important feature in the botany of every country, but has omitted as many more, since he has neglected the following naturalized genera [list omitted for space] and many more, most of which are enumerated by Rafinesque, in a dissertation on the naturalized plants of the U.S. in the Medical Repository, for 1811, No. 56.

…It is hardly to be supposed that he was ignorant of so many additions to American Botany, of which a great proportion had been published in New-York, while he was in that city or its neighborhood…. These omissions are therefore unaccountable, unless we suppose that Mr. Pursh has omitted them in order to set off with more advantage his own discoveries, or rather to hide those which he has copied or stolen from them, that he might not be compelled to disclose the sources from which he derived such plagiaries.

We are sorry to be compelled to tax this author with such despicable motives; but we do not perceive any other to which it might be ascribed, and we have abundant proof that he has concealed circumstances relating to some of the new plants, which he has taken the liberty to describe as his own, while he knew well that the first discovery, and even publication did not belong to him; he has even in some instances dared to publish them again under the very same names given them by the original discoverers, while sometimes he has concealed his pilfering under different names.

It will be necessary to notice such of those daring attempts as we have been able to detect.

The Drosera filiformis was discovered in 1802 by C.S. Rafinesque in a journey to the sea-shore of New-Jersey, in company with Col. Thomas Forrest, communicated in 1803 to Dr. Muhlenberg, to Mr. Hamilton, to whom Mr. Pursh was then gardener, and to Mr. Pursh himself, and published in 1808 in the Medical Repository, in 1809 in the Journal of Botany, &c. nevertheless, Mr. Pursh introduces it in his Flora, in 1814! as a new species, under the same name, stating that he discovered it in the same place, near Tuckerton, in 1805! and without noticing in the least the above circumstances. A plate of that plant, engraved by said Rafinesque, and intended to form a part of a selection of rare American plants, had been sent in 1803 to Dr. Mitchill of New-York, and is now deposited in the Lyceum of natural history of N.Y. together with many other plates of new plants.

…In an excursion to New-Jersey made by Dr. Eddy, Mr. Leconte, and Mr. Pursh, a very rare new species of Schizea was discovered by Dr. Eddy; Mr. Pursh did not find a single specimen; but one was lent to him, with a positive injunction that Dr. Eddy meant to publish that species: however Mr. Pursh has published it under the name of Shizea pusilla as his own discovery.

The reviewer continues with his unrelenting attack for each and every error, omission, and example of pilferage found in Pursh’s book. Hence, any statement concerning the date of discovery for the Curly Grass Fern should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism based on Pursh’s own proclivity for changing the facts and the extant historical record of when the discovery actually occurred. Pursh himself may have backdated the discovery so he could claim the earliest, and thereby the first, harvest of the collected specimen.

The Quaker Bridge Hotel Continued and Stagecoach Operations

In 1817, Arthur petitioned the county court for a renewal of his tavern license. His petition stated that the license was for the house in which he had dwelt for a number of years, “Standing and lying on the main Stage Road leading from Tuckerton to Philadelphia known by the name of Quaker Bridge.” Arthur Thompson met his demise on 21 November 1819 and the family interred his remains at the churchyard cemetery in Green Bank. Elizabeth continued operating the tavern until 1836, when she retired and turned the hotel over to James G. Sears, a probable relative of her mother. Elizabeth died on 4 March 1840 and she lies in repose next to her husband at Green Bank. Thomas Gordon’s 1834 Gazetteer of the State of New Jersey contains an entry for Quaker Bridge:

Quaker Bridge, over Batsto river, Washington t-ship, Burlington co., 6 miles S.E. of Shamong village, and 4 from Atsion Furnace. There is a tavern there.

Stagecoach Operations

Regarding the stagecoach operators and cartage of the U.S. mail, Leah Blackman writes the following:

I cannot say how the mail was carried from and to Tuckerton, for some authors persist in saying that Isaac Jenkins was the first stageman between Tuckerton and Philadelphia, and that he commenced the stage business about the year 1816. But certain statements warrant me in believing, that it was before the year 1816 that Jenkins set up staging. James Hughes, of Cape May, was one of the early stage drivers of the Tuckerton stage, and many are inclined to the belief that he was one of the first who acted in that capacity. Isaac Jenkins made one trip a week, leaving Tuckerton on Monday, and returning on Saturday. It took two days’ travel each way.

Isaac Jenkins certainly operated the stage for a time, as attested to by this advertisement from the 18 July 1820 edition of the Philadelphia newspaper called Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser:

In 1828, John D. Thompson, son of Arthur and Elizabeth, purchased the stagecoach line and began running a one-way trip in one day, rather than two, and also carried the mails. By 1840, however, Joseph B. Sapp ran the coach service, as evidenced by this advertisement from the 5 September 1840 edition of the Public Ledger:

Based on the schedule presented in the notice, Sapp retained the single-day one-way trips that Thompson had started. Stagecoach operations continued until rail service to the mid-Jersey coast became available.

In 1836, Jesse Richards attempted to supplant the stagecoach operators after receiving an incorporation charter for the Camden & Egg Harbor Railroad Company. The proposed route of this line would have taken it through Quaker Bridge on its way between Camden and Tuckerton. Other incorporators included Samuel B. Finch, Timothy Pharo, Ebenezer Tucker, and William McCarty. A section of the legislative act, passed 10 March 1836, detailing the railroad’s route states,

That the president and directors of the company be, and they are hereby authorized and invested with all the rights and powers necessary and expedient to survey, lay out and construct a rail road, from some point or place in the county of Gloucester, within the corporate limits of the city of Camden, not exceeding sixty-six feet in width at the surface of the road, with as many sets of tracks and turn-outs as they may deem necessary; thence to or near Quaker Bridge, in Burlington county, thence to or near McCartyville or Wading River, and thence to such a place at or within two miles of the village of Tuckerton as may be fixed on by the president and directors.

Another portion of this same enabling legislation prohibited the use of steam locomotives on the line.

Like many New Jersey railroads incorporated during the mid-1830s, the Panic of 1837 and the ensuing financial malaise ended any hope of building the railroad. Some of the incorporators attempted to revive the charter in 1848 by receiving approval of a legislative act to extend the expiration time for the corporate charter, but between 1836 and 1848, the industrial components of the Pine Barrens had changed dramatically. Four years after this failed attempt to reenergize construction of this all rail route through Quaker Bridge, the Richards family involved itself with another railroad to the coast: the Camden & Atlantic.

Although we do not have any idea of how the Quaker Bridge Hotel appeared to those weary travelers stopping for a meal or a bed, a sale advertisement from the 7 September 1812 edition of the Federalist newspaper for Bodine’s Tavern might provide some clues:

It is unclear at the present time what happened to the Quaker Bridge Hotel. It appears on the 1849 Otley and Whiteford map of Burlington County as the property of William Richards. Two other buildings appear on the same map near the hotel. Likewise the same basic layout of buildings exist on the 1858 Parry, Sykes, and Earl map of the county, but it is unclear whether the tavern still stood at that time or whether the cartographers of the 1858 map merely copied what the previous cartographers had produced nine years earlier. Here is a detail from the 1858 map:

William Richards may have owned the hotel in 1849, but Kirkbride’s New Jersey Business Directory, General Register and Advertising Medium, published in 1850, indicates a William Sinclair operated the tavern. The same directory lists Josiah Smith at Piper’s Corner at the “Sign of the Buck” and Jonathan Cranmer at Mount Tavern. At some time subsequent to the Quaker Bridge tavern opening, Arthur’s brother, Alexander, who had married Jemima(h) Sooy, another daughter of Nicholas and Mary, constructed a tavern at Mount and also began serving travelers along the route between Camden and Tuckerton. I believe that Jemima Sooy Thompson is the source of the name for Jemima Mount and that the nearby hotel also takes its name from this prominence. The Mount Tavern was in operation when Leah Blackman, as a young girl, accompanied her father on a trip to Philadelphia during January 1829. She wrote two accounts of the trip and here is a quote from the first one:

As an illustration of the miseries of travelling in private conveyance over fifty years ago I shall here give a few incidents of a trip I took to Philadelphia when I was twelve years of age. In the winter of the year 1829 and 1830 I went with my father to Philadelphia. As was customary in those days with such travelers as we, we started from home between 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning on a very cold morning in January. My father was very careful in all things and like the slow careful drivers of the period he was careful of his horses, so we jogged on it the dark until just as the sun arose we came to the hotel kept by Alexander Thompson Sr. Here we stopped to give the horses a bite and also to warm ourselves. I got out of the wagon and was shown into the sitting room of the hotel where there was a blazing roaring fire of pitch pine knots on the sample fire place.

In the second version of the story, she states:

In the winter of year 1829 I, then being 12 years of age, went to Philadelphia with my father. He went in his own conveyance and we traveled about as other people did in their own carriages. People of those days, especially farmers, were careful drivers, none of them being of the Jehu class. Father was noted for his carefulness in all things and this being the case he was a careful driver. We as most other such [travelers] eat our breakfasts and started from him about 2 o’clock on a bitter cold morning in January and did not stop anywhere until we reached the Mount Hotel 15 miles from Tuckerton and then the sun was just rising. My feet were extremely cold. I got out of the wagon and went into the hotel where there was a roaring pitch pine fire in the large fireplace, and before this fire I warmed my feet., but afterwards found they were considerably frosted and continued to worry me all winter.

Precisely when Alexander Thompson removed from Mount Tavern is unknown, but Cranmer died while still seized of the property. An advertisement in the 22 August 1869 edition of the New Jersey Mirror[/] indicates the Burlington County Court of Common Pleas ordered Cranmer’s property sold:

By virtue of an Order of Sale, made by Joseph L. Morton, Esq., one of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of the County of Burlington, the subscribers will sell at Public Vendue, on SATURDAY, the Eleventh of September next, between the hours of 12 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon of said day, at the Hotel of William Davis, in Mount Holly, all that Farm and Tract of Land, Whereof Jonathan Crammer died seized, situate in the Township of Washington, County of Burlington, on the road from Quaker Bridge to Tuckerton, and known as “The Mount Tavern Property,” containing about THREE HUNDRED & TWENTY ACRES! Of which about 100 acres are Arable land, the remainder in young Timber.—The Improvements consist of a very large and substantial Frame Dwelling House, Barn, Crib-house, Wagon-house, Horse-sheds, &c. This is a very desirable Property, and is worthy the attention of persons wishing to make a profitable investment of their money. Sale to commence at 2 o’clock, P. M. Conditions at Sale. RICHARD B. NAYLOR, CHARLES N. LAMB, GEORGE DEACON, Commissioners. Aug. 10, 1869.

Here is how the Mount Tavern area appeared on the 1858 Burlington County map:

Murder in Quaker Bridge?

Despite the small stature of Quaker Bridge in the geography of New Jersey, the hamlet did make news during 1854 about a possible murder. The following article appeared in the 22 August 1854 issue of the Trenton State Gazette:

Some time since we published a letter from Port-au-Prince, stating that a German, named John Muller, had confessed to the American Consul that he had murdered a man about six months ago in Burlington county. Yesterday (Monday) we published a brief account of his arrival at Philadelphia and examination by G.S. Cannon, Esq., Prosecutor of the Pleas of Burlington, but as it contained many errors we publish below the correct account of the examination.

Mr. Cannon, having been telegraphed for, went to Philadelphia and had an interview with the prisoner. The latter repeated his confession, which was in substance as follows: In February last he was at work at wood chopping at a place called Quaker Bridge, in Washington Township, Burlington county. His employer was Squire [William H.] Sooy. It seems that there was a German living in the neighborhood named John Meyer, who treated his wife very badly. She had left her husband on one or two occasions, but the latter had forced her to return and again live with him. Her case excited the commiseration of the prisoner and a fellow workman named Gottleib Mulheiser and the two agreed to give the woman some money to assist her in getting away from her husband.

This, Muller says, they did, and the woman went away on the stage. Meyer and the prisoner worked together in a shanty in the pines, and for some reason Meyer suspected their agency in the disappearance of his wife. The husband went to their cabin, broke open the door, and demanded his wife. A squabble took place between the parties and the two friends were more than a match for the infuriated man. This fight was not attended with any serious results. Several other affrays growing out of the same cause occurred at subsequent periods. Finally, one day some time afterwards, Muller and Meyer met at a cabin kept as a store by Squire Sooy, the old quarrel was revived and Meyer struck the prisoner over the head with a small stick. The blow was not a serious one. The parties clenched, and the prisoner struck his adversary several severe blows about the temple with his fist, Meyer fell and appeared to be dying, when Muller became frightened, went to his own cabin, got his clothes and money, and eloped to New York, from whence he sailed to London. There was no person present at the time of the final fight.

In London the prisoner met with a man named Charles Brown, whom he had known in Burlington county. Brown told him that Meyer was found dead, and that Mulheiser had been arrested on the charge of murdering him, and that he was then in prison. From London Muller went to Port-au-Prince, and while there he suffered great anguish of mind at the reflection that his friend was imprisoned for an offence of which he was entirely innocent. Muller accordingly determined to make a confession, which he put in execution and requested the American Consul to send him to the United States for trial.

The prisoner is but 23 years of age. He says he first came to this country about three years ago, and that he worked for Squire Sooy a year before the fatal event.

Mr. Cannon has sent the sheriff down to Washington township, to gather such facts as may bear upon the case, and we shall probably know more of it in a few days.— At present Mr. Cannon has no knowledge that such a murder was committed, and it seems probable that Meyer may have recovered after Muller fled.

An article in the 31 August 1854 issue of the New Jersey Mirror provides us with the outcome of the investigation and ultimately what happened to John Muller and the other men involved:

We stated in our last paper that Sheriff Pancoast had gone down to Washington township, to obtain from William H. Sooy, Esq., what information he could relative to John Muller, the self-accused murderer, and his victim, John Meyer. Mr. Sooy has no recollection of Muller ever working for him–but as he has had so many Germans in his employ, and they frequently pronouncing their names so entirely different from what Americans would, it is not unlikely that Muller may have been among the number, and more particularly from the fact that he seems to be well acquainted with the individuals and transactions connected with that locality. Mr. S. states that Meyer and Mullheiser worked for him, and both of them left the neighborhood about a year ago. The cause of their leaving was the difficulties that existed between them. Meyer, it was alleged, ill-treated his wife, and Mulheiser interfered to prevent such conduct. This caused considerable jealousy on the part of Meyer and he determined to have revenge. For the purpose of punishing Mulheiser, perhaps intending to kill him, he one day, armed himself with a gun and knife, and proceeding to his cabin, broke open the door, when Mullheiser seeing the formidable appearance of his antagonist, jumped out of the window and fled. He immediately procured a warrant for Meyer and had him arrested. A number of the workmen then stepped in as peacemakers and succeeded in settling the difficulty between them. They both, however, left the premises soon after. Meyer visited the place a month or two ago, and Mr. Sooy thinks he is now employed at Jackson Glass Works. Mullheiser had been at work for Mrs. S. sometime, and when he desired to leave, there was upwards of a hundred dollars coming to him. It not being convenient to pay the full amount, Mr. S. gave him his note for sixty dollars. Nothing further was heard of Mullheiser, until about three weeks ago, when he came back and obtained the money for his note. He stated that he had been at work on the Erie railroad. Such is the substance of the information obtained by Sheriff Pancoast. Mr. S. says that Muller, the prisoner, may have been concerned in the difficulties in question, but he has no recollection of any such person, neither has he his name upon his books.–Many persons are of the opinion that, being familiar with the quarrels between Meyer and Mullheiser, he invented the story of the murder for the purpose of getting a free passage back to the United States. DEATH OF THE PRISONER. All further proceedings in the case are stayed by the death of the prisoner. As was feared at the time of his committal to prison in Philadelphia, the attack of typhoid fever with which he was then suffering, has proved fatal. He died on Tuesday morning. A short time before his death, he conversed freely with Mr. Farquhar, one of the Prison Inspectors, and related to him something of his past history. It seems that after his escape from a Russian vessel at Port-au-Prince, he lay in the woods two weeks before he applied to the American Consul. It was at this time that he contracted the disease which terminated his life. He stated that his parents reside in New York. He had a Bible, which he always kept at his side.

There is a story about Quaker Bridge that appear in Cornelius Weygandt’s book, Down Jersey, but I will not reproduce it here for fear of infringing on the copyright. I would recommend you read the story as in some ways in mimic the information just preceding this paragraph. Also, Arthur D. Pierce’s work, Iron in the Pines: The Story of New Jersey’s Ghost Towns and Bog Iron contains an entire chapter titled, “Quaker Bridge to Washington.” In this section of his book, he tells the tale of the white stag that saved the lives of those in the stagecoach from certain death when the Quaker Bridge washed out. Again, the current copyright on Pierce’s book prohibits me from providing the story in this Quaker Bridge article.

Mary Ann Forge

The Mary Ann Forge has always been somewhat enigmatic for those who enjoy poking around the more obscure locations in the Pine Barrens. While many of you have read what Charles Boyer wrote about this location, for those who have not, I quote what he wrote about Mary Ann from his 1931 book, New Jersey Forges and Furnaces:

MARY ANN FORGE, Burlington County. It has been stated by several writers that this was furnace and was built in the early 1790s but there does not seem to be any foundation for either of these statements. It is not shown on any of the early maps examined nor is it mentioned in T.F. Gordon’s Gazetteer of New Jersey. The first map on which Mary Ann Forge appears is the Finley Map of 1831. The land on which this forge stood was long known as the Mary Ann Tract, on which there were several sawmills. On a map made in 1861, it is marked “Marian Forge.”

Benjamin Jones purchased this tract from John Black in May 1827, and a few years later built the Mary Ann Fore on Mount Misery Run about three miles southeast of New Lisbon. Its two hammers were supplied with pig iron from the Hanover Furnace. When Samuel H. Jones and Richard Jones purchased the holdings of their father, Benjamin, in 1846, this tract was included in the sale. Its subsequent history is closely interwoven with the many financial difficulties of the Jones brothers. In 1851, Samuel H. Jones gave a mortgage to Anthony S. Morris, trustee, for one-half of the Hanover Furnace Tract, Mount Misery Tract, Mary Ann Forge Tract, and several other tracts, which is the first recorded notice of the forge that has been located. The forge itself continued to be operated until late in the Civil War, and on a map made in 1877 is marked “not now in use,” and today the only trace of the old plant is a pile of forge cinders, the dam and sheeting.

The principal products of the forge were first bar iron. In later years, wagon axles and wagon tires were made on an extensive scale.

It appears Boyer conducted his research with due diligence, consulting both the deeds and the mortgages recorded in the Burlington County Clerk’s Office. Yet there are small errors in his account of Mary Ann. For example, the 1831 Finley map that Boyer cites fails to depict Mary Ann’s location and does not include a label for the place name:

Even the 1834 edition of Finley’s map, included as the tipped-in, folded plate with Thomas F. Gordon’s A Gazetteer of the State of New Jersey… fails to identify Mary Ann Forge. It is actually the 1836 Tanner map that shows “Maryann” [sic] with three small black squares to indicate a small settlement or hamlet:

In checking earlier maps, like William Watson’s from 1812, there is no sign of any furnace or forge where Mary Ann stood later in the nineteenth century:

The first map that I have found that depicts Mary Ann is actually the revised edition of Thomas Gordon’s A Map of the State of New Jersey with Part of the Adjoining States, published in 1833. And based on the symbols employed on the Gordon map, this cartographer properly identified Mary Ann as a forge and not as a furnace:

While Boyer properly notes that the Gordon Gazetteer did not include a separate listing for “Mary Ann” in its descriptions of localities, he did fail to record the presence of “two forges” within the description of Northampton Township, which at that time included present-day Pemberton Township. Ten years after Gordon published his gazetteer, John W. Barber and Henry Howe produced Historical Collections of the State of New Jersey and this work does enumerate “Mary Ann” among the localities within Northampton Township. The 1849 Map of Burlington County by A.W. Otley and E. Whiteford, provides us with the most detailed view of Mary Ann Forge and its small village of worker housing:

Note that Richard Jones maintained a residence at Mary Ann Forge, located near the forge’s furnace. The 1858 map of Burlington County by William Parry, George Sykes and F.W. Earl, has a rudimentary view of Mary Ann and lacks much of the detail the 1849 map provides:

Although the Jones family continued to operate Hanover Furnace until 1864, they also established a new ironworks at Florence, on the Delaware River during 1857-1858. Most sources indicate Mary Ann ceased processing Hanover iron sometime in the early 1860s. At some point, forging operations likely shifted to the Florence facility and Mary Ann became superfluous. The 1861 division of the vast Jones family land holdings left Richard Jones with the lower half of the property the “Marian Forge” and 25,145 acres. A member of these forums is a descendent of the Jones family and possesses an original edition of the published map that depicted the Jones’s expansive landholdings within the Pines.

Boyer mentions an 1877 map that shows Mary Ann Furnace as “not in use.” This is actually the Pemberton Township plate in the 1876 Scott atlas of Burlington County:

In Volume III of the Final Report of the State Geologist, C.C. Vermeule reported,

Mount Misery brook, at New Lisbon, will give for 9 months 5.6 horse-power per foot fall, and about 9 feet fall could be developed, or 15 feet by eliminating the power at Lower Mill. At the site of the old Mary Ann furnace there is 8 feet fall not at present in use. The water-shed is 38 square miles, and the available power 2.85 horse-power per foot fall. Just above this, at Mount Misery, a saw-mill was erected as early as 1723. Indeed, many of the sites on the Rancocas date back to about the beginning of the 18th century, and one as early as 1680. An important power was built at Pemberton in 1752 to operate a forge, saw and grist-mill.

At the Pemberton Railroad Station Museum, I purchased a booklet called Runaway by John C. Borton. The work provides “An account of a family log cabin on the upper reaches of the Rancocas Creek in New Lisbon, N.J. from 1916 to 1976.” While some of the information imparted concerning Mary Ann Forge is incorrect, it is still interesting to read an early twentieth-century account of visiting the abandoned site:

Mary Ann Furnace was a favorite trip. It was about 5 hours up stream from Runaway by canoe and three hours back. By foot it was about two hours each way. It was constructed in 1793 and produced iron from bog ore. An artificial lake provided power to work the furnace bellows and operate hammers to pound the molten iron to remove impurities. I have not found any record of how long the furnace operated, but it probably closed down in the 1840s when the iron ore and coal in Pennsylvania put the inefficient bog ore furnaces out of existence. When we first visited the site, all traces of the furnaces had disappeared, but most of the dam was still in place. A few lumps of slag were the only evidence of the once prosperous furnace. Near by was delightful pine grove where we had many happy picnics. Swimming in the stream above the broken dam was always refreshing.

The booklet includes several photographs of the ruins at Mary Ann when these explorers visited the site during the 1920s and 1930s.

At some point in time following the cessation of ironworking, the area around Mary Ann Forge became dedicated to cranberry production.

Proposed Devastation Prior to Belcoville

A year before the United States entered the First World War, the Bethlehem Steel Company quietly purchased vast quantities of land southwest of Mays Landing for building a new proving ground. When the country did declare war, Bethlehem altered its plans and constructed BELCOville, named for the Bethlehem Loading Company. Here is the story of what Bethlehem planned to do with their land along the Great Egg Harbor River during 1916 and how the company already owned the land when it built the shell-loading plant and associated village to house the workers. All spelling and punctuation match the original article. My apologies for the quality of the images, but I did my best considering I derived them from a microfilm printout.

Extracted from the first page of the 08 October 1916 issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer:

WILDERNESS OF SCRUB OAK AND PINE WILL BE TRANSFORED INTO ORDNANCE GROUND

BETHLEHEM TO TEST HUGE GUNS ON VAST JERSEY SAND TRACT

Steel Company’s Proving Ground Almost as Large as Philadelphia County—Lie Along Egg Harbor River—Will Transform May’s Landing

Imagine a tract of land covering Philadelphia county from League Island on the south to Mount Airy and Bustleton on the north; bounded on one side by a brackish river, capable of accommodating fair-sized shipping, and susceptible of being dredge to accommodate larger, bounded on the other side by a superb automobile road, running for miles through devastated forest land: the space between river and sea filled with forests of aromatic scrub-pine, stunted oak and cedar, opening out here and there into arid spaces like a southwestern desert and closing in at others to dense thickets where none but the deer have penetrated.

This will give some idea of the extent of territory which will be covered by the new proving-grounds of the Bethlehem Steel Company, for heavy ordnance, ranging from May’s Landing, New Jersey, south to the Great Egg Harbor Bay.

The government, it is asserted, will not have any official part in the use of this proving-ground. The Bethlehem Steel Company did not take Washington into its confidence in planning for the vast land purchase—so vast that 250 deeds were recorded at the county offices at May’s Landing, and the signatures of more than 1000 persons, sought in every State in the country, into the greatest ordnance grounds in the world.

Will Transform May’s Landing

The significance of the purchase, which has been quietly going on for eighteen months through real estate agents, is hardly yet felt in South Jersey. May’s Landing, a quiet old country town of 2000 souls, is to be transformed into a great industrial centre, and its inhabitants, perhaps, changed from quiet householders who have gone on from generation to generation in the contentment that comes midway between wealth and poverty, into keen speculators and moneymakers.

The government, it is said, has been aware for a long time, of the quiet purchases of land along the Great Egg Harbor River, but has taken no special interest in it. If the new proving ground turns out to be satisfactory, the government will probably make its tests of armor plate there, but these tests, it is indicated, will be of Bethlehem products alone.

Miles of forest-lands will have to be cleared of their heavy, sweet-smelling growths—stripped clean down to the sand that in South Jersey underlies everything. Buildings here and there—and there are few enough of them—will be used for a time to house the laborers who will be drawn into May’s Landing as soon as the work of putting up the new buildings of the steel plant begins.

Land Wonderfully Flat

The land is wonderfully flat from Mays Landing to the sea. The water tower at Mays Landing, visible at a distance of nineteen miles, it is said, first directed the attention of engineers to the possibilities of the land. Farm after farm, meadow after meadow, and tract after tract of stubborn woodland passed quietly into the hands of the purchasing agents at prices which seemed liberal to the South Jersey people. Then the news got abroad and values went up by leaps and bounds.

Six thousand six hundred dollars, it is said, was paid by the company through its agents during the last week for a farm of 110 acres, which had several times been sold for taxes, and which had been valued by neighbors at $800. Six months ago a tract of 200 acres was offered to a Mays Landing citizen for $175. It cannot now be bought for money.

Meanwhile the inhabitants of ever seashore resort within twenty miles are wondering what the danger from gunfire or stray shells will be.

The government experts declare the danger will amount to nothing. It is considered unlikely that inhabitants will ever be disturbed by the explosion of a sixteen-inch gun. Screens will be built which will muffle sound as well as prevent the scattering of projectiles. And the range of these, as a rule, is calculated beforehand with wonderful precision.

The ground at present acquired is situated on the east bank of the Egg Harbor River, which it follows for a distance of eighteen tortuous miles into the Great Egg Harbor Bay, into which Longport, below Atlantic City, thrusts a projecting tongue. The distance, as the crow flies, from Longport to the lower edge of the proving grounds, will not be more than five miles.

From the Great Egg Harbor Bay the ground extends in a more or less westwardly direction along the Tuckahoe, or locally, the “Tuckahoe” River, as far as Tuckahoe and Corbin, the Philadelphia and Camden of the district. It then extends northwardly through the little hamlet of Estelville, which it has practically absorbed, as far as the Weymouth road, at Dorothy, and thence back to Mays Landing. It has roughly the outline of a human foot and ankle seen in profile.

Mays Landing Once Active

South Jersey is not looking for its “first chance,” but for a real regeneration through the establishment of the proving grounds. For back in times almost Revolutionary Mays Landing was an active place. Seagoing vessels were built there, and the wreck of the last of them now lies in the north sands of the Egg Harbor River, just below “Goose Point.” At Weymouth, no great distance away, were iron furnaces which used the “bog ore” of the swamps and got its power for blasting from nearby streams. The cannon which until very recently were used in such quantities along Delaware avenue at street crossing to fend off wagon wheels from the pavement were cast Weymouth in 1812.

Distances from seashore resorts, as well as from labor-producing communities are being figured out by Mays Landing property-holders. Although it is considered unlikely that many men will be taken on at once they will have to be provided for, nevertheless. The new tract is eighty miles, in a straight line, from South Bethlehem, where the purchasing company’s chief plant is situated; forty miles from Philadelphia, and forty-two from Eddystone.

Trenton is about 53 miles, New York about 95. The Atlantic City inlet is about 10 miles off, Ocean City half that distance from the nearest boundary; Sea Isle City is 8 miles and Cape May 25.

The navy proving station is at Indian Head, Md. The army’s proving station is at Sandy Hook. There have been occasional complaints from residents of these neighborhoods, but they have been rather infrequent. The only time there has been an accident in recent years around Indian Head was when one of the first 16-inch guns of the navy was being tried out there a month ago.

The firing of one shell was considered a sufficient test of this latest gun in the possession of the United States Government. There is a 16-inch gun at the fortification of the Panama Canal and there is to be another at the other end of the canal, but the one tested at Indian Head was for one of the new battleships and was the first ever tested.

Failed to Realize Force

Even the experts of the army had not realized the tremendous force that the new gun would have. They had obtained a large section of the thickest and toughest armor plate that has ever been developed. Behind that was sand pile as large as an ordinary hill. With a report that could be heard for miles around, one shell was fired. It went through the bulwark, through the sand pile. Weighing more than a ton, the enormous monster of destruction hurtled through the air, finally plunging downward at an of forty-five degrees into the kitchen of Mrs. Mary Swann, wife of one of the workmen who had helped load the gun.

Almost invariably, however, the experts know what to expect, and on the range provided by the Bethlehem Company, eighteen miles in length and six in width, no similar accidents would seem to be possible. Mrs. Swann and her children had a narrow escape, but were not even scratched, because they were in the front of the house. The Bethlehem Company has evidently taken precautions against having such near neighbors.

Both Captain Clark, of the Ordnance Bureau of the Navy, and Colonel Hoffer of the Ordnance Bureau of the army, said in Washington that they had received no information with respect to the development of the proving ground at Great Egg Harbor River.

Colonel Hoffer said the government would naturally continue to use its own proving grounds for official tests, but that whenever a private concerns furnished proving ground facilities, it was customary that the test should be made there for the sake of convenience of both parties.

Other officials expressed the opinion that the Bethlehem company had expanded to the point where it needed a large proving ground, not only because of the big European contracts for guns and ammunition, but also because of the enlarged army and navy programme adopted by Congress.

All the munition and armor plate companies are aware that the needs of the government for armor plate will be trebled, if not quadrupled under the new building programme. The government now manufactures all its large guns at Waterliet, N.Y., and at the Washington Gun Factory. There is some expectation that private contracts may be awarded.

To Test Armor Plate

It is probable, however, that most of the testing at the Bethlehem proving grounds, so far as the government is concerned, will be with respect to armor plate. It is possible that some of the government’s twelve-inch guns may be tried out there in the future, but there is no likelihood of a 16-inch gun ever being tested there. It would be easier to move the armor plate to a point nearer where the enormous gun to be tested happens to be constructed.

It is unlikely, therefore, that the residents around the new proving ground of the Bethlehem Company will ever be disturbed by the tremendous explosion of a sixteen-inch gun. All sorts of smaller guns, however, doubtless will be tried out. The English used fifteen-inch guns against the Dardanelles. Now they are installing eighteen-inch on some of the ships. The largest contemplated for the American Navy are the sixteen-inch guns.

At the coast fortifications, twelve-inch guns are tested at a range of from 100 to 13,000 yards. Most of the tests at the Bethlehem proving grounds probably will be to determine the strength of armor plate; to try out guns contracted for by Europeans; to test shells and other explosives. At the government proving grounds, the effect of guns and ammunition in trench warfare is tested in real trenches. At the Bethlehem plant it will be possible to build such trenches ten miles from the gun under test, trying it out under the general conditions that prevail in Europe. There will be targets and rifle ranges, trenches and barbed wire entanglements; everything, in fact, that is encountered in the actual use of guns and munitions in Europe today. Discussing generally the modern conditions which call for such a large proving ground by a private company, one of the experts of the War Department made some comments which show the scope the Bethlehem concern will have. He said

“The heaviest armament at each of the Panama Canal consists of a sixteen-inch gun. These are the largest weapons in the possession of the United States, and perhaps the largest in the world. Each gun is fifty feet long and weighs 184,000 pounds. At an elevation of forty-five degrees the range is over twenty-four miles, but as mounted the range is something over eleven miles. The projectile is six feet long, weighing 2400 pounds, and containing 140 pounds of high explosive.

“The charge is 670 pounds of smokeless powder, the explosion, of which causes a pressure of 38,000 pounds per square inch. The muzzle velocity of the projectile is 2250 feet per second, or 1500 miles per hour, and the muzzle energy is 84,000 foot tons. The shell will penetrate any armor plate in existence at a range of eleven miles. At this distance the water line of a ship would be ninety feet below the horizon.

Strong Secondary Defenses

“The secondary defenses on each side of the canal consist of a six 14-inch guns, six 6-inch guns, sixteen 12-inch mortars and eight 4.7-inch howitzers. The mortar shells have a range of 20,000 yards, or over eleven miles, each shell weighs from 700 to 1046 pounds, and carries from 60 to 120 pounds of high explosive. At extreme range the shell reaches an altitude of over eight miles, it target being the deck of the hostile warship.

“Recent reports from Europe tend to show that both the British and German navies are preparing to build or have built guns of even heavier caliber than those in use on the Panama Canal. According to apparently authoritative reports, the English Admiralty has tested and is preparing to adopt an 18-inch gun for mounting on British dreadnoughts under construction. German ordnance experts, it is understood, have perfected a gun of 17-inch caliber.

“Following the great naval battles fought off the Dogger Bank and near the Falkland Islands in the present war, the tendency toward heavy ordnance became marked, as it was the lesson taught by these battles that the smashing power of the big gun at long ranges was the decisive factor in winning naval engagements. The fact that hits can be scored repeatedly at 18,000 yards, not in carefully preparing target shooting, but under actual battle conditions, has stimulated the ingenuity of big gun experts to the limit.

“As long as the officer in the fighting top of a dreadnought can ‘spot’ the hits, the big guns beneath him can register hits. The only limit which it is believed can be placed upon the range of big guns is the limit of visibility of hits. The cooperation of aerial fleets in naval engagements extends even this limit to the point of conjecture. It is possible, and even probable, that the naval battles of the near future will be directed from the air, the ranges will be signaled from the air, and the man behind the gun will shoot without seeing the ships of the enemy.”

The work of inclosing the vast tract at Mays Landing will begin within a few days. A wire fence, running for miles along the roads, will be the first evidence that gunners, naturalists and strays will no longer be welcome in the old “Naturalists’ Paradise.”

It is estimated that nearly a hundred deer remain within the boundaries of the new proving grounds. Wild life is abundant. Access to the interior woods is difficult, automobiles refusing to plow through the heavy sand. Mosquitoes breed in the fresh water creeks and runs in the upper part. Below, in brackish water, they are less abundant.

I hope you enjoyed the read!

Camp Kenilworth, 1904

Extracted from Village Improvement, publication of the Moorestown Improvement Association. Vol. I, No. 10, September 1905, pages 2-3.

CAMP KENILWORTH
BY GEORGE DE COU.

Camp Kenilworth is located on Kenilworth Lake on the edge of the pines, about three miles south of Marlton. There is, perhaps, no more desolate spot in this section of New Jersey, yet it possesses for the lover of nature a charm that is almost indescribable.

I recently spent two weeks in the camp with my family, and I can say with all truthfulness that I never spent a more profitable or more enjoyable vacation. To the business man whose brain is weary from the constant strain of business cares and responsibility, and to the housekeeper run down under the strain of household worries, it offers opportunities for rest and recuperation not to be found at our better-known and more popular resorts. Indeed, as modern life becomes more and more complex, it is the more necessary for us at times to avoid “the madding crowd” and seek “nature’s wilds” for rest and inspiration.

The Jersey pines have been ridiculed from time immemorial, yet they possess a beauty peculiarly their own. Perhaps a poet will arise some day to sing their praises and interpret for us their message of quiet restfulness. Seated in retrospect on the bank of Kenilworth Lake I find it difficult to describe my surroundings or to express in words my love for this spot far removed from civilization. Before me lie the quiet and peaceful waters of Kenilworth Lake, in which during the morning and evening hours are mirrored the artistic pines that fringe its borders. At the upper end of the lake “Lovers’ Retreat,” a small island on which a rustic pavilion—almost hidden by vines and shrubbery—has been erected, adds an artistic touch to the outlook. Turtle log, in the foreground, jutting out into the lake, on which not infrequently may be seen two or three immense turtles, is a point of interest to the old as well as young.

The lake is, perhaps, one-third of a mile in length, and is fed by a little stream known locally as “Back Run,” whose waiters are clarified by their long journey through the cedar swamps and pines. The lake offers many attractions to the lovers of bathing and boating, and at feeding time the elusive pike rippling the surface of the water tempts the disciple of Isaak Walton.

At sunset the lake appears in its greatest glory. Its waters sparkle with the rays of the departing sun, and the glories of the sunset, even to the perfect coloring of the clouds, are mirrored in its depths. This picture, perfect in every detail, was equaled only by a moonlight scene during my stay when the heavens, illumined by myriads of stars, were reproduced in the waters of the lake. The milky way, the big dipper, and other beautiful constellations were perfectly pictured, and occasionally a shooting star, like a flying gold-fish, dashed through the water.

The camp is located in a clump of pines on the bank of the lake. Near the water’s edge a large tent, fifty feet in diameter, serves as a pavilion, and is well supplied with comfortable chairs and hammocks. A little stream, part of the overflow of the lake, flows under one edge of the tent, and the music of the flowing water lulls us to sleep even in the daylight hours. A water-wheel, rudely built yet artistic, with its constant motion, reminds us sufficiently of the busy world outside to enable us to enjoy more fully the quietness and restfulness of our surroundings. The sleeping tents, fifteen in number, are pitched in the form of a horseshoe just back of the large tent, and within the circle thus formed a camp-fire of pine logs is built each evening.

The camp-fire is the event of the day. Around it each evening the happy campers draw their chairs, and with constant flow of jest and story and song pass the evening hours most pleasantly.

There is a fascination in a log-fire in the woods, beneath the blue canopy of heaven, which alone can be felt—it cannot be described. Long after most of the campers had retired I would sit with a few congenial spirits and enjoy its fascination. Song and story had ceased, and few words were spoken, yet there seemed to emanate from the glowing embers a spirit of fellowship which drew us together even though we were strangers to each other.

A description of the camp would be incomplete without a tribute to our jolly host, Clayton H. Brick, and to the “Kenilworth spirit.” To a large extent the one inspired the other, for our host was tireless in his efforts to promote the happiness and comfort of his guests. At times the campers lapsed into a freedom of manner and speech that would not be acceptable in the “drawing-room,” yet a spirit of brotherly kindliness and unselfishness pervaded the camp which each one of us can with profit keep with us on our return to the ”drawing-room” or business office.

Lower Forge / Un-bridge Revisited

Lower Forge has always meant a campground to me. For decades I have hiked rode and paddled past the big hill of the Lower Forge campground. Recently I got to thinking about an actual forge in the vicinity and that little bridge just downstream of the camp ground known to some of us affectionately as Unbridge.

A couple of times at very high water I inadvertently missed that bridge, the water taking me to the east of it. There I passed pilings in the water similar to Unbridge. I realized that at certain times of the year there is an island between the two bridges so last September 5th I took advantage of the drought to explore the area.

Here is a map of the area with Unbridge visible and the island to the east on the right.

The slag thread explains a lot about the types of slag and how it was used for fill.

Approaching Un-bridge

The bridge looking east towards the island.

Interestingly it is pinned with rebar

Rebar was first used in the 1800’s.

Well if there’s a bridge going to an island then I just have to investigate so back across Quaker Bridge and up the east side of the Batsto toward the Lower Forge campground. I parked and started walking at the “No Vehicles Allowed” sign and shortly came upon an old, unused road heading down to the river.

As I walked down hill I came upon these pilings that I had kayaked by previously at high water.

Looking down stream from the pilings I saw these logs spanning the stream bed. . I tried walking to them but immediately went up to my thighs in muck.

I am now on the island which surprisingly had very little disturbance. It didn’t seem to have been driven on and there was no slag. That is Unbridge from the other side.

Looking downstream from Unbridge can be seen older wooded structures.

A line of old boards beneath Un-bridge.

Except for the fact that someone along time ago went to a lot of trouble to build that causeway to the bridge location I started to wonder if there ever was a Lower Forge. I hadn’t seen any slag heaps or signs of a settlement so time to do some research.

In the book EXPLORING THE LITTLE RIVERS OF NEW JERSEY by Cawley , page 174 mentions the remains of an old dam at Lower Forge. Well I kayaked this stretch for decades and I never saw no dam but then a light goes on in my head (finally) I have been walking on the dam, it’s the causeway built to Un-bridge! It is very well placed, there is a wide flood plain upstream capable of storing a lot of water. Cawley states that their trip started at Lower Forge and mentions that there trip got easier once they were below “the remains of an old bridge”. To put a timeline on this, my copy of the book is from 1971, with the first edition in 1942. I know Guy has a picture of the bridge looking pretty much the same in 1978.

I remembered I have this wonderful book IRON IN THE PINES by Pierce. The book is well indexed but had nothing on Lower Forge so I thought, hey it’s down stream from Hampton Furnace so maybe I could find a connection, and after some enjoyable reading I found it. On page 42 it mentions two mystery forges.

Connected with the Atsion enterprise in all probability were two “mystery forges” off in the woods to the east. One of these was located by the Atsion River about two and one half miles below Atsion. Here once were locks used by ore boats headed for Batsto. The other was beside the Batsto River not quite two miles above Quaker Bridge. This forge was called Washington, and was connected with Hampton Furnace, farther upstream. There are banks of slag at each of these locations, while some remains of a dam may still be seen at the site above Quaker Bridge. It is now known that these installations, operated during the Richards era, and Washington Forge [not to be confused with Washington Furnace at Lakewood] was in use as late as 1850.

Isn’t it amazing how time erases things, I have a new eye for that river. I’ll be going back to look for the slag heaps when it dries out. The unnamed mystery forge is at a nice beach some of us call Locks Bridge. There is lots of glassy blue slag there. It’s hard to believe oar boats could navigate that part of the river. I remember seeing an ad for a forge for sale there but can’t find it now. I like to think that those old boards under Un-bridge were part of the forge. As for Un-bridge, because the island doesn’t appear to have seen traffic, I believe it was never completed.

Wagon Trip to Edgepillock

Here is a short account of a trip to Edgepillock or Brotherton in 1892 by the famous “J.W.” All spelling and grammar retained in this transcription from the original published account.

Extracted from The Friend, Vol. LXVI, No. 6, Seventh-Day, Ninth Month 3, 1892, pages 46-47 and Vol. LXVI, No. 7, Seventh-Day, Ninth Month 10, 1892, page 51.

A Visit to Edgepelick.

Through the kindness of a friend residing near Medford, New Jersey, an opportunity was furnished, on the 18th of Seventh Month last, to visit the old Indian Reservation at Edgepelick, in Burlington County, situated a few miles S. E. of Medford, on the waters of Edgepelick Creek, a branch of Springer’s Creek, which is a tributary to the Batsto River, whose waters enter Great Bay on the sea coast, through the Mullica River, into which it empties.

As Edgepelick was one of the last resting places in the State for the New Jersey Indians, a short historical narrative may properly introduce a description of our visit.

The relations between the Indians of New Jersey and the white settlers had always been amicable. The land that was needed was fairly purchased and paid for, and mutual kindness was manifested. Henry Armitt Brown says: “At the same time at which the savages of Virginia were punishing cold-blooded murder with passionate bloodshed, and scourging with fury every plantation from the Potomac to the James; and on the northern sky the light of blazing villages, from one end of New England to the other, marked the despairing vengeance of king Philip, the banks of the Delaware smiled in unbroken peace, and this simple-hearted native, conscious of the fate which would speedily overtake his people,—which no one foretold sooner or more touchingly than he,—was saying in a council in Burlington, ‘We are your brothers, and intend to live like brothers with you. We will have a broad path for you and us to walk in. If an Indian be asleep in this path, the Englishman will pass him by and do him no harm; and if the Englishman be asleep in it, the Indian shall pass him by and say, “He is an Englishman, he is asleep, let him alone.” The path shall be plain; there shall not be in it a stump to hurt the feet.’”

As the number of white settlers increased, tract after tract of land was purchased from different Indian chiefs. These were not always contiguous to each other, but would be described in the deed by natural boundaries, such as the head waters of certain streams, etc.,—which left intermediate and undefined patches, to which the Indian title had not been extinguished. To satisfy the Indians, and remove any cause of dispute, at a treaty held at Easton, Pa., in 1758, the commissioners for New Jersey purchased of the Minisinks and Wapings the title to all the patches of land in northern New Jersey, which had been before unsold, for $1,000, and a similar purchase was made of the lands in the southern part of the province.

“In consequence of the expectations given the Indian inhabitants, the commissioners, with the consent of the Indian attorneys, purchased a tract of upwards of 3,000 acres, called Brotherton, situated in Burlington County, in which is a cedar swamp and saw-mill, adjoining to many thousand acres of poor, uninhabited land, suitable for hunting, and convenient also for fishing on the sea coast. The deed was taken in the name of the governor and commissioners and their heirs, in trust for the use of the Indian natives who have or do reside in this colony south of Rariton, and their successors forever, with a clause providing that it shall not be in the power of the Indians, their successors, or any of them, to lease or sell any part thereof; and any persons (Indians excepted) attempting to settle there, to be removed by warrant from a justice of the peace; no timber to be cut but by the Indians, under penalty of 40 shillings fine for every tree. The Indians, soon after the purchase, removed to the settlement, and there remain (A.D. 1765) to their satisfaction, having their usual means of living very convenient. They were assisted by the government in their removing and buildings. There are about 60 persons seated here, and 20 at Weekpink on a tract formerly secured by an English right, to the family of Henry Charles, an Indian Sachem.”—Smith’s History of New Jersey.

This Brotherton tract in some of the records is called Edgebillock, and is the same more recently known as Edgepelick.

From a statement contained in the history of Byberry, Pa., it seems that these Indians, like many persons in our day, enjoyed an occasional outing from home. For a number of years it was a custom for some of them to visit Byberry every spring and occupy an orchard, where they erected wigwams and spent the summer. They were very peaceable and inoffensive, and employed themselves in making wooden trays, barn shovels, barrels, and baskets. They were fond of hunting and fishing, and among the game they captured were the common land tortoises. They would cut timber without license from the owners under the plea current among them, that when the Indians sold the country to Wm. Penn they reserved the privilege of cutting basket stuff.

In the journal of John Hunt, a minister who resided near Moorestown, N. J., under date of First Month 22d, 1777, he says: “I went with my friend, Joshua Evans, to see the poor Indians at Edgepelick, and we found them in very low circumstances as to food and raiment. Joshua took them a considerable parcel of old clothes, with which the poor naked children seemed exceedingly pleased. He had also collected a number of blankets for them, and obtained money, with which he bought corn for them. This he did, because these poor creatures are too apt to lay out their money for strong drink. This visit to the Indians was an instructive lesson to us. Though they were poor, there seemed to be innocency, unity, quietude, and peace among them, even at a time [the Revolutionary war] when it was so much otherwise with the white people. Amongst the elderly women there were countenances that bespoke gravity, humility, innocence, and tranquility.

“This visit was very satisfactory to me, though it caused me to think how lavishly some feed and pamper their horses with corn, while the poor Indians are so needy; yet are they on the whole as happy and contented, if not more so, than we are, and as likely, for aught I know, to answer the end of their creation.

“First Month 2d, 1778. Joshua Evans and I went again to Edgepelick to see the Indians. We found them in a very poor, suffering condition as to food and raiment; but as to quietness and peace, they seemed much happier than many of the white people who were rich and abounded with plenty, yet were disquieted and afflicted in mind, because of the great destruction there was in the land.

“Twentieth. Joshua Evans and I went up to Indiantown to carry some blankets and old clothes, which Friends had bestowed to the Indians ; and the poor, almost naked creatures seemed to receive them with abundance of thankfulness.

“Twelfth Month 7th. With the approbation of our Monthly Meeting, I joined Joshua Evans and Benjamin Smith in a visit to the Indians at Edgepelick. We had a meeting with the Indians, which seemed very open and ended well. We also visited the Indian families, and had some favored seasons,—the Indians appearing very tender and attentive.”

On the 4th of Seventh Month, 1802, John Hunt mentions that he was at a meeting appointed for the Indians at Edgepelick, who were about to remove to Oneida.

There is interesting evidence that these visits were appreciated by the Indians in an account of a visit paid in 1842, by some Friends, to the Indians residing near Fort Leavingworth, Missouri. They met with an aged Indian woman named Catharine Everett, who told them that, when a child, she lived at Evesham, New Jersey, and that she was well acquainted with Friends; and said she knew that dear old Friend, Joshua Evans, the man who wore a long beard. She said she thought him the best man in the world, he was so very good to the poor Indians.

About 1802, nearly all of the New Jersey Indians then living removed to Stockbridge, New York, and from thence to Statesburg, near Green Bay, Michigan. In 1832, being in want of money to purchase agricultural implements, they petitioned the State of New Jersey to pay them for the relinquishment of their rights in the State, and the legislature granted them $2,000. Samuel L. Southward, in presenting this claim before the legislative committee said: “It is a proud fact in the history of New Jersey that every footstep of her soil has been acquired from the Indians by fair and voluntary purchase and transfer.”

Our visit to this classical locality was made under favorable circumstances. Two bright and intelligent young women formed part of the carriage-load, and enlivened our journey by their enthusiasm and their remarks; and our kind host was a born woodman and familiar with “the Pines” from childhood. About the time the Indians had removed to New York State the New Jersey authorities directed the land to be surveyed and divided into farms of one hundred acres, and sold for the benefit of the Indians; and some of this land had descended to him from his ancestors.

A few miles below Medford we crossed a low ridge, which marks the dividing line between the branches of the Rancocas, which flows westward into the Delaware River; and those of Mullica River, which flow eastward more directly to the ocean—the common receptacle of all the drainage.

One of the first points of interest was a bushy bog, the source of Edgepelick Creek, which itself is a branch of Springer’s Creek, so named I suppose, from the family who formerly owned an extensive tract of land in that section of the country, and from whom the Indian reservation was purchased. As an illustration of the loose manner in which the surveys were made in early clays, when land was held at very low prices, it may be mentioned that a re-survey showed the purchase to contain more than one thousand acres beyond what had been previously estimated.

While much of the land was too poor to be profitably cultivated, yet there was a considerable body of productive land on the reservation, and the fields of corn and grain looked well. It contained some cedar swamp, which is valuable in New Jersey for the timber it yields. The White Cedar (Cupressus thyoides) is an evergreen tree, with very small, scale-like leaves. It is a native of the swamps, and grows where its roots can be always bathed in water. The plants come up so close together, that in their effort to reach light and air they shoot up tall, straight and slender, with no branches or foliage, except a little cluster at the summit. The wood, although soft, is exceedingly durable, and will last almost indefinitely without rotting. It must not be confounded with the Arbor Vitæ, which is sometimes called White Cedar, but which is a more northern tree.

During the day’s ride we visited several Cranberry bogs—some of which were heavily laden with berries, giving promise of an abundant crop, if no accident or disease should befall them. The essential feature of a good bog, is a low, swampy piece of sandy land, with a stream of water running through it, so that by the erection of banks and dams, the owner can flood it at pleasure. In making a new one, it is customary, after erecting the banks, to flood the land for a year or two, so as to kill the natural growth. Often a coat of sand is then spread over it, and the cranberry vines are planted. A situation which is naturally springy, seems to favor the growth of the plant.

The Cranberry belongs to the same genus as the Blueberries, or Blue Huckleberries (Vaccinium). It is the V. Macrocarpon, “large-fruited,” so called because its fruit much exceeds in size that of the other species of Vaccinium. It differs also from them in this respect— that it is not an upright shrub, but a creeping vine, which trails on the ground from one to three feet, and sends up numerous short branches on which the flowers and fruit appear. It was an interesting sight to see many of these branches already so thickly covered with berries. The amount of laud suitable for cultivating the Cranberry is comparatively small, and one desirous of establishing a plantation might be compelled to purchase a large tract of adjoining land, so as to control the water privileges and other surroundings necessary for his purposes.

Rattlesnakes are occasionally found in the New Jersey swamps, especially in the vicinity of clear, running water, or springs, but they are not abundant, and one may frequent such localities for years without encountering one. In the early settlement of this country they were comparatively numerous. But the war waged on them by the farmers, and the attacks of the hogs running in the woods, have greatly diminished their numbers. They are still frequent among the rocks of the Alleghanies, but in the country lying between those mountains and the New Jersey swamps, can scarcely be said to exist.

The location of the old Indian burying ground was pointed out to us—a piece of unenclosed land adjoining a school-house. We were still more interested in calling on a survivor of the New Jersey Indians, an aged woman named Ann Roberts, or Indian Ann. She seemed in good health, but feeble, and lived in a comfortable frame house which, we understood, belonged to her. She thought she was upwards of one hundred years old, but one of her neighbors estimated her to be not more than ninety. She was brought up in the neighborhood of Rancocas, but on her marriage moved to Edgepelick, which had now been her home for many years. It seemed to please the old woman to hear about a son, who was known to one of the women, by whom she sent him a message.

In the circuitous route we took, we often traversed narrow roads through the woods, where our driver seemed as much at home, and ascertain of his route, as in the more open country.

J. W.

Mordecai’s Moorings

Mordecai’s Landing [1] was among the oldest wharves along the Mullica or Little Egg Harbor River, dating back to the early 1700s. Located on a bend in the river where the dark water flows deep, the landing saw ships dock and depart and wagons come and go throughout much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This once bustling port recalls the name of Mordecai Andrews, a pioneer of the river, who ran an extensive logging operation based in a nearby swamp also bearing his name. Mordecai’s Landing would become one of the principal ports used by Batsto for nearly a hundred years.

Little is known and little literature exists about this lost landing on the Mullica. Primary sources are scant; the only historic reference to this important early wharf that the author has found comes from an entry in the Batsto Furnace Day Book from March 1828, which documents the arrival of oyster shell shipments there for use as flux in the iron furnace. Henry Charlton Beck reminisced on Mordecai’s Landing, giving passing mention to it in some of his writings. Beck derived his information from the inhabitants along the river who, in turn, relied on generations of oral tradition.

A Quaker Heritage

Mordecai Andrews hailed from a Quaker heritage that extended back nearly to the beginning of the Religious Society of Friends. Both his father’s side of the family (Andrews) and his mother’s side (Wright) were of English descent, offspring of wealthy and influential people. Around 1636, his grandfather, Peter Wright, sailed from Norfolk, England to join his fellow Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Peter and his brothers, Nicholas and Anthony, subsequently made their home at Sandwich, Cape Cod, as parishioners under the Puritan minister Reverend William Leveridge (Leverich). The brothers became active leaders and respected members of the community at Sandwich, but when tensions escalated in the growing settlement, they joined the Reverend in leaving the community (1653) for Long Island, where they became land proprietors and men of considerable influence. The three brothers subsequently made an extreme departure from Puritan theology and joined the Quaker movement, going on to establish the first Friend’s meeting at Oyster Bay. Anthony Wright hosted the meeting at Oyster Bay in his home until Mordecai’s father, Samuel Andrews, constructed the first official meeting house in circa 1672.

It was sometime around 1660 that Mordecai’s mother, Mary Wright, made the long and treacherous trek by foot from Oyster Bay to Boston to openly speak out against Governor Endicott and his Council. She remonstrated on the unremitting persecution of the Quakers in Massachusetts at the hands of the Puritan Clergy and Magistracy. As a result, Mary was met by the Governor’s wrath and she endured a year in prison before being banished to the wilderness with 27 other Quakers. In 1663, Mary Wright married Samuel Andrews, a carpenter and shipwright and an early settler of Long Island. The next year she gave birth to Mordecai, the first of eight children.

By 1677, hundreds of English Quakers began arriving in Burlington County, New Jersey, shortly after the establishment of West New Jersey as a Quaker Colony with the aid of William Penn and others. In 1683, Samuel Andrews, by then one of wealthiest men of his community, purchased 500 acres in Mansfield Township were he built a home for his family, permanently relocating there in 1686. Mordecai had spent three years helping his father construct the home, and his father later rewarded him for his efforts by giving him 140 acres of the new home plantation. When Mordecai reached the age of 27, he married a French woman named Mary and started a family of his own. In 1699, after he had completed a one-year term as the constable in Mansfield, Mordecai moved from there to Little Egg Harbor. However, the Burlington Court Records reveal that he returned to Mansfield in 1701 to assist others in breaking open the Burlington County prison doors, presumably to free a friend who was jailed there.

Little Egg Harbor

The journey on horseback through the woods from Mansfield to Little Egg Harbor was dangerous – panthers and wolves then still roamed the wilderness – but manageable only because the Lenni-Lenape had been making the same trek for centuries via established paths through the Pine Barrens. Much of Mordecai’s route consisted of the trail that would eventually become the Tuckerton Stage Road. Other Quakers soon followed suit in leaving Burlington for Little Egg Harbor, including Mordecai’s younger brother, Edward, and Edward’s brother-in-law, Jacob Ong, whose name still appears on maps marking a forgotten town. For many years to come, many Quakers living in the Delaware Valley took this same route to attend meetings at Little Egg Harbor, or “Middle of the Shore.”

The Andrews brothers were among the first whites to settle the area, which would remain strictly a Quaker settlement until after the Revolutionary War. The Andrews were only preceded by their friend Henry Jacobs Falkinburg, a pioneer of the wilderness of West New Jersey and the most sought-after Lenape interpreter along the Delaware River in that time. Falkinburg moved from his home on Matinicunk Island (present-day Burlington Island) to settle in Little Egg Harbor during 1698. Here he purchased 800 acres of land from one of the first governors of West New Jersey, Samuel Jennings, and he subsequently utilized his knowledge of the Lenape language to acquire a large amount of land from the natives. The Andrews brothers followed suit and acquired land of their own. Edward purchased 567 acres of land on the east side of Tuckerton Creek (called “Pohatcong” in the Lenape tongue) from Jennings, and Mordecai purchased 430 acres on the west side from another West Jersey Proprietor, William Biddle. They cleared extensive farms on their respective properties and each built their homesteads. Mordecai subsequently increased his land holdings, and, at his death, he owned over 900 acres of land in Little Egg Harbor.

As did Falkinburg and many of the early settlers of the coastal wilderness, the Andrews brothers first lived in “caves” during their initial winter at Little Egg Harbor. These “caves” were in fact cellars that they dug out of the ground and fortified with cedar timbers and covered with a roof. There they would establish their humble abodes while building more permanent homes. Deeds show that Mordecai’s first house burnt down before 1709, but the fireplace evidently survived the flames, and to this day the furnace remains intact with one of the bricks reading, “1699.” The core of Mordecai’s home still stands and probably represents the oldest house in Ocean County.

In 1704, Mordecai and Edward dammed Tuckerton Creek, although, to the credit of beavers, they had constructed it upon a substantial beaver dam built many years prior. Just below the dam, they excavated some raceways and constructed both a sawmill and a cedar log gristmill, eliminating the need to transport their grain overland to the mill at Mount Holly as they and others had done previously. It was also in 1704 that Edward heard his calling to be a minister. He had been known as a light-hearted and worldly young man whose singing and violin-playing provided regular Sunday entertainment for some of his fellow Little Egg Harbor settlers and the local natives. However, after disturbing the ancient remains of a native while plowing his field one Spring day, thoughts of death haunted Edward’s mind. A solemness overtook him and when his friends paid him a visit during the next Sunday to dance and to be entertained, Edward is said to have recited Scripture to them instead. Thus began his rapid transformation into a stern religious man, and with haste he broke his violin into pieces and chucked them into Tuckerton Creek in an effort to clear his troubled conscience. Edward soon thereafter held many Friends’ Meetings at his home, and he would be instrumental in the construction of the Meeting House at Tuckerton (then known as “Andrews Mills”) in 1709. Once tried in Burlington Court for carrying a gun on the Sabbath, Edward eventually become one of the most respected Quaker ministers in West Jersey. By 1714, Mordecai’s son-in-law, the Great John Mathis, had also moved to Little Egg Harbor. Like Mordecai, Great John eventually made a fortune from cutting down the great cedars of the Mullica Valley.

Mordecai’s Landing

White settlers had only recently discovered the Mullica River – then known by the whites as the Little Egg Harbor River, and by the Lenni-Lenape as “Amintonck” – before Mordecai began harvesting his cedars. Around 1695, just a few years prior to the Andrews brothers’ arrival at Little Egg Harbor, Eric Mullica sailed up the river and established a farm at a place then known in the native tongue as “Takotan” and now known as Lower Bank . In 1700, Thomas Clark, the father of Elijah Clark the Revolutionary, founded the town of Clark’s Landing on the south side of the river just downstream from Eric Mullica’s plantation. By 1718, this community was the largest on the river. In 1707, a group of Scots made their way up to the head of the river and established a small religious settlement in the area that became known as Pleasant Mills. In 1724, Yoos Sooy, the Dutch Sea Captain and progenitor of all South Jersey Sooys, set sail up the river and settled next to Eric Mullica’s old homestead. While Yoos busied himself with exploiting the cedar forests there for shipbuilding purposes, Mordecai already had his lumbering operation underway just several miles upriver. During this time period, the river awoke from its slumber and sounds of saws and falling trees broke the sylvan silence. Thus began a process that within one hundred years would leave the river’s skyline virtually treeless.

Mordecai Andrews was a prolific businessman who pioneered the industrial use of the forests and salt meadows of South Jersey. Aside from logging, he ran a salt-hay business, and he also established a salt works, which depended upon producing charcoal, which he also managed. Sometime in the early eighteenth century, perhaps with the help of Falkinburg, Mordecai purchased a large tract of land near Batsto, most of which comprised a cedar swamp. Now known locally as Mordecai Swamp, this tract of wetlands once housed the gigantic virgin cedars that were characteristic along the Mullica River and its tributaries in those primeval years. Some reaching a height of perhaps two hundred feet and an age of perhaps a thousand years, one can only dream about the majestic sight provided by these ancient giants. To Mordecai, though, their majesty paled in comparison to their monetary value, and they would soon start falling one-by-one.

Mordecai employed woodsmen to log his cedar swamp and they likely worked and lived in the swamp, establishing transient encampments around makeshift lodges. Utilizing primitive methods and crude tools, the logging crews felling the huge cedars faced an effort of no small task. Whether or not Mordecai had the timber cut into lumber prior to shipping is not known, but it is feasible that he dammed the Meekendam Creek – which runs throughout Mordecai Swamp – and built a sawmill in close proximity to the landing. It is also possible that he had the logs rafted downriver with the tide into the bay and up Tuckerton Creek to Andrews Mills or had pit-sawyers hand-cut the soft timber into dimensional lumber at the landing. Eventually, the cedar would be rafted downriver to larger vessels anchored in the bay closer to the Ocean. From there, Mordecai shipped the wood either up the coast to New York City or down the coast and up the Delaware River to Philadelphia and Burlington. He probably also shipped some of the cedar down to the Island of Barbados and perhaps other Caribbean Islands where Mordecai had Quaker ties. The ships would return with produce, rum, and other goods to replenish supplies for the community at Little Egg Harbor.

The Batsto Years

Mordecai Andrews died in 1736 and his heirs buried his remains on a hill nearby Tuckerton Creek, where his wife and his daughter also lie in repose. Whether or not Mordecai Andrews Jr. continued the lumbering operation after his father’s death is unknown, but Mordecai’s Landing would probably have lain abandoned for some years before being given new life during the American Revolution as a wharf for the Batsto furnace during its early years of operation. Batsto continued to use the landing to ship lumber to Philadelphia, New York, and the West Indies, just as Mordecai had done. Also being exported from the docks was cordwood, charcoal, and a variety of iron products (and later glass products). Other ironworks used the landing besides Batsto, including Atsion and Hampton. Today, a walk along the riverbank at low tide will reveal a large quantity of ballast stones that maritime crews on sailing ships discarded while docked there long ago. Perhaps even some of these rocks have been there since Mordecai’s operations some 300 years ago. One will also discover loads of limestone and seashells along the shore, a testament to the fact that boats loaded with flux for the furnace (and later for the glass factory at Batsto) once regularly arrived at Mordecai’s Landing.

Sea shells, because of their sheer abundance along the shores, bays, and river estuaries, served as the first and foremost supply of flux in the early years of South Jersey’s iron industry. However, what was once an abundant commodity quickly became scarce, for shells served many purposes, including: for road surfacing; and burned for slaked lime providing fertilizer for farmers and mortar for builders. Shells were collected wherever they could be found, even if it entailed the pillaging of ancient shell mounds or middens, those relic refuse piles left behind by the Lenape and their predecessors. When the supply of shells had severely dwindled, the ironmasters of the Pines began importing limestone, both crude and refined. In a letter Henry Drinker wrote during 1773, one of the early owners of the Atsion ironworks, he mentions that “lime stone refined is brought from the North River [Hudson River] to Egg Harbour River [Mullica River] and delivered at Batsto Furnace for use thereof for Fluxing Metal.” Limestone was not the only foreign commodity imported for use at the Batsto furnace. In the 1800s, foreign ore such as magnetite began arriving at Batsto, pieces of which can still be found at the landing.

The landing for the most part ceased to be used for exportation during the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777-1778 . The powerful British Navy established a blockade on the Delaware River during this time, thereby preventing entry for American vessels. As a result, Batsto-produced goods were moved by cart to various landings along some Delaware River tributaries, such as the Lumberton wharves on Rancocas Creek, and then shipped from there to Philadelphia. Yet, no one abandoned Mordecai’s Landing, for during this time, John Cox, then the owner of the Batsto works, became heavily involved in privateering. In this time of rebellion, American ships routinely hijacked British vessels and towed them up the Mullica River to the village of Chestnut Neck, where the cargo was unloaded and sent upriver to the Forks to be auctioned off. Certainly, many pillaged goods arrived at Mordecai’s Landing during this time of American-sanctioned piracy. In the decades to come, Batsto would continue to prosper and the landing remained a bustling place. By the 1850s, however, industry at Batsto entered a period of serious decline and the landing largely fell out of use.

The Lost Landing

By the time the area came under Joseph Wharton’s possession 1876, the landing had been abandoned since 1867, when the glass factory at Batsto burnt to the ground one last time. A century and a half of activity at Mordecai’s Moorings had thus ended. Today, the location of this once busy place is inconspicuous. Boaters and paddlers routinely pass it by unknowingly. There is not much left by way of physical evidence to remind us of the importance that Mordecai’s Landing had in early industrial South Jersey. The docks have long ago vanished and even the pilings have rotted away. Trees have reclaimed the land and their roots have covered the footprints of yesteryear. Foreign rocks, sea shells and charcoal are about all that remains there now to tell the mostly untold story of this lost landing on the Mullica River.

© Gabriel Coia, 4 August 2009.

References:

Batsto Furnace Day Book

Burlington County Court Book

New Jersey Genealogical Magazine Vol. 24

Blackman, Leah History of Little Egg Harbor Township

Prime, Nathaniel S. A History of Long Island: From its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time

New York Biographical and Genealogical Record of January 1872

[1] It appears two Mordecai Landings once existed on the Mullica River: Upper Mordecai Landing and Lower Mordecai Landing. The lower landing was evidently situated where Captain Abe Nichols later located his tavern and wharf, while Mordecai located the upper landing two bends upriver. For the purposes of this article, the author will refer to the two landings together as Mordecai’s Landing.

Special thanks is extended to Paul W. Schopp for his invaluable assistance during the research and writing of this article.

The Augustus Richards Canal

In a remote section of woods in Hammonton one can find a mile and a half long canal dug by Augustus Richards in 1877 used to divert water from the Nescochague for use in his cranberry bogs. Building canals for a cranberry bog was nothing new; however, Richards was soon to see himself in court over his actions for this particular endeavor.

In 1858 Augustus Richards began inheriting property in the area that is now Richards Ave North-West of the the Pleasant Mills Church. This property totaled about 2500 acres and extended up to what was the Batsto Tract line along the Nescochague. With his various acquisitions Richards started growing cranberries, and in 1876 with the intent to irrigate the bogs he had on his property, he decided to build a canal to carry water from the Nescochague (also know as the Forge Stream) to their location. With the bogs fairly close to the river, his canal would not have to be very long, but Richards wanted it to start much further up the river making this a major undertaking. For some reason Richards was not happy with having the beginnings at the river on his property, instead, he preferred to have the canal connect to the river on a small piece of his neighbors land. His neighbor was Joseph Wharton and Richards soon contacted him asking if he could do just that. Wharton apparently was receptive of the idea, and set about getting Richards an easement for the beginnings of his canal. He assigned his surveyor Elisa Wright the task of making this happen, and in the days to follow Wright and Richards through a flurry of letters came up with a precise location. On May 20, 1876 the property passed to Richards hands. The easement was 40 feet wide and 230 feet long, and consisted of .2781 acres. After carefully examining the document and location in the summer of 1876, Richards proceeded digging that portion of his project.

To divert the water to the canal, Richards needed to dam the Nescochague. By pounding cedar pilings across the river and dumping remains of a glass factory, stones, and brickbat, he was successful. In August of 1877 he had finalized his project, and that very same month he set in motion the diversion of the river to his bogs. Soon, the flow of water in the river below his dam was diminished, and the workers and owner of the paper mill at Pleasant Mills were alarmed. With production cut in half because of the loss of water, William Farrell, the owner of the mill, set on foot up the Nescochague to find the cause. In court papers Farrell claims that after finding the dam and asking Richards to remove it, Richards refused and later even gave speeches about his right to divert the water, keep the dam intact, and prevent any water from taking it’s natural flow down the Nescochague.

With Richards refusing to remove the dam, Farrell elected to take him to court. To prepare for the case, both side took depositions which reveal a few facts about their property. The Pleasant Mills property consisted of 380 acres and included the Pleasant Mills and Batsto Forge Pond. William Farrell owned 2/3 of the property with the final one third owned by Amos L. Hollingsworth of Boston, Zachary J, Hollingsworth, Mark H. Hollingsworth, and Jennie H. Warren. Farrell’s deposition claims that the dam Richards built was 7 feet high and was built with the express intent to stop the flow of water down the Nescochague which at that time amounted to a $2500 loss to the paper mill.

Richards deposition centered on complaints by him concerning Farrell and his agents. He claimed Farrell had been hostile to him for years because of flooding on his property that Farrell blamed Richards for. Richards also claimed that larger and more modern equipment at the paper mill was causing the stoppage, and the normal water flow could not keep them running. Here is a portion of Richards deposition concerning just that. Richards is mentioned as the “deponent.”

That the deponent has not entered the Mill at Pleasant Mills for many years and that he remembers when he last saw the machinery there, that there were not so many as six engines (as John W. Farrell swears there now are) in the mill at that time, that the number of engines has been increased by said complainant or some of them during the last few years, that every engine require a large increase of the power at the mill to run it with the other engines, and a large increase in the consumption of water at the mill in moving said additional engine and its connecting machinery, that said engines are large tubs or vats filled with pulp mixed with water, which is ground in the engines into a fine soft substance by wheels revolving in the same at great velocity, each engine using and consuming a large quantity of water itself to soften the pulp with while grinding it. That deponent has been informed and can prove, that a new and larger and heavier water wheel has been put in at said mill within a few years by the complainants, to move their machinery there, and that they have from time to time added to and increased the size and number of their other machinery in said mill used for various other parts of the process of making paper. That the increase in the number of engines, and the increase in the size and weight of the new water wheels, and the increase in the various other machinery has greatly increased the demand of said mill upon its water power, and the complainants need more water to run their present machinery than they needed to run their old works a few years ago. That deponent has had no means of examining into this part of the case, because the said mill is closely shut up, and a sign with the words “No Admittance” is fastened up outside of it, and no person is allowed to enter there.

Since Richards could not get in the paper mill to examine the machinery, he asked the court on February 26, 1878 for a two week delay so he could examine the equipment at the mill to prove his beliefs, and the court granted his request. When the case resumed it became apparent to Richards things were not going well. Farrell’s attorney Samuel H. Grey was claiming that Richards canal was not on the easement that Joseph Wharton had given him, and he was asking the court for an injunction to remove the dam. And not only did it appear Richards did not own the easement, Richards had given Wharton other property in return for the easement and now he owned neither. So on March 16, 1878 Howard Richards who was Augustus Richards brother and also his attorney, fired off a letter to Joseph Wharton. In the letter he outlines the problem, requests a quick solution, and also warns Joseph Wharton on the delicate situation that they all are in since his employees were testifying for Farrell. Here is the complete letter as best as I can read:

Howard Richards,

Attorney & Counsellor At Law,

Elizabeth, NJ

March 16 1878

Joseph Wharton Esq.

Dear Sir,

In 1875 or early in 1876 my brother Augustus Richards made an application to you for a right of way for a ditch to carry water from the Forge Stream to his cranberry bog. Your agent Elisa Wright had charge of the matter and my brother had a number of letters from him on the subject of the ditch and a draft for a conveyance made by said Wright from you to him. The matter was finally so far carried out that said Wright drew a deed in fee from you, and your wife, to my brother; for a strip of land forty feet wide and extending from a line of your property to the middle of the Forge Stream. This deed was delivered and after so long an investigation of it’s object and having been drawn by your surveyor, it was supposed by my brother to be sufficient to vest the legal title to him and the land agreed to be conveyed by you including the ditch then opened.

I regret to inform you however that in a suit in Chancery in the state of which my brother is defendant, Elisa Wright testified as a witness that my brother is not the owner of the land he supposed was vested in him by the deed aforesaid, and said Wright has made a map showing the lines of the property to be at one side of the ditch.

It seems that a mistake was made in (some) course or line, which has changed the lines of the (property) you conveyed. Mr. Samuel H. Gray as council in this suit is taking advantage of this mistake, and Mr. Wright is proving it as a witness for the purpose of obtaining an injunction against the use of the water for irrigation, and the matter was urged before the Chancellor at Trenton only yesterday strenuously as a ??? against the defendant my brother.

As the object and purpose of the conveyance in a ditch was well known to all the parties, before and at the time of the execution and the delivery of the deed by you, there is no doubt that the failure to convey the land including the ditch is a mistake, and I have no doubt that you correct it. It is important that this should be done promptly.

I now address you so that you may know the position Mr. Grey and Mr. Wright occupy in the case against my brother, and as I hear they are your advisors, or have been, to respectively request that you will take no steps at their insistence which will interfere with the proper adjustments of the lines ?? the ????? as my brother.

I should like to hear from you on the subject as soon as possible and I beg leave to suggest that you will not confer on the subject of this letter with either Mr. Gray or Mr. Wright who are too far engaged for Mr. Farrell to be well able to aid my brother in correcting the (error).

If Howard Richards thought the mistake was made on purpose, he did not let that known. Wharton on the other hand apparently still wanted Augustus Richards to have his easement, and someone wasted no time in correcting the matter. Just 12 days after Howard Richards wrote Wharton, two deeds were drawn up with Richards giving Wharton back the 40 foot wide property that was mistakenly given him, and Wharton giving him the the land 20 feet on each side of the canal. As you can read below the new March 28, 1878 deed from Wharton to Richards left no doubt that if it had been drawn up by Wharton himself he did not pull a fast one with the original deed.

And it is the intention of this conveyance to give and secure to the said Augustus H. Richards and his heirs and assigns the benefit of the ditch already opened by him and conveying the water from the said stream into his lands and also the Ripple Dam constructed by him in the bed of the stream to assist the flow of the water into the said ditch. Excepting and reserving to him the said Joseph Wharton his heirs and assigns forever the right to cross the said strip of land with a wagon way, without any other cost to him than that of building and repairing the same.

In the end it appears it was all futile. During February 1879 the court made the decision for an injunction to end the diversion of the water by Richards. If he ever abided by it, or appealed the decision is unknown by me. However, according to John Pearce in “Heart of the Pines,” the paper mill run by Farrell burned in 1878 which would put that incident during the time of this court case, and before the court made the decision to side with Farrell. The paper factory did resumed in 1880 apparently after it was rebuilt.

It is interesting to note a few things. As late as 1957 in aerial photos of the area, it can be clearly viewed that there was recent dredging of the canal from it’s beginnings on the property mentioned in this article, all the way down to the land near Ace Campground. It also appears the canal was in use. This would mean that the owners of the land that Richards once owned still owned the easement for the canal and were using it or trying to. But when Joseph Truncer and the rest of the Wharton survey team carried out the massive survey of the Wharton property in 1954 to 1957, they only considered the easement first given to Richards by Wharton as an “Exception” that Wharton did not own. And as you have read that was not the property the canal was on, so the state considered the canal to be owned by them. If indeed the new deeds made up by Richards and Wharton were actually carried out, the state would have known to survey the actual canal location. The records show that they surveyed only the original location meaning the canal was owned by the state. The property owner who owned the rest of the canal would not have access to the river and legally could not use the canal.

A Trip to the Long Beach Seashore, 1823

The country from Evesham down to Tuckerton has all the appearance of its original wildness—few houses or settlements appear. Pine and oak woods on both sides of the road perpetually ; and for at least 30 miles of the road, the bushes on either side fill up the whole road, which is scarcely the single path which one wagon fills. We met nothing almost on the road to turn us out. I could thus have a very good conception of how the country looked in the hands of the aborigines, some few of whom still linger about.

Was much interested to see the formidable ruins of Atsion iron works, (27½ miles). They looked as picturesque as the ruins of abbeys, &c., in pictures. There were dams, forges, furnaces, storehouses, a dozen houses and lots for the men, and the whole comprising a town ; a place once overwhelming the ear with the din of unceasing ponderous hammers, or alarming the sight with fire and smoke, and smutty and sweating Vulcans. Now, all is hushed; no wheels turn, no fires blaze, the houses are unroofed, and the frames &c., have fallen down, and not a foot of the busy workmen is seen.

Little Egg harbour, (now a poor country and population,) was once a place (in my grandfather’s time, when he went there to trade &c.) of great commerce and prosperity. The little river there used to be filled with masted vessels. It was a place rich in money. As farming was little attended to, taverns and boarding houses were filled with comers and goers. Hundreds of men were engaged in the swamps cutting cedar, and saw-mills were numerous and always in business, cutting cedar and pine boards. The Forks of Egg harbor was the place of chief prosperity ; many shipyards were there ; vessels were built and loaded out to the West Indies ; New York and Philadelphia, and the southern and eastern cities, received their chief supply of shingles, boards, and iron, from this place. The trade too, in iron-castings, while the fuel there was abundant, was very great. The numerous workmen, all without dependence, on cultivation of the soil, required constant supplies of beef, pork, flour, groceries, &c. from abroad. Even the women wore more of imported apparel than in any other country places. Merchants from New York and Philadelphia went there occasionally in such numbers that the inns and boarding houses could not contain them, and they had to be distributed among private houses. On such occasions they would club and have a general dance, and other like entertainments.

Sometimes rich cargoes came ashore on the beach, and were brought up the river for public sale, and brought there many traders to buy.

The vessels from New York and New England on trading voyages were numerous before the Revolution. The inlet was formerly the best on the coast ; and many vessels destined for Philadelphia in the winter, because of the ice on the Delaware, made into Egg harbor river, and there sold out their cargoes to trades from New York and Philadelphia.

In these times Great Egg harbor had little or no distinction. Its inlet and advantages were not good. It since enjoys more than Little Egg harbor. Now both those places do their chief business in taking cord wood, especially pine, to the cities ; but formerly they did none of that, when fuel was cheaper and easier procured.

In the time of the revolutionary war, Little Egg harbor river was a good refuge for our privateers, or their prizes. The British, aware of it, endeavoured to avenge themselves. They entered it in light vessels and destroyed Chestnut neck, a town of about 20 houses, which have not been since rebuilt.

Count Pulaski, with his legion was down there, and had an action with the British in the Revolution.

There used to be a considerable exportation of sassafras from Egg harbor. Some vessels went direct to Holland with it “north about,” to avoid, I believe, some British orders of trade therein. The Dutch made it into a beverage which they sold under the name of sloop. This commerce existed before the war of the Revolution.

When I ride over these lands and see so much soil whitened and glistened in the sun, especially in the woods where vegetation cannot conceal, I am forcibly persuaded that all these Jersey lands were once traversed by the finny monsters of the great Atlantic deep ; and where the formal pine trees tower, there the billows rolled!

We arrived safely at Tuckerton at 7 o’clock in the evening. It proved to be a much neater and more civilized place than I expected. Several houses were painted, and were of boards, save Tucker’s store, which was of brick. I should suppose it contains fifty buildings ; twenty houses are on the main street. It has a Methodists’ and Friends’ meeting house ; a mill dam and grist and saw-mill, and near it a wind-mill to make salt. This last article is made with success and profit. The work cost $4000. The people here have several fields planted with the castor-bean plant and have two or three mills to grind it. They find it very profitable. Their chief export has been pine wood.

Friday morning, at 7 o’clock, I left Tuckerton with Capt. Horner, to go to Horner’s house on the Long beach. Had head wind, and arrived at about 10 o’clock ; fare 25 cents! The price of going in this vessel to sea or elsewhere is 25 cents, when company is made. As I came out of the creek my eyes were arrested with a considerable mount, on which three or four large cedars were growing. It was a hill of oyster and clam shells, left there by the aboriginal Indians long since. They dried their clams. What numbers they must have consumed to have made such a hill!

Horner’s house, at which I have sat down for the present, is a new house, built and set up by a company of gentlemen in Philadelphia for the purpose of sea-bathing. It is all made for good cheer and free and easy comforts, without any attempt at elegance. None of the floors are planed, and the side walls are rough boards, and the ceilings white-washed. Its appointment of liquors and table is very good. It is set down on an extremely desolate beach, full of broken and small sand-hills, without a solitary tree. Its very desolation increased my sense of comforts! I the more enjoyed the solid diet of the table ; its zest was heightened by contrast. Its desolation too, was so isolated as to cut me off from all the world, and seemed to make me begin there an entire new existence! Thus I found charms where others might have been disgusted. But it is a manifest disadvantage that the bathers have to walk half a mile to the shore across the sand, and the ladies ride in a cart. The company intend to increase its benefits and comforts. As it has fine shooting and fishing, and a grand surf, it will always best suit gentlemen who love rough and vigorous fare. The beach is twenty miles long, and to the northward has several houses, and so much of cedar wood as to shelter red foxes. The tables are a cover which is set on trussels and moved out of the room. The room is about twenty-six by fifteen feet. The proprietors intend to build a large house next summer. [This is since done, and every thing is in more refinement.] This establishment is quite new. They have dug and found a fine well of fresh water ten feet depth near the house. It had never entered the mind of former people that good water could be found. In great sea storms, the sea has covered this whole beach, and the water came quite up to the ground floor of the house. The inlets and the beach have much altered in fifty years. It was once covered with cedar trees. Now all are gone. The inlets in the war of the Revolution admitted two frigates to come in, and now there is only water for small vessels.

This is a great place for the killing ducks and geese in the winter. They have nothing else to do, and use decoys and ambush, and very often lay out to shoot as the flocks fly over them. The house at Tucker’s beach is a cluster of three houses built at different times. The original house of the celebrated Mother Tucker is a one-story house, with a hipped roof, and front piazza. When you enter this piazza you are struck with the display of names cut in the boards of the house by the summer visitors ; and probably one hundred clams are nailed up, of large size, having names inscribed on them. The house stands about the length of five hundred feet from the seashore. The salt meadow comes close up to the house, and the house is elevated on a heap of sand and shells. The room in which I lay on my cot and write this is open directly to the ocean. I see the vessels buffeting the waves, and the roar of the bellowing surf seems to lie below me.

These beaches are much more dreary in the aspect than Cape May. Nothing seems to grow upon them but wild and scattered tufts of grass. But one feels comfort in the increase of appetite, and the consciousness of high cheer and good provisions.

How often have the landmarks of this shore been sought out by the approaching mariners of distant voyages, seeking, with anxious and distrustful eye, the first flimpse of the doubtful coast. Many this day, in the distant verge of the sinking horizon, would give great gifts to be once more on terra firma. Women passengers, sick of their confinements, listen with eager attention to the conjectures about land, which by their soundings is known to be near at hand ; and the terrors of possible stranding and shipwreck are pictured to their labouring imaginations. It might do one good to see such objects land, and to regale them with the delicacies of the season, untasted by them for months.

Sundry of us made a sailboat excursion up the sound to the other boarding house on the same beach, twelve miles off, to the large house, called the Mansion of Health, (of which see a picture.) We found it well kept and supported by a goodly number of inmates.

The house, a hundred and twenty feet long, stands about one tenth of a mile from the surf. The original house once there was at one half the distance, and had numerous cedar and oak trees nigh it. The great “September gale,” of 1821, swept over the whole island at this place, and tore up or blew over those trees, so that none now remain nigh, although the stumps of many are still seen. The whole island is twenty miles long, being from Tucker’s to Barnegat inlets. At is northern end are still many trees and high hills, wherein foxes burrow.

As a riding vehicle to the surf and along the beach the ladies use as ox-wagon, wherein they amuse themselves greatly in a rustic novel way.

I was surprised to learn here from old Stephen Inman, one of the twelve family residents of the place, that he and his family have ceased to be whale catchers along this coast. They devote themselves to it in February and March. They generally catch two or three of a season, so as to average forty to fifty barrels of oil apiece. I saw their look-out mast, their chaldron and furnace for rendering the oil, their whale-boats, &c. He has taken some whales of ninety barrels of oil. The whale bones of large size lay about bleaching in the sun. About his place are many oaks and holly trees. Gunners go there much, in the season, for wild geese and ducks. Inman has killed twenty-four geese in a day. Sheep, mules, and horses are pastured and browsed on the northern end of the island, by himself and others. His house having formerly been the winter quarters of the gunners, is fully cut with the names of his visitors, made on the outside boards, under the piazza.

The coasting trade along these shores must be great. Sometimes we could count twenty sail, all going onward, eastward and southward. Their white sails looked like villas along a highway.

Sometimes I think and wonder at what could have been all the features of this place before civilization and European eyes scanned it. I peopled it in imagination with Indians, seeking here and finding a summer home for their unrestrained supply of fish, shell-fish, birds’ eggs, &c. In these sounds they had often “wigwassed” for sheep heads, of whom we learnt the art of bobbing, as even now practised successfully, with flaming touch at night.

The beach at this place is certainly the best along our coast, and it be so shut up on an island, makes every thing of sea character still more like the sea-shore. The very desolation of the sands around us makes the table refreshments still more estimable by a feeling of contrast.

As we sail back to our boarding house, we notice many fish in the waters we traverse, such as we might have speared, if we had been so disposed, and had had the needful instruments.

Monday, August 17.—This begins a new epoch. Awake at five o’clock, and found the wind fair at S.W. I determine therefore to try for Long branch by sea. I am taken off in the bay to Capt. Rogers’ sloop Jane, loaded for New York, and near to the New Inlet. We arrive at New York the next day with a delightful sail.

Watson, John Fanning, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time ; Being a Collection of Memoirs, Anecdote, and Incidents of the City and Its Inhabitants, and of the Earliest Settlements of the Inland Part of Pennsylvania, from the Days of the Founders. Philadelphia, PA: Elijah Thomas, 1860. Volume II, pages 543-548.

The Forge at Metedeconk

By Gene Donatiello

In March of 1808, Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, signed the third Embargo Act cutting off trade with England and France. In that same year, John Lippencott, of Mount Holly, Burlington County purchased one hundred and five acres of land from the New Jersey Proprietors.

The land Lippencott purchased was at the southern end of Monmouth County in Howell Township and north of the Dover Township line on the Metetecunk (Metedeconk) River near Indian Stage, the site of many Lenape ceremonies. The area was later to become Brick Township; the area was ideal for an iron forge business. There was ample bog ore in the nearby marshes. The surrounding woodlands supplied the wood for charcoal needed to heat the forge and the river provided transportation and power. Two years after purchasing the land Lippencott sold the tract of land to Banajah Butcher and Barzillai Burr of Mount Holly, Burlington County. In 1810, Butcher and Burr received New Jersey State Legislative permission to construct a dam across the Metedeconk River creating a mill pond for the purpose of working the forge and grist mill which had recently been constructed. According to Thomas Gordon’s History and Gazetteer of New Jersey, in 1834 the mill pond was the largest in the state at about three miles long by one half mile wide. In 1847, the dam broke washing away the Forge along with several homes and business that grew up around the Forge.

The Forge produced mainly water pipes sold in New York City where there was a ready market. According to Early Forges and Furnaces in New Jersey the majority of early water mains in lower Manhattan came from Butcher’s Forge. Because of the lack of good roads, products from the forge were shipped on sailing ships via Gravelley Docks about a quarter mile east on the north shore of the Metedeconk river, at the opening to the north branch. The sailing ships traveled south down Barnegat Bay and through Cranberry inlet to the Atlantic Ocean. When nature closed Cranberry inlet around 1812, forge products were shipped by wagon over land to the Shrewsbury River. There it was loaded onto sailing vessels headed for New York City.

Today Bricktonians enjoy the picturesque view of Forge Pond from the park on the west side of Route 70. The trees, once harvested to produce charcoal for the forge, have grown back. The Laurel is growing again. Turtles, black snakes and other wildlife inhabits the pond. The winding Metedeconk River provides a link from its beginnings in western New Jersey through Lake Shanandoah to State Highway 70 and beyond.

Sources:

Miller, Pauline S. Ocean County Four Centuries in the Making. Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission, Toms River, New Jersey. 2000. P.148-149.

Gordon, Thomas. History and Gazetteer of New Jersey. 1834.