The History of the Cedar Bridge Fire Tower

In 1924 records show that the first Cedar Bridge fire lookout (60 foot Aermoter) was erected on a small knoll near the Cedar Bridge Hotel on the old Cedar Bridge Barnegat Road. If you have read More Forgotten Towns by Henry Beck you may remember he visited the location in the mid 1930’s, and mentions it in the “Refugees At Cedar Bridge” chapter. Very near the time Beck visited the site the Coast and Geodetic Survey designated the fire lookout there as a “geodetic survey location” and added it into their records.

 HISTORY     - Date     Condition        Report By

In 1950 it was visited again and the tower was gone. The person visiting then took the time to check the State Forestry Department records and found it had been “torn down” in 1938.

 HISTORY     - 1950     MARK NOT FOUND   CGS



A 1951 visit mentions it was found to have been moved across the county line to Burlington County in 1938.

            STATION RECOVERY (1951)


So we now know that in 1938 is was gone from it original location and in Burlington County, but where? We only need to go on a tour to find out.

In 1939 a “Tour Guide” was published called “The American Guide Series” which describes traveling what is now Route 72 from Manahawkin to Route 70. It was designated tour #35. Points of interest along the route were pointed out for the traveler if they wanted to stop and visit locations mentioned along the route.

The tour started at the shore in Ship Bottom where unbelievably the population was noted as 277. From there the tour headed west pointing out points of interests. When the tour reached the turnoff on 72 that would take one to the above mentioned Cedar Bridge tower, they described it like this.

“Left on this road to Cedar Bridge Lookout, 0.8 (Mile). (open), a 60-foot tower with men on 24-hour duty. From the observation platform is a sweeping view of the forest”.

The problem is as we now know, the tour was published in 1939 and the tower was torn down in 1938. If they had traveled up that road they would have found the tower gone. It had been moved across the county line to Burlington County in 1938 as mentioned above.

The tour continues west on 72, and at Coyle Field just over the county line in Burlington County they encountered the now moved Cedar Bridge tower at it second location, on the top of the knoll, on the north side near the road, across from what then was the National Guard Airport and now Coyle Field.

It is described like this:

“At 18.8 (miles)., on a cleared knoll close to the road, is another fire lookout. An excellent view of the long stretch of the Jersey pine belt is available from the platform, reached by steel stairs. Even from the road there is a broad vista of miles of wasteland, covered with scrub oaks and stunted pines barely waist-high. The stubby growth is like a coarse lawn as it sweeps away to become a distant blue-green sea. A few straggling trees rise above the mass, emphasizing the lonely scene”. Remember, this was 1939.

Lookout historian Bob Spear in his unpublished manuscript describes what happened next.

“The tower stood there until about 1942 when it was taken down and what is believed re-erected at Old Bridge and became that tower. Still later, Old Bridge was removed and re-erected in Thompson Park as the Jamesburg tower still in use today. A new 110′ International Derrick tower, named Cedar Bridge was built on a sand road leading to the Forked River Mountains.”

The reason it was moved is not known by me, but there may be a clue mentioned above as to why. Coyle Field which was the National Guard airport was designated as a reserve landing area for bombers and other aircraft out of Atlantic City during the war. Landing a military plane on an airfield with a fire lookout so close most certainly was a hazard.

So the Cedar Bridge tower “designation” with a new tower mentioned above moved on to a lonely spot on a sand road leading from 539 to the Forked River mountains. It’s third location was in place. The 110′ International Derrick lookout had a unique flat roof with a railing attached so that it could be used to watch for enemy planes during the war. There was a trap door in the top for entering and leaving the roof. There was no other tower like it in NJ.

Unfortunately, this tower had no electricity and was so remote it was being vandalized during the 70’s and very early 80’s so it was decided that it needed to be moved. Around 1983 a Sikorsky helicopter took the tower on it’s one mile journey to it’s 4th and as of now last move to it’s present location along 539. During this move the unusual gable roof was removed and one 10′ section of the tower was damaged. It now is 100′ tall.


National Geodetic Survey Records

NJ Fire Service Records

America Guide Series:

An unpublished manuscript by fire tower historian Bob Spear

The Beauty and the Wealth of a Land of Desolation

In the Pine Barrens: The Beauty and the Wealth of a Land of Desolation

Originally published in the New York Tribune, August 6, 1893.

You may still call it, as of old, the province of Camden and Amboy; the realm of the Duke of Gloster; or yet you may resuscitate the antique joke about it’s being a foreign land out of the Union. Under any of these names the southern part of New Jersey still remains, in great measure, an unknown land. There is, it is true, outposts of exploration at Lakewood. Hardy fisherman, well armed with bottled bait, have skirted the coast and made landings here and there. There is, moreover, a well marked “trek” straight through the wilderness from Philadelphia to Atlantic City, and another to Cape May. There are prosperous towns and cities, too, well-known to fame: Millville and Bridgeton and Vineland and Hammonton and others. But if the great expensive territory that makes a southern half of the state, what man has knowledge? What ideas conveyed to a New Yorkers mind by such names as Lower Bank, or Tulpehocken, or Martha’s Furnace, or Repaupo, or Blue Anchor? Now and then an item appears in the papers, as several times in the last few weeks, about forest fires in New Jersey. We hear fires and burn thousands of acres, that rage for many miles, and that threaten and sometimes sweep away whole villages, and one wonders that such things can be, so close to the metropolis. It is true that right here, between New York and Philadelphia, lie many hundreds of miles of wilderness, almost as free from civilizing touch as a wildest parts of the wild West.

From the car window of the railroad train one looks hour after hour at a panorama of almost utter desolation. Meeting the sky on every hand spreads an almost level expanse of stunted woodland, dark green and gray. Much of it reaches in height scarce to the windowsill; but here and there arises to goodly forest standards. The ground, as you see it near the track, where not covered thickly with leaves, is snowy white, the wake of bleached and glittering beach sand. Where the road run through a cut you see that this white sand is one, two, sometimes three feet deep, gradually blending into a pale yellow mixture of sand and loam and gravel. For miles the woodland is absolutely unbroken. Then you come to a narrow wagon road winding through, gleaming white as the wake of a steamboat. Again you pass unpainted pine cabin with a small clear field about it, in the white soil which some stunted corn and a few hills of sweet potatoes are growing. Often the eye is gladdened by the sight of a brook or river of the clearest imaginable water flowing over a bed of sand, perhaps white, perhaps ruddy with iron ore. For all this dreary wilderness is well watered by perfect network of unfailing streams. And then you ride for other miles through ashes and blackness, where forest fires have raged, licking up all before them save the charred trunks of the larger trees.

A hundred years ago an American geographer wrote this region in these terms: “as much as five eights of most of the southern counties, or one fourth of the whole state, is almost a sandy barren, unfit in many parts for cultivation. The land on the seacoast in this, like in that of the more southern states, has every appearance of made ground. The soil is generally a light sand, and by digging on average about 50 feet below the surface (which can be done even if the distance of 20 or 30 miles from the sea without any impediment from rocks or stones) you come to salt-marsh. The gentleman who gave this information adds: ‘I have seen an oyster shell that would hold a pint, which was dug out of the marsh at fifty feet deep in digging a well.’

… the barrens produce little else but scrub oaks and yellow pines. These sandy lands yield an immense quantity of bog iron ore, which is worked up to great advantage in the ironworks in these counties.” This iron industry is now a thing of the past, but it is left it’s mark upon the country. What is now Lakewood was originally a great center of iron manufacture, and other settlements, the names of which are compounded with Forge or Furnace, bear witness to the same former fact. Other industries, however, have here and there sprung up to take its place. In one district the sand is well fitted for making glass; in another clay beds make possible great potteries; in the third the culture of small fruits is profitably pursued; and lumbering and charcoal burning are widespread industries. Yet it remains true that a vast proportion of this area is still an unimproved wilderness.

Pine Barrens the land is called. It is not, however, wholly covered with pine. Perhaps nearly half the trees are oaks. There are bound for kinds of oak and four conifers. The former are the Q. prinoides or dwarf chestnut oak, Q. prinus; blackjack, Q. nigra; the black scrub oak, Q. ilicifolia; and Spanish oak, Q. falcata. The conifers are the Jersey or scrub pine, P. inops; here and there the pitch pine, P. rigida; occasionally the handsome and stately yellow pine, P. mitis; and the juniper or red cedar, with is by no means common. Besides these one finds the rex or American holly, growing almost to treelike size, and everywhere the bushes of huckleberry and bilberry. The vast bulk of arboreal vegetation belongs, therefore, to the pine, oak and heath families, and the last named family is most widely represented of all. These are three huckleberries, Gaylussacia dumosa, frondosa, and resinosa, and three bilberries of the cranberry tribe, Vaccinium Pennsylvanicum, vacillans and corymbosum, all called huckleberries: besides the two true cranberries, V. oxycoccus and macrocarpon. Then there are the aromatic wintergreen, the trailing arbutus, the kalmia or American laurel, the rhododendron, the azalea, the sand myrtle, and various others, a full dozen of the heath family; so that it is not inappropriate to dream of some resemblance between these gray green plains and the heather-clad moors of the old country.

It is evident, then, that such a country, despite its desolation, cannot be altogether unbeautiful, nor destitute of value. Perhaps if some of the fierce and persistent energy that has been expended in the far West had found its object here, this wilderness might now be blossoming as the rose, and the New Yorker might regard with a practical interest apart from fishing, gunning, and deer-chasing. There is scarcely a spot that does not betray some beauty to the observing visitor and offer some promise of development. Especially is such the case along and near the watercourses and lakes, which everywhere abound. These are in the pine barren country but no region this side of the tropics to be less barren or more luxuriantly clad with worthy vegetation.

One stream, familiar through the virtue of one hundred unhurried visits, may be taken as a type of all. It’s navigable course is not long in proportion to its volume; a couple of miles at most. Where one enters it from the lake into which it empties it is a dozen yards wide and a dozen feet deep. And at that death you can see not only the pebbles, but the very sand grains at the bottom, and almost count the scales on the pike that float below you half hidden in the waving grasses. Three feet from the shore it is as deep as in midstream, and from the waters edge to the cypress and arborvitae — both called cedar here — rise sheer, a dark green, moss-hung hedge, twice as high as the stream is wide, and so dense that it shuts out the light of the declining sun as utterly as would a wall of stone. For that hedge is not only dense with clustered needles and heavy festoons of moss at the margin of the stream. It is itself only the margin of an unbroken forest of noble cypresses, extending perhaps for miles. And now and then, as you float along on the crystal current, you catch through random hedge-rifts vistas of dim aisles and clustered pillar-courts, where the great gray shafts rise fifty feet without a branch or twig, straight as a Doric column. From the lofty roof hang mossy banners and streamers of green and gray and silver, while here and there like graceful candelabra, stand laurel magnolias, with blossoms whiter than the purest wax and sweeter than the perfume of cathedral incense. The very stream itself has now become an aisle, with crystal pavement, for the cypress branches meet and intermingle far above your head, and only let through here and there a shattered sunbeam at noonday, to make aerial mosaics on the liquid floor. From bank to bank is little more than a strongman’s leap. You can no longer wield your oars as oars, but only as paddles. But with the same oars you vainly try to fathom the depths below, where silvery grasses wave and quartz pebbles glitter like snow, or glow blood red with the iron that impregnates these sands.

Nor does the scene lack the minor accessories of decorative art. Here and there are floating in the waxen blossoms of the sweet-scented water lily, now all purest white, now with the outer petals tinged with pink, and now, very rarely, with all the petals blushing like a rose. Every foot of the bank is friends with pitcher plants, or monkey cup, or side-saddle flowers, which ever you may call the purple sarracenia, their leaves ranging from an inch to six or eight inches in height, and from the palest golden green to deep crimson and dusky purple in hue. Here, too, the heath family abounds, chiefly represented by the aromatic wintergreen (Gaultheria) here called teaberry, and praised for both fruit and leaves; by the gaylussacia, or true huckleberry, with it’s racemes of glossy black berries – rarely snow-white; by two of the vaccinium, the oxycoccus, or cranberry and the cyanococcus, or blueberry, here, as elsewhere, not distinguished from the huckleberry; by the umbellata, or prince’s pine, which seems to defy the moisture and to flourish in the swamp as well as in the uplands; by the kalmia, or pale laurel; by the white and purple azaleas, and by the rhododendron, or great laurel; and if you look aright you will find in the drier spots the spicy epigaea, or trailing arbutus, which one calls mayflower and another maypink, and elsewhere shrubs of fragrant clethra, and yet again, in some dense shade, the waxen bells of indian pipe. Indeed, the heath tribe seems, as on the upland barrens, to outnumber all others, and to vie for dominance even with the overshadowing conifers.

Such are the principal flora of this wilderness. The fauna are not less interesting, the less evident. But there are pikes and pickerel, and golden perch, and the forbiddingly looking but loathsome catfish, abundant in the grassy depths. If you are quiet of manner and quick of eyes, you may now and then see a wood duck, glide from shade to shade like the fugitive ray shop from a prism, and in season you may shoot, if you can duck, teal, brant and goose, as they fly seaward to the tidal meadows. Kingfishers, blazing with emerald and ruby dart about; hummingbirds rival in dainty grace the flowers they hover over, and hawks and now and then an osprey or an eagle glide above all with ominous calm.

There is something more than beauty, however, in such a region. There is much of commonplace, practical value. The timber, of course, is evident. Few soft woods are more valuable for building purposes than this cypress and arborvitae, so light, so strong, so workable and so durable are they; and even sticks of only six inches thickness have their commercial worth. So many of the swamps are already cleared, or partially cleared, and now present only a bald sun scorched expanse of hapless underbrush, through which the diminished stream winds a dreary way. Through others forest fires have swept, leaving behind leafless branches and blackened trunks. It is difficult to determine which more destroys the beauty of the place and makes the scene more dismal – axe or flame. Yet neither altogether robs the swamp of value. Perhaps its greatest wealth is still remaining. For if you leave your boat and force your path through the weeds afoot you will find it needful carefully to pick your way. Most of the ground seems quagmire. It yields to the pressure of the foot, and ere you are aware you will sink knee deep. Now, take your fishing-pole and thrust it downward. At three feet deep it strikes bottom. Try again, here, and it goes six feet without a check. Once more, here; and ten, twelve, fifteen feet, down it goes. What is it piercing? Nothing but muck, soil, black muck, the rotted vegetation of uncounted years. What if one should dig it out, cart it away, and spread it thickly upon the sandy, barren soil of the dry uplands? He would not need to plough it under; in that light soil a heavy wheelbarrow would do the work. Then he might plant what he would, and get a harvest of such abundance as a Western prairie might envy. It is worth ten times the weight of the fish and mussels that the farmers near the bayshore spread upon their fields. It has a possibility for production almost beyond estimate. Yet there it lies, neglected and ignored, while men say their sandy farms are well nigh worthless.

The stream flows into a small lake, of which the shores are bordered with acres of fragrant water-lilies. At the farther end from the stream the lake is bounded by a half natural, half artificial dam, through a gateway in which the water flows to turn a mill-wheel, and then to fall into a brackish tidal creek, that winds sluggishly across many miles of salt meadows, clad with coarse grass, and flaunting red and white rose-mallows, and green and crimson samphire, to the bay. The top of the dam is a roadway, hedged at the meadow, with a row of hedge willows, and here and there a maple. If you wander through the streets of the sleepy village you will find them densely shaded by great white willows, 50 to 70 feet high, with trunks two or three feet thick, and branches mingling over the broad roadway. Indeed you will scarcely find elsewhere, unless in some favored quarter of New England, villages surpassing in beauty some of those along the New Jersey shore. One might almost say that “on a narrow strip of land, ‘twixt two unbounded seas they stand.” For on one side the sand plains, and on the other the marshes and the sea. But on this narrow strip are charming villages, and farms that are by no means unfertile. It cannot be denied that a sort of social and industrial stagnation prevails. “The place is dead,” the villages themselves will tell you. Farming yields little profit; the oyster beads and fisheries of the great lagoon they call the bay are less productive than in former years, and the coasting trade in sloops and schooners that once flourished and made each village a busy mart of commerce, has become a thing of the past. Young man of enterprise leave home to seek a fortune elsewhere, while those who stay eke out a scanty livelihood fishing and gunning for the markets, or catering on hand or water to the wants of the big summer hotels that have been built at various points along the beach. Perhaps some day, in some effective fashion, they will turn their attention from the salt sea of the east to the sandy sea at the west, and make it something more than the home of the huckleberry, the land of scrub timber, and the playground of forest fires.

The Jersey Taverns

The tavern was a building that, in colonial America, was second in importance only to the meetinghouse. Here a person could hear the news, find the market prices of goods, conduct business, attend court, and enjoy a glass of beer, ale, wine, or other hard spirits.

The first tavern that historians can name is Lyons Ordinary, founded on the banks of the Passaic River in the new settlement of Newark around May of 1666. Henry Lyon was charged to “keep an Ordinary for the Entertainment of Travellers and Strangers.” While all traces of this early tavern have vanished under the tarmac and concrete of modern Newark, the idea upon which this this tavern was founded — so far as the legislature saw it: to provide comfort and accommodations for visitors—was the same as every other tavern in New Jersey.

The Cedar Bridge Tavern. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, Historic American Engineering Record or Historic American Landscapes Survey, HABS NJ,15-____,1-1

The taverns that may predate Lyons have been lost to history. The British, having just defeated the Dutch and taken control over all of what would eventually become New Jersey in 1664, wasted no time in writing laws to govern the ordinaries. Over the course of the following centuries, laws would be enacted, repealed, enforced, and ignored. The first law regulating taverns appears in the Duke of York’s Laws in the Charter of William Penn on April 2, 1664:

No person or persons shall at any time under any pretence or Colour whatsoever undertake to be a Common Victuler, keeper of a Cookes shop, or House of Common entertainment, or publique seller of wine, Beare, Ale or strong waters by retail or a less quantity than a quarter Caske, without a certificate of his good behaviour from the constable and two Overseers at east of the parish wherein he dwelt and a Lycence first obtained under the hand of two Justices of the peace in the Sessions upon pain of forfeiting five pounds for every such offense, or Imprisonment at the discretion of the court.

Providing hospitality to strangers was of chief importance to the early settlers in America, and legislators enacted laws to ensure that taverns existed to provide entertainment and lodging to visitors. In East Jersey, a law enacted in 1688 provided for a fine of forty shillings per month for each town that did not have an ordinary. West Jersey generally left the matter up to the discretion of the local town. In either province, no one but the holder of a license could charge for giving lodging or meals to strangers. Furthermore, the law required the tavern keeper to maintain a register containing the names of all visitors for the local magistrates.

The earliest colonial taverns usually consisted of two rooms. One room contained a bar and tables for drinking and meals. The second served as residential quarters for the tavern keeper and his family. Like many early buildings the kitchen was usually just a lean-to connected to the back of the building and served double duty as a woodshed. Overnight guests would simply bunk down on the floor of the dining room once the last drinks were served and the night’s dishes were cleared away. The bar of an eighteenth-century tavern stood in a small alcove in the corner of the dining room, with a lockable door to one side and a short narrow ledge long enough for a few people to order drinks and bring them to their tables. At night a wooden barricade would swing down from the ceiling and close off the bar, keeping the proprietors valuable liquors secure from the strangers sleeping in the dining room. An example of this “cage bar” can still be found at the restored Indian King Tavern in Haddonfield.

A cage bar in the King's Tavern, Sunnybrook MD. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, Historic American Engineering Record or Historic American Landscapes Survey, HABS MD,3-SUNB,1-1

The tavern building usually featured separate entrances for the bar and the private living quarters and a large covered porch ran across the front of the building. As the fortunes of the colonists improved and the taverns became larger and more elaborate, the builder maintained the tradition of a public and a private entrance. The presence of both doors under the continuous roof of a porch provides a valuable clue that helps differentiate an old tavern building from some farmhouses that also had multiple front doors.

Identifying the tavern would be a large wooden sign either attached to the building itself or hung from a nearby post. This custom began with English pubs and the law required a hanging sign to obtain a tavern license. The sign’s elaborate design directly reflected the fortunes and whims of the proprietor. In some cases the sign was just a simple board with the name of the establishment painted on it. Others might have elaborate carvings and/or surrounded with a wrought iron frame. Tavern keepers also changed locations, and, when leaving, they would often carry the sign to their new establishment. Thus, for example, the Kings Arms Tavern originated in Trenton and then relocated to Perth Amboy when the proprietor sold the original building.

The Noah Brooks Tavern Sign, Middlesex, MA. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, Historic American Engineering Record or Historic American Landscapes Survey, HABS MASS,9-LIN,5-3

Conversation and gossip served as the chief mode of entertainment at the tavern for the local gentry and travelers. The tavern keeper also occasionally held dances, although the larger of these gatherings, at least in the Pine Barrens, occurred in dedicated dance halls. The infamous pine robber, Joe Mulliner, had a penchant for the dances held at the Quaker Bridge tavern and the authorities finally apprehended the miscreant at a dance held in the tavern at Nesco.

The games played at taverns often drew the ire of the Legislature. Amusements such as dice, shuffleboard, quoits, long bullets, and ninepins— an ancestor to modern day bowling—provided entertainment at the tavern and many who would have normally worked in the fields or mills loitered around the tavern looking for a game. In 1739 the Legislature lamented in an act that the tavern was not “for the Encouragement of Gaming, Tipling, Drunkenness, and other Vices so much as of late practiced at such Places, to the great Scandal of Religion, and Dishonour of God, and the impoverishing of the Commonwealth.”

In 1779 the Legislature passed a law prohibiting the playing of “Fives, Ninepins, Long Bullets, or similar Games at a Tavern or in the Highway or on the Grounds, or against the House of any Person, without Leave.” Lesgislators later amended the law to allow shuffleboard, bowls, quoits, and ninepins under local option.

The “sport” of Cockfighting became associated with these early taverns. Then, as much as now, officials would not tolerate the fights and the sponsors held the events clandestinely. Owners carried their birds to the tavern yard and men would assemble in a circle lit only by an oil lantern and the stars to watch the birds fight. Sometimes a particularly successful bird, famous at some other tavern, would be brought in to challenge the local champion. Usually the noise and crowd attracted attention, but, more often than not, the men, birds, and prize money would disappear by the time any constable arrived to investigate.

Taverns also attracted traveling shows and carnivals. These exhibitions drew crowds from far and wide to witness the “monstrous sights” of trained animals, slight of hand performances, puppet shows, and various fake mechanical devices. These shows grew in such number and frequency that, yet again, the Legislature felt the need to act and on March 16, 1798 enacted a law with a preamble that read:

“And whereas public shews and exhibitions of divers kinds have of late become very frequent and common within this State, whereby many strangers and worthless persons have unjustly gained and taken to themselves considerable sums of money, and it being found on experience that such shews and exhibitors tend to no good or useful purpose in society, but, on the contrary to collect together great numbers of idle and unwary spectators, as well as children and servants, to gratify vain and useless curiosity, loosen and corrupt the morale of youth, and straiten and impoverish many poor families.”

The Spring Garden Inn, Ancora, NJ. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, Historic American Engineering Record or Historic American Landscapes Survey, HABS NJ,4-ANCO,1-1

The type and quality of food served naturally depended on the location of the tavern. For taverns located in cities such as Burlington, Newark, and Princeton, the fare was quite lavish. Accommodations off the beaten path provided far less comfort. John Torrey, the famous New York botanist, traveled through the Pine Barrens in 1818 researching material for his publication Catalogue of Plants growing spontaneously within Thirty Miles of the City of New York. After leaving the tavern at Quaker Bridge he continued on to the tavern at Ten-Mile Hollow in Berkley Township where he noted that:

“After we left Quaker bridge we fared pretty hard. Some places called taverns that we were put up at were not fit for an Arab. At a place called Ten Mile Hollow, or Hell Hollow, we expected to sleep in the woods, for it was with most difficulty that we persuaded them to take us in. This was the most miserable place we 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.”

The courts set prices for food, drink, and lodging almost from the beginning. The Court in Burlington adopted a resolution on August 8, 1682:

“Ordered by ye Cort that no Person or Persons keeping or shall keep an Ordinary or Inne within ye Jurisdiction of this Cort shall from after ye Tenth day of August inst. take more than Two pence for an Ale quart of good wholesome Ale, or strong Beere, and Benj. West and Henry Grubb are by ye Cort appointed to be Ale Tasters and to see ye measures for Ale & Beere, according to ye order above, until next General Assembly, or further orders.”

These were the days before a la carte menus became the norm, and the food served at the tavern was usually whatever the proprietor felt like cooking at the time. Drinks consisted of beer, ale, cider, wine, or a limited selection of spirits, chiefly rum. Unlike today’s taverns that have a variety of different drinks available, the choices in the past were limited to whatever the tavern may have had on hand.

Drink prices also varied depending on whether you drank indoors or out. The authorities levied serious fines for those who overcharged, particularly during the Revolution. The May 2, 1778 Minutes of the Council of Safety record that the Council levied a heavy fine of six pounds per offense against tavern keeper Samuel Smith for overcharging. The Council also forced him to forfeit the charges for the food, drink, and lodging entirely, bringing his fine to £37.2.6. A schedule of the prices the Burlington Court established in 1739 can be found at the end of this article.

While drinking was tolerated, and perhaps even encouraged, by the most conservative of Quakers , drunkenness proved to be a serious offense in New Jersey’s early days. As early as 1683, the General Assembly passed a law that provided for either a fine of three shillings and four pence per offense or confinement in the stocks for a period of not more than five hours. The courts summoned Peter Groom in 1694 and, having been fined five shillings for standing before the court with his hat on, unluckily had his fine raised to fifty pence once he admitted that “hee had got over much strong drink” and had appeared “before ye Court drunk.

The law also prohibited the sale of liquor to the Indians. In 1680 the Burlington court decreed that:

“… if any psn or psons shall hereafter, directly or indirectly, sell any Rumme or other strong Liquors to any Indian or Indians, either by great or small measure without order from ye Cort then such pson or psons soe offending shall forfeit & pay for every such offense 50s And upon refusall neglect or non-payment of ye same it shall be Leviyed upon any of ye Goods & Chattles of ye pson or psons soe offending by Distress & sale of ye same. This is to continue until further order.”

The court modified the measure shortly thereafter to allow the sale of liquor to the Indians in small measure provided that the Indians depart “into ye Woods to drinke ye same there, yt [that] soe the people may be nee disturbed by them.”

Taverns in the cities tended to sprout up wherever a licensee may have a house or a plot of land on which to build one. Outside of population centers, however, taverns were constructed at convenient intervals along stagecoach lines and served as rest stops for both the horses and drivers as well as the passengers. Frequently the stages carried freight and mail as well, and the stage stop in Arneytown near the border of Burlington and Monmouth Counties served not only as a tavern but also as a post office and general store.

Lawrie House, Arneytown, NJ. Authors collection.

Before the Revolution, the county courts made it quite difficult to obtain a license for a tavern, yet, despite the population of West Jersey being 13,714 people in 1726, quite a number of taverns existed within the province. After the Revolution, returning veterans and widows of fallen soldiers created a flood of tavern license applications, and the courts were only too happy to oblige. By 1784, fifty-seven taverns existed in Burlington County, thirty in Gloucester, twenty-six in Salem, five in Cape May, forty-seven in Hunterdon, and ten in Cumberland. Just two years later, William Livingston, the first governor of New Jersey, complained:

“I have seen four times as many taverns in the State as are necessary. These superabundant taverns in the State are continuously haunted by idlers. These taverns are confessedly so many nuisances – all well regulated governments abolish them, and yet I have not seen any of our courts that license them willing to retrench the supernumerary ones.”

Two years prior to Livingston’s lament, the residents of Greenwich Township in Gloucester County, perhaps fearing an explosion in the number of taverns operating nearby, filed a petition with the court protesting an increase in the number of tavern licenses. The petition stated “that the number [of taverns] now are Sufficent for the Uses for which they are instituted, that any more May be of Great Disadvantage to Sundry of the Near inhabitants Who are apt to frequent such Places to the Poverishment of Themselves and familys.

The fears of idleness and drunkenness resulting from the growing number of taverns in New Jersey and beyond, coupled with changing social morals in the early nineteenth century likely provided an impetus for the Temperance movement, which urged the complete abstinence of alcoholic beverages. The closing of the iron furnaces in South Jersey and the migration of the workforce away from these now deserted villages starved the taverns for business. As the nineteenth century came to a close, most stage routes had ceased operations, the horses and carriages replaced by much faster automobiles and trucks and the taverns along the route often underwent conversion into homes. Although illicit distilleries operated in the Pine Barrens during Prohibition, the last of the old taverns had finally closed.

While the heyday of the old taverns is long gone, some of the old taverns and stagecoach stops once again serve alcohol and food. The Cassville Tavern in Jackson still retains much of the feel that an old stagecoach tavern must have had. In Chesterfield, the old Recklesstown Tavern, circa 1710, is again a bar and restaurant called the Chesterfield Inn and still hosts games of quoits. In these hallowed halls you can raise a glass of “good ale or beere” and join over three hundred years of drinking history in New Jersey’s taverns.

Appendix: 1739 Burlington Tavern Price Schedule

On August 19, 1739 the Burlington court set a schedule for the prices a tavern could charge for food, drink, and lodging. This list is an interesting example of the kinds of offerings these old taverns would have had. A tavern may have offered more or less than what this list shows, and should not be considered any sort of canonical “menu” for a contemporary tavern at the time. I have tried to clarify some of the language used in the schedule so it is not “as written” in 1739.

A Breakfast of Tea or Coffee with Bread & Butter & loaf sugar 8 pence
Ditto with Muscovado Sugar 6 “
Ditto of wth chocolate wth bread & butter 7 “
Ditto of cold or hashed meat 6 “
A Dinner ordered extraordinary with a pint of Beer or Cider 1 shilling
A common hot family dinner with a Pint of Beer or Cider 9 pence
Cold Ditto with a pint of Beer or Cider 8 “
A Supper ordered Extraordinary with a pint of Beer or Cider 1 shilling
Ditto of cold or hashed meat 6 pence
A Quart of Common Strong Beer indoors 4 pence
Ditto outdoors 3 “
A Quart of Double Beer indoors 6 “
Ditto outdoors 5 “
A Quart of Cider indoors 3 “
A Pint of Cider Royall 4 “
A Pint of Metheglin 6 “
A Quart of Mimbo with Loaf Sugar 8 “
Ditto with Muscovado Sugar 6 “
A Quart of Punch with Fresh Lemons or Oranges & Loaf Sugar 1 shilling
A Quart of Lime juice punch 9 pence
A Quart of Milk or Egg punch 8 “
A Pint of plain Rum outdoors 6 “
A half of a pint out of doors 3 “
A Gill of plain Rum 3 “
A Gill of Cherry Rum 4 “
Ar/a Gill ditto 2 “
A Quart of Tiff 8 “
A Quart of Wine 2 “

All & Every afsd Liquors to be sold by measures having the Standard mark thereon according to An Act of General Assembly of this Province under sd Pains and Penalties therein contained.

Provender for Horses
Pasturing one night or each 24 hours 6 pence
Stabling one night or each 24 hours at Common Hay 6 “
Ditto at Clover hay 8 “
Two Quarts of Oats 3 “
A half peck of Oats 5 “
Each Lodger 2 pence
A Lodger requiring a Bed unto himself 4 “

The historian Charles Boyer, in his excellent book Old Inns and Taverns in West Jersey, from which this author copied this schedule, explains some of the words that would be unknown today. “Muscovado sugar” is simply raw, unrefined brown sugar. Boiling down cider to one fourth of its original volume made “Cider Royall.” “Metheglin” is a concoction of fermented honey, herbs, and water. A “mimbo” was a drink made from rum and loaf sugar. Boyer failed in his efforts to determine the consistency of a “tiff,” except he noted that it contained a considerable amount – usually about a pint – of rum.

Of special note is the section about lodging. It was quite the custom for an innkeeper to “pack them in” when he could, and friends and strangers of the same sex frequently found themselves sharing a bed. While someone could request a bed of their own, customs of the day would have made that person look quite obnoxious and fastidious.

The Early Swedes in New Jersey

In the days before New Jersey, when the British were still busy colonizing New England and Virginia, and the Dutch controlled New Netherland, which stretched from Toms River to the Vermont-Canada border, another group of European settlers were staking a claim to a New World Colony – the Swedes.

The Swedish, at that time considered a great European power, looked on in envy at the profits the Dutch were realizing in the American fur trade. King Gustavus Adolphus suggested that the Swedes form a company similar to the Dutch West India Company with the idea of expanding trade from Europe to Asia, Africa, and the Americas. He went so far as to draw up articles of association and actively encouraged his subjects to support the new company. Before more concrete plans could be made or a voyage financed, however, the King was killed in early 1633 at the Battle of Lützen. It was not until 1638 when, after his daughter Christina renewed interest in the venture that a voyage was planned.

Dutchman Peter Minuet, ironically, would lead the expedition.  A former director of the Dutch West India Company and ex-governor of New Netherland, he operated under the immediate authority of the Swedish Government. Two ships, the pinnace Kalmar Nyckel (Key of Kalmar), and the transport Fågel Grip (Griffin Bird), left Gothenburg in December 1637. The trip ended prematurely when the Kalmar Nyckel suffered damage in a North Sea storm  and the ship diverted to the Netherlands for repairs. The two ships were laid up for a year, finally resuming their voyages on New Year’s Day, 1638.

The ships sighted land at Henlopen, a point of land near modern day Lewes, Delaware. They named this area Paradise Point, now part of Cape Henlopen State Park,. Thomas Gordon, in his Gazetteer, suggests is the Swedes selected this toponym not so much from the beauty or fertility of the land, but from the relief the settlers experienced when finally making landfall after a long voyage. Minuet wasted no time in purchasing the land from the capes up to the Delaware Falls near modern day Trenton. During this time he also established a small settlement known as New Stockholm located on the Racoon Creek in Gloucester County.

Minuet knew the Dutch had a claim on the area, but lacked the military force or resolve needed to hold onto those claims. On March 29, 1638, the Swedes commenced building a town and fort – Fort Christina, named after the now Queen of Sweden, Christina. The director of the Dutch West India Company, Willem Kieft, protested in a letter dated May 6, 1638, claiming that the whole Delaware River had been in possession of the Dutch for many years – studded by forts and sealed with their blood. There are claims, however, that the Swedes purchased the rights to this area in 1631. All the Dutch could do is eventually move its existing Fort Nassau on the New Jersey side of the Delaware downriver and reconstruct it across the river and down below Fort Christina near modern New Castle.

After establishing the fort, Minuet left for Stockholm to pick up a second group of settlers. Deciding to stop in the Caribbean for a load of tobacco to make the voyage profitable, he was lost in a hurricane off St. Christopher. Over the next seventeen years, though, the Swedes made more than eleven trips, four of them with the Kalmar Nyckel, bringing roughly 600 Swedish and Finnish colonists to the area.

Five years later, under the direction of Johan Printz, the new governor of New Sweden, the colony expanded. In 1643 he established two new forts on each side of the Delaware. The largest, Fort Nya Gothenborg (New Gothenburg) stood on Tinicum Island in present-day Delaware County, Pennsylvania to become the new capitol of New Sweden. He also established a church, consecrated in 1646, and a manor house, known as Printzhoff (Printz Hall).

On the New Jersey side he founded Fort Nya Elfsborg in the marshy lands between the Salem and Alloway Creeks near Salem. Often referred to as Fort Mosquito, Printz installed several 12 pound cannons aimed at the river as defensive weapons in the fortification to stop Dutch West India Company ships from traveling up or down the Delaware River.

For several years something of a tense peace held over the area. The New Sweden and New Netherland colonies continued to grow, and several small illegal English colonies sprang up near Salem, New Jersey and along the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania. These illicit settlements threw the Dutch and Swedes  together to drive the English out, but Fort Casimir pressed too close to the Swedish domain and, in 1654, Printz demanded that the Dutch hand it over. This being refused, Printz landed a party of thirty men on May 21, 1654, who easily took the fort without a fight as the Dutch failed to supply Fort Casimir with any gunpowder. The Swedes renamed it Fort Trinity.

Peter Stuyvesant, the governor of New Netherland vowed revenge. Although he directed most of his attention to keeping the English colonists from Connecticut at bay—an action made famous by building a wall at the northern border of New Amsterdam now known today as Wall Street—he personally led a squadron of ships into the Delaware River, arriving on September 9, 1654. An army of six to seven hundred men arrived and one by one the Swedish forts fell – Nya Elfsborg being burnt and abandoned by the hopelessly outnumbered defenders. The last fort to fall was Nya Gothenborg, which surrendered on the 25th of September.

The Swedish and Finnish colonists found life in the newly expanded New Netherland colony more amiable. The The Dutch allowed them to retain some amount of local autonomy, and retain their own militia, court, religion, and lands. New Stockholm continued to grow, but by 1677, the colony had been all but abandoned for reasons unknown in favor of the inland settlement at Swedesboro, founded sometime after New Stockholm.

Tensions between the Dutch and England continued to grow, and by August 1664 with the Second Anglo-Dutch war just starting, the British dispatched an invasion force to capture New Amsterdam. In October the New Netherland colony fell without a shot being fired and the Duke of York subsequently sold the land now known as New Jersey to John Berkeley and George Carteret who later would divide the province into East and West Jersey.

In August 1673 the Dutch recaptured New Netherland from the English and recognized New Sweden by forming three new counties that approximated the boundaries of the former colony. The Treaty of Westminster of 1674, however, spelled an end to the New Netherland colony permanently when the Dutch ceded all of the land, including the counties comprising the New Sweden colony, back to England.

Some traces of the Swedish towns and forts remain in New Jersey. Swedesboro, the most famous, is home to the Trinity Episcopal Church, known locally as the “Old Swedes’ Church” and what is claimed to be the oldest wooden structure in the Americas, the Nothnagle Log Cabin, both of which are in the National Register of Historic Places. The spot where Fort Nya Elfsborg stood is now underwater, commemorated only by a monument outside the Elsinboro Township School and the Fort Elfsborg-Salem Road. Nothing remains of New Stockholm, the community of Bridgeport having expanded into the area where the Swedish settlement once flourished. In 1997, a Wilmington shipyard constructed and launched a replica of the Kalmar Nyckel not far from the site of Fort Christina, providing educational tours and trips from port to port in the Delaware River.

Many thanks to Paul W. Schopp for his invaluable assistance in proofing and editing this article.

The Batona Trail Diary, the First 30 Miles


There is a small amount of information on the history of the Batona Trail available online, but what do we really know about how it all came about? And who really was instrumental in it’s development, how did they get permission to build it, and who gave that permission to allow them to proceed? I am sure over the years many a hiker of the trail asked these questions to themselves, with very little chance of finding the answer.

Recently, I acquired the notes of Morris Bardock who was the President of the Batona Hiking Club at the time of the trails inception, and in his writings that he calls “The Batona Trail Diary, the First Thirty Miles,” he answers some of these interesting questions and more. In later years he even worried that the history of the trail would be lost forever, and he made contact with at least one individual to try to insure it was not. I suspect you have never before viewed most of the information you will read below, and this is my attempt to make sure that Mr. Bardock’s worries were for nothing. I have hand typed this text from his diary, and so there always is a chance I made a few mistakes. And there are a few that he made that I have left in, and I have moved some of the text around for better clarity. Hopefully, you will find this as interesting as I have. Enjoy!


The Batona Trail Diary, the First Thirty Miles

By Morris Bardock

Sometime 1960 – The idea of building a hiking trail through the Wharton and Lebanon State Forests was first suggested by Dale Knapschafer of the Batona Hiking Club.

January 20, 1961- A letter was written to State Commissioner Salvatore A. Bontempo, of the Department of Conservation and Economic Development, explaining our plans, and hoping for endorsement. To our pleasant surprise a most favorable reply was received. We were to meet with J. C. MacDonald, manager of Wharton. Just about that time Mr. MacDonald was advanced to a post in Trenton, and our first meeting was held with assistant, Sid Walker. We had earlier received a letter from Mr MacDonald.

January 27, 1961- At a leaders meeting of the Batona Hiking Club, Morris Bardock President presiding, building the trail was made an official club project.

The original letter from the Batona Hiking Club to Mr Bontempo that started it all:

Dear Sir:

The Back to Nature Hiking Club of Philadelphia desires to make hiking a popular past time for more people. One contribution our club can make towards this goal is the laying out and maintenance of a hiking trail in an area accessible to a large number of people. We are considering a trail connecting the Wharton Tract and Lebanon State Forest since these areas have many visitors. Also, South Jersey has few if any developed trails: therefore, our project, we feel, would serve a function for the Forestry Service with no cost to the State.

The exact route will not be determined until we do more exploring, but it will probably go from Batsto to Pakim Pond or Deep Hollow Pond and beyond. The length will be about twenty miles, but people visiting in Lebanon Forest or the Wharton Tract could take shorter hikes along it. We will try to route the trail near campgrounds and picnic areas to make it easy to use.

We propose to use existing sand roads and trails to go across country only where necessary. Therefore the forest will not be harmed by the trail. The entire trail will be marked by painting blaze marks on trees at necessary intervals. On cross country sections we could simply mark the trail following an accessible route. We might perhaps clear out a little debris where it would greatly impede walking.

The Back to Nature Hiking Club is thirty-two years old and the most active in Philadelphia. The trail work will be done by competent out-of-doors people who have been hiking for years. We are conservation minded and can assure you that no damage would be done to any trees or vegetation.

The main purpose of this letter is to obtain the sanction of our State Forestry Service before undertaking this work. When completed, we would send you a detailed route of the trail and it’s name.

Enclosed please find one of our schedules which will help to acquaint you with our organization.

Respectfully yours,

Morris Bardock, President

Batona Hiking Club

And the reply from Salvatore A. Bontempo:

Sate of New Jersey

Department of Conservation

And Economic Development

Office of the commissioner


February 10, 1961

Mr. Morris Bardock, President

Batona Hiking Club

1233 Princess Avenue

Camden3, New Jersey

Dear Mr. Bardock:

Thank you for your letter concerning a hiking trail in the Wharton and the Lebanon State Forest.

I have asked Mr. J.C. MacDonald, General manager of Wharton Tract and Mr. J. P. Allen, Superintendent of the Lebanon State Forest to see if there is anything they can do to be helpful. Mr. MacDonald will be in touch with you directly.

I am pleased to know of the interest that your group has in conservation and recreation activities.

Sincerely yours,

Salvatore A, Bontempo


The letter from J. C. MacDonald that Mr. Bontempo mentioned would soon arrive. Notice it was written the same day.

State of New Jersey

Wharton Tract Office

Green Bank, R.D.#2

Egg Harbor City, NJ.

February 10, 1961

Mr Morris Bardock

Batona Hiking Club

1233 Princess Ave

Camden3, New Jersey

Dear Mr. Bardock,

Reference is made to your letter to Commissioner Bontempo concerning the establishment of a hiking trail connecting Wharton Tract and Lebanon State Forest.

We will be happy to cooperate with you in carrying out this project. We have regional maps and other information available at the Wharton Tract office at Green Bank, New Jersey (Telephone WOrth5-1367W) and will be glad to take you over the area on an inspection tour. Our office is open from 8AM to 5PM, Monday to Friday. We would prefer to have advance notice of your coming so we can have transportation available.

Sincerely yours,


General Manager

Wharton Tract

February 18, 1961- A letter was written to Mr. MacDonald stating our plan and suggesting a meeting date.

February 21, 1961- Letter received from Mr. MacDonald setting a meeting date of Saturday, March 11.

February 27, 1961- Letter sent to Mr. MacDonald acknowledging the meeting date.

March 11, 1961- Had meeting at Green Bank office. Mr. MacDonald couldn’t come. We met his assistant Sid Walker. We had a friendly discussion on plans.

April 13, 1961- Letter written to Mr. MacDonald requesting an additional meeting on April 29, at park office.

April 17, 1961- Reply received from Mr. Walker confirming meeting on April 2.

April 29, 1961- Meeting held with Mr. Walker. Discussed advanced details of trail, and agreed to call it Batona Trail.

May 4, 1961- Received letter from Mr. Walker informing us that Mr. J. P. Allen, Superintendent of Lebanon would like to meet with us.

May 6,1961- Letter written to Mr. Allen suggesting a meeting May 20.

May 8, 1961- Letter received from Mr. Allen confirming meeting.

May 20, 1961- Had a friendly meeting with Mr. Allen and discussed the trail work through Lebanon Forest.

May 23, 1961- Letter written to Mr. MacDonald mentioning meeting with Mr. Allen, and requesting official permission to begin trail work.

May 26, 1961- Received letter from Mr. Walker giving official permission to start work on Batona Trail.

July 7, 1961- Letter written to Mr. Walker to give progress report on trail work.

August 15, 1961- Letter written to Mr. Walker to give second progress report.

August 18, 1961- Acknowledgment of “Progress Report” received from Mr. Walker.

August 19, 1961- Unscheduled meeting held with Mr. Allen of Lebanon to discuss trail work.

August 26, 1961- Had meeting with Mr. Allen. We met Mr. Mitchner, Chief Ranger of this area. He inspected trial work in this area, and found it satisfactory. He and Mr. Allen agreed to build log bridge over two streams at Pakim Pond. Mr. Mitchner suggested using existing trail beyond Carpenter Spring. Dale Knapschafer and Morris Bardock checked it, and found it satisfactory.

September 3, 1961- Walt Korszniak took George Sommer over the route to make sketches for the Batona schedule.

October 3, 1961- Letter written to Mr. Walker for meeting to give trail mileage and discuss final details.

October 9, 1961- Received answer from Mr. Walker that he couldn’t meet us on the 14th, but suggested the 21st.

October 13, 1961- Wrote Mr. Walker that we couldn’t meet on the 21st because of a Catskill camping trip, and suggested October 28.

October 28, 1961- Met with Mr. Walker. Settled final questions, and gave mileage for a system of signs.


The next paragraph undoubtedly refers to the many parcels of land that we know of as “Chatsworth Woods,” the failed development that the brick pillars at the entrance to Ringler Ave leading to Apple Pie Hill were made for.

May 13, 1961- Morris Bardock and Dale Knapschafer went to Chatsworth to see Mr. Schiess, the township tax assessor, in regard to some private parcels of land. He informed us that the land from 532 south to Apple Pie Hill was divided into small parcels, and that the owners had not stepped near the land in 30 years. He also stated that the owners would be almost untraceable without extensive research. He assured us that no one would know or care if we blazed the trail through there.

The half mile trail from 532 north, to the the gravel road is owned by Mr. Sloan of Chatsworth; the third gray house before the railroad, on the right, on 563 going south. We stopped there but Mr. Sloan was not in. We spoke with Mrs. Sloan, who was most pleasant and agreeable. She told us she was sure it would be alright with her husband and she would tell him. She told us to just go ahead and put up the blazes.

1978- Added 2 1/2 mile extension at northern end, to Ong’s Hat.

1978- Added 9 mile extension at southern end, to 563, Evan’s Bridge.

1987- Added 9 mile extension to southern end, to Stage Road.

Building the Batona Trail, The Original 30 Miles

During, February, March, April, and May, 1961, Walt Korszniak and Morris Bardock made exploratory trips almost every week-end to layout the route of the trail. Dale Knapschafer and Paul Peichaski took part in several of these trips.

The Work Trips-1961

June 17- Morris Bardock, Al & Osea McDonald

June 18- Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak, Paul Peichaski, Al Shane

June 25-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak

July 1- Morris Bardock, Bud Carter, George (scout)

July 2- Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak

July 8-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak

July 9-Morris Bardock, Al and Osea McDonald

July 22-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak

July 23-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak, Dale Knapschafer

July 28-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak

August 5-Morris Bardock, Dale Knapschafer

August 6-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak, Bud Carter

August 12-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak

August 19-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak

August 26-Morris Bardock, Dale Knapschafer

September 3-Morris Bardock, Dale Knapschafer

September 4-Morris Bardock, Dale Knapschafer

September 16-Morris Bardock, Walt Korszniak, Paul Peichaski, Dale Knapschafer, Bud Carter, Al & Osea McDonald

Work Completed

September 23-Morris Bardock, Paul Peichaski, Al & Osea McDonald made trail measurement with measuring wheel.

September 30-Walt Korszniak, and Dale Knapschafer completed the trail measuring.

October 14-Walt Korszniak, wife Dot, and children worked on the streams north of Carranza.

This letter shows his concern about the history of the trail.

February 1, 1999 (Includes Morris Bardocks home address)

Dear Mr. Salice,

Not long ago as I sat musing on Batona Trail and the early days of it’s construction, it suddenly dawned on me that no where was there any official detailed record of how the trail came to be. People in the future would be inquiring about the how, when, and why of the trail, no one would be able to answer. I felt that perhaps there aught to be an official state record of the trails history.

Fortunately, I had kept a detailed running record at the time, of everything as it happened. I gathered all this together and set it up in a somewhat organized form.

If you and any other related parties agree that there ought to be an official state record, or archive, on the history of the Batona Trail, please feel free to use any of the enclosed data, or any portion of it, in any way that you see fit.

I hope everything has been well with you, and that everything is going smoothly in Trenton.

Sincere Regards,

Morris (Bardock)

Signs Along Highways

In years past the state placed signs along major highways denoting the names of the creeks, streams, and rivers that the highways passed over. Some of those signs still exist, and I have been wanting for the longest time to photograph as many as I could that I came upon. I pass two in particular all the time on Route 70, and this morning Jessica and I were quite a bit early for what we had planned to do in the pines, so I stopped and took a few quick shots of them. If you have the booklet put out by the Batsto Citizens Committee title “A Journey Through Atsion” that is for sale at Atsion and Batsto, you can view the one that was at Atsion Lake.

There most likely was one on each side of the road, and at one location there is. So the two photo’s with the same name on the sign are on opposite sides of the road. There was one along 70 near the Red Lion Circle that said “Bear Swamp”, but that unfortunately disappeared about a year or so ago. I am a little late getting started on this. If you know of any other locations, and want to pass that info on, I will try to stop in and get a photo. Or, post one of your own if you so desire.

Sorry about the odd lighting, but it was a little after 7AM this morning when I took the photo’s. The sun was not at a very good angle.

The Battle of Chestnut Neck

New Jersey is often called the “crossroads of the revolution” and indeed it was. Being located between New York City and Philadelphia, both rebel and British troops crossed the state several times. Several notable battles including the Battle of Trenton, Battle of Princeton, and the Battle of Monmouth marked turning points in the war. The Pine Barrens, being even more remote and wild than it is now, was the perfect spot for smugglers and privateers to set up operations.

Having seen how effective privateering was when used by the British against the French during the French and Indian War several years earlier, the Continental Congress – without the funds to properly create or bankroll a new navy, turned to individual privateers to harrass and capture British shipping. New Jersey – already with a coast that was dangerous in bad weather – became a haven for privateers intent on plundering shipping going to and from New York and Philadelphia. In short order captains, operating under the authority of Letters of Marque issued by the fledgling United States govornment, were causing immense hardship to the British looking for supplies and goods for their troops. It is estimated that over fifty billion dollars worth of goods and ships were taken by privateers operating all over the Eastern seaboard and Carribean. One of the most important places for privateers to operate out of was Chestnut Neck, located near where Atlantic and Burlington County meet today, by where the Garden State Parkway crosses the Mullica River.

By 1777, Chestnut Neck consisted of two taverns, a dozen or so dwellings, several warehouses, and a landing. Cargo was unloaded from captured ships, sometimes auctioned locally, but mostly carried on wagons up to the Forks, closer to Batsto where it would be auctioned. From there it would go on to Philadelphia, Burlington, and Dunks Ferry, and during the winter of 1777-1778, brought directly to Washington’s troops encamped at Valley Forge.

The British were not willing to let such commerce raiding go unchecked. On July 12, 1777, four British ships appeared in Little Egg Harbor and seized two brigs moored at Chestnut Neck with their cargoes still intact. Luckily for the militias in the area, the British did not land any troops – merely seizing the vessels and their cargo and returning to sea.

As a result of this raid the fort at Chestnut Neck was built in September of 1777. It was a small wooden structure built on level with the water, with the capability of holding 8-10 guns. A second platform for mounting additional guns was constructed nearby. The fort was built by Col. John Cox, who not only had an interest in protecting the privateers and infrastructure at Chestnut Neck and The Forks, but also with protecting his ironworks at Batsto, located just a few miles upstream.

1778 was a busy year for the Privateers. Dozens of ships full of materials bound for the British troops in New York City were raided and sent down to Little Egg Harbor, their cargoes auctioned off at Richard Westcoat’s tavern at the Forks, or Payne’s Tavern in Chestnut Neck. In August of 1778 alone thirty ships and their cargo were sold. The most notable capture was the Venus of London by privateers from the Chance and the Sly. The cargo consisted of fine broadcloths, linens, calicoes, chintzes, silks, satins, silk and thread stockings, shoes, medicines, books, hardware, butter, cheese, beef, pork, and porter. The ship itself sold for over £16000. It is believed that this capture was the “final straw” that pushed the British to act decisively.

Sir Henry Clinton, now in charge of the British at New York City, dispatched nine ships under Captain Henry Collins, as well as three hundred British regulars and one hundred Jersey Loyalists under Captain Patrick Ferguson in what the British called the “Egg Harbor Expedition” designed to root out the “nest of rebel pirates,” then advance up the Mullica and destroy the ironworks at Batsto. Fortunately word had gotten out about the plan and on the night of September 29, 1778, Colonial Governor William Livingston dispatched riders to warn the residents of Chestnut Neck of the impending British attack. Additionally, he ordered Count Casimer Pulaski and his legion to repel the attack.

In another stroke of luck, a storm struck and caused the British to take four and a half days to get to Little Egg Harbor, arriving on October 5. By that time all of the privateers had put out to sea and valuable cargo had been removed, leaving Chestnut Neck virtually abandoned except for a detachment of militia at the fort and several British prize vessels, including the Venus.

The British launched their attack the next day. Crowding onto their smaller ships, the British faced “difficult” navigation for about 20 miles until reaching Chestnut Neck. Oddly, it appears that all of the artillery from the forts had either been removed or never installed, and the British – vastly outnumbering the defenders – had little trouble landing their troops. They easily drove the defenders from the fort out into the nearby woods, and spent the evening and following morning scuttling ten captured British ships, burning houses, and destroying the warehouse.

The British, having heard word that Pulaski’s troops were on their way and knowing that they were outnumbered, made their way back to the ships. Several of their ships – including the expedition flagship Zebra, grounded which caused some delay to the British leaving the area. They stopped at the mouth of the Bass River to destroy the salt works and buildings of Eli Mathis.

There is some confusion as to what happened with Pulaski’s legion. Some claim that Pulaski was ordered to go to Little Egg Harbor Meeting House instead of Chestnut Neck, while other accounts claim that he got lost along the way. In any case, Pulaski, upon arriving in the area, set up camp on a farm in what is now the Mystic Islands section of Little Egg Harbor. Captain Ferguson, having heard from a deserter that Pulaski was nearby and of the relative ease that a surprise attack could be mounted landed a detachment of two hundred fifty men on Osborne Island. The British, coming upon fifty of Pulaski’s men acting as advanced guard, slaughtered them in their sleep, capturing only five prisoners alive. This event is now known as the “Little Egg Harbor Massacre.”

Fergusen, knowing that his force would not be a match for Pulaski’s main force, beat a hasty retreat, stopping only to pull up the planking at the bridge over Big Creek to prevent Pulaski from giving chase.

Surprisingly, the British did not accomplish much during the expedition. Given the fact that the residents of Chestnut Neck were well aware of the coming British, most anything of value was moved away. The only ships that the British captured were their own – all of the privateers had slipped out earlier. The large British merchant ships would have been nearly impossible for the British to reclaim, owing to the difficulties in navigating the unknown waters. The British were unable to advance towards Batsto which, had they been successful, would have dealt a hard blow to the Revolution.

Three of the landowners who had their houses burnt – Micajah Smith, John Mathis, and Joseph Sooy – soon rebuilt their homes, while others rebuilt in nearby Port Republic. Chestnut Neck soon became as busy of a privateering center as before. In September of 1779, Captain Yelverton Taylor of the Mars captured the British Triton with an entire company of Hessian troops destined as reinforcements for Sir Henry Clinton in New York.

On October 6, 1911 the General Lafayette Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a monument marking the location of the battle. At the top of the monument is a statue of a Minute Man guarding the river.


Pearce, John E. Heart of the Pines. Hammonton: Batsto Citizens Committee, 2000.

Pierce, Arthur D. Smugglers’ Woods. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1960

“Battle of Chestnut Neck.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 28 May 2007.

“Little Egg Harbor Massacare.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 28 May 2007.

The Travail of the Blue Comet

If you are a Pinelands devotee, you probably have heard the Jersey Central rail line through Chatsworth referred to as the Trail of the Blue Comet. This all reserved air-conditioned train traveled between Jersey City and Atlantic City on a daily basis with baggage cars, deluxe coaches, a dining car, a parlor car, and an observation car all painted Packard Blue with cream trim. Each car carried the name of a famous comet. The train operated during the years 1929 and 1941 and suffered only one major wreck during its fabled tenure. Here, then, is the Travail of The Blue Comet:

On August 19, 1939, under dark clouds and stormy conditions, Central Railroad of New Jersey Train 4218, the northbound Blue Comet, departed Atlantic City Union Station on the advertised at 3:35 p.m. with engineer Thomas tugging on the throttle after getting a “highball” signal from Conductor Walsh. Thomas tested the airbrakes as normal safety rules dictate and then the train continued on its northward journey as fireman Cinque fed coal into the large firebox of Pacific 820. The big locomotive that day towed a five-car train consisting of a combine, a coach, the dining car GIACOBINI, another coach, and the observation car BIELA. The 49 passengers on board for the trip were making themselves comfortable for the journey to Jersey City with the assistance of Train Porter McKonnan. Dining car steward Herring began seating a few folks in the dining car as waiters Adams and Saunders took their food and beverage orders. A quick stop at Hammonton allowed Assistant Track Supervisor Langenbach to climb aboard the locomotive. Passing Winslow Junction at 4:08 pm, the operator hooped up orders to the train crew advising them to keep a sharp lookout for sand overlaying crossings due to heavy rains. The orders also told the engineer and conductor to expect additional orders at Chatsworth. As the train accelerated away from Winslow tower six minutes late, switching from the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines trackage to the Centrals’s Southern Division, the sun broke through the clouds and engineer Thomas remarked “Perhaps the rain is over.” The train sped through Atsion at about 50 m.p.h. and then Thomas pinched the brakes on as the train crossed several bridges before resuming a speed of 40 to 45 m.p.h. At Carranza, the train entered an intense cloudburst, quickly reducing visibility to a few feet despite a brightly burning headlamp. The engineer immediately slammed the throttle shut and operated the drifting valve as he leaned out the cab window and strained to see the track ahead. His speed dropped down to just about half of the maximum allowable speed of 70 m.p.h. The wayside and cab signals both displayed clear track ahead and the alert engineer found no obstructions at the Pine Crest crossings.

Meanwhile, John L. Etheridge, station agent and operator at Chatsworth, heard the approach bell in the station, announcing that the Blue Comet had entered his track block. J.L.’s model board displayed a red pilot light, indicating that a train occupied the block and that the signal controlling his block now displayed red for “stop” behind the train and for any opposing traffic. While waiting for the COMET to arrive, J.L. patiently taught 12-year-old Walter Brower, a local Chatsworth resident, about being a railroader. He prepared to hand up orders to the COMET’s operating crew, but he suddenly became aware that he could not hear the train approaching.

About 4:45 pm, at a point 1.15 miles past Pine Crest, the engineer heard a crash while the train was moving forward at a speed of 35-40 m.p.h. Upon hearing the noise, Thomas immediately jerked his head around and looked backwards to see that the locomotive and tender had separated from the remaining portion of the train. He began to feel a vibration in his feet as the rear tender truck wheels bounced along the ties and the engineer brought the locomotive to a halt as quickly as possible, but the lack of operational tender brakes extended the braking distance for the big engine. The locomotive and tender ripped up about 600 feet of track. Water surrounded the track alongside the locomotive, making the trip back to the cars treacherous. As the engine cab’s occupants made their way towards the train, they observed that the five cars had derailed and all sat along the right-of-way at various angles. Passengers screamed as they feared the cars, all sitting at steep angles, would overturn, but none did. As the deluge subsided, other rescuers soon arrived, including Walter Brower, who had run down the track from the Chatsworth Station. He aided the Kirby family, who hailed from Kentucky, to remove their luggage from the stricken train. Inside the cars lay 32 passengers who had sustained injuries, two seriously, along with six hurt crewmen. Most of the carnage occurred in the last two cars. A fire initially broke out in the dining car galley which the staff quickly contained, but not before Joseph L. Coleman, a black chef in the car, suffered burns from the oil stove. The other crew members dragged Coleman from the blazing wreckage before extinguishing the fire. Many of the hurt passengers had been sitting in the observation car BIELA and received cuts and bruises from the unanchored wicker chairs flying through the car. Other trauma occurred in the dining car, where flying plates and other projectiles struck four crewmen. In addition, the flagman and the porter on the train both sustained unspecified injuries. After some delay due to the remote location of the wreck, ambulances arrived from towns throughout South Jersey. Rescue officials used a handcar to transport the litters from the scene to the waiting rescue squad vehicles in Chatsworth. The rain of Biblical proportions had also washed out the only road back to the derailed train. The ambulances rushed three of the injured, including Chef Coleman, to Burlington County Hospital in Mount Holly while three others headed to West Jersey Homeopathic Hospital in Camden.

The relief train finally departed from Jersey City about 9:30 p.m. and returned at 1:39 am with the passengers able to continue their trip. Among them was Mrs. Margaret Sciria, age 26, of Brooklyn, New York. She reportedly carried her daughter in her arms for 2½ miles along the railroad tracks, walking the ties and sometimes wading through water up to her hips to reach the relief train. She stated, “The baby looked on it as a lark and laughed the whole time in spite of the rain, but I didn’t feel like laughing as I trudged along.” Neither she nor her baby received any injuries.

Track engineers and federal inspectors found 20 feet of track and right-of-way completely washed-out, although the rails remained connected until the Blue Comet crossed them. The U.S. Weather Bureau station at Tuckerton recorded rainfall of 14.81 inches, the heaviest rain beginning about 3:00 p.m. With the injured removed from the train and taken to area hospitals, the clean-up effort began. A track gang of 500 men restored the tracks within 48 hours, after initially facing a delay from the bursting of the Union Lake dam, which flooded a drainage ditch and washed out about 30 feet of trestling just to the north of the wreck. The workmen laid down several tons of rock before the wreck trains from Jersey City and Elizabethport could reach the scene. No sooner had crew repaired the Union Lake flood damage, then a crane traveling down the railroad with its boom up pulled down all of the power, telephone, and telegraph wires crossing the tracks at Main Street, Chatsworth, disrupting electric service and communications for most of the day on August 20.

Railroad inspectors found the dining car GIACOBINI damaged beyond repair and the car body spent the remainder of its days off the rails serving as a freight station near Communipaw Avenue in Jersey City. The Central put the remaining cars back into service, but the Blue Comet only continued operating for another two years. The fabled train made its final run on September 27, 1941, and then passed into the annals of Pineland legends.

The Bear Swamp Hill Airplane Crash

In January of 1971 the war in Cambodia was expanding, George McGovern made his presidential bid official, William Cahill was NJ Governor, and practice at the Warren Grove bombing range was ongoing. On January 16, 1971 an F-105 Thunderchief took off from McGuire Air Force Base on what was intended to be a routine bombing run at Warren Grove. The F-105 is a single seat, single engine supersonic jet capable of traveling at 1,386 mph that was the first jet designed to release Nuclear warheads at supersonic speeds.

At the controls of the F-105 was a United Air Lines pilot who was also the flight commander with the Air National Guards 141st Tactical Squadron. Residing in River Vale NJ, he was on his weekend assignment for the short flight from McGuire to Warren Grove. Major William F. Dimas, age 36, was en-route when something happened that my investigations have not yet revealed.

At about 11:35 A.M. Major Dimas who was married and a father of two sons and a daughter, lost his life when his plane struck some trees 100 feet from the Bear Swamp Hill Fire Tower, and then proceeded to hit the tower and a generator building at the towers base. The tower was struck 19 feet 6 inches from its base completely destroying the tower and observation platform. The plane ended it’s journey 3/4 of a mile away coming to rest at a spot near the Papoose Branch.

The crash cut a path across the top of Bear Swamp Hill 32 to 40 feet wide destroying about 988 trees during the incident. Blurry black and white photocopies taken after the crash pretty much look the same as this photo taken by a friend of mine in 1976.

On January 29, 1971 the USAF sent the N.J. Bureau of Forestry the claim form that was needed for the state to be refunded the money for the cost of the damage of the accident. On February 10, 1971 William B. Phoenix the State Fire Warden sent a revised claim to the USAF for the damage. Excluded from the claim was the cost for a $1.250 radio base station that was found to be inoperable at the time of the crash. A partial list of the claim are as follows.

  • 40 Foot Tower with Cab from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma $4,015
  • Observation Platform from Braden Industries (estimate) $2,050
  • Freight from Broken Arrow Oklahoma $450
  • Wooden Steps and Platform $450
  • Erection Costs $10,000
  • 8 X 10 Tower Building (Estimated) $750
  • Tower Electrical Installation $200
  • Radio Microphone $37

There was an estimated 988 trees damaged at a cost of 1 dollar per tree which would be replaced by a professional forester. The total cost came to $19,277.27.

On November 8, 1971 Allan M. Tyrrell, a claims officer for the Air Force notified William B. Phoenix that due to the amount of the claim, the jurisdiction was passed to the Air Force “Headquarters” for consideration.

We have all wondered why the tower was never replaced, and I think you all can surmise by the length of time from the accident until the last letter from the Air Force why there is not a tower there presently. Also, when a claim is sent to “headquarters” there usually is a reason for that and it rarely is good. Read on:

Here is the abbreviated text of a letter dated Jan 14 1972 almost one year after the crash from Colonel William E. Shannon of the USAF to William B. Phoenix the State Fire Warden.

Dear Mr. Phoenix

The claim of the state of NJ for property damage arising out of the crash of a NJ ANG aircraft on 1/16/71 has been considered and denied. This action was necessitated because of claims for property damage caused by members of an Air National Guard unit who are employees of the claimant state are excluded from payment. Under the circumstances, there was no alternative but to deny this claim.

William E. Shannon, Colonel, USAF

Today all that remains on Bear Swamp Hill are the crumbling cement foundation of the fire tower. Even the wooden bathrooms for the recreation area have been removed by either the state or by vandals. The only evidence left of the plane is one landing gear located in the swamp nearby, which is slowly sinking into the ground. Serial numbers on the gear are still in perfect shape due to the high quality chrome used on supersonic planes.

About the F-105

The F-105 Thunderchief flew for the first time on My 27th 1958, and was capable of twice the speed of sound. It was the first jet that was able to drop it’s bombs at supersonic speed and was used extensively in Vietnam. It is one of the few military jets that was never exported for foreign use, and many were used by the Air Force Reserve and the National Guard. The F 105 was a single seat fighter with a top speed of 1,386 mph, and was built by Republic Aviation Corp with 833 of them manufactured at a cost of 2.14 million each. It was originally built to deliver Nuclear weapons, but many of them were used with conventional bombs, and it was the largest single-seat, single-engine fighter ever built. It was retired from service in August of 1981 and up until that time it was the first Air Force aircraft to have a formal retirement ceremony.