On Saturday, June 17, 2017, the iconic Buzby’s General Store in Chatsworth will be closing its doors when proprietor R. Marilyn Schmidt retires. Buzby’s has been a staple of life in Chatsworth since 1865 and hopefully it will re-open again in the future.
The final sale will be cash only, and will not include the original historic Buzby pieces except for a few chairs. Other furniture and chairs will be available. There will be other items such as antiques, paintings and books from Marilyn’s massive library on cooking, gardening, etc. for sale. Hot dogs and light beverages will be available.
Those familiar with the New Jersey Pine Barrens have probably heard the legend of Joe Mulliner, the infamous outlaw who is said to have terrorized the inhabitants of the Pines during the American War for Independence. Yet, beyond the myth, there was a real man. What facts are known about him? What elements of the folklore can be dismissed as fictitious? This article sets out to briefly answer these questions by way of addressing a number of commonly repeated claims about Mulliner.
Claim: He was lawless and indiscriminately plundered everyone he encountered.
Was Joe Mulliner really a scoundrel who gave allegiance to no one and observed no law, as the story goes? According to the British, he was not. However, the Whigs painted him in a much different light. In 1781, the Grand Inquest of Burlington County claimed that Mulliner and his gang were “moved by the instigation of the Devil,” that they were “false traitors and rebels against the State of New Jersey,” and that they “captured and held citizens of the state as prisoners of war.” Shortly after Mulliner’s death, the New Jersey Gazette reported: “This fellow had become the terror of the country. He made a practice of burning houses, robbing and plundering all who fell in his way, so that when he came to his trial it appeared that the whole country, both Whigs and Tories, were his enemies.”  Such accusations were often leveled against Tory irregulars, and this particular case may have merely been an example of wartime rhetoric. John Watson, who was born at Batsto Village in 1778, claimed that Mulliner burned the home of his father, William Watson, who was a patriot and privateer, and took him to New York as a prisoner of war in November 1781. It was common for Tories to kidnap Whigs for ransom or to exchange them for Loyalist prisoners, but Mulliner would have been dead by the date Watson sets for the event, indicating either that Watson simply confused the date or that Mulliner had nothing to do with it.
However, while the Whigs denounced Mulliner as a depraved soul who was guilty of horrendous crimes, the British painted him in a much more favorable light. According to Benjamin Franklin’s son, William, who, unlike his father, remained loyal to the Crown throughout the Revolutionary War, Mulliner was what was known as an Associated Loyalist. The Associated Loyalists were comprised of willing and able Tories who were hired to disrupt the activities of the Rebels. According to General Henry Clinton, the British Commander-In-Chief in North America, Mulliner worked for the British as a whaleboat privateer. This demonstrates a fact about Mulliner that is absent from the folklore surrounding him: He was a sailor. Beginning in 1779, in an effort to compensate for economic loss caused by the Rebel privateers, the British encouraged Loyalists to engage in privateering, a common wartime occupation for mariners. Mulliner was allegedly one of a number of such anti-insurrectionists and, given the fact that the British went to some lengths in defending him, it may be unlikely that he indiscriminately plundered both patriots and Tories, as charged by his detractors. Ultimately, it is impossible to know whether the British account or the Whig account reflects a greater degree of truth, but it is reasonable to suspect that perhaps both sides were construing Mulliner in such a way as to advance their respective agendas. On the one hand, the Whigs may have been set on demonizing Mulliner in order to foster patriotic sentiments. For certain, they were set on making an example of him in order to deter other Tories from engaging in such “criminal” activities. On the other hand, it is possible that General Clinton lied about Mulliner’s commission in order to bolster his case that the Rebels were engaging in “acts of cruelty and barbarity” against the Tories. Clinton’s accusation was not without merit, as it was not unusual for Tories to be tried and executed as prisoners of the state for committing essentially the same offenses as the patriots who were treated as prisoners of war by the British.
Claim: He was the “Robin Hood of the Pines”.
“The Robin Hood of Pines” is a title often attached to Mulliner’s legacy, but how much similarity actually exists between the legend of Robin Hood and the historical Mulliner? Not much. Like Robin Hood and his Merry Men, Mulliner and his gang lived in the woods (at least when they weren’t at sea) where they could more easily elude the law. Yet, with the possible exception that Mulliner and his men occasionally robbed people traveling through the woods, the similarities end there. That said, it is unlikely that Mulliner held up stagecoaches as is traditionally believed. If he had done so, it certainly wasn’t routine, judging from the utter lack of any record of such events taking place in the region. Moreover, historian David J. Fowler, who devoted an entire chapter of his PhD dissertation (Rutgers) to Mulliner, concluded that the claim that Mulliner’s gang numbered around 40 to 100 men is a gross exaggeration and that, based upon what is known about other Pine Robber and outlaw gangs, the real number would have probably been closer to ten.
Claim: He hid out on Rabbit Island.
An oft-repeated element of the Mulliner myth is that he and his gang hid out on an island at the Forks of the Mullica River, where the Atsion and Batsto creeks converge. This island is known as “Rabbit Island”, and oral tradition has it that goods were stored in warehouses here during the Revolutionary War. The island is located right in the middle of what was once one of the hottest centers for patriotic privateers and smugglers along any New Jersey river. When one considers also the fact that the island would have lacked sufficient tree cover due to logging, it becomes clear that there is no substance to this particular tradition.
A more feasible tradition holds that Mulliner and his gang hid out in the nearby Mordecai Swamp, a large tract of cedar forest stretching from Batsto to Bulltown that was owned and logged by Mordecai Andrews in the early 1700s. It is said that they had an encampment on one of a number of island-like areas of high ground that are dispersed throughout the swamp. Mulliner and his men would not have lingered for long, however, and likely made transient encampments throughout the Pines as they moved about carrying out their missions. It is not unreasonable, however, to surmise that Mulliner would periodically return to Mordecai Swamp or other suitable places in the vicinity. With all of the patriotic activity that took place at the Forks and Batsto, and given Mulliner’s supposed familiarity with the area, it would make sense that he would frequently come back to carry out the work that the British government commissioned him to do. However, it certainly would have been a risky undertaking, considering the presence of armed soldiers, militia and patriots at these locations.
According to oral tradition, Mulliner lived with his wife (whose name is not known) on her property along the Mullica River in present day Sweetwater before he had to flee as an outlaw, but this has yet to be confirmed through historical records. If it is true, then perhaps he would have sometimes traveled under the cover of darkness to visit her when he was nearby. Local lore holds that the family dog was trained to relay messages between Joe and his wife by means of crossing the river with notes tucked into a special collar. Another legend holds that Mulliner and his men would cross the river by means of using cedar branches as camouflage. These stories make for good folklore but can neither be discounted nor proved.
Claim: He would frequent the tavern at Quaker Bridge.
It is said that Mulliner had a penchant for drinking, singing and dancing and that he and his men would frequent the taverns throughout the Pines. Allegedly, Mulliner had a habit of taking the hand of the prettiest woman in the building and dancing with her. Her significant other, if present, would scarcely protest out of fear of Mulliner and his gang, who apparently were reputed to be prone to violence. It is often suggested that one such tavern visited by Mulliner was the Quaker Bridge Hotel (or Thompson’s Tavern), but this cannot be true. It wasn’t until 1809, nearly 30 years after Mulliner’s death, that the first application for the tavern license was submitted. However, his reputation as being violent is not without historical support. In November 1780, he was called to trial for his actions on September 30th of the same year when “Joseph Mulliner, mariner, did beat and ill-treat” a man named John Wood. 
Claim: He was arrested at the Indian Cabin Mill Inn in Nesco.
There is a blue sign in front of an old house along Route 542 in Nesco that reads: “Indian Cabin Mill Inn. Joe Mulliner noted refugee-Tory-outlaw captured here in 1781. Renamed Union Hotel in 1861.” The sign is incorrect on two levels. Mulliner was probably arrested either in Monmouth County or off the coast of Monmouth County, as indicated by Sir Henry Clinton, who reported that Mulliner was first taken to Freehold and then later transferred to Burlington County. The Scots Magazine (which happens to be the oldest magazine in the world still in publication) echoed Clinton’s report: “Joseph Mullener, an associated Loyalist, and captain of a whale boat privateer, was taken by the rebels in 1781, carried to Freehold, removed to Burlington, tried and executed, not withstanding he produced his commission as Captain of the said privateer at his trial.” 
The second problem with the sign is the fact that Indian Cabin Mill Inn was not located at Nesco, but rather just off Indian Cabin Road near what is now known as Egg Harbor City Lake. The tavern was so named due to its proximity to a saw mill that once operated at the foot of the lake known as Indian Cabin Mill. The earliest owner of the mill that the author is aware of was Timothy Shaler, whose wife and children are buried in marked graves nearby. It is not known when the mill was first given this name, but it was previously known as Shaler’s Upper Mill. The mill was probably constructed shortly after Shaler, who himself was a prominent patriotic privateer, purchased many acres of land between Pine Creek (a.k.a Newton Creek) and Landing Creek in 1774. 
Claim: He was hung along the Mullica River.
Tradition holds that Mulliner was hung from a tree at a place called “High Bank” on the south side of the Mullica River, but the historical record shows that he was hung at Gallows Hill in Burlington City, where Laurel Hill Cemetery is presently located. Everyone sentenced to death by the Burlington Court met his or her fate at Gallows Hill, and Mulliner would not have been an exception. His sentencing resulted in some controversy with General Clinton decrying Mulliner’s hanging as unlawful. Clinton noted that because Mulliner was commissioned by the British government he should have been tried as a prisoner of war. Instead, he was treated as a prisoner of the state and was charged with felony and high treason. Mulliner pleaded not guilty and allegedly presented proof of his commission, but to no avail. The judge sentenced him to death after citing the fact that he owned no property, which must have made him expendable in the eyes of the court.
Claim: He was buried at High Bank (or at Crowleytown).
Mulliner’s body may have been placed in a common burial ground, as were many who were executed under the law. Alternatively, his body could have been turned over to his wife for burial on her property. It is not known where her property was, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that it was located along High Bank where a recently placed tombstone now purports to mark her husband’s place of repose. There is a tradition that his original grave was indicated by a small stone at High Bank that read “J M”, but the following excerpt of 1765 deed for land near the same location may indicate that the stone in question was merely a property boundary marker:
“Benjamin Brush of Galloway Twp., £90 for 14 acres…in the same place on the west side of Mullacais River just below a certain landing called Reads Landing and on a tongue of land that puts out in a cove, bounded by J. M. (marker), excepting 5 acres lying next to Richard Westcott.”
Read’s Landing (of Charles Read fame) was located on the south (or west) side of the river just below the mouth of Lucas Branch, which flows into the Mullica immediately downstream of High Bank. The initials are that of John Monrow who had this land surveyed and then conveyed to Benjamin Brush in 1765. We can be certain that it did not signify Mulliner, who owned no land.
The folklore surrounding Joe Mulliner is interesting but can be determined to be largely fictitious. However, the little that we do know of him through historical records proves to be quite interesting nonetheless. Extracting the historical Mulliner from the legend proves to be a stimulating albeit difficult task that raises many questions, some which are unanswerable and others that have yet to be answered.
Burlington County presentment, n.d. (c. 1781). NjMoHP, reel 37.
NJA, 2d ser. 5: 282.
Watson, Annals of Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time (Philadelphia, 1898), vol.3, 12.
William Franklin to Clinton, 25 April 1782, BHQP, reel 13, no. 4474
Clinton to Washington, 1 May 1782, PCC r 171, v10: pp. 543-46
Fowler, Egregious Villains, Wood Rangers, and London Traders (Rutgers, 1987), p.224
Richard M. Brown, Strain of Violence (New York, 1975), p.75
Burlington County indictments, November 1780, NjBuHi.
The Scots Magazine, Volume 44 (1782), p.491
Colonial Conveyances, A-F, p. 526
Min. Burl. Co. O & T Ct., July – August, 1781
SGO Book Y
* For further reading, see Egregious Villains, Wood Rangers, and London Traders by David J. Fowler, which includes a chapter dedicated to unraveling the legend of Joe Mulliner and is the most comprehensive historical work on the subject to date. I am indebted to Fowler for the research behind a significant portion of this article.
It was the summer of 1968 that we met by chance on the edge of the West Plains near Coyle field. While photographing buck-moth caterpillars, I noticed a crouching figure nearby that I presumed was a piney gatherer. This notion was quickly dispelled when he introduced himself in a clear Bostonian accent as Howard Boyd, an entomologist and an administrator with the Boy Scouts of America. He said that he had been coming to the Pine Barrens for many years, especially to study tiger beetles. Little did I suspect that this encounter was the beginning of an enduring friendship that would last until Howard’s recent death on December 20, 2011, at the age of 97.
Having produced several fine 16 mm nature films (e.g., A Place in the Sun and Life on a Coastal Plain), the Boyds were popular touring lecturers in the Audubon Society’s Wildlife Film series during 1966 to 1976. When Howard and his talented wife Doris moved to Tabernacle, NJ, in 1969, our lives became frequently intertwined in exploration and preservation of the Pine Barrens. As members and officers of the Burlington County Natural Sciences Club, Howard and I led or participated in many field excursions into the Barrens, exchanging ideas and sharing our independent research. On three occasions in the 1970s, the two of us set out on day-long surveys determined that we would be able to rediscover an occurrence of the long-lost post-oak locust, Dendrotettix quercus, swarms of which had devastated oak forests in the vicinities of Bamber, Ridgeway, and Mt. Misery during the early 1900s. Although unsuccessful in finding any specimens of this destructive grasshopper, we both remembered these excursions in later years as fine opportunities to becoming better acquainted.
Similarly, our paths crossed frequently at Whitesbog in the 1970s, where I was conducting extensive botanical surveys and was engaged as a botanical consultant by Dr. Eugene Vivian (Glassboro State College, now Rowan), Director of the Conservation and Environmental Studies Center (CESC). I clearly recall Howard’s delight when he accepted Vivian’s offer to be a nature study instructor in the program. The “boy scout” eternally flowed in Howard’s veins, and he derived immense joy from passing on to youngsters his vast knowledge of the natural world. When Vivian retired in 1984, Howard continued to serve as an instructor for several more years under Garry Patterson, director of the same program, but under a new name, the Pinelands Institute for Natural and Environmental Studies (P.I.N.E.S.).
Howard, among others, convinced his Audubon Society colleagues to establish in 1977 the Rancocas Nature Center in Westhampton, under the capable directorship of Karl Anderson. Howard also supported Anderson’s brilliant idea of holding an annual Audubon Society’s Pine Barrens Weekend, a three-day event each June, at a church camp on Mt. Misery. Fondly edged in my memory are our thirteen years of involvement (1981-1993) as lecturers and trip leaders at this popular annual event. The comradeship was incredible, and we both looked forward to learning from each other and other leaders, especially during the Saturday evening informal “wrap-up” session that reported the finds of the day.
As a scientist, Howard P. Boyd, a former president of the American Entomological Society (1977-1981), was first and foremost an entomologist, but an entomologist with a strong background in multiple facets of Pine Barrens ecology. His field of expertise was tiger beetles. On unannounced visits to his home, I invariably found him engaged in his entomological studies or devotedly editing the society’s Entomological News. He served as editor for almost 30 years. Among his scientific publications that may be of interest to the layman are “Collecting tiger beetles in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey,” Cicindela 5:1-12, 1973; (co-authored with Philip E. Marucci); “Arthropods of the Pine Barrens,” in (Foreman, R.T.T., ed.), Pine Barrens: Ecosystem and Landscape, Academic Press, 1984 (co-authored with Philip E. Marucci); “Host plants of cranberry tipworm,” Cranberries: The National Magazine 48:6-9; and “Arthropods taken in pitfall traps in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey,” Entomological News 106:45-56; 1995.
When Howard came to my home in 1990 to deliver a copy of his manuscript, A Field Guide to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, that he wanted me to review (particularly the section dealing with the plants), I was at first pleasantly surprised that he had chosen me. Then suddenly it occurred to me that he had referred to me as “My Botanist” for many years now, and we had cultivated a strong friendship and a mutual respect for one another’s abilities. He indicated that the guide offers nothing that is really new, but is packed with a gamut of information that will answer just about any question that a Pine Barrens novice might have. I soon discovered how right he was and told him that I had no doubt that his guide would be in demand for years to come. Twenty-one years have passed since its publication and the book’s popularity has not waned.
A second book titled A Pine Barrens Odyssey followed in 1997. It is a pleasant read that takes the reader on a journey of the Pines through the four seasons. This was followed in 2001 by Wildflowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, a beautifully illustrated volume of 130 photos (with descriptions) featuring primarily Howard’s photos of common as well as rare species. About a year before its publication, Howard asked me to show him a site of one of our rarest plants, the southern yellow orchid. It was subsequently depicted in the book. Howard’s final book, The Ecological Pine Barrens of New Jersey, was published in 2008, when he was 94 years old. Once again Howard asked me to conduct a review. In the Preface he states, “I claim no original authorship for the material within this offering.” His aim was to assemble in a single volume “the most important subject matter” on all aspects of the ecology of the Barrens, eliminating the necessity to consult other references. He believed the book could serve “as an introductory text for courses at the upper high school and early collegiate levels.” This book was not an easy one to write, and I marvel that Howard, at such an advanced age, had the fortitude and prowess to pull it off.
Hopefully, an instructor or two will test its efficacy in the classroom. In many ways Howard Boyd was a remarkable man who led a very productive life. Those of you who were fortunate to have him as a teacher can attest to that. He left behind a legacy of four books that reveal his broad spectrum of interests and knowledge. His outstanding field guide will, no doubt, stand the test of time. It was a privilege to have Howard as a friend for more than 40 years, to have walked with him the trails of our beloved Pine Barrens on many occasions.
Allow me to share his generous tribute that he wrote on the title page of my copy of his The Ecological Pine Barrens of New Jersey.
“Many thanks for your review and valuable suggestions on the section dealing with Pine Barrens flora. Of all our Pine Barrens associates, I know of no one more knowledgeable and authoritative than you. Much appreciation and kind personal regards.”
I shall always cherish these kind words and Howard’s memory. You will be missed, my friend. Farewell!
Captain John Bacon is one of the most notorious of the legendary Pine Robbers – outlaws who preyed on rebel and Tory alike in the desolate lands of the colonial-era New Jersey Pine Barrens.
Bacon, like many other famed Tory leaders in the province of New Jersey, likely held a commission and gained his “Captain” title from the “Board of Associated Loyalists,” a group formed in New York under a charter from William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin and the last Royal governor of New Jersey. The British Government, knowing that an organized force of Loyalists would free up their armies to conduct military operations against the Continentals, approved of the Board and, as such, offered a reward of 200 acres of land to anybody willing to fight for the British for the duration of the war. Raids were to be conducted solely against military targets, and Bacon chiefly confined his “picarooning” to well-known members of the Monmouth Militia, unlike many other Pine Robbers who simply used the war as an excuse to plunder indiscriminately. The exploits of Bacon and other Refugees – Tories operating under the auspices of the Board – proved far more violent and sinister than those sanctioned by the Crown.
Prior to the war, Bacon worked as a laborer on the Crane family farm in Manahawkin. Members of the Crane family would later join the Monmouth Militia. It is likely that Bacon’s Tory sympathies caused a rift between himself and his Whig employers and he either was fired or quit to join the Board of Associated Loyalists. At some point, he settled his wife and two sons in Pemberton, but spent most of his time hiding and raiding in the area between Cedar Creek and Tuckerton.
One of the first actions attributable to Bacon is a raiding expedition near Forked River. Bacon plundered the house and mill of John Holmes, who was known to be somewhat wealthy. Bacon and his men camped in the woods near the mill under cover of darkness and waited for daylight. They came forward, put a bayonet to Holmes body, and demanded money. Like many others in the pine country, he buried his valuables outside rather than leave them in the house, but fortunately his wife had some money on her person. Satisfied with that, the Refugees then ransacked the house for whatever supplies they could find and retreated back into the woods.
Immediately after the Holmes raid, Bacon dispatched a detachment of the bandits to Good Luck, now Bayville, to plunder the house of John and William Price. The bandits knew these two brothers well, not only as militiamen, but as people who helped care for those who had suffered at the hands of the enemy. Lieutenant (later Major) John Price once took in the daughter of Captain Ephraim Jenkins, whose house in Toms River endured the torch. John Price managed to escape the house just as Bacon’s men appeared, saving only his Lieutenant’s commission. The bandits booty included Price’s musket and drum. The Refugees used them for their amusement as they made their way back to their group. Hearing the faint drumbeat, Bacon assumed a party of Americans was after him and he set the remainder of his men up on the high ground around the mill and ordered them to fire as soon as the men making the noise emerged from the woods. Fortunately for the approaching bandits, their brethren had sharp eyes and did not shoot when they saw who was making all of the noise!
The Prices were not the only patriots with which Bacon had a problem. He ruthlessly robbed and attacked Joseph Soper and his son Reuben—both members of Captain Reuben Randolph’s militia—who lived at a place called Soper’s Landing near Waretown. Bacon’s men visited so frequently that the Sopers often slept in the swamps nearby out of fear for their lives.
Joseph Soper was a shipbuilder, and it’s said that one of his employees, an Englishman named William Wilson, acted as a spy for Bacon. One day Wilson witnessed Soper being paid for a vessel and raced to inform Bacon. Soper, suspicious that Wilson might betray him, split the money into two parcels, one large and one small, and buried them in separate places by his house. His suspicions were confirmed when Bacon and his men raided the house later that same day, aided by a man with a black handkerchief covering his face. Most authorities accept that this mysterious man was Wilson, although no legal proof existed that could attach him to the crime. During the raid, Joseph Soper took refuge in the swamps and only women and children occupied his house. The refugees threatened and frightened the women to such a state that they led Bacon to the smaller of the two parcels. The recovered money apparently satisfied Bacon and he simply cleaned out the house of all of its contents, as he did numerous times before, and departed with the loot.
Produce was fetching exorbitant prices in British-held New York in December of 1780, and three men, Thomas Collins, Richard Barber, and Asa Woodmansee, loaded a whaling ship with produce obtained from the farms around Barnegat Bay and sailed for New York City by way of the old Cranberry Inlet, once located near the mouth of the Toms River. The men made the journey to New York safely, sold their goods, and just as they prepared to return home, John Bacon appeared and compelled the men to allow him to join them on their trip back to Barnegat.
The boat made it back safely to the inlet and they anchored outside it for fear of venturing inside the bay during daylight. In the meantime the local citizens caught wind of the voyage and sought the Toms River militia to seize the vessel and put a stop to the illicit trade with the British. As night fell the men raised anchor and no sooner had the vessel cleared the inlet then they came upon a boat commanded by Lieutenant Joshua Studson, who stood and demanded their immediate surrender.
The three men, unarmed, prepared to surrender, but Bacon, knowing he would face the gallows for his crimes thus far, steadfastly refused. Having his musket ready, Bacon quickly took aim and fired. Studson fell dead and the militia was thrown into such confusion that Bacon and the other men made their escape. The unfortunate crew, who only sought to make a bit of money selling produce, knew they could not stay at home and fled to the British army, where they were forced into service. Their time with the British was short-lived, however, as they soon fell “sick with the small pox and suffered everything but death” as Collins said afterwards. They later took advantage of amnesty, which General Washington offered to British deserters, and returned home.
A year later, Bacon and his men claimed another victim. On December 30, 1781, a group of militia under the command of Captain Reuben F. Randolph assembled at his inn in Manahawken to search for Bacon, who had been reported to be in the area. The night grew long, and around 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, the men in the militia decided to rest and posted sentries to watch for the bandits should they pass nearby. Shortly before sunrise, the Refugees passed by on their way to West Creek. The sentries sounded the alarm and the sleeping militia woke to find they were outnumbered. As they prepared to retreat, the bandits open fire and killed one of the patriots named Lines Pangborn and wounded Sylvester Tilton. Bacon did not give chase, however, and continued on his way to West Creek.
The shot that hit Tilton went clean through below one of his shoulders, and the attending physician passed a silk handkerchief through the wound in search of the musket ball. He recovered his strength and vowed revenge against a man named Brewer, one of Bacon’s men. After the war, Tilton discovered that Brewer resided in some remote cabin and set out to avenge himself. Along the way, he met a Quaker named James Willets who begged in vain for Tilton to abandon his trip. Failing at that, Willets asked to accompany Tilton in hope he might be able to defuse the situation should the two men meet. Tilton, determined to find Brewer, warned the Quaker that, should he interfere, he’d get flogged as well.
Tilton arrived the cabin and burst through the door, surprising Brewer, who didn’t have the chance to reach for his musket. Dragging Brewer to the door, Tilton gave the fellow an unmerciful beating and then told him “You scoundrel! You tried to kill me once, and I have now settled with you for it, and I want you now to leave here and follow the rest of your gang.” By then, most of the Refugees had settled in Nova Scotia.
Bacon’s most notorious act is known as the “Massacre on Long Beach.” On October 25, 1782, the privateer galley Alligator discovered a cutter from Ostend, Holland, bound for St. Thomas, abandoned on the north end of Long Beach Island. It is not known exactly who commanded the Alligator. A contemporary Tory newspaper puts Lieutenant Andrew Steelman of Cape May as captain, while others claim that David Scull was master. Captain Joseph Covenhoven was also on board. The wrecked cutter had a costly load of Hyson tea and other “valuable articles” worth £20,000. Steelman went ashore to round up some locals to help transfer the cargo to the Alligator.
The locals rounded up included William Wilson who, upon seeing the beached vessel and the crew of privateers unloading her, ran to Bacon and told him about the situation. Bacon and nine of his men arrived later that night after the exhausted (and likely drunk) privateers had fallen asleep on the beach. Under the cover of darkness and moving silently across the sand, the Refugees snuck up to the sleeping crew, drew their knives, and murdered most of the crew. Those who awoke to the noise were at a disadvantage and secured their rescue only when Scull, aboard the Alligator, led reinforcements ashore. Scull’s men managed to scare off the Refugees, who withdrew back into the night. Scull, for his part, suffered a wound in the thigh. Steelman was dead, and, according to a British report of the incident, Bacon and the Refugees killed or wounded all of the party except for four or five. Reuben Soper, who had deftly eluded Bacon by sleeping in the swamp with his father, was one of the men killed that day.
From this point, Bacon was a marked man. In late December, 1782 a party of men under the command of Captain Edward Thomas of the Mansfield Militia and Captain Richard Shreeve of the Burlington County Light Horse were in hot pursuit of Bacon near Cedar Creek. Knowing that they were being pursued, Bacon decided to build a barricade across the south side of Cedar Bridge, opposite the tavern on the stage road to Barnegat. The barrier constructed, all that remained was to wait for the Continentals.
The militia arrived, opened fire, and charged the Refugees. Bacon, knowing he could not expect anything except the executioner should he be captured, urged his men into a stiff resistance that lasted for a considerable time. Finally the militia seemed to be getting the better of Bacon’s men, when suddenly shots rang out from a different direction. Locals, for some reason sympathetic to Bacon’s cause, began firing on the militia. The confusion allowed Bacon and his men to retreat, and the militia could do nothing more than arrest those that had fired upon them and transport them to the Burlington County Gaol. When the smoke cleared, Thomas and Shreeve discovered the militia had suffered two casualties – William Cook, dead, and Robert Reckless, injured. Ichabod Johnson, a refugee who carried a bounty of £25 on his head, was slain. Bacon and three other of his men suffered injury, but escaped.
A detachment of Shreeve’s troops consisting of John Stewart, John Brown, Cornet Joel Cook (brother of William), John Brown, Thomas Smith, John Jones, and one other unknown man, pursued Bacon and finally caught up with him on the evening of April 3, 1783 at the public house of William Rose, located between West Creek and Tuckerton. Approaching the house, Stewart peered through the window and there spied Bacon sitting with his gun between his knees. Stewart withdrew and gathered his companions, who then all returned to the house. Stewart burst through the door, surprising Bacon, who reached for his gun. Stewart lunged for Bacon before he could fire and wrestled him to the ground.
Bacon then cried out for quarter, which Stewart granted. Both men arose from the floor and Stewart called out to Cook. Cook, upset to finally face his brother’s murderer, gave Bacon a bayonet thrust that somehow went unnoticed to Stewart or the other men. Bacon appeared faint and fell, but shortly revived and attempted to escape through the back door. Stewart pushed a table against the door that Bacon then knocked aside, and then struck Stewart to the floor. Bacon attempted to open the door and escape when Stewart, who had regained his feet, shot him. The ball passed through Bacon, through a piece of the building, and bounced harmlessly off the chest of Cook who stood guard outside.
The militia carried Bacon’s body to Jacobstown, where the Americans began burying his body in the middle of the road in the presence of many locals, who had turned out to see the spectacle. Before they had a chance to lower the body, Bacon’s brother arrived and pleaded with the militia to allow him to claim the body for a private burial. It is said that Bacon, his grave marker now long gone, is buried in the cemetery at Arneytown.
 Edwin Salter, A History of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Embracing a Geneolgical Record of the Earliest Settlers in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. (Bayonne, NJ: E. Gardner & Son, 1890), 212.
In the woods North of Woodmansie, in Byrne State Forest, five lonely sand roads come together in a wide clearing. I had been exploring the area around Union Clay Works earlier that day, and decided to head up to Buckingham to try to find cellar holes and the ruins of the railroad station. Driving North along Buckingham Road, the trail split, and I drove left, passing along a part of the woods that seemed particularly dreary.
I made my way to the intersection, randomly driving along forgotten sand roads, while keeping an eye on my GPS to keep me from getting hopelessly lost. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a cement marker with the inscription “Pomeroy Crossroads” carved. I had never heard this place mentioned in any books or discussion with fellow Lost Town Explorers, so I took a picture and headed on my way, determined to find out what this place was.
A month or so slipped by without any further clues as to what this place was. I had nearly forgotten about it until I bought a copy of Chaseworld – Foxhunting and Storytelling in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens by Mary Hufford. Finally, I was able to get some information on who Pomeroy was and why there is a marker for him in the Pine Barrens!The sport of foxhunting, which normally draws images of hounds crashing across the fields of England, is alive and well in the Pine Barrens, where it has developed it’s own unique identity. Instead of men on horseback, pickup trucks are used. Instead of shouts and yells between hunters, a CB radio keeps them all together. Donald Pomeroy was one of those hunters. In 1985, right before the opening of deer season, he lost control of his pickup truck and crashed into a tree. The New Jersey Sporting Dogs Association placed the marker there in memory of Donald Pomeroy, who had been a well respected member of the foxhunting community.
This article was first published on NJPineBarrens.com in 2003.
In his final years, Charles Read suffered illness and endured tragedy. For as high as Read soared, becoming one of the most notable politicians of the day, one of the largest land owners of New Jersey, and the greatest ironmaster in the province, his final years left him in very poor health and nearly destitute.
The end of the French and Indian War led to a financial depression which severely affected the price of land, rendering Read’s vast holdings significantly less valuable. The iron furnaces, with their expensive labor, shipping costs, and near constant upkeep requirements, continued to be a drain on his finances. The salaries and fees collected from his political appointments failed to cover the costs for the furnaces – especially as Read became increasingly ill and unable to perform his duties. In 1768 he secured a mortgage on the Etna tract for ₤500, which held the wolf at bay for a while.
Tragedy struck on November 13, 1769 when Read’s wife, Alice, died after struggling with an illness. As befitting her husband’s position, a large number of distinguished citizens attended Alice’s burial at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Burlington. Said the Pennsylvania Gazette: “The Corpse was carried to the Grave by respectable Housekeepers of the Place: The Pall was supported by the Gentleman of His Majesty’s Council. The Chief Justice, and Attorney-General. The great Number of the most respectable People assembled on this Occasion from the adjacent Towns manifested the affectionate Regard paid to her Memory.”
Alice, knowing that she would soon pass, prepared a will providing for the distribution of her estate, which contained a large amount of land in the West Indies. The estate was split evenly between her husband and their son, Charles Jr. with a trust fund established for their son, Jacob, who had turned out to be idle and irresponsible both in money and morals. While Charles Jr. did not have the same level of aspirations and ambitions that his father possessed, he proved to be a capable businessman and did a fair job managing the iron works at Etna and caring for his father who, following Alice’s death, moved to Etna.
Death did not quickly leave the Read household. Less than one month after Alice passed, Charles Read IV, the 13-month-old son of Charles Jr. died. He was buried at the Evesham Friends’ Meeting in Mt. Laurel.
Throughout the winter of 1770-71, Read fell desperately ill. He described the situation as a “Excessive tedious & dangerous sickness wth wch I have been afflicted the last fall & Winter the most of which I spent in bed and my recovery not expected by my friends…” Shortly after, in November of 1772 he lost his granddaughter, as he exclaimed in a letter to John Pemberton: “This day we are engaged with the burial of my Dear little grand daughter who died of the measles her little brother went thro’ them with great difficulty.”
By 1773, with his creditors clamoring to be paid, his body wracked with illness, and his heart in despair, he arranged for a trip to the West Indies to settle Alice’s estate and possibly convalesce in the more agreeable weather. Read left, presumably under a veil of some secrecy, without resigning his legislative offices or notifying his creditors. It is likely that most people did not know he had departed until his trustees placed this notice in the Pennsylvania Gazette on June 30, 1773:
Whereas Charles Read, Esq.; for the recovery of his health, as well as for securing and recovering some large sums of money due him in the West-Indies, has lately embarked thither, and, being desirous of preventing any uneasiness among such as he may owe money to, has appointed us as the subscribers, trustees, to make sale of such parts of his estate, as may be necessary for the discharge of his debts, which we purpose proceeding to do so as soon as possible. We therefore desire all persons who have any demands against him to bring in their accounts, properly proved, that they may be settled; and all who are indebted to him, by mortgage, bond, note or book-debt, are desired immediately to discharge their respective debts to the subscribers, who are authorized to receive the same.
Daniel Ellis, at Burlington
Charles Read, Junior; Aetna Furnace.
Thomas Fisher, Philadelphia.
Read continued correspondence from St. Croix throughout 1773; it appears, however, that the money from Alice’s estate never materialized. In a postscript to a letter that Read wrote he said: “My love to all Frds. I hope no man shall lose by me tho’ they may be longer than I choose out of ye money.”
Without the money from Alice’s estate it seems as if Read gave up on the idea of returning to New Jersey to settle his debts. It is likely that the collapse of his empire, the death of his wife and grandchildren, coupled with the disappointment of not being able to settle his debts through the estate of his wife drove him to the brink of sanity. Sometime in November 1773, he left St. Croix and opened a small general store in Martinburg, North Carolina. On December 27, 1774, Read died without leaving a will, and without having an opportunity to say goodbye to his family and the land upon which he built his empire. Charles Jr. did not learn of his father’s death until May of 1775.
It appears his grave has disappeared over time. Burlington County historian Henry Bisbee traveled to North Carolina to search for it during the 1960s. Today, Martinburg is Greenville, and Bisbee found a new supermarket constructed on the last of the old burial grounds in the city. Read “may have been a prominent citizen in New Jersey,” Bisbee explains, “but in North Carolina he had simply been an elderly storekeeper. Who would pay for his headstone?”
One of the most curious biographies of Read comes from a contemporary of his, Aaron Leaming, of Cape May. Leaming, a Quaker who was also involved in the legislature and land speculation, and likely had run-ins with the powerful Read, does not hold back in his diary. Of Read he writes:
“He had more vices than virtues. He had many of both and thise of the high rank. He was intriegueing to the highest degree. No man knew so well as he how to riggle himself into office, nor keep it so long, nor make so much of it… His intrigues with women, tho’ they employed a large share of his thought, were not worth naming; they were rather the foibles than the vices in so large a character yet because I know he would never have pardoned the man that should attempt his Story without making honorable mention of them I draw them into his shade. He was so van of them that if he had penned this character they would have filled many pages.”
Of his fortunes and family: “His offices furnished him with a constant flow of Cash. This power & flow of Cash enlarged his mind above himself. Instead of founding a fortune to his two sons as he ought to have done in those prosperous times, he ran upon schemes for the improvement of the Country. Witness his Fishery at Lamberton, his Iron Works, and many other schemes which tho’ virtuous in a very high degree in a man of great fortune, it ought to be treated with distrust with men of little estates. He was industrious in the most unremitting degree. No man planned a scheme so well as he, nor executed him better. He loved the country better than his family. And knew no friend but the man that could serve him.”
1. Carl Raymond Woodward, Ploughs and Politicks: Charles Read of New Jersey and his Notes on Agriculture (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1941) p. 212
2. Ibid, p. 213
3. Ibid, p. 214
5. Ibid, p. 215
6. Henry H. Bisbee, The Burlington Story. Vol. 9, No 1. 1979, pg 4.
As mentioned in the first installment of this article, the senior Charles Read was a partner in the first ironworks in Bucks County, and the manufacture of iron was a fascination that never left the younger Read. By the mid 18th century, ironworks began opening all across the northern counties of New Jersey, and landowners in the south were eager to get in on the action. South Jersey has all of the ingredients needed to create a virtually self-sustaining iron industry. The little rivers that cut through the pine forest, many already dammed and powering sawmills, could be used to power the bellows and hammers required for forges and furnaces. The pine forest itself provided fuel for the furnace in the form of charcoal. Finally, bog iron, a naturally occurring ore that developed in the slightly acidic bogs and swamps, was abundant and easier to obtain than furnaces in north Jersey that had to extract iron from mines dug deep into the mountains.
Read, having already owned large parcels of land yielding bog iron, focused his attention acquiring land around Atsion, Batsto, Etna, and Taunton. In 1755 he signed a 999-year lease on 1,128 acres along the Atsion Creek. Ten years later he purchased a large parcel of land in the Forks of the Atsion and Batsto Rivers and a one-half interest in Richard Westcott’s sawmill in the area. Read also purchased rights to mine iron ore and cut timber on adjacent lands.
In 1765 Read petitioned the legislature’s for permission to dam the Batsto Creek for the purpose of building a furnace there. After seeking consent from Joseph Burr and ensuring that the dam would not interfere with his sawmill located on the head of the creek, the legislature replied in:
An Act to enable the Honourable Charles Read, Esquire, to erect a Dam over Batstow Creek; and also enable John Estell to erect a Dam over Atsion River.
And whereas the Honourable Charles Read sets forth, that he hath proved to Demonstration good Merchantable Bar-Iron may be drawn from such Ore as may be found in plenty in the bogs and . . . in such parts of this Province which are too poor for cultivation, which he conceived will be a public emolument; and that in order to erect the necessary Works, he had lately purchased a considerable Tract of Land laying on both sides of Batstow Creek, near Little Egg Harbour in the County of Burlington praying the aid of the Legislature to enable him to erect a Dam across the said Creek for the use of an Iron-Works; and in order to remove every objection against the Prayer of his Petition hath produced a certificate from Joseph Burr, Jun., purporting that he, the said Joseph Burr, is and for several years path hath been in possession of a Saw-Mill at the head of Batstow Creek aforesaid, from whence Boards only have been floated down but attended with such Expense as to afford a probability that the said Creek will not be hereafter used for the like purpose; hence the said Burr alleges that the Dam over the said Creek as petitioned for by the said Charles Read, can not be of any public or private detriment, but on the contrary greatly advantageous.
After receiving legislative approval, Read began looking for investors in the Batsto and other iron ventures. He placed an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Journal, which read in part:
Charles Read of Burlington, gives notice to the public, that he is possessed of several tracts of land, having in them streams of water, as constant and governable as can be wished . . . There is at all these places, plenty of food for the cattle from the middle of May to the middle of October. As Mr. Read’s situation renders it inconvenient to him to take upon himself the expense or care of works so extensive, he notifies to the public that it will be agreeable to him to let the conveniences to any gentleman of credit reserving a share of the produce, or to ender into a partnership with any persons of good dispositions, fortune, and integrity.
Read constructed his first two furnaces at Taunton and Etna. Taunton, located on Haines Creek about three and a half miles from Medford, comprised a small furnace and a three-fire forge. Read completed Taunton in 1766. Other buildings included a coaling house that could hold 400 loads of charcoal as well as a house for the manager of the works and various outbuildings for the employees. Also located nearby was one of Read’s sawmills and an orchard.
Workmen finished construction of Etna Furnace shortly after Taunton went into blast. Like Taunton, Etna had a single furnace and a three-fire forge. Etna also featured a company store, gristmill, stamping mill, and a sawmill that Read rented out annually for £200. The primary product of both furnaces was bar iron, which would either be sold or worked into flatirons, wagon boxes, iron handles, and various pieces of cast ware. 
Read also completed Batsto Furnace in 1766. Located on the Batsto Creek, there was sufficient water power to drive four bellows and two hammer wheels. Unlike Etna and Taunton, Batsto was a five-way venture between the following partners: Read; Ruben Haines, a Philadelphia brewer; Walter Franklin, a merchant from New York; and John Cooper and John Wilson, both of Burlington County.
The last of Read’s works, Atsion, dates to 1767-1768. For a time, Atsion and Batsto, located a similar distance apart as Taunton and Etna, shared a smith, carpenter, and clerk. It is unclear whether Read retained this arrangement after he sold his interest in Batsto.
Managing four ironworks, plus Read’s political duties, turned out to be too much for one person to handle. Falling iron prices made the industrial ventures unprofitable, and Read’s health began to fail. Between 1767 and 1768, Read sold his share of Batsto back to his partners – a half-interest to Haines, a quarter-interest to Cooper, and an eighth each to Franklin and Wilson. On January 26, 1768 Read sold a 249/1000 interest each to David Ogden, Jr. and Richard Saltar for £50. Presumably this was to lower Read’s financial risk in the venture while keeping majority control for himself. It took until 1773 for Read to finally sell Atstion. Taunton proved hard to sell, and, in 1773, Read turned it over to his trustees who listed it for public sale in 1774. Read’s son, Charles IV, assumed control of Etna, the largest of the works, after it had failed to attract a buyer. Charles Jr. continued operation for a while, but shortly afterwards had leased it to Jonathan Merryman. The furnace was eventually abandoned and ownership passed to William Richards.
Reads ambition to become the greatest ironmaster in the province is likely what proved to be his downfall. While the iron enterprises were well thought out, the responsibilities of running them while simultaneously maintaining his public offices was simply too much for one man – especially one who was suffering health issues – to handle.
In the final episode of this series we’ll follow Read as he flees New Jersey in a last ditch effort to rebuild his financial wealth and avoid his creditors.
1. Carl Raymond Woodward, Ploughs and Politicks: Charles Read of New Jersey and his Notes on Agriculture (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1941) p. 67
2. Ibid, p. 68
3. Arthur D. Pierce, Iron in the Pines: The Story of New Jersey’s Ghost Towns and Bog Iron (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1957) p. 119 (1990 Edition)
4. Woodward, p. 90-91
5. Ibid, p. 93
6. Pierce, p. 120
7. Charles S. Boyer, Early Forges and Furnaces in New Jersey (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1931) p. 166
We left Charles Read off in the last article having moved to Burlington City in 1739. The elder Charles Read was dead, his familial home was sold, and presumably the finishing touches had been put on settling the estate. The stage was set for the younger Read to finally come into his own, and his offices, land holdings, and achievements he would have would blow the doors off anything that his father or grandfather had done.
On November 10, 1744 Read was sworn in to the post of Secretary of the Province. This was a post appointed directly by the Crown, although usually given to someone who remained in England and then farmed out to a deputy that lived in the colony. The Provincial Secretary had an eclectic set of responsibilities including managing the correspondence between the Colonial Office in London and the government in New Jersey as well as maintaining records and documents such as birth and death certificates, land surveys, registrations, and writs.[i] The fees associated with each of the documents created were given to the secretary in lieu of a salary, making this position greatly coveted and incredibly powerful.
The same month, Governor Lewis Morris named Read one of the surrogates of the prerogative court, which was a Royal court that had jurisdiction over the estates of deceased persons. Later that year he was commissioned as Justice of the Peace for Monmouth County and thereafter received a commission of Dedimus Potestatem, granting the authority to administer oaths to all officers within the province.[ii]
Read quickly became friendly with Morris, and upon the Governors death on May 21, 1746 Read served as pallbearer for the funeral. With the passing of Morris, Read became nervous about his prospects in government, fearing that he’d be replaced by others. In 1748 he wrote James Pemberton, afraid that “an Irishman from Amboy” would replace him in office of Secretary. He wrote Pemberton again in 1757 and once again in 1759 about “renewing the contract” which was about to expire. Seemingly, Read did not need to worry. On February 17, 1762 he received a new commission from Governor Josiah Hardy.
On May 20, 1751 Read took his place as assemblyman for the 18th Assembly after Governor Jonathan Belcher encouraged him to run for election. Likely due to the influence of Belcher, Read was selected for the post of speaker, despite this being his first year in the body. In addition to coming up with plans to fund the colonial government, which included the salary of the governor and other provincial officials as well as a stipend of 6sper diem for members of the assembly, an allowance of 14s per week for “use of a Room, Firewood, and Candle for the Council” the body was also responsible for issues of taxation. One of the first orders of the day was to settle the ancient conflict of how land was taxed – based on the quantity of land owned by an individual, or based on the quality of the land.
Owners of manufacturing interests would often petition the assembly for tax exemptions. In 1751 owners of ironworks in Morris County asked for a bounty on iron and tax exceptions for their works. The following January owners of glassworks petitioned for a similar exemption, and later in 1754 citizens from Cape May County asked for the same for their gristmills. [iii]
The legislature was also asked to address various other issues. In 1752 the inhabitants of Morris County asked for relief from the inconveniences and damages from having “great numbers of cattle from the neighboring counties drove up into their county.” A petition of bolters set forth “that it is almost impractical to comply with the Act concerning Flour, because much wheat is threshed on earthen floors” and asked for an act to prevent the practice. Read also benefitted personally from his position in the assembly. In 1769 a law was passed giving owners of ironworks the right to provide employees with “Rum or other strong liquor, in such quantity as they shall from experience find necessary.” This law also made it illegal for anybody within four miles of Read’s ironworks, which will be discussed in the next article, to “entertain in or about their House, in idling or drinking, or shall sell any strong drink, to any wood-cutter, collier, or workman employed at said works.” A fine of 10s was to be levied for each offense, with the money to be spent on road maintenance.[iv] It was a brilliant piece of law for Read, who constantly battled with the effects of liquor on his workers. By putting the control of the quantity and type of liquor that could be distributed to his employees, Read could theoretically control how much they drank.
Another example of his personal interests affecting public law was the 1759 sponsorship of a law “for the further Preservation of Timber in the Colony of New Jersey.” This was to replace the act “for preventing the waste of Timber, Pine, and Cedar Trees and Poles.” This act had been on the books since 1714, yet it’s “good intentions” had been defeated by people trespassing on land and cutting down timer that did not belong to them. The new act provided a remedy in the form of a 20s fine to anyone who should “cut, box, bore, or destroy any Tree, Saplin, or Pole” on lands that did not belong to them. [v] Clearly Read, with thousands of acres of woods, had an interest in keeping the trees for his own lumber interests.
Read, while not a Quaker, frequently shared the ideals and opinions of the Society of Friends. While Native Americans in New Jersey had generally received fairer treatment than their brethren in the other colonies, there were legitimate grievances that needed to be settled. Many of the Lenape, the tribe native to New Jersey, felt that they had not been compensated fairly by settlers who came to occupy their land. Other complaints included the construction of dams made navigation impossible on some creeks that were previously accessible to their canoes as well as the use of large steel traps to catch deer. Things began to come to a head around 1755, with the French & Indian War underway, scaring residents into thinking that the Native Americans would possibly start attacking colonists.
That year several Indians from Pennsylvania were held in the Trenton jail, despite New Jersey not having jurisdiction over them. Read protested their capture fearing that it might bring New Jersey into an Indian war which “of all Others is the most alarming and Ought to be Studiously avoided.”[vi] Read’s protestations were not for vain, and Governor Belcher ordered the Indians released to the governor of Pennsylvania. Read was in the forefront of the debate of what to do with the Indians, and in December of 1755 Read, along with Richard Saltar and Samuel Smith were named as commissioners to meet with the representatives of several Native American tribes. The commission met with success, and in 1757 the legislature adopted a series of reforms and guidelines limiting the size of steel traps, the sale of alcohol, the regulation of land purchases, and made illegal jailing a Native American for debts.
On December 8, 1755 Read proposed the idea of creating a reservation for the Native Americans. Various lotteries were run and donations accepted to generate the money required to purchase the land for a reservation as well as settle any outstanding claims the tribes may have had. At a conference in Burlington on August 7, 1758 the representatives from the tribes requested a parcel of land be purchased in Evesham Township for a reservation for those Indians living south of the Raritan River. In exchange, all land claims and grievances the tribes south of the Raritan would be considered settled. £1600 was appropriated, half of that going towards buying the property and the other half would be spent settling claims that the northern tribes had.
Three tracts of land were purchased near Edge Pillock, on Bread and Cheese Run. The settlement was named Brotherton, now Indian Mills, and is generally thought to be the first Indian reservation in North America. Brotherton was to be an agricultural community, as evidenced in a letter from Read to Israel Pemberton:[vii]
“. . . We have purchased a tract of Land for them extreamly Convenient for them abt. 2000 or 2500 acres & have this day sent a Surveyor to Survey a parcel of Wild natural meadow near the place where they can cut their Hay & directed him to take up 500 Acres of it. They can in a day come from the Sea within 5 miles of this place with Clams & oysters. There are 300 bearing apple trees on it & 24 acres of good Indian Corn whc We propose to lay down with Rye & this will be their first Years provisions on their removal.”
Despite being occupied by public life, Read began broadening his real estate holdings when he moved to New Jersey. By 1749 he wrote to James Pemberton explaining, “my estate lays chiefly in land.”[viii] He sold his properties in Pennsylvania and now focused most of his attention on land in New Jersey. Between 1740 and 1742 he sold a tract of land and a 250-acre plantation in Burlington County.[ix] In 1741 he owned 8 acres by the Delaware River in Willingsboro Township. 1745 saw him purchase a 6 acre lot in Burlington, and the following year an acre lot in Burlington City on the east side of High Street. There’s no record of Read having built a house there, so it’s likely that he was just looking to hold on to the land and sell it at a profit rather than go through the hassle and expense of building a house for himself.
Read tended to lean towards owning larger tracts of land. In 1744 he purchased 1,725 acres of un-appropriated land in West New Jersey.[x] In 1751 he received two grants from the West Jersey Proprietors – one for 5,378 acres and the other for 3,750. His holdings stretched from Burlington County to Morris, Hunterdon, and Gloucester Counties.
It’s likely that his experience with his father’s ironworks as well as his interest in farming influenced the type of real estate that Read was interested in. Tracts of cedar swamp could be cut, milled into lumber, and the land then repurposed for farming. The pine forest could also be cut, milled into lumber or made into charcoal. In 1746 he leased a 10-acre tract of swampland, one of the terms of the lease being that Read should “clear the said Swamp and make it meadow fit for the scythe.”[xi]
In 1745 he purchased a tract of 2,000 acres on Cotoxing Creek below Lumberton and built a sawmill. Two years later he leased the mill to Benjamin Moore, Jr. and four others who agreed to cut at least 50,000 feet of pine boards annually, with one-fifth of the product delivered to Read.[xii] Such deals were typical for the time – a landowner would acquire land, build a mill, and lease the mill itself for both an annual rent as well as a portion of the output.
The fees collected for the documents issued in his position as Secretary of the Province in addition to the salaries that the other various positions that he occupied offered, coupled with his own private income provided a substantial income from which he could fund his greatest ambition – becoming an ironmaster.
In the next installment of this series we’ll follow Read as he constructs, and nearly goes bankrupt from, his four ironworks.
[i] “Provincial Secretary.” Wikipedia. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 14 May 2011 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provincial_Secretary>
[ii] Carl Raymond Woodward, Ploughs and Politicks: Charles Read of New Jersey and his Notes on Agriculture (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1941) p. 98
Opportunity. Colonial America was an expansive, wide frontier where an intelligent and driven man could easily make a name for himself. Everybody knows of the founding fathers, those men who’s luck, debate, trade, and war wrestled free a nation from the world’s most powerful empire. Yet, there was another cast of characters – men who’s contributions to the founding of the nation were just as important, but have been relegated to history’s B-list.
This is the story of one man who helped to shape the colonial life of South Jersey, and who founded the Pine Barrens iron industry – an industry that would end up ruining his own finances, but make those who followed thereafter rather wealthy.
Charles Read III was born in Philadelphia on February 1, 1715 in the house that his grandfather had built at the corner of Front and Market Streets. This house, located along a busy thoroughfare with windows overlooking the Delaware and facing the wharves, afforded young Charles a first-hand experience with the mercantile life of bustling early Philadelphia. His father was a merchant and public official and in these footsteps Charles followed.
Charles undoubtedly spent time working in his father’s store, which sold everything from “Flower’d Callaminco,” “Figur’d linen,” and “Red and blew strouds” to cocoa, chocolate, pine boards and cedar shingles.[i] It’s in all probability that goods from Durham Iron Works in Durham, Pennsylvania, of which Read held an interest,[ii] made their way to the store for sale, further inspiring the boy who would later found four iron furnaces of his own.
Both Reads were friends and customers of Benjamin Franklin, whose wife Debora may have been related to them.[iii] Franklin, in signing letters, would often sign himself, “your very affectionate friend and cousin,” and James Read’s son, Collinson, would refer to him as “Cousin Benny.” It’s likely that Franklin purchased paper from the Reads, and, in turn, the Reads had an open account at Franklin’s store. When Franklin organized the Philadelphia Library Company in 1731, the Reads purchased a share of the company for 40 shillings.
Sometime in 1733, at the age of eighteen, Charles sailed for London to continue his education. Settling at the estate of his maternal uncle, Sir Charles Wagner, in Surrey he became fast friends with the botanist Peter Collinson, likely influencing his interest in agriculture and gardening. Sir Charles arranged a commission for Charles as a midshipman in the Royal Navy and he received an appointment to the HMS Penzance, which would soon sail for the West Indies.
During the early colonial period, Philadelphia rivaled New York as a port city, and the elder Read, as alderman and later mayor, was positioned for contact with some of the more prominent foreign merchants who visited. While in the West Indies, Charles visited Jacob Thibou, a wealthy planter on the island of Antigua who, for a time, lived in Philadelphia and was probably a friend or associate of the Reads. Jacob, with his vast landholdings and political connections, was a captivating figure for Charles, who eventually sold his commission in the navy and married Thibou’s daughter, Alice, on April 11, 1737.[iv]
Whether the marriage was truly for love or necessity is not known. By this time, Read’s father had fallen gravely ill and deeply in debt. While courting Alice he certainly kept the information of his father’s precarious financial situation to himself, since others viewed him as the son of a rich merchant and a rising colonial star in the Thibou household. The elder Read died on January 6, 1737, leaving an estate with a deficit of nearly £7000.[v]
Charles returned to Philadelphia with his new bride and settled back into the family home with his mother and brother James. Before his father’s death, Charles received a deed for 258 acres of land in Philadelphia on the east side of the Schuylkill River. He also endeavored to continue the mercantile business and settle the estate of his father, who had left no will.
Around this time, Charles initially became interested in the lands on the other side of the Delaware River. Philadelphia had grown considerably during his absence, and the city had become even more important as a colonial port. Burlington, the chief port of the Western Division of the colony of New Jersey, was the primary source of agricultural trade with Philadelphia. Pennsylvanian farmers competed against those from New Jersey in the markets, the latter being branded as “public nuisances” by the former.[vi] It’s possible that the changes in Philadelphia, coupled with the sale of his family’s house to Israel Pemberton,[vii] and having a wife who, on account of her Creole accent and easy-going island upbringing likely did not fit in well with the stuffy Quaker Philadelphia social circles, made Charles decide to seek opportunity elsewhere.
In 1739 he became court clerk of Burlington County, and shortly thereafter received an appointment to the office of collector of the port of Burlington at a salary of £60. Here he established his new home at 320 High Street, renting the place from John Smith, whose father, Richard, had built the house in 1720.[viii] Today the building has been preserved and is known as the Nathaniel Coleman House.[ix]
In the next installment of this series we’ll follow Charles as he cuts his teeth on building his empire in New Jersey, amasses more public offices than one can count, establishes several farms, and disastrously gets involved in the Pine Barrens Iron industry.
[i] Carl Raymond Woodward, Ploughs and Politicks: Charles Read of New Jersey and his Notes on Agriculture (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1941) p. 25
[ii] Fackenthal, Dr. B. F., Jr. “The Durham Iron Works in Durham Township.” Bucks Country Historical Society Papers Read Before the Society and Other Historical Papers, Volume VII. George MacReyonalds, et al. (n.p.: Bucks County Historical Society, 1937) p. 59-94
Charles S. Boyer, 67, well known historian and retired Camden business man, died yesterday at his home, 205 East Central avenue, Moorestown. He had been ill but a short time. As president and one of the leaders of the Camden County Historical Society for many years, he was considered an authority on early New Jersey history and was the author of several books and pamphlets. One of the most widely read of these is “Old Forges and Furnaces.” He was a former president of the Sons of the American Revolution of New Jersey, a former president of the Camden Club, a charter member of the New Jersey Harbor Commission, and a member of Trimble Lodge, F. & A. M. Born in Bethlehem, Pa., he was the son of the late Benjamin F. and Alabama Shimer Boyer. He received his early education at Friends’ Central School, Fifteenth and Royden streets, Philadelphia, and was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1891. Mr. Boyer married Anna Wilson DeRousse in 1904, who survives. They live at 525 Cooper srteet(sic), Camden, for many years, moving to Moorestown, 11 years ago. Besides his wife and brother, Mr. Boyer is survived by a sister, Mrs. Jane B. Mecray, wife of Dr. Paul M. Mecray. Funeral services will be held at 2 P. M. Saturday at his late home in Moorestown. Burial will be private.