Historic Places in South Jersey

Historic Places in South Jersey - Places to Go and Things to Do

A discussion of things to do and paces to go, with the purpose of sharing, and encouraging exploration of South Jersey.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Great Blog Entry - a Review

  • http://jerseyman-historynowandthen.blogspot.com

  • Having spent approximately 32 years teaching in Gloucester City, and living in Mount Ephraim, it gives me the greatest delight when I find theat Jerseyman has posted an essay on some historical site in either of these towns.  I grew up in Philadelphia, moved to New Jersey in my early teens and have spent my life on both sides of the mighty river, both in places I've lived and schools where I've taught.  This isn't unusual even from the colonial period when many Jersey folk ferried across to live in Philly, and vice versa.  Betsy Ross, for example, was actually born on the Jersey side of the Delaware not far from Gloucester City.  The Griscombe family had a farm here.  Scholars have debated on exactly where the farm was located, but somewhere under the supports of the Walt Whitman bridge has been mentioned.

    One of my favorite characters of Gloucester City history is Billy J. Thompson.  His grave is in the cemetary off Market Street, I think it is St. Mary's.  His is a rags to riches story.  He came as a boy with barely enough in his pocket to keep him alive.  Rose in prominence in New York, Philadelphia, and finally Gloucester City, NJ.  At his peak, he owned a hotel which featured the planked shad Gloucester City was famous for, a racetrack and an Amusement Park.  He married, had more than a dozen children, lost his holdings first to fire and finally to bankruptcy, died on a visit back to his homeland in Ireland, then his body was returned here for burial. 

    Another of my favorite items on a list of things to research more at some point is the Battle of Gloucester Towne, where the Marquis de Lafayette fought alongside militia men such as my own Mount Ephraim hero William Harrison, Jr., against the Hessians on their way to Red Bank Battlefield that fateful day in October, 1777. 

    Anyway, I strongly suggest that if you want a good read you'll visit Jerseyman's blog today!  Let us both know what you think and what you know!

    By the way, I've had enquiries as to the the mysterious serpentine in the photo to the right, but I'm not telling till someone identifies it!  Jo Ann

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    Christmas Day Crossing Event and More! December events.

    From the Fall/Winter/Events NJState Parks brochure, here are some events for the end of the month of December, 2010.  I'll post January events later.
    1. Washington's Crossing will be re-enacted on Dec. 25 at noon, Nelson House, Washington Crossing State Park, (609)737-9303.  John Balu and Dave Hart, authors of Trenton, A Novel, have attended this event and recommended it when I attended their book signing and presentation at the Bishop Farmstead on Sunday, Dec. 19th. 
    2. Dec. 26th, Boxing Day Holiday Open House at Grover Cleveland Birthplace Historic Site, (973) 226-0001, featuring music, activites, self guided tour, refreshments and exhibits.  I've never been to this house and won't be able to go to this open house.  If anyone else goes, please send a comment and tell us about it - thanks!

    Upcoming Events in Salem County

    A friend and I enjoyed our walk on the green trail around Thundergust Lake at Parvin State Park today.  While there, we stopped in at the ranger station and picked up a few events brochures and newspapers.
    Parvin State Park offers guided walks.  There is one Sunday, Dec. 26 at 2:30 - meet at Second Landing, Almond Rd..  The Park is getting ready to celebrate its 80th birthday and asks anyone with photos or mementos of the park to mail them, drop them off, or contact http://www.friendsofparvin/.  The mailing address is:  Parvin State Park Appreciation Center,  789 Parvin Mill Rd., Pittsgrove, NJ 08318-4009 or phone 692-0036 (no area code given).

    Gloucester County Nature Club hosts a walk along Big Timber Creek, 10 a.m., Tues., Dec. 28, Old Pine Farm Natural Lands Trust.  Call 627-7010 (no area code given).

    A Hearthside dinner in the 1740 kitchen of Gibbon House, 960 Ye Greate St., in Greenwich Twp. will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Sat. Jan 15.  Cost is %50 per person or $75 per couple.  Menu is based on foods of he period.  Make your reservation or call for questions 455-4055 by Tues., Jan. 11.  Dinners will be held again on March 19 and May 21. 

    Winter Hiking

    Hello fans of South Jersey's natural and historic wonders!  I'm off for a hike to Parvin State Park, but before I go into that - let me tell you about an upcoming hike:

    Wharton State Forest
    Pinelands Winter Shrubs and Trees Hike
    Starts at 10:00 a.m.
    Length 2 - 4 miles
    Fee - none

    One of my friends and I hike Parvin State Park regularly.  Aside from its beauty, the trail is a nice size and length and it offers an opportunity to re-visit an episode in American history that interests me - the Civilian Conservation Corps.  Thundergust Lake and the Little White Bridge are all products of the efforts of the young men of the CCC.  Standing waist deep in the shallow lake, they hauled out sunken logs and other kinds of debris.  They repaired the dam and built the bridge.  Part of the visitor's center at the entrance was built by the CCC from materials salvaged from a local train station.  I'm not entirely clear on the details of what part of the building, how much of the building or the accurate source of the recycled materials, but perhaps one of the kind experts who visit this blog may shed some light on that. 

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    Mystery House Identified

    I'm happy to say that Jerseyman has identified the mystery house and now I will post a new one.  Here is his comment:

    This is a wonderful view of the Griffith Morgan House, which also shows a portion of the reconstructed section on the west side. This is the original facade for the house, facing the confluence of the Pensauken Creek with the Delaware River. The estate inventory for Griffith Morgan strongly suggests he operated an ordinary here, serving the watermen awaiting a change in tidal flow to travel up the creek or down the river. Despite possessing the trappings of an ordinary, I believe no license has ever been found issued in his name.

    Best regards,

    Trenton Authors at Bishop Farmstead

    Bishop Farmstead
    Pinelands Preservation Alliance
    17 Pemberton Rd, Southampton, NJ 08088
    for directions, check out the web site.

    Today, December 19, 2010, the authors John Calu and Dave Hart, gave an excellent talk on historic places in Trenton and the family history that inspired their newest book, Trenton, A Novel,   John Calu and Dave Hart took turns sharing their enthusiasm for the history of Trenton and the process of creating their book, published by Plexus.  John Bryans, head of the division that published Trenton, has a reputation for supporting books about the New Jersey Pine Barrens, in particular. 

    Trenton, A Novel, is set during the American Revolution, in the area of the farm of the Hart family in Hopewell.  In the second half, the story moves to the modern world and the Alma family.  The families find a mysterious link.  I just bought the book and have only begun to read it, but I will be sure to give a review as soon as I've finished.  So far I find it fascinating.  Fortunately, I've already visited many historic sites in Trenton.  After reading the book, however, I'll avail myself of the map on the website of Calue and Hart, that shows where all the historic sites mentioned are located.  To find the website, simply google the title and authors. 

    Calu and Hart also have written several young adult mysteries including The Lost Mission of Captain Carranza, and The Treasure of Tucker's Island.

    Along with enjoying the really well-done presentation, it was a pleasure to stroll the grounds of the Bishop Farmstead, home of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.  There is the farm, the barn, and the building where the presentations are given.  I've enjoyed the Pinelands Prservation Alliance annual lecture series, and actually participated by giving a power point presentation on the Civilian Conservation Corps in New Jersey a couple of years ago.  The PPA series is very popular and has done a great deal to spread the history of the Pine Barrens. 

    The Bishop Farmstead was bought in 2002 from a family named Shaffer who had purchased the farm and 12 acres from Kingsway Associates.  The farm had belonged to the Robbins family.Before the Kingsway Associates.  Previously, it had been passed down through inheritance from the original property owners, Thomas and Ann Bishop,  Quakers who came from England around 1703.  The property had been bought from a local group of Native Americans.  Their son, John Bishop and his wife Rebecca Matlock, married in 1737, built the main house in 1753.  A paper entitled A Brief History of the Bishop Farmstead gives more details on the style of the building and the history of its ownership.  

    There are always wonderful art shows and programs being held at the Bishop Farmstead, so be sure to look for the next event on their web site and go out for a visit. 

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Historic Mystery House #2 Identified & a Correction

    Historic Mystery House #2 was correctly identified by Deb Hartshorn of the Ghosttowns of Southern New Jersey Group - which I will add as a link because it an is endlessly interesting conversation about places in the NJ Pine Barrens. 

    Also, received a message that the dulcimer player is Rich Carty.

    I'm going to post a Mystery House #3 now.  Happy Holidays - Merry Christmas! 

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    Christmas Music and Historic Houses December 2010

    The big events for the holiday season are almost all over.  First I had the great opportunity of hearing Tim McGrath speak on his book John Barry, An American Hero in the Age of Sail at the Ancient Order of Hibernians on Dec. 6th.  Harry Schaeffer, acting head of coordinating volunteers at the James and Ann Whitall House made tha possible for me and Loretta Kelly, leader of the movement to save the Fieldsboro historic house, White Hill, the home of Mary Field, who managed to keep her house safe from the British and the Hessians while hiding, among others, Commodore Barry himself.  A part of our navy was scuttled just below White Hill where the tavern once stood.

    On December 5th, with several friends, I enjoyed the tour of the decorated Batsto Mansion, following a wonderful lecture on the Wharton Family Homes in the Batsto Visitor's Center auditorium.  We hiked the village and once again, explored the grist mill, the saw mill, outbuildings with (my favorites) the sleigh and stagecoach, and the general store.  St. Nicholas was there and gave me a candy cane, though my friends tried to tell him I hadn't been good. 

    Next I was able to work as a docent during a special Holiday House Tour, the Sound of Music, at the Indian King Tavern, which is where I met, again, David E. Field, maker of Appalachian musical instruments, and musician extraordinaire.  He was playing with the Cheat Mountain Boys and Steve Kruspky of Well & Good, Old-Time Music.  They were SO good that I had to hear more and went to Coffee Garden, 57 East Kings Highway in Audubon last Friday, the 10th, to hear them jam.  They are there every other Friday, but I'm not sure about the 24th - I'd call if I were you.  Coffee Garden is on the web.

    On Saturday the 11th, I joined more of the volunteers of the James and Ann Whitall House for our candle light tour which also featured music, this time by the Piney Hollow Travellers (?).  I'm not sure of the name.  But they are regulars at many historic events and they came to play at our big event in October, the Battle of Red Bank re-enactment. 

    Later that night, on the 11th, some intrepid music lovers and I trekked out to Albert Hall in Waretown for some bluegrass music and homemade desserts.  It's a music tradition that you shouldn't miss - $5 to get in, music all night, a different band every half hour, coffee with pie, and cake, or hot dogs and sauer kraut for those who prefer salty to sweet, at $1 each, and all done by volunteers, including the musicians.  It warms your heart as it delights your ear.

    I believe there may be one event left at the Indian King Tavern, on New Years Eve, the tavern may be open from 6:00 to 9:00.  As with all mentioned events, it is best to call first.

    The music was so wonderful at the historic houses that it made me wish to learn English Country Dancing, and I dropped in on Tuesday the 8th at one of the buildings of the Society of Friends in Haddonfield for a lesson.  The music was by Bare Necessities on cd, and I plan to ask Santa to bring me some of their music for Christmas this year.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All! 

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    Paulsdale, Mount Laurel, NJ

    Today I am working at the Paulsdale research library with Samantha Barry, head of the volunteer team.  The original plantation farm house was built around 1800.  Paulsdale was purchased in 1883 and was a working farm of the Paul family.  There were more than 150 acres of orchards, crops and meadows for the dairy herd.  Paulsdale was sold and used as a private residence until 1990 when a group of women formed the Centennial organization to find a way to buy the property and turn it into a leadership institute.  There are 6.5 acres of the original propery and the building is on the National Historic landmark register.  In 2007, the research library was established.  I was one of the first volunteers and took over from our intern, Laura McGrath.  Fortunately for the library, me and everyone involved, Sam Barry came on board this past summer, in June, and became our leader.  She is a graduate library student at Rutgers (one of my alma maters).

    Today we looked at the site she set up for our collection and here is the link:


    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    John Barry, An American Hero in the Age of Sail

    Last night, Monday, December 6, 2010, a couple of history pals and I enjoyed a lecture by Tim McGrath on his new book, John Barry, An American Hero in the AGe of Sail at the Ancient Order of Hibernians Center in National Park, NJ.  He was an excellent speaker, charming, great stories, good voice.  One of my friends, Loretta Kelly, is the main preservationist working on White Hill in Fieldsboro.  Commodore Barry was sheltered there for a brief time when the British were hunting him down.  There was also a Tavern on the shore of the Delaware, just below the main house, during that time and Mary Field's husband was on the Committee of Correspondence.  He was drowned on the Delaware under suspicious circumstances.

    The Continental Navy had to scuttle several ships off the shore by this tavern to keep them from going into the hands of the British.  Also, Count Von Donop billeted at White Hill with several of his officers.  It is a miracle that Mary Field was able to keep the house from being pillaged and destroyed the way so many other houses of patriots were at the time. 

    The friend who invited us to this lecture is the acting head of volunteers at the James and Ann Whitall House in Red Bank, National Park.  It was kind of him to think of us.  Loretta has promised to repay his kindness with a tour of White Hill Mansion in Fieldsboro, perhaps in the spring.  It isn't open to the public yet, but she's working on it.  They are in the process of the nominations, grants to pay for architectural evaluation, and so on.  What a long and arduous process. 

    It was Loretta who recommended this book to me.  She bought it because of its references to White Hill but then she read it because of the great writing style of the author.  I'll write back later with a review.

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Music Venue

    The music venue for Old-Time Music, the group featuring some of the musicians who performed at the Indian King Tavern, including the Cheat Mountain Boys is The Coffee Garden, on Kings Highway, one block off White Horse Pike in Audubon and the next performance date is Dec. 10.  Maybe I'll see you there!  Check the Indian King Tavern Music of Christmas post for the review of the IKT event.

    Mystery House - White Hill Mansion, Fieldsboro

    Loretta Kelly was the only one who correctly identified the mystery house, and for a very good reason.  She took me on the tour when I made this photograph.  White Hill belongs to the Borough of Fieldsboro now and Loretta Kelly has spearheaded the efforts to save, restore and someday make the house a historic site available to visitors.  One of the interesting bits of information about this house is that Hessians occupied the house on their way to the Battle of Red Bank.  Mary Field, the owner of the house, was a widow by then.  Her husband drowned in the Delaware River under mysterious circumstances.  He was a member of the Committee of Correspondence.  Mary Field managed to save her home and safely put up the Hessians even though she was the wife of a 'Rebel' and the house remains with us today, though a Tavern that stood below the house on the bank of the Delaware, has been demolished. 

    Indian King Tavern Music of Christmas Dec.4, 2010

    Yesterday I volunteered as a tour guide at the Indian King Tavern for their special Open House featuring the Music of Christmas which was WONDERFUL!  The Tavern was decorated by the Haddonfield Garden Club and every room was beautifully festive.  The music in bar room was provided by the Cheat Mountain Boys.  One of them, David E. Field, I've met before at other historic events such as the Greenwich Tea Party in the autumn of the year.  At Greenwich, they hold a festival, perhaps it is in September, featuring dozens of arts and crafts vendors in the yard around the historic Gibbon House.  I met David E. Field there and he talked about the instruments he crafts, Appalachian Dulcimers, 5 String Banjos and Celtic Harps.  You can reach him at defield@verizon.net

    One of theother musicians gave me his card as well.   Steve Krupsky on the Clawhammer Banjo.  His card is Well & Good, Old-Time Music and his contact is skrupsky@snip.net.  So if you are looking for music, contact either of these men and you'll have it.  They play at a coffee house in Audubon on the 2nd Friday of the month, also.  I don't have the name of the coffee house but I have the web site for the musicians which is http://www.folkjam.org/.

    The musician who played in the Assembly Room was Rich Carton on the Hammered Dulcimer.  Periodically, he came down and played with the other group as well.  No one every had more fun doing a volunteer day than I had that day.  The visitors were delighted, the house was filled with music and the smell of hot spiced cider, and everywhere you looked there was green holiday beauty. 

    The Indian King Tavern will be opened other nights this month.  For information call 856-429-6792 or look back in my posts.  I think I posted their other dates this month. 

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Mystery Photograph

    I've selected some of my favorite historic houses and saved them in a folder.  From time to time, I'll post one and see if any history buffs can identify the house and/or its location. 

    Indian King Tavern, Haddonfield DATES

    This just came in the mail:  "We, the Friends of the Indian King Tavern Museum, are inviting you to join us at our Open House events.  Lots of fun!  2010 Shcedule with docents in every room - Saturday, Dec. 4 from 1-4, Musical entertainment with period instruments.  New Year's Eve Friday, Dec. 31st from 6 pm to 8 pm.  Also Friday evenings from 6:30-8:30 12/10 & 12/17."  Indian King Tavern is located at 233 Kings Hwy. East, Haddonfield, NJ 08033.  The tavern is a beautifully restored and maintained LARGE tavern with a 'bar and grill' that would have been used by local working men, watermen, stagecoach drivers, and so on, and a fine dining room for the "better sort."  There is a tavern room with booths that would have been used by the "middlin' sort" and all rooms are furnished. 

    In the summer, I signed on as a some-time volunteer docent and had the opportunity to tour guide during some fascinating events.  One was the visit of History Theater character, Abigail Adams.  Later in the summer, we also were entertained by History Theater character, Charles Wilson Peale.  Both were excellent.  The house has two stories open for the public.  Upstairs a bed that once belong to Dolly Madison graces one of the bedrooms, though it is clearly stated that a 'lady' of Dolly's time and type wouldn't have stayed in the tavern.  She would have boarded with relatives who lived nearby.  Also upstairs is the Assembly Room where the Revolutionary NJ Assembly declared New Jersey a STATE and no longer a colony. 

    An interesting contrast is to visit a big and important tavern located in a bustling city such as the Indian King Tavern, then visit a smallr more rural tavern such as the Hancock House in Salem County or the Gabriel Daveis Tavern in Glendora.  A good book on tavern life and it's place in the colonial world is:

    Rum Punch and Revolution:  Taverngoing & Public Life in Eighteen-Century Philadelphia by Peter Thomspon

    Being a tavern keeper put a man in the center of things in a town since so much civic debate took place in the taverns in the times before the building of municipal centers. 

    Come to the Indian King Tavern and see first hand!