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.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Maple Shade Presentation on Stiles history

In the 1970's there was a saying "The Personal is Political." I'd like to adapt that to "The Personal is Historical." I spent several years of my adolescence living in Maple Shade, New Jersey and so I was interested in attending a workshop held there.

Yesterday, on Saturday the 26th of February, at the Burlington County Historians' Roundtable, a number of upcoming events were announced and I decided to attend one that was to be held today, Sunday, February 27th, 2011. The presenter, Dennis, had done an enormous amount of research over several years on deeds, founding farm families, and historic houses of Maple Shade. Here is his website:

His focus today was on the Stiles family. Check out his site to find out more. He has a great deal of information on his site and pictures of a house that I went to see after the presentation,the Collins House. I had passed that house many times in my childhood and I knew it was an old farm house. I'm glad to see that with so many other historic houses disappearing, this one has been saved.

Also, Maple Shade has a delightful one-room schoolhouse worth visiting as well. I finally got to go inside on one of the Burlington County Historical Society's field trips a couple of years ago. It was an all day trip to more than a dozen one-room schools. The woman who gave the tour this year, whose name, unfortunately, I didn't catch, was the person who introduced the presentation at the Maple Shade municipal center today. She is a member of the Colonial Dames.

At the presentation today, I ran into Robert Fisher-Hughes, preservationist at two other wonderful houses in Pennsauken, Burrough-Dover and Griffith-Morgan. I decided to drop by one of them before I went home.

Hope you enjoy Dennis' link (sorry I didn't catch his last name either.)

Historians' Roundtable February 26, 2011

Yesterday, under sunny skies and a brisk breeze, forty people gathered to hear Joe Laufer and Paul Schopp, among others, describe upcoming events in the Burlington County History world. There were too many people to list, but many historical societies were represented as well as re-enacting groups, and directors of such interesting sites as the Burlington County Prison Museum, Roebling Museum, Smithville and Beverly.

Joe Laufer described upcoming events and projects including the Camp Dark Waters, Whitmer Stone project, the James Forten project, and the One-Room School project to give just a sample.

The library itself is gorgeous. Original hand-carved wooden trim interior, painted glass panels, fireplaces and handsome works of art warm every room. The staff is courteous, helpful and engaging as well as knowledgable. I enjoyed a tour of the building.

By the way, this year is the Civil War Sesquicentennial. On March 14, at Leisuretowne Historical Society, there will be a presentation by the County Historian at 7:30 on Burlco and the Civil War.
On Monday, April 4th, there will be a presentation at the Southampton Historical Society.
On May 23rd, there will be a New Views Bus Tour of Civil War Sites.

Among the wide array of aspects of historical interest represented at the Roundtable, there were re-enactors and I ran into an acquaintance of mine, Sue Hueskin, and her husband, Revolutionary War re-enactors and sutlers and I made an appointment to augment my growing and handsome wardrobe of colonial clothes. Sue has published two fascinating books that I dexribed in an earlier post, one called Had On and Took With Her, which describes the clothing worn and stolen by run-away slaves and servants, and another based on the found cookbook of 18th century Polly Burling (several copies of which I bought and gave as Christmas presents to my friends who cook.)

Also, while there, I took the opportunity to purchase the dvd The Black Doctor of the Pines, Dr. James Still and the Legacy of the Still Family. Regrettably, I had to miss the film debut at the Lenape School District, so now I'll be able to see the film, especially moving as this is Black History Month.

Next month, I'd like to do a short feature on the Civil War, since my family history has turned up a couple of Civil War veterans,
Robert Jaggard, of the Clementon Jaggard family, who survivied Andersonville, and William C. Garwood, a fifer with Company K, the 38th New Jersey Volunteers who served on the James River in Virginia.

To end a perfect day, a friend and I drove out to Waretown to Albert Hall where we listened to great music and appropriately ended the evening with a Civil War Music band, the name of which, I have, regrettabley, forgetton, but I'll look it up and let you know in my next post.

If you love history, I'd urge you to get out to the next Roundtable.
Later today, I plan to head over to Maple Shade to hear a presentation called "Studies in Stiles" at the Stiles Avenue Municipal Building from 2:00 to 4:00. I'll let you know what I find out!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Charles Boyer

Spent the evening reading Charles Boyer's books - Old Mills of Camden County, and Old Inns and Taverns in West Jersey. What a stalwart and passionate historian he must have been. Those books were fascinating. I found my family branches, Garwood and Cheesman all over the place, grist mills, saw mills, and taverns. I could picture Charles S. Boyer on his day trips to the various sites and then doing the research in thousands of deeds and wills, tracking back the places and the people along the waterways of West Jersey. Fortunately, I was able to get both books, second hand, on sale at the Camden County Historical Society on Euclid Avenue, behind Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

After lunch with a friend in Haddonfield, yesterday, I ambled on over to Camden County Historical Society Library to do more family history research. They had a heating problem and it was COLD in there, but I soon was lost in the files in their cabinets and in the books on the shelves. I was searching in Strykers for my Revolutionary War ancestors and found plenty of all three names listed there: Wright, Garwood and Cheesman.

This whole month, I've been doing Underground Railroad presentations in the school in the area as a part-time employee for Camden County Historical Society. This is my second year doing this work and it is gratifying to see the enthusiasm of the kids when they find out how many interesting places there are in their own towns to explore.

I'd like to know more about all of these things, follow the threads, the family history in this area, the Underground Railroad, the Inns and Taverns - the more I learn, the more I want to find out.

I've found it helpful to refer to a booklet that I bought at one of CCHS's spring book sales:
A Teacher's Guide to the WaterSheds of Camden County. The maps of the waterways make the relationship between taverns and mills more understandable. Every river had it's mills and every area of mills had taverns, the watermen needed a place to hang out while they waited for the change over of products being delivered and picked-up. They must have been lively places, those taverns, with the talk of politics and business, the buying and selling of livestock and land, corn and grains, the gossip and scandals.

One of these days, perhaps I'll even get lucky and find a Cheesman, Garwood or Wright through this blog. I hope so.

I'll be back to blog after my visit with the Historian's Roundtable in Mount Holly tomorrow morning. I'll be attending with Loretta Kelly, the main preservationist working on White Hill in Fieldsboro. Till then - stay warm and dry!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Upcoming EVENT!! Historians' Roundtable

Subject: Upcoming Event at Burlington County Library System Message: Burlington County Historians’ Roundtable
Mount Holly Library
Saturday, Feb. 26, 10 A.M. to 11:30 A.M.
or call 609-267-7111.
This is the first program in the Historians’ Roundtable, a project designed to bring community historians together for conversations in a public setting at local libraries. Burlington County historian Joe Laufer will be joined by his friend and fellow historian, Paul W. Schopp, and former county historian, Dave Kimball. The theme of the series will be Burlington County’s history agenda for 2011, an overview of the historians roundtable project, and a look at 2011 anniversaries and events and how we might best commemorate them. "It is fortuitous that we will be using two of the most historic libraries in the county for the first series of roundtables" Laufer reflected. The Mount Holly Library, originally known as The Library Company of Bridgetown, received its charter on June 11, 1765 from His Majesty George III of England, through William Franklin, then Governor-General of New Jersey. The library is the fifth oldest in the state. Preregistration requested.
Have a great day! Joe Laufer
9 Smith Court, Vincentown, NJ 08088
609-859-4042 FAX: 609-678-1845

Sunday, February 20, 2011

General Washington Visits Haddonfield

Under blustery winds and brilliant sun, on Saturday, February 19, 2011, the great, good General Washington visited the Indian King Tavern in Haddonfield, New Jersey. As you might expect, the Tavern was thronged with so many visitors to hear the general speak that half had to be kept down on the first floor touring in order to stay within the fire marshall's limits on guests in the Assembly Room on the second floor.
My favorite question asked of the general by a local boyscout was, "Did you ever shoot any of your own men." The general nimbly sidestepped this tricky question by talking about the confusion of battle and other officers who'd gotten caught in the crossfire.

The general wasn't the only dignitary at the Tavern, Governor Livingston was also there. The schedule for the events of 2011 was available and is posted to the left, while a photo of General Washington and Governor Livingston is at right.

Among the many momentous historical events that have taken place at the Indian King Tavern, it is where the New Jersey Assembly met to declare New Jersey no longer a British Colony, but an independent state. It is also where the New Jersey State Seal was adopted.

Taverns were far more important to town life than they are today. They were the places where people met to get the news from carters and watermen plying the dusty roads and rivers, and creeks of colonial New Jersey. Business was conducted at the taverns, real estate deals, sales of lumber, crops, and products were made, and celebrations were held there. Taverns were the heart of the colonial community life as churches were the soul.

The Indian King Tavern is a more deluxe and spacious version of the average colonial tavern. In New Jersey, they were larger than their Philadelphia cousins, which tended to be small, one room row house affairs. In New Jersey, several excellent taverns are still standing and can be visited, the Griffith Morgan House, the Burrough Dover House and Hancock House. Burrough Dover served the Big Timber Creek watermen, Griffith Morgan, the Pennsauken Creek traveler, and Hancock House, in Salem County, served the Alloway Creek vicinity. It was also the scene of a horrific massacre of sleeping local militia men by a Loyalist group under the command of the infamous Major Simcoe.

If you haven't visited the Indian King Tavern yet, take advantage of the posted open house dates and come on over. You won't be disappointed, although you are too late for General Washington's Birthday cake, which I can tell you was delicious!

Also of note, I found a book published in 1946 of Betty Cavanna's youth market novel Secret Passages which is set in colonial Haddonfield and features tunnels below buildings on Kings Highway that run to the Cooper River and which were built during the Revolution, but served later for Underground Railroad use. Historians will tell you this is untrue, history myth, not fact, and so I warn you with this disclaimer. Nonetheless, the old book is a great read and many people remember the Betty Cavanna books of their childhood, including Linda Hess, director of the Indian King Tavern, and Dorothy Stanaitis, a trustee of Rutgers, the State University, who nominated her for a Children's Literature Award.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

To Timbuctoo - Forgotten History

Saddlertown, Timbuctoo, Guineatown, Othello, Springtown, Snow Hill - what do these names mean to you? Once, they meant security, fellowship, a meal and a warm place to rest on the long journey from slavery to freedom for thousands of freedom seekers taking the Underground Railroad through New Jersey. They were following the North Star.

New Jersey was not only a hotbed of Revolutionary activity, it was also a crossroads of another kind - the trade in human beings on one side, and the efforts of courageous and moral people to end slavery and save those people they could by conducting them from house to house, church to church and school to school on their way to freedom.

Those were perilous times, nearly 200 years in the struggle for freedom for all people who had come to these shores in various states of bondage, whether religious, or economic.

In the forefront of the struggle, whether for freedom for slaves, or civil rights for women, were the Quakers, the Society of Friends. They first came here to escape religious persecution in England, Ireland and other parts of Europe, then that same spirit of "God within" drove them to work for the freedom of all.

The trail led from Delaware and Maryland up through Salem County, stop by stop, parallel to the Old Kings Highway, through swamps and forests, always Northward through safe houses to Haddonfield, Burlington, Bordentown and Perth Amboy and finally, New York, and sometimes, Canada.

More than 50,000 people found freedome through the Underground Railroad.

During February, I do a lot of work for the Camden County Historical Society giving presentations at schools on the Underground Railroad in New Jersey and especially Camden County. This issue divided families as did the question of independence. In the Cooper family, Marmaduke Cooper was "read out of meeting" for refusing to emancipate his slaves, and yest his brother Samuel Cooper, ran a stop on the Underground Railroad in what is now Camden.

A secondary route through New Jersey crossed the Delaware River, often by ferry. The Cooper family were the operators of ferries along the Delaware. Ships came in with human cargo to sell at what is now Wiggins Park, the site of a summer music venue. Ferries came in across the Delaware River with freedom seekers, hidden in many ways, who were making their way north.

In my next post, I'll put some photos of places you can still visit where this stream of freedom seekers found support across our state, and I'll post the names and stories of some of these people.

Did you know that Harriet Tubman, arguably the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad, worked in Cape May as a hotel restaurant cook to earn the money for her dangerous journeys to the fields and slave quarters of plantations in the south?

One of the things I enjoy about holidays dedicated to forgotten history such as African American History Month, February, and Women's History Month, March, is that it gives us a push and opportunity to revisit the stories of the people and places so often forgotten in our state's rich heritage.