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, September 26, 2012

The past lives in the present - Sounds!

Hello fellow history buffs; usually I talk about places in this blog, but today, I'd like to talk about sounds and technology of the past.  I've often mentioned events where such well-known musical groups as the Piney Hollow Drifters can be heard playing interesting music from the past, and also Albert Hall, one of my favorite places to hear music from the recent past (old rock and roll) as well as the distant past, as in the band that plays Civil War music, but in this blog, I'd want to talk about a project my daughter, Lavinia Jones Wright, has been working on for over a year with a friend and  film-maker Alex Steyermark.

I'm a believer that sometimes old technology makes more sense and offers more freedom than newer replacement technology.  I have an ipod that I never fill with new music because I can't remember how it works and there are too many steps.  That wasn't the case with cassette players - easy to figure out and easy to use, lots of people made a swapped mix tapes, but so many old tehcnologies now defunct due to not being able to get new supplies.

The Presto, is an example of an old technology providing an immediate product from an immediate experience.  Lavinia and Alex record directly from a performance onto an acetate record - no over-dubs or extraneous manipulation, just pure simple live music to record.

The Presto is an 80 year old device that was used by famous music collector and tireless saviour of our musical cultural history, Alan Lomax.  He could go straight into the fields, the chapels, the halls and record direct from the event to the acetate record back in the 1930's.

Today, Lavinia and Alex use the Presto to record contemporary musicians with deep roots in our musical past and while they record, (lavinia takes care of the Presto) they film (Alex does the camera work).

Next they will take their footage and turn it into a documentary film. 

To read more about this project check out this link to a column at the Village Voice

And if you want to help them make the movie, go to their home page. 


They are using a grass-roots fund raising process called 'kickstarter' rather than relying on big money backers. so go to the kickstarter link on the right hand side of their home-page and you can help make this movie.  I did it a few days ago and it is simple, especially if you have an Amazon account.  Thanks!  Jo Ann

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sunday, 9/16/12 at Red Bank Battlefield

If you are looking for something to do on Sunday afternoon, stop by and visit us at Whitall House, Red Bank Battlefield for Heritage Day -  genealogy is special theme for the day.  We will have people who belong to the DAR, the SAR, and if those acronyms aren't familiar to you, they are the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of the American Revolution, both of which require serious family history research to gain membership.
We will also have Bonny Beth Elwell, President of the Salem Co. Genealogical Society and we will be giving tours of the house as usual.  Plus don't forget it is a lovely place to walk along the Delaware River and enjoy the breeze and maybe have a picnic.  Hope to see you there!

Laurel Hill Cemetery

If you are wondering why I'm posting about a Philadelphia cemetery, it is because a figure of some note in Revolutionary War history in New Jersey is buried here:

Yesterday, Friday, September 14th, A group of Whitall Volunteers that included master gardeners, docents, and administrative staff, visited Laurel Hill Cemetery.  Established in 1836, it is a beautiful setting on the Schuylkill River and is the final resting place of both the ordinary folk of Phildadelphia and those made famous by circumstances or careers.  We took the “Military Tour” and I would recommend that anyone visiting for the first time take a tour.  I wandered around the cemetery with a distant cousin once and we had particular graves we were hunting for, members of the family tree.  But to really enjoy the cemetery, let a guide point out the architecturally notable, or human interest sites.  The guide we had was both fascinated and knowledgeable.  He had researched the cemetery for years before becoming a guide and clearly enjoyed talking about the often unusual and sometimes tragic figures who have come to spend eternity at Laurel Hill.

We visited our special interest, General Mercer, for whom the fort at Red Bank Battlefield was named, and we visited General Meade of Civil War fame.  General Meade, a humble man, had a humble grave stone to match.
One of my favorites was the story of a woman who was married to a chemist, then widowed with small children to support.  She taught herself chemistry by immersing herself in the bottles and books of her husband’s lab, and developed a set of flares bought by the navy.  Through various financial manipulations, it ended that Martha Costen got nothing for her invention until she sued the US Navy.  She was then awarded a settlement fee, which I sincerely hope allowed her to live her old age in some comfort. 

It was a beautiful day, warm but breezy and my favorite view was from a bluff above the Schuylkill  where I saw single scullers gliding down the river, reminding me of Thomas Eakins unforgettable painting of Max Schmidt, the single sculler.  He has another painting of shad fishermen on the shore at Gloucester City.

Also down below the bluff overlooking the river, is the grave of Harry Kalas, the famous athletics announcer beloved by many.  His grave sports a marble microphone and stadium chairs, so you can sit and visit.

Not far from Laurel Hill is a nice place to eat called The Epicure Cafe' and I would recommend it for lunch after your hike around the cemetery.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mystery Object Identified

The mystery object has been identified by three respondents:  John Westerdale figured it out by identifying its component parts.  John is a distant cousin of mine whom I met via internet genealogy.  The second correct guess came from Leigh Ingersol who is docent at the Prehistory Museum in Greenwich, NJ, one of my favorite places to visit.  He is very well informed on local history.  The third good guess came from Dana Jorgensen via Ghosttowns of Southern New Jersey digest, a favorite internet site of mine also.  Barry Caselli has been keeping this fascinating digest going for some years.  I would strongly recommend that anyone interested in the piney woods sign up with this site and engage in the ongoing discussions on interesting places, people and mysteries of the NJ Pinebarrens. 

The mystery object is a spike cutting machine used by the Cumberland Nail and Iron company in Bridgeton and the machine was placed and maintained in honor of the workers in that industry.  I always think of the workers when I visit any of the old mills, the oyster sheds, the marinas and the farms of South Jersey.  Iron is especially interesting to me, the daughter of an ironworker. 

It was especially interesting to visit the blacksmith shop at Allaire, and the carpentry shop.  When I look at the Meerwald and the skeleton of the old Cashier, down at Bivalve, the Bayshore Discovery Project site, I can't help but think of the human hands and the tools that fashioned the wood and put it together in such marvelous ways.  Even the oyster baskets and Noah Newcomb, who went into the woods, cut the saplings prepared the strips of wood for weaving and supplied the hundreds of baskets used for that work - everything made by hand, everything personal and local.

One of my favorite things to do in life is to wander around the back roads and stumble on interesting places and things and then figure out what happened there.  I would strongly recommend anyone who is interested to visit Bridgeton's local park, and, in on October 7th, the festival held at the New Sweden Farmstead.  There is a web site for info on this place:
and for more info on the spike splitter:


 Hope you had a safe, peaceful, restful Labor Day - a good day to think of all the workers who have made everything we use.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mystery Object

Half a dozen people have made good guesses on the mystery object but only one person has come close.  I sent clues to several people:
1.  railroading history
2.  mill history
3.  local inventors
And I've posted a photo of the machine in operation in the late 1800's on the left.
I did some research on my own.  It turns out to be relatively hard to find this object on the internet even if you know thepurpose, inventor, location and history of it.  I found four good web resources.  Next week I'll post the answer and the resource links.  Good guessing!  Happy Labor Day!  This is my Labor Day celebration post, Jo Ann - you can reach me at wrightj45@yahoo.com

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Can you guess what this is?

Here is a puzzle for you:  I would be very surprised if anyone could figure out what the object in the photo to the left is.  I can give you one clue.  I was getting off the beaten path on Blue Moon Friday and ended up finding a very nice park in Bridgeton.  I saw this object and tried to figure out what it was before I discovered the identification plaque.  My guess was that it was some kind of device for raising and lowering or moving a bridge (this being Bridgeton and all.)  I was wrong.  You can respond via e-mail if you like
wrightj45@yahoo.com.  Some people have found making comments on blogspot confusing.

While in Bridgeton, I also 'discovered' the "Old Swedish Farmstead" which was closed.  Later research revealed that it IS closed but will re-open for a day on October 7th for a fund-raising and festival. 

There were many other interesting things in the park, including a "Dame School" and as you who have visited my blog know, I am particularly partial to one-room schools.  That brings me to another fortunate discovery much earlier on the same Blue Moon Friday.  I was at Shellpile taking a photo of another school, the South Port Norris one-room school when an very nice gentleman offered to open the door and allow me to see the inside.  (see the photo to the right) I've been to that school many times over the years but never had I been inside.  It is in wonderful condition, beautiful floors, good chalkboards, and a fine collection of vintage shucked oyster cans on shelves above the  chalkboards.  The back wall was all windows facing out onto the Maurice River.  What a lucky day for me and what a wonderful school room for the children and teachers who once spent their days in it.

Last note for this blog entry.  Today, two of my friends and I visited Allaire State Park.  They were having a wine and jazz festival, but as many of you may know, I don't drink, nonetheless, I wouldn't miss a chance to visit Allaire.  I enjoyed the blacksmith's shop, the carpenter's shop, where he gave us a short talk on wagon wheels and showed us an old wheel 'jack' and a perennial favorite of mine, the general store.  There were hundreds of people there - what a turn out!  It was a delightful day, cool and overcast (no blazing sun or debilitating heat) and we all seemed to be enjoying our visit to this beautiful park and restored company town.