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, October 17, 2012

Washington's Headquarters, Morristown National Historical Park

The winter of 1979 to 1980 was the coldest in recorded history in New Jersey.  That winter, 10,000 soldiers, poorly clothed and starving, cut down thousands of trees in Jockey Hollow to build log cabins to survive that brutal winter of deep snow and severe cold. 
In the first week of October, a group of volunteer docents from the Whitall House, National Park, NJ drove the two plus hours up to visit Washington's Headquarters in the Ford Mansion and to see the Wick House and Jockey Hollow where the soldiers struggled to survive while General Washington strove to work out his military strategy and to feed and clothe his dwindling army.  I thought the folded portable camp cot was interesting.  I'd never seen one before although I have seen them unfolded and set up at various re-enactments.
You have to wonder, if you were a man in that army at that time, would you have stayed, or would you have headed back home to check on your wife and children, the family farm, and to get something to eat and simply get warm again.  What a moral struggle for those men.  Twelve men shared each of the one thousand cabins built on the land adjoining the Wick Farm.
General Washington was invited by the widow Ford to share her mansion.  She and her children occupied a few rooms while the General and his entourage of officers and servants occupied the rest of the house.  There would have been over 80 people sharing the house and even though it is a very large place, it must have been crowded and noisy.  The Wick House, a charming New England style farm house was shared by the Wick family with General St. Clair.
The army spent two winters in the Morristown area, 1777 and 1779-80.  New Jersey has a treasure trove of sites where the hundreds of battles, skirmishes, and other crucial events of the Revolution took place.  
The Ford mansion had been closed for repairs but is now open for visitors and I hope you will find a day to visit this important place in our nation's history.
We had a wonderful time there and October is a perfect season for visiting our parks.  We ate lunch in nearby Morristown at a quaint Irish Pub where I enjoyed a delicious butternut squash soup and cranberry bread.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I could have posted a cemetery picture for Halloween, but how often do you come across an old fashioned coffin?  I saw this one at Greenwich at the Artisan's Faire.  It was a delight to see such beautiful hand-made bowls and pottery and crafts, but my favorite things to visit are always the Red Barn tool museum (home of the coffin you see to the left) and the Swedish granary.   The Swedish Granary is an original log building from the earliest years of the settlement of Southern NJ.  Log structures speak to me.  I've visted many of the ones you can still find in South Jersey, but sadly, this weekend I missed my chance to visit the Swedish Farmstead in Bridgeton.  I was otherwise engaged and I'm not even sure if they held their fund-raiser on Oct. 6.  I would have loved to have gone there if I could however.

October is one of those months when so many things happen that they have to overlap.  Cranberry festivals, harvest festivals, Colonial fairs, and my own personal favorite is our James and Ann Whitall House, Re-enactment of the Battle of Red Bank Oct. 21st, National Park, NJ.  Hope you can come and join us.

On Monday, I did a short volunteer afternoon offering some members of the Daughters of the American Revolution a tour of the oyster sheds and the wharves of the Bayshore Discovery Project.  the Museum Director, Rachel D. is improvising to offer people the best tour possible under the circumstances which are that our musseum is temporarily closed for wood treatment.  Nonetheless, this is such a rich site that there is always plenty to see.  Our gallery is open and the oral history section.  I'll be there again this Friday for 2nd Friday which begins around 5:00.  But even before that, I'll be there Wednesday for our Museum Club.  We discuss history books we've read and we are given tours and take field trips.  Our recent tour included an introduction to the Wetlands Tour given by Emily Foote, and a recent field trip included the Rutgers' University Marine Biology Lab.  Being a volunteer can give you back as much or even more than you give to the project. 

This week, the volunteers of Whitall House, Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ. will visit Morristown, the winter headquarters of Washington and the Continental Army for three winters.  I'll have plenty to tell you about after that trip, I'm sure!

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Even though my painting class (at Perkins Art Center, Moorestown) has nothing (as yet) to do with SJ History, one of the members had done a splendid painting of Kirby's Mill and mills and windmills have always held a fascination for me.
Today, reading the latest issue of Discover Magazine, an ariicle on energy sources, it occured to me that our gyms are great generators of wasted energy.
If we could collect the energy in everyone pedaling stationary bikes, and running on the treadmill all day (like the old horses who powered the ferries across the river or even some mills) maybe they could generate enough energy to run the entire gym!  Any ideas?  Jo Ann
ps.  My daughter's fundraiser was successful. Soon, I'll update with a more complete blog on upcoming events and a few of the places I've visted lately including a one room school.  Next week, the volunteers' History Readers' Club of Whitall House, Red Bank Battlefield, will journey to Morristown to the winter encampment site of the Continental Army.  Also, next week, is 2nd Friday at Bivalve, the Bayshore Discovery Project.  If you've never gone it is a really fun event - it begins about 5:00 p.m. and there is a lecture, music, an art exhibit and the cafe' is open for those who enjoy clams and oysters (other things are available. 
Other events are posted at the ghosttowns site.  I subscribe to their digest and recommend them to anyone interested in Pinelands history. It is a great resource!
The most recent post mentioned the Batsto fest on the 21st which is also the date of the Battle of Red Bank Re-enactment at Whitall House, Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ - our biggest event of the year.  Hope to see you there!