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.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Timber Creek

It is no doubt obvious to most, but nonetheless a reason for wonderment, at least to me, how experience and knowledge branch out, intersect, diverge, then cross over one another again.
Every day, I walk for 2 hours at Timber Creek to enjoy the dog park and the dog pond and the ridge bridle path beside the Timber Creek. 
Long ago, in doing family history research, I had discovered that on my mother's side, we were descended from early settlers in the Blackwood/Turnersville area.  My mother's great-grandfather, William C. Garwood, whose ancestors were from the Haddonfield area, had married the only surviving daughter of Major Peter T. Cheesman, Rachel Ann Cheesman.
At Gloucester County Historical Society, I had found a fascinating book of research on the Cheesman line with a page on the inheritance made to Rachel Ann Cheesman's children because she was dead at the time of the bequest.  The poor young woman had two children, Sarah, and Joseph, and then died in her twenties.  Additional research showed that Joseph had also died young in an accident involving his wagon, leaving his and Patience Ann (Watson) Garwood's son, William C. Garwood to be raised by his grandfather of the same name. 
The grandfather, William C. Garwood, born in Haddonfield, had been a teacher at the Turner school in Turnersville, and also a storekeeper.  He had also farmed and by the time he was raising his grandson, he was back to farming. 
The Cheesman family had at least three mills on the Timber Creek, a sawmill, and two gristmills, during the 1800's, the heyday of mills. 
I just learned how the clearing of the dense, original, native forest, to make farm land went hand in hand with the creating of sawmills and the making of profit from the wood.  So those energetic and probably somewhat desperate first settlers, had to set about with their hand tools, cutting the trees to make their homes, and clearing the land to make the farms, then selling the wood to other markets for money to live on while the farms were becoming profitable.  So, naturally, next came the creating of mills to garner better profit from cut and sawn board-wood and wood products such as shingles, rather than from rough logs, They also needed the mills to refine the grain crops into flour and also for sale of surplus in other markets - specifically, Philadelphia.
I learned a lot about the early mills on the Timber Creek, and the shipbuilding and other industries in that area from an excellent paper written by Laura Iannacone, presented to the Gloucester County Historical Society in 1991.  I found it on Thursday when I was doing my volunteer work there and was idly thumbing through the Timber Creek file in the cabinets.
It was so interesting, it propelled me out to my car today to go to the Camden County Historical Society to buy Charles Boyer's book on the Old Mills of Camden County.  In Boyer's book there is actually a photo of a Cheesman Mill.
I'm guessing the mill was located down Lower Landing Rd. somewhere.  I haven't figured out the exact location yet, though the information is there for the solving of the mystery.
Although I have read a lot and attended many lectures on the Revolution, it is increasingly brought home to me how the pressure of the English merchants on the politicians in England to keep colonists from expanding their industry and selling their products, such as cloth, for example, made the groundswell that eventuated in war. 
These laws directly impacted these struggling settlers who were literally working their fingers to the bone to make products and create profit from their industry. 
The paper by Ms. Iannacone is entitled THE ORIGIN OF COMMERCE ON TIMBER CREEK.  It is well worth the visiting GCHSL to read it.
It is the second time I have been driven to the files to read up on Colonial industry and found excellent works of research by generous and hard-working researchers.  The last time, it was the making of bricks that drew my attention, and on that subject, My Iannacone's paper mentions a brick making concern along the Timber Creek as well.  And there was shipbuilding, the Brewers' shipyard.  In fact, an interesting item was that Brewer contributed the stone quarried from Ridley Creek, and brought up the Timber Creek by his boats, that was used in St. John's Episcopal Chruch on Chews Landing Rd..  The value would have been equal to a $5000. donation in value of that period.
While at the Trenton State Archives these past two weeks, I have been researching Patience Ann Watson and Rachel Ann Cheesman, after all, it is Mother's Day, and these women are my ancestors and the connection to the Big Timber Creek area. 
Often, when I was still working as a teacher in the Gloucester City schools, I would drive, on lunch and prep break, to various places along the Delaware River and one of the spots was the place where the Timber Creek comes out of the Delaware.  I was interested in where the original Fort Nassau might have been located.  I never dreamed, at that time, that the Timber Creek flowed alongside the hsitory of my mother's side of the family.
Family history and local history enrich one another like marl on farm fields.
Happy Mother's Day - give a  kindly thought to your female ancestors this weekend!  Jo Ann


  1. I'm a local to sicklerville area and found this really interesting to see how the names of roads around here are based on the early settlers! My friend and I do photography I'd be interested in taking photos of various sites you blog about or having you point me in the right direction of good spots. Find me on Facebook. Blaze boettcher

    1. Hi Blaze, sorry I haven't checked my comments for awhile. I see you are a Tumber Creek person. I hike there every day with my dog. I LOVE that place -especially this season. Thanks for commenting and I'm glad you enjoy the blog!
      Jo Ann