Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ghost town of Washington

Located at the crossroads of at least 5 major thorofares of the 1800s,Washington was once a thriving settlement.Ruins remain of the tavern/hotel.Old maps and records show Washington as an important center for the area.The Tuckerton stage road passed through.During the Revolution,recruiting was centered on the tavern.Hence,the name Washington was placed on the village to honor the General.The pine barrens iron forges supplied cannon balls for the Continental Army.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ghost towns in the pines

There are many old settlements that have been completely swallowed by the woods in the pine barrens.The sand roads themselves are being reclaimed by the woods.Topograghic maps made in 1957 show dwellings that are at best an old foundation today.The high point of industry and population was approx. 1850.Any structure made of wood is gone by the ravages of time or forest fire.Masonry structures are crumbled ghosts.Hiking through the 100,ooo acres of state forest will come upon an old camp or scattered vestiges of long ago human activity.The woods are all-conquering.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Jersey Devil sightings

The people who live in the pine barrens say there is something to the legend of some creatures not natural.Some say shrieks not made by any known animal are often heard deep in the woods.Others say they have seen a large upright creature with large bat-like wings.The debate will continue,but those who have seen or heard it have no doubt.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Underground Railroad

Look at a map of the eastern U.S. and you will see southern New Jersey is south of the Mason-Dixon Line.In the years before the Civil War,Pennsylvania and N.J. were Free states.But they were also Border states,as Maryland and Delaware were slave states.Runaway slaves making their way north were often caught by paid bounty hunters just over the Pennsylvania-Maryland border.The pine barrens of southern N.J. were so isolated and little-populated as to offer a safer way to journey towards New York City and New England where abolitionist feeling was strongest.

Legends of the Pines

Back in the early 1800s,smugglers used the Mullica River estuary to offload cargo both to avoid tariff duties on imports and to unload pirated contraband.The New Jersey coastline was ideally located south of New York Harbor,Long Island,New England ports,Canadian ports,and vessels coasting south.Philadelphia commerce ships coasted north.The smugglers had the interior of the tidal N.J. rivers to themselves.Devoid of all but tiny settlements,the pine barrens were a place to both hide goods and secretly transport by wagons north to New York or west to Philadelphia.Legend has it of smugglers gold buried and hopelessly lost in the mostly ,to this day ,trackless woods.A spirit of hostility and mistrust of outsiders pervades the area today.

Monday, June 23, 2008

American Revolution in the Pine Barrens

During the Revolution,Hessian troops hired by the British,whose King was of German heritage,often deserted or were captured by the Patriots.Speaking German,they could not assimilate into a mostly English speaking population.Deserters found the pine barrens an area close to the main theaters of campaigns (New York,New Jersey,Eastern Pennsylvania).A live and let live attitude prevailed in the pines,and the Hessians went there in large numbers.Captives released after the war did not relish an arduous return sea voyage across the Atlantic only to return to a feudal society in Germany.To stay in the infant republic was more to their liking,for freedom was a new thing in the world.In the pine barrens they found a life and lent their German heritage that is still to be found in surnames of the pine barrens.

The Pine Barrens in The Revolution

Back during the American Revolution,the men living in the pines were an independent minded group.When recruiting sergeants from both British and Continental Congress armies made their rounds,they were often met with apathy.One story has it a Scots sergeant was drinking in one of the many taverns throughout the pines and made comments about why there were so many able-bodied men and stout lads not rallying to support King George.One local man,Ezra Walker,said to the Scotsman "Damn all you King's Men,and as for King George,a fart for him that I will give to thee."At that,Walker lifted his coat and passed wind.The men in the tavern erupted in laughter as the red-faced sergeant stomped out amidst hoots and insults.