Pinelands Connections X

Finding Grandfather’s Final Resting Place

When I was a young adult Mom told me Grandfather Wills was buried in the Bronx. James Edward Wills died when my father was very young and they were poor, living in tenements on the upper West Side of Manhattan April 1916.. Looking through Dad’s papers after both he and Mom were gone, I found the grave receipt: “Saint Raymond’s Cemetery, Westchester, New York.” James Wills, born April 1877, the youngest of six children of George Wills and Margaret McCambridge, who were 43 and 38, their place of residence two years later cited in the 1880 Federal Census as Shamong, New Jersey. Today, Shamong Township is part of New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve. Atsion, the Iron Furnace town where James’ Grandmother Ann McCambridge (nee Milley) worked as a cook, is in Shamong Township.

Finding and researching the grave receipt is what began my adventures in genealogy. What was, in 1916, Westchester is now the Schuylerville section of Bronx county, a borough of New York City. Saint Raymond’s Parish, still going strong, acquired more consecrated land for burials with now an “Old” and “New” cemetery separated by the confluence of interstates 95, 295, 678 including the approaches to the Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges, the superstructures of which are visible from the “Old” cemetery.

Having sorted out these details, I approach my cousin Mary at the October 2021 engagement party of my niece where we made arrangements to find Grandfather Wills’ final resting place the following month. On Wednesday, November 10th, Mary’s husband Peter drove us over the George Washington Bridge, through the incredible traffic of the Cross Bronx Expressway (a funny name for this moving parking lot, bumper to bumper trucks), to Schuylerville. We navigated to the “Google Maps” push pin I placed next to Section 7. Google Maps even has street views of the cemetery, in retrospect the view of Section 7, Ranges 35 – 51, includes grandfather’s grave.

We worked together, walking the rows, reading headstone inscriptions, on the expectation of finding Grandfather’s name without success. Peter and I took to counting the rows to find number 41, with success. With less success counting the headstones and spaces (unmarked graves) to find number 82. At the same time, Pam and Mary searched. I used the “Find A Grave” website to look up headstones in section 7, row 41 and found the only location provided was “Section 7.” I also called the cemetery office where they were most helpful. There is NO record of James Wills.

Then, Pam noticed some headstones inscribed with the exact location, Section, Range (Row) and Grave.  This was the key.  Here are the headstone references that pinpointed Grandfather Wills’ final, unmarked, resting place.  

In the following photograph I am on the right with wife Pam. Cousin Mary next to her husband Peter on the right, Mary is standing on grave 82.

James Edward Wills unmarked grave, Section 7, Range (Row) 41, Grave 82, Old Saint Raymond’s Cemetery, Balcom Avenue, Schuylerville, Bronx, New York. Wednesday, November 10, 2021. Here we are facing south / southeast into Section 7, James Wills’ unmarked grave is to the left and just behind Nevins headstone (Row 40, Grave 83).

Pinelands Connections IX

What is a Collier?

Here my exploration of Wharton State Forest, Pitch Pine Forest III, branches to the genealogical exploration of this landscape as my sister, Theresa and I, proceed along the humped, pitted sand road Goodwater through the wilderness to emerge in Batsto Village, a recreation of lives that touched my great great grandparents, James and Ann McCambridge among them. Ann saved money earned as a cook for Atsion furnace, the historical site at the start of the road to Quaker Bridge. Her husband James worked as a collier, supplying fuel for the iron furnaces at Atsion and Batsto, among other enterprises. During our Batsto Village visit we found these reproductions of charcoal clamps.

Since earliest times charcoal was used for cooking and heating. It was the best heat source for metal furnaces. Entire deforested regions are attributed to the demand for charcoal. Thomas Jefferson experimented with charcoal clamp designs, modifying air flow from the base.

James and Ann lived on the land that provided a livelihood, enough to support themselves and nine (9) children. From September 7, 1850 is the US Census for this family of my second great grandparents. Great Grandmother Margaret was 11 years. James is listed as a Collier, the value of Real Estate owned was 6,000 (a fortune for the time).

Like is wife Ann, James had a savings account…..

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pitch Pine Forest III

Road to Batsto

Leaving the jeep on the west side of Quaker Bridge, I walked over to inspect the structure and poke around the other side, carrying a Canon 5d Mark IV (camera body) / EF 70 – 300 mm f/4-5.6 L IMS (lens), shooting as I walked. My sister Theresa and Maxie, a little white dog, lagged behind taking in the surroundings. Here they are, in shadow, on the west side.

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My work on the east side was shared in previous posts, “Pinelands Connections VIII,” I and II “Around Quaker Bridge,” and I and II “Pitch Pine Forest,” work interrupted by the sound of an approaching engine, a Humvee came into view. I waved my arm up and down, a sign to slow down, pulling alongside the driver looked up with dead eyes, no element of recognition of a fellow human, as I explained my sister was on the bridge. A stink of unfamiliar hydrocarbons, diesel fuel?, rose through the heat as they pulled forward with no acknowledgement of my request. Thankfully they slowed down as Theresa, Max in her arms, said, “hi.”

Multiple roads converge from all directions on Quaker Bridge, using GoogleMaps (surprising these unimproved, “jeep” sand roads were listed) I chose Goodwater Road as a route to Batsto Village, on the southern side of Wharton State Forest. The 6.1 mile road follows the east bank of Mullica River at a distance, a very rough passage through ancient Pitch Pine forest. Here are photographs of the enormous capacity of the pines to regrow after fire. Note a thick seeding growth among the mature pine trunks, lower portions fire blackened.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pitch Pine Forest II

Multiple Lives

These photographs were taken deep in the wilderness of Wharton State forest, near where Quaker Bridge spans the Mullica River.

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The pitch pine is irregular in shape, in these forests a mature tree typically lives through multiple cycles of fire and regrowth.

Burnt pitch pines often form stunted, twisted trees with multiple trunks as a result of resprouting. Bonsai artists exploit this characteristic for their creations.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pitch Pine Forest I

The Pinus Genera

The 115,000 acres of Wharton State Forest are predomenantly Pitch Pine, scientific name Pinus Rigida, and AKA Black Pine and Hard Pine. Climb the fire tower of Apple Pie Hill, in all directions will be a sea of these trees interspersed here and there with occasional oaks. Cedars mark water courses. These photographs, unless otherwise identified, were taken deep in the forest, near where Quaker Bridge spans the Mullica River.

A mature Pitch Pine has bark of large, thick, irregular plates, adapted to survive forest first, similar to another member of the Pinus genera, the Ponderosa Pine.

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Open-growth trees begin bearing cones in as little as three years, with shade-inhabiting pines taking a few years longer. The cones are 4–7 cm (1+1⁄2–2+3⁄4 in) long and oval, with prickles on the scales. Cones take two years to mature. Seed dispersal occurs over the fall and winter.

Unlike the another member of genus Pinus, the Pinyon Pine, the seeds released by Pitch Pine cones are not sought out for human consumption.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Around Quaker Bridge III

Poking Around

Multiple trails lead from where Quaker Bridge crosses the Mullica River. These are from a handheld Canon 5d Mark IV with the Canon EF 70 – 300 mm f/4.0-5.6 ISM lens.

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Around Quaker Bridge II

Poking Around

Multiple trails lead from where Quaker Bridge crosses the Mullica River. These are from a handheld Canon 5d Mark IV with the Canon EF 70 – 300 mm f/4.0-5.6 ISM lens.

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Around Quaker Bridge I

Poking Around

Multiple trails lead from where Quaker Bridge crosses the Mullica River. These are from a handheld Canon 5d Mark IV with the Canon EF 70 – 300 mm f/4.0-5.6 ISM lens.

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Cedar Water

“Tree of Life”

In my last Pinelands post, “cedar water” was featured. This post is a exploration of the “cedar” in “cedar water.”

White Cedar, also known as Swamp Cedar, is a water loving tree seen here to the right of Quaker Brider, Wharton State Forest.

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“Cedar water” is the dark, tea like, flow of Pinelands rivers colored by vegetable tannins.

White Cedar thrives along Pinelands waterways, lending color to the “cedar water.” 18th Century sea captains favored cedar water for long voyages, famours for staying fresh far longer than other waters. Also known as arborvite, “tree of life”, for the medicinal properties of the bark, well known throughout Native America.

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Mullica River from Quaker Bridge

A rare Pinelands maple tree over the cedar water of Mullica River looking upstream from Quaker Bridge on a warm August morning 2021.

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved