Pinelands Connections V

Saint Mary’s of the Pines (St. Mary of the Assumption)

……continued from “Pinelands Connections I.

The Pinelands chemical reactions / iron furnaces of Part III are elements of the warp and weft of our family’s story. Saint Mary Assumption (“Saint Mary’s of the Pine”) Roman Catholic church was another. Family members comprise 60% (60 percent) of the burials, comprising these family names: Dellett (see Pinelands Connections I), Milley, Wills, McCambridge.

“Most of the settlers in the early 19th century were either Presbyterian or of a denomination that resulted from the Protestant Reformation. The Catholics that lived in this area, many of whom worked at Batsto, were at the time practicing their religion by gathering privately in their tiny homes. They had no money with which to buy land or build a church and were only able to have a mass in their homes if a priest from the Philadelphia area came to visit Pleasant Mills, which was not often. Set within the background of religious intolerance, the creation of St. Mary’s of the Assumption was due to one man’s compassion for his workers. That man was Jesse Richards of Batsto, a Protestant. In 1826 he donated a plot of land to his Catholic workers so that they could build their own church. It took a year for them to collect enough money to build St. Mary’s and supposedly Jesse Richards donated some money for the church, as well. The parishioners worked together with a young reverend, Edward R. Mayne, and erected St. Mary’s of the Assumption, which became known as St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in the Pines in Pleasant Mills and eventually St. Mary’s in the Pines. Father Mayne, a convert from Protestantism, became its original priest. The church was dedicated August 15, 1830. Bishop Francis Kendrick of Philadelphia performed the dedication. It was the first Catholic Church south of Trenton and probably the third in the state of New Jersey. Upon Jesse Richards’ death in 1854, Batsto’s industries, especially the glass factories, went into a decline. Many of the workers went elsewhere for employment which caused a decline in the number of St. Mary’s parishioners. The church closed from approximately 1860 through 1865 and after that only sporadic services were held because the area’s population was decreasing. Eventually, in 1867, the glass factories at Batsto were shut down permanently, which further affected St. Mary’s parishioners. In 1885, the Hammonton Parish was formed and St. Mary’s became part of that parish. St. Mary’s in the Pines remained empty until it was destroyed by forest fire around 1900.” From the sign “St. Mary’s Cemetery, St. Mary’s in the Pines”).

The historical sign includes an offer in support of the preservation and restoration of the cemetery and church site. An original water color (pictured above) by Carol Freas, 11×14 color print and mat, Price $40.00. For information, write or call Carol Freas, 39 John Street, Tuckerton, NJ 08087 (609) 294-0218

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pinelands Connections IV

Bog Iron

This series starts here “Pinelands Connections I.

“There was also iron in the Pinelands. Most of the now vanished towns in the pines were iron towns — small, precursive Pittsburghs, in every part of the forest, where fine grade of pig and wrought iron were made. One of the geological curiosities of the Pine Barrens is that rainwater soaking down through fallen pine needles and other forest litter takes on enough acid to leach out iron from the sands below; the dissolved iron moves underground into the streams, where it oxidizes on contact with the air and forms a patch of scum on the surface that is partly rust brown and partly iridescent blue, and resembles an oil slick left by an outboard motor; drifting over to the edges of the streams, this iron-oxide film permeates the sands and gravels of the riverbanks and cements them together into a sandstone composite that has been known for centuries as bog iron. From it ironmasters of the Pine Barrens made cannonballs by the thousand and then them by wagon over the sand roads and on to the Continental Army at Valley Forge and elsewhere.” From The New Yorker magazine, November 26, 1967, “Profiles, The Pine Barrens I” creative non-fiction by the great John McPhee.

“In 1770, a Philadelphian named John Cox was a member of the first Committee of Correspondence and a member of the Council of Safety. With the coming of war, he became a lieutenant colonel and, eventually, assistant quartermaster general of the Continental Armies. His ironworks at Batsto flourished on war contracts from the Quartermaster Corps. In 1778, Cox sold Batsto for forth thousand pounds — a capital gain of about sixteen hundred per cent……Batsto was to reach its most developed stage in the eighteen-thirties and eighteen-forties, when the town had a population of eight hundred. Batsto is one of the few iron towns that remain in the Pine Barrens. …..The state has restored its water-powered sawmill, and sawyers cut white cedar there and make cedar shingles for use in restoration of Batsto buildings.” From The New Yorker magazine, November 26, 1967, “Profiles, The Pine Barrens I” by John McPhee.

Competition from more productive sources of iron and the coal-fired Pittsburg furnaces brought down the Pinelands iron works at their height. By 1848 the furnace at Batsto was cold.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pinelands Connections III

A presence today

“Driving along a sand road between the vanished town of Calico and the vanished town of Munion Field, we passed a house that was so many miles from any other house that Fred said, with evident admiration, “He got well in away from everybody, didn’t he?” Fred made a similar remark every time we passed a house or cabin that was particularly deep and alone in the weeds. Getting — or staying — way from everybody is a criterion that apparently continues to mean as much to many of the people in the pines as it did to some of their forebears who first settled there. Tories, for example, fled into the pines during the American Revolution. People with names like Britton and Brower, loyal to the King, and sometimes covered with feather and tar, left that homes in Colonial cities and took refuge in the Pine Barrens. Also during the eighteenth century, when the farmlands of western New Jersey were heavily populated with Quakers, the Pine Barrens served as a catch basin for Quakers who could not live up to the standards of the Quaker code….” From The New Yorker magazine, November 26, 1967, “Profiles, The Pine Barrens I” creative non-fiction by the great John McPhee.

……continued from “Pinelands Connections II.

Vanished like the towns of Washington, Calico, Munion Field are the reasons that led to the union of the Quaker George Wills and Mary Dellett, daughter of James, emigrant from Northern Ireland. It is reasonable to surmise George, separated from the Quakers, sought refuge in the pines as a young man.

We can tease grief and loss from the records and landscape, When Joseph C. Clark visited George and Mary on August 24, 1850 to record the persons living there, if the U.S. Constitution prescribed the recording of the grief he experienced, the record would show Charles missing from the list. Follow the sand path, “Eagle Road” three miles north where he lays in the ground of the family cemetery, having passed just days before the 1850 census was taken.

The loss of a cherished presence can be inferred from the use of precious marble to mark his resting place. The heavy pine slabs of his companions long since vanished.

As with the Wills Hotel, the Wills Family Cemetery is best found through global coordinates: 39°45’49.7″N 74°34’01.4″W

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pinelands Connections II

Hotel Keepers

“There are many hundreds of miles of unpaved roads through the pines–two tracks in the sand, with underbrush growing up between them. Hunters use them, and foresters, firefighters, and woodcutters A number of these sand roads have been there, and have remained unchanged, since before the American Revolution. They developed, for the most part, as Colonial stage routes, trails to charcoal pits, pulpwood-and-lumber roads, and connecting roads between communities that have disappeared from the world. In a place called Washington, five of these roads converge in the forest, as if from star points, and they suggest the former importance of Washington, but all that is left of the town is a single fragment of a stone structure..” From The New Yorker magazine, November 26, 1967, “Profiles, The Pine Barrens I” creative non-fiction by the great John McPhee.

……continued from “Pinelands Connections I.

That “single fragment of a stone structure” of 1967 may be all that’s left of the hotel run by Great-Great Grandparents George and Mary (Delette

U.S Census for Washington township, Burlington County, New Jersey, August 24, 1850 Nine (9) children living: William Henry and Aaron, both 16 though not twins. William Henry, born late in the year 1833, October 16, leaving Aaron with a birthday before the census date, making his birth year 1834. My great grandfather, George, 14 years. James (12), Moses (10), Mary Ann (8), Amos (6), Martha Jane (4), John Bishop (2).

As near as I can tell, their hotel was located at these coordinates near a place called Hawkins Bridge: 39°42’58.88″N, 74°33’57.81″W Today, the site is surrounded by cranberry bogs.

Click me for Pinelands Connections III

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pinelands Connections I

Geneology and DNA

“From the fire tower on Bear Swamp Hill, in Washington Township, Burlington County, New Jersey, the view usually extends about twelve miles. To the north, forest land reaches to the horizon. The trees are mainly oaks and pines, and the pine predominate. Occasionally, there are long, dark, serrated stands of Atlantic white cedars, so tall and so closely set that they seem spread against the sky on the ridges of hills, when in fact they grow along streams that flow through the forest. To the east, the view is similar, and few people who are not native to the region can discern essential differences from the high cabin of the fire tower, even though one difference is that huge areas out in this direction are covered with dwarf forests, where a man can stand among the trees and see for miles over their uppermost branches. To the south, the view is twice broken slightly — by a lake and by a cranberry bog — both otherwise it, too, goes to the horizon in forest. To the west, pines, oaks, and cedars continue all the way, and the western horizon includes the summit of another hill — Apple Pie Hill — and the outline of another fire tower, from which the view three hundred and sixty degrees around is virtually the same as the view from Bear Swamp Hill, where, in a moment’s sweeping glance, a person can see hundreds of square miles of wilderness. The picture of New Jersey that most people hold in their minds is so different from this one that, considered beside it, the Pine Barrens, as they are called, become as incongruous as they are beautiful.” From The New Yorker magazine, November 26, 1967, “Profiles, The Pine Barrens I” creative non-fiction by the great John McPhee.

This quote captures the contours of a place, now known as “The Pinelands,” a corner of Burlington County, New Jersey my English, Irish, Scottish ancestors settled from 1677 until my grandfather, James Edward Wills, left for northern New Jersey, Asbury Park, in the first years of the twentieth century. This past decade, more so since retirement 2017, I’ve explored these two hundred and twenty (220) or so years beginning with amorphous asides over the years from my father and second hand through my sisters then through online research via Ancestry.com (Ancestry) and other searches.

From my father and sisters I knew to search southern New Jersey. The United States decennial census, “thank you Constitution,” listed a George and Margaret Wills with my grandfather among their children. Great Grandfather George Wills was listed as a 14 year old child of George and Mary Wills in the 1850 census. How could I be sure? DNA technology with internet based social interaction helped there. I was contacted by a Dellett descendant, identified by DNA as a fourth cousin, who claimed Mary Wills as a double great aunt, the daughter of James and Ann Dellett. Here is a screen capture of an Ancestry “ThruLines” analysis showing the six living ancestors of James and Ann in the database. I removed the names and photos of the other five to preserve privacy. The DNA fourth cousin relationship was an exact match to the family tree.

Cousin Delette provided antique photographs of George and Mary. I did a “FindAGrave” search, their final resting place is in a place named Tabernacle, Burlington County, New Jersey. September 2019 my wife Pam and I did a weekend tour with a bed and breakfast base in the city of Burlington, New Jersey. The rest of the photos in the following slideshow are from that weekend.

Here is the same Ancestry “ThruLines” analysis with the immediate family links exploded. through my “first cousin 1 time removed” I was able to communicate with a “lost” niece of my father who shared reminiscences of him from the time he was just released from World War II Naval Service, before meeting Mom.

….Click me for Pineland Connections II.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved