A Trip Through the Pines, 1859

Folks:

Here is great mid-nineteenth-century trip through the Pines with wonderful descriptions of what the area looked like at that time. Mention is made of sailing into Toms River and “Mr. Neil” and his clay and this would be Harry Neall of Union Clay Works fame. Also note the great description of Hanover Furnace. All spelling and grammar is presented here as in the original. I think everyone will enjoy this incredible text!

From the New England Farmer, Vol. XI, No. 5, May 1859, pp. 235-236

For the New England Farmer.

THE PINES of NEW JERSEY.

MR. EDITOR :—A vacation well spent gives rise to agreeable memories long after we have returned to our accustomed duties of every-day life. A visit to that mysterious and historical region, “The Pines of New Jersey,” had been contemplated by us for many months; for we had heard of the good farming prospects which have already induced many sons of New England to settle there; and wishing to investigate the feasibility of settling with some friends where lands are cheaper than at home, we left this city during the month of July for the “Pines of New Jersey.” While transferring our baggage to the Camden and Amboy railroad depot, in New York, the round face and stout form of Capt. Bluff, an old acquaintance, suddenly confounded us. The huge “flippers” of the old sea-dog half-squeezed the life out of us, as he cordially grasped our hand, and inquired, “Where are you bound to?” And after learning our destination, the jolly captain made us follow him to the beautiful schooner that he commanded, which was to sail that very afternoon for Tom’s river, on the east coast of New Jersey. The captain would not take any refusal to his invitation that we should accompany him in the Mermaid, and that night, with a fine breeze on her quarter, the fleet vessel was leaving Sandy Hook at the rate of ten miles per hour.

After entering Tom’s river, we bade farewell to the captain, and engaged a collier to take us through the Pines to the open country beyond. We are now abruptly entering on new ground—a few words regarding this interesting and much talked-of region. During the revolutionary days the Pines were infested by the tories, who often made incursions to the settled country in this vicinity, where they robbed and murdered to their hearts’ content. The rebels often followed the retreating scoundrels into the fastnesses of the forests where fierce battles were fought with the tories. The Pines received a bad name because they were the home of these lawless people, and though the tory has long since gone to his judgment, still the prejudice again this region has not been removed. There are really good tracts of land all through the Pines, which until lately have remained valueless; and even now a farm may be bought at the lowest Western landholders’ prices. Not the heavy soils of the West are to be found here, but good light soils, varying from four to twelve inches in depth, with a fine warm subsoil of sand, just such as your Cambridge market-gardener would select, These soils are much more easily worked, and are earlier than Western lands.

Early in the morning the collier called for myself and baggage, and soon after we were in the midst of pine forests. An hour later and we had emerged upon a plain, leaving the forests behind us. For miles in all directions the woodsman’s axe had been busy, for scarcely a tree could be seen—all the wood had been turned into charcoal by the industrious colliers. By eleven o’clock we had again entered the forests of yellow pine, and my sooty driver informed me that we were on the Hanover Furnace Tract, one of the largest landed estates in New Jersey. About this time we observed men at work throwing out a fine sort of white clay—so white, indeed, that one might mistake it for chalk. It was Kaolin, decomposed feldspar. The owner of this spot had purchased seventy-five acres of sandy land for a few dollars per acre, and informed us that after raising the Kaolin, a neighboring glass manufacturer had offered him five hundred dollars for two acres. The finest china ware has been made from this indestructible clay, and a dentist of Trenton has made teeth out of it for his customers. No blast from the chemist’s lamp can melt this clay. Mr. Neil, the owner of the farm upon which it was discovered, send the clays to New York, where he gets twenty dollars per ton for it. Another hour’s ride brought us to a tract of hazel loam covered with oaks. “Where are we now?” I asked of our collier; “On the Hanover Furnace Tract,” he replied. In we drove, and coming to a farm-house, stopped to rest our horses, and there we were again told that we were still on the great Hanover Furnace Tract. We drove ten miles further, and met a party of persons who were surveying a cedar swamp. We asked the principal of the party upon whose tract we were traveling, and the old reply came back, “the Hanover Furnace Tract.” Upon further inquiry we learned that the surveyors lived upon the tract, and were employed by the proprietors, “year in and year out.”

Another ride of four miles brought us to the shores of a beautiful little lake, upon the banks of which some thirty houses were embowered in the shade of gigantic willows and tall pines. Here lives, in retirement, one of the proprietors of this great tract, which contains over seventy square miles; no low-class tavern offended the eye, but all was quiet, simple, and beautiful. The sun was sinking behind a heavy pine forest, and his softened rays, reflected upon the little lake, caused it to look like burnished gold. The proprietor, Mr. Samuel H. Jones, came out to meet us, and at once extended the hospitable honors for which, I have since learned, Hanover Furnace is celebrated. We passed a happy evening at the mansion, and when we asked Mr. Jones why he did not offer his lands to settlers from the North, he told us that his lands were open for examination, but he would not sell to any person unless they were well satisfied that they could do better here than elsewhere. He despised all methods of land speculation, and he wished to have only temperate, energetic men of good character settled around him. For nearly one hundred years this great tract has been owned by his family. It was purchased in the days when land was valueless. The Jones’s title to their land came from the original appointed proprietors—almost direct from the crown. Thus they can sell their lands at ten, twelve, and fifteen dollars per acre. Large, natural cranberry meadows are scattered over the tract. One man had purchased a cranberry meadow containing one hundred acres for eight or nine hundred dollars; the first year’s yield was two hundred and seventy bushels, bringing him some seven hundred dollars. At Hanover Furnace there are saw-mills and a grist-mill, besides the Furnace for iron castings. Lumber—pine sell at from twelve to sixteen dollars per thousand feet, cedar about the same. Hanover Furnace is thirty-five miles from Philadelphia, forty-five from New York. From the latter city it is reached by the Camden and Amboy railroad to Bordentown, from thence to New Egypt by stage. The postoffice is at Pointville. I send you this sketch, hoping that it may benefit some of our New England people. Let our young farmers go to New Jersey, where no fever and ague prevails, taking with them the New England Farmer, and they will succeed far better than they will at the West.

Boston, March, 1859. B.

Best regards,
Jerseyman
 

Teegate

Administrator
Site Administrator
Sep 17, 2002
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Jerseyman,

Thanks for posting this. I suspect Tom would enjoy seeing this but I have not noticed him here for a long time.

Guy
 

bobpbx

Piney
Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
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Pines; Bamber area
Hmmmm....."For miles in all directions the woodsman’s axe had been busy, for scarcely a tree could be seen—all the wood had been turned into charcoal by the industrious colliers."

They may have been going through the Greenwood tract at the time. Although it was earlier (1829), there was over 100,000 bushels a year of charcoal taken to Forked River Landing from the Greenwood Forest tract. It was being shipped to New Brunswick. If they traveled from Toms River to Hanover they probably went down Mule Road and by Webbs Mill.
 

Teegate

Administrator
Site Administrator
Sep 17, 2002
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Some of the Greenwood tract is the Hanover Furnace Tract so you probably are correct. Picture all of those woods with no trees. If it was today they would all be in jail.

Guy
 

Tom

Explorer
Feb 10, 2004
222
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Thanks for alerting me to the post, Jerseyman. I truly enjoyed reading it. I would wager that the "principal" of the surveying party would be Joseph W. Cox, who surveyed the entire tract for Richard and Samuel. As I recall, he resided at Hanover. I presume that the sketch referred to isn't included in the publication?

Hello Guy, Bob and everyone.
 

glowordz

Explorer
Jan 19, 2009
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SC
www.gloriarepp.com
"During the revolutionary days the Pines were infested by the tories, who often made incursions to the settled country in this vicinity, where they robbed and murdered to their hearts’ content. The rebels often followed the retreating scoundrels into the fastnesses of the forests where fierce battles were fought with the tories. The Pines received a bad name because they were the home of these lawless people, and though the tory has long since gone to his judgment, still the prejudice again this region has not been removed."

Must have been a lively place back then! Love this editorial comment. Thank you, Jerseyman, for a fascinating slice of history.

Glo