Charcoal pit locations?

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
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I have made some observations over the past week.I have been investigating tar Kilns and Charcoal Kilns in the field.The Tar KIlns I would describe as being roughly between twenty and thrity feet in diameter with a circular berm normally about two feet high surrounding the middle which is normal ground level. Most of these exhibit a break in the ring at some point which is supposedly where the drain pipe passed through to the collection barrel and many of these kilns actually still have the smaller hole remains where the barrel was still visible. I did several test digs inside the ring and hit humus anbout six inches deep and then a bed of black grimy charcoal dirt mixed with actual charcoal nuggets.Upon breaking some of the nuggets apart ( a friend of mine tried this) we could smell a faint pine smell.The charcoal layer went down about a foot and then I started pulling up greasy orange clay which became black as I pulled it through the charcoal.At one kiln on the edge of a small swampy spot there were visible ditches within fifteen feet of kiln that had milky water in them.We walked down to check and the bed of these ditches was solid clay..I believe the ditches were dug to supply that kiln and perhaps another a few hundred feet away as well maybe as others even further away.
earlier in the day with another friend I decided to check out a blistered area that looked to have a grid work of pimples.Gabe had said He believes these to be charcoal kilns. I now believe Gabe was right as he was about the Tar Kilns.The Charcoal kilns (I checked several) were mounds about two feet high and ten to fifteen ft across with a small ditch around each about eight inches wide and four or five inches deep.They had moss and maybe four inches of humus on top and grimy charcoal dirt and nuggets underneath.I did not dig to check for clay but these were totally unsimilar to the tar Kilns and there would be no reason for clay to be under them.They are laid out in a grid like pattern in this area and if i wasn't looking for them I"d walk right by them without a second thought.The tar Kilns are almost as unoticeable ,especially when filled with brush though a few so far were kind of impressive now that I know what they are. I"ve checked out maybe twenty tar kilns now and half a dozen charcoal kilns and have made a file with 200 tar kiln locations so I have a lot to do.Two kilns were in a laurel/briar thicket that even on my belly i could not penetrate,I:m sure if I reached them (Got to within 40 ft) I would not have been able to seen much.Some places just need a match.
 

Boyd

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Yep, those are (literally) almost in my front yard. I find this all fascinating, but honestly have no interest in visiting them. I guess it's sort of like the property stones that you and Guy are so interested in. I love reading your posts about them, but wandering around the woods looking for rocks or old piles of charcoal just doesn't do anything for me. And you should be glad about that, because if I spent my time searching for them I wouldn't have time to make maps like this one. :)
 

manumuskin

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Jul 20, 2003
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Yep, those are (literally) almost in my front yard. I find this all fascinating, but honestly have no interest in visiting them. I guess it's sort of like the property stones that you and Guy are so interested in. I love reading your posts about them, but wandering around the woods looking for rocks or old piles of charcoal just doesn't do anything for me. And you should be glad about that, because if I spent my time searching for them I wouldn't have time to make maps like this one. :)
Have you wandered around Atlantic County park to check out the ruins that your map of that area shows? I notice on the LIDAR there are even more ruins south of then park on the other side of Stephens Branch that I have yet to visit. Or don't ruins interest you either? Some folks just like to walk trails.My dog used to be a trail dog and would never leave it till I started taking her bushwacking and after that I could't get her to stay on the trail. Never could get that dog interested in stones though but she'd dig a turtle out of the mud in a heartbeat.
 

manumuskin

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By the way the kilns aren't a real impressive feature.You would walk right by one and hardly noptice it or maybe not notice it if you weren't looking for it.It's the history of it that I like.You can dig your hand down through the root layer and pull up chunks of charcoal that may have been there for over 200 years,at least over 100. Colliers weren't the upper echelon of society but sounds like a cool job to me.Work your butt of for a couple days building the kiln and then set back and watch her cook for a week or more the whole time your more or less left alone.I"d like the job except for the fact your wiping the woods out while you do it.Just makes me think about the good old days which of course weren't as good as they are cracked up to be but in some ways they were.It's also kind of like tracking for me.You can tell what went on in the past by the "tracks" you see on the landscape. Lidar is kind of like shining a light on hidden history that most have forgot.
 

Boyd

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Have you wandered around Atlantic County park to check out the ruins that your map of that area shows? I notice on the LIDAR there are even more ruins south of then park on the other side of Stephens Branch that I have yet to visit.

Yes, I have explored the ruins extensively and we have discussed them in multiple threads and PM's (including those Southern ruins). I even sent you a detailed map years ago. I think your memory is failing you! :D

My interest in Belco goes back farther than LIDAR, I first made a map based on the original plans of the site that are hanging on the wall in the park Nature Center. Everything I knew about that place is included in my 2020 topo (also Amatol). It is interesting to compare that with the new LIDAR, my guesses were generally pretty good.

And yes, I enjoy exploring, just not interested in stones. But honestly, I now get more pleasure "right in my own backyard", I have lots of projects on my own land and maintaining my little trails is very time-consuming (especially this year, with more downed trees than usual). I never see another soul here, don't need to drive anywhere or worry about getting a disease. And there are thousands of acres of adjacent state land if I want to wander.

I'm reluctant to say this... but if all the guys were brutally honest here, I'd wager that one of the biggest reasons for going out to the Pines would be getting away from their wife and kids. :p That certainly was the case for me in the past, but not anymore.
 

manumuskin

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Jul 20, 2003
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Yes, I have explored the ruins extensively and we have discussed them in multiple threads and PM's (including those Southern ruins). I even sent you a detailed map years ago. I think your memory is failing you! :D

My interest in Belco goes back farther than LIDAR, I first made a map based on the original plans of the site that are hanging on the wall in the park Nature Center. Everything I knew about that place is included in my 2020 topo (also Amatol). It is interesting to compare that with the new LIDAR, my guesses were generally pretty good.

And yes, I enjoy exploring, just not interested in stones. But honestly, I now get more pleasure "right in my own backyard", I have lots of projects on my own land and maintaining my little trails is very time-consuming (especially this year, with more downed trees than usual). I never see another soul here, don't need to drive anywhere or worry about getting a disease. And there are thousands of acres of adjacent state land if I want to wander.

I'm reluctant to say this... but if all the guys were brutally honest here, I'd wager that one of the biggest reasons for going out to the Pines would be getting away from their wife and kids. :p That certainly was the case for me in the past, but not anymore.
No need to get away from the wife here,just been a woods monkey since I was a kid.back then I had a Huffy.Now I have an Xterra and my range has increased.I take my wife with me on trail walks but she is no bushwacker,she has long hair and hates briars with a passion.
Yes I do remember the threads and the map you sent me but didn't remember if you had actually checked things out on the ground or if it was enough for you to locate things on the computer.I still have the map and I do believe that was pre Lidar.I still haven't been to the southern stuff and there are a few things in the boonies up north I haven't been to either.I did dive the spring one cold march day in a wetsuit.Goes back straight for maybe 300 ft tunnel and had a mighty big fish in it that bounced off me on the way in and out.Tunnels not quite big enough to hands an knees crawl for most of it except in the entrance where the water is deeper.Bottom comes up gradually till the last few yards back at the end are mostly dry.The entrance at that point looks like a speck of light. Probably would have got my butt handed to me by park rangers if I got caught.

PS by little brother was with me with his own wetsuit but he punked and would not do the crawl.he was only maybe 16 at the time
 
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Boyd

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Was just looking through old pictures and evidently I "discovered" the Belco ruins 10 years ago. You have to be motivated to find them, the nicest ruins are in dense thicket, and you'll be bloody and clothes will be torn from the greenbriar, holly and laurel when you come out. Really need to make it a point to return before stuff starts growing this year, it's just about impossible in the summer (not to mention terrible ticks and chiggers here).
 

manumuskin

Piney
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Once you get to the ruins can you check them out or are the briars engulfing the ruins as well? have been turned back from two tar pits so far,got to with in 40 ft and forced to my belly but could not get to them with out clippers anyway.I lost some blood in the process.
 

Boyd

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Some things are overgrown, but there's lots to see and many of the ruins are cool little clearings surrounded by thicket. When you look at the map, some are surprisingly close to the trails but the woods are so dense you'd never know anything was there.

belco.jpg
 

bobpbx

Piney
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Oct 25, 2002
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I learned something in that one Al. I was puzzled as to why the tar would not simply lay on the ground in the pit and not move to the center. Now I realize the base is sloped towards the center, and the ground beaten hard with a clay covering. That prevents the tar from soaking in and just lying there.
 
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