Jersey Devil Alternate Origin

Here you go, Bill:

Vol. I, Page 268
Unhitiching Pippin, heedless of the gaping mouths and quizzical eyes of the Mayslanders, we were soon beyond the limits of the county town. We crossed the dam abreast of the cotton mill, passed the old-time tavern, known as Baker's, and leaving the State Road, continued southward, following the course of the river. In a little while we came to the dam at Estellville. Pippin was brought to a stand-still near the old flood gates.
"Now we're beyond May's Landing," said Grandfather. Looking the Annalist in the face, he asked, gravely:
"Are you afraid of ghosts?"
"No-n-no."
"Don't mind meeting the devil?"
"The devil be dammed. Bring on your devil!" said the Annalist, feigning courage.
"Within the ghostly precincts of Estellville," said he, gravely, "a little devil once made his appearance. The legend of Sleepy Hollow is not more thrilling than the legend of the Leeds' devil. Some people say it is not a legend at all, and a few will not even admit it's a mystery. They insist that it's the truth. 'Facts are no
Page 269
mysterious," they say. One of these matter-of-fact people is George Gregory, of Philadelphia, who says that years ago he was in the habit of spending a part of each year in Cape May County. In 1909, when the so-called devil reappeared, Mr. Gregory recalled that about 1887 he visited a Mrs. McCormack, at Goshen, who was then eighty-four years old. She was a church member and highly respected by the townspeople. She vowed that in 1855 she was acquainted with a Mrs. Leeds, who lived at Estellville. The stork was about to pay a visit and Mrs. Leeds resented the intrusion. While petulant over the expected visit, she exclaimed that she hoped the stork would bring a devil.
"The visit was made in due time. First the stork brought a normal baby. As this present was not acceptable, the stork returned with a little devil—or perhaps changed the baby into a devil. That very day the child-devil flew out the window and perched on the roof. In a little while it winged away to the swamps.
"Every day, for a time, the child-devil returned to the home of Mrs. Leeds and perched on the fence. She would not go into the yard while it was around, but stood in the doorway and 'shooed' it away. One day, with a scream, the devil flew into the swamp, back of the pond, and was not seen for a long time. It came back occasionally, but always at night. That is Mr. Gregory's version of the Leeds devil. He says Mrs. McCormack was a truthful old lady and adds: 'She had the word of the nurse who attended Mrs. Leeds and also the word of Mrs. Leeds herself.' Therefore, the Leeds devil was a reality!
"Another account of the origin of this devil is that many years ago—about 1850—a young woman refused food to a gypsy. For this she was 'cursed' by the gypsy and as a punishment got a little devil for her first born. It escaped into the pines and was first seen near Leeds Point. Hence the name of Leeds devil.
Page 270
[A discussion of the 1909 appearances, which I won't transcribe here]
Page 271
"The truth is," said Grandfather, "all of these people dew upon their imagination for their facts. There is no such thing as a Leeds devil, with a habitat at Estellville, Leeds Point or anywhere else. It is a figment of somebody's fertile imagination. I cast out both of these devils—Estellville and Leeds Point—reject the legend as unworthy of serious consideration. My only object in referring to it now is to kill it effectually for all time."
The old man laughed heartily—seeing the Annalist relieved by this annihilation of the devil! Then, pushing his ho-ho-kus and giving Pippin a dram or two of gas, we proceeded toward Tuckahoe, now known as Corbin City.

Best regards,
Jerseyman
 
I couldn't agree more, Ben. I am no fan of Heston: he was not a very good historian and he was a racist to boot! Of the five most famous early twentieth-century local historians in South Jersey, I would rank him as dead last.

I own the two volumes as part of my Jerseyana collection, but they seldom leave their place on the shelf in my library!

Best regards,
Jerseyman
 
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willy

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I couldn't agree more, Ben. I am no fan of Heston: he was not a very good historian and he was a racist to boot! Of the five most famous early twentieth-century local historians in South Jersey, I would rank him as dead last.

I own the two volumes as part of my Jerseyana collection, but they seldom leave their place on the shelf in my library!

Best regards,
Jerseyman
Jerseyman,
Thanks for posting Heston's except from Jersey Waggon Jaunts. I'm still a novice at this, but I'm reaching the same conclusions about Heston. The copy of volume 1 was a gift from my Grandfather. Since his passing, I have been searching for volume 2 just to complete the set.
Willy
 

Bill Sprouse

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Dec 17, 2014
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Thanks, Jerseyman, for undertaking that. I'm updating my file. I do think there are some echoes of that writing in the WPA Guide a few years later.

In other JD news, the Weird NJ/Paranormal press apparatus has begun its annual peddling of the 1909 terror meme, so if you have your Jersey Devil Bullshit Bingo cards handy, it's a good time to get them out.
 
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Bill Sprouse

New Member
Dec 17, 2014
23
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jerseydevilbook.com
I couldn't agree more, Ben. I am no fan of Heston: he was not a very good historian and he was a racist to boot! Of the five most famous early twentieth-century local historians in South Jersey, I would rank him as dead last.

I own the two volumes as part of my Jerseyana collection, but they seldom leave their place on the shelf in my library!

Best regards,
Jerseyman

At some point I'd like to see Jerseyman's ranking of early twentieth-century South Jersey historians...
 
At some point I'd like to see Jerseyman's ranking of early twentieth-century South Jersey historians...

Bill:

Here is my list of early twentieth-century South Jersey historians—actually six in number, when I thought about it—in alphabetical order:

Boyer, Charles
DeCou, George
Ewan, Nathaniel
Heston, Alfred
Sickler, Joseph
Stewart, Frank

The worst part of this process is figuring out who is number 1. For breadth of coverage and overall careful research, however, I would place Boyer as the best, although his work should never be judged by books published after his demise. John D.F. Morgan had a heavy hand in editing and assembling Boyer’s unfinished research into works such as the book on inns and taverns, early roads, mills of Camden County, etc. I think Boyer would be mortified to know Morgan proceeded to publish these incomplete projects. So, here is my list from above rearranged in order of my ranking:

1. Boyer, Charles,
2. Ewan, Nathaniel
3. Sickler, Joseph
4. Stewart, Frank
5. DeCou, George
6. Heston, Alfred

Other people may see the ranking differently. For example, many folks hold Frank Stewart of Gloucester County in high regard, but his historical writings reflect a high degree of opinion not substantiated in fact. I placed Stewart as no. 4 not for his writings, but for the large body of source material he assembled and published, which still helps people today with research. At one time I held DeCou in pretty high regard, but through a more careful review of his works in recent years, I have identified some serious flaws, dropping him to no. 5. I think Ewan’s work, albeit limited in quantity and scope, speaks for itself, and Joseph Sickler is a bit of a sleeper here, but his work in Salem County is pretty amazing.

If anyone reading this list thinks I have failed to include someone, please let me know, but keep in mind that most of these men conducted their historical work in the twentieth century prior to 1950. People I did not place in my list include Henry Beck, who never claimed to be a historian, but was a folklorist; William McMahon, a total joke among serious historians; Lewis Stevens, who published an excellent history of Cape May County, but worked in the nineteenth century; and ditto for Edwin Salter.

Everyone’s opinion is welcome here!

Best regards,
Jerseyman
 
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Ben Ruset

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Nat Ewan and Henry Beck didn't really get along, or at least that is mentioned in one of the forwards of Beck's books. Ewan was involved with the Historic American Building Survey (a WPA project in the 1930s) and it's through this that we have many really good photographs of old buildings in South Jersey.
 
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Nat Ewan and Henry Beck didn't really get along, or at least that is mentioned in one of the forwards of Beck's books. Ewan was involved with the Historic American Building Survey (a WPA project in the 1930s) and it's through this that we have many really good photographs of old buildings in South Jersey.

Ben:

The strain in the relationship between Beck and Ewan occurred because Ewan could be very prickly and he held Beck’s approach to documentation in low regard. I have heard more than one story of the verbal clashes when these two men ran into each other. Yes, Ewan’s photographic and documentary work with HABS and the pamphlets and newspaper articles he wrote are a tremendous legacy.

Best regards,
Jerseyman
 
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