Meandering Through the Mordecai

Ben Ruset

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I love swamps, but I often don't get many chances to explore them. Some, like the Great Swamp, are very intimidating, and others, like the swap out in Colliers Mills that I was in not too long ago, are not.

I was thumbing through Jersey Genesis the other day when I came across a picture of Henry Beck going through the Mordecai Swamp. I figured, well if he can do it in his 1930's style suit, I can do it too. So I poured over USAPhotoMaps and found some interesting stuff to see.

I parked near the fire tower at Batsto and jumped into the woods. It wasn't long until I came across a cleared out area, with some tree stumps. None of the growth was terribly old, so I think the area may have been used for a sawmill at one point in time. I found an old road, deeply rutted, that hadn't been used in years. I followed that into the woods, but it petered out after a while.

One thing that struck me was a straight line through the swamp. (http://www.terraservice.net/image.aspx?T=1&S=10&Z=18&X=2656&Y=21942&W=1&qs=|batsto|nj|) It didn't appear as clear on Google Maps, but you could tell that something had cut through. I set some waypoints before I left, and using them I navigated to the beginning of the cut line.

I had hoped that it might have been a road or trail cut through the swamp, and I was in luck. It was not just a road, but an old corduroy road. This is, I think, the first real one that I have come across (unless you count the small trail that leads to the Swamp Monster.) This road hasn't been used in decades, and while it's still somewhat clear, there are plenty of blowdowns crossing it.

CRW_0491.JPG

The beginning of the road.

CRW_0495.JPG


CRW_0494.JPG


I followed this road through the swamp. It ends in a T intersection. If you go right, the trail winds down along a curve and ends in a small clearing. If you go left, the trail eventually turns into what my maps call "Mordecai Swamp Road", which eventually will spit you onto a blacktop road, which intersects where Batsto Rd. stops being a paved road. You can't drive back to the corduroy road because of a pretty big tree that blocks Mordecai Swamp Rd.

I have a feeling all of those roads back there were used for logging at one point in time. Unfortunately I wasn't able to locate a sawmill base or any other types of ruins. The area was pretty garbage free, too, which was very nice. I don't think many (if any) people get back there. It's pretty out of the way.

If you look a bit further South you can see what might be another corduroy road (http://www.terraservice.net/image.aspx?T=1&S=10&Z=18&X=2656&Y=21941&W=1&qs=|batsto|nj|). I think I may end up checking that out soon.

I ended my day with a nice drive up to Washington, Mount, and Quaker Bridge, ending the trip at Atsion. I have pics of the mansion restoration -- I'll try to get them uploaded later.
 
Apr 6, 2004
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Ben,

I'm sorry I couldn't join you. Let's meet up sometime soon and do some more poking around. I have found the base of the steam-powered sawmill that Beck talks about. The pile of sawdust is still there as well, though it all turned to soil by now. Also of interest is the 1808 road from Batsto to Wading River as well as some relict dunes. A Koster from way back claimed to have discovered a pile of cannonballs near the road that were hid deep in the swamp when Batsto caught word of the British plan to destroy the ironworks. A very mystifying place.
 

Teegate

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Sep 17, 2002
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I love those roads! You and Gabe should get together and plan something there. Maybe we could find those cannonballs :)

Guy
 

relayer

Explorer
Ben
Thanks for going there and for the report and pictures. Great stuff, especially the corduroy road. Really cool.

Have you guys(that's you too Guy) ever worked with the old County Road Return Books? Most of the old surveys have meets and bounds and so long as you can figure out a start/end point and get north and scale correct you can find out all sorts of interesting things. The route of the old road, while supremely important, is usually accompanied by references to landmarks, both natural and manmade, along the route. Of course, some ofthe old surveyors were more verbose than others so mileage in that regard may vary. Also, not every road made it into the road books. Despite the somewhat incomplete nature of the books, they are amazing resources.

relayer
 

woodjin

Piney
Nov 8, 2004
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313
Near Mt. Misery
what's a corduroy road ?

Bob, a corduroy road is a road constructed of timber within a cedar swamp. They were commonly used by the logging industry as a means of hauling wood by horse drawn wagon and later automobiles/trucks through cedar swamps. Due to the cedars strong resistance to rot, many have survived.

Jeff
 

woodjin

Piney
Nov 8, 2004
4,321
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Near Mt. Misery
Great report Ben! Several years ago I had suggested a PBX sweep of the Mordecai swamp in a long shot attempt to find that legendary pile of cannonballs, remains of Joseph Mulliners hide out, and the saw dust pile (I guess you found that Gabe). I just never got around to organizing it.

Gabe, I think the Koster implied to Beck that a relative might have found the pile because there were cannon balls about the house. But I don't think he laid claim to know where it was. But I could be mistaken, I'll have to re-read that chapter.

Jeff
 

BobNJ1979

Explorer
May 31, 2007
190
0
Great report Ben! Several years ago I had suggested a PBX sweep of the Mordecai swamp in a long shot attempt to find that legendary pile of cannonballs, remains of Joseph Mulliners hide out, and the saw dust pile (I guess you found that Gabe). I just never got around to organizing it.



Jeff

I'm in !! i can't even imagine where this swamp is .. i've thought i knew a lot of areas in the pines (esp wharton) but the more i'm on this site, the less i realize i know.. i want to see it all..
 

Ben Ruset

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As I was walking through the swamp I thought about the cannonballs. If the swamp was clearcut for a sawmill, there's a pretty good chance the cannonballs would have been found by the woodcutters.

I wonder if there's any record of the work done by the sawmills. I'm guessing most mills predate the state's ownership of the land -- are there records of the Wharton Estate's land use?
 

Teegate

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Gabe,

When you are looking at the photo in your gallery you want to link to, click on the little icon circled in red in the below photo. Then use the link that is circled in blue and your photo's will display properly.



mediumimage.jpg



Guy
 

RednekF350

Piney
Feb 20, 2004
4,931
3,023
Pestletown, N.J.
Ben
Thanks for going there and for the report and pictures. Great stuff, especially the corduroy road. Really cool.

Have you guys(that's you too Guy) ever worked with the old County Road Return Books? Most of the old surveys have meets and bounds and so long as you can figure out a start/end point and get north and scale correct you can find out all sorts of interesting things. The route of the old road, while supremely important, is usually accompanied by references to landmarks, both natural and manmade, along the route. Of course, some ofthe old surveyors were more verbose than others so mileage in that regard may vary. Also, not every road made it into the road books. Despite the somewhat incomplete nature of the books, they are amazing resources.

relayer

I am a surveyor and I found out last year that that Camden County's road retutn books are now at the NJ State Archives. I needed them for a project in work.
I have used them in the past when they were at the Camden County Register of deeds.
Jerseyman clued me in to their relocation.
Really old roads are in the Gloucester County returns if they predate the fprmation of Camden County.
 

relayer

Explorer
I'm a big fan of those books. I've been messing around with road surveys since the late 70s when I did a senior project on early settlement patterns in Cherry Hill. The person who taught me how to plot them was the same Bill Leap whose virtues I've extolled elsewhere here recently. Another friend of Jerseyman and I is finishing up research on a history of the road system in Camden County from the indian trails up through the 1920s. It should be good.

best

relayer
 
Apr 6, 2004
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woodjin said:
Gabe, I think the Koster implied to Beck that a relative might have found the pile because there were cannon balls about the house. But I don't think he laid claim to know where it was. But I could be mistaken, I'll have to re-read that chapter.

You are right, Jeff. It was actually Buck Watson who claimed to have found the pile of cannon balls.
 
Apr 6, 2004
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bruset said:
If the swamp was clearcut for a sawmill, there's a pretty good chance the cannonballs would have been found by the woodcutters.

Good point, Ben. You are no doubt right about that. I ran this by Budd Wilson tonight (who celebrated his 74th birthday today) and he guessed that, if Watson was not lying, nobody bothered to trouble themselves with taking all of the cannon balls out of there.
 
Apr 6, 2004
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528
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teegate said:
When you are looking at the photo in your gallery you want to link to, click on the little icon circled in red in the below photo. Then use the link that is circled in blue and your photo's will display properly.

Thanks, Guy.
 
LOL. How's that for dyslexia?

No problem, Gabe! I have many fond memories of riding around with Watson while I also lived in Rancocas Village from 1969-1974. My only regret is that I did not attend the three-day auction of his collection after his death. The auctioneers dispersed some amazing stuff to the four corners of the world!!

Best regards,
Jerseyman
__________________
scriptor rerum Nova Caesarea
Dei memor, gratus amicus
 
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