If you have read Beck's books you will remember him mentioning M. Warner Hargrove in quite a few of the chapters, and you especially may remember the photo of him with his dog "Tip" at Hanover Furnace. Even though we have mentioned some of this before I thought you might like to know more.
Warner Hargrove was a former postmaster for Pemberton for thirty years, retiring on March 1, 1924. He also was a justice of the peace where much of his knowledge of the crimes and stories of the era were experienced. He also served on the Pemberton township committee, was township clerk, member of the board of education and filled the office of district clerk. And once he ran for state senator and later ran for the post of freeholder. He was also a naturalist and from all accounts was a very well liked individual. This newspaper description tells volumes about him as well as of the Lost Town books.
There is probably no resident of South Jersey, particularly Burlington county, whose memories of bygone days were more vivid than those of the squire (Hargrove), without whom the Forgotten Towns stories which appeared in the Courier-Post Newspapers would have been lifeless and without whimsical recollections that distinguished them.
And this one.
Hargrove's personal interest in pine folk was amazing. He knew where each one had lived and what had become of them. He knew about Indian Ann, who was buried and reburied to suit her husbands whim. He knew the old timers who have given up a precarious living in the woods to await death in the poorhouse.
Having married twice with one son from his first marriage, he was obviously devastated with the death of his son Lyden from his first marriage at the age of 24 in 1921. Lyden had served in WW1 and had taken over Hargrove's business and recently married before his life ended.Hargrove conducted an insurance and reality business with an office that was a curiosity shop, filled with relics and trinkets from his farm where he was married that was taken from him to build Ft Dix. Included were a cannonball from Hanover Furnace and boxes of newspaper clippings of himself showing his many interests. He also was a snake collector, especially pine snakes even though he kept a real rattlesnake in his office. This clipping was quite interesting.
April 1929. M. Warner Hargrove and other live wires, of Browns Mills, contemplate starting a snake farm in the near future, somewhere in that vicinity. The raising of Jersey pine snakes, the skin of which is regarded as the most adaptable for the making of fashionablesnake-skin articles, is now considered quite the vogue. The promoters have already secured the estimated price of a hundred acres of forest ground. Pine snakes are easily acclaimed to all conditions of soil and weather, and multiply rapidly. In two years they mature.
Hargrove owned many properties in Browns Mills including the Post Office and general store. In September 1927 a mysterious fire consumed both locations as well as a residence next door also owned by Hargrove. The US mail in the post office was burned, but the postmaster was able to save $1100 of cash and postage stamps. The fire chief dislocated his shoulder when he fell from a ladder, but was able to pop it back in and continue the good fight. Kerosene barrels in the store exploded causing massive cuts on a Pemberton fireman.
Warner Hargrove was described as the "index" to Forgotten Towns while Beck took all the credit for writing about them. Hargrove knew everyone and everyone knew him. Willis Busby was a friend of his and many individuals the Lost Town explorers met in the woods recognized him. He wore a heavy winter coat that he claimed was given to him by a Doctor from a polar expedition. And even his walking stick was famous having been given to him by American Indians in New Mexico. One article says:
"So equipped, Warner became the intrepid explorer of the Jersey pines."
Apparently, Hargrove loved to eat, and his taste for ice cream was insatiable. Hargrove would always say "the only thing wrong with Lost Towns is that nobody sold ice cream." His comment reminds me of Jessica who is always waiting for an ice cream vendor to show up around a curve ahead.
His dog Tip who went on each trip to find "towns," is said to have slipped off a slag heap at Martha and was rescued from drowning just in time. The clip states:
The appearance of the Squires stick was sufficient indication that a quest in the jungle was in prospect and with pleasurable barks, the terrier would make ready.
In early summer 1931 Hargrove became ill and was taken to Underwood Memorial Hospital in Woodbury while "Tip" was "quarantined" alone at the house. For almost three months Hargrove fought the battle and was able to return home in late August. While recovering at home he continued his bedside interest in the pine woods by organizing hunters and other individuals to search the pines for two missing airplanes that Hargrove felt they could find. On Monday, November 23, Hargrove who was 58 passed away never finding the plane he so wanted to recover.
One of the reporters who knew him wrote this after his passing.
Let this be Squire Hargrove's epitaph, even if they do no place it on his grave:
"Loyal to his friends,
Happy in his friendships,
Interested in the past,
Amused by the present,
And hopeful of the future,
He marches forward."