The Pines, the Jersey Devil, and One Man’s Opinion of Pineys


I offer this piece with some trepidation, based on the jaundiced and scandalous description of Pine Barren residents of the time and the other factual errors found in the article, including those about the Jersey Devil. Nonetheless, I thought you would enjoy the read, keeping my comments in mind. Of course, I in no way endorse the material found herein.

Atlantic Monthly. A Magazine of Literature, Art, and Politics. Vol. III, May 1859, No. XIX, pages 560-569.

IF I were a crow, or, at least, had the faculty of flying with that swift directness which is proverbially attributed to the corvine tribe, and were to wing a southwesterly course from the truck of the flag-staff which rises from the Battery at New York, I should find myself, within a very short time, about fifty miles from the turbulent city, and hovering over a region of country as little like the civilized emporium just quitted as it is well possible to conceive. Not being a crow, however, nor fitted up with an apparatus for flying,—destitute even of a balloon,—I am compelled to adopt the means of locomotion which the bounty of God or the ingenuity of man affords me, and to spend a somewhat longer time in transit to my destination.

Over the New Jersey Railroad, then, I rattled, one fine, sunshiny autumn morning, in the year that has recently taken leave of us, as far as Bordentown, a distance of some fifty-seven miles, on my way to a locality the very existence of which is scarcely dreamed of by thousands in the metropolis, who can tell you how many square miles of malaria there are in the Roman Campagna, and who have got the topography of Caffre Land at their fingers’ ends. It is a region aboriginal in savagery, grand in the aspects of untrammelled Nature; where forests extend in uninterrupted lines over scores of miles; where we may wander a good day’s journey without meeting half-a-dozen human faces; where stately deer will bound across our path, and bears dispute our passage through the cedar-brakes; where, in a word, we may enjoy the undiluted essence, the perfect wildness, of woodland life. Deep and far “under the shade of melancholy boughs” we shall be taken, if together we visit the ancient Pines of New Jersey.

In order to do so, we must make at Bordentown the acquaintance of Mr. Cox, and take our seats in his stage for a jolt, twelve miles long, to the village of New Egypt, on the frontier of the Pines. Although the forest is accessible from many points, and may be entered by a number of distinct approaches, I, the writer hereof, selected that viá New Egypt as the most convenient to a comer from New York, and as, perhaps, the least fatiguing to accomplish.

But, oh ! the horrors of those New Jersey roads! Mud ? Tis as if all the rains of heaven had been concentrated upon all the marls and clays of earth, and all the sticky stratum plastered down in a wriggling line of unascertainable length and breadth! Holes ? As if a legion of sharpshooters had been detailed for the defence of Sandy Hook, and had excavated for themselves innumerable rifle-pits or caverns for the discomfiture of unhappy passengers ! Up hill and down dale,—with merciless ruts and savage ridges,—now, a slough, to all appearance destitute of bottom, and, next, a treacherous stretch of sand, into which the wheels sink deeper and deeper at every revolution, as if the vehicle were France, and the road disorder,—such is a faint adumbration of the state of affairs in the benighted interior of our petulant little whiskey-drinking sister State!

But all earthly things come to an end, and so, accordingly, did our three-hours’ drive.

The stage pompously rolled into the huddled street of its terminus, and deposited me, in the neighborhood of noon, on the stoop of the only tavern supported in the deadly-lively place. No long sojourn, however, was in store for me. Presently—ere I had grown tired of watching the couple of clodhoppers, well-bespattered as to boots and undergarments with Jersey mud, who, leaning against a fence in true agricultural laziness, deliberately eyed, or rather, gloated over the inoffensive traveller, as though he were that “daily stranger,” for whom, as is well known, every Jerseyman offers up maturinal supplications—a buggy appeared in the distance, and I was shortly asked for. It was the vehicle in which 1 was to seek my destination in the Pines; and my back was speedily turned upon the queer little village with the curiously chosen name. My driver, an intelligent, sharp-featured old man, soon informs me that he was born and has lived for fifty years in the forest. A curious, old-world mortal,—our father’s “serving-man,” to the very life! The Pines are to him what Banks and City Halls and Cooper Institutes and Astor Houses are to us poor cittadini; every tree is individualized; and I doubt not he could find his way by night from one end to the other of the forest.

We had driven no great distance, when my companion lifted his whip, and, pointing to a long, dark, indistinct line winch crossed the road in the distance, blocking the prospect ahead and on either side, as far as the eye could reach, exclaimed: “Them’s the Pines!” As we approached the forest, a change, theatrical in its suddenness, took place in the scenery through which our course was taken. The rich and smiling pasture-lands, interspersed with fields of luxuriant corn, were left behind, the red clay of the road was exchanged for a gritty sand, and the road itself dwindled to a mere pathway through a clearing. The locality looked like a plagiarism from the Ohio backwoods. On both sides of our path spread the graceful undergrowth, waving in an ocean of green, and hiding the stumps with which the plain was covered, while far away, to right and left, the prospect was bounded by forest walls, and gloomy bulwarks and parapets of pines arose in front, as if designed, in their perfect denseness, to exclude the world from some bosky Garden of Paradise beyond. Not so, however; for our pathway squeezes itself between two melancholy sentinel-pines, tracing its white scroll into the forest farther than the eye can follow, and in a few moments we leave the clearing behind, and pass into the shadow of the endless avenue, and bow beneath the trailing branches of the silent, stern, immovable warders at the gate. We were fairly in the Pines; and a drive of somewhat more than three miles lay before us still.

The immense forest region I had thus entered covers an extensive portion of Burlington County, and nearly the whole of Ocean, beside parts of Monmouth, Camden, Atlantic, Gloucester, and other counties. The prevailing soils of this great area—some sixty miles in length by ten in breadth, and reaching from the river Delaware to the very shore of the Atlantic—are marls and sands of different qualities, of which the most common is a fine, white, angular sand, of the kind so much in request for building-purposes and the manufacture of glass. In such an arid soil the conifer alone could flourish, and accordingly we find that the wide-spreading region is overgrown almost entirely with white and yellow pine, hemlock, and cedar. Hence its distinctive appellation.

It was a most lovely afternoon, warm and serene as only an American autumn afternoon knows how to be; and while we hurried past the mute, monotonous, yet ever-shifting array of pines and cedars, the very rays of the sun seemed to be perfumed with the aroma of the fragrant twigs, about which humming-birds now and then whirred and fluttered as we startled them, scarcely more brilliant in color than the gorgeous maples which grew in one or two dry and open spots. For three-quarters of an hour our drive continued, until at length a slight undulation broke the level of the sand, and a fence, inclosing a patch of Indian corn, from which the forest had been driven back, betokened for the first time the proximity of some habitation. In fact, having reached the summit of the slope, I found myself in the centre of an irregular range of dwellings, scattered here and there in picturesque disregard of order, and next moment my hand was grasped by my friend B. I had reached my destination,—Hanover Iron-Works,—and was soon walking up, past the white gateway, to the Big House.

Somewhat less than eighty years ago, Mr. Benjamin Jones, a merchant of Philadelphia, invested a portion of his fortune in the purchase of one hundred thousand acres of land in the then unbroken forest of the Pines. The site of the present hamlet of Hanover struck him as admirably adapted for the establishment of a smelting-furnace, and he accordingly projected a settlement on this spot. The Rancocus River forms here a broad embayment, the damming of which was easily accomplished, and one of the best of water-privileges was thus obtained. On the north of this bay or pond, moreover, there rises a sloping bluff, which was covered, at the period of its purchase, with ancient trees, but upon which a large and commodious mansion was soon erected. Here Mr. Jones planted himself, and quickly drew around him a settlement which rose in number to some four hundred souls; and here he commenced the manufacture of iron. At frequent intervals in the Pines were found surface-deposits of ore, the precipitate from waters holding iron in solution, which frequently covered an area of many acres, and reached a depth of from two or three inches to as many feet. The ore thus existing in surface deposits was smelted in the iron-works, and the metal thence obtained was at once molten and moulded in the adjoining foundry. Here, in the midst of these spreading forests, many a ponderous casting, many a fiery rush of tons of molten metal, has been seen. Here, five-and-forty years ago, the celebrated Decatur superintended, during many weeks, the casting of twenty-four pounders, to be used in the famous contest with the Algerine pirates whom he humbled; and the echoes of the forest were awakened with strange thunders then. As the great guns were raised from the pits in which they had been cast, and were declared ready for proof, Decatur ordered each one to be loaded with repeated charges of powder and ball, and pointed into the woods. Then, for miles between the grazed and quivering boles, crashed the missiles of destruction, startling bear and deer and squirrel and raccoon, and leaving traces of their passage which are even still occasionally discovered. The cannon balls themselves are now and then found imbedded in the sand of the forest. In this manner the guns were tried which were to thunder the challenge of America against the dens of Mediterranean pirates.

Hanover, too, in its day of pride, furnished many a city with its iron tubes for water and for gas, many a factory and workshop with its castings, many a farmer with his tools; but the glow of the furnace is quenched forever now. The slowly gathering ferruginous deposits have been exhausted, and three years have elapsed since the furnace-fires were lighted. The blackened shell of the building stands in cold decrepitude, a melancholy vestige of usefulness outlived. In consequence of the stoppage of the works, Hanover has lost seven-eighths of its population, and only about fifty inhabitants remain in the white cottages grouped about the Big House, who are employed in agricultural labors and occupations connected with the forest. Yet in this solitary nook the elegances and the tastes of the most cultivated society are to be found. The Big House, surrounded by its well-trimmed gardens sloping down to the broad Rancocus, with its comfortable apartments, and the diversified prospect which it commands, offers a resting-place which, although deep in the genuine forest, combines urban refinement with the quiet and seclusion of country-life.

Bright and early on the morning after my arrival, Friend B. was at my door; and after a savory, if hasty breakfast, we Bounded boute-selle. Outside the gate a couple of forest-ponies were waiting,—stout, lively, five-year-olds, equal, if not to a two-forty heat, yet to twenty miles of steady trot without distress,—brown and sleek as you please, with the knowingest eyes, and intelligence expressed in the impatient stamp of the fore-foot, and good-humor in the twitching of the ear. Into the saddle and off, with the cheery breeze to bathe us in exhilaration, as it were humming around us laden with aromatic odors and mysterious whisperings of the pine-trees to the sea,—through the dew-diamonded grass of the little lawn at the top of the hill, — past the great elm with its glistening foliage, and its carolling crew of just-awakened birds, —then a canter down the sandy slope to the edge of the forest, and again the pines are around us.

Before us lay a four-mile ride over a devious track among trees which my companion knows by heart. Paths diverge into the forest on either side, running north and south, east and west, straight and crooked, narrow and broad; but B. follows unerringly the right, though undistinguished trail. This knowledge of woodcraft,—how it appalls and wonder-strikes the unlearned metropolitan, accustomed as he is to numbered houses and name-boarded streets! No omnibus driver threading the confusion of a great thoroughfare could shape his course with greater assurance and lack of hesitation than does B. through these endless avenues of heavy-foliaged pines, broken only now and then by some tangled, impenetrable brake of cedars, or by a charred and blackened clearing, where the coaler has been at work. I gradually grew to believe that he could call every tree by its name, as generals have been said to know every soldier in their armies.

At length we reached a clearing of one or two acres in extent, the site of Cranberry Lodge, and the terminus of our ride. In the centre of the lone expanse two unusually tall pines were left standing, at the base of which a curious structure nestled, which had been for several weeks the occasional hermitage of my companion. It was built entirely with his own hands, of cedar rails and white pine planks, which he had cut and sawed from trees that his own hands had felled. A queer little cabin, some nine feet in length by five or six in breadth, standing all alone in the forest, with not a neighbor within a distance of at least four miles!

Dismounting, we fastened our horses to a couple of saplings, and I was introduced to the interior of Cranberry Lodge, which was tenanted only by the “hired man,” who, in the absence of Mr. B., reigned supreme in the clearing. The dwelling I found no less primitive in internal than in its external appearance. Three persons, moderately doubled up and squeezed, could find room in the interior, which was furnished with a bench for the safe-keeping of sundry pots, pans, and other culinary necessaries, and with a shelf on which some blankets were laid, constituting my companion's bedstead and bed, when he slept in Cranberry Lodge. Beneath the “bunk” a small hole scooped in the sand stood in lieu of a cellar, and contained a stock of provisions of Mr. B.’s own cooking.

Such a backwoodish dwelling as Cranberry Lodge, existing in the year 1858, within seventy miles of New York, requires some explanation. Its foundation is—pies ! Cape Cod, the great emporium of the cranberry-trade, has been running short for the last few years; in other words, its supply is unequal to the demand. The heavy Britishers have awakened to the fact, since 1851, that, of all condiments and delicacies, cranberry sauce and cranberry-pie are best in their way; and John Bull takes many a barrel clean out of our market now. It so happened that in the Pines of New Jersey cranberries superior to those of Cape Cod have grown unheeded for centuries,—grew red and purple and white and pink when Columbus was unthought of, as well as when Washington passed through the Pines,—and for sixty or seventy years have furnished a certain class of gypsies—of whom more anon— with merchandise which sold well in the neighboring villages and cities. No one thought of cultivating cranberries; no one, but the gypsies aforesaid, of gathering them for sale. But it came to pass that a certain farmer of Hanover was, like many another, unsuccessful during several years. As a last resource, he purchased of the owner of the Big House a cranberry-bog,—that is to say, one of the many marshy spots which are interspersed in the forest,—for which he paid five dollars the acre. There were a little more than one hundred acres in the bog. At a cost of some six hundred dollars Mr. F. fenced in his bog, and spent three months in watching the cranberries as they ripened, to protect them from depredation. To his intense astonishment, he found, in October, that the yield was between two and three hundred bushels to the acre, and that his land and fencing were paid for, with a balance left over for next year. In consequence of this success, a little mania for cranberry-farming seized upon the denizens of the Pines, and bogs acquired a value they had never borne before. This was in 1857. Early in 1858, one of these plots of land, with an adjoining piece of forest, was rented by Mr. B., who, like a right-down Yankee, determined to cultivate it himself. So, with the aid of one hired man, a clearing was made in his forest-patch, a hut built, four miles from the nearest habitation, and the trees cut down were converted into rails, wherewith to fence in the cranberry land. At the time of my visit, the crop was just beginning to think of getting ripe, and the great lazy vines, each one creeping for several feet along the ground, were severally loaded with dozens of delicately-tinted berries, plump and fair as British beauties, which silently drew to themselves and absorbed the rays of the sun, turning them to color and succulent subacidulousness. A most glorious sight that same hundred-acre bog must have been a couple of weeks later, when the berries had ripened, and a carpet of rosy redness blushed upwards to the waning sun! Yet 1858 (the even year) was a bad season for cranberries,—the yield was only sufficient to pay for the land and fencing, with a modicum over to begin 1859 with!

So cranberries grew to be institutions in the Pines, and all the bogs for miles around the site of the first experiment were hired by sanguine farmers. But the cranberry-cultivator has one enemy, which is neither bird, nor worm, nor blight, but biped,—a Rat, two-legged, erect, or moderately so, talking, even, in audible and intelligible speech,—the Pine Rat, namely. Few but New Jerseymen, and of them chiefly those who dwell about the forest, have heard of this human species; it has not yet had its Agassiz nor its Wyman,—yet there it flourishes and repeats itself!

My friend, Mr. B., considerately undertook to initiate me into some of the mysteries of this race, which has proved minatory, though not destructive, to his blushing crop,—and accordingly led me through brake and brier, past wild and gloomy cedar-swamps, over brooks insecurely bridged with fallen logs, or, perchance, with stepping-blocks of pine-stumps, far into the silent forest, and to a little dell or dingle,—a natural clearing, —where a couple of tents were pitched, and the smoke of a struggling fire told infallibly of human neighborhood. The barking of a splenetic little terrier brought from one of the tents a man of some fifty years, lank and gaunt of visage, with matted hair, and wild, uncivilized eyes, dressed in a ragged jacket and what had once been a pair of trousers. His face wore no expression of intelligence; but a look of intense, though animal cunning lurked in his eyes. While I was gazing on this individual, who stood in silence by his tent, there emerged from the other an ancient female, who might have been eighty years of age, but who hobbled towards us with much briskness.

“Good evening, Hannah Butler,” said Mr. B.; “I've brought you some tomatoes from the Big House. This is my friend, Mr. Smith of York.”

Mr. Smith of York (grimly repressing a smile, as his mischievous memory whispered something about Brooks of Sheffield) bowed gravely to Mrs. Butler. Mr. B. whispers,—“That’s the Queen of the Pine Rats!” Hannah meanwhile mumbles over one of the fleshy tomatoes.

The man whom we had first seen held in his hand a tattered shawl, with which he now began patching a portion of his tent, saying at the same time that there was a storm a-brewing.

“Ay, is there!” said Mrs. Butler; “and a storm like the one when I seed Leeds’s devil”—

“Hush !” interrupted her ragged companion, with a look of terror. “What’s the good o’ naming’ him, and allus talkin’ about him, when yer don’t never know as he ar’n’t byside ye?”

“I’ll devil yer!” shrieked the crone, through a half-eaten tomato. “Finish mendin’ up yer cover, yer mean cranberry-thief !”

The spiteful terrier, which had meanwhile evinced an unpleasant interest in the thickness of my pantaloons, added his yelping to the clamor, and Mr. B., pointing to the clouds, thought we had better hasten homewards. So we bade farewell to Hannah and her nephew, as I learned that the unfortunate vessel of her wrath in reality was, and dived into the gloomy recesses of the Pines again.

Long ere we got back to Cranberry Lodge, all doubts of an impending tempest had disappeared. The eastern sky, cloudless an hour before, was now overhung with a livid bank of ash-gray clouds, which were incessantly riven by broad and terrible flashes of silent lightning. A slight westerly breeze was blowing, and evidently impeded the progress of the storm, which was beating up from seaward against the wind. Plunging through prickly thickets and dashing through the turbid brooks, we hastened toward the clearing, committed Cranberry Lodge to the custody of the “hired man,” and untied our horses from the saplings to which they were made fast. In another moment we were on the back trail. Scarcely, however, was the clearing shut out of view when a little hesitating puff of wind from the east blew chill upon us; the breeze had veered, and the tempest was at hand. In the twinkling of an eye, the western horizon was overhung with the same ghastly storm-bank that threatened in the east, while a monitory gust rustled through the sighing pines, wildly twisting and tossing the undergrowth, — overspread with a quivering pallor as it bent before the breeze, —and bade us be prepared. Next moment, a clap of thunder, rattling like the artillery of ten thousand sieges, or like millions of bars of iron dashed furiously together, broke upon the forest. It was the most awful sound, terrible even in its expected suddenness, that I ever heard. Simultaneously a (lash of purple lightning fell from the zenith to the horizon, splitting the clouds asunder, and with it there descended rain in a cataract rather than in torrents, so that in the twinkling of an eye the thirsty sand was saturated, and bubbling pools of water pattered in the deluged path. Crash after crash, each clap more terrific than the one preceding, came the awful thunder; blinding flashes of lightning darted around us;—but still our phlegmatic ponies galloped on, and only once started violently, when a peal which really seemed as if its shock must burst the heavens asunder dazed us momentarily with its almost unendurable sound. The gloomy canopy above us, meanwhile, was overrun by incessant streams of purple lightning, and the deluge of rain still fell. At length we reached the Big House, (somewhat ostentatiously reducing the speed of our horses to a walk as we came within sight of its embowered windows.) and were soon dripping in the kitchen. A change of apparel, calling into requisition Mexican ponchos and other picturesque garments, with a smoke beside a roaring fire, completely obviated all dangerous consequences; nor was it without feelings of great satisfaction that B. and myself watched tranquilly from our comfortable ensconcement the beatings of the storm on the encircling forest.

The Big House, I found, was full of legend of the Pine Rats. This extraordinary race of beings are lineal descendants of the New Jersey Tories, who, during the Revolution, made the Pines their refuge, whence they sallied in perpetual forays against the farms and dwellings of the partisans of the opposite cause. Several hundreds of these fanatical desperadoes made the forest their home, and laid waste the surrounding townships by their sudden raids. Most barbarous cruelties were practised on both sides, in the contests which continually took place between Whigs and Tories, and the unnatural seven-years’ war possessed nowhere darker features than in the neighborhood of the New Jersey Pines. Remains of these forest-freebooters are still discovered from time to time, in the process of clearing the woods, and unmistakable relics are occasionally met with in the denser portions of the forest, which must have been comparatively open eighty years ago.

The degraded descendants of these tories constitute the principal difficulty with which a proprietor in this region has to contend. Completely besotted and brutish in their ignorance, they are incapable of obtaining an honest living, and have supported themselves, from a time which may be called immemorial, by practising petty larceny on an organized plan. The Pine Rat steals wood, steals game, steals cranberries, steals anything, in fact, that his hand can be laid upon; and woe to the property of the man who dares attempt to restrain him! A few weeks may, perhaps, elapse, after the tattered savage has received a warning or a reprimand, and then a column of smoke will be seen stealing up from some quarter in the forest;—he has set the woods on fire! Conflagrations of this kind will sometimes sweep away many hundreds of acres of the most valuable timber; while accidental fires are also of frequent occurrence. When indications of a fire are noticed, every available hand — men, women, and children alike — is hurried to the spot for the purpose of “fighting” it. Getting to leeward of the flames, the “fighters” kindle a counter-conflagration, which is drawn or sucked against the wind to the part already burning, and in this manner a vacant space is secured, which proves a barrier to the flames. Dexterity in fighting fires is a prime requisite in a forest overseer or workman.

“And now, something about Leeds’s devil!” I said to my friend, after satisfactory definition of the Pine Rat; “what fiend may he be, if you please?”

“I will answer,—I will tell you,” replies Mr. B. “There lived, in the year 1735, in the township of Burlington, a woman. Her name was Leeds, and she was shrewdly suspected of a little amateur witchcraft. Be that as it may, it is well established, that, one stormy, gusty night, when the wind was howling in turret and tree, Mother Leeds gave birth to a son, whose father could have been no other than the Prince of Darkness. No sooner did he see the light than he assumed the form of a fiend, with a horse’s head, wings of bat, and a serpent’s tail. The first thought of the newborn Caliban was to fall foul of his mother, whom he scratched and bepommelled soundly, and then flew through the window out into the village, where he played the mischief generally. Little children he devoured, maidens he abused, young men he mauled and battered; and it was many days before a holy man succeeded in repeating the enchantment of Prospero. At length, however, Leeds’s devil was laid, — but only for one hundred years.

“During an entire century, the memory of that awful monster was preserved, and, as 1835 drew nigh, the denizens of Burlington and the Pines looked tremblingly for his rising. Strange to say, however, no one but Hannah Butler has had a personal interview with the fiend; though, since 1835, he has frequently been heard howling and screaming in the forest at night, to the terror of the Rats in their lonely encampments. Hannah Butler saw the devil, one stormy night, long ago; though some skeptical individuals affirm, that very possibly she may have been led, under the influence of liquid Jersey lightning, to invest a pine-stump, or, possibly, a belated bear, with diabolical attributes and a Satanic voice. However that may be, you cannot induce a Rat to leave his hut after dark,—nor, indeed, will you find many Jerseymen, though of a higher order of intelligence, who will brave the supernatural terrors of the gloomy forest at night, unless se cure in the strength of numbers.”

The Pine Rat, in his vocation as a picker-up of every unconsidered trifle, is an adopt at charcoal-burning, on the sly. The business of legitimate charcoal-manufacture is also largely practised in the Pines, although the growing value of wood interferes sadly with the coalers. Here and there, however, a few acres are marked out every year for charring, and the coal-pits are established in the clearing made by felling the trees. The “coaling,” as it is technically termed, is an assemblage of “pits,” or piles of wood, conical in form, and about ten feet in height by twenty in diameter. The wood is cut in equal lengths, and is piled three or four tiers high, each log resting on the end of that below it, and inclining slightly inwards. An opening is left in the centre of the pile, serving as a chimney; and the exterior is overlaid with strips of turf, called “floats,” which form an almost air-tight covering. When the pile is overlaid, fire is set at various small apertures in the sides, and when the whole “pit” is fairly burning, the chimney is closed, in order to prevent too rapid combustion, and the whole pile is slowly converted into charcoal. The application of the term “pit” to those piles is worthy of remark. It is due, of course, to the fact, that for centuries it was customary to burn charcoal in excavated pits, until it was discovered that gradual combustion could be as well secured by another and less tedious method.

The Pine Rat glories in his surreptitious coal-pits. In secluded portions of the forest, he may continually be discovered pottering over a “coaling,” for which he has stolen the wood. This, indeed, is his only handicraft,—the single labor to which he condescends or is equal. Two or three men sometimes band together and build themselves huts after the curious fashion peculiar to the Rat, namely, by piling sticks or branches in a slope on each side of some tall pine, so that a wigwam, with the trunk of the tree in the centre, is constructed. Inside this triangular shelter—the idea of which was probably borrowed from the Indians—the Pine Rat ensconces himself with his whiskey-bottle at night, crouching in dread of the darkness, or of Leeds’s devil, aforesaid. In this respect he singularly resembles the Bohemian charcoal-burner, who trembles at the thought of Rübezahl, that malicious goblin, who has an army of mountain-dwarfs and gnomes at his command. So long as the sunlight inspires our Rat with confidence, however, he will work at his coal-pit, while one comrade is away in the forest, snaring game, and another has perhaps, been dispatched to the precincts of civilization with his wagon-load of coal. Yes! the Pine Rat sometimes treads the streets of cities,—nay, even extends his wanderings to the banks of the Delaware and the Hudson, to Philadelphia and Trenton, to Jersey City and New York. Then, who so sharp as the grimy tatterdemalion, who passes from street to street and from house to house, with his swart and rickety wagon, and his jangling bell, the discordant clangor of which, when we hear it, calls up horrible recollections of the bells that froze our hearts in plague-stricken cities of other lands, when doomed galley-slaves and forçats wheeled awful vehicles of putrefaction through the streets, clashing and clinking their clamorous bells for more and still more corpses, and foully jesting over the Death which they knew was already upon them ! But the long-drawn, monotonous, nasal cry of the charcoal-vender—who has not heard it?—“Char-coa’l Cha-r-coa’l”—is more cheerful than the demoniac laughter of the desperate galley-slaves, and his bell sounds musically when we hear it and think of theirs. Sometimes a couple of these peregrinants may be seen to encounter each other in the streets, and straights way there is an adjournment to the nearest bar-room, where the most scientific method of “springing the arch” is discussed over a glass of whiskey, at three cents the quart. Springing the arch, though few may be able to interpret the phrase, is a trick by which every housewife has suffered. It is the secret of piling the coal into the measure in such a manner as to make the smaller quantity pass for the larger, or, in other words, to make three pecks go for a bushel. So the Pine Rat vindicates his claim to a common humanity with all the rest of us men and women; for have not we all our secret and most approved method of springing the arch,—of palming off our three short pecks for a lull and bounteous imperial bushel? Ah, yes ! brothers and sisters, whisper it, if you will, below your breath, but we all can do the Pine Rat’s trick!

We shall not suffer his company much longer in this world,—poor, neglected, pitiable, darkened soul that he is, this fellow-citizen of ours. He must move on; for civilization, like a stern, prosaic policeman, will have no idlers in the path. There must be no vagrants, not even in the forest, the once free and merry greenwood, our policeman-civilization says; nay, the forest, even, must keep a-moving! We must have farms here, and happy homesteads, and orchards heavy with promise of cider, and wheat golden as hope, instead of silent aisles and avenues of mournful pine-trees, sheltering such forlorn miscreations as our poor cranberry-stealing friends! Railways are piercing the Pines; surveyors are marking them out in imaginary squares; market-gardeners are engaging land; and farmers are clearing it. The Rat is driven from point to point, from one means of subsistence to another; and shortly, he will have to make the bitter choice between regulated labor and starvation clean off from the face of the earth. There is no room for a gypsy in all our wide America! The Rat must follow the Indian,—must fade like breath from a window-pane in winter!

In fact, the forest, left so long in its aboriginal savagery, is about to be regenerated. A railroad is to be constructed, this year, which will place Hanover and the centre of the forest within one hour’s travel of Philadelphia; and it is scarcely too much to anticipate, that within five years, thousands of acres, now dense with pines and cedars of a hundred rings, will be laid out in blooming market-gardens and in fields of generous corn. Such little cultivation as has hitherto been attempted has been attended by the most astonishing results; and persons have actually returned from the West and South, in order to occupy farms in the neighborhood of Hanover.

In one respect c’est dommage; one is grieved to part with the game that is now so plentiful in the Pines. Owing to the beneficent provision of the laws of New Jersey, which strigently forbid every description of hunting in the State during alternate periods of five years, game of all kinds has an opportunity to multiply; and at the termination of the season of rest, in October, 1858, there was some noble hunting in the neighborhood of Hanover. Five years hence, bears and deed will be a tradition, panthers and raccoons a myth, partridges and quails a vain and melancholy recollection, in what shall then be known as what was once the Pines.

Best regards,


Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
Pines; Bamber area
That was an excellant article. That gentleman could write very well, though he was certainly pompous. But all in all, very well written, and a good story. Made me laugh out loud a couple time.

I like this part...

"We had driven no great distance, when my companion lifted his whip, and, pointing to a long, dark, indistinct line which crossed the road in the distance, blocking the prospect ahead and on either side, as far as the eye could reach, exclaimed: “Them’s the Pines!”

I feel that way coming in from Allentown on 539. All of a sudden....BAM! are in the thick of it where Fort Dix begins.

Also, this article brings to a head this thought; to each visitor, the pines are unique and amazing. Nothing like them can be found in the surrounding states, and all are amazed by the diversity to be found.


Feb 10, 2004
That is an interesting read. I suspect that it never really happened, though, because Benjamin died May 10, 1849.

Thanks for posting it Jerseyman.
That is an interesting read. I suspect that it never really happened, though, because Benjamin died May 10, 1849.

Thanks for posting it Jerseyman.


I’m glad you had a chance to read this article; I was going to drop you an email about it. Regarding Benjamin Jones, if you read the passage again, I think you will see that the author was merely recounting historical events and did not intimate that he enjoyed any palaver with Mr. Jones. At least that is my take on the text.

I will email you soon regarding other pending matters.

Best regards,