Wrangel Brook and Randolph's saw mill

Discussion in 'Get Togethers, Events, and Trip Reports' started by pinelandpaddler, Jul 1, 2008.

  1. pinelandpaddler

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2004
    Messages:
    3,102
    Likes Received:
    174
    Today, Yvonne (infinite sameness) and I launched a canoe on Tom's River just upstream from Route 9. Paddling upstream, we passed under the Parkway bridge above which the river forks where its two major tributaries join forces. Our plan was to paddle up the lesser tributary, the Wrangel (or Wrangle) Brook. Our main destination was the confluence of the Davenport Branch and the Wrangel Brook, where it is said that Randolph's sawmill once operated. Incidentally, Captain Bigelow, the legendary privateer, had his house near this location. According to Salter's History of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, New Jersey, Bigelow's "residence is described in a survey made in 1773, as on the North side of Wrangle Brook 30 chains above James Randolph's saw-mill, which was at the junction of Wrangel Brook with Davenport." Included in Salter's book is the advertisement for the sale of Randolph's properties, including the saw mill: "The subscriber has for sale a very good farm, in situation convenient for salt works near Toms River, with near three hundred acres of good salt meadows, which will support one hundred head of cattle, and is exceedingly handy for fish and oysters. Also a good saw mill with a large quantity of cedar swamp to said mill."
    Aside from running a salt works near Mosquito Cove, James Randolph was better known as perhaps the biggest name in the lumber industry in the Tom's River area during the early years of the Revolution. Eager to find evidence of Randolph's saw mill, we ventured up the shallow Wrangel Brook.

    Just minutes upstream from the mouth of the Wrangel, we passed by two man-made enbankments on either side of the stream which were either associated with a bridge or a dam, or both. Here is the location as depicted in the 1930 aerials: http://maps.njpinebarrens.com/#lat=39.951529943566634&lng=-74.2137622833252&z=17&type=nj1930&gpx=

    Here is the South side: [​IMG]

    And the North: [​IMG]

    If anyone knows anything about the history of this particular location, please do tell.

    Immediately upstream, we came across some bridge pilings that I suspect are very old and unrelated to the earthen enbankments just downstream. I see no sign of the bridge or a road in the 1930 photos.

    [​IMG]

    Again, if anyone knows anything about this or knows of an old map that depicts the bridge, I'd appreciate your input.

    We then continued upstream towards the junction of the Davenport and the Wrangel where I was hoping to see the remains of the dam that once stretched across the river just below the confluence. About a mile or so upstream, we came to a spot where dirt roads approached the stream from either side. Was this the site of the dam that powered Randolph's saw mill? At some point in the past, concrete barricades were put up to prevent vehicles from fording the stream at this point, although they have since been circumvented. A bunch of rocks and cinder blocks were laid down on the streambed to (presumably) make it easier for vehicles to cross. Just below the crossing was a timber spanning the width of the river. On the right bank of the creek was another timber of roughly the same length as the other. My first impression was that these were the remnants of some sort of structure with a square base. Just upstream to the left, a small channel met up with the main channel. I initially thought that it was in fact the Davenport Branch, although I discounted this when I saw how narrow and shallow it was and decided it was probably a off-shoot of the Wrangel Brook.

    Confused, I proceeded upstream. Within minutes, we came to the unmistakeable confluence of the Davenport (to the left) and the Wrangel:

    [​IMG]

    We parked the canoe and headed up the shallow Davenport by foot. 'Tis a pretty stream: [​IMG]

    After a little trek upstream, we turned around and walked back to our canoe. At the meeting of the two streams, I searched intently for any evidence of a dam. I found none. Disappointed, we started paddling back down the Wrangel.

    When we got back to Yvonne's house, I consulted aerial photographs in order to try to make sense out of my confusion. I realized that the junction of the Davenport and the Wrangel used to be at the location of the crossing where the barricades are. I am now thinking that the crossing was the site of Randolph's dam and that the timber base below the dam was where the saw mill stood. It doesn't appear that there were any raceways in the area, so perhaps the saw mill was right smack in the middle of the stream?

    Thanks for reading. Hopefully someone here can help shed some light on this.
     
    #1
  2. BEHR655

    BEHR655 Piney

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2003
    Messages:
    2,711
    Likes Received:
    5
    Nice report Gabe. Just how far were you able to go? It looks beautiful there. I'll have to check it out some day.

    Steve
     
    #2
  3. bobpbx

    bobpbx Piney
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2002
    Messages:
    10,139
    Likes Received:
    1,236
    Very nice Gabe. Good report and good history. If you had gone another 500 yards both those rivers disappear upstream into retirement communities. You would have been shocked at how urban they are. I have never been where you were though. It looks nice.

    But above them, there is plenty of wilderness and plenty of history, including Crossley's Preserve. PBX did a trip 7 years ago called "Wrestling with the Wrangle". Here is the trip report.

    ========================================================


    Trip Report for Wrangle Brook, 3/31/01

    If you missed this one you missed a mixed bag. We gave it a only a 6 to 7 on the scale. We had a raw, wet, cloudy day for hiking.

    We started out about 3 miles West from the Lakehurst Circle on route 70, and headed East through the woods. These woods are fairly hilly, with fields cut every so often for the deer. It was pretty easy going at first.

    After a couple hours of bush-whacking we came to the Michaels Branch of the Wrangle Brook. This creek was swollen like a pregnant cow from all the recent rains. We crossed over at a beaver dam, walked about a half-mile east, and then tried to cross back over.

    Re-crossing was not easy to do. At that point the creek is channeled through a very narrow bed, maybe 10 to 15 feet wide. It was running strong and looked to be about 6 to 8 feet deep. We had to walk along the bank for about 200 yards till we found a cedar tree crossing the bank that would hold our weight. We were about 15 minutes getting everyone across.

    After lunch we walked to a reservoir hidden pretty deep within these woods. Its has roads to it, but its pretty far back. From this reservoir we struck a compass line to the mining pit reservoir, about a mile through the woods. We got there fine, considering I kept trying to align the compass wrong on the map.

    This mining area looks like a combination of the Sahara Desert and Indian Lake. It is a huge area, with the ubiquitous trail bikes and ATV’s humming to beat the band.

    When leaving the pit, I thought we might try bush-whacking west to the Central Railroad bed. What a mistake that was. We got into a swamp that was the most difficult traveling swamp I have ever been in. It was absolutely choked with ink-berry and swamp maple trees about 7 feet high. They grew so close together it was impossible to make any headway at all without them grabbing at you and holding you back. Then, on top of that, the water started getting deeper. We all agreed a retreat was called for, so it was back to the mining pit.

    We stayed close to the pit, and found a trail that led us to the railroad bed, and from there it was an easy 1 mile walk back to the cars.

    The trip was, we all agreed, too long. We walked about 9 or 10 miles. My experience leads me to believe that a bush-whacking trip should not be any longer than 6 or 7 miles (depending upon terrain).

    The trip had some good moments. The woods in the beginning were nice to be in, and it is always good to see each other again. This one was attended by Paul, Joe, and Tony.

    They can’t all be perfect, right?……….Bob.
     
    #3
  4. Jerseyman

    Jerseyman Piney

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2003
    Messages:
    1,347
    Likes Received:
    281
    Gabe:

    I scanned a detail from my 1889 Cook/Vermeule Atlas Sheet 13 and annotated it to show you some of what you were looking at while on your canoe trip:

    [​IMG]

    You can readily see how the Davenport Branch and Wrangel Brook flowed together to form the millpond backed up from the milldam with the road crossing over it.

    By the time Vermeule compiled his Report on Water Supply volume of the Final Report of the State Geologist (Vol. III, 1894), this millpond powered a sawmill and turning mill belonging to D.C. Van Schoick. The dam had a fall of 8 feet, which had a generating rating of 35 gross horsepower and 25 net horsepower.

    I have not found information concerning when the last sawmill actually shut down.

    Best regards,
    Jerseyman
     
    #4
  5. Jerseyman

    Jerseyman Piney

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2003
    Messages:
    1,347
    Likes Received:
    281
    BTW, Gabe—the pilings you found could very well represent the bridge that William Torrey constructed to get his charcoal railroad over to the south side of Toms River and its eastern terminus and shipping pier. If that is the case, then the pilings date to 1842. Very cool!!!

    Best regards,
    Jerseyman
     
    #5
  6. Jerseyman

    Jerseyman Piney

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2003
    Messages:
    1,347
    Likes Received:
    281
    Gabe:

    In thinking about the relationship between the confluence of Wrangel Brook and Davenport Branch and the milldam, I suspect that the point where these two streams came together was once much closer to the dam, hence the description of Randolph’s sawmill puts it right at the confluence. I think either Randolph or subsequent mill owners excavated the point of land between the two streams to afford room for the millpond and to use the removed soil to construct or raise the dam. Speculation all, but it does make sense!

    Best regards,
    Jerseyman
     
    #6
  7. pinelandpaddler

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2004
    Messages:
    3,102
    Likes Received:
    174
    I knew Jerseyman would come through with some valuable information!

    The junction of the two streams has certainly shifted upstream, either through natural means or by the work of man. Below marks the present point of confluence:

    http://maps.njpinebarrens.com/#lat=39.955740807280584&lng=-74.22261357307434&z=17&type=nj1930&gpx=

    Are you suggesting that this channel might have been dug out to provide dirt for the dam? At the location of the modern junction, I found a irregular mounds of sand that I originally suspected might be the remains of an earthen dam. Perhaps this was in fact the site of the excavation? Great thoughts, Jerseyman!
     
    #7
  8. pinelandpaddler

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2004
    Messages:
    3,102
    Likes Received:
    174
    Steve, once we got to the junction of the two streams, we walked up the Davenport for about 10 minutes. We passed a few retirment houses on the way. Lots and lots of fallen trees on that stretch. We then waqlked back to our canoe and paddled up the Wrangel for only about 5 minutes or so until we got to a big blowdown that neither one of us felt like portaging over.
     
    #8
  9. pinelandpaddler

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2004
    Messages:
    3,102
    Likes Received:
    174
    http://gallery.njpinebarrens.com/dat...s_Sheet_13.jpg

    Jerseyman, the location you list as the possible site of the mill dam appears to correspond to the embankments that are depicted here:

    http://maps.njpinebarrens.com/#lat=39.9516286386518&lng=-74.21428799629211&z=17&type=nj1930&gpx=

    Perhaps this was the location of D.C. Van Schoick's mill, whereas Randolph's was situated here:

    http://maps.njpinebarrens.com/#lat=39.955074652744955&lng=-74.22207713127136&z=17&type=nj1930&gpx=

    What do you think?
     
    #9
  10. Jerseyman

    Jerseyman Piney

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2003
    Messages:
    1,347
    Likes Received:
    281
    Gabe:

    I cannot find fault with your logic and, if I read your first posting on this thread correctly, it might better explain the appearance of the bridge pilings upstream from the Van Schoick dam but downstream from the Randolph dam. It did not make a lot of sense to me that Torrey would construct his timber trestle across the millpond. However, if Randolph’s dam diminished the water’s rate of flow, then the location where you found the pilings fits perfectly! And, your location for the Randolph dam appears to put the sawmill itself closer to the confluence of Wrangel Brook and Davenport Branch.

    Good work, Gabe!! If you return to this location, take a closer look for remnants of Randolph’s sawmill immediately east of the suspected milldam location—the tells could be either along the south shore or even in the center of the dam. I would be surprised if he constructed the sawmill along the north shore.

    Best regards,
    Jerseyman
     
    #10
  11. pinelandpaddler

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2004
    Messages:
    3,102
    Likes Received:
    174
    That is quite a compliment coming from you, Jerseyman!

    What about the two timbers I found just below the site of Randolph's dam? There was one timber in the sand spanning the width of the stream. Perpendicular to it, there is another timber along the north bank. They form a right angle which, to me, suggested a square base for a structure. Thoughts?
     
    #11
  12. pinelandpaddler

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2004
    Messages:
    3,102
    Likes Received:
    174
    Jerseyman, do you know of any old maps that depict Torrey's railroad?
     
    #12
  13. Jerseyman

    Jerseyman Piney

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2003
    Messages:
    1,347
    Likes Received:
    281

    Gabe:

    Tell me more about these timbers. For instance, what is the width and depth of the wood (6x8 or 10x12 or what?)? Also, prior to Van Schiock constructing his milldam, I presume the streams remained tidal right up to Randolph’s dam—is that correct? If so, I suspect the wood stretching across the stream served as the anchoring timber for sheeting on the dam. The timber sheeting would have prevented the tidal flow from eroding the face and footing of the dam. The perpendicular piece may have served to keep the cross-stream timber in place. Does this sound like a possibility?

    Best regards,
    Jerseyman
     
    #13
  14. Jerseyman

    Jerseyman Piney

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2003
    Messages:
    1,347
    Likes Received:
    281
    Gabe:

    I have never located a map depicting the route of the old Torrey Railroad. However, it is discussed in some detail in the text of The Trail of the Blue Comet (page 14). If you do not own the book, let me know and I will transcribe and post a portion of the book here.

    Best regards,
    Jerseyman
     
    #14
  15. pinelandpaddler

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2004
    Messages:
    3,102
    Likes Received:
    174
    I will have to return to the site and then get back to you. I don't recall them being very thick. 6x8 sounds close though.

    Good question. Although I do not have intimate knowledge of the rivers up that way, I believe that tidal influence is minimal above the meeting of the Wrangel Brook and the Main Branch of Tom's River. (BTW, there must be some cooler names for the main branch than "Main Branch". Do you know of any?) With sea levels lower at the time Randolph's saw mill was in operation, my hunch is that the tide was not much of a factor. However, I'm not at all sure about this.

    Absolutely! We'll have to ask Spung Man what he thinks about the river being tidal up to that point back then.
     
    #15
  16. Jerseyman

    Jerseyman Piney

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2003
    Messages:
    1,347
    Likes Received:
    281
    Gabe:

    Here is an excerpt from The Trail of the Blue Comet concerning the Torrey charcoal railroad:


    Iron making at Manchester probably ended around 1836 or 1837. Some remains of the furnace were supposed to have been visible as late as the 1860s, but if so, they were probably removed soon after. Instead of iron, Torrey concentrated on the sale of cordwood and the manufacture of charcoal. He tried to make charcoal in brick kilns, a process that had been developed in France in the late 18th century but was unknown in the Pine Barrens. In his first attempts he was unable to adequately restrict the admission of air, and the charges of wood were burned completely to ash.
    To ship the charcoal, Torry obtained an act of authorization from the legislature in February 1842 for a private railroad. In March, he obtained, through trustees William Hurry, a thirty-foot-wide strip across the land of Anthony Ivins, the only tract between his [Torrey’s] property and the south bank opposite Toms River. The track was built of wood with a light iron plate rail and was laid on the surface of the ground without extensive grading. Except at its easternmost end, the line appears to have followed the location of the later Toms River Branch. It was probably finished by June, when Torrey began shopping for a locomotive. Baldwin quoted him a price of $5,800 for a new engine and strongly advised him against buying a second-hand one. Ignoring this advice, Torrey made a contract with another builder, Eastwick & Harrison, for a locomotive that weighed laess than five tons yet was capable of drawing thirty tons at six miles per hour.
    Eastwick & Harrison were reputable builders, credited with important innovations in locomotive design. Given the price he was willing to pay, perhaps they simply pegged Torrey as a bush-league operator or an easy mark. The locomotive in question had actually been built in Philadelphia by Moses Starr & Sons, makers of marine and domestic boilers. Starr also produced locomotive boilers and iron tender tanks for Baldwin and other Philadelphia Locomotive builders. The running gear had been finished at the machine shop of Mordecai W. & Thomas Greer. It probably represented an abortive attempt on the part of the Starrs and Greers to start their own locomotive business. Its performance on an otherwise unidentified railroad near Philadelphia had been dismal, and Starr had been unable to sell it. Eastwick & Harrison agreed to pay Starr $1,350 conditional upon its resale to Torrey for $2,500. Perhaps the hefty markup represented an anticipated rebuilding, or perhaps merely easy pickings.
    The locomotive was delivered about the first of July, but proved a failure in every respect. Its axles were found to be unsuited to the track in some unspecified way, probably track gauge, and it was immediately returned for rebuilding. Weighing over eight tons, it proved too heavy for the track and not powerful enough for the undulating grade, even when the control of an engineer provided by Eastwick & Harrison. On being asked about new boiler tubes, Starr replied that it would be a waste of time.
    On August 22, Torrey informed Eastwick & Harrison that the engine failed to meet specifications. He abandoned it to them, but they did not want it back. Accordig to John Wainwright, a Manchester resident at the time, the engine ran off the track near a place called Iron Bridge, presumably near Toms River, and was left to rest where it fell, after which mules were used. Torrey refused to honor the notes he had given in payment. Moses Starr retired in 1843 and died soon after. His son, John F. Starr, moved the business across the river to Camden in 1845 and pursued the case thorugh to the state supreme court. Torrey was finall upheld in July 1849 and awarded $88 in damages and costs, but by that time Torrey was in need of much more than $88. …The railroad was not used after the fall of 1846. (excerpted from pp. 14-15)

    I have research in my files that can confirm this text, including the deed from Ivins to Hurry for the right-of-way strip of land across Ivins land for the railroad.

    I hope this helps you understand the Torrey charcoal railroad a bit better, Gabe!!

    Best regards,
    Jerseyman
     
    #16
  17. woodjin

    woodjin Piney

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Messages:
    4,272
    Likes Received:
    239
    Nice report Gabe. I was unaware of this history till reading about it here. Thanks for sharing the experience with us.

    Jeff
     
    #17
  18. pinelandpaddler

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2004
    Messages:
    3,102
    Likes Received:
    174
    You that man, Jerseyman. Thanks!
     
    #18
  19. pinelandpaddler

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2004
    Messages:
    3,102
    Likes Received:
    174
    My pleasure, Jeff. We should get together for a paddle up that way sometime.
     
    #19
  20. HeathenClerk

    HeathenClerk Explorer

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2004
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    8
    In researching the history of the land that became Beachwood, I've come across several references to Torrey's Manchester Coal Company wooden railroad and docks on the south side of the Toms River. Dating to 1886, 1901 and 1906 they are well before the copyright law. 18860428 - NJC - Spiles Drowning of Lewis Davis 01 - Manchester Coal Co Ref.jpg 18860428 - NJC - Spiles Drowning of Lewis Davis 02 - Manchester Coal Co Ref.jpg 19011107 - NJC - Spiles and Squally Cove Charcoal Docks Referenced 01.jpg 19011107 - NJC - Spiles and Squally Cove Charcoal Docks Referenced 02.jpg 19011107 - NJC - Spiles and Squally Cove Charcoal Docks Referenced 03.jpg 19061123 - NJC - Lakehurst William Torrey Ref Wooden Railway to Spiles 01.jpg 19061123 - NJC - Lakehurst William Torrey Ref Wooden Railway to Spiles 02.jpg 19061123 - NJC - Lakehurst William Torrey Ref Wooden Railway to Spiles 03.jpg 19061123 - NJC - Lakehurst William Torrey Ref Wooden Railway to Spiles 04.jpg 19061123 - NJC - Lakehurst William Torrey Ref Wooden Railway to Spiles 05.jpg
     
    #20