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Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Tuckerton Indian and the Camden Connection

A few weeks ago, I was at the Tuckerton Historical Society and Bruce Ellis stopped by. We got to talking about topics that I might post on the Blog that would be of interest to the people in the New Gretna-Tuckerton area. He mentioned the Indian on the memorial at the intersection of Route 9 and Great Bay Boulevard. You know, as many times as I've driven by that monument, I haven't  the foggiest idea of how it got there and what it represents. I've never bothered to get out of my car, walk over to the monument, and read the inscriptions. Seems, I'm always too busy to stop or just never had quite enough interest to investigate what that Indian is all about. How about you?

The Tuckerton Indian at the intersection of Route 9 and Great Bay Boulevard. (February 12, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

The Tuckerton Indian with his arms resolutely crossed, stares out over the town of Tuckerton. (February 12, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Well, a few days ago I was riding through Tuckerton and, as I was passing the monument, I decided to stop and spend some time with that Indian and finally find out who he is and why he's there. Reading the inscriptions engraved on the monument and on the two plaques that are affixed to the monument shed some light on the matter. 

The large lettered inscription about the large bronze plaque mounted on the front of the monument tells us that the monument is dedicated to brothers who were killed during World War I.

IN THE WORLD WAR  1917-1919

The large bronze plague below this inscription tells us who these brothers were. Indian tribes whose members fought in the war and individuals from these tribes who lost their lives in the great conflict are listed. 

The inscriptions on front of the monument reveal the purpose of the memorial. (February 12, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

My next question was, who erected the monument? The inscription in the marble at the base of the monument reads  .   .   .


This, and the the small bronze plaque below answered this question.


The inscriptions at the base of the monument reveals the Indian originated in Camden, N.J in 1920 and was moved to Tuckerton and rededicated in 1981. (February 12, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Just how and why the Indian made its way from Camden to Tuckerton is explained in two newspaper articles found in the files of the Tuckerton Historical Society.




by Diane Freck - Press correspondent

TUCKERTON — Early settlers used to fear the arrival of Indians. But citizens here Thursday readily welcomed the bronze chief­tain who entered their community.

The chief, who stood nearly 14 feet tall when mounted on a marble monument, has been a long-awaited visitor in this borough. The chief and three monument sections quiet­ly entered the town at about 12:30 p.m.

For borough resident Ed Hagelin, a past Great Sachem for the Tuckerton Improved Order of Red Men, the event has been antici­pated since 1962. Councilman Howard Fran­cis, who is also a past Great Sachem for the local Red Men, has also tried for 1½ years to relocate the Indian statue in the borough.

“It’s been a long battle, but we finally made it,” Francis said as the bronze Indian was lowered into place. He attributed the fruition of his dreams to a committee formed by himself, Hagelin, Don Sanford and Em­manuel Brown, all Red Men, who worked to get the Indian to grace the borough.

The monument, which belongs to the Great Council of New Jersey Improved Order of Red Men, was erected in the city of Camden about 60 years ago. The Camden County Red Men put up the Indian statue to pay tribute to the various tribe members who had fought in World War I.

A bronze plate on the monument reads, “In memory of our brothers who made the su­preme sacrifice in the World War 1917-1919” and then a list of the American Indian tribes which participated in the war followed.

According to Francis and Hagelin, there are few tribe members left in the Camden County area and the park in which the Indian statue once stood has been slated for hospital expansion. Camden’s housing authority agreed to pay to move the statue anywhere the Great Council decided and Tuckerton won, the men said.

The arrival of the Indian brought a small group of onlookers who watched as the chief took up residence in the borough. And the chief, his bronze skin tarnished green, stood proudly at his Route 9 vantage point looking toward the north and across Pohatcong Lake.

The local Red Men are particularly pleased to have the statue since Tuckerton has special significance for American Indian descendents. According to Francis, Lenape Indians for years had crossed over the triangle of ground that now separates Route 9 from Great Bay Boulevard and contains the statue

“The Lenapes came from Friendship and used to travel along the lakes,” Francis said. “They then went up Bartlett Lane to a camp­site they had back that way. This is a regular Indian trail. They came right across this area every summer.

“The two or three other places discussed by the Great Council were off the beaten path. This spot is right along Route 9 and the heritage around here is about the Indians. Also, it’s near the lodge and near Lake Pohatcong,” Francis added.

Currently, there is no name for Tucker­ton’s new chieftain but the Red Men said that might change when the lodge has a formal dedication of the statue in May.

Atlantic City Press

Article clipping undated - probably October, 1980




by Ralph Morano Jr.- Staff Writer

TUCKERTON — It has been seven years since Howard Francis brought Chief Pohatcong, a large Indian statue, across the state from Camden to the fork of Route 9 and Great Bay Boulevard here.

The Indian has become the most visible representation of the Pohatcong Tribe of the Redmen, which owns the statue, and a sym­bol of municipal pride in the seven years it has called the borough home.

However, Francis, a member of the Redmen and also a Tuckerton councilman, said the question he is most asked about the 69-year-old Indian is when is he going to get a bath.

The elements have left a green residue on the statue and Francis said a lot of people contact him, wanting to restore its original finish.

“Many of the people who call (ab­out the statue) want to do something about cleaning it up,” Fran­cis said. “But that is impossible.

Francis said sandblasting would be the only way to clean the statue but was told the results would be only temporary and that the sta­tue might be ruined.

“The company that moved the statue said it wouldn’t be long be­fore the elements would take their toll on the statue again,” he said. “And they said the sandblasting would take off some of the surface and leave the statue exposed to de­terioration.

“We don’t need the arms falling off,” he said.

Before the Indian was moved to his present home, he was covered with graffiti.

The statue once stood in a park in Camden, susceptible to the van­dals who run ramp ant in nearly every urban area. However, the Indian was moved because a veter­ans hospital was planned to re­place the park.

Homeless, the Indian was scheduled for destruction.

The chief’s fate came to the attention of Francis, then the Great Sachem (the highest rank­ing official) of the Redmen in New Jersey. Francis decided to form a committee in an attempt to bring the statue to Tuckerton.

After long meetings and discus­sions, the committee was able to convince all concerned that Tuckerton was a better home for the statue than a scrap heap.

“The Redmen had built it and so it belonged to us,” he said.

The Indian was moved to Tuck­erton in October 1980 and dedi­cated in August the following year.

Camden’s Urban Housing Re­newal Commission offered to pay for moving of statue and the Redmen's state chapter agreed to pay to have the graffiti cleaned off, according to Francis.

“It was really something to see the statue being moved,” he said. “It was so heavy the company that moved it couldn’t even use one of their own trucks. They needed a 100-ton cherry picker.”

Francis said the state Redmen hold an annual pilgrimage to the statue, which is a statewide symbol of the Redmen.

“Even though we gave the Indi­an his name (coming from the chapter and the lake which the statue overlooks) we can’t make it official because everyone else in the state wants to name it after his own chapter,” Francis said. “In a way, it belongs to everybody.”

 [ Tuckerton Beacon - March 26, 1987 ]

Well, Bruce, I hope that answers your questions about the Tuckerton Indian. Regarding the Redmen and their history in Tuckerton  .   .   .   We'll leave that for another time. Stay tuned!

Pete S


  1. Thanks for the information on the Tuckerton Indian. I've often wondered what it's story was, but like you, Pete, never stopped long enough to investigate. Now I know. Elaine M.

  2. According to my grandfather, Roy Mathis, the last real "Indian" that he knew of, lived around Tuckerton somewhere, and died by drowning in Tuckerton Creek. Roy was born in the 1870's I believe.

    Bob Mathis

  3. Pete,

    According to the late Jack Cervetto of Warren Grove, when he was a boy an elderly man told him that when he was a boy, Indians from Papoose Branch would walk past his house on Beaver Dam Road on their way to Tuckerton to visit friends and to go clamming or hunting. If you visit the Warren Grove - Reevestown cemetery, you will see at the NE corner nineteen old gravestones in a row alleged to be Indian graves. (Living With The Pine Barrens; Jack Cervetto 1908-1995; Ocean County Historical Society, 2000)

  4. Does anyone know what happened to the NJ State Historic Site marker which was installed on the triangle in 1932? It was entitled "Tuckerton."

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  6. Howard Frances past away today.

  7. I always wondered about that statue. My husband's grandmother was part of the Seminole tribe in Florida. It's great to know that American Indians are honored in our area. My husband mother passed when he was 8 month old and his grandmother has Alzheimer's. His grandmother lived on the reservation and moved when she was married I guess in 1945ish. She never attended the 1950 tribal council to obtain Native American rights so they will not let my husband's family to obtain tribal rights even though blood tests and their appearance is obviously Native American. So sad.