As I watched the story of the walking fish on the Discovery Chanel, my mind flashed back to Sylvester Mathis and his unwitting introduction of a new species to the Tuckerton area.
"This species [gophers or gray ground squirrels] also occurs in
, where it is rapidly increasing in numbers. I learned of its introduction there through Mr. Samuel Jillson, who first wrote me about it some three or four years since. Writing him recently about it for further information respecting the date and manner of its introduction, as well as for information respecting its present numbers and the area of its range, he has kindly replied as follows, under date of' Tuckerton, New Jersey, New Jersey May 6, 1877': ' The date of its introduction is May, 1867, when a single pair was brought here by Mr. Sylvester Mathis from Illinois. This pair soon gnawed out of their cage and escaped. This was in the . They are now found in Manahawken, nine miles north of Tuckerton, and also four miles south of Tuckerton and very likely farther. They are very common on all the farms about here, three miles from the village [of Tuckerton]. They seem to always keep in the fields, as I have never seen them in the woods. I find very little dirt at the mouth of their burrows, sometimes none. From one to two buckets of water poured into their holes will bring them out. We kill all we can on our farm. They destroy young chickens and turkeys, and the dogs dig large holes in our fields trying to get at the Gophers. I once found one in a salt hay stack in spring, dead, coiled up in the smallest ball possible. I also found one dead in my barn well. I think many of them winter in stacks and under outbuildings, for I never could drown out any late in the fall, in the flat fields. They are never seen here in winter, and no doubt are then dormant.' " villageof Tuckerton
From The Mammals of Pennsylvania and New Jersey by Samuel N. Rhodes, Privately Published,
, 1903. Philadelphia
I made a trip to Tuckerton in 1893, visiting the Messrs. Jillson and others in the surrounding country. This was during the fall season and the animals were hibernating. I secured no specimens except one mounted several years before by Mr. Jillson. Three or four burrows known to have been inhabited were visited without securing any. It was the general opinion that they were much diminished, though still present around Tuckerton . . . Since that date I have frequently endeavored, by the offer of 50 cents or even $1 each, to secure specimens without success. This indicates . . . the difficulty of catching them, which the natives complain about.
Mr. G. H. Van Note, of Barnegat, wrote me, in 1899 : " I think a few are left." Mr. T. P. Price, of Tuckerton, writes, under date of Dec., 1900 : " I have twice seen them within the past year and Joseph Webb (barber) told me he saw one last 'dove season.'" Mr. James A. G. Rehn, of
, tells me that in a recent zoological trip through the "Plains" of south central Burlington Co. he had conversation with a Mr. Wills, of Speedwell, regarding animals of that region. Wills told him of a squirrel, evidently of this species, which within a year or two had damaged cornfields near Eagle, 1 mile west of Speedwell, undermining the hills of corn. He had in former years captured them in cornfields near Speedwell. Philadelphia
Sylvestor Mathis and Alice Shropshire, in 1944, during their school days at Tuckerton High School. (Photo courtesy of Jean Shropshire Harris.)
The Great John Mathis settled in the Bass River area in 1714.|Jeremiah Mathis (1726-1762)|Hezekiah Mathis (1749-1835)|Aden Mathis (1803-1851)|Sylvester Mathis (1826-1871) INTRODUCED GOPHERS TO TUCKERTON|Aden Mathis (1848-1887)|Sylvester Orlando Mathis (1872-1953)|Sylvester Benjamin Mathis, Sr. (1903-1955)|Sylvester Benjamin Mathis, Jr. (b1927) married Alice Shropshire