How to add a posting below . . .

To add a new posting, send an email to me at with a comment, question, story, photo, observation, etc. It will be posted below, shortly after the email is received. To comment on an existing posting, click on the "comments" command below the posting and type your comment. Your comment will show up immediately.   Pete Stemmer

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sea Serpents Revisited

Last July, I posted a Blog entry about Rube Corliss and the Loch Ness Monster. In case you missed it, you can read it by clicking on the picture of Nessie below.

I'm sure that there are skeptics out in the Blog-O-Sphere doubting old Rube's account. After all, you're probably saying "There are no such things as sea serpents!" I may have agreed with you a while back; however, now I'm not so sure. 

The following 1840 account, vouched for by William McCarty, a respected businessman of that era, has me wondering if there is some truth behind the old accounts of sea serpents in our area.

William McCarty is clearly no crank. He built the iron making town of McCartyville just up the road a piece from New Gretna. After he went bankrupt, McCartyville became the paper town called Harrisville. Today, many local residents swim at Harrisville Lake where the ruins of the old Harrisville paper mill can still be seen.

Harrisville Lake
Photo by Pete Stemmer

Harrisville Paper Mill Ruins
Photo by Pete Stemmer

Before you call for the men in the white coats to take me away, I ask that you keep an open mind concerning sea serpents, as you read the following 1840 account.

Pete S

Sea Serpent drawing not with original article.

"American Miscellany of Popular Tales, Essays, Sketches of
Character, Poetry, and Jeax D'Esprit", 1840, p 181.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Leah Blackman Disowned

The Friday, March 16th Blog dealt with John Hallock and the castor oil industry in Tuckerton in the early 1800's. I quoted Leah Blackman (See quote below) as stating her father told her that Hallock was swindled by a local and thus spent his remaining days in poverty. Although she didn't mention the name of the rascal that took advantage of John Hallock, it was surely Nathan Bartlett, a "good" Tuckerton Quaker.

They [the local farmers] embarked in the castor bean trade, which to most of them proved a profitable business; in one instance laying the foundation for the largest fortune ever made in the place, but for the roguery of this one, Halleck — who had taught him the way to wealth — was made a bankrupt . . .  In his old age and the days of his poverty, John Halleck frequently made visits to my father, and I have prepared many a meal's victuals for poor wronged John Halleck, and after he left the house my father would remark that Mr. _______, who had ruined Halleck, ought to keep him a gentleman until the end of his life, but such rascals seldom make restitution. ("History of Little Egg Harbor", page 221) 

As I read through Leah's epoch "History of Little Egg Harbor Township", I can't help noticing a negative undertone regarding the Quakers in and around Little Egg Harbor. Her comments regarding John Hallock's treatment at the hands of fellow Quaker Nathan Bartlett is just one example.

The 1963 reprint of Leah's 1880 work

Leah's book was published in 1880; however, she had been working on it for many years, and her opinions were well known throughout the area. She was an outspoken woman at a time when being an outspoken woman was not fashionable, especially among the Orthodox Quakers of Little Egg Harbor.. 

I'm sure that her observations regarding the hypocritical behavior of some of her supposedly pious Quakers neighbors ruffled a few feathers, so it came as no surprise to me when I stumbled across Leah's name in the 1870's Little Egg Harbor Meeting House minutes. It seems that she was in hot water concerning accusations she made about some of her fellow Friends.

Leah was an outspoken woman of her time.
Photo courtesy of Arnold Cramer.

Leah was brought up on charges of defamation of character against some Meeting members and for refusing to attend the weekly meetings. I can't help wondering if her statements involving Nathan Bartlett and John Hallock were a part of the problem. 

The accusations were investigated and deliberated over a period of a few months with the situation finally ending in Leah being disowned from the Meeting on the 10th day of the 12th month, 1874. Simply stated, she was kicked out of the Little Egg Harbor Society of Friends.

Following are scans and transcriptions of the relevant pages from the Little Egg Harbor Friends' minutes. To understand what was happening some background regarding the Friends meeting is in order.

In addition to a weekly worship service on Sunday which the Quakers referred to as "First Day", the men and the women held monthly meetings to conduct the business of the Meeting. The following minutes are from the men's monthly business meetings.

The first minute entry indicates that the accusations against Leah originated in the Woman's monthly business meeting with the situation referred to the men's meeting. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the Woman's meeting minutes to see if more specific information regarding the charges were presented. 

I tend to believe that the Women's Meeting Minutes would not shed more light on the situation, as the specific persons who were allegedly defamed by Leah would probably not have been identified by name nor her comments regarding those individuals mentioned. That would only serve to enhance the slander.

At Little Eggharbour mo. Meeting held 10th mo 8 1874

A minute from Womans Meeting containing a charge against Leah Blackman inform that after hearing the report of their committee, and after full deliberation of the Meeting they are united in testifying against her, But refer the case to men friends for the further call in the case; Which on being read and deliberately considered -  our Meeting are united in appointing a committee to make further inquiring labour in the case and report to our ensuing Ms Meeting.

At Little Eggharbour mo. Meeting held 11th mo 12th 1874

The committee appointed in the 10 mo last to make further inquring and call in the case of Leah Blackman report viz.

The committee appointed to investigate into the case of Leah Blackman reported they find the charges fully sustained and that her charges against some of our members were entirely false, that she shows no disposition to return or give satisfaction - and they are united in the belief that further labour would be unavailing.

Signed Jonathan Cox on behalf of the committee.

Their report after consideration is approved and George Collins and Jonathan Cox are appointed to prepare a testimony of disownment against her and produce to our ensuing Mo. Meeting.

At Little Eggharbour mo. Meeting held 12th mo 10th 1874

The committee appointed to visit Leah Blackman having reported, they find the charges for defamation of character against some of our members, and refusing to attend our Meetings ___ are fully sustained, and feeling further labour would be unavailing:

This meeting is united in testifying against her being longer a member of our religious Society of Friends.

Signed on behalf of Little Eggharbour mo. meeting of Friends 12 mo 10th 1874

Archelius R. Pharo Clerk

Well, it seems as if my heroine, Leah, was not appreciated by her peers. The pluck and tenacity that gave us her wonderful historical and genealogical writings that are so precious to us today were her downfall. She was a fighter, and I tip my hat to her!

Pete S

PS- You can enlarge the minute photos by hitting the Ctrl and + keys simultaneously. Hitting the Ctrl and - keys will make them smaller.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Upcoming History & Genealogy Meetings

I got the following two announcements of upcoming meetings that may be of interest to some Blog readers.

From Joe Laffer, Burlington County Historian:
Wednesday, March 21st - 7:30 PM in the Springfield Township Municipal Building, 2159 Jacksonville-Jobstown Rd., Jobstown, NJ  08041Refreshments served. The Springfield Township's Historical Society will host a presentation by Judy Gauntt and Karen Robbins about the once thriving and fortified "Traders Island" (Burlington Island) in the Delaware River.  They recently visited the Peabody Museum in Boston that has thousands of artifacts that were extracted from the island more than 100 years ago proving the site one of the earliest trading centers in North America.  Their presentation will cover the 400 year period to the present.

From Troy Murphy, a Yoos Sooy descendant:
There will be an informal gathering of The Descendants of Yoos Sooy in the Meeting Room at the Atlantic County Library in Galloway Twp, NJ on September 29, 2012 from 10am to 4pm. The address is 306 East Jimmie Leeds Road - Galloway Twp NJ 08205. Please feel free to contact me at if you want to RSVP or get more information. The purpose of this gathering is to exchange Family Tree information, fill in the blanks and put some faces to the names. You are encouraged to bring your Laptop Computers, Documentation and Family Photos. The meeting is a ways off so, if your are interested, be sure to mark your calendar!

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Spoonful Of Sugar - Tuckerton Style

"A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down" is a line from a popular song in Walt Disney's 1964 movie, Mary Poppins

I'm not sure exactly what medicine Julie Andrews was singing about, but it's a good bet that it may have been castor oil. When I was a kid, castor oil was a cure for a variety of ailments. Unfortunately, unlike the benevolent Mary Poppins, I never received my spoonful of sugar along with the distasteful liquid.

A spoonful of sugar

You're probably wondering what all of this has to do with a history blog. Well, back in the early 1800's a major industry in Tuckerton was the castor oil business, In fact, it would not be a stretch for Tuckerton to have been the castor oil capital of New Jersey, and maybe even the entire USA, back then. Evidently the climate and soil was perfect for growing bumper crops.

It all started with the little castor bean. 

castor beans 

dried castor bean pods

The small castor bean grows in a pod on the not so little caster bean plant. I learned this first hand. Some years ago two of my good friends, Floyd West and Harry DeVerter, who live just down the street from me, had a friendly competition to see who could grow the tallest castor bean plant. I called it the "Jack and the Beanstalk" competition. 

Floyd and his castor bean plant.

I'm not sure who won the contest, but I was astonished to see how tall the plants actually got. They can grow to the size of a small tree, 25 to 30 feet tall, in a single season. 

I also learned, from Floyd and Harry, not to eat the beans, as they are extremely dangerous. They contain ricin, a deadly poison used in biological warfare. The "2007 Guinness Book of World Records" called the castor plant the most poisonous in the world.

Harry grinds the castor beans, mixes the powder with peanut butter, and places the concoction in mole holes to rid his vegetable garden of the pesky creatures. That taught me a valuable lesson - When Harry asks if I would like a peanut butter sandwich, I politely decline!

Now, finally, the connection of all of this to Tuckerton history . . . 

John Hallock, a Quaker, came to Tuckerton in 1816 from Long Island. He purchased a 278 acre farm from Thomas Ridgeway III on the west bank of Tuckerton Creek for $2,550. It was part of the property owned by Mordecai Andrews, one of the earliest Tuckerton settlers. Today, it is in the area occupied by the Tuckerton Seaport. Here, Hallock started growing castor beans, erected a castor oil pressing mill, and began manufacturing castor oil, which fetched a good price. 

The castor oil mill on Bartlett Lane in Tuckerton
(Photo courtesy of the Tuckerton Historical Society.)

Hallock entered into agreements with the Pharo and Bartlett families for the growing and pressing of the beans, which added considerably to their wealth. He also persuaded many of the farmers in Tuckerton and West Creek to grow castor beans. Soon a thriving castor oil industry developed in the area, with both the oil and raw beans being exported to the Philadelphia and New York markets.

A 1823 journal entry of a Philadelphia traveler mentions the castor oil business as thriving.

I found it interesting that John Watson mentioned that the Tuckerton salt works had a wind mill. Seven years ealier, in a 1816 journal entry, Hugh Judge wrote that he traveled from New York City to Tuckerton with John Hallock. He mentioned that the salt works produced about 2,000 bushels of salt in a summer season. That sounds like a pretty substantial operation to me and might make an interesting future Blog topic.

Hallock was a leader in the castor oil industry and held a United States patent for a castor oil press that could be driven by horses or by water power. Detailed patent information is available at the Tuckerton Historical Society.

Hallock eventually sold most of his Tuckerton holdings and, in 1823, bought property on the Wading River from John Youle, Jr. This property would later become a part of the Harrisville paper mill and town. 

Hallock and his partner, Philo Andrews, rebuilt and modernized the old Evi Balangee skit and slitting mill facility on the Wading River which had been destroyed by a fire on August 24, 1823. The new mill was used for the manufacture of castor and linseed oils. Hallock suffered a series of setbacks and sold his Wading River Mill interests- half to Samuel Read in February, 1824 and the remaining half to Timothy Pharo in October, 1825.

Leah Blackman, in her 1880 "History of Little Egg Harbor" writings, aludes to some trickery or skull-duggery involving Hallock's misfortune. Unfortunately, she didn't go into the details or name the person responsible for Hallock's troubles. She simply stated that:

They [the local farmers] embarked in the castor bean trade, which to most of them proved a profitable business; in one instance laying the foundation for the largest fortune ever made in the place, but for the roguery of this one, Halleck — who had taught him the way to wealth — was made a bankrupt . . .  In his old age and the days of his poverty, John Halleck frequently made visits to my father, and I have prepared many a meal's victuals for poor wronged John Halleck, and after he left the house my father would remark that Mr. _______, who had ruined Halleck, ought to keep him a gentleman until the end of his life, but such rascals seldom make restitution. (page 221)

Leah Blackman
(Photo courtesy of the Tuckerton Historical Society.)

Leah was too much a lady to name the rascal and, at the time she was writing it was unnecessary, as the locals would know exactly who she was talking about. It's we, 132 years later, who are left wondering.

I suspect the culprit was Nathan Bartlett who partnered with Hallock in various aspects of the castor oil business and ended up with Hallock's Tuckerton farm. The old Bartlett house still stands on the Seaport property, today.

The Bartlett House at the Tuckerton Seaport.

The Hallock, Bartlett, and Pharo families were all Quakers. When the Quakers split into Orthodox and Hicksite branches in the late 1820's, the Tuckerton Quakers remained Orthodox. John Hallock and his wife, Lydia, sided with the more liberal Hickite branch and moved their church affiliation to the Hicksite Meeting at Bridgeport just a stone's throw from the Wading River Bridge. It was then still a part of Little Egg Harbor but is now in Bass River Township. 

I believe it's possible that John Hallock's downfall was somehow related to his choice to leave the Little Egg Harbor Meeting at Tuckerton. It is likely that he was shunned by the orthodox Quakers, both socially and in business dealings. Additional research is needed to confirm my suspicions.

I don't know where or when John Hallock died or where he is buried. His wife, Lydia, who was a Hicksite minister along with the famous Lucy Evans, died in 1830 and is buried at the old Bridgeport Meeting House site. Fittingly, her grave is beside that of Lucy.

Old Bridgeport Meeting House, circa mid 1920's
(Photo courtesy of Steve Eichinger.)

Lydia Hallock's tombstone at Bridgeport
(Photo by Pete Stemmer)

Well, our "spoonful of sugar" sure took us on a serendipitous journey. I hope that you found it interesting. 

Pete S

PS- I'm not sure if castor oil was bottled in Tuckerton. Castor oil was pressed locally, but beans were also shipped to New York and Philadelphia for pressing and processing. If the oil was bottled locally, I wonder if anyone out in the Blog-O-Spere might have an identifiable Tuckerton bottle that they might share with us here at the Blog.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Loco Weed Farming in Little Egg Harbor

It seems that a night doesn't go by when I don't see someone getting busted on the Six O'Clock News for smoking, using, or growing marijuana. It appears to be a national epidemic!

I got to thinking that perhaps I would have preferred living back in the 1930's or 1940's when times were simpler and more innocent. When they didn't have the problems that we have today. It surely wouldn't be likely to catch a pot smoker or grower back then, especially in Little Egg Harbor.

Well, imagine my chagrin when I stumbled across a June 27, 1935 Tuckerton Beacon article about a ten acre marijuana farm right here in Little Egg Harbor. It seems that the old saying -  "The more things change, the more they stay the same." is indeed true!

The owner of the farm, Thomas Perry, maintained his innocence in the matter, stating that the loco weed just grew naturally, and that he was unaware that it was marijuana. Evidently, the authorities believed him, as he was not prosecuted. However, he was ordered to plow the field under. Somehow, I'm a little skeptical about Mr. Perry's assertions, but you be the judge. I clipped out the article to share it with you.

The Perry farm was on Old Stage Road, according to the 1930 Little Egg Harbor census. That would put it in the Galetown section of Little Egg Harbor. Thomas was born in Texas, and his wife, Inez, was born in Virginia. His occupation is listed as truck farming.

If anyone out in the Blog-O-Sphere has any information on the Perry family or farm, I would like to hear from you.

Pete S