Yesterday I attended the Pinelands Short Course given annually in March by the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, held at the Burlington County College in Pemberton, NJ. It was excellent! For each of five hours of lectures (with a lunch hour break) there were probably a dozen choices in such subject areas as birds, botany, hiking, canoeing, ecology, piney music, and ghost town histories. My own choices were Forgotten Towns, Tundra Swans, Birding, Botany and Canoeing, Ghost Towns, and The Pinelands Traveler. I could also have opted for an all day bus tour of the Pinelands, or a field trip to Whitesbog which Barbara and I had done before. The lectures I attended were done very well and were both entertaining and informative (Did you know that swans’ bones are largely hollow as are the bones of most birds? Who knew?)
Since reading Henry Charlton Beck’s Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey back in the 60’s I have been fascinated by the Pinelands. Beck’s books were published in the 30’s and much of what he found is long gone. Lecturers at the Short Course had many photos of what they had seen in the 70’s AND 80’S, and much of that is also now gone. (For my local friends, Henry Beck’s photographer for those books was the father of Dr. Howard Shivers.)
THE STORY OF A PENNY
Motivated by the Beck books, I obtained topographic maps of the pine barrens which showed the various trails through it. Marty Lou and I set off on one of those (about 1960) with Kirsten bouncing along in a car seat. The trail ran (and still does as I understand it) from Atsion just off 206 to Batsto but it is probably not for the faint of heart. It was originally the main trail from Tuckerton to Long A Comin’ (Berlin, NJ) over which Quakers would travel to their summer meeting in Tuckerton, departing Long A Comin’ at 3:00 in the morning to get to Tuckerton. It is said that a group of them financed the construction of the original bridge in order to avoid having to ford what was then a more substantial stream, hence, Quaker Bridge. Well, we found and crossed the bridge, then parked to take in the scene. I noticed something glinting in the stream bed and I waded out to retrieve it. It turned out to be an early American large Liberty-head penny from 1802. Can you imagine how excited we were? We wondered who had been bouncing across the bridge by stage coach, and had been bumped hard enough to have the penny fall from their pocket and even out of the coach and into the stream for me to find almost one hundred and fifty years later.