Toward the Devil’s Half Acre (Part 1 of 4)

Another chapter from Henry Charlton Beck’s 1939 “Fare to Midlands,” subtitled as above and titled Town Aliases Again: describes the origin of names attributed to local towns and interesting events that happened in their past.


It was last of daylight saving. The snap of the early morning soon lost itself as the warm September sun came streaming down, reassuring the asters in the garden, encouraging the chrysanthemums and striving to restore the zinnias, beaten down by five days of unceasing rain. We wondered if we had delayed our journey to Hightstown, to Cranbury, to the country of good bread and bad and on toward the Devil’s Half Acre, too long.


Months had passed since the chap who had signed himself James Vandenbergh, Jr., had sent his first letter from Hightstown, almost a year perhaps since we had scanned old maps and yellowing pages, pondering on New Sharon, Applegarth, Windsor, Rhode Hall and Etra, as well as many more that offered challenge from the neighborhood. We had replied, of course, saying that we’d be along one day, wishing always for more time, wondering if some way couldn’t be devised to make the Summer twice as long, the Autumn an endless chain of golden days.


Then, even as we moved across the Sourlands and along the old canal, there came that night of earthquakes and, after that, the week of the hurricane, when New Jersey was first rocked in hours of darkness and then inundated at the edge of a tempest that cut a swath along the coast and through New England before spending its fury. Not that earthquakes were new in the vicinity, as some believed, or that floods of great devastation were without precedent. There was a ’quake in 1726, another in 1737 and still another in 1755, listed by Samuel Smith, the historian, under the heading of “remarkable occurrences.” As for the rest—well, ancient descriptions of both tremblors and high water made those of our experience somewhat tame.


The great shake of 1726 lacks description except where Mr. Smith confides it to have been between the hours of ten and eleven on a November night. Another, at noon September 5, 1732, similarly lacks color. However, the third he writes about is a different matter. On the night of December 7, 1737, “there was a large shock …accompanied with a remarkable rumbling noise; people waked in their beds, the doors flew open, bricks fell from the chimneys; the consternation was serious.” The duration of the shock November 18, 1755, was serious.” The duration of the shock November 18, 1755, was placed at two minutes. There had been seven days of singularly clear weather and then came a night “of clear full moonshine.” Even after the ’quake which “did not begin with so much of a rumbling noise as that of 1737, but was thought not to fall short in concussion” there were two days that “continued very clear, not a cloud to be seen till toward evening of the second day after it happened.”


As for hurricanes, 1703 is recorded as an exciting year, with snow October 10 “ that laid on the ground for twenty-four hours” when “the oldest people said such a thing had not happened in their time.” Eight days later a hurricane was ripping ships to sea and sinking them without a trace. “Roofs of houses were torn off,” “large trees were blown down,” and “the storm reached England.” As for freshets, the records concerning the Delaware are punctuated by them down the years, with all the bridges between Easton and Trenton torn away in 1839 and 1841. So, with history repeating, hurling the overflow of the D.&R. to meet the turbulent waters of the Millstone, washing out the back roads and crashing through the newest foolproof dams, we chose a day to meet Jim Vandenbergh.


When we met him in Hightstown, we knew we had won a little bet—and he was pleased to extra rosiness when we told him: We had said his letters revealed him another whose enthusiasm for old things had not waited until he approached the age of unsung relics we had hoped to find. What remained as a complete surprise was something he revealed when we were well under way—Adrian Mount, the man who mixed editing a weekly newspaper in Matawan and Keyport with some thoroughgoing climbing in family trees, was his uncle!


Jim began unrolling revelations even as we set out for Cranbury. We had concluded, after examining the old campaign maps, that Cranbury was more properly Cranberry. What we were not prepared to hear was that there was a house there in which Aaron Burr had concealed himself the night after the famous duel. The hideaway, we had been told, was in Perth Amboy but Jim said that even Adrian admitted that Perth Amboy was probably an elastic location covering considerable ground, even as Rhode Hall turned out to be. But our first attempts at trailing the legend to its lair were doomed and Jim Vandenbergh was disappointed. First we went to a friend of the family who lived next-door to the famous house but silence resulted from the first show of pencil and paper, with a warning that the new owners of the farm wouldn’t wish to talk about the matter either. However, with our guide insisting that the yarn concerning Hamilton’s enemy was true enough, we pressed on the office of the editor of the Cranbury Press. Here again we were stymied for that gentleman said the story as he had written it had all but landed him in jail.


There seems to be contradiction of the assumption that Cranbury ought to be Cranberry since it was named for the Cranberry Brook. The Reverend Joseph G. Symmes, pastor of the ancient Presbyterian Church there for many years, gave a deeper meaning to the name than many pause to know about. “The name of the fruit cranberry if of Scotch origin,” he wrote. “It was called craneberry, from the real or fancied resemblance of its stem to the neck of the crane, and was modified by dropping the ‘e.’ It was the emblem in Scotland of the Grant clan. The name was undoubtedly given to the stream on which our village stands from the fact that the berries are found upon its meadows. And when applied to a stream, or meadow, or prairie, the correct name if Cranberry. But there is no reason or meaning in that spelling as applied to a town. The old English custom, which our early fathers, of course, followed, was to call a district or town a borough, which was contracted into burg or bury, according to whichever they thought sounded best…. When this village began to grow up the natural method was to call it Cranberry borough or town; the berry would be dropped and there would be Cranborough, or, contracting it, Cranbury.”


The pastor warmed to his discussion. “And so the old documents and records which were written by those who knew how to spell or were careful in spelling,” he continued, “have the name Cranbury. The origin of the name, its proper meaning, and the best authority in spelling make it Cranbury. Cranberry suggested to strangers a low, swampy, sandy country, which this is not…. Let us have the correct, respectable, historical spelling.” Very well—let’s—there is nothing more to be said.


An avalanche of name changes began piling up so that the whole vicinity seemed to be joined in a kind of historic masquerade. “They used to refer to Red Valley—you know where that is, along the old U.T.—as Glory Hole,” Jim Vandenbergh disclosed. “That was when there used to be a pond that was popular for outdoor baptisms. New Sharon, up the road from Cabbagetown, now New Canton, used to be just plain Sharon [named for ironmaster Charles Read’s family homestead in Burlington County]—and before that it was Cat-tail!”


There, then, we said, no wonder we had been unable to find New Sharon. The redoubtable Mr. Gordon had nothing to say concerning either Sharon or New Sharon. But Cat-tail! That was a feline of a different hue. Cat-tail, said the Gazetteer, was “a hamlet of Upper Freehold t-ship, Monmouth co., on Cat-tail creek, on the line between Middlesex and Monmouths cos. 16 miles S.W. from Freehold, and 28 S.E. from Trenton,” Sure enough it was on the line, but, we pointed out, Mercer County was on the other side now and anyhow Mr. Gordon was a little off in his directions, unless Trenton had been doing some inching up. New Sharon is due east from the capital.


It may be that some kind of statute of limitations rules out our bringing up of the matter now but—perhaps Mr. Gordon hadn’t been to Cat-tail. Certainly in his brief paragraph he mad no mention of the little Methodist Church that is there [a grouping of headstones is all that remains], with the name of Sharon on its name-stone above the founding date of 1812 [this stone exists in Ellisdale Rd. house, which was built with material from the old church]. But we had been there before. It was the church that made us pause and the graveyard behind it made us smile, as much as one can indulge in merriment in a graveyard—for here were stones marking the last earthly domain of four Pages and thirteen Storys. To be sure, there were two Coopers, but they must have tiptoed in on that literary circle, Storys whose names were William, David, Rebecca, another William, Elizabeth, Daniel, John, another Elizabeth, another John, Susan, Isaac, Mary Jane and Joseph. Just a step away were Pages, Delia, William, Augustus, Sarah Amanda and Rebecca.


Toward the Devil’s Half Acre (Part 2 of 4)

Another chapter from Henry Charlton Beck’s 1939 “Fare to Midlands,” subtitled as above and titled Town Aliases Again: describes the origin of names attributed to local towns and begins the story of the Brainerd brothers, Indian missionaries.



No less than Thomas Gordon [in his Gazette] slipped on Cranbury and made it Cranberry when he described it in 1834 as a post-town “pleasantly situated on a level country, and light sandy soil” containing “ a Presbyterian church with cupola and bell, an academy, a grist mill, 2 tanneries, 3 taverns, 2 stores and from 60 to 80 dwellings.” The village, it was pointed out, was divided by the Cranberry Brook while today, Cranbury, having changed from the spelling given it by the stream inclined to fib about lowlands and marshes, has changed the brook’s name to match.


These were the blacksmiths and whitesmiths, whitesmiths who worked in lighter metals, cobblers who worked all day to complete one pair of shoes, carpenters who could build a house or do the finest of cabinetmaking, sturdy millers and storekeepers whose shelves included ozenbrigs, buckskins, wool hats, broad stamped ribands and yard-wide modes. These were days of Cranberry brook water-power, operating “the noted grist-mill in Cranberry” with “two stones…which go by water…well located for a country store.”


Before we had begun to browse among the tombstones in the cemetery behind the Presbyterian Church which, by the time Historical Collections was published in 1847, had a rival in town, “also a near Presbyterian church and academy at the other end,” our guide was at it again. “Wycoff’s Mills,” he said, “was Wescott’s Mills and before that it was Conover’s Mills. Now there’s no mill at all and you can just about see that mill pond. Princeton Junction used to be Sheep Wash because the farmers used to bring their sheep there when this was sheep-raising country. And Etra—!” “What about Etra?” we wanted to know.


“That’s named for a man and his initials. E.T.R. Applegate—not as complicated as it sounds, you see. Before it was Etra, it was Milford, but I guess there were too many other Milfords. Applegarth means apple orchard in Saxon—before that it was Spring Garden and before that, Red Tavern. Clarksburg used to be Elytown—don’t get that mixed up with Clarksville: that was Clark’s Store. Robbinsville was Poverty [or Hungry] Hill and later, Newtown, but you know that. Woodville, in Monmouth County—you mustn’t get that mixed up with Woodsville, over in Mercer!—used to be called Little Africa, quite seriously, because it was a village founded by slaves. Jamsesburg was Buckalew’s Bogs. There was a Penlopen between Cranberry and Englishtown—I can’t make out if Penlopen is now Manalapan or not. And, oh, yes, the first station out of Hightstown on the old U.T. was Slapjack—”


We called a halt. This was too much. Young Mr. Vanderbergh, left to dig by himself in the intervening months, had struck oil. “Give us a chance,” we protested. “Let’s begin at the beginning. Let’s see some of these places and consider them as we go along.” After all there was a limit to pencil points and notepaper. Even as we entered the gates behind the Presbyterian Church, built in 1734, in Cranbury, “settled about the year 1697 by Joseph Prickett, butcher, of Burlington,” we were weighted down with transitions.


“Both the lake and the cemetery at Cranbury are called for David Brainerd. Long after the Burlington butcher sold out to John Harrison, of Flushing, Long Island, “it was in the vicinity [Thompson Park] that David Brainerd, the pious and devoted missionary, labored for a while among the Indians in the woods, between Stockbridge and Albany, but without much apparent success,” says the record of Barber and Howe [1844]. “He then turned his attention to the Indians at the forks of the Delaware, and Crossweeksung and Cranberry, where his labors were attended with remarkable success.”


Mr. Brainerd, whose work has been traced farther south, to Indian Mills when it was Brotherton, the first and last Indian reservation in New Jersey, is claimed by Jamesburg, too. When we were there, a somewhat weather-beaten sign at the crossroads declared that Jamesburg was named for James Johnstone, who was a settler there in 1685, although the official naming, it pointed out, did not come until 1847. The appended information was to the effect that David Brainerd’s settlement was at the head of Wigwam Brook and that the Bethel Colony, a Presbyterian mission, was the scene of their labors. The tradition had long been handed down, Jim Vandenbergh said, that there was an “Indian city” about a mile and a half from the village, recalling the man whom Yale expelled after a Separatist meeting.


W. Woodford Clayton, whose monumental History of Union and Middlesex Counties was lugged from the Vandenbergh, of Prospect Plains, on a subsequent journey, has considerable more to say concerning these and other matters. Mr. Johnstone came from Edinburgh, he says, after the proprietors offered fifty acres of land to heads of families settling in the province, building a home “on the southeastern bank of the Manalapan, near Spottswood,” and within the present borders of Monroe Township. “He soon purchased additional land, extending toward the Matchaponix, and was doubtless the first person to reclaim land in the township.”


There, within touching distance, you have Manalapan, now more than a creek and known in an old church, an inn and a house or two on the road from Hightstown to Freehold, and Matchaponix, also a village but which, Mr. Clayton has declared, was originally in a place now marked on the map as Texas. “These streams,” the historian points out, “were so named by the Indians in description of the country through which they flow as it was regarded by them, manalapan signifying good country producing good bread, and matchaponix poor land not producing anything out of which good bread may be made.”


Also among passengers from Scotland a little later on was William Davison, who “settled on a tract of land commencing about two hundred feet southeast of the residence of Isaac S. Buckelew, in Jamesburg, extending beyond Daniel R. Schenck’s and including most of the land now known as the Davison tract.” Names began to take a new significance for although old names of towns and streams have been changed and, too, have lost their meaning in today’s generation, the old families are well known in the neighborhoods of their pioneering ancestors.


First of all, however, Mr. Brainerd must be properly remembered with all due importance. The Brainerd settlement was, according to Mr. Clayton, on the farm of Alexander Redmond. Having had some experience with his brother, John, in the Wyomissing Valley in Pennsylvania, as well as in New York, the preacher, “earnest in purpose, eloquent in speech, gracious in manner, persuasive in conversation,” is pictured as “doing his work among the Indians in the primitive forests of Monroe, interested solely in their spiritual and mental development and the consequent improvement in their temporal affairs.” When Redmond bought the property in 1841 the cellar holes of the old Brainerd settelement were visible, with gnarled apple trees shading some of the last hearthstones.


Facts of the life of John Brainerd refer to 1754 as a year of broken dreams for the missionary, since “Bethel, to procure which as their permanent home David Brainerd had paid the debts of the Indians, amounting to ninety pounds, and aided them to clear its forests with his own labor, was now passing from his hands forever.” Not long after the Scotch-men, who had supported him withdrew assistance and he turned to other work. The deed affecting the land on which Bethel stood shows that in July, 1754, the Reverend John Brainerd conveyed to Peter Deremer the tract adjoining Wigwam Brook. After the missionary went to Newark in 1755, supporters agreed to give him about one hundred dollars a year to visit his Indian friends once a week, catechizing the children in an effort to keep the colony together.


Toward the Devil’s Half Acre (Part 3 of 4)

Another chapter from Henry Charlton Beck’s 1939 “Fare to Midlands,” subtitled as above and titled Town Aliases Again: tells the story of the Reverends Brainerd, Tennent and McKnight and their impact on the spiritual health of our early local communities.


Before this (1754-55), however, David Brainerd was well known in Cranbury, as was William Tennent, whose remarkable career cries out for greater remembrance than can be given those interested, though casual travelers, who visit the old church above Freehold that bears his name. Something toward organization of a Presbyterian church had been effected at Cranbury by July, 1739, when the church land showed up in a transfer indicating that it had been set aside some time before.


Mr. Clayton wrote that no record had been found of the organization but concluded that its date was probably 1738 when Presbyterians and Episcopalians, who had worshipped together in the church in what is now Monroe Township, separated. A new church was erected in 1740, standing “for forty-eight years in the old cemetery at its highest point,” a place indicated today by direction faced by the oldest stones. The name of Symmes has been connected with the earliest churches in the vicinity but the Reverend Joseph G. Symmes, writing of the early Cranbury congregation, recounted how his great-great-grandfather, the Reverend Timothy Symmes, was in attendance as a member of the Presbytery when the Reverend Charles McKnight, with whom the missionary, David Brainerd, frequently lodged at Cranbury, was installed.


The installation service was over in Allentown, with the Reverend William Tennent preaching the sermon, when “the exercise was accompanied with fasting and prayer. There was a contest,” according to Mr. Symmes’ recount, “between the two places as to where the pastor should reside.” Cranbury got the decision inasmuch as James Rochead, “disposed to favor religion, and then owning the southwest section of the town…probably offered terms for the pastor’s residence…which decided his remaining in Craneberry.” David Brainerd lodged with Mr. McKnight several times, according to old accounts, previous to the time when he “could not attend with the committee to install Mr. Hunter, because he was absent marrying a wife.”


The jolly old row as to who ought to have the honor of claiming Pastor McKnight as resident preacher gained in vehemence with the arrival of Mrs. McKnight so that in 1748 a committee was appointed by the Presbytery to give the nod to either Allentown or Cranbury. John Brainerd was on the committee which sat solemnly and after hearing Mr. Tennent from the pulpit, decided that Mr. McKnight should stay in Cranbury and Allentown should find its own pastor as soon as possible. Years later, however, both churches were being served in the same old way and Mr. McKnight, after “many trials” in Cranbury, went to Allentown to live. He left Allentown in 1766 and continued his work at Shrewsbury, at the old church adjoining the burial ground behind Old Christ Church, and at Middletown Point, now Keyport.


There was never any doubt, apparently, where Mr. McKnight stood in controversy for, during the Revolution, his church was burned and he was seized by the British. However, as we pointed out to our guide later, we were wandering off facts already well known.


David Brainerd kept a journal and his entries indicate that he gauged his success by the immediate reactions of his hearers. Just as the authors of children’s books in later years seem to have set out to do, and as many of the preachers of the times admittedly intended, he frightened many of his hearers into a realization of their sins and the immediate need, at least as long as his eye was upon them, of turning over a new leaf. Under August 8, 1774, he wrote:


“In the afternoon I preached to the Indians; their number was now about sixty-five persons, men, women and children…. There was much concern among them while I was discoursing publicly; but afterward, when I spoke to one and another more particularly, whom I perceived under great concern, the power of God seemed to descend upon the assembly ‘like a rushing mighty wind,’ and with an astonishing energy bore down all before it. I stood amazed at the influence that seized the audience almost universally…. Almost all persons, of all ages, were bowed down together, and scarce one was able to withstand the shock of the surprising operation. Old men and women, who had been drunken wretches for many years, and some little children, not more than six or seven years of age, appeared in distress….”


Mr. Brainerd, who was licensed that same year by the Association of Ministers at Danbury, Connecticut, and who was appointed missionary to the Indians in New York by the Correspondents of the Society in Scotland for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, measures his progress time and again as he takes note of the immediate resource of his hearers to prayer, tears, mourning, and varying forms of abjection causing “the persons to cry out in anguish of soul, although I spoke not a word of terror.” Perhaps the effects can go down to his manner of preaching. One has only to glance through the Memoirs of Whitefield to know the preachers who, in wearing themselves down in all sorts of emotional frenzy in their manner of address, achieved as many kinds of hysteria among the hearers.


When George Whitefield was on his way from Philadelphia, preaching “at Elizabethtown, Maidenhead, Abington, Neshaminy, Burlington and New Brunswick, in New Jersey, to some thousands gathered from various parts, among whom there had been a considerable awakening, by the instrumentality of a Mr. Frelinghuysen, a Dutch minister,” according to the Memoirs of the Reverend John Gillies, also influential were the “Messrs. Tennents, Blair and Rowland.” We were to hear all kinds of anecdotes about the Tennents later on but one to be found here concerning Pastor Rowland serves as an index to some of the preaching of the times.


“This truly pious and eloquent man,” (says the footnote of Mr. Gillies’ book, published in Middletown in 1837,) “being invited to preach in the Baptist church, proclaimed the terrors of the divine law with such energy to those whose souls were already sinking under them, that a few fainted away. On this occasion, however, his error was publicly corrected by the Rev. Gilbert Tennent, who, standing at the foot of the pulpit, and seeing the effect produced on the assembly, interrupted and arrested the preacher by this address: ‘Brother Rowland, there is no balm in Gilead?—Is there no physician there?” Mr. Rowland, on this, changed immediately the terror of his address, and sought to direct to the Savior those who were overwhelmed with a sense of their guilt: but, before this had taken place, numbers were carried out of the church in a state of insensibility.”


Although the historians say that Mr. Brainerd’s preaching didn’t make much of a dent on the Indians up New York way, it would seem that he didn’t waste much time with those who turned deaf ears. For it was in 1744 that he was ordained by the Presbytery of New York in Newark and it was in the same year that the entries if his journal indicate great success. In the midlands of New Jersey, David Brainerd is rated even more importantly among those to whom the name means anything at all: The tradition has been handed down that friends of David and his brother, John, angered by Yale’s refusal of an apology for the activities that caused his expulsion, established the College of New Jersey, later Princeton, to compete with the earlier university. The fact that the first three presidents of Princeton were close personal friends is offered as substantiation.


In three years, David had worn himself out and, forced to his bed by tuberculosis, died at the home of Jonathan Edwards in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he had become the fiancé of the Reverend Jonathan’s daughter, Jerusha. John Brainerd, appointed to replace him in the field and around Cranbury, found the Bethel Colony flourishing. “It pleased the Lord greatly to smile on my brother’s endeavors,” he wrote. “The Indians had settled themselves on a tract of land near Cranberry [Thompson Park] far better than Crossweeksung for cultivation and more commodious for such a number as were now gathered together.” Today the gristmill, blacksmiths, distilleries, spice mills and even the tanner and hatters may be gone, but a placid lake and an historic burial ground recall a rousing evangelist who knew the midlands of the earliest times.


Toward the Devil’s Half Acre (Part 4 of 4)

Another chapter from Henry Charlton Beck’s 1939 “Fare to Midlands,” subtitled as above and titled Town Aliases Again, remembers the changing names of local families and recites rhymes from the headstones of those dearly departed.  It finishes with reminisces of old railroads, especially our own Union Transportation Company, or U.T.



We were surprised when our guide confided that he had not spent much time in the old cemetery behind the beautiful church—not the original building, of course, as the direction faced by the older stones will suggest, but a beautiful structure nevertheless. “What would people think,” he asked, “if I should stop the car and say, ‘Wait here a moment, will you? I want to look around this [Cranbury’s Presbyterian] cemetery.” We told him that many a chapter of forgotten history is passed up by those who wonder what people will say about those who linger among the tombstones. Soon the point was being proven better than could have been expected by the inscriptions under the Griggs, Perrines, Wicoffs, Mounts, Stultses, Applegates, Pettes, Rues, Probascos, Voorhees, Barricklos, Barkalows, Buckelews and other names upon the white, gray and brownstone markers.


Many Selovers were there, reminding us of what Aaron Slover had said concerning his ancestors, originally Seelooveers. Families had changed their names almost as drastically in less than generations on graves that were side by side. One man died a Patten and his wife, by the time of her death a few years after in 1798, had become a Patton. Reids had become Reeds, Applegets had shifted to Applegates, Bleans had turned Blanes. Disbrows showed variety in Diseberows and Diboroughs. Even the Perrrines, whose family like many others is still prominent in the locality, showed an early Prine. Not all the variations can be blamed on stonecutters uncertain in their spelling.


Early poets seem to have had a field day preparing rhymes, embellishing memorials to agree or disagree with the grimaces of skulls or the pouting of periwigged angels above them.  Perhaps the most dismal of the lot is chosen for Humphery Mount, an elder in the Presbyterian congregation, buried under a stone brought from Woodbridge: “From this cold bed of human clay / Reader to you I cry: / Your time is short, make no delay, / Prepare, prepare to die.”


“Nice, cheerful fellow,” we observed to our guide, as we passed to another. This was an accompaniment to the indecision of Patten and Patton and read: “Here lies that true & loving bride / Who livd belovd, lamented died / Who now is gon, we hope to rest / Among ye angels & ye just.”


“Well,” said Jim Vandenbergh, “there’s more than one way of making the lines fit.”


“Of course,” we admitted, “that may have been it but—there’s as much argument for the conclusion that this was beginner’s bad luck of rather, that the stonecutter couldn’t keep his mind on his work. Leave a letter out here, another there, what odds? Just go back and put a little letter up top, sort of on the sly. An angel from any angle is an angel!”


Next came an example of rhymester who indicated that he had begun to do things about poetic license and then changed his mind. On the stone of Margaret Rue, who died in 1804, he chiseled: “Here lies my body in the dust / Til God shall bid it raise / To dwell forever with the gust / Beyond the ethereal skeys.”


Why couldn’t the fellow use “rise” and so stick to the ordinary spelling of “skies”? Skeys! That was one to go with “Here Lighs” in the Amwell graveyard! As for “gust”—well, the poor man slipped badly there—or did he? Jail was being spelled gaol in 1804. At the same time, it was hardly decent to consign Margaret permanently to a gale of wind as that “g” for a “j” seems to have done.


Beyond another row where the Cowenhowens had become Covenhovens and later on Conovers, William died in 1803 a Covenhoven while his wife, passing in 1807, was the wife of William Cownover, according to the adjacent stone. It was Jim who read aloud another little verse, pausing to ask how “cordial” a tear could be and if a “grate reward” might not have something to do with a fiery furnace. For the sake of John Davison, whose stone was dated 1810, we hope there was no such implication: “My faithfull spouse & child so deere / Come heather, shed the cordial tear / Then quickly turne unto the Lord / And strive t’ensure the grate reward.”


There are many pioneers in Brainerd Cemetery, some whose importance is revealed in the inscriptions graven in the stones, others who perhaps were quite as outstanding in their day but whose modestly was respected by their relatives and friends. Among them are many pastors who served the church in years that are all but forgotten, even in Cranbury, jurists of early courts, and even the traveling man who achieved undying fame by falling to his death from a stagecoach near by: “Here lies the body of William Christie  a native of Scotland and late merchant of Philadelphia who was cut off in the flower of his youth by falling from the stagecoach near Cranberry 14 October 1796 and was killed on the spot.”


Catharine Sillcock, whose family later added an “s” to become Sillcocks, has on her grave a rhyme with a sinister last line, addressed presumably to her bereft husband and children: “Deare partner of my life / And children who I love / Remember dying strife / What you have got to prove.”


We could continue our way beyond the graves of the Reverend Gilbert Tennent Snowden, A.M. and Mrs. Mary Snowden, whose vaults seemed to be in need of attention, or beyond the stone of Robert Barclay, pushed askew by a giant maple, or on over the Embleys, Purdys, Storeys, and Stultses, without having the couplet of Jonathan Combs halt us among still more pastors. Jonathan interrupted our contemplation of what the church known to the Reverend Symmes C. Henry or the Reverend Thomas Smith must have been like with his original twist on the customary dolorous urge to remember, at all times that “in the midst of life, we are in death:” “Four score and more I did surmount, / This time was short in God’s account. / Death’s summons came and says Away, / Which awful call all must obay.”


(to be continued)


An imposing shaft in the plot assigned to the Cooks was erected in memory of Major General William Cook and the description of his activities quickly turned our thoughts  to railroads. For the General was engineer of every worthwhile railroad in his day and served as consultant on others far from home. Listed on the monument as roads and branches he supervised are the Camden & Amboy, the Philadelphia & Trenton, the Freehold & Jamesburg Agricultural, the Burlington & Mount Holly, the West Jersey, the Salem, the Cape May & Millville, the Long Branch & Seashore, and the Pemberton & Hightstown. Graduated with honors at West Point in 1822, General Cook was with the national survey until 1830 and then served the Gibson and Grand Gulf Railroad in Mississippi on a leave of absence from his New Jersey railroad connections.


Jim chose that moment to say that he had heard that somewhere near Jamesburg there was a section of the old Camden & Amboy track. It may be that the collectors of data on old railroads and natives of the area have known it was there but even our guide confessed he had not seen it. We made inquiries later at the Jamesburg station, just after the last steam train made its way toward Bordentown, to be replaced, they said, by gasoline cars from that day on. Yes, the agent said, that track was there, above the next crossing—or below, as you prefer. We found it without difficulty, perhaps fifty of seventy-five yards of rusted, spindly rails, resting on rocks instead of wooden ties like the single line beyond it and the half-concealing weeds. Railroad authorities had placed a typical red and gold sign, authenticating the Camden & Amboy relic, adding the construction date, 1832, and inferring the hope that wanderers would gaze in awe and go their way. Unfortunately there had been wanderers, evidently, who had gone their way with spikes and a rail or two.


Blame the late General Cook for sidetracking us to railroads but, as we told Jim Vandenbergh, we had decided long ago that we must be more that particular where discoveries concerning old forgotten transportation companies were concerned. For shortly after we had said that the old U.T., the Union Transportation Company, had died, a number of railroadiacs wrote their protests, saying the line wasn’t dead at all. We temporized at the time, saying that we had reported the declarations of the countryside and that probably the abandonment of passenger service was what had been meant.


William Schopp, of Riverton, wrote that contrary to the assertions that “the Union Transportation Company existeth no longer” he had seen it the previous morning. “Last Spring I snapped a picture of their locomotive, Number Seven, under steam at Hightstown,” he said, “Last June, in the company of a few hundred other nuts, I went on an excursion over the line. It was only a part, but an enjoyable part, of an excursion off the beaten track that took us over the Rocky Hill Branch of the Pennsy, once the Rocky Hill Railroad and Transportation Company, the Amboy line and then the U. T. At Hightstown the freight locomotive that had been pulling us was taken off and onto the front of our train of eight day-coaches was coupled the U.T. power old Number Six and old Number Seven, both under full steam, pulled those eight coaches from Hightstown to Lewistown.


“It had been raining,” our correspondent continued. “Going up the Cream Ridge grade we slowed, and then slowed some more. One engine wasn’t working. Then we stopped. Half the passengers ran up front to take pictures of the engine. Number Six, the head engine, was the deadhead. The fireman was out on the running board, beating the side of the boiler with a sledge, trying to get the sand to run through the pipes. Then, one day, from the fireman at the Trenton Station who, on the day before had been assigned to a train on the Kinkora Branch, I learned that the U.T. operated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.”


That was written in January, 1938. More than half a year after we found out the line was still operating—Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On a Sunday just a week or so before going to Hightstown and Cranbury, we chanced upon good fortune in New Egypt, finding old Number Seven in a shed that resembled a blacksmith shop and Number Six on a siding near an old-fashioned turntable. Better still, we had come upon the engineer, George Inman, at the inn across the road.


Number Seven, George said, was the Burnham-Williams of the vintage of 1919 while Number Six dated back to 1908. “I can remember Number Four, Number Five and Number Six on the U.T.,” he declared. “We use Number Six in Summer because the snowplow fits Number Seven.”


The engineer gave credence to our conclusion that there had been a time when the old road, perhaps the very Pemberton and Hightstown listed on General Cook’s monument, wasn’t operating. He said that might have been somewhere between 1925 and 1930. “But now,” he added proudly, “we’ve got plenty of work now. Plenty of work for three days on the train, that is—you see, we’re all on the road the other three days, mending track and fixing things up generally. There’s a good deal more freight than there was—and there’s plenty doing at Camp Dix to keep us going for a long while.”


Out at the edge of the woods near New Egypt we found the last passenger coaches, rotting apart. A metal shed with a formidable lock concealed a homemade handcar, made from an old Ford. That same day, passing Juliustown, we had satisfied our curiosity concerning a little engine fast in the weeds almost in the front yard of Joseph M. McElven, an oil dealer. The proprietor didn’t know much about Juliustown, he said, but what he said convinced us, with a jolt, that this was old Number One, last seen where it had been junked, at Pasadena. To those for whom there are added thrills in old engines and half-forgotten railroads, here are—or were—some museum pieces!


We apologized to Jim Vanderbergh for all this ruminating. He had been standing there, listening, much too politely, in the shadow of General Cook’s monument. Such a personality and the sight of the old Camden & Amboy track had buried our plan to debate James Buckelew of James Johnstone as the namesake of Jamesburg and—had drawn us away for The Devil’s Half Acre!