Oct 23

More riding, more bridges

Class prep was easy today, even if the classes tomorrow will be a challenge. I have to demo some software, among other things. It can be difficult to do that and hold a room’s attention. It’s fun, and useful, and important, but at the end of the day it’s an afternoon class that will feature a computer program, and on a pretty spectacular autumn day, as it turns out.

It is entirely possible that I’ll enjoy the exercise more than my students will. But I’ve also learned a thing or two in preparing for it, so I’m happy.

The fun thing is that this part of the course has to do with sound. I know a few things about sound. So my planning was efficient and effective, allowing me to spend a few minutes this afternoon. It was delightful.

And early this evening I went for a bike ride. I set out at 5:38 p.m. It was still daylight, but getting along that late-in-the-day time.

You better hurry, my lovely bride said. And so I did. Except for when I slowed down to enjoy the views, which I slowed down even more to enjoy them here.

I only wanted to ride nine miles. OK, probably 15. Definitely 18 miles. So I went down one of the quiet fast roads, which only gives me five miles or so. Retracing my route would only give me 10 miles, so I had to add on. I pedaled into town, turned around, did most of that retracing, and then pedaled back to town again.

They’re good roads, and familiar and safe. Seemed sensible given the hour.

And all of that got me to 14 or so miles. But I really wanted that 18, so I tapped out those on the little neighborhood roads that surround us. Quiet, secluded, and in darkness. This is a fine time to ride, if you can do it safely. Fortunately, I have a great headlight. (Not pictured.)

This was the first time I’ve ever used it on my bike in total darkness, and I was impressed by its throw. I can ride at almost full speed and still see the road, front and sides. I figured I would have to ride a bit slower, lest I outrun the headlight, but there it was, safely out in front of me at 20 miles per hour.

And sure, these photos are all about the same time and in pretty much the same place, trying to share the sunset. There’s not much to photograph of the darkness, of course, but there’s something special about riding in it. Maybe because it is new to me. Maybe because of the quiet. It’s already quiet out here where the heavy land and the green sands meet, but, at night, when everyone is already where they need to be, you can almost start to feel a special quietude.

This is the 13th installment of We Learn Wednesdays. I’ve been riding my bike across the county to find all of the local historical markers. A bike ride is an ideal way to undertake a project like this; you learn new things and see new stuff, that you don’t discover at the speed of a car. Counting today’s discoveries I have listed 31 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

In the last two weeks we’ve discovered Quinton’s Bridge and Hancock’s Bridge, two small places that figure into a very small piece of the Revolutionary War, the winter of 1778 to be specific. The markers we’ll see today are also from Hancock’s Bridge. Why twice? Because, as the sign says, “this small tract of land has a rich and diversified history.” This sign isn’t on the database, but it’s a good sign. Let’s check it out.

The ground upon which you are standing was deeded to William Hancock in 1676, before he left England to come to America. The site’s proximity to the Alloway Creek (originally known as Monmouth River) has always made it to be a valuable commercial property. From the earliest recorded history of the site, it served as a wharf where sailing vessels, and later steamers, loaded and unloaded their cargos of merchandise, produce and passengers.

It was in 1677, that William Hancock and his wife Isabella, first established their home on a rise adjacent to the creek. The property passed from the childless couple to William’s nephew John, who arrived in America in 1679. A small wooden structure served as home to the Hancock Family until John’s son and daughter-in-law, William and Sarah Chambless Hancock, constructed the brick structure in 1734.

The original house was converted to a store. Following the American Revolution, the store was relocated across the street, closer to the wharf and creek. Adjacent to the store, Richard Starr and George Mecum founded Starr and Mecum Cannery in 1875, in a former “hay house” along the creek. In 1882, Mecum sold out to Richard Starr’s brother Thomas, to form Starr & Brother Cannery. It was at this time that Starr & Brother constructed a new can house on the site of the former hay house. The old store was moved one last time and finally com down in 1883.

Starr & Brocher had been producing 50,000 cans of tomatoes a day when they sold to Robert Griscom in 1892. The firm of Fogg & Hires (Robert S. Fogg and Lucius C. Hires) purchased the cannery from Griscom in 1896. Fogg and Hires employed 200 people at this location along Alloway Creek. With the closing of the canning house in the early 1900s the site sat abandoned for a few years, later becoming the site for Edwin W. Ridgway’s Texaco gas station.

Adiacent to this parcel lies “Hancock’s Bridge” (the structure, for which the community is named). The earliest known reference to a bridge in this location is dated September 21, 1709, when “Commissioners…made return. by way of John Hancock’s bridge.” Wooden bridges continued to transverse the creek until 1885, when the last wooden structure was removed, and a metal bridge was opened to traffic in March 1886.

From this site, one can view the wetlands on the north side of Alloway Creek. However, this vista too has seen significant changes over the years. As with many wetland areas, this area was diked to control tidal flow, thus creating additional rich, lowland farm fields, so prevalent in Salem County’s history.

In the nineteenth century, a dike existed that followed the creek bank. Along this dike, floating cabins were moored and fishing cabins built. This popular gathering place for fishermen and trappers came to be known as “Bank Street.” However, in recent years with the “meadows gone out to tide,” this embankment has slowly eroded back into the creek, returning the diked wetland to a natural salt marsh.

For many years, and certainly until the predominance of overland shipping practices in twentieth century, this creek side location was the site for many ship moorings. It was from this location that cargo and travelers were received, and local produce was exported to markets in Wilmington, Delaware, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Along these creek banks too, many a trapper and duck hunter set out on an early morning adventure.

This small tract of land on the banks of the Alloway Creek has seen a rich and diverse history, PSEG has permanently preserved the wetlands opposite the site through its Estuary Enhancement Program, and today the site continues to play a role in the life of the community, providing access to the Hancock House State Historic Site and views of the Alloway Creek and its adjoining wetlands.

It seems that the Starr and Mecum families stayed closely intertwined for at least a few more generations. And I’ve seen a Mecum mailbox not too far away, so at least some of the descendants are still in the area.

The county was once home to many canneries in the 19th century, the goods shipped far and wide by water and rail. A lot of the local farming, which is highly productive, went toward those canneries. Lots of tomatoes, but plenty of other fruit, too. Edwin W. Ridgway, who owned the Texaco, died in 1988. He’s buried just 1.4 miles away from that sign, and where his store was.

Right next to the Hancock Lot sign is this one. I love the older style. The heavy signs are full of purpose, but also difficult to read in photographs.

That one, on the two plates, says:

The first bridge across Alloways Creek at this location was built by John Hancock and others in 1709 and was known as Hancocks Bridge.

The same year (1709) two other bridges were built across Alloways Creek, one at Alloway, known as Thompson’s Bridge, and the other at Quinton, often referred to as Quinton’s Bridge.

Various other wooden bridges were built and rebuilt to replace the original bridge at this location. The last wooden bridge being built in 1847 by the Salem County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

On August 12, 1885, the construction of an iron truss swing bridge was authorized by the Board of Chosen Freeholders. This bridge was built at a cost of $8,517.92. On January 13, 1886, another contract was awarded for the sum of $1,835.00 to construct an additional span of fifty feet. Therefore, the cost of the iron swing bridge, which served this location from 1886 to 1952, was constructed at a cost of $10,352.92. The new bridge constructed in 1952-53 cost $532,894.00, one-half of which was assumed by the Federal Government.

The bridge at this location figures largely in early American History. The bridge was used by the Americans to haul cattle and provisions to Gen. Washington at Valley Forge from the fertile lands to the south. With the British moving into Salem, and the Americans holding the south side of Aloes (Alloways) Creek. The rebels decided to destroy the draw of the bridge in order to prevent a frontal attack.

However, the British decided to attack from the south, going by boat to an inlet about seven miles south of Aloes Creek. Because of the strong tide, they had to land at the mouth of Aloes Creek and cross the meadows to surprise the garrison at Hancocks Bridge. This resulted in the massacre at the Hancock House on the night of March 20, 1778, by Major John Graves Simcoe. On the morning of March 21, 1778, Major Simcoe relaid the bridge (by planks) and joined forces with Lt. Col. Mitchell, who had waited all night on the north side of the bridgeless stream.

Here’s the iron swing bridge mentioned in that marker. The picture is from the first sign. And, sure, this seems a bit repetitious, but bridges like this are vitally important to people surrounded by water, and only became more so as transportation evolved.

Here’s the modern bridge. The day I was there, at the beginning of October, the water was way up.

Across the way, the waving grass of the salt marshes, an incredibly important and productive habitat. Protects from flooding, helps control from erosion, filters sediment and pollutants and is a hugely vital nursery for coastal fish and shellfish.

So we have once again learned a great deal, for a Wednesday. There’s even more to learn next week! If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.

Oct 23

245 years in 1,800 words, AND a glance at celestial mechanics

New license and car tag this morning. Printed out the forms and filled them out. Got to the local state office of collecting money for the privilege to drive your car and a nice woman at the door couldn’t seem to process that my forms were already filled out. These are the forms you need. Those are the forms I have. You need these… You can’t win a logical argument with a low level functionary, it saves everyone time if you just yield to the inability of a thoroughly trained person’s need to dispatch their narrow sliver of duties.

She told me where to fill these forms out. Over there. But not there. No, not there. There. She was most adamant, and that was a real concern for her. The voice rising, the hall monitor tone getting more adamant. You wonder what bad thing had previously happened at those other, empty, tables that made them off limits, especially when you can cram six or seven people around one table during cold and flu and Covid season.

With that first round of paperwork completed you had to visit another woman who looked at those forms and studied some flowchart for an awfully long time, considering this is her part of the job. Supporting documents are necessary here, and they were all produced. More staring and humming, which took place at approximately the same volume as her speaking voice. Finally, all of my supporting materials were passed back through the plexiglass, with some other surely crucial document. I was directed to have a seat in the waiting here, where I would eventually hear my number called.

The good news is that it was called almost right away. Don’t even get settled in that chair, right away. I had to go to window nine. The bad news is that window nine was staffed by a guy they’d pulled right off the street. Nice fellow. Hadn’t yet done the new license do-si-do, but he knew where most of the keys on the keyboard are located, and how to operate that DL camera — and I can confirm this is another state using glass procured from East Germany after the wall came down.

His supervisor came over, a smart, wise cracking woman, to make sure everything worked as it should. Between them, they got it all figured out. Eventually. A new tag, a temporary license — a piece of paper I have to carry in my wallet, but one, I was cautioned, that can’t be used for identification — and I rendered unto Caesar, which seemed a lot. All of this took more than an hour, which also seemed a lot.

But at least I didn’t have to wait aimlessly, and everyone was nice, despite whatever happens on a daily basis at an office like that.

Somehow I didn’t notice this yesterday. Or everything just happened between last night and this morning. This is the biggest, first, fastest quitter on our street.

Also, the comb-over really isn’t working for that tree. Maybe that’s merely a seasonally obvious observation. The street view is from the week before everything popped back to life in April. Once you allow for the horrible realization that the trees don’t bloom or bud until almost May … sigh … it’ll be a while before I stare at that tree to decide whether the green leaffure hides what’s now becoming obvious to all of us.

I have two windows in my office studio. I never open the blinds on this side, but maybe I should. The sun puts on a great show from here in my chair.

After that, I went for a little run, just shuffling through two miles in the neighborhood. The moon was up to keep me company, and at this particular moment, from this particular angle, the moon is nicely framed. Photographing the moon with your phone is a foolish endeavor, of course, but you still try, sometimes. And sometimes, you fire one off from the hip. I’m actually sort of jogging here.

Turns out that house’s beautiful porch is the best part of the picture. Go a bit farther up the street there are houses with Halloween lights. Someone else has cleverly installed solar lights in their trees. They sent their child to the University of Alabama this fall. They have a flag in their front yard. So we hung the Sailor Aubie flag in ours.

This is the 12th installment of We Learn Wednesdays. Basic premise: I ride my bike to find all of the local historical markers in the county. You learn new things, you see new stuff, by bike that you don’t discover at the speed of a car. The bike is the ideal way to undertake a project like this. Counting today’s discoveries I have listed … let’s call it 29 … of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

I say 29 because two of the markers we’ll talk about today have been removed and another is damaged almost to the point of illegibility. But there’s still plenty to learn about at Hancock’s Bridge. This figures into what we learned two weeks ago. During the Revolutionary War, in the harsh winter of 1778, the British and the Americans were both foraging the local countryside. The king’s men had established a headquarters in a small town about five miles to the north. The good guys were foraging from the south, opposite the red coats, but we’re on their side of the little creek inlet.

On March 19th, the Brits laid a successful trap for the militia, but reinforcements came just in time to save the day. Determined to wipe them out, the British moved downstream, crossed the creek and fixed their bayonets. They came to this house.

Major John Gaves Simcoe was commanding the queen’s rangers, a well-trained light infantry unit. In 1770, Simcoe entered the British Army as an ensign in the 35th Regiment of Foot and was soon shipped out to the colonies. He was at the siege of Boston. In July 1776, with the atmosphere crackling above everyone, he was promoted to captain in the 40th Regiment of Foot. He went to New York, marched on Philadelphia and commanded the 40th’s Grenadiers, opposite George Washington, at the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777, where he was wounded.

Which brings us to March 1778, Simcoe and his rangers got on flat bottom boats, crossed the creek, and marched two miles through soggy marshes at night until they reached dry land. They soon bumped into two sentries, stabbed them to death, and then attacked Hancock’s house. His guys forced open the front door.

Other British soldiers came in through the back door at the same time, and they almost ended up shooting at each other. But they figured it out, and then bayoneted the Americans. Simcoe reported:

The surprise was complete, and would have been so, had the whole of the enemy’s force been present, but, fortunately for them, they had quit it the evening before, leaving a detachment of twenty or thirty men, all of whom were killed.

The local accounts suggest that a few of them survived, but everywhere the numbers seem a little different.

The house was owned by Judge William Hancock Jr. His dad built it in 1734. Senior was a county judge, and member of the colonial legislature. Junior got the house, his dad’s seat in the legislature and his seat on the bench in 1762. He was a Loyalist, as you might imagine, and he was in the house on that dark, cold night in 1778. Simcoe:

Some very unfortunate circumstances happened here. Among the killed was a friend of the government… old Hancock, the owner of the house… events like these are the real miseries of war.

Above you’ll see the two stone markers. There’s another marker that’s supposed to be at this house, now a museum, which basically summarized what we’ve learned together here, but that sign is now gone. That marker mentioned the previous two days of skirmishes up and down the creek. Another thing to know is that this was effectively the end of combat operations in this part of the state.

Around the back of the Hancock house, you’ll see another beautiful example of the patterned brick style.

Beautiful, isn’t it? There’s a marker about the patterned brick, but the labels are blistered and peeling. It is barely readable, so I’ll quote it directly.

The exterior of the Hancock House is an outstanding example of the patterned brick houses that once dotted the landscape of Salem County, NJ. Modeled after the seventeenth-century building traditions of the Quakers’ English homeland, masons used variations in the color and placement of bricks to create designs, dates and initials in the walls of the house.

In the Hancock House, built in 1734, the masons alternated red bricks laid lengthwise, called stretchers, with blue glazed bricks laid on end, referred to as headers. The result was a checker-board design called Flemish Bond. They used a similar technique to create a unique herringbone pattern in the end walls.

Bricks were made from local clays. They were molded, air dried, then fired in a wood-burning kiln. Those bricks that were closest to the fire acquired a “vitrified” or blue-glazed surface. The irregular features, cracks, and bubbles within the glaze did not compromise the product since the glaze waterproofed the brick.

Salem County has the second largest concentration and variety of patterned brick houses, after Burlington County, in New Jersey and the nation. Often homes to the elite, brick houses comprised one tenth of the late eighteenth-century homes in the county.

And you’ll remember we saw one of the other surviving brick patterned houses a few weeks ago. Nearby … which is to say next door … which is to say in Hancock’s front yard … is the Swedish cabin.

The marker for this cabin has been removed. But the database knows what that sign used to say:

This single-room cabin is a rare remaining example of hand-hewn, white cedar plank construction and reflects a traditional Swedish cabin. This cabin, with its glazed windows, is more elaborate than those typically constructed in the seventeenth-century.

Known as stugas, which translates to “room inside.” These cabins were built in small clusters or stood alone, depending on the size of the farm. Swedish settlers established small communities throughout Salem, clearing only enough land to farm.

This cabin was rebuilt in 1913 using lumber that is over 400 years old. It was salvaged from the property of John J. Tyler in Salem. The cabin’s construction follows the traditional building techniques of the seventeenth-century, with four-inch thick side planks, dovetailed corners, a fireplace and wooden pins instead of nails.

If you hold your face up to the window and peer inside, you can see the cabin is, today, just used for some haphazard storage.

There’s much more to learn. For next week’s installment of We Learn Wednesdays we’ll talk even more about the Hancock lot and the nearby bridge. Miss some of the markers? You can see them all right here. Before that, Catober continues, and more!

Oct 23

There are so many keyboard shortcuts out there

After Monday night’s and Tuesday’s computer updating sessions, I spent today … on the computer. All day, tinkering with Adobe Premiere Pro. Guess what we’re talking about in class tomorrow? Premiere! That’s right! How were you able to divine that? You’re so keen. So sharp minded and clear eyed!

Why, if there’s one thing I tell everyone I meet, it’s that they should read this site, so that they, too, could be among the most keen, sharp-minded and clear-eyed people on the world wide web. I tell so many people this that I forget who I tell, which inevitably means I tell the same people over and over. And the ones that get it, they’re reading this, right now. Thanks, friends!

I tell everyone this.

I don’t meet that many people, though.

Anyway, it took about seven hours of Premiere today, trying to figure out how I would distill down almost two decades of sporadic video editing, several years of goofing off with, and critically working with, Premiere — including the seven hours of considerable focus today — to figure out what to do tomorrow. This is an intro class. They’ll be using Premiere a few more times this term, and throughout their college experience. How much is enough?

The great thing about Premiere, which will be one of my initial truisms tomorrow, is that there are about 10 ways to do everything. The other great thing about Premiere is that you can use this program daily and still learn from other people.

The downside to Premiere is that you can use this program daily and still learn from other people.

Also, some people in my class have some to a fair amount of experience with Premiere already, but most don’t.

Oh, and I can do about 60 or 90 minutes on this (because I am a highly dynamic speaker) before I lose their attention.

So, I’ve decided, we’ll talk about the project panel, the source panel, the program panel, the timeline panel and eight of the nine tools on the modern Premiere. We’ll talk about audio next week. And all of this took about seven hours to figure out today.

Time now for the 11th installment of We Learn Wednesdays, where I ride my bike to find all of the local historical markers in this county. Why by bike? So glad you asked. You learn new things and see new stuff by bike that you won’t discover at the speed of a car, even a slow-moving car, making the bike the ideal way to undertake a project like this. Counting today’s discoveries I have listed 24 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

Today’s markers are down by the big river, in a beautiful and beloved and quietly neglected area. The sort of place people couldn’t find without a map unless they grew up. The kind of place where nothing opens on Sundays. The kind of place where there aren’t stores or gas stations. People live and love and farm and commute and remember their heroes.

The memorial itself is rather generic, but around these markers are engraved bricks. (The local Ruritan Club offered them in 2013 at $55 per.) Memorials and honorary stones filled with names and units and the wars and conflicts in which the men served. I counted about seven dozen of them.

This memorial sits beside a T-intersection. It is surrounded by two fields, a private residence and the municipal building, which I showed you a few days ago.

It seems a quietly proud little place. Some 2,580 people live in that community, one of those sprawling sort of places that covers a lot of ground, but distant folks all share the same small post office. The day I was out there, it was quite lovely indeed.

There meaning the Alloway Creek Watershed, where I found this marker about the restoration of more than 3,000 acres of wetlands and upland edge (land at higher elevation than the alluvial plain or water). One of the bigger parts of this project is, apparently, trying to control Phragmites an invasive plant that is trying to choke out more beneficial marsh plants. They call it foxtail around here, and that reed grass is beautiful, but not ideal for the local ecology.

This marker also tells us the Native Americans called the area Wootsessungsing, which is a word you’ll find five times on the web. Two are in reference that marker, two referencing the old fort that was built nearby (believed to be offshore of the modern river’s course) and once, here. Wootsessungsing saw the Swedish build their fort, Helsingborg or Fort Elfsborg, in 1643, and then the English rolled up in 1675.

Some of the old English homes are still in this area, the sign tells us, including the Abel and Mary Nicholson House – a 1722 patterned-end brick house (which is nearby, but a world away) and the Hancock House (which we’ll see in this space next week).

Early in the recorded history of the region, the sign continues, portions of the area were diked and farmed. Hunting and trapping were dominant activities in the 20th century.

PSEG, by the way, is a giant group of old electric and transportation companies. Formed in 1903, they grew so big that the government busted them up in 1943. Ultimately, they serve 1.8 million gas customers and 2.2 million electric customers. Like every big concern, they do some good, and they receive some well earned criticism. NOAA gave PSEG a big award a few years back, for instance, for this estuary program.

The day I was there, the weather was mild, the water was up, that little corner of everywhere felt peaceful, three old friends were sitting under a shade tree catching up on their latest stories and I enjoyed finding myself out among some small bits of history.

There was another marker in that same spot, badly sun-damaged, titled “Waving Acres of Grass.” It read.

Salt marshes are one of the most productive habitats in the world and possess many surprising qualities and benefits – protecting the mainland from flooding and the effects of erosion, filtering sediments and some pollutants from the water, and providing a safe nursery for many species of coastal fish and shellfish.

Nearly half of New Jersey’s 245,000 acres of salt marsh is found along the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic coast of Cape May and Atlantic Counties. Salt marshes may appear as only waving acres of grass, but are in fact, a critical link in the coastal food chain – providing vital nutrients for crabs and other crustaceans, for nearly all of New Jersey’s coastal fish, and for huge flocks of shorebirds on their spring and fall migrations.

It featured carefully detailed drawings of local plants and animals, like the beautiful Marsh wren (Cistothorus palustris), the Snowy egret (Egretta thula) the annoying horse fly (Tabanus nigrovitatus) and the Northern diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin).

Speaking of terrapins, let’s go back to Baltimore, for a few more Queen songs. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” The song was their first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US in 1980, topping the charts for four weeks. It was atop the Australian charts for seven weeks. It peaked at number two in the UK Singles Chart in 1979.

Freddie Mercury said he wrote that in 10 minutes, while sitting in a bath. The band recorded it for an hour or six, depending on which version of the story you like. Either way, it still feels like a timeless tribute, and that isn’t bad for a day’s work.

“I Want to Break Free” was a moderate hit in the American charts, but it moved a lot of records. It was certified platinum in Denmark, Germany, Italy, double-platinum in the UK and it was a platinum single here, as well.

Aside from that rising guitar lick I never really cared for it. (But I did enjoy the disco ball used here.) There’s an extended version out there that runs seven minutes and 16 seconds, and I don’t know why that was though necessary.

We’ll wrap up the Queen videos this week, but there are still a few great songs to go, so be sure to come back tomorrow.

Oct 23

‘Living in a new world thinking in the past’

It was class prep during the day, because we had an adventure tonight. You see, there was a rock ‘n’ roll show in Baltimore, and that’s a relatively short ride away.

And so we found ourselves at the North American opener of the Queen + Adam Lambert North American tour. They came out to a Machines, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer to Fall medley.

Oh, and they were great. The building was full, and the crowd was into it, and Queen fans and Adam Lambert fans are going to enjoy this show. Roger Taylor can still beat on the drums and keeps great time. And Brian May and The Red Special are still in peak form.

I have more videos from the show. Figured I would spread them out over a few days. Spread those page counts and video views out as much as possible. It’s all part of a strategy to go unnoticed by the bots and spiders.

Time now for the 10th installment of We Learn Wednesdays, where I ride my bike to find all of the local historical markers in this county. Seeing things by bike is the ideal way to do it. You learn new roads, you see new things. Counting today’s discoveries I have listed 21 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

The two markers we’ll see today have to do with a very small part of the Revolutionary War. A minor battle took place in this spot in March of 1778. The British were occupying Philadelphia at the time.

It was a harsh winter. Both sides were scavenging the countryside for food. They’d been skirmishing and probing one another for a month. In February 19, General Mad Anthony Wayne led his Continentals through the region looking for supplies. General William Howe had sent a few forces out to harass him. One of them was Lt. Col. Charles Mawhood who had about 1,200 men under his command. He was in a town three miles away, learned about the local militia guarding this bridge (OK, not this modern bridge, but it’s 18th century ancestor) and, ultimately laid a trap.

As we ride here, we’re moving from the American side over to where the British troops were waiting. The British lured the militia across the bridge — and this creek, which had been a natural barrier between the two — and attacked. Other American soldiers arrived just in time to hold off the red coats and prevented a larger calamity. The next day the British crossed the river to the south, moved to the bridge just down from this one and bayoneted 20 to 30 people, including a local judge and British loyalist, but we’ll learn about him later.

Here’s one of the markers you’ll find at this little spot.

Col. Benjamin Holme commanded a militia of about 300 that March. He survived the war, and is buried just three miles away, having died in 1792. This man’s great-great grandson was a minister. He died in Michigan in 1989. The colonel’s great-great-great granddaughter died in Virginia, in 2001.

Holme’s house still stands.

It was built in 1729, looted and burned by the British, again under Mawhood’s command. After the war, Holme rebuilt the home and reclaimed his looted Wagstaff clock, which is now in the custody of the county’s historical society.

Col. Elijah Hand, the grandson of a whaler, has been called Cape May’s forgotten patriot. He would have been 49 during this battle. It was Hand who showed up in time to stop the British attack. And it was Hand who responded to Mawhood’s “or else” letter, which asked the militia to lay down their arms and go home, or else he would attack them all, burn all of their properties and reduce their families to beggars. Mawhood listed the names of 21 patriots, the ones who would be first.

Hand wrote back:


I have been favoured with what you say humanity has induced you to propose. It would have given me much pleasure to have found that humanity had been the line of conduct to your troops since you came to Salem. Not only denying quarters, but butchering our men who surrendered themselves prisoners in the skirmish at Quintin’s Bridge last Thursday, and bayonetting yesterday morning at Hancock’s Bridge, in the most cruel manner in cold blood, men who were taken by surprize, in a situation in which they neither could nor did attempt to make any resistance, and some of whom were not fighting men; are instances too shocking for me to relate, and I hope for you to hear.

The brave are ever generous and humane. After expressing your sentiments of humanity, you proceed to make a request which I think you would despise us if we complied with. Your proposal, that we should lay down our arms, we absolutely reject. We have taken them up to maintain rights which are dearer to us than our lives, and will not lay them down, ’till either success has crowned our cause with victory, or like many ancient worthies contending for liberty, we meet with an honourable death. You mention that if we reject your proposal, you will put arms into the hands of the tories against us; we have no objection to the measure, for it would be a very good one to fill our arsenals with arms.

Your threats to wantonly burn and destroy our houses and other property, and reduce our wives and children to beggary and distress, is a sentiment which my humanity almost forbids me only to recite, and induces me to imagine I am reading the cruel order of a barbarous Atila, and not of a Gentleman, brave and polished with a genteel European education.

To wantonly destroy, will injure your cause more than ours—it will encrease your enemies and our army.

To destine to destruction the property of our most distinguished men, as you have done in your proposals, is, in my opinion, unworthy a generous foe; and more like a rancorous feud between two contending Barons, than a war carried on by one of the greatest powers on earth, against a people nobly struggling for Liberty—a line of honour would mark out that these men should share the fate of their country—If your arms should be crowned with victory, which God forbid, they and their property will be entirely at the disposal of your Sovereign. The loss of their property, while their persons are out your power, will only make them desperate; and, as I said before, encrease your foes and our army; and retaliation upon tories and their property is not out of our power. Be assured that these are the sentiments and determined resolution, not of myself only, but of all the officers and privates under me.

My prayer is, Sir, that this answer may reach you in health and great happiness. Given at Head-Quarters, at Quintin’s Bridge, the twenty-second day of March, 1778.

Elijah Hand, Colonel

Hand also survived the war, as did Capt. William Smith. He was the officer who led the pursuit across the creek and fell into the trap. He died in 1820 and is buried about three miles down the road, as are several of the men who died at Quinton’s Bridge. No one knows how many, though, or their identities. The only grave marker there is Smith’s. The marker above is actually on what was Smith’s farmland.

(Mawhood died in Gibraltar, during a siege there in 1780. Apparently it was a gallstone problem.)

And the second marker has to do with the little battle itself.

It was a small thing in the scheme of the war, but apparently the battle of Quinton’s Bridge was the last part of the conflict in this county.

There’s much more to learn. For next week’s installment of We Learn Wednesdays we’ll head upstream to see the next few markers. Miss some of the markers? You can see them all right here. Before that, though, we’ll of course have more Queen videos, a week’s worth of Catober and more!

Sep 23

I’m going to show you something older than the country

Decided to go old school today. I have prepared three envelopes to send to other people. Now I must find a local post office. Let’s look at a map …

Hey, I found the post office. It’s downtown, in an old house. Many businesses around here are in retrofits. In this case, the post office is sharing an old house with a salon and a little garden center gift shop. I guess I’ll stop by there on Friday.

Tomorrow, of course, will be a full day of classes. Today was a fair amount of class prep. There’s not much fun better than practicing a lecture quietly to yourself, to test your slides. There was also an hour-long Zoom seminar. It was the sort that was of course well-intentioned, but could have been summed up in a single sentence.

But at least there was a good handout. A thoughtful How To sort of thing. Could be useful stuff, under the right conditions.

If anyone would like a copy, I can mail it to you. Or we could do a long Zoom call.

We went for a bike ride today, enjoying the first bit of sun we’ve seen since last Friday. We did see a little sunshine this morning. And I think 10 or 11 photos made it down on Sunday, but that’s about the only thing we’ve seen in the sky not shaped like a rain cloud. Until today.

We did the usual loop, which is a pleasant little 21 mile loop. My lovely bride said her legs were dead. I said I need to ride more, because twice a week doesn’t do me any favors. This was about 17 miles into our ride.

We’d just chatted our way through the first three or four miles, and then spent about 10 miles dropping one another. It takes me miles to catch up to her. But, right after that photograph, I got away again, and pedaled furiously, thinking “If I can make it to that T-intersection, she’ll catch me on the next little hill before the colonial-era house” … but I stayed away.

She was chasing me when I found this barn.

At some point, earlier, I managed a shadow selfie.

Some days it is hard to stay on her wheel. It’s always more difficult to get back to the garage door opener before she does. Somehow, all of that led to us meeting another of our new neighbors today, our fourth, setting a new record.

Time now for the ninth installment of We Learn Wednesdays, where I ride my bike to find all of the county’s local historical markers. Seeing things by bike is the ideal way to do it. Learn new roads, see new things. Counting today’s discoveries I have now visited 19 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

The two markers we’ll learn about have to do with churches, and they’re only about 100 yards apart. First, we’ll visit the Old Pittsgrove Presbyterian Church.

Today, the Pittsgrove Presbyterian congregation maintains both its original church, built in 1767, and its current church built in 1867, plus two historic cemeteries. This is the second church.

And the keystone above the door. I think the incongruity of the dates has to do with Civil War-related delays. But that’s just a guess.

The congregation was officially organized in 1741 by the Presbytery of Philadelphia. The original church building was constructed of cedar logs. The land came from a man who is buried in the cemetery out back. I saw his marker. Originally, it had two large stoves and plain wooden benches. In 1767, the log church was taken down and this brick church was built in its place. It’s older than the country.

And so it has earned itself one of these, National Register plaques, just for sticking around. But there’s more to it than just standing.

There are dozens of stories out back. This is a relatively new headstone for Col. Cornelius Nieukirk.

commanded his Company of forty men at Billingsport, under Lieut. Col Josiah Hillman, July and August 1777, and probably saw General Washington when he visited the fortification, August 1, of that year.

I bet he regaled people with that story a lot. A lot of soldiers probably did.

Nieukirk served off-and-on in the local militia, until he finally stepped away in 1794.

Without doubt he saw later service. His military sword, worn during the Revolution, and that of his great grandson James P. Nieukirk of the Civil War, have been presented to the Salem County Historical Society.

His grandson, incidentally, survived the Civil War, having fought in some particularly bloody battles, and was in a POW camp for about half a year. He’s buried elsewhere, having died in 1916. Buring here, you can find the resting place of two dozen other Revolutionary War figures. Two died during the war. One, Jerediah DuBois, would rise to the rank of general during the War of 1812. (He was a drummer boy during the Revolution.) You can also find a Col. William Shute who was, in his younger days, a lieutenant in the French and Indian War. Jacob DuBois, the captain of a company of minutemen organized in 1775 is also buried here.

Now, the DuBois name is well represented. And their descendants lived up to it. One of them was a prominent 20th century man, Josiah DuBois. He died in 1983.

(A) prosecutor at the Nuremberg war-crimes trials and a leader in efforts to rescue Jews during World War II, died of cancer Monday at Underwood-Memorial Hospital in Woodbury, N.J. He was 70 years old and lived in Pitman, N.J.

He spent recent years running a private law practice and lecturing on the Holocaust.

In 1947, Mr. DuBois was appointed deputy chief counsel for the prosecution of war crimes at Nuremberg.

The American Jewish Committee credited him with saving the lives of thousands of Jews during the war. He’s buried about 20 miles away.

One of the more prominent markers where we are visiting, however, belongs to a long-serving minister. For 46 years he tended this flock. His papers are held at Princeton.

I don’t know what you call them, but there are two or three of these floating headstones. From a great distance they’d look like picnic tables or something, but then you get close and you can tell, this is marking the spot where an Isaac Harris is buried.

Two men named Isaac Harris were buried here. A father and son. Both doctors. Both served during the Revolution.

And you can’t see it in this wider shot of the quite little cemetery, because I hadn’t noticed it at the time, but just off the frame there’s something of a message board, and behind the glass there’s a notice that coincides with the last time they fired the cannon we learned about last week.

The message reads:

The members who founded this church were seeking freedom of worship, and were willing to sacrifice whatever the need be. They were members of the Committee of Correspondence and the Committee of Observation as early as 1774. They were in all probability influenced by John Witherspoon, a prominent Presbyterian minister and the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence. They participated in organizing the first company of Minute Men from Salem County. They served with distinction throughout the Revolutionary War as well as the War of 1812.

They founded a community, founded a church, and then helped create a country.

Also behind that cemetery, you’ll see the 1970s re-creation of the “Log College”, a building used as a school to train young men for the ministry. Here’s a peak inside one of the windows. There are just four of those bench-desk combinations.

And here’s one final look at the old church itself.

Picture that little church in this still-quiet bit of countryside, a community that today preserves more total acres of farmland and actively farms more acreage than anywhere else in the state, and think of this from way back when:

The immigrants who established this congregation came from Europe and were of the Dutch Reformed tradition. Their call to worship was by one of three methods – the sounding of the horn, a drum roll, or the blowing of the conch shell. When they arrived at what is now Newkirk Street in New York about 1644, they had the conch shell with them. … This treasured relic is still used today as the Call to Worship at the occasional worship services at the Old Church.

There’s a great deal more to discover, right there, I’m sure. But we’ll have more places to visit on the next installment of We Learn Wednesdays. Miss some of the markers? You can see them all right here.