Written before or during the writing of the little white history booklet, “Historic Tabernacle: A Pictorial Tour” was printed in 1989.
Transcribed by Mary Ann Silvers, President 2013-2019, March 2020.
The items in parentheses are notation for clarification and for posterity from Mary Ann Silvers.
Little Known Facts about Tabernacle
Where we are at this moment was once known as Northampton Township which was an enormous territory as it became Southampton, Shamong, and Woodland Townships about 1825. Tabernacle village was in Shamong Township until the Township was carved out of all of those townships in 1901.
Burlington County was created in 1693 and was named for Burlington City which was the oldest permanent town in its limits.
Why “Tabernacle”? Legend has it that John Brainerd had a log church for the Lenni Lenape Indians in the area which became known as the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. Which brings us to Indian Ann, the last of the Lenapes to remain in NJ when others were removed to a reservation in New York State. She was born in 1805 and lived to be 90 years old. She wove baskets and sold them by going from farm to farm and receiving bread and other food in exchange. Her home on Dingletown Road, (Shamong) burned in 1957. The Indians were here long before the settlers arrived – Haines’ were in area in 1682. Many Indian arrowheads have been found at Sunny Lawn Farm and on Patty White Hill. Indian Ann is buried at the rear of the old cemetery.
Remember all the roads in the area were dirt or gravel. In 1925, I walked to school on a dirt road. Medford Lakes Road was (called) Cross Keys Road and Cross Keys was about where McDonald’s is today (at the intersection of Stokes Road and Dixontown Road).
Carranza Road had two names — from here (Town Hall) south to Friendship, past Carranza Monument, was Hampton Gate Road and from here (Town Hall) north, it was Red Lion Road. Flyatt Road was already that as it went to Flyatt, which would be across (Rt.) 206. Carranza Road was one of the WPA projects and was black topped around 1929.
What you know as (Rt.) 206 was State Road #39 and gravel. It was laid in concrete in 1929-30. There must have been little traffic because local young people used to go there to roller skate.
Tuckerton Road, which now separates Shamong and Tabernacle Townships, was the main road between Philadelphia and Tuckerton, which was one of the entry ports into the Colonies. The route seems to have been Philadelphia, Evesham, Taunton, Atsion, Quaker Bridge, Batsto and Tuckerton. It was a sandy road lined with towns and “jug” taverns. There were many taverns along the way to accommodate the travelers with beds and liquid refreshments.
People think of the Pines as unpopulated – not so! Between 1750 and 1850 iron, charcoal and glass industries dotted the Pines. Speedwell produced iron items for the Revolutionary Army. There were several communities in this Township area – Oak Shade, Fox Chase Tavern (by 1800), South Park, Paisley, Harris Station, Hampton Gate Tavern, Oriental Tavern, Eagle Tavern, Bozarthtown, as well as Tabernacle. There are many forgotten towns scattered around the area in other townships.
A sawmill built by Daniel Randolph round 1700 used water power from a branch of the Wading River. A brother, Benjamin, built Speedwell Furnace (1785-1839). His log house was standing until 1948. These forges made bar iron using so called “pig” iron, which was very rust resistant. The “pig” or “bog” iron was obtained from Speedwell. Each furnace burned off 1,000 acres of woodland per year and there were 30 of them in the Pines. All failed as fuel grew scarce. Also, competition from Pennsylvania, which burned coal, grew heavy.
Paisley was a land swindle – a development about 1882 by a New York businessman which had been advertised as the “Little Paris of the Pines” and also the “Magic City”. About 30 homes and a music hall were built and for a few years survived, but nothing is to be seen now. But people hold on to land, even if they never have seen it! As late as 1950, many lots in the “Magic City” were still on the Tabernacle Tax Books for owners as far away as California – they paid the taxes, too!
Once upon a time, railroad tracks – other than those at Chatsworth – went through the pines built by the Raritan and Delaware Bay Railroad. In 1864, Harris Station was a scheduled stop. A paper mill 11 miles away at Harrisville sent paper made from rags and collected needed supplies for the thriving little town. The NJ Central Railroad maintained a siding and it served Atlantic and Burlington Counties.
The old cemetery was deeded to the people of Northampton and Washington Townships in 1803 for $8.00, to be “hand-paid” by one Amos Springer to William and Sarah Wilkins of the township of Evesham. Therefore, it is owned by all residents, who are descendants of the people who lived in the area at the time. (Note from Mary Ann Silvers, President 2013-2019: The 28 people who purchased the original site were Hosea Moore, Amos Springer, Abie Harker, William Foster, Jacob Alloways, Senior, Isaiah Bowker, Anthony Charmely, Aaron Harker, Joseph Alloways, Junior, Benjamin Springer, William Bass, Joshua Cline, William Lowell, John Willits, Thomas Cartwrite, Richard Willits, William Charmely, Joshua Alloways, Joseph Alloways, Elijah Alloways, Charles McCalster, Joseph McIntosh, Benjamin Willits, James Springer, Moses King, William Coxee, William Curry and Thomas Cone.)
There are a few places where burials can be made still. Old records show men’s names, but often the woman was just “wife of” so and so! The records show 2 suicides, 1 murder, 1 fight victim, 1 died by lightning, 1 died by fire, 1 drowning victim and 1 from diphtheria. The strangest entries are “288 unknown children” and “English women.”
What we call “Nixon’s” has been a store since 1850. (Located at corner of Chatsworth Road and New Road.) It was a social center of sorts and a place for arguments, discussions and gossip as well as all kinds of supplies. I remember my Uncle John (Cutts) going there most Saturday nights and bringing me big fat pink peppermints as he passed our house on his way home. Some folks spoke of going out to the “Nickle”! A Post Office was opened in 1877, but was soon discontinued. Later another store was opened next to the Cemetery.
There was a blacksmith shop here on the corner (Carranza Road and Chatsworth Road) possibly operated by Gilbert Knight who built the house designated “Knight-Pepper House” about 1861 just down the road (Carranza Road on Town Hall property). His son became Burlington County Clerk and was a member of the New Jersey Public Utilities Commission. Gilbert and his wife are buried in the old cemetery. My Uncle William (Cutts?) had his blacksmith shop on that property (Carranza Road and Chatsworth Road).
The building across the road was once Kemble Inn (Carranza Road, near Medford-Lakes Road). Besides being a tavern owner and a farmer, Mr. Charles Kemble was a member of the N.J. House of Assembly; and in 1869, he was Burlington County Sheriff. I remember the place when it was a prosperous dairy farm. In 1952, there were 11 dairy farms in the township, but soon government regulations had all the animals being sold. And the Russo Family put the land to another use entirely.
This Town Hall was built in 1856 by “The Tabernacle Council Number 49 Junior Order of United Mechanics” popularly known as the Junior Mechanics. It was a meeting place for the male lodge members. At the time the entrance was on the side facing Cross Keys Road (now Medford-Lakes Road). The lodge still meets although it gave the building to the township for offices in 1966 with meeting privileges. Their business today is to operate the “new” cemetery established in 1913 (Junior Mechanics Cemetery located on Carranza Road between the Methodist Church and Seneca High School). The township opened the entrance we use today (facing Carranza Road).
The first floor of the building was available to social activities for the community. Early movies were shown and also traveling medicine shows. The Methodist Church ladies served dinners. I remember a party where I won a spelling bee and received a box of candy. Early voting was done here. One couple (Dorothy and Ken Yates) who still lives in Tabernacle held their wedding reception here. One year Al Jones up at Friendship had an exceptionally large cranberry crop and asked to rent the first floor and basement to store and sort the berries. This led to a fire which destroyed many records, but the building was saved.
There have been several school buildings beginning with a one room school at what is now Inawendiwin (Girl Scout Camp on Foxchase Road) which burned and only a marker is left to show the site. Around 1850 there was a saw mill in operation here. You can see a dirt road called “Saw Mill Road” (now paved leading from a housing development that goes between Patty Bowker Road and Foxchase Road). Much of the wood came from local farm clearings. Any wood that could not be used for lumber was turned into charcoal which was needed for the early iron works.
There was Union School built about 1860 on the Indian Mills Road – my mother attended this (school).
There was a school on the ground here (Town Hall) – remember there was space as the road was narrow at the time. It was one room and I suppose became inadequate so it was demolished and a 2 room building was erected in 1910. This is the building I attended in 1925 as a first grader. (Here Viola shows two pictures: 1) School about 1910 with two rooms and 2) 1915 picture of a dirt road with the cemetery buildings and the steps of the school house.) My teacher was a graduate of Mt. Holly High School and had attended one Normal School Summer Session at Glassboro – Miss Anna Haines. The Primary Room held grades 1 – 3 while grade
4 – 8 were in the second room. Later, grades 7 & 8 were sent by bus to Vincentown School. I (Viola Cutts) graduated from there.
Anna (Haines) received $90.00 a month less the amount deducted for the N.J. Teachers Pension Fund. It was her responsibility to go after her check after school. There were potbelly stoves for heating. A janitor started the fires and left to other work. The teachers kept the fires going through the day with the aid of the boys. The wood was stored in the basement.
A bucket of water was kept in each room and every one drank from the same ladle. Anna bought and provided metal drinking cups for each child and some basins for washing hands. There were outside toilets.
This is the building that was moved on wheels in 1936 to the present location up Carranza Road and known as the Intermediate School. For $65,000 it was moved, had a kitchen, lunchroom, modern lavatories, assembly room and four classrooms added. Later, more rooms were added. There were 2 school buses. The first graduating class in 1937 consisted of 8 students.
The PTA was very active. About 1928 in the old location the basement was enlarged and was used as a lunchroom. Soup or cocoa was heated on a small oil burner in the hall way as a start for hot lunches.
An oyster supper was held in the basement and the upper grade teacher and some of the men fried the oysters. The proceeds helped pay for more soup! After the school was moved in 1936, the PTA was determined to have a hot lunch program. Empty mason jars were given to various members who volunteered to can an extra dozen or two quarts of fruit or vegetables from their gardens. These were collected in September and used in making up soup or platters. A matron and a helper were hired.
Speaking of suppers, the triangle of Red Lion Road (now Carranza Road) and Hawkin Road was the site of an annual Harvest Home held by the Methodist Church. Their famous chicken dinners were served in covered pavilions with tables and benches. There was a separate cookhouse. A thousand or more diners came from all over – Several “sit-down” tickets were sold, usually about 8 sit-downs. (Note by Mary Ann Silvers, President 2013-2019:I am assuming that the sit-downs were meant to mean all the tables were filled 8 times with the diners.)
There was telephone service provided by the Vincentown-Tabernacle Telephone Company. They maintained two lines — #4 and #21. I have a bill that my grandfather had for 10 cents for a call to Pemberton. The Company building can be visited on Mill Street in Vincentown.
A large portion of the township was an area purchased by Joseph Wharton beginning in 1873. He planned to export water to Philadelphia. In 1905 N.J. law prohibited any water leaving the state. In 1955 the state purchased this land for $3,000,000. It accounted for 28% of open space at that time. The Township lost a lot of tax revenue because of the sale. The land is known as the Wharton Tract.
Electricity came to the township in 1930.
Those blinker lights on your vehicle were invented by a local man named Allie Foulks. He allowed Ralph Haines to patent the idea and Ralph then founded the Arrow Safety Co. in Medford. Several local people remember working there. The signals looked like this: . You know how important the idea is today.
Early settlers usually grew sale crops of the non-perishable variety. Philadelphia was a 10 hour trip by horse and wagon and dairy products and ripe fruits would never have survived such travel time. But over the years naturally agriculture became important. There were many produce farms – especially tomatoes which were contracted for by Campbell Soup. During picking season there was an endless stream of trucks heading for Camden and the cannery. That is a thing of the past and there are very few farms around today. We have Conte’s, Russo’s, Grovatt’s and Four Winds for produce. We also have some nurseries and sod farms.
In 1970 the census said we were 700 people (living) in the township. By 1980 the population had risen to 7,000 and the make up of the township had changed completely from a farming community to what some experts term a “bed room” community – where people sleep and go to other places to earn a living.
I have a map here that shows some of the places mentioned. Also, a booklet “Historic Tabernacle – A Pictorial Tour.” (This booklet was selling for $5.00. The author is Selwyn Anne Grames, alias for Mrs. Pat Pollack, member; photographer, David Borrelli. Copyright 1989. Partially funded by a mini-grant from the Burlington County Cultural and Heritage Commission. Dedicated to Thelma Allen, 1925-1989, one of the founders and first President of the Tabernacle Historical Society.)