The following history was written by Viola Cutts Sparagna (1920-2010) in 1939 for what appears to be an assignment given her in her junior year of High School. Viola was a long time member of the Tabernacle Historical Society and for several years, headed the organization.
TABERNACLE: A RURAL COMMUNITY
Written by Viola Cutts
January 19, 1939
Tabernacle is the only town in the township of Tabernacle. This township is bounded by physical boundaries alone. They are: South – By the old Tuckerton-Philadelphia road and Shamong township. North by Southampton and Medford townships. On the East by Woodland and Southampton townships and on the West by Medford township.
Tabernacle township was once part of Shamong township, which included the towns of Indian Mills, Atsion, and Tabernacle. The people of Tabernacle, which is six miles from Indian Mills, became dissatisfied under the leadership of Indian Mills people. This came about because of the greater population in Indian Mills which of course elected their own men as officials in the township. Tabernacle people wanted offices in the government but couldn’t get them so they made application to the county to split the township. The southern boundary was then set as the Tuckerton road.
Although there are no changes indicated in the town itself, there is one in the township which is a land development known as “Medford Farms”. This young community, about five years old, which is developing in the woods along the main highway wishes to form a borough.
II. History of the Area *
About 1778 a little one-room church was built where the Tabernacle Cemetery now lies, by a young missionary, John Brainard, who had a small church at Indian Mills and who felt that a church was needed in what was then the North Eastern part of Shamong Township. It was called the “Tabernacle in the Wilderness” and here, both white and Indian people gathered to worship.
About this time an ambitious young Englishman, Isaiah Haines, homesteaded and bought land near the little church. This he cleared and farmed, making so much a success of it that others soon followed suit, and a little community soon sprang up. These people were mostly of Quaker descent, were ambitious and hard working. Descendents of this first Isaiah Haines, still hold the property, the old Haines” Homestead now being in the possession of John and Carleton Haines.
In 1803 William Wilkins, who had acquired land around the little church deeded the land that is now the Tabernacle Cemetery to Hosea E. Moore and others, for use as a church yard and cemetery. This deed is on record in the old Proctors office in Burlington where all the old documents of Burlington County are kept.
In l860 the first store was erected by a man named Willets near the little church, and today a store still stands on that land, known as Haines General Store. About this time or a little before, the latter part of the name was dropped and the community was known by the name of “Tabernacle”.
The little one-room church was also used as a school for several years but about 1855 a one-room school was built, and a few years later the old Union School (now burned down) was erected for children that had to travel too far to either Tabernacle or Indian Mills. Later the two schools consolidated and the Union School was abandoned.
By this time Tabernacle was a thriving little community and in 1877 a United States Post Office was established. This office was in existence until the advent of the Rural Free Delivery. In 1880 the old church was deemed too small and inadequate by the membership numbering almost fifty, and so, under the leadership of Rev. George Reeves, the present M. E. Church was erected on land that was deeded to the church by Joseph Mathis. Many ministers of note in the Methodist Conference started their careers in this little church, among them being Rev. Harry J. Zelley.
The first lodge organized in this community was the Order of St. Mechanics, in 1874. This later became the Jr. O.U.A.M. There were seventeen charter members in this lodge, only one of which, Franklin E. Haines, is still living. In 1897 the Ladies Auxiliary, known as Myrtle Council No 36 Daughters of America, was instituted with forty-three members. This functioned for several years, but the charter was given up in 1932. In 1914 the P.O.S. of A. organized a lodge in Tabernacle which is still very active.
In 1901 Tabernacle was made a township, parts of Shamong, Woodland and Southampton being taken for this purpose. Frank D. Crain was the first Township Clerk and still holds this office after thirty-eight years of continuous service.
Tabernacle now boasts of two churches, the Church of Christ being built in 1916. This church has a membership of about fifty and is now a vital part of the community.
In 1936 a new four-room brick school building was built to replace the two-room frame structure, at the cost of 18,000 dollars.
III. Population Pattern (handwritten: Population of Tabernacle township – 1934 – 460)
Present composition of the population of the area is exclusively white, the nationality predominating being English, but with a great number of German and French extraction. Through the medium of Medford Farms the population is gradually changing to Italian, Polish, and Slavs. As yet there is no change in attitudes and habits.
There has been an increase in population with the Germans and Italians increasing greatly, and the English but slightly.
Most of the people in the area are in the middle aged group although the young people are increasing. There is a decrease in the number of aged people. A great number of the young people work in other sections but continue to live in Tabernacle, commuting to their work. A smaller group work on the farms of their parents or on their own farms. Most of the people own their own farms and there is very little moving, perhaps on the average of one a year.
The Birth and Death and Marriage rates remain fairly constant from year to year, averaging about 8 births, 6 deaths, and 3 marriages per year.
There is no class segration (segregation) since all the people are in approximately the same income group and have the same interests. There is a religious segration (segregation) to some extent but this does not influence the social life of the community. The greater proportion of the people attend the Methodist Episcopal Church, a number attend the Church of Christ, while there are about six Lutherans and four Catholics (this does not pertain to Medford Farms where the greater proportion are Catholics).
The main prejudices of the people are toward the colored people and toward the “City Sportsman” who comes to gun and enjoy himself with total disregard to other peoples property. The majority of the people are interested in farming as a livelihood. There are a number who are interested in cranberry growing as a livelihood but this is usually a sideline. Another sideline is the cultivation of Blu(e)berries, although these are found in other townships and not in Tabernacle.
Education is of supreme importance to the people of Tabernacle and they do all they can to foster a good educational system. The four-room building is as modern and up-to-date as any to be found in New Jersey. The first eight grades are taught in this building while the high school pupils are sent to Mount Holly High School.
IV. Social Control
So far as I have been able to see there is no social control in Tabernacle, except that shown in electing persons to offices in the township government. There are no rules, laws (except state laws), rituals or ceremonials or anything whatsoever
which affect the town. I know of no reason why a person from this area would feel out of place in another area as the people are so closely in contact with other areas, due to automobiles and radios.
There are three “business” centers in Tabernacle. One is Haines General Store where most of the groceries and other household necessities are purchased; this store does a business of around $10,000 a year. Another store with general stock is known as Scott’s Shop; this business is estimated at about $4,000 a year. The place of “big business” is generally known (and for miles around) as Pete’s Saloon; it is said (I have no statistics) that this saloon does $100 worth of business in one day. The greater part of the WPA workers spend most of their weeks wages here before they even receive them. There is a movement abroad in the township which wishes to close this place on Sunday and practically all of the women are for this. There are also a number of men who wish to have it closed on Sunday.
There is hardly anything that could be called a recreation center in Tabernacle, although the school plays an important part with its PTA and various entertainments that it sponsors. Mount Holly is only 12 miles away, and as most of the people have cars it is an easy matter to seek recreation there, either in the theater or merely walking the street and meeting acquaintances or window-shopping. On Saturday night the streets of Mount Holly are crowded with people from outlying districts and it is here that the politicians of the county do much of their electioneering for this section.
Although the lodge is not exactly a recreation center it does provide some recreation for a limited number of the men. There is the P.O.S. of A. and Jr. O.U.A.M. in Tabernacle.
VI. Government of the township
The township is governed by a township committee composed of three committeemen. Their duties are making out the budget, buying, paying the bills, and seeing that the roads are kept in condition; they do the township business in general. This committee is nominated at primaries in September and elected at general election in November. One of these men is known as the township clerk and it is he who keeps the seal of the township and does the official business.
Besides this governing body there is the assessor (who also has the duties of the board of Health) and the tax collector. The assessor makes the rounds of the farms and homes in the township and assesses them according to the kind of land, the location and the improvements. Cranberry land is worth about $300 per acre and farm land about $40 per acre. The net valuation of Tabernacle township in 1934 was $262,837 and the tax rate was $3.72 (this is how much is paid on every $100 accessed). The tax collector sends out the bills and receipts for the taxes.
Another part of the government is the school board. Some school boards have 3, 5, or 7 members; Tabernacle has 9 members. They are elected in March by vote of the people. They make up the budge for the school and present it to the township committee for approval, hire the teachers, and bear the responsibility for the school.
The main road in Tabernacle is macadam while the others are gravel. The roads which run through the woods (these cover a great part of the township) are mainly dirt although there is one gravel one which goes to Chatsworth, about fourteen miles distance. Chatsworth is a community greatly isolated as it is in the middle of the great forest of southern Jersey. The gravel road leading to it from Tabernacle was built so that it ran past Carranza’s Monument. This monument was bought by the pennies of Mexican school children to commemorate the resting place of Carranza, the Mexican goodwill flyer, who crashed in the Pine Barrens in 1927.
Electric lights are practically a necessity in Tabernacle today and there are a great many refrigerators and stoves. Radios, sweepers and irons are in every home where there is electricity.
Central heating is not common. There is usually some kind of stove in the living room which burns wood and in the kitchen a range. A great many people are having kerosene oil burners put in their ranges because of the convenience and also because of the scarcity of wood. Few burn coal.
Running water is rare and even some with running water do not have bathrooms. What running water there is, is usually provided by windmills.
The farms and homes for the great part are neat and well appearing although a great many are in need of paint. This is not due, however, to sloveness (slovenliness) but to lack of money.
Many of the people are kept occupied with their farming. There are all types such as sheep, dairying, and truck. The land here is suitable for raising many things including white potatoes, corn, wheat, rye, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes of which there are a great many grown.
Cranberry growing also occupies the people. The land used for these is boggy land that is too wet for general farming. The bogs must be planted and then attended to so that the natural growth of the land does not choke out the cranberry vines. In the fall the berries must be picked and although Italians from the cities are brought out for this, there are also native pickers. After the berries are picked they must be cleaned and sorted for market; this is done with native help.
The cultivation of Blu(e)berries is an infant industry with a few of the people of Tabernacle. This represents a great outlay of money; around $600 to $800 an acre for every acre planted. The suitable soil for blu(e)berries is not to be found in the township so the growers must go to other townships for their land.
A number of men, and women too, are at work at the Arrow Safety Light factory which is in Medford (8 miles away) but is owned by J. Ralph Haines who lives in Tabernacle.
Some of the men find employment at a marl plant not so far away at Birmingham.
Then there are fifty people working on the WPA. In our township these men are working on the school building and grounds and cutting fire lines through the woods. These fire lines are cut along the roads for some width and their purpose is for fighting forest fires. They are supposed to keep the fire from jumping the road, and therefore backing it, and letting it burn itself out.
IX. Status and Relationship to adjacent areas
Now that Tabernacle is a separate township from Shamong there are no conflicts. In fact the people are so closely bound with those in adjoining communities that they seem as one. The communities are very cooperative in one important respect, and that is “fire”, no matter if it is a building or a forest fire, people are willing to cooperate. Tabernacle has no fire company of its own and therefore must depend on one of the neighboring towns for extinguishing building fires and although distance is a great handicap the fire company is usually around in time to do a great deal toward saving a building. For the forest fires it is another matter, for fire engines are not much good at this time. These need plenty of men who know what is needed and how to go about doing it. It is then that men from other areas cooperate, even with other counties.
As I said in the preceding paragraph, the people are so closely bound that they do not seem to be separate areas. Automobiles and telephones bring them so close so quickly that people miles away seem like next-door neighbors.
In my eyes Tabernacle compares favorably with adjacent areas; there are no class conflicts, our proportion of young people is increasing instead of decreasing, our population is of a caliber that is to be found everywhere, there are no terribly unjust prejudices, we can buy our necessities in our own town, we have a democratic governing body, the tax rate is going down instead of up, improvements are on their way, the people are occupied in one way or another, and nobody is starving.
* The Central Record, Dec. 22, 1938. (Inscriber’s note: This was found in Part !!: History of the Area, but it does not indicate where the article/facts ended. MS 12/2019)
Found at the bottom of paper a handwritten note by author, Viola Cutts:
“There is no written material on Tabernacle except that in a recent issue of The Central Record, which is published weekly at Medford.
I gathered my information through interviews with my father, who is assessor, the tax collector, Mrs. Belle Moore, Calvin Cutts, John E. Cutts, Richard Haines (owner of the General Store).”