The following transcript comes from the handwritten notes of Harriett Ruster Haines (1907-2000). They are not dated but appear to be written in the 1980’s or 1990’s.
Tabernacle Cemetery, across from the Junior Mechanics Hall (now our Township Hall) was the nucleus of the village of Tabernacle from the beginning. This cemetery, before the Historical Society took over rebuilding the entrance gate buildings, had a wooden slab tacked on one side – which read: “Be it always remembered that this cemetery was deeded March 16, 1803, by William and Sarah Wilkins to 28 residents of Northampton Township, now Tabernacle to be used as a cemetery, “as long as the wheels of time shall not cease to roll.”
The Lenni Lenape Indians were here long before the white man came. They built homes, raised families, hunted and fished and farmed the land usually ( ) ( ) , area, and some flat land protected from nature’s extreme’s of weather, having well drained soils suitable for farming. Here it was that Indian Ann Roberts had lived, being the last of her tribe.
Back in 1778 it is said that a small log church was built on the site of the cemetery – and was called “Tabernacle in the Wilderness” and later Rev. John Brainard, a missionary, ministered to the Indians and a few white settlers, mostly Quakers. There is no proof that Tabernacle received it’s name in this manner.
Indian Ann was born in 1805 and lived in this area all of her 90 years. She was married twice ( mother of seven children), her second husband being John Roberts Jr – he died during the Civil War. She lived another 30 years after his death. Stories of Indian Ann selling her baskets from farm to farm and receiving breads and other foods in exchange have been passed on by each generation. She is buried in Tabernacle Cemetery.
In our farming operation at Sunny Lawn Farm many Indian relics and artifacts were found, some of which I have mounted here – pieces of pottery and stone implements such as axes, etc., which were fastened to sinews of leather.
Arrows and spearheads were called “points,” since they were not always used as projectiles but often for scraping or cutting. Corn was the most important food raised – other foods were meat, fish, squash, melons, berries, grapes, nuts, water cress, yams, honey, maple syrup, and flour made from the inner barks of certain trees. Food supplies were buried in storage pits. Clams, oysters, etc. were brought from the shore and dried for winter use. Their homes were first made of bark, skins and grasses – but have long since disappeared.
Their story tellers passed on their tales by oral language to each generation. We have many places named for the Lenape language.
In 1880 the church proved to be too small, with 50 members. Rev. George Reeves was the leader in erecting the present M. E. Church on land deeded by Joseph Mathis. Many ministers of note began careers in this little church – one being Rev. Harry J Zelly. The Church of Christ was built in 1916 – by 1938 it had a membership of about 60.
A post office was established in 1877 in Tabernacle by Caleb Wright, Postmaster, but was soon discontinued. Our Tabernacle Township which stretches all the way on both sides of Route 206, – was organized in 1901 – March 22 – northeast and east to Woodland Township – south by Washington Township – northwest by Medford, and north by Southampton. It is watered by Bear Swamp River, Bread and Cheese Run, Muskingum Brook and Batsto River and it’s tributaries.
Villages and hamlets are Oak Shade, Friendship, Fox Chase, Tabernacle, South Park, Paisley, Harris Station, Eagle, Speedwell, Hampton Gate, Oriental and Bozarthtown. Carranza Park, located on Carranza Road to Speedwell, was the site of the plane crash of Emilo Carranza who was returning from New York City – on his goodwill flight in return for Charles Lindbergh’s goodwill flight to Mexico in 1928. Mexican children gave pennies for the monument which is in the Park.
Hawkins Road, at Oak Shade, on Red Lion Road to Tabernacle, is this wooded area each year, for many years the Methodist Church held it’s famous Harvest Home chicken dinners. Covered buildings (with tables and benches), and cook houses protected the thousand or more who came from all over. Several “sit-down” tickets were sold – one to usually 8 “sit-downs.”
Another item of interest, during the Civil War, farmers could hire a person to take his place in the war, and fight. Great grandfather, John Wesley Haines, did this as he was needed to operate the farm. His young man was paid and wrote letters weekly of the war’s progress. He was eventually killed in a battle.
The first store in Tabernacle was located where the Nixon store now is (1860) and operated by a Mr. Willits. Later people named Doughty took over. Then Arthur Haines started a general store, next to the Cemetery. His son Ralph Haines and sister Eva, carried on the business. Later Richard Haines had it for several years. It’s now Holly’s Flower Shop.
At some time there were seven dairy farms in Tabernacle Township. Now there are none. We have many horse farms and a horseman’s association. The milk from our farm was taken daily to Mount Holly – to Holly Dairy. Later it was collected by truck for Millside farms – Riverside.
Cranberries and blueberries are important in our area. Dams control the water for the cranberries when needed during danger from frost.
Miss Elizabeth White, who pioneered in developing the cultivated blueberry, was our guest at Vincentown School. My sixth graders invited her to speak to an assembly and she graciously accepted. A tiny white-haired lady, she told us how she finally obtained the cultivated blueberry we have today. A tape of her talk was made and given to the Burlington County Library.
Our Historical Society group, under the excellence guidance of Viola Cutts Sparagna, has been very active. Besides restoring the Cemetery buildings and fences, we have moved the Friendship School to the schoolyard.
We have 31 historical markers placed throughout the Township. These were written by my husband Robert Haines. I took them to the Trenton State Prison to be made into sturdy metal markers. Placed them in their correct location and we celebrated with a tour of all the sites – leaving from Town Hall. There are pictures in our book and newspaper accounts of this interesting tour.
We have many interesting donated items ( one is an original Indian Ann hand made basket) – but no place to display them. At present we are hoping to get funds to repair and take over the Clara Pepper House (one of our oldest) and eventually turn it into a museum.