My Unplanned Summer “Break”

Normally, by this time of year, I’ve already taken my first swim of the summer in the mighty Atlantic. Unfortunately, I had this happen in early June.

People keep asking if I did this while riding my horse. The story is more mundane, though, and not horse related in any way. I slipped in some mud, fell hard, and badly twisted my ankle, snapping my fibula. The good news is that it seems to be healing well and quickly. 

In the meanwhile, I’ve been taking advantage of my downtime over the past few weeks by catching up on reading, research, organizing photos, and blog planning. My summer book list includes, among other tomes, Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey, a classic by Henry Charlton Beck, an author recommended by several friends. Luckily, I had a copy on hand given to me by Barbara Stull, author of Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Being homebound over the 4th of July holiday wasn’t as bad as you would think, at least not for me. It’s that time of year when the populations of Jersey Shore towns swell with summer visitors, but I’ve always kept the holiday low key, even when I was living at the shore. As a proud Philadelphian, the role the city of my birth played in the birth of the United States channels my inner history nerd this time of year. I’ve spent some of my past Independence Days exploring some of America’s oldest and significant historical sites such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Christ Church and its burial grounds, and Washington Square Park. Strolling around Old City can make you feel close to Benjamin Franklin and other Philadelphians who shaped the early history of the United States. But lately I’ve been focusing my attention on Philadelphians who also played a role in shaping New Jersey’s Pine Barrens such as Joseph Wharton, a 19th century industrialist, founder of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and co-founder of both the Bethlehem Steel company and Swarthmore College

It seems the New Jersey Pine Barrens, with all of its natural resources, has always attracted speculators and promoters, the story of Joseph Wharton being one example.

Solem-Stull, Barbara. Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Plexus Publishing, Inc. Kindle Edition.

Wharton purchased an enormous tract of Pinelands with the intent of accessing the aquifer as a source of water for Philadelphia, a plan blocked by New Jersey lawmakers. This land eventually became part of Wharton State Forest, New Jersey’s largest state forest, named in his honor. About half of my new hometown in Waterford lies in this forest, and I’m grateful to fellow Philadelphian Joseph Wharton whose failed water scheme led to the preservation of some of the most beautiful scenic places in South Jersey and home to a fascinating variety of flora and fauna.