This is the first in a series of posts chronicling my visits to the locations covered in author Barbara Solem’s popular book Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. I have read the book and visited some of the places but not all. I plan to re-read the book, visiting or revisiting the locations written about as I go, starting with Atsion Village and Hampton Furnace in Shamong. Barbara covers both ghost towns in Chapter 2 of her book.
Both Atsion and Hampton took root in the bog iron industry of the 18th century Pine Barrens. Charles Read founded Atsion as an iron works near the Mullica River. Clayton Earl and Richard Stockton established an ironworks at Hampton, a former sawmill, along the Batsto River. The Ashbridge brothers later owned Hampton.
Samuel Richards subsequently purchased both Atsion and Hampton. Richards built the Greek Revival style Atsion Mansion in 1826 as a “summer home.
The mansion, the former company store, and the vine-covered ruins of a barn are prominently located on Route 206. Barbara led tours of the mansion for about 10 years. She also hosted a podcast called Atsion: A Journey Back in Time.
The Raritan and Delaware Bay Railroad first built a line through the town in 1861, receiving right-of-way in 1862. The rail line through Atsion was connected to New York and north by ferry from Port Monmouth and south by boat across the Delaware Bay. A spur track went from Atsion to Atco, where it connected with a rail line that ran from Camden to Atlantic City. In later years the rail line became the Central Railroad of New Jersey, colloquially referred to as “the Jersey Central.” During those years a number of trains, carrying both freight and passengers, ran through Atsion on a daily basis. Although freight trains ran on the existing line as late as 1978, the Atsion station was retired in 1949.Solem-Stull, Barbara. Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens . Plexus Publishing, Inc. Kindle Edition.
Cotton and Cranberries
Additional surviving ruins of Atsion Village, obscured by overgrown foliage, include an abandoned schoolhouse, a dilapidated worker’s home, a building known as the Slab House, and the crumbled remnants of a large cotton mill.
Anthracite coal produced in Pennsylvania proved to be more efficient than the bog iron from South Jersey and put both Atsion and Hampton out of the iron business. The cotton mill kept Atsion viable after it passed into the hands of Maurice Raleigh until his death in 1882. Recognizing that the iron industry in the Pine Barrens couldn’t compete with the better quality iron in Pennsylvania, some turned to another source of income that thrived in wetlands: cranberries. Joseph Wharton purchased Atsion, using the cotton mill as a cranberry sorting and packing plant and the mansion for storage.
An unpaved road leads from Route 206, past an old cranberry bog at Deep Run, to the remains of Hampton, where Andrew Rider’s cranberry operations eventually supplanted the ironworks in 1888. The area became known as Hampton Park. During Rider’s time operating Hampton, his brother was killed in a failed robbery attempt during a drive from Hammonton to the ironworks to deliver the payroll to workers.
Unlike Atsion, very little of Hampton, now owned by the state of New Jersey, survives. A fire ravaged the cranberry packing house, destroying much of it, although it still serves as the most notable landmark while the forest reclaimed most of the surrounding town.
Caution should be exercised when visiting this area. Barbara Solem warns in her book that depressed areas and well holes may not be visible when the grass is high. I drive past Hampton occasionally in my Jeep Renegade. I take the route from Quaker Bridge Road near Atsion to Hampton Road and then Glossy Spung Road, coming out of the woods on Carranza Road in Tabernacle. I can attest that Hampton is more remote than Atsion and only accessible via public dirt roads consisting of soft sand, potholes, deep puddles and slippery mud.
Atsion’s company store now serves as a ranger station. The village church along Quaker Bridge Road survives with an active congregation. A graveyard known as the Catholic Cemetery still exists near the picnic area of the Atsion Lake Recreation Center with log cabins along the lake that can be rented out for camping. The rest of Atsion Village became a ghost town.
Atsion Mansion tours typically take place from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Scheduled times are usually Saturdays at 1 PM and 2 PM. Call the park office at 609-268-0444 for additional information.
One thought on “Barbara Solem’s Ghost Towns: Part 1 – Atsion and Hampton”
Interesting article!! Thanks for the good publicity!
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