Ghosts of Atsion

In June, I had the pleasure of attending a tour of Atsion Mansion conducted by my friend and mentor, Barbara Solem, author of Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Barbara has been leading tours of the mansion for about 10 years and also hosted a podcast called Atsion: A Journey Back in Time.

Blue sky over Atsion Mansion, north portico, built in 1826, in Shamong, NJ
Atsion Mansion (Photo by Beach and Barrens)

On this particular tour, Barbara was joined by John Hebble, Wharton State Forest historian, and Jeff Larson, a Pinelands Adventures tour guide who later took a group of visitors on a bus tour of the surrounding ruins of Atsion Village. Both the mansion and the village take their name from the Lenni Lenape word Atsayunk.

John Hebble, Wharton State Forest historian, in uniform, in front of Atsion Mansion in Shamong, NJ
John Hebble, Wharton State Forest historian (Photo by Beach and Barrens)

Charles Read and the Iron Industry

Built in 1826, the Greek Revival style mansion became the centerpiece of the village established in 1766 by Charles Read, a Philadelphia entrepreneur. Read also built furnaces at Batsto, Medford Lakes, and Taunton. The area of Atsion proved to be a prime location for bog iron production with abundant ore, pine wood to make charcoal to fire furnaces, water to turn the wheel and seashells to filter out impurities during processing. 

At Atsion’s peak, 100 men worked the furnace. Workers were paid a $30 wage, a high amount back then for a hazardous job. Wages were paid in the form of scrip that could only be used at the company store. Atsion’s company store, located next to the mansion, was also once a post office, and now serves as a ranger station.

Atsion prospered until 1819. Another Philadelphian Samuel Richards, the son of William Richards who became an owner of Batsto, then purchased it. Samuel Richards also owned furnaces at Weymouth, Martha, and Speedwell. 

The Richards Summer Home

Samuel Richards lost his first wife and several children to yellow fever in Philadelphia. He remarried a woman named Anna Marie and started a new family with her. The couple lived on Arch Street in Philadelphia. However, Samuel decided to build a summer home at Atsion to escape the heat and epidemics of the city.  

This “summer home” became known today as Atsion Mansion, built out of New Jersey sandstone with pinewood floors and outside columns made from bog iron most likely taken from Weymouth Furnace. Barbara said the well-designed mansion stayed cool, even on hot days. To achieve this, the mansion was built with high 14 foot ceilings to let heat rise and a north-south exposure. The main hallway runs from the front entrance on the south portico to the back entrance on the north portico. The main staircase located off this hallway sits behind a set of louver doors that allow cool breezes to waft upstairs.

Main Floor

The first floor rooms include north and south parlors painted a pale color, a dining room, and a warming kitchen with King of Prussia marble fireplaces flanked by warming closets. The Richards family welcomed their guests through the rear north entrance and into the north parlor so they would not be subjected to the noise and smoke from the furnace and the Tuckerton Stage Road (today’s Quaker Bridge Road) across from the south side of the home. 

Today, a sketch dated 1923 and bearing graffiti left by vandals hangs over the fireplace in the south parlor. It depicts a car driving along a tree-lined road. Many think this sketch memorializes the notorious murder of Henry Rider, Andrew Rider’s brother, that occurred during a robbery near the mansion in 1916. 

All the rooms in the mansion are painted in their original colors, the parlors in pale pink and the dining room in dark green with stencils along the chair rail. Barbara noted that Richards frequently entertained friends, family and business associates in these rooms

“The main cooking was done in the basement,” Barbara pointed out. However, the servants brought food up to a warming kitchen where it could be arranged and served. The warming closet next to the fireplace in this room is larger than those in the other rooms. “Look at the color of this room. It’s very bright.”

Large warming closet in the warming kitchen in Atsion Mansion in Shamong, NJ painted bright green
Warming Kitchen in Atsion Mansion (Photo by Beach and Barrens)

The warming kitchen was painted bright green to counteract the soot that accumulated on the walls. A steep and narrow set of stairs used by servants lead from the warming kitchen to the upstairs hallway, which contains a large linen closet. 

Brown Servants Stairs in Atsion Mansion in Shamong, NJ leading from the bright green downstairs warming kitchen upstairs to attic servants quarters
Servants Stairs in Atsion Mansion (Photo by Beach and Barrens)

Upstairs and Downstairs

In keeping with the custom of the time, the Richards occupied separate bedrooms. Samuel Richards used the south bedroom, closest to the noise and smoke from the furnace, while Anna Marie used the north bedroom. Other smaller bedrooms were used by the couple’s children and guests. Another set of steep narrow stairs lead from the upstairs hallway to the servants’ quarters in the attic.

The kitchen located downstairs in the basement contains a bread oven. The basement also has a walk-in ice box and root cellars. A forced air heating system with a furnace in the basement fueled by wood or charcoal was installed later to pipe heat into the mansion for servants who occupied the mansion year-round.

Changing Hands

Samuel Richards died in 1842. His daughter, Maria Lawrence Richards, along with her brother William, inherited Atsion. Maria married William Walton Fleming, a local businessman, in 1849. Maria and her husband took charge of Atsion, but after failed business ventures left him in debt for half a million dollars, William Walton fled the country. Maria searched for and found him in Brussels. She paid his debts, joined him in Brussels and sold Atsion.

Atsion changed hands several times after that. Maurice Raleigh bought Atsion in 1871 and converted an abandoned paper mill built by William Walton near the furnace into a successful cotton mill. However, after Raleigh’s death in 1882, the mill ceased production, and the mansion became unoccupied. Philadelphia tycoon Joseph Wharton purchased Atsion, adding it to his vast land holdings in the Pine Barrens and used Atsion Mansion for storage.

Atsion Village: A Ghost Town

After the completion of Barbara’s tour, Jeff conducted his tour through the ruins of Atsion Village. The buildings in the immediate vicinity of the mansion include the vine-covered remains of a barn built by Wharton, the Atsion Church and Cemetery, and a dilapidated worker’s home. 

The church is still active, and some of the gravestones in the cemetery date from the 1800s. A school house near the church remained active until the 1940s or 50s. Jeff said that Wharton tried to grow peanuts near the church but that venture failed as did an attempt to produce silk by growing mulberry trees.

“Richards is one of the success stories here,” he said. Most other business enterprises floundered or prospered only for a short time such as Raleigh’s cotton mill. “It had a good 10 year run. It was quite a building.”

Once the mill stopped production, it fell into disrepair. A suspicious fire destroyed the multi-story building in 1977, reducing it to a few crumbled remains. 

Pinelands Adventures tour guide Jeff Larson in front of the Ruins of the Atsion Village Mill in Shamong, NJ
Jeff Larson at the Ruins of the Atsion Mill (Photo by Beach and Barrens)

Atsion Village, which used to be home to about 300 people, became an abandoned ghost town as did many of the villages that surrounded the furnaces and mills in the Pine Barrens. Even the railroad that connected the village to the outside world ceased to run with the still existing tracks nearby now overgrown with foliage.

“The last train to run on these tracks was in 1978. These little company towns were their own little society,” Jeff said, noting that residents who found it difficult to assimilate into larger society became known as Pineys. 

Some parts of the village have a more mysterious past such as the Slab House, which Jeff noted was probably one of the oldest structures at Atsion. “We know very little about it.”

Old slab house with red trim obscured by trees at Atsion Village in Shamong, NJ
Atsion Village Slab House (Photo by Beach and Barrens)

Part of Atsion Village was located on what is now the Atsion Lake Recreation Center side of Route 206. An ice house used to stand where the recreation center pavillon is now. In addition, an extremely old graveyard with about 50 to 60 graves, many with Irish names, still exists near the picnic area of the lake. Although it is known as the Catholic Cemetery, Jeff said historically it was not referred to as that, and no documentation exists of a church at the site.

Are there actual ghosts at Atsion? Jeff noted that, although he was not a big believer in the paranormal, he has heard a few stories. “There is a ghost story here.”

In the 1800s, people attending the many parties at the mansion and village, told of seeing the Lady on the Dam. Some Pinelands Adventures customers told him that they saw a woman dressed in 1800s clothing along the road near Atsion. Jeff said different customers at different times recounted the same story to him.

Atsion Mansion tours are available every Saturday at 1 PM and 2 PM. Extended Atsion Village tours are available through Pinelands Adventures. The next combined mansion and village tour is scheduled for August 20th at 11 AM.

The Pine Barrens at Philadelphia’s Dinosaur Museum

A few weeks ago, The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia hosted a special exhibit entitled The Pine Barrens Project: Ecologies of Place featuring a screening of producer and director David Scott Kessler’s film The Pine Barrens. I first heard of this documentary from a friend in late 2020, and this was my first opportunity to see it.

With a running time of a little over an hour and half, this “‘living’ documentary” evolved over the course of several years from 2012 to 2018 from a series of shorts woven together as a feature length film released in 2019. A unique aspect of screenings includes the accompaniment of The Ruins of Friendship Orchestra playing a slightly improvised live score.

The film covers many aspects of Pine Barrens history, culture, and ecology as well as current events. Diverse topics such as the legend of the Jersey Devil, the origin of the term Piney, cranberry farming, the unique ecosystem and wildlife along with political controversies surrounding land use are explored. 

I was pleasantly surprised to spot my friend Barbara Solem, author of Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, offering commentary in several campfire sequences. I also got to chat briefly with Gretchen Lohse, the violist, from the Ruins of Friendship Orchestra after the film ended. She was kind enough to share some information about her group.

Ruins of Friendship

Taking its name from the Pine Barrens settlement of Friendship in Tabernacle, which was reduced to rubble by a wildfire in the 20th century and never rebuilt, the Ruins of Friendship Orchestra features musicians playing both traditional and electronic instruments. According to the orchestra page, current members include:

  • Gretchen Lohse – viola
  • John Pettit –  guitar, trumpet, harmonium
  • Ben Warfield –  synthesizer
  • Laura Baird –  vocals, flute, banjo
  • Veronica Jurkiewicz – viola
  • Jesse Sparhawk – harp, bass
Ghost Forest film installation at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia with diorama of bear
Ghost Forest (Photo by Beach and Barrens)

The Pine Barrens Project 

In a question and answer session on the Academy of Natural Sciences blog, Kessler described how and why he began his Pine Barrens project. “I began to think about ways to depict the Pine Barrens, a place that I had previously never been to, but whose stories kept coming my way. The initial idea was to explore my perception of the Pine Barrens and how it might change with time and familiarity. That began a journey, now in its 11th year, that includes many other artists, musicians and dozens of people I’ve met along the way who chose to reveal their Pine Barrens story to me.” 

The event also featured various film shorts and video presentations set up amongst the museum’s displays, which includes some Pine Barrens specimens:

  • Pine Barrens by Nancy Holt – “a dynamic portrait of the New Jersey wilderness, shot by Holt as she ventures through a strikingly desolate landscape.”
  • Field Resistance by Emily Drummer – “blurs the boundaries between documentary filmmaking and science fiction to investigate overlooked environmental devastation in the state of Iowa. “
  • Ghost Forest by Michael Fodera and Maya Lin, produced by Madison Square Park Conservancy – “In nature, a ghost forest is the evidence of a dead woodland that was once vibrant. Atlantic white cedar populations on the East Coast are endangered by past logging practices and threats from climate change, including extreme weather events that yield salt water intrusion, wind events, and fire. The trees in Ghost Forest were all slated to be cleared as part of regeneration efforts in the fragile ecosystem of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. “
  • a landscape to be invented by Josh Weissbach 
  • Ten Fires by David Scott Kessler and The Ruins of Friendship Orchestra
  • Field Companion by Matt Suib and Nadia Hironaka – “based loosely on the pine barrens that dot Southern New Jersey”

Ecologies of Place

One of the major themes of the Pine Barrens Project is what Kessler describes as Ecologies of Place. In his question and answer session, Kessler pointed out that “One of the most exciting things about The Pine Barrens Project is how much influence the location where the film is screened has.“ 
The Academy of Natural Sciences, also known as Philadelphia’s dinosaur museum, provided a fitting backdrop for the film, which played in the museum’s auditorium. I haven’t been to the Academy in a few years. It was good to visit again. In addition to the Pine Barrens exhibit, attendees were able to explore the museum’s many attractions, including its 37 taxidermy dioramas and Dinosaur Hall. Dominating the Academy’s collection of dinosaur skeletons is, of course, its massive Tyrannosaurus Rex, a cast replica of fossils in the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in Dinosaur Hall at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia
Tyrannosaurus Rex(Photo by Beach and Barrens)

Bending with the Seasons: Industries in the Pines

When I first discovered Pinelands Adventures and their educational tours in 2019, the first tour I went on was the Industries in the Pines tour led by Jeff Larson. Jeff, a long-time Pine Barrens resident with extensive knowledge of the area and one of Pinelands Adventures most senior tour guides, developed this tour about five years ago. Also a professional musician and music teacher, Jeff released two albums of music he composed with a Pine Barrens theme: Leeds Devil Blues and The Barrens.

Deep Run Cranberry Bog, Industries of the Pines Tour, April 2019

With Pinelands Adventures slowly relaunching its educational program after a hiatus during the pandemic, I had the opportunity to revisit this tour, which covers some lesser known areas of the Pine Barrens, with a friend. Precautions were still in place with masks required on the bus.

Harvesting a “Barren” Land

Jeff explained that the Pine Barrens are part of New Jersey’s outer coastal plain with sandy acidic soil known as “sugar sand” that is too sterile for most crops. The Lenni Lenape people who lived there harvested what the land offered such as sphagnum. They utilized the absorbent properties of this moss for diaper material and wound dressings. Although American colonists did not find the area desirable for agriculture, they began building sawmills to harvest the vast timber resources, making lumber production the first industry established by English settlers. The mills supplied wood to shipyards and other customers, such as Benjamin Randolph, a cabinetmaker born in Monmouth County. Randolph crafted the lap desk Thomas Jefferson used to write the Declaration of Independence in his Philadelphia workshop. 

Atlantic White Cedars

Ship builders especially prized Atlantic White Cedar trees, a member of the cypress family that thrives in the wetlands of forests. These tall conifers grow straight and strong, making them excellent ship masts. When growing in abundance, they form cedar swamps where the towering trees darken the forest, making it cooler than the surrounding area. Their root systems form a watery carpet of hummocks and hollows. 

I asked Jeff about a stand of dead cedar trees I noticed, and he explained that this species is somewhat delicate. Too much water can kill them. 

“It can’t be too wet, and it can’t be too dry,” Jeff said.

In the case of this particular stand, a broken beaver dam flooded the trees. They also grow slowly so when the practice of clearcutting stripped an area of cedar trees, hardwoods grew in their place, altering the natural ecosystem. Jeff informed us of an initiative to re-establish cedar swamps starting in the Atsion Lake area.

In 2003, Jeff discovered an enormous cedar tree while exploring the Pine Barrens. He contacted George Zimmermann, professor of environmental studies at Stockton University, so the tree could be documented. The measurements of the tree qualified it as the largest living Atlantic White Cedar in New Jersey, and it was recorded with the New Jersey Official Big Tree Registry.

Atsion and the Iron Industry

Philadelphian Charles Read dammed the Mullica River in 1766 when he built an iron furnace at Atsion, creating Atsion Lake. Fellow Philadelphian Samuel Richards purchased the ironworks in 1819. A community known as Atsion Village blossomed where employees could live around the iron furnace, beginning the practice of establishing town communities around the industry centers. 

Atsion Village, May 2021

Fueled by the plentiful bog iron found throughout the Pine Barrens, the iron industry thrived and dominated the area for a period of time. According to the Tabernacle Historical Society, Benjamin Randolph, the same cabinet maker who made the Jefferson desk, moved to Burlington County in 1784 and “started the Construction of an iron furnace on his Speedwell property,” which originally had operated a sawmill. 

Hampton Park and Deep Run Cranberry Bog

After Atsion, Jeff drove us into the woods and to an old cranberry bog at Deep Run along the unpaved Hampton Road where he began described another chapter in the industrial history of the Pines. The use of anthracite coal in Pennsylvania proved to be more efficient than the bog iron used in South Jersey. Recognizing that the iron industry in the Pine Barrens couldn’t compete with the better quality iron in Pennsylvania, some property owners turned to another source of income that thrived in wetlands: cranberries.

Andrew Rider, first president of Rider University, built Hampton Park along the Batsto River near Deep Run in 1888. Originally an iron furnace, cranberry operations eventually supplanted the ironworks. To capitalize on this new enterprise, Jeff told us that Rider cultivated a relationship with the British royal family in order to promote cranberries. Queen Victoria liked and endorsed the fruit, and Rider became known as the “Cranberry King.” Rider University honors this legacy with its cranberry and white colors

“Cranberries picked up big time,” Jeff told us.

These activities were not without impact on the ecology. Jeff showed us the invasive plants at Hampton and Deep Run such as yucca plants, explaining that their presence indicated human activity in areas where there was nothing left but overgrown ruins such as the James McGinn house. Jeff surmised that McGinn, who probably was a bog manager at Deep Run, most likely planted the yucca. 

A fire ravaged the Cranberry packing house at Hampton, which now lies in ruins. Friendship, another nearby cranberry town, survived into the 20th century before it too was destroyed by fire.

Hampton Ruins, Industries of the Pines, October 2021

Bending with the Seasons

The people left behind when the company towns disappeared became known as “pineys.” They discovered new ways to subsist by “bending with the seasons.” In the fall, they harvested cranberries. In the winter, they collected mountain laurel to make wreaths and pine cones to create Christmas decorations, an activity called pine balling. Some pineys became “woodjins,” a name for local guides who offered their services as forest guides to botanists and other researchers. Jeff noted that folklore grew around some woodjins such as stories about the ability to navigate by tasting blueberries. 

More nefarious activities also took root such as moonshining during the Prohibition era, contributing to a reputation for lawlessness in the area. In the most notorious incident, Andrew Rider’s family fell victim to tragedy in 1916. While delivering the payroll to workers at Hampton Park, Rider’s brother Henry was murdered when robbers ambushed his group and a shootout ensued. 

Ghosts of the Wading River

As the iron industry faded, paper manufacturing became important. Philadelphian William McCarty bought land near the Wading River and built a papermill. Richard Harris later acquired and expanded the settlement and factory, and it became known as Harrisville. The Pinelands Commission hired Jeff to design and conduct a tour of Harrisville for the Pinelands Short Course offered annually by Stockton University, his alma mater. He calls it Ghosts of the Wading River, a name inspired by Barbara Solem’s book Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Harrisville and nearby Martha Furnace, which had also evolved into a paper mill, eventually burned down and became a YMCA camp.

Harrisville Ruins, Industries of the Pines Tour, October 2021

Batsto Village and Glass Making

Glass manufacturing also developed. A glass factory at what is now Crowley’s Landing produced some of the first Mason jars. Thomas Richards founded the Jackson Glassworks in Waterford, NJ. Other historic glassworks include Hermann City and Bulltown. The remains of three glass boats from this time period called the Jemima Harriet, Argo, and Mary Frances still exist. 

Batsto Village on the Batsto River, another iron furnace founded by Charles Read, began producing glass. Philadelphian Joseph Wharton purchased Batsto, renovated the Batsto Mansion and started buying land throughout the Pine Barrens. His vast holdings would eventually become Wharton State Forest.

Batsto Village, October 2020

Blueberry Capital of the World

Elizabeth Coleman White, the eldest daughter of a New Jersey Quaker family, graduated from Friends Central School in Wynnewood Pennsylvania and furthered her education at what is now Drexel University in Philadelphia. She then worked at her family’s Whitesbog property where she collaborated with botanist Frederick Vernon Coville to successfully cultivate wild blueberries.

Fields in Hammonton that had been cut for peaches by Italian immigrants ended up being used for blueberries. Hammonton is now known as the Blueberry Capital of the World. Today, agriculture is the biggest industry in the Pine Barrens with blueberries and cranberries among the most important crops in New Jersey.

Tourism is another important modern industry, although not as big as agriculture. Jeff, who is originally from Monmouth County, recalled visiting and kayaking in the Pine Barrens with his church youth group.

Now, acting as something of a modern day woodjin, Jeff works weekends as a tour guide, educating people about the Pine Barrens, driving them out for kayaking trips and occasionally performing river rescues. He told us about one notable incident when he had been working at Pinelands Adventures for a year. A customer on the Mullica River called 911 in distress. Police and park rangers, including a rescue helicopter, swarmed the area. Jeff had a boat on his trailer and was asked to paddle the river to assist the search effort. He came upon the customer who turned out to have nothing more than a scratch but felt “tired.”

In addition to rescuing tired customers, Jeff said he often comes to the aid of turtles. The famously slow reptiles inch across roads in the Pine Barrens, frequently becoming roadkill victims. The recommended practice if you find a turtle is to move it to the other side of the road. Near the end of our tour, Jeff spotted a turtle on the roadway, pulled the bus over, and moved it to safety. All in a day’s work!

Jeff Larson, Industries of the Pines Tour, October 2021

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.

Remembering Dr. James Still on Juneteenth National Independence Day

I had the day off yesterday in honor of Juneteenth, a special day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It actually falls today, and President Biden signed a bill this past week making June 19th a federal holiday officially called Juneteenth National Independence Day. My company made this a company holiday last year so I feel like they were ahead of the curve on this one. In honor of Juneteenth, I thought it might be a good day to post about Dr. James Still, a son of former slaves who became a legend in the Pine Barrens in the 19th century.

Henry Charlton Beck’s classic book Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey contains a chapter about Dr. Still. First published in 1936, the book explains the basic story of Dr. Still’s life: He was born in 1812 in the Indian Mills section of Shamong, NJ in Burlington County (then part of Washington Township). When he turned 21, he went to Philadelphia to work and begin his self-education. Still took an interest in the medicinal uses of plants and began making remedies from sassafras roots, extracts and herbs. Back in New Jersey, he began selling his cures in local pine settlements. Word of his success reached two Philadelphia pharmacists, Charles and William Ellis, who began buying his cures. Dr. Still practiced medicine for the rest of his life. He died in 1885 as one of the wealthiest people in Burlington County and famed as the “Black Doctor of the Pines.”

According to the Dr. James Still Historic Office and Education Center, Dr. Still’s parents, Levin and Sidney, escaped slavery in Maryland and took refuge in the remote area of Shamong to protect Sidney and the two children she fled with from slave catchers. As an added measure. Sidney changed her name to Charity, and the family changed their last name to Still. The center is commemorating Juneteenth this afternoon with a special event at 3 p.m. Burlington County also held a Juneteenth eve volunteer cleanup at the center yesterday. 

In honor of Juneteenth and Dr. Still, here’s a gallery of local plants and fungi that the good doctor was likely familiar with as a native of the region. Perhaps he used some in his cures.