We can’t talk about one and not the other, they go together like peanut butter and jelly, Forrest and Jenny, cookies and milk. The Pine Barrens of New Jersey is, after all, the home of the Jersey Devil.
The Pine Barrens – Some basic facts
- 1.1 million acres, it takes up 22% of New Jersey’s total land mass.
- The sandy, acidic soil was not suitable for farming. Beneath the pines lies a natural reservoir of bacterially sterile chemically pure water.
- The original residents called themselves “Pineys” and included Quakers, outlaws, smugglers, and Tory loyalists.
- Several industries prospered in the Barrens including, charcoal making, glass making, woodcutting, and cabinetry. Benjamin Randolph crafted the desk that the Declaration of Independence was written on.
- The most famous resident of the Pine Barrens is the Jersey Devil. Many people consider the Jersey Devil an urban legend, but consider this: Many people claim to have seen this entity including, Joseph Bonaparte (brother of Napoleon), Commodore Stephen Decatur, and in 1909 hundreds of common citizens. It was such a panic that the Philadelphia Zoo offered a $10,000 reward for a sample of the creatures excrement.
The Pine Barrens also is the home to numerous ghost towns. There are dozens of ghost towns in the Barrens, some that have standing buildings, roads, railroad tracks. Some with only a few rocks from an abandoned factory or home. But they all have a history. Here are a few that may be of interest:
Batsto Village – The site of a former bog iron and glass making industry, until 1867. The village consists of 33 buildings and structures, including the Batsto Mansion.
Harrisville Ruins – Harrisville is from the late 1800’s and is isolated deep within the Pine Barrens. It was a flourishing village until the paper mill went out of business in 1891.
Brooksbrae – The remains of the brick making factory are simply concrete slabs and small buildings. The forest is slowly reclaiming the land where the factory once stood.
The Blue Hole – A reported favorite spot for the Jersey Devil, it is said the Blue Hole is bottomless and occasionally the Jersey Devil drags people into its depths.
The Jersey Devil –
The Jersey Devil has been a legend since the 1700’s. It is said that a woman, Mrs. Leeds also known as “Mother Leeds”, had twelve children when she became pregnant with her thirteenth child. In frustration she cursed the child, crying that it would be the “devil”. In 1735, Mother Leeds was in labor on a stormy night while her family was gathered around her. The child was born a normal child, but changed into a creature with hooves, a goat’s head, bat wings, and a forked tail. Growling and screaming the child beat everyone with its tail and then flew up the chimney and headed into the pines.
The story does change in some version, another one states that Mother Leeds was actually a witch and the child’s father was the devil himself. And with this legend is the subsequent attempt of the local clergy to exorcise the creature.
Stay Curious my Friends!