Paradise. Mount Misery. Jumbo. Caviar. Paisley and Penny Pot, Timbuctoo, Tumble and Turpentine.
New Jersey’s long-lost towns have faded from maps and memory, but they remain vivid reminders of the state’s lesser-known history.
Did you know that a Delaware bayshore town was once the world’s largest supplier of caviar? That a hamlet deep in the Pine Barrens was known as Magic City? That Success was a failure?
Let’s take a trip back in time to explore 10 of these forgotten towns, each rich in history and local flavor.
Caviar, on the Delaware bayshore, supplied more of the world’s caviar than any other place on Earth in the 1800s. Initially, sturgeon roe was considered worthless except as eel or perch bait or to feed the hogs. In the late 1880s, a German immigrant named Benedict Blohm started catching sturgeon in the Delaware River and packing caviar from its roe.
A town soon followed, with about 400 fishermen living in nearby cabins and houseboats. There was a hotel, restaurant, post office and rail line. The sturgeon population, and the town, disappeared in the 1920s. At one time, it was known as Bayside. You’ll find Bayside on the current official state map, but not Caviar.
This stretch of the Delaware River and Bay was once fishing heaven. Fortescue was known as the weakfish capital of the world, and Bivalve was an oyster boomtown.
There’s little now in Fortescue except for the Charlesworth Hotel & Restaurant (highly recommended), but Bivalve, though tiny, still buzzes; it’s home to the Bayshore Center at Bivalve and the AJ Meerwald, New Jersey’s official tall ship.
Snufftown was named for its early inhabitants’ love for snuff tobacco or because snuff was a euphemism for liquor, according to a historical marker on Route 515.
Well, make up your mind already!
Henry Charlton Beck, a minister and unparalleled chronicler of Jersey backroads and small towns in the 1930s and 1940s, discovered Snufftown never had a snuff mill, although “a quiet-voiced” elderly woman told him that “everybody took snuff” back in the day.
Beck’s books make for lively reading even today. They include “The Roads of Home,” “Tales and Towns of Northern New Jersey” and “Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey.”
The village started as Snuffletown, changed to Snufftown, and then to Stockholm.
“Snufftown is a village in the eastern portion of this township,” reads the Historical Directory of Sussex County, from 1872. “The Midland Railroad passes through it. There are two hotels, two stores, and a Methodist church. The post office … a mile or so east of the village, is called Stockholm.”
Stockholm, along Route 23, appears on the official state map and is home to several businesses. Snufftown? Not a trace.
Timbuctoo was founded in 1826 when four African-American men, likely escaped slaves from Maryland, bought land from a Quaker businessman.
At its peak, according to westamptonnj.gov. Timbuctoo had 125 residents, a school, and Zion Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal African Church. The Burlington County burg was even a stop on the Underground Railroad. It represented Southampton in our Greatest Thing about Every New Jersey Town series.
Few traces of the 1800s village remain. There are now about 20 households over 50 acres, according to the Timbuctoo Historical Society, whose web site provides a wealth of information. The Zion Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal African Church still stands; its cemetery contains 11 gravestones, eight of which are U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) who fought in the Civil War.
Look for the marker about Timbuctoo at Rancocas Road and Church Street.
First of all, there is no mountain at Mount Misery, in Burlington County. I’m not even sure it qualifies as a hill.
But the surrounding area, along Route 70, is a wooded wonderland — pine forests, lakes, trails, abundant peace and quiet.
Once upon a time, though, it was quite miserable around here, which is how the area got its name. Workers at the local sawmill in the 1800s suffered considerable hardships, including bad roads and worse weather (one storm left workers “nearly starved and half frozen,” according to one account).
And then there were, in summer, the bloodthirsty mosquitoes.
The Mount Misery Hotel, though, was a nice place to stay. Besides the hotel, the town consisted of about 100 homes and a village school.
“Here was a simple people, who lived humbly, loved honestly, sent children off to school, laughed across their rude tables and thanked God for happiness,” Henry Charlton Beck wrote.
The sawmill and hotel in Mount Misery have long since faded away, and today Mount Misery — look for the road marker along Route 70 — is a beautiful, unspoiled slice of Jersey.
It’s also the site of a summer camp/religious retreat center run by the Methodist Church’s Greater New Jersey Conference. A camp brochure promised swimming, boating, campfires, hayrides, kayaking, hikes, star-gazing and “great food.” The camp, however, was closed this summer for reasons not given.
Mount Misery is located within Brendan T. Byrne (formerly Lebanon) State Forest, well worth a day trip or weekend exploration. There are 25 miles of marked trails, including the Mount Misery Trail and a section of the 50-mile-long Batona Trail, which links Brendan T. Byrne, Wharton and Bass River state forests.
Don’t miss Billy Boy’s Four Mile Tavern, a country bar and a Pine Barrens experience all its own, just off the traffic circle in Woodland where Routes 70 and 72 meet.
A local actors group named the town after the Shakespearian character. Despite its tempestuous name, Othello was a haven of peace and quiet.
The Bethel Othello African Methodist Episcopal Church was another stop on the Underground Railroad. The Cumberland County community was an important destination for fugitive slaves leaving Delaware and Maryland’s eastern shore. Legendary Underground Railroad operator Harriet Tubman was said to have lived and worked out of the area around 1850.
The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The original church burned down in the late 1830s; the current church was built between 1838 and 1841. Services are held on Sundays.
Other Shakespearian town names in New Jersey? As far as we know, there were no Macbeths or Romeos, nor hamlets called Hamlet.
Success was pretty much a failure. At most, the town, part of Jackson, consisted of several homes and a sawmill. Henry Charlton Beck did not uncover the origin of the town’s name in his travels, although he did note that in nearby Prospertown “nobody became prosperous although they drilled for oil.”
When the cedars in the area were all cut, “Success went to pieces, its houses were deserted and its mill tumbled apart,” according to Beck.
Paisley was the scene of one of the great land scams in Jersey history. In 1882, H.A. Freeman of New York City promoted a get-rich-quick scheme, a resort community, deep in the Pine Barrens. Streets were laid out, and 30 houses, including a music hall, were built.
Freeman billed Paisley as The Magic City — its piney air was said to cure anything that ailed you. In one ad, Freeman mentioned a resident, Mr. Brooks, “who was literally dying of painters’ colic and lead poisoning.”
Three months later, Freeman reported, Brooks “looks like an athlete and eats like a cowboy.”
The Miracle City turned out to be a Pine Barrens pipe dream. Investors lost money, and the boom went bust.
There is a detailed history of Paisley, told through deeds and newspaper stories, on the Tabernacle Historical Society website.
You’d assume that Georgia, part of Freehold Township, is named after the Southern state.
You’d be wrong.
It’s named after King George III, who granted the land charter in the mid-1700s.
Georgia can be found on the official state map, and there are signs for Georgia on I-195, but little of the original town remains.
Except the Georgia Road schoolhouse, the oldest remaining schoolhouse in Freehold Township. It is situated on land that was granted to the township from the proprietors of East Jersey in 1735, according to the township website. This school was in continuous operation from 1735 until 1956. The still-sturdy-looking white-pillared building is located at Jackson Mills Road and Georgia Road.
You wonder how often Joseph Reckless, whom Recklesstown is named after, was kidded about his name.
From all accounts, he was a well-mannered sort; he ran a sawmill there in the 1700s. But the town’s name was eventually changed to Chesterfield, which it remains to this day.
“Local lore says there was some ridicule or embarrassment regarding the name and that was the reason for the change,” Recklesstown Farm Distillery, which opened in 2019, noted on its Facebook page.
You think deer are a problem in New Jersey? At least we don’t have to deal with feral hogs, which once ran amok through the Pine Barrens.
At Hog Wallow, between Speedwell (Tabernacle) and Jenkins Neck (Washington Township), the wild hogs “found haven, the story goes, wallowing in the muck and cedar water marshes in a neighborhood that was and is well-nigh impassible,” Henry Charlton Beck wrote.
The wild hogs have disappeared from South Jersey. So has Hog Wallow, from the maps. anyway. The Pine Island Cranberry Co., the state’s largest cranberry grower in the nation’s third-largest cranberry growing state, is located in what’s left of Hog Wallow, part of Washington Township, Burlington County.
Nearby is Jenkins Chapel, possibly the smallest church in New Jersey; it’s about halfway between Chatsworth and New Gretna.
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Peter Genovese may be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter, @petegenovese. On Instagram, @peteknowsjersey and @themunchmobile.