The one thing I refuse to do on Father’s Day is to spend the day at the cemetery. I know that is some people’s idea of honoring one’s family members but it is not mine. I went on Friday and paid my respects to my father (whom this blog is dedicated to) and spent time remembering some of the good times we had in past. I dropped some cut flowers from our gardens (some of which he planted) and said a small prayer. Then I left.
My idea of honoring my father and spending Father’s Day with him is to do something that we would have shared together. We were always running around somewhere and exploring something new and doing something fun. That is how I wanted to honor him. By being active and giving him a toast at Sunday dinner.
After touring Finns Point Lighthouse in the front of the park, I drove to the back of Fort Mott State Park to tour the rest of the park and explore the old fort. Talk about a real surprise and a a real treat. Talk about views of the Delaware River. On a sunny afternoon, the sun really reflects off the water and makes the most amazing light show.
I walked up the Parapet, the massive concrete wall that used conceal the guns that protected the bay and the river. It was a impressive piece of construction and you could see where the guns had been mounted. You could climb up and down the stairs to get from one part to the other and enjoy the views.
I passed the old Western Fire Control tower that was closed for the day and open by appointment only. That must have offered some spectacular views.
I then toured the Visitors Center and saw all the artifacts from the war, a time line of the Fort and the history of the fort. Take time to look at each case and you will see how the fort developed, the types of things used at the fort and the people who were stationed here and their stories. It also offers bathrooms.
The best part of the Fort Mott State Park is just walking around the lawn and enjoying the sunshine and river breezes on a hot day. The blue skies with the sunshine gives you a sense that it was not just a place of protection but Mother Nature lending her hand to offer a spectacular location to just stop and wonder what would it been like if something happened here during the war. Would it withstood the assault?
The best part of the park is just to walk around the lawns and enjoy the river views.
Map of Fort Mott State Park (NJ State Parks.org)
The History of Fort Mott:
(From the Fort Mott State Park Pamphlet-New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry State Park Division)
Fort Mott, an Endicott-era fortification was built as part of the federal government’s late 19th century plan to defend the Delaware River. Today it serves as a state park where visitors can tour the remains of the historic fort. The cultural and historic features of this park and its recreational facitlities provide a unique blend of activities for the park visitors.
Fort Mott State Park is included as a point of interest on the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail. A Welcome Center for the trail accomodates displays defining Fort Mott’s place in history and the maritime environment. Fort Mott State Park is on the Delaware River at Finn’s Point in Salem County, New Jersey. This 104 acre park is six miles south of the Delaware River Memorial Bridge, off New Jersey Route 49.
The Finn’s Point Reservation was purchased by the United States Government in the late 1830’s. Originally called “The Battery At Finn’s Point”, the proposed fortification was one of a three-fort plan to protect growing industries and shipping along the Delaware River. Plans for Finn’s Pint specified eleven gun emplacements with twenty guns and a mortar battery with six complacements. With Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island in operation since the early 1820’s and the nation involved in the Civil War, the construction of the Battery at Finn’s Point was delayed until 1872. At that time, only two gun emplacements and five magazines in the mortar battery were completed before construction was halted due to budgetary constraints.
With advancements in military technology made during and after the Civil War, the United State’s defenses were dangerously inadequare. In 1885, President Grover Cleveland, at the request of Congress, appointed the Endicott Board, named after its Chairman William Endicott, the Secretary of War. The board, which consisted of both military men and private citizens, studied the existing coastal defenses and developed a coastal defense plan for the United States. This plan determined where defenses and developed a coastal defense plan for the United States. This plan detemined where defenses should be built or improved, the order in which the work would proceed, the quantity and type of guns that would be placed at each fort and other considerations.
The main defense concept of the Delaware River was dispersion of armaments into three separate fortifications. The original plan for the Battery at Finn’s Point was abandoned and construction of new fortifications began in 1896 in anticipation of war with Spain, the Spanish-American War. This fortification was officially renamed Fort Mott on December 16th, 1897 to honor Major General Gershom Mott . Mott, a native of Bordentown, NJ was a decorated veteran of the Mexican-American and Civil Wars. Fort Delaware was upgraded and construction of Fort DuPont began during this same time period.
At. Fort Mott, large caliber weapons, three 10 inch and three 12 inch guns were installed on disappearing carriages. The gun emplacements were located behind a 750 foot long and 35 foot thick concrete and earthen embankment, which was sloped to form the ‘parapet’ wall. These guns had an effective range of seven to eight miles and shot projectiles that weighed 617 and 1000 pounds respectively. Beneath the six gun platforms were powder and shell magazines, ammunition hoists, a telecommunications system and an electric generating station. Two batteries each with 5 inch rapid fire guns and one battery with two 3 inch rapid fire guns were also part of the defenses, designed to counter fast moving smaller warships which might evade the large caliber guns. They also protected the fort from potential land attack. Fort Mott was a completely modern installation for its time period.
Two steel control towers were later built to improve aiming of the guns. Observers stationed in the towers, in conjunction with plotting room personnel, directed the gunfire of the 10 inch and 12 inch guns. The tower near the river on the northern end of the emplacement was built in 1902 and was used to aim the 12 inch guns of Battery Arnold. The tower near the park office was built in 1903 to help aim the 10 inch guns of Battery Harker.
Behind the main emplacement are the parados and the moat. ‘Parados’ is Spanish for rear door. These provided the rear defenses for the fort. The parados was constructed using the fill from the moat. Landscaping around the military reservation helped camouflage Fort Mott from attack by potential enemy ships.
Fort Mott was self-contained military community. The post had over 30 buildings, including two large barracks, non-commissioned and officer’s housing, a hospital, a post exchange, a library, a guard house, a stable, YMCA and a school for the soldier’s children. The Delaware River was the main transporation infrastructure for Fort Mott; munitions, supplies and construction materials arrived at the fort by barge.
WIth the construction of Fort Salisbury near Milford, Delaware shortly before WWI, Fort Mott, Fort Delaware and Fort DuPont became obsolete. The three forts remained active defense installations until after WWII, when they were phased out. Troops were regularly stationed at Fort Mott from 1897 to 1922. The federal government maintained a caretaking detrachment at the fort from 1922 to 1943. During this time, Fort Mott’s guns were dismantled and sent to various locations.
Fort Mott was declared “surplus property” in 1943. Finn’s Point National Cemetery (dedicated a National Cemetery on October 3rd, 1873 because of the Confederate prisoners of war buried there) was separated from Fort Mott at that time. In 1947, the State of New Jersey purchased Fort Mott, as a historic site from the federal government. On June 24th, 1951, it was opened to the public as Fort Mott State Park.
I visited the Mauricetown (pronounced ‘Morristown’ like its northern neighbor) on a trip to visit historical societies in southern New Jersey. Mauricetown comes from the Dutch word ‘Mauritus’ for the Mauritus River that flowed through the town. “Maurice’ is the English version of the word.
The town itself was used for shipping and trade up and down the East Coast and between 1830 and 1902, 61 ships were built in the boatyard in the village. The home that the Society is housed in is one of many ship captains homes that was built on this side of town being closer to the river for the other ship captains. Founded in 1984, the Society has taken it upon themselves to start collecting artifacts from the town.
When you first enter the museum to the right, there is an extensive collection of seafaring items and military artifacts. This includes many items from the Civil War and WWI. There was even a rare pair of original sharp shoot glasses.
The Military Collection at the Mauricetown Historical Society (MHS Picture)
In the Formal Parlor, the room was designed with original molding from decor of the house and a copy of the wallpaper that had been found behind paneling that had been put up in the 1970’s. The room was furnished in period furniture that was a mixture of late 1890’s to the 1920’s.
The Mauricetown Historical Society ‘Parlor Room’ with the original molding and copy of wall paper
On the second floor, one room was dedicated to a Captain Bacon and his wife, Carolyn, another was full of pictures of the town of Mauricetown through the times, there was a collection of clothing through the ages and a quilt collection that was very impressive.
There was one quilt on display that had the names of all the sea captains and their families. Many of the decendants of the town come here to research their families and look at this quilt. There is also another quilt with items native to the area.
One of the rooms discusses the Mauricetown Shipping and Fishing industry with all sorts of photos and equipment. There was even a display of the ‘Bridge Key’ from the original bridge that lead into town. There was also an interesting display on the town’s Oyster Industry.
In the Children’s Room, there was an extensive collection of dolls, children’s playthings through the ages, clothing and school pictures of the town through the years.
On the outside grounds, there is a Cookhouse that was separate from the main house in the era of when cooking could start a house fire so the rooms were kept separate from the main house. There was a 1880’s cookstove that still works.
The Cookhouse on the grounds of the Mauricetown Historical Society
On the back of the ground is the Abraham and Ann Hoy House, a small home from 1840 that had recently been lived in by an elderly couple. The house had two small levels with the main rooms designed around the fireplace and heating unit.
The house had been stripped of the modern add ons and they Society wanted it to look like it had when it was originally built. The upstairs had two loft bedrooms and even a small loft above the downstairs fire place where the kids would sleep when it was cold outside.
It really showed how the working people of the town lived in a stark comparison to the sea captains who were running trade for the town. The Society’s members have taken great care in restoring these homes.
The Mauricetown Historical Society at 1229 Front Street
The History of the Mauricetown Historical Society:
(From the Mauricetown Historical Society website):
The Mission of the Mauricetown Historical Society:
It is the mission of the Mauricetown Historical Society to collect, preserve and exhibit artifacts and documentation significant to Mauricetown and the surrounding communities.
The Mauricetown Historical Society is housed in the former home of Captain Edward Compton, who was a local sea captain. This Italianate Victorian structure was built in 1864 by Mauricetown carpender Griffith Pritchard and Samuel Cobb.
The home was purchased in 1984 by the society. At the time, the property was in poor condition and required work inside and outside. Over the past 25 years it has been carefully restored to its present condition by volunteer efforts of society members and others. The restoration is an on-going project and there are still areas of work that are needing completion.
Situated directly across Front Street from the location of the old shipyard where sea-going vessels were built in the 19th and 20th centuries, occupants of this house were able to view the activities of the shipyard and the traffic of the river.
The Finns Point Lighthouse is located in the Fort Mott State Park and the afternoon that I was there which was the third Sunday of the month of June, it was not open. In fact, it looked like it had never opened for the day.
The gift shop/information center had a sign from 2019 with the hours of operation and the steps were not well cared for and the gardens around the building were over-grown. The lighthouse itself is behind a fence that you can look at but not enter and from what I read online is not open even when it should be if it is too hot or too cold because conditions inside can be impossible. From what I have read from online reviews, it looks like it has not been open since pre-COVID for the 2019 season.
Still, the lighthouse has a majestic look to it and must have some views when it is open. If it is not open, take time to visit Fort Mott and the State Park, which offers spectacular views of Delaware Bay and the surrounding grouds. Take time to explore the fort and the where the guns were mounted. Very interesting.
Fort Mott also has a very good Visitors Center and small museum inside to see the history of the fort, artifacts from the fort and from the war years and all sorts of interesting information on the area.
The Finns Point Lighthouse
The History of the Finns Point Lighthouse”
(From the Friends of the Finns Point Lighthouse website-modified):
(Please read the above Friends Website for the complete history in detail of the ligthouse)
Soon after the 1638 landing of the Finnish colonists near the present site of Wilmington, DE, a small group of settlers crossed over to the east bank of Delaware River, where the land was though to be more fertile and established farms. One group selected land near the sweeping turn in the Delaware River and this area remains known to this day as Finns Point.
By an act of Congress in 1875, $55,000 was set apart for two pairs of range lights to help vessels transition from Delaware Bay into the Delaware River. Port Penn Range, located in Delaware, would guide traffic along the shipping channel from Ship John Shoal to Ready Island, while Finns Point Range would help vessels continue upriver, passing between Reedy Island and Baker Shoal.
Lt. Colonel William F. Reynolds of the U.S. Corps of Engineers oversaw construction of the front and rear range lights at Finns Point. The front light was located near the banks of the Delaware River and was displayed from a frame dwelling of the following description: “one and one half stories high with shingle roof, double weather-boarded on outside and lathed and plastered inside. Its rests on stone walls founded on wooden piles. The first story is divided into three rooms with the hall and stairways to the second floor and cellar and shed over the back door, porch and bay window in the front. The second story is divided similarly to the first, with a step ladder to lantern on the third floor, a gallery supported by brackets surrounds the lantern on front and sides.”
The illuminating apparatus for the front light was a fourth order range lens manufacured by Barbier & Fenestre in Paris, which focused the light from a fourth-order Funk Heap Lamp with one wick. In 1882, a “wooden screen painted white, with open spaces so as to show horizontal stripes” was placed atop the front lighthouse’s red tavern room to make the structure more conspicious during the day. The daymark was removed in 1897.
Three acres of land, roughly one and a half miles inland from the front ligth, were purchased from Joshua and Mary Dickinson on April 20th, 1876 as the site for the rear range light. To provide a focal plane higher than that of the front light, the project plans called for a tall, wrought iron tower to be used for displaying the rear light. The Kellogg Bridge Company of Buffalo, NY was contracted to manufacture the components of the wrought tower, which were then transported to Salem, NJ by railcar. From Salem, teams of mules pulled large wagons loaded with pieces of the iron tower to the construction site.
A frame keeper’s dwelling was built just west of the tower, along with a wood-framed privy and an oil house. The first keeper of Finns Point Rear Range Light was Edward Dickerson, who started serving on December 8th, 1876 event though the light was not lit until April 2nd, 1877.
Fast forward to the 1970’s when the old dwelling was razed because it was unsafe but locals showed an interesting in the lighthouse and having it moved. Resident Betty Husarik formed the “Save the Lighthouse Committee”. They faulted in moving the ligthouse but placed it on the National Register of Historic Sites in 1978.
In 1981, the committee set out to Washington DC to meet with their local congressman and the drive resulted in a contract for $33,600 being signed between the US Fish and Wildlife Service, on whose land the tower now stood and K & K Painting Company of Baltimore to have the tower repairs, sandblasted and painted. An open house was held at the tower on October 14th, 1984 to honor the determined effort shown by the “Save the Lighthouse Committee” and others in restoring the tower.
Today it is opened for limited tours and special events.