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.
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.
I unfortunately reached the Church Landing Farm too late in the day and I just must have missed the staff there. I was knocking on the front door and back door looking for someone to talk to to see if I could still get in to see the house. I could not find anyone considering there were three cars in the parking lot outside mine.
I could see from the outside the period furniture and paintings that were part of the furnishings of the house. I could also see the hallways but still no one in sight.
I was able to tour the grounds though and walk through the small gardens. There were several buildings on the property that looked like smoke houses and outhouses. The grounds had the most spectacular views of the Delaware Bay and the Delaware Memorial Bridge. I am sure much of this did not exist in that time frame but still it is the most amazing view especially on a sunny day like I had. The sun has the most amazing shine on the water from this direction.
Even when the house is not open, still take time to tour the grounds and visit the outer buildings. It is a nice walk around the property.
The History of the Church Landing Farmhouse/Penn Township Historical Society:
(From the Pennsville Township Historical Society website):
The Church Landing Farmhouse was built in 1840 by Daniel Garrison. In 1991, the Atlantic City Electric Company provided structural renovations to the house and a group of dedicated volunteers from the community restored the farmhouse and grounds to their current glory.
The Church Landing Farmhouse grounds currently house a 130 year old Floating Fishing Cabin, a 100 year old Wash House owned by Pennsville Physician Dr. James, the 100 year old Perry Farm Privy (the farm is located on the Pennsville-Salem Road), the Riverview Beach Park Museum, a 1929 Art Deco Tile from the original Deepwater Generating Station building, a one room Schoolhouse, and the historic records that features PMHA, Salem and SCCS Yearbooks, local genealogy, Township Obituaries (2010-2020), Federal NJ Township Census Records and local history.
The displays at the museum feature newspaper clipping and a section on local newsman Bill Gallo Jr., police, fire and military from the area, high school yearbooks and displays, ferry and excursion ships, antique looms, sewing machines and spinning wheels, antique tools and church records.