|A History of Parvin State Park as rewritten by Herbert Wegner|
This article is published here through the generousity of the Parvin State Park Appreciation Committee.
A History of Parvin State Park
as rewritten by Herbert Wegner - 2005
15,000 years ago, the area we know as Parvin State Park was a barren, ice covered tundra. As the glaciers, which extended as far south as central New Jersey, slowly receded, the land became a habitable forest, supporting wildlife and early native cultures of man whose artifacts have been discovered along nearby streams. A thousand years ago, ancestors of the Lenape Indians hunted and fished in the stream we know today as the Muddy Run, which feeds Parvin Lake.
The Lenape held these lands until John Fenwick purchased what is now Salem and Cumberland Counties in 1676. What is now Parvin Sate Park was included in 2,928 acres of land purchased from the Proprietors of West New Jersey in 1742 by John Estaugh, which he later passed to Captain Richard Parker who sold the property to Elemuel Parvin in 1796.
Parvin Lake is a manmade lake. In approximately 1783, a dam was built on the Muddy Run creating the lake from which water flowed through a sluiceway to power a saw mill. The land purchased by Elemuel Parvin along with his son Charles included the land around what is known today as Parvin Mill Road, including the mill, and west toward what is known today as Centerton. Much of that tract of land was known as the Stoneyhill Tract, which probably got its name from the fact that it was an excellent source of heavy gravel used for building the first roads in that area, and much later, the roadways in the park.
The mill at the Parvin property was one of a number of mills along the Muddy Run in Pittsgrove Township. Earthen dams were eventually built across the Muddy Run at six locations creating Elmer Lake, Greenwood Lake (no longer in existence), Palatine Lake, Centerton Lake, Parvin Lake and Rainbow Lake. Each dam incorporated a sluiceway with gates to direct the water to the mills. Historical records indicate that there was more than one mill at several of those locations. Probably some of the earlier sawmills were eventually converted to, or accompanied by, grist mills as the forests were cleared for farming, and the land gave way to the growing of grain. Lumber from the mill at Parvin Lake was used to construct many buildings in that area.
It is theorized that Elemuel and his son Charles operated the mill on the property they purchased into the early 1800's. In 1801, Charles married Anna Margaret Hires. A year later, Anna gave birth to Lemuel. In 1803, Charles died and the following year Elemuel, Charles' father, died. Anna then married Hosea Nichols. When Nichols died in 1810, Anna married Jacob Creamer. As Creamer took over operation of the mill, it became known as Creamer's mill. When Jacob Creamer died in 1835, he left the mill to his 33 year old stepson, Lemuel Parvin.
In 1847, Lemuel replaced the old mill with a new one. When Lemuel's oldest child, Jane, married in 1849, he turned the mill over to his new son-in-law Coombs Ackley. The mill subsequently became known as the Coombs Ackley Mill, and probably carried that identity for the remainder of its existence into the 1930's. Coombs Ackley also built the house at the southeast corner of Almond and Parvin Mill Road, where he and his family lived. Today, although not open to the public, the house is the oldest remaining structure in the park, and provides a visible connection with the Parvin family, for whom the park was named. In the late 1800's, Coombs Ackley sold the property, which later became Parvin State Park, to a man named Smith.
Smith supposedly was the first to concentrate on creating recreational facilities in the area around the lake, which became known as Union Grove Lake. A beach was created near its present location, and about a mile and a half upstream was Einstein's Landing, a picnicking area and a boat livery in the location known today as Second Landing. Also on the north side of the lake near the main beach was a boat livery, concession stand and caretaker's house. Farther to the east were bungalows which were rented to vacationers, and a two story Community House which was rented to organized groups. At the northeast corner of the park was a small peninsula used by the Boy Scouts. Heading south on Parvin Mill Road just south of the dam was a building in which local sportsmen founded the Isaak Walton League, which today is the oldest nationwide conservation organization.
After overseeing the recreation park for some 20 years, Smith left the property to his son in the 1920's. Unfortunately, the younger Smith decided to borrow $35,000 against the Park property to invest in the stock market. When the market crashed, he was left owing the bank all the money he had borrowed. In order to get the bank loan paid off, local legislators prompted the State to purchase the land for a park. In 1930, the State purchased 918 acres of land and a 108 acre lake. On September 12, 1931 the property was dedicated as Parvin State Park.
The new Park continued to be a popular recreation area, adding camping to its list of activities. Water festivals with swimming races were held each summer during the early years of the Park. Joe Truncer was appointed as the first Park Superintendent and Bob Seymour, who had been the caretaker under the previous owner, became a Park employee. Between 1932 and 1933 Almond Road was moved about 50 yards north of its earlier location in order to enlarge the beach area.
This was at the height of the depression and President Franklin Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps to employ young men between the ages of 16 and 21 from needy families. On October 30, 1933 Company 1225 was formed and assigned to SP-4, the Parvin State Park Project. Company 1225 was moved into a camp, built by the CCC of Belleplain State Park, located about three-fourths of a mile west of the main beach at Parvin State Park. The camp, which included barracks, a mess hall and a recreation hall, was run by the Army in a Quasi-military fashion. The young men were provided food, clothing and lodging and were paid $30 per month, $25 of which they were required to send home to their family.
Company 1225 remained at Parvin State Park until 1937 during which time they cleared portions of the forest for campsites, created trails and roadways, and constructed gates, campsite markers, tent platforms, and pavilions. These pavilions survive at Jagger's Point, Island Point and at Second Landing. Company 1225 also built the main beach complex including an enlarged beach, the brick buildings at the beach entrance, and the parking lot across the road. They built several bridges across the Muddy Run and dug the southern branch to the lake transforming the peninsula at the northeast corner of the lake into an island, which they then connected to the mainland by constructing a bridge. The island is now known as Flag Island for the American Flag the Scouts displayed there, and the bridge today is called White Bridge. One of Company 1225's biggest and most difficult tasks was the removal of fallen trees and digging out of the muck in the swamp which would become Thundergust Lake.
In October 1937, Company 1225 was transferred to Fallon, Nevada and the newly formed Company 2227V, comprised of World War I veterans, was established at the Park. These skilled workers put the finishing touches on Thundergust Lake, building the adjoining picnic area and completing the landscaping throughout the Park. They constructed all the rental cabins and the caretaker's cabin, most of which are still in use. They also replaced the southerly bridge to Flag Island with what is known today as White Bridge.
During the flood of September 1st 1940, Company 2227V labored unsuccessfully to save the dam, and later built the new concrete dam. Completion of the new dam coincided with the disbanding of the Civilian Conservation Corps as the U.S. entered WWII. This allowed all able-bodied men to join the armed services. The CCC Camp at Parvin State Park was officially closed on May 15, 1942.
Through an agreement between the State of New Jersey and Seabrook Farms, the barracks became the temporary home of workers from Tennessee and later a place for displaced Japanese-Americans awaiting housing while working at the Farms. In 1944 German prisoners of war were kept in the barracks, and in 1952 several groups of Kalmyk, Mongolian descendants, who were refugees from Russia were housed there. By the late 1950's the long abandoned and deteriorated camp was overtaken by the forest. Today only the fireplace foundation from the recreation hall remains as a reminder of an era of amazing accomplishments that resulted in the building of Parvin State Park.
The first superintendent, Joseph Truncer, remained at the Park from 1932 till 1947. He was succeeded by J. Ira Kolb, who was at the Park until 1957. Next was John Broshkevitch, who was succeeded by J. William Bailey in 1961. In 1971 Joe R. Reed took over and remained until 1998, when he was succeeded by W. Scott Mauger, who remained until 2003. The present superintendent is Dean Cramer.Today, Parvin State Park is known throughout New Jersey and many other states as an exceptional recreation and natural area, and is enjoyed by people from many parts of the Country.
Copyright 2002-2013 West Jersey History Project