COLESTOWN, THE DESERTED VILLAGE
FEW Moorestonians, with the exception of the older generation, realize that in the early days there was a small but thriving village within three miles of Moorestown that has vanished from the face of the earth as completely as the fabled Atlantis. The ancient village of Colestown¹ was situated on the south branch of Pensauken Creek about three-quarters of a mile southeast of the Cemetery. It stood on a winding road known locally as “Crooked Lane” leading from the Haddonfield to the Fellowship Road near the present village of that name. This road originally started at the King’s Highway near Colestown Cemetery, and joined the “Great Road” leading from Iladdonfield through Evesboro and Mount Laurel to Mount Holly near the village of Fellowship. The Lane on the Joshua Roberts farm, now owned by Clayton Andrews, is part of Crooked Lane. This Lane starts about one-half mile northeast of the intersection of the Haddonfield and Church Roads and leads down to the creek where the ruins of the old bridge may be seen. The bridge collapsed in about 1914 and since then the Road has been abandoned. The banks of the creek are high and picturesque at this point and it is a most delightful spot for those who love to commune with nature. Just above the bridge, Roberts’ saw mill formerly stood and the mill pond extending almost to Church Road was a favorite resort of the young people of the neighborhood both in summer and winter. On the eastern side of the stream the old road turned to the right and ran near the stream for perhaps one hundred yards where it turned sharply to the left and
¹I am indebted to my friends, Samuel R. Coles of Moorestown a direct descendant of the pioneer Samuel Cole, and Chalkley Matlack of Colestown, also, to the “Traditions of Evesham Township” by William R. Lippincott for this account of the old Colestown Village.
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continued in a reasonably straight line to the Fellowship Road a little to the northwest of its junction with Lenola Road. The old village of Colestown was located on this Road near the stream. Colestown, which received its name from Samuel Coles one of the earliest settlers in the neighborhood, contained several houses, two stores, a blacksmith shop and the famous Fountain Hotel or Tavern as it was doubtless called in those days. Near the Tavern there was a Mineral Spring whose waters were supposed to have been medicinal. The water was analyzed by a well-known chemist and the analysis chiseled on a stone near the spring. I regret that the mineral contents of the water have not been preserved but doubtless it contained iron with a slight trace of sulphur. The hotel was a famous resort for many years. The beauty of its surroundings, the nearby mill pond which was almost large enough to be called a lake, as well as the life giving waters, attracted the young as well as the old. For many years it was the fashionable resort of the neighborhood and a week-end at the Fountain Hotel was analogous to a week-end visit in modern times to our favorite seaside or mountain resort. The waters of the spring may not have been potent but a few days rest at the hotel and quiet walks through the beautiful woods, doubtless rejuvenated our grandparents who were weary with home and business cares. The young people no doubt enjoyed a cup of water from the famous spring after a stroll through the woods or a moonlight ride on the mill pond. The hotel was moved about 1830 and is now part of the first house on the northern side of Church Road after crossing the creek if traveling toward Evesboro. Nothing remains to mark the site of the old hotel excepting a depression in the ground near the bank of the stream.
Samuel and Elizabeth Coles, for whom the village was named, arrived from England in 1682 and first settled on Cooper’s Creek near the Delaware River. In 1685 he purchased 500 acres on the south branch of “Pensoakin” Creek
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from Jeremiah Richards and a little later 300 acres adjoining from Richard Heritage. Samuel R. Coles of Moorestown has the original deed in his possession. The Colestown Cemetery is located on the original tract. The plantation was known as “New Orchard” and the house stood near the present homestead on the southwest corner of the liaddonfield & Church Roads. It was pleasantly located on a knoll commanding a beautiful view of meadowland and the winding picturesque Cropwell Creek as the south branch of the Pensauken was called in the early days.
The present village of Colestown is largely “A City of the Dead.” Many worthies of “ye olden” as well as of modern times are buried in this well kept cemetery. To those of us who are historically minded the monument standing in the cemetery near Church Road which marks the site of old St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, is the most interesting spot in the immediate neighborhood. The brick walk leading up to the monument, originally led from the King’s Highway to the old church. St. Mary’s was erected in 1751 and was unfortunately burned to the ground in 1899. It was an unpretentious building without steeple, belfry or stained glass windows and the interior was correspondingly plain. It undoubtedly had its origin in the Keithian controversy. George Keith, that brilliant Scotch schismatic, who was in turn Presbyterian, Quaker and member of the Church of England, preached in the home of William Heulings which was located in the neighborhood of Colestown on September 15th, 1703 as recorded in his Journal. This was shortly after the establishment of St. Mary’s Church in Burlington. Other services were held from time to time in the homes of those who belonged to the Church of England on their arrival or were converted by the powerful preaching of Keith. Among these were the Heulings, WalEs and Rudderow families.
Thomas Rudderow the progenitor of the family in Burlington County, lived between the two branches of Pensauken Creek, not far from Fork Landing. He died in
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1729 and in his will bequeathed Ten Pounds “towards the building of a Church in that place to be convenient hereaway.” This fund doubtless was used in the erection of the Church in Colestown in 1751. For many years the Church was a mission under the care of Christ Church, Philadelphia. It was used very little after the erection of the beautiful stone Episcopal Church in Moorestown in 1837 which formerly stood at the northwest corner of Main and Church Streets.
Almost every foot of land in the neighborhood of the Colestown Cemetery is historic, especially the section which lies between the Cemetery and the north branch of Pensauken Creek. The old Matlack homestead standing at the Northeast corner of Fellowship Road and School House Lane was erected in about 1753 by William Matlack the grandson of the pioneer of that name. This house stands on the original 100 acre tract surveyed for William Matlack in 1682 and is still owned by a member of the family. Directly across School House Lane from the Matlack homestead stands the old Buzby House, which in the early days was a celebrated Tavern. The King’s Highway ran directly between these two old houses and the Ferry Road leading to Spicer’s Ferry, over Cooper’s Creek, near where the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge is now located branched from the King’s Highway at this point. There was also a store located near the Tavern in the early days and the settlement was known as “Farmer Town.” The portion of School House Lane leading to the Haddonfield Road is part of an old road that formerly led from King’s Highway near the Buzby House and passing through Fellowship joined the “Great Road” leading from Haddonfleld to Mount Holly a little west of Evesboro. The old brick school house erected by the Friends in 1785 and still standing near School House Lane formerly faced this old Road and not King’s Highway as stated by some writers. The Highway passed about 200 yards north of the School House. It was very
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conveniently located near the junction of King’s Highway, the Ferry Road and the road leading to Evesboro.The King’s Highway from this point followed the general course of the lane leading to Lindley Gardiner’s residence on the Reuben Matlack farm which is now owned by Cha.lkley and Mary Matlack who are direct descendants of Reuben and Elizabeth Coles Matlack. Reuben Matlack’s blacksmith shop erected in 1787 is still standing near the Gardiner residence and is especially interesting to the Friends of Moorestown and vicinity for the reason that the iron latches, hinges, etc., in the old brick Meeting House in Moorestown erected in 1802, were made in this shop. The Highway passed between the shop and the old Matlack homestead which stood in the rear of the Gardiner residence and from thence down the back lane to the south branch of Pensauken Creek. The old Reuben Matlack homestead was unfortunately burned in 1911. Chalkley Matlack, now living on the farm, is greatly interested in the early history of the community and of the Society of Friends. He is preparing an album or series of albums with views of all the old Quaker Meeting Houses of Pennsylvania as well as of New Jersey, which when completed, will be of great historic value. The pictures of each Meeting House are accompanied by a brief historical sketch of the Meeting.