T'HE old Salem Road, better known as the King’s Highway connecting the English settlements at Burlington and Salem, was apparently the first road to be laid out in Burlington County. It was authorized by an Act of the West Jersey Assembly on September 25th, 1681 and ten men from Burlington and ten from Salem were appointed to carry out the undertaking. Work was started on the road during the Spring of 1682. The Act called for a highway six rods in width but as there were very few if any wagons in the County at that time, it was probably little more than a bridle path during the first few years at least. Its route was very circuitous and according to tradition the builders followed the Indian trails in many places. Land was plentiful in those days and most of our early roads followed the line of least resistance.
The road crossed Rancocas Creek near the dividing line of Moorestown and Deiran Townships about two miles above Bridgeboro at a place known in the early days as Hollinshead’s Ferry and later as Hackney’s Dock. The original Hollinshead homestead stood near this spot and for many years the family conducted a ferry across the creek to a place now known as Adams’s Wharf. William Downan, an aged man now living in Bridgeboro, pointed out to the writer the exact spot where the road started on the south bank of the creek. Mr. Downan’s boyhood days were spent on the “Paul Heaton” Farm through which the road passed and at that time the road bed could be clearly traced. The road passed to the east of the Heaton house which is still standing on the Creek Road not far from the Township line. Although Mr. Downan kindly traced the course of the old road from the creek to the Moorestown and Mt. Holly Road, I will, in describing its route through Moorestown, quote from an article written by Judge Clay-
OLD ROADS AND INDIAN TRAILS 21
ton Lippincott and published in a County paper during the latter part of the Nineteenth Century.
“Starting from an old landing on Rancocas Creek on or near the line between the Townships of Chester (now Moorestown) and Deiran, from thence the road crossed the farm belonging to the heirs of Paul Heaton, went a little south of the residence of James McElwee (now Fred Peterson) and Enoch Dudley (now Hansel! Lippincott) crossed Hartford Road and followed the Road by Page's School House (sometimes called Poplar Grove School House) now a tenant house on the farm, owned by the New Jersey Orchards’ Association, to the end of Josiah Pancoast’s farm (now owned by Lester Collins) thence on nearly a straight line to the toll gate on the Mount Holly Road, thence its general course was where the road now runs passing through Moorestown.”
The neighborhood where the road turns sharply to the west near the Borton Landing Road was known as the “North Bend” until quite recently.
The Highway closely followed the southern edge of the Ridge on which the oldest part of Moorestown now stands. A little east of the Town Hall it veered to the south and passed along the ridge where the Friends’ Home and the eastern end of the Community House now stand and to the north of the old Smith mansion, No. 12 High Street, now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Cadbury, Jr. It passed to the south of the homes on the south side of Main Street west of Church Street and directly in front of the old Barcklow House located at No. 274 West Main Street and rejoined the present course of Main Street not far from Locust. Near “Fairview” the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Chas. W. Stokes, located at the top of the hill on Haddonfield Road, it bore to the right and crossed Forest Brook Farm about 200 feet south of the homestead now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. S. Thornton Hollinshead and a little to the north of the old brick tenement house still standing
22 MOORESTOWN AND HER NEIGHBORS
on the farm. The course of the old road can still be traced through the woods on Forest Brook Farm by a depression in the ground about thirty feet in width. It crossed Pensauken Creek where the bridge now stands on the Lenola Road and from thence over the hill to the north of the brick school house now a tenement house on the Elizabeth Matlack farm. It passed south of the old Matlack homestead now standing at the northeast corner of School House Lane and Fellowship Road and from thence followed the general course of Lindley H. Gardiner’s lane on the Chalkley Matlack farm, passing between his residence and the old Reuben H. Matlack blacksmith shop, thence down his back lane to the south branch of Pensauken Creek.
The original bridge stood a little above the present bridge and crossed the old channel, the course of which can be readily traced. Asa Matiack’s saw mill famous in the early days stood just above the old bridge. Leaving the creek the road passed to the east of “Thorndale” the home of the late William T. Lippincott and thence to the Colestown Cemetery. The brick walk leading to the monument marking the spot where St. Mary’s Church originally stood, lead to the old Highway. King’s Highway was resurveyed in 1747 and straightened in some places but its course through Moorestown was not changed until the laying out of the present road from Mt. Holly to Camden in 1794. The Haddonfield Road as it is today was surveyed in 1796 and doubtless the old Highway was used very little after these new and more direct routes were established.
An interesting old road known as the Ferry or Market road branched from the King’s Highway near the old Math lack homestead at the intersection of the Fellowship Road and School House Lane. It passed through the woods on the Chalkiey Matlack farm thence to the south of Merchantvile and lead direct to Spicer’s Ferry which crossed Cooper’s Creek near the present railroad bridge and thence to Cooper's Ferry on the Delaware. Chaildey Matlack informed me that in his boyhood days the course of this road
OLD ROADS AND INDIAN TRAILS 23
could be clearly traced through the woods on his farm. The road was used extensively by the farmers in the neighborhood in sending their produce to the Philadelphia market prior to the opening of the present road from Moorestown to Camden.
The Riverton Road (Chester Avenue) called “The Great Road” or “Meeting House Lane” in the early Meeting records, was undoubtedly the second road of importance to be laid out in this neighborhood. It was surveyed in about 1720 doubtless for the convenience of the Friends’ families who lived near the river. Prior to the opening of this Highway, the only road leading from the Delaware River to Moorestown followed an Indian trail that started at the river bank near the present home of Mr. and Mrs. Howard G. Taylor, a little above Riverton and crossing King’s Highway at its highest point skirted the Mount at Mount Laurel and passed on through the pines to the seashore. This trail was used very extensively by the Indians especially in the Spring when they made their annual pilgrimage to the seashore to feast on fish, oysters and clams. The section of this path between the King’s Highway and the River was used as a public road in the early days although apparently it was not officially surveyed. There is evidence of the foundations of a house in the woods on Westfield Road now owned by Edward S. Harmer adjoining the Armstrong estate which may have stood on this old road.
On Tenth month 30th, 1761, a road two rods in width was surveyed from the south side of King’s Highway “at a black oak on Ephraim Haines’ land” to the Evesham Meeting House (Mount Laurel) “connecting the Great Road from Burlington to Salem and the Great Road from Mount Holly to Haddonfield.” Petit’s Lane, which runs down into the valley east of the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Cadbury, 260 East Main Street, is part of this road which followed the Indian trail referred to above. It was used
24 MOORESTOWN AND HER NEIGHBORS
until the present straight road from Moorestown to Mount Laurel was surveyed in 1796.
The Great Road from Mount Holly to Haddonfield laid out in 1765 according to a paper written by Judge Clayton Lippincott, crossed the south branch of Rancocas Creek about 200 yards above the present railroad bridge and passed to the south of Darnell’s mills (now Union Mills) and north of the Mount at Mount Laurel, thence through Evesboro (Green Tree) to Haddonfield, crossing the Marlton Pike near the old toll gate. This road was used extensively until 1799 when the present more direct route through Mount Laurel and Evesboro was laid out. Ezra Engle,. whose old home was located at Darnell’s Mills, informed me that in his boyhood days the route of this old road which crossed his farm could be readily traced. The main wing of the British Army on its retreat from Philadelphia in June, 1778, passed over this old road to Mount Holly on its way to Freehold where the battle of Monmouth Courthouse was fought a few days later. Tradition says that this old road followed an Indian trail leading from the Delaware River through Mount Holly to the neighborhood of Shrewsbury and Middletown.
It is more than likely that George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, traveled over this trail in 1672 on his journey from New Castle, Delaware to Long Island and New England. Quoting from his Journal “he traveled sometimes a whole day through the wilderness without seeing a man or woman, house or dwelling place and their entertainment was mostly from the Indians who treated them kindly.” Some are of the opinion that he followed the trail near the bank of the Delaware River through Bordentown but this is scarcely possible as there were a number of Swedish and Dutch families along the eastern bank of the Delaware as far up the river as Bordentown. He could hardly have followed this trail without seeing “a man or woman, house or dwelling place.” On his return journey, Fox and his companions spent one night in Burlington at
OLD ROADS AND INDIAN TRAILS 25
Peter Jegous’ deserted tavern that stood on the bank of the Delaware at the mouth of Assiscunck Creek. The next day, according to his Journal, they crossed the Delaware to Matiniconk Island (now Burlington Island) and thence to the Pennsylvania shore. An old road branched from the Great Road to which we have been referring at Darnell’s Mills joining the old Salem Road leading from Burlington to Moorestown where Aubrey Walton’s farm is now located about one mile east of Moorestown. As the present road from Mount buy was not laid out until 1794, this must have been the regular route from Moorestown to Mount Holly in the early days.
In an old paper written by Judge Clayton Lippincott who died in 1892, I find the record of a road laid out in 1727 from the King’'s Highway to Fork Landing. This road ran between the farms of Thomas Ford and Nathan Middleton. No town was mentioned in the survey but as Nathan Middleton’s farm was located north of the railroad and west of Chester Avenue, I assume that the road started at the Highway in east Moorestown. Thomas Ford’s farm joined the Middleton farm on the north.
In 1768 a road was laid out from Se-ne-men-sing (Cmnaminson) to the Great Road leading from Moorestown to Haddonfield which undoubtedly refers to the King’s Highway. This road began at a Buttonwood tree near the Delaware River between the plantations of James and Elias Toy, whose farms were located at Palmyra and joined the King’s Highway at the bridge over Pensauken Creek southwest of Moorestown. It is now known as the Lenola Road leading from Palmyra through Lenola to Fellowship. S. Thornton Hollinshead recently resurveyed this road as far as the bridge over the Pensauken referred to above.
An old map published in 1860 shows that a number of our streets formerly bore different names than at present. Church Street north of Main, which was laid out early in the Nineteenth Century, was then called Fork Landing Road and south of Main Street, the Bodine Road. Third
26 MOORESTOWN AND HER NEIGHBORS
Street was known as Willow Street and Chestnut Street as Broadway. Stanwick Avenue, which lead to the Fair Grounds located diagonally opposite the present Stanwick Station, was called Fair Ground Avenue. This map also showed that there were no streets running east and west north of the railroad. I trust that a future map of the Township will show that the original name, the King’s Highway, will have been restored to Main Street, the historic thoroughfare of our town.