Forgotten Towns

Harrisville

After several owners, the town that was to become Harrisville was sold to William McCarty, Thomas Davis and Isaac Ashmead for $7,000 by Samuel Richards, owner of Atsion, part-owner of Martha and Speedwell furnaces and brother of Jesse, Batsto’s owner. It was promptly named McCartyville. McCarty decided to erect a paper mill at the site, even though there were already at least 29 other paper mills in the state in 1834. He also built a new dam, a grist mill, a sawmill, a company store and housing. Richard Harris, a former employee of McCarty, eventually purchased the property in 1856 and he and his father, John Harris, became the new owners of Harrisville.

The Harrisville Manufacturing Company incorporated in 1865. The mill used salt hay from the Mullica River for its paper source. It was brought to the landing by barges and then delivered by mule teams, as shown below. The salt hay was bought for three dollars a ton. The iron content of the water gave the paper a strange brown color, like butcher’s paper, and all attempts to make it white failed. Despite this, the mill prospered until the Harris family defaulted on their mortgage in 1890. Harrisville was eventually bought by Joseph Wharton in 1896, although the mill was no longer operating at that time. A fire devastated the town in 1914.

 


Bellecoville

Belcoville’s history started in the late 17th century when John Estell purchased thousands of acres along the Great Egg Harbor River which later became home to a glassworks, grist mill and sawmill. A furnace was established nearby. When these industries failed, the Estell family began selling off tracts of their land. In 1910, the Bethlehem Loading Company saw this area as an ideal place to locate an ordnance proving ground given that no towns were located within the 18,000 acre site. Five years later, they began buying the individual tracts of land that the Estells had sold off. With the event of World War I, plans were changed to build a munitions plant instead. It was built in approximately six months time. An entire town to house 8,000 munitions plant workers was erected and designed to be self-contained – even having its own barber shop. Buildings were constructed for security, administration and support, along with shell loading plants, workers’ housing and even a railroad to transport goods, along with bridges over the waterway within. The Mays Landing plant was actually one of fourteen shell loading plants that were in operation nationwide, six of which were in New Jersey. Bethlehem Loading Company owned three plants and this was their only site in New Jersey.

199 buildings were erected on the site, including blacksmith, machine and carpenter shops; one large cafeteria, two small cafeterias, a restaurant and a stable for the police horses. The site had its own water supply complex, sewage disposal plant and a steam heat system. To service the shell assembly, pouring and receiving buildings and shell store houses, two railroad systems were built – a broad gauge and a narrow gauge. Footprints of those former railroad ties can still be seen in parts of the site today. Many of the buildings were made of reinforced concrete and steel; in fact the water reservoir building with its wall of eight inch thick concrete, still holds water today.  The plant and self-contained community were designed to provide for the loading and assembling of 75mm, 155mm and 8″ explosive shells. But when the war ended in November 1918, they were left without a mission to fulfill. The plant continued to load shells until February 1919 and then the site was used as a temporary munitions storage depot. The following year, it was purchased by the Federal Government, only to be sold to the Miles Company later that year, who began dismantling the buildings and selling off the salvage materials. A 1,672 acre tract was used as a game preserve for several years and then sold in 1974 was sold to Atlantic County park system. Today, thanks to the work of historian Joan Berkey, with assistance from archeologist Dick Regensburg, the site is now on the National and State Historic Registries.

 

Amatol

The town of Amatol, which is named after one of the explosives used in the plant, occupied about 350 acres. Like Belcoville, this was a planned community to support a World War I munitions plant. It was designed to maintain a population of 25,000 and included a railroad, heating plant, laundry, wood working shop, dormitories like the one seen above and several commercial structures. Construction on the plant began March 4, 1918 and two miles away – to protect the people in case of an explosion – work began on the town of Amatol as well. Even though the town was erected quickly, the focus was on its general attractiveness, with symmetry and planned garden areas

 

Friendship

The ruins of the town of Friendship can be seen at the end of Friendship -Speedwell Road. Speedwell Furnace once stood at the head of that road. In 1869, Friendship was a thriving cranberry village containing a school, store, cranberry sorting and packing house, a manager’s house, several homes for the foreman and smaller dwellings for the seasonal pickers.