the doors to Wells Mills County Park were
opened in 1991, those assembled couldn't help but notice the fragrance
of newly bloomed flowers, the scent of pine needles and the melodies
of birds gathering material for nesting all surrounding the new Nature
Center. While speeches were being made on the shaded deck and
grassy lawns, many minds wandered to another time - when, very close
to this special location in the Piney woods, there had been music in
the air. That was years ago when the Albert Brothers, Joe and
George, had held their Saturday night "Old Home Place" jams in their
backsoods cabin. The fun and excitement of those nostalgic days
were gone but not forgotten.
the true Pine Barrens native sons to frequent the Old Home Place was
Merce Ridgway. Born in the tiny hamlet of Bamber, his family was
musically talented; thus he grew up appreciating the stories and songs
of the Pine Barrens. He also devloped a talent for setting his
own stories and life experiences to music and played with a group called
the Pine Hawkers.
Albert passed away, the gathering became too much for Joe. The
group of pickin' Pineys moved to a new location and Merce became the
founding president of the Pinelands Cultural Society.
Barrens is an exquisite ecological system The vast unbroken forest
of pine, oak and cedar is the largest tract of open space on the mid-Atlantic
coast. You can search shady cedar swamps for the rare curly grass
fern or hike through a forest of pygmy pine trees no taller than a man.
The pure, slow moving streams are fed by a huge underground aquifer
of seventeen trillion gallons which supplies the marshes and bays of
South Jersey with some of the cleanest water in the world. The
population of this vast area once depended on natural resources for
its survival. The pines were used for charcoal making, the cedars
for lumber, the naturally formed bog iron was melted down for pots,
pans, kettles, stove pipes and later, cannons and cannonballs.
The sand was used to make glass, the clay for brick and tile making.
The land produced an abundance of blueberries, cranberries, pine cones
and sphagnum moss. Families depended on deer, rabbit and waterfowl
for meat on the table. Clamming, oystering and fishing also proved
profitable. For their cultural entertainment and recreation, the
people of the pines would get together to have country "hoedowns".
Whoever was good at whatever instrument would have a turn at pickin'
that idea - the one to have "Piney" music ringing through the air once
again - the idea to have the original Piney crafters and artisans gathered
together; to have food, fun and friends, all with one common love; the
love of their own Pine Barrens. That idea became reality once
again in 1995 when 5,000 people flocked to Wells Mills to celebrate
the Pines and its culture. The Department of Parks and Recreation
sponsored the first "PINE BARRENS JAMBOREE: DOWN HOME MELODIES AND MEMORIES"
and we are doing it again, every October!"
by Lillian Hoey, from the first Pine Barrens Jamboree brochure.
Barnegat NJ 08005
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