The Fake Mount Holly, New Jersey Witchcraft Trial

Mount Holly

Over at Boston 1775, J.L. Bell writes about some 18th-century fake news. On October 22, 1730, Ben Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette published a report of a witchcraft trial in southern New Jersey:

Saturday last at Mount-Holly, about 8 Miles from this Place, near 300 People were gathered together to see an Experiment or two tried on some Persons accused of Witchcraft. It seems the Accused had been charged with making their Neighbours Sheep dance in an uncommon Manner, and with causing Hogs to speak, and sing Psalms, &c. to the great Terror and Amazement of the King’s good and peaceable Subjects in this Province; and the Accusers being very positive that if the Accused were weighed in Scales against a Bible, the Bible would prove too heavy for them; or that, if they were bound and put into the River, they would swim;

the said Accused desirous to make their Innocence appear, voluntarily offered to undergo the said Trials, if 2 of the most violent of their Accusers would be tried with them. Accordingly the Time and Place was agreed on, and advertised about the Country; The Accusers were 1 Man and 1 Woman; and the Accused the same.

The Parties being met, and the People got together, a grand Consultation was held, before they proceeded to Trial; in which it was agreed to use the Scales first; and a Committee of Men were appointed to search the Men, and a Committee of Women to search the Women, to see if they had any Thing of Weight about them, particularly Pins. After the Scrutiny was over, a huge great Bible belonging to the Justice of the Place was provided, and a Lane through the Populace was made from the Justices House to the Scales, which were fixed on a Gallows erected for that Purpose opposite to the House, that the Justice’s Wife and the rest of the Ladies might see the Trial, without coming amongst the Mob; and after the Manner of Moorfields, a large Ring was also made.

Read the rest, along with Bell’s interpretation, here.

Does “Central Jersey” Exist?

CentralNJmap1895

Anyone from New Jersey knows that there are actually two “Jersies”–North Jersey and South Jersey.  But is there a “Central Jersey”–a place that is not oriented to either New York City or Philadelphia?  Don Nosowitz makes the case in a recent piece at Atlas Obscura.  Here is a taste:

Central Jerseyans—rather like their state as a whole—define themselves by what they are not. They are not bridge-and-tunnel North Jerseyans. They are not cheesesteak-eating Philadelphians from South Jersey. So what exactly are they? That’s harder to put a finger on. A couple of people told me that they get both Philadelphia and New York City television channels: two of each major network. That’s interesting and weird, but maybe not enough to define a region.

There is (I think) some self-loathing involved in being a Central Jerseyan. New Jersey is a wildly stigmatized state; surely no other state, at least outside of Florida, is so widely mocked. Nationally known depictions of New Jersey—The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, On the Waterfront, Garden State—represent North Jersey, and not in a particularly flattering light.

Nationally, South Jersey has almost no pop culture profile, but it is still stigmatized—from within. As a Philadelphian who loves my home city but understands the national attitudes toward it, I’d suggest that South Jersey suffers from a double whammy: It is both New Jersey (bad) and Philadelphia (bad). “South Jerseyans really have animosity towards North Jersey,” says Murray, who is himself from South Jersey. “And what makes it worse for South Jersey folks is that North Jersey doesn’t have animosity for South Jersey; they just think it’s irrelevant.” South Jersey literally tried to secede from the state in 1980.

To say you’re from Central Jersey is to say, “Hey, whatever you know about New Jersey, that’s not me.” It’s a combination of pride and the acknowledgment of, or even agreement with, the negative view many people have of the state.

Yet negation is only half of a response. Take two small cities commonly claimed as Central Jersey: New Brunswick, on the outer edges of the New York City orbit, and thus North Jersey, and Princeton, on the outer edges of the Philadelphia orbit, and thus South Jersey. They must have something in common, right? Or is simply saying “Central Jersey” enough times enough to force it into existence?

Read the entire piece here.

Christmas in South Jersey, 1774

“Preached to day at New England-Town (Fairfield, NJ) on Matt. 4:23: ‘From that time Jesus began to preach,’ & c.  I used my Notes some, but was none afraid.  My Brother Josiah is now very ill in a Pleurisy.”

–Diary of Philip Vickers Fithian, December 25, 1774 (Greenwich, Cumberland County, NJ) in Journal of Philip Vickers Fithian, ed. Robert Greenlaugh Albion and Leonidas Dodson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1934), 248.

Christmas in Greenwich, NJ, 1766

“There was many guns fired last eve and I heard of some frolicks.  To day we had a Sermon upon the 4th Chapter of galations., the 4th and 5th Verses.  But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his son made of a woman & c.  We dressed flax.”

-Diary of Philip Vickers Fithian, Thursday, December 25, 1766 (Greenwich, NJ) cited in F. Alan Palmer, The Beloved Cohansie of Philip Vickers Fithian (Greenwich, NJ: Cumberland County Historical Society, n.d.), 58.

SoJourn: A Journal of South Jersey History and Culture

As someone who has written a few things about the early history of southern New Jersey, I am thrilled to see this call for articles:

Call for Articles: SoJourn: Journal of South Jersey History & Culture 

In spring 2016, the South Jersey Culture & History Center at Stockton University will publish its inaugural issue of SoJourn, a new journal devoted to the history, culture, and geography of southern New Jersey. We are seeking community members, avocational historians, and scholars to contribute essays on topics related to South Jersey. Illustrations to accompany these articles will be a plus. Articles should be written for laypersons who are interested and curious about South Jersey topics, but do not necessarily have expertise in the areas covered. Potential authors should check SJCHC’s website in mid-October 2015 (https://blogs.stockton.edu/sjchc/) for a link to a simplified style sheet guide for article preparation. Journal editors will be happy to guide any would be authors. 

Sample topics might include: 

Biographical sketches of important but forgotten local people; the development or succession of a community’s roads or bridges; local transportation (focused by mode or area) and what changes it wrought in the served communities; history of community businesses and industries (wineries, garment factories, agriculture, etc.); old school houses, old hotels, or meeting halls; narrative descriptions of local geographical features; essays concerned with folklore, music, arts; and reviews of new local interest publications. Photo essays and old photograph and postcard reproductions are welcome with applicable captions. In short, if a South Jersey topic interests you, it will likely interest SoJourn’s readers. 

Parameters for submissions: 

• Submissions must pertain to topics bounded within the 8 southernmost counties of New Jersey (Burlington & Ocean Counties and south)

 • Manuscripts should be approximately 3,000–4,000 words long (5 to 7 pages of singlespaced text and 9 to 12 pages including images) • Manuscripts should conform to the SoJourn style sheet, available here: https://blogs.stockton.edu/sjchc/sojourn-style-sheet/ 

• Manuscripts, if at all possible, should be submitted in digital format (Word- or pdf-formatted documents preferred) • Images should be submitted as high-resolution tiff- or jpeg-formatted files (editors can assist with digital conversion of photos if necessary) 

• Appropriate citations printed as endnotes should be employed (see style sheet). 

• Original submissions only. Copyright licenses for all images must be obtained by the author or should be copyright-free figures and/or figures in the public domain. • Articles need to be more than just a chronology of the given topic. The author should be able to properly contextualize the subject by answering such questions as: a) why is this important?; b) what is the impact on the local or regional history? and c) how does it compare to similar events/personages/changes/processes in other localities? 

Call for submissions

Submissions are due by December 31, 2015. Send inquiries or submissions to Thomas.Kinsella@stockton.edu.