Dated: 04/30/2018

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I like knowing about the names we take for granted – who certain streets and bridges are named for because it’s usually forgotten history. I pay closer attention than I used to, and when I see a sign I make a point of knowing the origin of a name. 

The other day, while evaluating a triathlon this coming summer in the Pine Barrens, I came across the Wharton State Forest. There are brown signs with white letters all over the place just west of Tuckerton that I saw throughout my youth on our many trips to Batsto, but this time I decided to find out just who this guy “Wharton” was… After all, the Wharton State Forest is the largest in the State of New Jersey encompassing more than 122,000 acres and occupies three different counties.

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                                                                                       Joseph Wharton

Joseph Wharton was born in 1826 into a Philadelphia Quaker family. His education consisted of a number of private and boarding schools, and from age 14 to 16, he was sent to live with cousins in West Chester, PA to learn the trade of farmer. In the winters, he returned home to Philadelphia and studied chemistry and mining. He went into the Brick manufacturing business which had a number of ups and downs until he shifted his focus to zinc which was in high demand for the manufacture of brass during the Civil War. This led to Wharton’s first of many fortunes.

After the War, Wharton expanded into the production of nickel and made the first nickel coin for the United States. His facility was located in Camden, NJ while his home was located in Philadelphia. In the 1870’s the city of Philadelphia annexed property outside the city limits as a way of expanding its tax base. This included Wharton’s “Bellevue” property which the City immediately condemned in order to build a reservoir for potable drinking water for Philadelphia which by this time had heavily fouled the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. Wharton, in an effort to save his family home, bought up large tracts of forest in southern and central New Jersey with the plan to extract water from the pure aquifers in these forests (Pine Barrens) and utilize it in Philadelphia. As the plan neared fruition, New Jersey Legislature passed a law banning the export of water, thereby killing Wharton’s plan.

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                                                                    Wharton family mansion in Batsto, NJ

Wharton’s “Bellevue” home was demolished by the City of Philadelphia but the land never used as industrialists found ways to filter water before the reservoir construction commenced. The New Jersey tracts were developed into cranberry farms and a family summer mansion built in Batsto that was site of family gatherings well into the twentieth century. In the 1950’s, Joseph Wharton’s heirs sold the New Jersey tracts to the State of New Jersey for the purpose of preserving such as a State Forest – now known as the Wharton State Forest. Another name that’s no longer a mystery to me!

From Your “Running Realtor” Andrew Gonzales….

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Andrew Gonzales

As a lifelong resident of Ocean County, New Jersey, Andrew Gonzales brings exceptional insight into local market trends, and full knowledge of ordinances, insurance requirements, and FEMA standards. A....

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