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Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - Interior of the Samuel Clement House
Interior of the Samuel Clement House
The Twenty Fifth
Annual Yuletide Tour was held in Historic Salem, New Jersey on Saturday, December 1st from 1-6pm. The tour has been so popular and colonial in nature that it was featured in the 1997 Christmas issue of Early American Homes, in the 1999 Christmas Crafts Issue of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, and the 2005 "#1 Tour Not to be Missed" in the New Jersey Countryside Magazine. What makes the tour so popular during Christmas?

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - The Saltbox built in 1825
The Saltbox built in 1825
It takes us back to our colonial roots when in 1675 Salem was already a busy port. Remember that William Penn didn't visit Pennsylvania and Delaware until 1682. It is the oldest permanent English-speaking settlement in the Delaware Valley. John Fenwick, an English Quaker settled the town and named it Salem which means "peace" in Hebrew.

Thirty two years earlier in 1643 the Swedish Governor, Johan Prinz, constructed Fort Nya Elfsborg to guard the profitable fur trade established by the Swedes. Salem County happened to be military capital which stretched from Woodbury to Cape May. At that time the area was mostly swamp land, and the fort was commonly named Fort Myggenborgh (Fort Mosquito). The soldiers at the fort were inundated with mosquitos and the fort eventually was burned down in 1655. Thirteen soldiers provided security for Fort Nya Elfsborg which had brass 12pd cannons mounted on earth and wooden palisades. It was a earthen redoubt with three corners normally built by the Swedes. Eight guns defended the position. Log farmsteads were placed strategically up the river from the fort. The Dutch West India Company ships coming up from the bay would have to get by them first.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - A lady keeping the fire going in the log cabin at Johan Printz Memorial Park
A lady keeping the fire going in the log cabin at Johan Printz Memorial Park
The English began to settle Ferken's Creek in 1641 with 60 families. The earliest businessman were colonial trades - blacksmiths, tanners, hatters, carpenters, and fur traders. A dispute on the other side of the river began to diminish the control of the area by the Swedes. Peter Stuyvesant, Governor of New Netherland, built Fort Casimir (present day New Castle, Delaware) in 1651 on land that was originally sold to Peter Minuet representing the Swedish crown in 1638. On Trinity Sunday in 1654 without any gunpowder, Fort Casimir wash captured peacefully by the Swedish and renamed it Fort Trinity. Stuyvesant led a Dutch force which retook the fort on September 11, 1655.

The English finally took control in 1664 when Richard Nicolls who commanded the British fleet sailed into New Jersey and what is currently the Port of New York and threatened to attack. The Dutch had no choice but to surrender their colony. This was the same year that New Jersey received its name as a state from the British Isle of Jersey by James Stuart, the Duke of York.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - A Revolutionary War soldier demonstrating the use of a cannot at Johan Printz Memorial Park
A Revolutionary War soldier demonstrating the use of a cannot at Johan Printz Memorial Park
John Fenwick had been in dispute with land ownership with another Quaker, Edward Billinge. The Duke of York granted the lands of New Jersey to Sir George Carteret and Lord John Berkely. Lord Berkely sold his share to Billinge in 1675 for 1000 pounds. The property was turned over to Fenwick in trust because Billinge had become bankrupt. Eventually William Penn became involved and awarded 90 percent of the claim to Billinge with 10 percent going to Fenwick.

Fenwick refused to abide by the decision. His ultimate decision was to organize a colony of settlers and settle on land called Fenwick's Colony now known as Salem. He issued land patents, enforced his own laws and became governor. Billinge countersued which led Fenwick to land in prison several times for the next decade.

Salem played a hidden role, a bloody massacre in the American Revolution that many people don't know about. New Jersey people were divided into three parts; one-third of the people supported the rebels, one-thirds supported the British, and one-third were neutral. New Jersey declared itself an independent state by joining the colonial uprising.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - Holmeland, the Home of Benajmin Holme, photo courtesy of Suzanne Cook/Carol Reese
Holmeland, the Home of Benajmin Holme, photo courtesy of Suzanne Cook/Carol Reese
The winter of 1777-1778 was harsh for the American forces, Brigadier General Anthony Wayne in need of provisions led a force in a foraging expedition for food, cattle and horses into southern New Jersey. General William Howe occupied Philadelphia in late 1777. Howe sent 4,000 men to encounter Wayne, and a few skirmishes did occur. Howe sent another 1,200 men under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood to force Wayne into battle. Mawhood was the commander who lost the Battle of Princeton to George Washington. The south side of Alloway Creek in Salem County formed a natural line of defense. The British occupied Salem. On March 18, 1778, the British led the American forces to believe they were retreating. As the American forces charged, the British forces cut off any retreat to Quinton's Bridge. The British forces charged the bridge but were stopped by Colonel Elijah Hand and his militia. In all 30-40 men were lost on the American side, but the Alloway Creek was not crossed.

The British were frustrated and upset because they didn't take control of Quinton's Bridge and for the support the Salem County people provided to the Continental Army. They decided to turn their sights towards Hancock's Bridge. This brings us to our first house on the tour this year. Unfortunately it was the scene of a deadly massacre. Mawhood gave the following mandate to his British troops: "Go - spare no one - put all to death - give no quarters." The massacre occurred at Judge William Hancock's house.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - The Hancock House
The Hancock House
Judge Hancock was a Tory and left the area once the American forces controlled the area. He returned to his home on March 20. Approximately at 5am on March 21, 1778 during a heavy rain, he and other militia stationed in the home were bayoneted to death by 300 Tory and Hessian forces led by Major John Graves Simcoe. Ironically Judge Hancock who was vowing to protect his property was killed by the British that he supported.

The Hancock House was built by Judge William Hancock and his wife Sarah in 1734. The exterior of the house was modeled after the seventeenth century building traditions that the Quakers used in their homeland. Masons alternated red brick laid lengthwise, called stretchers, with blue glazed bricks laid on end, referred to as headers. The name is commonly referred to as a Flemish Bond pattern. Salem County has the second largest concentration of patterned brick houses in New Jersey. The W,H,and S initials stand for William and Sarah Hancock. A pent roof wraps around the front and back of the house. It has simple entrance steps and uses local materials such as Wistarburg glass.



Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - The Swedish Cabin on the premises of the Hancock House
The Swedish Cabin on the premises of the Hancock House
Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - Flemish Bond pattern used with brick on the exterior of the Hancock House
Flemish Bond pattern used with brick on the exterior of the Hancock House
On the property is a Swedish cedar plank log cabin called a Stuga which was rebuilt in 1931 using 400 year old lumber salvaged from the John Tyler property in Salem. The staff was explaining open hearth cooking from colonial times. It sits in the land where John Hancock's original cabin stood. The Hancock House stayed in the family until 1931 when the state of New Jersey purchased it for $4,000. It opened as a museum in 1932.

Ken and Debbie Gralley welcomed us the the Richard Johnson House. We found it amazing that the oldest part of the home was constructed in 1687. The brick addition was added around 1840. Ken knew he had to buy the property when has walked in the house and saw the wide plank floors that were used. Hanging on the mantle was a Brown Bess gun handed down in the Gralley family. Attached to it was a seventeen inch triangular cross section bayonet which Ken said was outlawed because of the damage it had cause to a person.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - The Richard Johnson House, the earliest portion built in 1687
The Richard Johnson House, the earliest portion built in 1687
Richard Johnson became one of the Burgesses of the town of Salem after it was incorporated in 1695. He was also one of the Judges of the Salem Courts and a Justice of the Quarter Sessions. He was a large landholder owning five hundred acres on the south side of Alloways creek.

Another home on tour for the first time in Elsinboro was Homleland owned by Brian and Barbara Duffy. The earliest portion of the building is believed to have been built in 1729. The property and 1,600 acres were purchased by Benjamin Holme from the Redroe Morris estate in 1762. Holme was a Whig who served as a Colonel in the South Jersey Militia during the American Revolution. Colonel Holme was involved in the skirmish at Quinton's Bridge. Holme had his troops placed in the trenches along Alloway Creek. They were able to make the British forces retreat after engaging them with destructive fire. Lord Howe offered £100 to either capture or kill Holme. Holme was not captured.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - Holmeland, photo courtesy of Suzanne Cook/Carol Reese
Holmeland, photo courtesy of Suzanne Cook/Carol Reese
Colonel Mawhood led a British raid three days after the Hancock House massacre on March 24, 1778. Mawhood set fire to the outbuildings, the barns, and the house. The British also burned Colonel Holme's ferry house. Items were stolen from the house including a Chippendale case clock made by Thomas Wagstaff of London and brought to Salem by Benjamin's brother John around 1770. The clock was transported to General Howe's headquarters in New York.

There were three men, Jones, Loyd, and John Gibbon, who were captured and sent to New York as prisoners. John's wife Esther Seeley Gibbon was given permission to visit her husband in New York. Unfortunately here husband had died three days earlier of starvation. She spotted the Holme clock and told Colonel Holme upon her return to Salem. Ironically Benjamin and Esther married October 28, 1778.

After the war in 1783, Colonel Holme went to New York and brought the clock back on an ox cart. The next year he added the taller eastern wing. A niche was provided in the ceiling to allow for the height of the clock.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - The Matlack House built in 1868, photo courtesy of Suzanne Cook/Carol Reese
The Matlack House built in 1868, photo courtesy of Suzanne Cook/Carol Reese
Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - Ten Gables House built in 1890, photo courtesy of Suzanne Cook/Carol Reese
Ten Gables House built in 1890, photo courtesy of Suzanne Cook/Carol Reese
Two houses on the tour that were built after the colonial period and into the Victorian era were the Matlack House constructed in 1868 owned by Curt and Sue Harker and Ten Gables built in 1890 and owned by Janis and Don Spegal. The Matlack House was saved from a fire during its construction by the Union Fire Company. Ten Gables with its chestnut woodwork, pocket doors, parquet floors, and crystal gasolier served as the rectory for Saint John's Episcopal from 1989 to 2003.

Founded in 1884, the Salem County Historical Society is one of the oldest historical organizations in southern New Jersey. The Salem County Historical Society is a complex of historic buildings built between 1700 and 1800.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - The Salem County Historical Society
The Salem County Historical Society
The main portion of the complex is the Alexander Grant House built in 1721 which was altered over the years and restored in 1954. The exterior is a patterned brick structure with bricks made out of blue and red tints.The foundation is stone. Originally the main section and wing were higher. The wing ended on the south side where a passageway is now located. There was a broad lane here leading to the back. The piazza was wider during the construction of the house. The pent roof remains the same, but there was an old fashioned pent roof over the door of the main house. During restoration, an old Horn Book was found nailed to the joist in the chimney mantel. The Rumsey Wing constructed in 1800 was acquired by the Historical Society in 1957. It used to be used as a camera shop.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - The John Jones Law Office built in 1735 is also in the rear of the Salem County Historical Society
The John Jones Law Office built in 1735 is also in the rear of the Salem County Historical Society
Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - The Log Cabin in the back of the Salem County Historical Society
The Log Cabin in the back of the Salem County Historical Society
At the back of the property is a reconstructed log cabin believed to be built around 1800 which was moved to its present location from Penton-Station Road in Alloway. There is a stone barn which was erected in 1959, and an interesting thirteen foot wide octagonal law office built in 1735 which is believed to be the oldest law office in the United Stated. Originally erected near Broadway and Market Street, it was moved to its present site in 1967. It also served as a medical office for Dr. Ebenezer Howell, an officer of the Salem County militia during the Revolutionary War.

The Historical Society maintains manuscripts, historic books, documents, photographs, and a microfilm library. It has set up an exhibition of period furnishings, textiles, Wistarburg glass, furniture of the period and decorative arts. The Wagstaff Holme clock is also housed in the facility.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - The interior of the Clement Acton House built in 1818
The interior of the Clement Acton House built in 1818
The Clement Acton House which was built 1818, was a vernacular late Federal style townhouse with Victorian renovations, although records show that it may have been built earlier. The home of Jim and Ceil Smith featured open fireplaces and pine plank floors. Clement sold the house to his mother Elizabeth Miller who lived in the house until 1875.

The Peter Barnart House which was built in 1800 was a Federal clapboard colonial home with Victorian renovations. At one time the home belonged to Bacon Ware, a famous watch and clockmaker in the Salem County area. The home now serves as law offices for Helen Petrin. She and her husband Michael are the current owners. We were welcomed to Christmas carols being played on the 1864 baby grand piano.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - The marble fireplace at the Richard Woodnutt House
The marble fireplace at the Richard Woodnutt House
Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - Mantle in the John Wistar House built in 1790
Mantle in the John Wistar House built in 1790
The Richard Woodnutt home dates back to 1738 but went through many Victorian architectural changes in 1888 done by John Craven. The home consists of three floors and fifteen rooms. The fireplaces with the dark blue-gray marbling came from King of Prussia. The current owners are Chris Hofacker and Sebastian Wawrzniak.

The John Wistar home was built in 1790 on land purchased from Dr. Ebenezer Howell in 1780. John bought the home in 1812 and enlarged the home in the Federal style design in 1814. The current owners, Bill and Mary Breneman bought the home when it was condemned. The windows were boarded up and plaster had fallen from all the walls and ceiling. They removed many Victorian designs from the home to return it to its Federal architecture.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - Diane Wohlrab greeting guests at the Samuel Clement House
Diane Wohlrab greeting guests at the Samuel Clement House
Portions of the Samuel Clement House were built in 1790 with later editions added in the Federal period of the 1820's. The three story brick house house has been restored to its 1820's elegance and features ten fireplaces, twelve foot ceilings, a wonderful collection of New Jersey tall case clocks, early lighting featured in Colonial Sense. Diane Wohlrab, the owner discussed a few pieces of colonial lighting she bought over the years. She was familiar with a few members of the Rushlight Club. Her husband Ron was the clock enthusiast. It was evident that they had studied and collected antiques long before they bought the house. Samuel Clement was involved in shipbuilding He most likely conducted business from the parlor of the house.

The clapboard house owned by Debbie and Andrew Bee was an original double house built in 1825 for two families. It was a salt box colonial like so many New England homes. It once served as servants' quarters. There are currently four original working fireplaces. It was transformed into a single family dwelling between 1977 and 1981. The collection of painted grain bins and furniture, stoneware, yellow ware, coverlets and quilts, the home had a wonderful country home feel that many people strive to create.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - 43rd Regiment of Foot
43rd Regiment of Foot
The Second Pennsylvania Regiment of the Continental Line and the 43rd Regiment of Foot were dressed in military uniforms and and were found at the old log cabin at Johan Printz Memorial Park. The log cabin constructed in 1988 is an exact replica of the seventeenth century Swedish cabin built by the first Swedes and Finns in the area. The two regiments gave demonstrations on shooting the cannon and talked about life in the military in the Revolutionary War.

The James Barrett House is located in Mannington. James Barrett, A Quaker from Burlington, was believed to have purchased the land the house stands on in 1694 from Hypolyte Le Fevre. The Georgian style brick house was built by a member of the Barrett family. The front portico and wooden keystones were added in the Greek Revival period and a wooden structure was moved next to the brick house which served as a kitchen until 1991. The new addition was added. Craig and Gaynel Schneeman visited the home in 1977 on a Salem County House Tour. They purchased the home 25 years later and have been doing the restoration ever since.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - The James Barrett House in Mannington, photo courtesy of Suzanne Cook/Carol Reese
The James Barrett House in Mannington, photo courtesy of Suzanne Cook/Carol Reese
Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - Fireplace at the Josiah Miller House in Mannington, photo courtesy of Suzanne Cook/Carol Reese
Fireplace at the Josiah Miller House in Mannington, photo courtesy of Suzanne Cook/Carol Reese
The Josiah Miller House in Mannington was believed to have been built in the early 1700's. Originally it was a one over one structure. In the mid 1700's the clapboard was added to make it a center hall colonial. Josiah purchased the home in 1772 and it remained in the family until 1920. The house is fortunate in that most of the woodwork is original. There are four corner fireplaces and one small fireplace above the kitchen.

Nothing is more colonial than a wayward tavern. Heinrich Gudehus in our journal section of Colonial Sense stayed in a few on his trips throughout Pennsylvania. Mannington has its own tavern, the Sign of the Seven Stars. There was an earlier log cabin on the property which was replaced by a brick house built by Peter and Elizabeth Louderback in 1762. The date does appear along with the initials of the original owner on the south gable. In 1807 a Quaker family bought the tavern and closed it for business. As in many colonial taverns there is a birdcage bar and a walk-in fireplace. Joe and Susan Frank are the current owners.

Salem, NJ Yuletide Tour - The Religious Society of Friends Meeting House built in 1772.
The Religious Society of Friends Meeting House built in 1772.
Also on tour were the Presbyterian Manse, St. John's Episcopal Church, The First Presbyterian Church of Salem, the Religious Society of Friends Meeting House, and the First Baptist Church. And if that wasn't enough, Salem also had a parade at noon.

Royal Port Antiques, formerly Waddington Grain Storage Building next door to Prinz Memorial Park was opened for refreshments and shopping. Suzanne Cooke who is on the Yuletide Tour Committee is instrumental in updating the Salem House Tour on Facebook. Her efforts encouraged us to make our first trip to Salem.

We hear that the turnout was fantastic this year. Some of the owners said they easily had hundreds of people from New York, Pennsylvania Maryland, and Delaware in their houses. The warm weather helped bring out the crowds.

The state of New Jersey has many ties to the colonial era, and there is plenty of architecture to keep the colonial enthusiast busy. Salem is one of the areas not to be missed. You can either visit on a Spring or Yuletide Tour in December. This is a tour not to be missed, so make sure you visit Salem.

Source: Research, photos & text by Bryan Wright (except where indicated)

Related Links:

Hancock House, Hancock's Bridge NewJersey
Home for the Holidays Salem, NJ Tour of Homes
Salem County Historical Society

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