SunDay-Tripping: Historic Batsto Village to Celebrate 'South Jersey Authenticity' during Country Living Fair

The Batsto Mansion is one of more than 40 sites and structures at Batsto Village, which will be the site on Sunday, October 15 of the Country Living Fair. Credits: Batsto Village
Farm equipment from throughout the decades will be on display during the Country Living Fair at Batsto Village on Sunday, October 15. Credits: Batsto Village
The Batsto Post Office, established in 1852, still processes mail with a postmark having no ZIP code. The postmaster will offer a special cancellation stamp during the Country Living Fair. Credits: Batsto Village

WASHINGTON, NJ — A decade before America declared its independence from Great Britain, a local New Jersey man began the process of building the first arsenal of democracy on the banks of the Batsto River.

Using the South Jersey region's native bog iron ore, forests and abundant water power, Charles Read Jr. built an ironworks to create new housewares, tools, and farming implements.It would mark the beginning of Batsto Village, which today is a storied portal to colonial and revolutionary days past.

To celebrate its history, the village will host its annual Country Living Fair on Sunday, October 15, featuring an up-close look at life throughout the decades — from the property's founding in 1766 through present day.

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From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., there will be crafts, exhibits, music, old-time engines and cars, food, antiques, pony rides, farm equipment, chain-saw art, quilting and many more authentic South Jersey country attractions.

Situated in Wharton State Forest on Route 542, Batsto consists of more than 40 sites and structures, including the Batsto Mansion, a sawmill, 19th-century ore boat, charcoal kiln, ice and milk houses, carriage house and stable, blacksmith and wheelwright shop, gristmill and a general store. The Batsto Post Office, established in 1852, still processes mail with a postmark having no ZIP code. The postmaster will offer a special cancellation stamp during the fair.

Batsto Village offers several venues, including the Annie M. Carter Interpretive Center, to help educate visitors about ecological treasures in the area, while a visitors center provides information and displays on how residents lived through the years.

As a New Jersey historic site, Batsto is a listed property on both the New Jersey and National
Registers of Historic Places. Also,the state Department of Environmental Protection  is assisted by theBatsto Citizens Committee, Inc., the primary Friends Group of Batsto, to help preserve and promote the village and its many attractions.
The N.J. Park Service has designated additional remote sites for parking and will offer van shuttle services throughout the day to reduce traffic congestion on Route 542. A modest $5 charge per vehicle will be collected by uniformed staff (cash only).  A record-breaking 50,000 visitors attended the fair in 2016.

For more about the Country Living Fair, click here.To learn more about Batsto Village and for directions to the property, click here.

A Look Back in Time

Batsto Village's story is emblematic of the birth of the American nation for its technical innovation, rugged spirit and entrepreneurial ambition.
As tensions grew between Great Britain and her American colonies, it became clear that America would need a different set of tools to win and secure freedom. The same bog iron that was previously used to create cooking kettles and wagon hitches would now be turned to the use of creating cannonballs and other weapons in the fight for independence.
After the American Revolution, Batsto Village continued to thrive and meet the needs of the new Republic for nearly another century. A glassworks was built to make use of the sandy soil of the region and produce windows until the demand for iron products declined with the advent of steel production.
A century after the Revolution, Batsto Village had fallen on hard times but wise heads still saw the remarkable value in the old place. In 1876, a wealthy Philadelphia entrepreneur, Joseph Wharton, purchased the village and moved ahead with several new agricultural and forestry endeavors.
Wharton introduced cranberry farming to the village and built a new sawmill to make use of the abundant tree resources all around the property. Wharton also set about repairing the structures around the village, including the famed Batsto Mansion and numerous other building on the property.  Wharton continued these efforts until his death in 1909.
The state of New Jersey purchased the original "Wharton Tract," as it was then known, in 1954.  Subsequent acquisitions using voter-supported Green Acres funding has seen Wharton State Forest expand to more than 121,000 acres.

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