Archeology of the Vineland Tract

By Ex-Mayor Benjamin Stevens

The term archaeology, now more generally spelled archeology, is defined as "the science or study of history from relics and remains of antiquities." The word ethnology means the science of the natural races of men, considering man historically and analytically, including ethnic psychology, sociology, comparative religion, etc.

The expression, "Vineland Tract," as used in this article, is intended to embrace all that territory extending from Porchtown and Malaga at the North to the City of Millville on the South, and from the Maurice River on the West to Milmay on the East. It includes all of the present Borough of Vineland, the Township of Landis, and small portions of Gloucester and Atlantic Counties. It treats of both banks of the Maurice River, its Westerly shore being partly in Salem County. This brief article is intended as a supplement to the condensed sketch entitled "Archeology of the Lower Cohansey," published for the writer hereof in the July, 1923 number of "The Old Slate."

While Cumberland County is one of the richest archeological centres in New Jersey, rivalling the Trenton Gravels and the rock shelters of Pompton Lakes, yet as to recovered and still extant remains, the Cohansey Creek region from Bridgeton to the Delaware Bay, predominates over all other sections, the lower Maurice River basin being second. Nevertheless, clearly defined aboriginal traces are to be found in every other part of the County, and particularly including the "Great Vineland Tract", as Mr. Landis originally termed it.

While the Cohansey and Lower Maurice River sectors demonstrate a prolonged and extensive aboriginal occupation, with ultraabundance of every form of production, still the Vineland Tract, while showing less extensive occupation and operations, has produced just as diversified an assortment of implements and handiwork, though in much lesser numbers. However, not a few of the recoveries here show even superior workmanship.

As a matter of fact there were but few permanent extensive village sites about what is now Vineland, although numerous small village locations and still more numerous camp grounds have been located. This conclusion is based upon the nature of the top soil of the sites, the lesser number of chippings, broken points, rejects, potsherd (pottery) fragments and debris in general, as well as the paucity of burial places.

In large and long occupied villages the soil is blackened by decayed animal and vegetable matter and filled to a considerable depth, often beyond that of the regulation plow, with thousands of chippings of flint and quartz, innumerable fragments of clay pottery, and some, more or less perfect specimens of implements of every kind, including axes, large and small, arrow heads, drills, scrapers, pipes of clay and occasionally of soapstone, and banner and other ceremonial stones.

The remains found on small village and camp sites include a relatively greater proportion of finely finished objects to the amount of chippings and other refuse. Broken pottery, though present, is in comparatively small quantities. A visit to a Vineland site may produce a half dozen pottery fragments, while a search of a Cohansey village will reveal as many hundred. At the same time a half dozen perfect arrows may be found on the same local trip, and only one or two obtained from the visit to the Western part of the County. Yet, on a few occasions the writer has found as many as twenty-five arrows, scrapers and drills in a half day along the Cohansey or Lower Maurice. Previous weather conditions, the nature of the cultivation, state of the tides, excavations for railways and roads, patience in digging and reconnoitering, and many other circumstances enter into the extent of finds in any locality.

The actual Borough of Vineland, being without any stream of water, has produced but few relics. However, it is definitely established that at least two trails crossed its present corporate limits. One passed over Third and Elmer Streets, and a spear head and several arrows have been found along its course. Another passed near Chestnut and East Avenues. The gully at Landis and Valley Avenues was once a running stream extending to or into the Borough on North East Avenue. Scattered remains have been found along its course clear to Parvin's Branch. Early residents recall when it was much more of a stream than at present. The writer has recovered excellent spears and arrows along it between Landis and Chestnut Avenues.

Throughout the remainder of the Vineland Tract the small village and numerous camp sites extend along practically every stream and brook. The late Wilson J. Purvis made a study of local trails and knew of at least two between Vineland and Maurice River, running North and South. This has been confirmed by the writer and others by the discovery of "stuff" along their courses, even away from running water. A trail led diagonally acros South Vineland from Union Lake to Cooper's Mill, passing near Grant Avenue and the Boulevard.

Many of the relics found have been lost in hunting, and often far from the streams. It is, however, along the brooks and larger streams that the majority of all remains are found. The sand barrens at Porchtown, west side, rose to the dignity of a village, there having been considerable stone cutting, but little pottery baking done there. The Indians knew practically all of our present clay holes, and secured their supply therefrom. The sites at Willow Grove and Malaga would be termed large camp grounds. There was a small village back of Alliance, on the West River bank. The "Sand Banks" bluff, just South of Landis, East side, and surrounding territory contain several camp sites. The barrens on the West side of the River, just South of Landis, was a small village, as demonstrated by the hundreds of small white and rose quarzite chips still to be found. Implements of value are seldom found, but it is said that many were extracted thirty or forty years ago. At Indian Head, West side, at the confluence of the Maurice River and Muddy Run, there was a fair sized village extending South. More pottery was baked here than other spots thereabouts. There are numerous camp sites along both Blackwater and Burnt Mill stream, located on both sides of each, all the way from their head waters in Atlantic and Gloucester Counties to the Maurice.

Many fine arrows have been taken from along Piney Branch from its head till it joins Blackwater just West of the Boulevard. Particularly fine specimens have come from Piney Branch at East Avenue during the past fifty years, and the locality is not yet extinct. An occasional tomahawk or axe has appeared from along these three streams.

The head of Parvin's Branch at Main and Walnut Roads, was very productive for many years, and comprised several camps. Points have been unearthed in digging graves in the adjacent cemetery. Camps existed along both sides of this stream almost to the Maurice.

The same is true of Cooper's Mill Stream, Panther Branch and other tributaries of Menantico and Manumuskin Creeks, running Southward through East Vineland. Camps are found along their head waters from the State Road down to Chestnut Avenue, and in fact all the way to Cumberland.

Articles of antler, shell and bone are not found about Vineland. They are rarely found preserved to this day in any locality, but the few remaining are from the Sea or Bay. The South Jersey Indians were practically ignorant of metals before the white man's advent.

Of the arrowheads found here no particular material predominates. Red and brown flint, black, blue and grey flint, white and tinted quartz, and limestone were used in about equal quantities. Jasper, argillite, soapstone and sandstone were less used. The light colored flint-streaked conglomerate sandstone, quarried near Greenwich andso extensively used about Bridgeton, makes but an occasional appearance here.

While the memory of the Redman may be forgotten by many, and the casual observer be oblivious to his former presence, yet a little study and investigation will force one to the realization that the local woods and fields were once the habitat of another race, styled uncivilized, but possessing the rudiments of religion, jurisprudence and materia medica. Though backward in sanitation, and undeveloped along many lines, the South Jersey aborigines were peaceable and hospitable to the last, and in many crafts reached a remarkable degree of efficiency.