The Pine Barrens - that long stretch of pine trees that you pass going down the Parkway - is, for many people, a big emptiness between Philly and the shore. And isn't there something about inbred families and a devil?
A few years back, Dorrie Papademetriou, (then the Exhibitions Director at The Noyes Museum), began planning a Pine Barrens show. She had seen my mason jar art, and told me that mason jars were invented in the Pine Barrens. Would I like to create something for the show? Oh, yes...how about I put the whole history of the Pine Barrens in mason jars?
So began my study of the Pine Barrens, online and in person. The Pine Barrens, (aka the Pinelands) , a big, pine-forested, rural area sitting on top of the Cohansey Aquifer, is a National Reserve.
With my trusty GPS, I explored the parks first:
I learned that bog ore, and bog iron, were a big part of Pine Barrens history. Basically, NJ ground water contains iron. When that iron mixes with a certain bacteria, it settles into iron ore, which was smelted into iron. The Pine Barrens were full of bog iron, which fed many local furnaces. They made cannon balls for some war out of it. Why did the furnances die out? Bog ore is notorious for a high impurity rate. And although it does replenish itself, that takes a long time.
See how the sign says "Bog Ore... can still be found...in the Pine Barrens". I wanted to find some. I went searching. At Wharton State Park, I was warned about driving off-road. But the map did show roads going into the forest, not paved, but.....fortunately, my husband managed to get us back on a road with only a few hundred dollars worth of damage. So I visited Geology Professor Greg Pope at Montclair State University, who explained about bog ore, and showed me a sample.
I did find some bog iron, canned it, and printed clear plastic labels:
I learned about clay pits and ceramics, glassmaking, bricks, agricultural figures and odd historical information. The sort of small, personal history I love. The next few posts will show that history, and how it fit into mason jars. Actually, this is a 6 part story. Hope you enjoy it!