Whispering Woods is situated in Pilesgrove Township, Salem County, New Jersey. The project area currently consists of mainly open agricultural fields with some forested terrain and is bisected by a first order tributary of a nearby creek. The project area is east of the Delaware River and is within the Inner Coastal Plain Physiographic Province (Wolfe 1977). Surficial geology at the site consist of sediments of weathered gravels, sands, and clays from the undivided Cape May Formation deposits dating from the Miocene to the middle Pleistocene (Newell et al. 2000). The soil types within the project area have a limited potential for deeply buried prehistoric archaeological resources (Walker & DiPasquale 2013). Natural vegetation of this area is classified as Mixed Oak Forest (Robichaud and Buell 1989).
Prehistoric archaeological sites in this portion of Salem County are typically located on terraces with sandy, well drained soils, overlooking creeks (Mounier 2001; Cross 1941; Spier 1915). Larger sites are typically located near the Delaware River and tidal sections of drainages. Small, short term sites are common in the middle reaches of drainages and in headwater settings. The Delaware River, local creeks, and other drainages provided important resources such as fish and shellfish that attracted Native American settlement. Richard Grubb & Associates (RGA) conducted extensive research into known prehistoric sites in the vicinity of the project area and found that prehistoric sites are along the entire length of the nearby creek (Walker and DiPasquale 2013).
Historic research conducted by RGA included historic maps, title, and deed searches. The project area is part of what was once a much larger parcel of land first belonging to Abraham Nelson (Nealson) in the 1750s. Over time, the property was divided, passed down, or sold. The first structure on the site is illustrated as the J. Banks house in the 1876 Combination Atlas Map of Salem and Gloucester Counties, New Jersey. Prior to the Banks house, the site was farmed field. The part of Pilesgrove Township near the project area was rural, and geographically remote from areas of major settlements in the 18th and 19th centuries such as Sharptown and Woodstown along Salem Creek (Cushing and Sheppard 1883). Throughout the twentieth century, the site continued to be farmed. Several residential developments were constructed near the project area during the late twentieth century. The full history of ownership can be found in the table below.
|1715||Abraham Nelson acquires a warrant for land, which he later assigns to his son Abraham, Jr., presumably around the same time that he acquires the land on which he establishes a tavern, near the current project location (Van Name 1962: 26).|
|1761||Abraham Nelson of Pilesgrove leaves to son Jacob (NJA 1901, 33:304)|
|1815||Jacob Nelson (Sr) dies, conveys 1/3 equal shares in property to sons Jacob and William, and daughter Sarah. “…all lands, being my plantation and cedar swamp on Maurice River in Downs Twsp., Cumberland County… Rest of estate to said three children, Jacob, William and Sarah. Executor– son, Abraham… Proved January 21, 1817. 1817, Jan 13. Inventory, $2,751.77; Made by Samuel Linch, Henrey Guest. File 3255 Q.|
|pre-1827||Sarah Nelson dies intestate, 1/5 each to her brothers Jacob, William, and Abraham. 1/5 to Jacob and Neal Curry, on rights of their mother Elizabeth Curry, Sarah’s sister. 1/5 to Jacob Banks, on rights of his mother, Susannah Banks, Sarah’s sister.|
|1827||Sarah Nelson’s nieces and nephews give up their interest in Sarah’s 1/3 of Jacob Nelson’s property to their uncles, William and Jacob|
|1841||William conveys his 1/3 interest in the estate of their father, Jacob Nelson, to his brother Jacob|
|1842||Jacob Nelson being so seized of said tract of lands did by his last will and testament duly provide and record in the Surrogates Office… did give and devise the same to three of his children in equal undivided shares (William, Sarah, and Jacob)|
|1876||Part of lands real estate of Jacob Banks, died intestate, left to Mary Banks (entitled to dower) and left later Anna Wright and Susanna Batten, heirs at law of Jacob Banks. To Susanna Batten, lands embrace the southeastern part of the farm and plantation of the said Jacob Banks.|
|1915||Susanna and Josiah Batten sell 110 Acres to Harvey Hortman|
|1928||Harvey Hortman dies, intestate (Will Book U, 249), devised premises to wife, H. Jennie Hortman, who later marries Harry W. Spohn.|
|1951||Jennie & Harry Spohn sell 110 acres (less 19.65 and 17.7 acres conveyed to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority) (SC Deed Book 301, 456), and an additional 1.91 acres to Frank & Elizabeth Doerrmann|
|1964||Sold to Corbyl Farms|
|1976||Miller Properties (who took over the mortgage for Corbyl Farms) sells to Laurel Hills, Inc.|
|1979||Sold to Anna & Salvatore Catalano|
|1988||Sold to Auburn Land Group|
|1997||Sold to Vizzoni Group (now Vizzoni Brothers, current owners)|
|2012||Phase I survey conducted by RGA|
Archaeological Context & Registered Sites
Examination of New Jersey State Museum (NJSM) and Historic Preservation Office (HPO) site files and other standard references conducted by RGA in April 2013 indicated that a total of five registered archaeological sites are located within one mile of the project area. All sites were documented in the early twentieth century and limited information was recorded.
Several unrecorded prehistoric sites have been reported near the project area by Spier (1915) and on the HPO collector’s maps. These sites contain projectile points and pottery. No professional excavations have been conducted at these sites. All of the sites near the project area represent Woodland period camps of limited occupation. One unregistered prehistoric archaeological site is within the project area (Bello 1986, 1990, 1995; Cross 1941; Skinner and Schrabisch 1913; Spier 1915). The NJSM files indicate that a surface find location of prehistoric artifacts was documented in the northern portion of the project area by Alanson Skinner and Max Schrabisch.
In 2002 Cultural Heritage Research Services, Inc. conducted an architectural history survey of Pilesgrove Township. No archaeological testing was conducted as part of the 2002 survey.
In 2012 HPO requested the completion of a Phase I archaeological survey of the Whispering Woods property with testing focused on those portions of the project area within 500 feet of the tributary of the nearby creek that bisects the site. After completing 624 shovel test pits (STPs) at intervals of 50 feet, with necessary radials at 10 feet, it was determined that there exist nine (9) potential historic and prehistoric sites on the property. Four of the sites (i.e.,Whispering Woods 1, 2, 4, and 6) are considered potentially eligible archaeological resources. The other five sites (i.e., Whispering Woods 3, 5, and 7-9) consist of low artifact densities with limited research potential. The nine sites registered with the New Jersey State Museum encompass a total of 4.45 square acres. Within this area, a total of 126 historic and 101 prehistoric artifacts were found.
The prehistoric artifacts are representative of a Woodland-era site and are consistent with the cultural materials of the region and similar sites in the area. The historic artifacts range in date from the mid-18th to mid-20th centuries. These findings are consistent with the written records and historical documents of the region.
On the recommendation of RGA and NJDEP, the site requires Phase II testing. This excavation will be used to make a formal determination as to the significance of the nine sites and whether further mitigation and investigation will be needed before the property can be developed. Thus far, all nine sites have been registered with the NJ State Museum. Phase II testing will determine if any of the sites meet the Eligibility for Inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (36 CFR 63).