The Deep South of South Jersey.

Oil refineries. Manufacturing plants. The Turnpike. Tony Soprano. The MTV show Jersey Shore. “What exit?” Urban sprawl. Everyone says “New Joisey.” Those are just a few of the stereotypes about my home state. But as readers of this blog know, there is another side of New Jersey: rustic coastal towns, verdant farmland, beautiful natural landscapes, and fascinating history. On a beautiful, if slightly chilly, Saturday in April, I headed to Salem County to explore a lesser-known section of New Jersey.

With my fiancée attending a family event during the morning, I planned to visit several attractions well-known to locals. In order, I saw a 560-year old tree, a classic car show, the longest-running rodeo in the nation, a church and cabin built before the United States existed, and a stop by a beach.

2012 Honda Accord, in front of a river and buildings.
After a brutal winter, the Accord was treated to a wash, wax, and detail. Now at almost 105,000 miles, DH will be heading in for the timing belt service in a couple of weeks. The car has earned some TLC!
View of the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River, from the Hudson River Parkway.
A Friday afternoon drive from Massachusetts to New Jersey. The George Washington Bridge, which connects Manhattan with New Jersey, spans the Hudson River.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, in white.
My Accord was left at my fiancee’s home on Saturday morning and instead we ventured out in her 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. Built on the same platform as the Mercedes-Benz ML SUV, her Jeep is luxurious, gets plenty of power from its V6 engine, and is surprisingly nimble and car-like in its handling, despite being a large SUV. And for the record, the Jeep’s nickname is Grace.
Salem Oak tree, in the Salem Friends Burial Ground.
My first stop: the Salem Oak. Located in the Salem Friends Burial Ground, this tree is between 500-600 years old, making it the oldest oak tree in New Jersey. At its widest point, the trunk has a circumference of 22 feet and is 103-feet tall. Under this tree in 1675, John Fenwick, an English Quaker, signed a treaty beneath this tree with the Lenni-Lenape tribe to be allowed to settle in their land.
Sign on gate around Salem Oak. Sign reads: To ensure your safety, we must ask that you do not go under the limbs of the Salem Oak where you could be in danger. Limbs could fall from this tree at any time. because of its age and structural condition. The Salem Oak is a wonderful tree, much loved by our community for its beauty and history. Please enjoy this treasure from the safety of the sidewalk.
With limbs weighing up to 6,000 pounds each, the town asks that you remain a safe distance from this aging tree.
Broadway Road in Salem, Massachusetts. Cars are parked on either side of the road.
Salem, which was founded in 1675. Despite its long history, Salem, like much of rural New Jersey, faces issues of public health, education, and a lack of readily available employment.
Line of cars at a car show.
Driving past Woodstown-Pilesgrove Career & Technical High School, I spotted a car show and decided to stop and check it out. This was the third year of the car show, and I was impressed with some of the vehicles on display.
Tractors in a line at a car show.
This being rural South Jersey, the car show included a lineup of historic tractors.
1913 International Harvester Engine.
What caught my eye was this engine: a 1913 8-horsepower International Harvester Engine. The engine was used to power farm equipment. Now over 105 years old, it still runs! I had a great talk with the owner, who gave me a complete tour of the machine as it ran smoothly in the background.

I even took a quick video of the engine while in operation. The silver device in the back that looks like a small waterfall is actually the engine’s radiator.

Black Chrysler 300 sedan.
A 1961 Chrysler 300…
Interior of Chrysler 300, with swivel front seats.
…with one of the coolest features from the early 60’s: swivel bucket seats designed to make it easier to enter and exit the vehicle.
First generation red and white Chevrolet Corvette.
This first-generation red and white Chevrolet Corvette was absolutely stunning.
Silver second-generation Chevrolet Corvette.
As was this nearby second-generation Corvette convertible in silver.
Silver Pontiac Firebird next to old police cruiser.
Smokey and the Bandit, anyone? This Pontiac Firebird is parked, appropriately enough, next to a classic police car.
1946 Jeep in green.
Grace’s great-grandfather, a 1946 CJ Jeep. This small military transport is instantly associated with World War II. Nearly 600,000 were produced during the war, and another 200,000 were made after the conflict was over.
Ford Roadster convertible.
This late 1920s Ford Roadster convertible was immaculate. Not a single dent or scratch was anywhere to be found.
1926 Ford pickup.
This 1926 Ford truck was completely restored several years ago. The owner had a photo album showing the awful condition of the vehicle when he purchased it several years ago.
Cowboy statue outside of Cowtown Rodeo.
This roadside statue signaled I had arrived at Cowtown Rodeo. Raise your hand if you knew that the longest running rodeo in the United States was in New Jersey? It’s been in operation continuously since 1929.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, parked in a field.
The paved parking lot was full, so I fearlessly drove Grace into a somewhat muddy field. The Jeep conquered the muck with impunity.
Cowtown Rodeo flea market.
Every Saturday, Cowtown Rodeo hosts a flea market that draws over 300 vendors and thousands of shoppers.
Roadside sign for Cowtown Rodeo.
If you grew up in South Jersey, you’ve doubtlessly seen ads for Cowtown Rodeo.

 

 

Trinity Church in Swedesboro, NJ.
My final stop was Trinity Church in Swedesboro, NJ. Also known as Old Swedes Church, this 1785 church is a historic marker of the Swedish immigrants who first settled this section of New Jersey in the early 18th century. Another fun fact: Trinity Church is located beside Kings Highway, a road that was built in 1691 to connect Salem with the town of Burlington, approximately 53 miles to the north.
The Schorn Cabin, a log cabin.
This small Swedish cabin, the Schorn Cabin, was built in 1750 and sits on the church property. It was most likely used to hold grain.
Cemetery outside of the church, headstones in the foreground.
Originally named as the town of “Raccoon,” Swedesboro has a long history. First a territory of the Lenni-Lenape tribe, then a major settlement for immigrants from Sweden, the town was even the setting for a battle during the American Revolution: the Battle of Swedesboro.
Beach and ocean view.
After meeting up with my fiancee, we headed to Sea Isle City, New Jersey for a family event. Despite our hectic schedule, we still made time for a stroll on the beach!

It was surely a busy Saturday morning, but the journey through this lesser-known region of my home state was a lot of fun, and every site I visited is completely free. The Salem Oak is located along Broadway in Salem, and is best seen during daylight hours. Cowtown Rodeo Farmer’s Market is every Tuesday and Saturday from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, and the Rodeo itself runs at 7:30 pm every Saturday evening between May 26th and September 29th. Trinity Church is located on Kings Highway in Swedesboro, New Jersey, and has worship services every Sunday at 9:30 am, although the grounds itself are able to be visited during daylight hours. Thank you for coming along on yet another journey down the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.

2 thoughts on “The Deep South of South Jersey.

  1. Talk about a productive day! Crossing destinations off your list left and right! Nice summary of the activities. Glad Grace was easy to get along with. I love the swiveling seat in that old Chrysler. And it’s cool the effort that’s gone into preserving that ancient tree. When I first visited New Jersey in 2011, my perceptions were vastly changed for all the reasons you mentioned. It was a lot greener and more diverse than I’d expected.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tyson! Yes, here’s to wishing some intrepid car maker brings back those swivel seats!

      Glad you’ve had an opportunity to see some of NJ- if the Legend gets out here again, I’d be happy to do a tour!!

      Like

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