New Book, Batsto Village, Tells The Story Of A Remote New Jersey Ironworks And Its Unsung Role In The American Revolution

Share Article

Barbara Solem’s Third Book on NJ History Chronicles The Rise, Fall, and Restoration of Batsto Village—a Unique 18th and 19th Century Industrial Town at the Heart of the Pine Barrens

The story of Batsto Village is brimming with early American history … a story complete with smugglers, privateers, British spies, and titans of industry. It needed to be told.

Plexus Publishing, Inc. announced the publication of Batsto Village: Jewel of the Pines by Barbara Solem, and provided details of a public launch event.

Batsto Village is the first book to present a detailed history of Batsto, an early iron town and glassworks situated in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. First used by Native Americans for short visitations, Batsto was the site of a sawmill in the 1760s before Charles Read, a prominent businessman and farmer, established an iron furnace there in 1765.

Strategically located along the Mullica and Batsto Rivers, Batsto played an essential role in the Revolutionary War. Its ironworks became a vital supplier of arms to George Washington’s army, while its shipping landing located at The Forks of the Little Egg Harbor nurtured a “nest of rebel pirates” that would confound British forces and help turn the tide for Independence.

Solem describes the rise and fall of Batsto’s fortunes over two centuries, as a succession of owners and speculators brought their visions and schemes to bear. When iron was no longer profitable, the village turned to glassmaking—an American industry born in the sandy, heavily forested environs of South Jersey. The Richards family owned Batsto for several generations prior to its purchase in 1876 by Joseph Wharton, a wealthy Philadelphia entrepreneur. After a failed attempt to compete with Cuban cane sugar through the cultivation of sugar beets at Batsto, Wharton devised a plan to pump South Jersey water to the cities of Camden and Philadelphia. Solem explains how the plan was thwarted and its unexpected impact on Wharton’s legacy.

“While researching a photo book on Batsto, I realized that a publication that told the complete story of this former industrial village did not exist,” said author Solem. “There were chapters in books and short paperbacks that revealed parts of the story, but nowhere was there a definitive manuscript that chronicled the full and complete history of this unique and fascinating site.” She added, “The story of Batsto Village is brimming with early American history … a story complete with smugglers, privateers, British spies, and titans of industry. It needed to be told.”

“Barbara Solem is a persistent researcher with a knack for bringing history alive,” said Budd Wilson, an historical archaeologist who played a major role in excavations at Batsto beginning in the 1960s. “It’s surprising that it’s taken this long for someone to finally pen the story of Batsto Village, but in this author’s capable hands, I can honestly say it was worth the wait.”

Batsto Village is supported by more than 100 period and contemporary photographs and illustrations. Noted Medford Lakes, New Jersey-based landscape photographer Albert D. Horner contributed the modern images, including a 16-page color section highlighting the restored Wharton Mansion and village buildings as they exist today. The text is further enhanced by several of Berminna Solem’s original pen and ink drawings.

Batsto has undergone significant historic restoration and today serves as an open-air museum where visitors can experience a bygone era. Nestled near the southern border of the Wharton State Forest, the village is surrounded by thousands of acres of dense pine forest. Adding to this natural landscape, meandering, tea-colored streams and rivers course through its thick woodlands. An estimated 100,000 visitors annually walk the grounds and tour the mansion house and other historic buildings; Solem’s book should provide an even more satisfying experience for those who desire a deeper understanding of Batsto Village history.

Book Launch Event at Batsto Village

A launch party featuring a history presentation and signing with Barbara Solem will take place on Sun, Oct. 12, 1:00–4:00 PM at the Batsto Village Visitor Center near Hammonton, New Jersey. The free event is open to the public and books may be purchased on site. Refreshments will be served, mansion tours will be available, and live music will be provided by Gabe Coia. For more information visit the Batsto Village website at batstovillage.org/eventsandtours.htm.

About the Author and Photographer

Barbara Solem has worked as a special education teacher, trainer, principal, and administrator. A popular speaker and an active member of the Batsto Citizens Committee, she is the author of two previous books including Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Photographer Albert D. Horner is best known for his intimate landscapes of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, which he exhibits frequently throughout the area. Many of his photos can be viewed at http://www.pinelandsimagery.com.

Batsto Village: Jewel of the Pines (162 pp/softcover/$15.95/ISBN 978-1940091-01-3) is available in print and ebook editions and can be purchased in bookstores including the Batsto Village Gift Shop, online from major booksellers, and direct from the publisher. For more information and to order contact the publisher at 609/654-6500 or info(at)plexuspublishing(dot)com, or visit the Plexus Publishing, Inc. website at plexuspublishing.com.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Rob Colding
Plexus Publishing, Inc. [USA]
+1 (609) 654-6500 Ext: 330
Email >
Visit website