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Maurice River Recollections Project
River Reaches
Debra A. Barsotti
Research Journalist
Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River
and Its Tributaries, Inc.

The Maurice River Reaches Project - River Recollections
Mary Harris Veach
Happy Trails of Memories

“My dad sunk the General Pershing and the Perseverance,” proclaimed Mary Harris Veach. Veach was a little girl when her father, Captain Lewis C. Harris, “nosed the old schooners into the breach” of the banks of the Maurice River. “My dad was president of the Yock Wock Meadow Company,” Veach said. The Yock Wock Meadow Company was one of several local organizations of farmers and other investors that contributed to the upkeep of the diked, or banked, shores of the Maurice River. The meadow companies constructed and/or maintained dikes with sluice gates to control the flow of river water over the shore, thus maintaining their tracts of arable land.

In the late 1920's, the meadows were diked from Mauricetownto Peak of the Moon. “Captain Lew” owned some of that property, and that’s where he raised his crops. Veach said they grew vegetables and “great big potatoes.” She added, “We had beef cattle running up there on the meadows, too.”

Veach remembered those banked meadows well. “The meadow was a mile and a half from where our house was.  Leddenheart would grow wild,” she said, describing a large shrubby plant with the little pink flowers. She also described flowers that reminded her of hollyhocks. They grew along the ditches. “And if we had a lot of water, the reeds and cattails would spring up, too” she said.

The Harris family had a house and two big barns in North Port Norris, Veach recalled. They farmed a few acres there, too. One of the Harris’ nearby neighbors was William Chance, who lived in “an old house there on the bank, right across from Leesburg,” Veach said. “We would take our boat from his wharf when we wanted to cross the river to Leesburg,” she said, adding, “Bill Chance had a cart that took him from his house to our house. And he had a pacer pony that I used to ride.”

Veach couldn't help bringing up ponies and horses. They were a big part of her childhood on the family farm, and they are still a part of her life. As a young girl, Veach often competed in horse shows. She participated in several horse events, including the western and pleasure class, she said, showing some of the old newspaper clippings, photos and winning medals. After her competitive impulses were reined in, she found friends who enjoyed riding. She became the organizer, scheduling trail rides and camping trips for the group. Most often they traveled away from the Maurice River, towards Batsto or Woodbine. Sometimes they would go on trail riders that lasted for several days, Veach said, recalling that the long outings cultivated lifetime friendships.

When she wasn’t in the saddle, Veach found time to make her own Maurice River memories –often behind a boat, on water skis. Veach and her son William enjoyed the sport. Unfortunately, after his very first try, her husband Millard decided it wasn't for him, laughed Veach. “Millard did play baseball - for Maurice River, “ Veach said, producing a few newspaper clippings from those games.

Veach said that some of her horse riding friends joined them on the river occasionally. They'd launch from the Yawp Shore “from the dock that was part of the Dilk's shipyard, just up from the Yawp Shore on the other side of the river,” Veach said. “My brother used to take the oyster schooner up there once in awhile, too.”   Veach said that sometimes they camped at the Yawp Shore. She remembered how, when she was a teen, Veach and her girlfriends set up the big tent that came from the Harris farm. “Charles Sheppherd would come by and take us to Millville for ice cream,” she said.

Back to the horses, she said that she rode Barney Miller's horses, the mares that came from Chincoteague and the stallion that came from Hog Island. She rode and raced Miller's horses at the fairgrounds in Bridgeton as a kid. She continued competing in the horse shows in the 1940's and even after she was married. She has a horse right now, down at Cedarville, she said. A Paso Fino, a beautiful horse with a smooth gait, she said.

Horses were part of her farm experience, Veach said. She laughed, thinking about those days. “My sister Nellie was Mommy's girl and I was Daddy's girl.” Veach grinned and said that she could have passed for a son with her “bob” haircut.  Even her nickname, “Timey,” didn’t give her away when she was young. She learned later that her dad nicknamed her after a funny little character in the comics.

“My brother was eight years older than me, and he was gone.  Out oystering,” Veach explained.  “I had to help my Dad. I cultivated corn down in the meadow with a riding cultivator.” She explained that the farm had two riding cultivators, each with two horses. “Daddy ran one, and I ran the other,” she said with a hint of pride.

 They had a “tater digger,” too. It was pulled by four horses. Veach described the mechanics of the digger, with its “chain of rods” that kicked up the earth and the potatoes. “We had to go behind and pick them up,” she said. “During the potato famine in Ireland, we shipped 1200 bushel baskets overseas.”

Potatoes were the only “money crop” that they raised on the farm. “We also sold milk. Every day we took big cans of it down to Charlie Pierson's store in Port Norris. People would come to the store with their metal kettles to buy their quarts of milk,” Veach said, adding that the milk didn’t have to be pasteurized in those days. “We poured it through a big funnel on top of the milk cans.” Veach explained that the funnel had a cotton filter that removed any impurities. “We'd get paid for the milk every Saturday night, and Daddy would get us a quart of ice cream.”

“We had a bull, some milk cows, and some beef cattle,” Veach said.  “We had a stream that ran through the back pasture, and hay field in back of that. We had a lot of acreage.” But she still had time to ride with her friends - around the farm, through the woods, towards the river. “Wherever they would let us ride,” she said.

While the Harris family did live on a working farm, they made most of their money in the oystering business, Veach said. “You can't make money on a farm,” she admitted. “We had an oyster boat. “ Her brother Daniel eventually took over their oystering endeavor as their father got older. “He did very well,” Veach said.

In the mid-1950's Daniel (“Bricky” was his nickname) got married and traded the farm for a house in town. Before the new owner moved in, Bricky sold everything from the farming days, Veach said. Now the barns are gone and the old family home has gone through renovations. The family didn’t hold onto any of that property. Veach never learned whether any of her dad's farm records ever surfaced. She has one old ledger, but it only has a few entries. The rest is just a memory.

Veach is familiar with  a few of the family names and the interesting histories along the Maurice River. She knew the Bailey family of Mauricetown, who not only manufactured baskets, but also had horses, she said. They were first in Baileytown, but moved their operation to Vineland, Veach remembered.  She also knew where the Grieco property was located. “That’s the farm right in front of the Burcham girls. Old Joe Mazzola lived there and raised his kids there. Katherine Turner is one of his daughters.” Veach actually stabled one of Clarence Berry’s horses at Dr. Grieco’s when she was having an addition put on her own barn. She recalled that there were racing horses at the farm. She confessed that she didn't know much about Dr. Grieco, nor did she know if he raced the horses himself.

Before moving to her present home, Veach lived just off of Delsea Drive at the end of Yawp Shore Road. “It's about a half a mile below the Menantico Bridge,” she said. NJ Silica was right in back of that house until Route 55 was constructed. “A sand hog ran down to the sand operation,” Veach said. “That’s a train that hauls sand.” She knew about trains because her husband was a railroad man. For 34 years, Milliard Howell Veach worked for the South Jersey Seashore Lines, which later became Conrail. Milliard was a machinist. He was their trouble-shooter. He was on-call 24 hours a day, ready to travel anywhere in southern New Jersey to fix a “breakdown” or to have an engine moved or any number of tasks to keep the trains moving. Before he went to work for the railroad,
Milliard worked at New Jersey Silica Sand for a couple of years

The Veach's were married for 60 years. Milliard passed away in 2003, on his 80th birthday.

Mary Harris Veach has her photos and her memories. She has two grand and two great-grand children. And she has her horse. Veach has recorded some of her experiences with her horses in descriptive narratives. She has held on to her recollections of life along the Maurice River with equal detail. This lifetime of memories cover as much ground as the journeys she has taken in the saddle.