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Maurice River Recollections Project
River Reaches

The Maurice River Reaches Project
Bone Yard
Reach #22

While he made no mention of finding bones, local historian Philip S. Nutt talked about some other items that had surfaced on his exploration of the location known as Bone Yard.

"I found pocket full of old hand-made nails and a hinge on this spot that had been made by a nail smith," said Nutt in his 1936 presentation to the Vineland Historical Society. His topic was "Places not Well Known, Near Home."

“The old Swedish cemetery and the old church stood on the sandy clearing, just before you get to the river," Nutt told his audience. "This church was build about 1743 and no one seemed to know when it disappeared, nor whether it was torn down or burned."

Nutt related that the name Bone Yard must have evolved over time, as the tide nipped at river's edge and exposed the final resting spot of the little church's deceased members. "The riverbank has washed away, I think, about 25 feet, at least," Nutt said, adding that after heavy storms pounded the banks, bones would be unearthed.

Rivermen like Richard Weatherby and his ancestors were familiar with the site of the old cemetery. Weatherby said that he and his family would fish "all the way down to what they called the Bone Yard." He and other local residents are familiar with the history of the old Swedish church that stood on the site. 

Weatherby noted that "every once in a while, the bones would wash out of the eroding banks." While he never collected any of these bones, he did have occasion to see them. 

In his research of the site, Nutt said that he found data indicating that the bones must have been there for over 225 years. There are records documenting the earliest members of the congregation.

Charles Boyer is one of several historians who studied those records.  In his book, Old Inns and Taverns of West Jersey, he wrote: "…as early as 1746, a United Brethern (Moravian) Church was built a short distance up the river from Spring Garden Ferry, which was attended by the old Swedes* in this section…"

In his book, Maurice River Town, Herbert W. Vanaman acknowledges that there is no evidence of the church today, but offered this:  "An early survey for land on the west side of the Maurice River places a boundary line based on the steeple of the Swedish Church. This would be about one mile north of Port Elizabeth," Vanaman concluded. "In 1743, a short distance above Spring Garden Ferry", two acres were purchased - probably from John Hoffman.  A church was erected there. Records show that the first sermon was given on June 27, 1746, but the Church was not dedicated until December 18, 1746."

Vanaman's research led him to believe that this church was built by the Moravians and was not used by the Swedes until the Moravian movement had been abandoned about 1757.  The pastor was Abraham Reincke, a Swede who was a Moravian minister. Records indicate that he served the congregation for 10 years, and was followed by Ernest Gambold, who also served the local Church of the Brethern, but only for 2 years, at which time the church was closed,. "Later the church reopened for use by the Swedish Lutherans," Vanaman wrote.

Nutt said that some of the graves were re-interred in cemeteries around Port Elizabeth. He added, "Some of the Lore family that were buried there lived just below on the river. These bodies were buried in the old brick church yard at Port Elizabeth."

In W. F. Bowen's History of Port Elizabeth (Page 10), there is a description of this early religious site:
"This church was no doubt a success. Just how long it stood is not known. Nicholas Collin is the last minister known to have been there. For a number of years the only stones left standing in the yard were those to mark the graves of Hezekiah Lore and his wife Elizabeth. The one died June 19, 1770, the other January 2, 1761. These stones were removed in September 1881, by Harry Lore, Sr., to the Methodist Episcopal Church-yard. There is now but little left to mark the spot where the church once stood and flourished." 6/06

Editors note:
In 1970 Rudolph and Kathryn Strauss purchased the property.  Kathryn named the property Moravia after the Swedish Moravian cemetery on the property.  Shortly thereafter their son, Randolph and wife, Marge moved to the property in 1975 having been 5 years earlier.  In 2008 Kathryn passed away after an extremely brief illness.  Most of the Moravian cemetery plots eroded into the marsh with the exception of some that were moved to a church cemetery in Port Elizabeth.  Rudolph Strauss told historian Jean Jones that all of the cemetery was gone in the late 1970s.

Nicholas Collin wrote at least two books on Swedish settlements: New Sweden or the Swedish Settlements on the Delaware, 1841 reprints produced.

Genesis and Geology: The Harmony of the Scriptrual and Geological Records, 1892.