Friday, February 8, 2013

Crew II: Training at the Casper Wistar Farmstead

1825 Casper Wistar House
Today (Feb 4) I began the training aspect of the grant project. I have dreamed of having trained, local building recorders to help me document the built landscape here in Salem County and southwestern New Jersey (I must include Cumberland County in my study area, being the other part of John Fenwick's original tenth portion of West New Jersey, other wise known as Fenwick's Tenth or Fenwick's Colony). So I included a training componenet in my project proposal this time.

The idea today was to have two crews of three begin documenting the Casper Wistar Farmstead, with two experienced crew chiefs on the boards (recording measurements and drawing the building) and the others running the tape measure. Beverly manned the board at the wagon house with Dave and Maria measuring. I took the house with Stephanie and Suzanne.

Wagon House
I am blessed with such a talented group. Beverly is headed for the University of Delaware's Historic Preservation Program next Fall and took the recording training last Fall. Maria is a registered architect who has measured many buildings for historic restoration projects, but wants to learn "the UD way." Stephanie, who I met on one of the county arts tours at her table in Alloway, had studied the related discipline of archaeology in college. Dave and Suzanne are the owners of the Wistar House, which they have opened for tours several times in the past. Dave is a past president of the Salem County Historical Society, and is currently the Mannington Township Historian.

The crew: Dave and Suzanne Culver, Beverly Carr Bradway, Stephanie Long Fazen, and Maria Cerda Moreno.
With temperatures in the high 20s F, we worked outside until lunch. Once warmed up, we succumbed to the offer for a tour through the house, which took the rest of the afternoon. However, having that understanding of the house and its history will help us as we start measuring the interior. The house has some very unusual amenities. One is a portion of the basement that has a floor about four feet deeper than the rest of the house. Its historic function is unknown. Another is the closet of feather bed racks in the attic. Though this gracious Federal style house dates from 1825, the existence of one corner fireplace suggests that a portion of it dates from before the Revolution. Whose house was it?

The land here goes back to Bartholomew Wyatt, the English Quaker immigrant of 1690 who purchased 600 acres of land in 1692/3 and 250 acres of wild marsh in 1708. He built a log house near Mannington Meadow and Puddle Dock Creek (not far from this house) and later a brick house a half-mile north on Mannington Creek. He left the 850 acres to his son, Bartholomew in 1726. This Bartholomew (II), in repayment of a debt, left his son-in-law, Richard Wistar, 691 acres of land, meadow, and wild marsh in 1765. Richard Wistar was the glassmaker of Wistarburg, well-known as the first successful glassworks in the English colonies. Richard, who resided in Philadelphia, left a 640-acre portion, to his son John, who settled there with his wife Charlotte Newbold, apparently in an existing house on a different site. John left his son Casper Wistar a 151-acre farm in the tenancy of one Jonathan Knight, who probably occupied the older section found in this house. Casper and his wife Rebecca Bassett Wistar rebuilt the existing house on this site in 1825, displaying the construction date on a downspout scupper.

1765 Survey of Division of Lands between Bartholomew Wyatt, Jr. and Richard Wistar. The Salem River winds on the left, and Mannington Creek at the top. Puddle Dock Creek is the small stream at the bottom. Some of these property lines survive in the lands parcels of today. (Salem County Historical Society)

More details to come...

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