BRIEF HISTORY of The Early Swedes,
Mortenson-VanLeer Log Cabin
History abstracted from several sources
1) Brochure about Trinity Episocopal "Old Swedes"
2) Flyer: New Sweden Park at Trinity Episcopal "Old Swedes"
3) Flyer: Old Towne Holiday Evening by the Swedesboro-Woolwich
Brief History of the Early Swedes in New Jersey
In 1638, the Swedes landed at the present site of Wilmington, Delaware
-- establishing Fort Christina and the New Sweden Colony. Ongoing
land claim disputes followed between the Swedes/Finns, the Dutch (in
1651 Peter Stuyvesant purchases land from Christina Creek to
Bombay Hook) and then the English (in 1680 William
Penn, a Quaker, petitioned King Charles II for land north of Maryland).
1641 acting Governor
Peter Ridder acquired land along the eastern shore of the Delaware
River, including what is now Salem Couty, to expand the colony. In 1641
Johan Printz built Fort Elfsborg near Salem, NJ. About this
time some of these Swedish settlers who migrated across the Delaware
River into what is now New Jersey, found the area greatly suited to
farming. The majority of the Finns settled near the Finn's Point Lighthouse
and the Swedes in the area that had at one time been called Churchtown.
to the Pennsville Township Historical Society, "when the early
colonists arrived there were three clans of the Lenni-Lenape
tribe living in the area along the Delaware River which they called
"Shanaigah". Obisquahassit was the name of the Indian Chief
who sold land to the settlers. Records of land purchases date back to
1665." The Swedish settlers lived peaceable and agreeably with
the Native Americans.
early settlers used boats to often travel the riverways for commerce, and to attend
church at distant places. The Pennsville Historical Society (in Salem Co. NJ)
is located at a farm house by "Church Landing," aptly named for the
Swedish settlers who used to row, and then later catch the ferry at Church Landing
to go to church in Wilmington.
is known that in 1699 the congregation of Holy
Trinity Swedish Lutheran Church purchased a new "canoe" from Hendrick
Tussey, who lived at Verdreitige Hook (Bochten) by the Skilpot Creek for 20 shillings
and was used to transport church members across the Delaware River. Penns Neck
(now Pennsville, Salem Co. N.J.) members went to church by boat. Prior to the
building of their own church's, local Swedesboro residents followed this tradition.
Trinity Episcopal "Old Swedes" Church and Church Yards
Episocopal Church now stands at 208 King's Highway in Swedesboro, New Jersey.
This is the oldest deeded church property in the Gloucester County NJ, and the
first Lutheran congregation in New Jersey. Their first log church (at "Raccoon")
was built in 1703, it being the first Swedish Church in New Jersey and the third
in the current United States. That original log cabin church, damaged during the
Revolutionary War, was replaced by another--the current Trinity Church of Swedesboro--built
in 1784 [see below], and a bell tower and steeple were added in 1839.
1976 a small plot of land [near the current Trinity "Old Swedes" Church]
overlooking the Racoon creek was dedicated as the New Sweden Park. It marks the
exact location of the original log church.
the Swedish government stopped sending ministers to America, the congregation
became Episcopalian in 1786.
In 1938, H.R.H.
Prince Bertil dedicated a bronze tablet on the rear wall in commemoration
of the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the Swedes in the Delaware Valley.
In 1976 a small plot of land overlooking the Racoon creek was dedicated as the
New Sweden Park. It marks the exact location of the original log church.
present church was built in 1784, under the guidance of Rev. Nicholas Collin (a
friend of Benjamin Franklin) who designed and helped build the structure. It is
closely patterned on the Georgian designs of Christ Church & St. Peter's in
engineers see similiarities between the Trinity Church Tower and Independence
Hall. Built within 10 years of each other, the towers have an internal pyramid
design, with sloping columns connected to horizontal beams by wooden brackets
called "ship's knees."
According to the Trinity Episcopal Church's web site: "The
first settled pastor in South Jersey was Isreal Holg Fluviander who
was assigned as Garrison priest at Ft. Elfsborg (near Salem) in 1643.
But after the departure of Governor Printz and the loss of New Sweden
to the Dutch, the Swedish and Finnish settlers in what was called "West
Jersey" had to worship on the other side of the Delaware. With
the renewal of the Church of Sweden's mission on the Delaware in 1697,
the pastor of Gloria
Dei, Wicaco, ministered to the needs of those living at Sveaborg
(Swedesboro) and north of the Racoon Creek. But the passage across the
river was treacherous and impossible in bad weather. Finally in 1701
Hans Stahl, a lay member of Holy Trinity, Wilmington, DE, was appointed
as schoolmaster and lay preacher for the Swedes and Finns of New Jersey.
He began the first regular services, but the pastors in Christina and
Wicaco opposed the establishment of a Jersey parish until the debts
for the new church buildings on the western side of the Delaware were
more information on the past and continuing history of this church,
visit the Trinity Episcopal Church's web site.
church closed in 1992 due to the failure of 8 roof trusses. It has been restored
through New Jersey Historic Trust matching grants and the efforts or the congregation
and community. Current members include direct descendants of Dalbo, Homan and
Rambo, original church founders.
Adjacent to Trinity
"Old Swedes" Episcopal Church is a graveyard containing the
remains (many unmarked) of the early Swedes, and other local residents
who first settled there in the late 17th century. A book written in
1910 ("Swedesboro Yesterday and Today" by Egge the earliest
tombstone was that of Jonas Jones who died in 1721. In addition you
can still find the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers: Col. Robert
Bodo Otto, Col. Thomas Heston,
and Capt. John Daniels.
Trinity Church's "new" cemetary, purchased
around 1818 from Robert Tittermary, is found two blocks away on Church Street.
That newer cemetery is the resting place of other local citizens, some from the
Civil war, and including a governor (Charles C. Stratton).
The Parish House
of Trinity Church (located across the street from the church) was
built in 1854, and is still used for the Church Sunday School and various
functions of the Parish. A ceiling medallion and chandelier exist in
the original portion of the building. There have been two additions
to the building to enlarge it. When a shingle roof was installed in
1998, the original cedar shakes were discovered under the existing roof.
The ridge beam is a rough hewn timber. The building was financed by
the Women's guild of the Church as a place to have fundraising events,
a tradition that continues today. It is the site of colonia teas and
wool spinning demonstrations during the annual tour sponsored by the
Swedesboro-Woolwich Historical society.
aka "Schorn" Log Cabin
log cabin was originally located on the Grand Sprute Plantation (mentioned below),
and was moved to its present location on the edge of the Trinity Church cemetery
The Mortenson-VanLeer Log Cabin, located on the Trinity Episcopal
Church property, dates back to the 1600's, and is an example of Swedish-Finnish
cabin structure, with cedar logs, carved joints and lime mortar caulking.
It may have been a temporary dwelling, granary, small animal shelter
or possibly used as a station in the Underground Railway system. Morton
Mortenson purchased the land known as Grand Sprute Plantation (at
Raccoon Creek) from Andrew Robeson. Morteson was the grandfather of
Morton, a signer of the Declaration of Independance. There were
many other owners of this cabin over the years: Archer, Van Leers,
Blacks and Schorns.
Schorn descendants (four Schorn daughters, descendants of Caroline
Damminger and Florentine Schorn are/were: Geraldine Bird, Miriam Bower,
Carolyn Uhlig, and Patricia Longacre) deeded the cabin to the Gloucester
County Historical Society.
Church offered space in New Sweden Park for its relocation,
and it was dedicated at that spot on Sept. 30, 1989.
HOUSE - located at 1324 Kings Highway in Swedesboro, this house was completed
in July 1906 and is reputed to be a "Sears House." The original home
on the site was moved by owner Albert R. Talman in February 1906 to Water Street.
Talman made and sold shoes from the home. He later moved to the shop to the site
of the present "Victor's Merchandise." The house was purchased in 2001
by Marilyn Sue Williams and John Reeves Carpes who continue this restoration work.
"CASHIER" JOHN C. RULON HOUSE at 1428 Kings Highway in Swedesboro.
This house is a work in progress with restoration more than 95% complete. Listed
on the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places in November 2000. A
brick home with deep windowsills. The bricks are said to have been fired on Capt.
John Schock's farm outside of town on the Raccoon Creek. The house was built in
two parts and dates back to the early 1800's. During the Civil War, Army personnel
were housed there are indicated by papers found in the attic. The house features
beautiful antique chandeliers, a light in the newel post, huge rooms with a center
hall and three level stairway. Has a unique and unusual small sink in the dining
room used by Drs. Fithian and Garrison. Artifacts and progress photos of the restoration
were on display during a recent house tour, as well as items from the Swedesboro-Woolwich
Historical Society. It is currently owned by Edie and Al Rohrman.
BUILDINGS OF INTEREST in Swedesboro NJ
At 1214 Kings Highway
can be found the Poinsett House, build in 1892 by a relative of Dr. Joel Poinsett
for whom the poinsettia plant was named. It is a finely maintained example of
a Victorian House.
The Samuel Dyer House at 1320 Kings Highway (adjacent
to the Talman House) was built in 1812.
The Swedesboro Library built
in 1915 was once the William Davidson Home, then the Post Office then the Swedesboro
Trust Company. It was donated to the borough by Mr. Edgar Hurff, for the use as
a Public Library.
SWEDES Inn aka
Washington Tavern, aka Old Swedes Inn, aka The Ford Hotel located
at 306 Kings Highway, Swedesboro