The Spruce Run

Trickle Down

by Doug Kiovsky

Spruce Run Reservoir is the third largest reservoir in New Jersey and one of the oldest. Completed in 1965, the 6,000-foot-long earthen dam holds back eleven billion gallons of water over an area that covers 1,290 acres enveloped by fifteen miles of jagged shoreline. In addition to its role as a principal water source, the impoundment and the surrounding Recreation Area, operated by the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, create an arena for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. Wade in the inviting waters of the beach and feel the sand between your toes. Scour the shoreline with rod and reel in pursuit of trout, largemouth bass, black bass, northern pike, catfish, carp, or yellow perch. Watch shorebirds hover overhead as you skim across the water's surface in sailboat or kayak. Walk leisurely rustic trails or hike a narrow path of the Highlands Trail that winds through the park. Camp overnight on a sandy peninsula or admire unspoiled vistas from a picnic area. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife also maintains the 2,000-acre Clinton Wildlife Management Area, an undeveloped oasis of croplands, fields, and forest surrounding most of the reservoir. Suitable for exploration, public activities include bird watching, nature study, photography, hiking, and hunting in season. Also suitable for exploration is the reservoir's source!

Spruce Run Creek

The reservoir is named for the mountain stream that feeds it. Spruce Run Creek is a sparkling ribbon of natural beauty whose course through rich agricultural land interspersed with hardwood and evergreen forests still embodies the area's early history and provides sanctuary for many species of wildlife. The spring rises along the ridge of Schooley's Mountain, ten miles northeast of the reservoir near the boundary of Washington Township, in Morris County, and Lebanon Township, in Hunterdon County. In 2004, an alliance of several state and local organizations undertook ambitious preservation efforts to save almost 300 acres of open space along the ridge. The site's principle manager, the Hunterdon County Department of Parks and Recreation, planted native grasses to encourage wildlife habitat.

These stewardship efforts were preceded by those of the property's previous owners, Adam and Germaine Roth. Adam Roth immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1923 and made his mark in Detroit with patented modifications to the automotive piston engine in 1936. By 1943 Roth found himself married and living in Glen Rock, New Jersey, near his successful aircraft-engineering factory. The following year he and his wife invested their earnings in two Hunterdon County farms that they planned to use primarily as country retreats. There were four residences, several two-story poultry houses, hog pens, a log cabin with a waterwheel that supplied its running water, and a large dairy barn with the capacity for 125 milking cows. Apple, pear, plum, cherry, and peach trees provided additional income. The Roths developed seven man-made ponds for extensive crop irrigation by excavating natural mountain springs that were discovered by their four children. The ponds were stocked with fish, and friends and family frequently gathered around barbeque grills, jumping off the docks. It is from the discovery of the springs that the property was named Crystal Springs Farm, and these ponds represent the headwaters of the Spruce Run Creek.

With the addition of smaller properties over time by the Hunterdon County Department of Parks and Recreation, the preserve now totals 539 acres. To get there, take Pleasant Grove Road from Schooley's Mountain Road to the intersection with Califon Road. Turn left and follow until the road changes its name back again to Pleasant Grove Road. Parking for the Crystal Springs section of the Teetertown Preserve is located on your left. A wooded trail begins across the road, leading around the perimeter of a large field, across the creek and eventually to the farm site. The farm buildings are gone, but visitors can walk the old roads past the ponds and fields full of wildlife. Although unmarked, easier access to the ponds, especially helpful for fishermen, is off Califon Road at Harrow Road. Turn right, and the road leads directly to a picnic area and trails down to several of the old farm ponds.

Crystal Springs pond
Above: Spruce Run's original impoundments were at the ponds at Crystal Springs Farm on Schooley's Mountain.
Below: Abandoned pondisde cabin.
Crystal Springs cabin

From the Teetertown/Crystal Springs lot, drive a short distance south, make a right turn onto Sharrer Road and then a left onto Anthony Road. Along this winding route, there are more traces of past inhabitants along the Spruce Run. Anthonytown was a small village named after Philip Anthony, an early settler, and consisted of two sawmills, a blacksmith and wheelwright shop, a tannery, a schoolhouse, a general store, a Methodist church, and a post office. Only a few homes remain today.

Make a left turn onto Newport Road and travel less than a mile before arriving at the next Hunterdon County Department of Parks and Recreation outpost. Known as Miquin Woods, this 302-acre county park is a former Boy Scout camp, originally established in 1928 as Camp Watchung. In 1934, Miquin Lodge #68, the Order of the Arrow, was brought to Camp Watchung. The word Miquin is Lenape Indian for feather; the symbol for the lodge was the eagle feather.

Miquin pond
Above: The stream supplied recreation at Camp Watchung, where the pond was extended into the shape of an arrowhead, a symbol of the Boy Scout movement. Photo courtesy Alan Edelson.
Below: Former camp office at Miquin Woods. Photo courtesy Mike Helbing.
Miquin office

The upper and lower camp were divided by the rock-strewn Spruce Run, and the man-made Craig Pond, fed by the creek, served as the swimming and boating area. A large dining hall, complete with a massive elk's head resting above the mantle of a stone-quarried fireplace, overlooked the pond. Other structures included a trading post, woodland chapel, handicraft lodge, nature lodge, and first aid cottage. Camp Watchung finally closed in 1986, but the land was never developed and the structures fell into disrepair. After the camp was acquired as open space, most of the buildings were demolished except for the stone camp office and springhouse, which stand as quiet sentinels from a different time as visitors enjoy a harmonious blend of scenery for hiking, fishing, and nature study.

Leaving Miquin Woods, turn left onto Newport Road. As you approach a small stone arch bridge over Spruce Run, look to the left of a long gravel road, and you may glimpse the remnants of a stone mill located on private property. Erected in 1865, it was once the business center for a small community of farms known as Apgar's Mills, grinding grain between two sets of interior grinding stones powered by a 21-foot waterwheel. After the stop sign, make a right turn onto Red Mill Road, so named for another of the many mills along Spruce Run that relied on waterpower for the production of flour and other grain products.

Spruce Run church
Spruce Run Evangelical Lutheran Church and cemetery

Before approaching another small stone arch bridge about a mile down Red Mill, turn left onto Spruce Run Road and follow it to the end. Spruce Run Cemetery is on the right side and the distinctive conical spires of the beautiful Spruce Run Evangelical Lutheran Church rise straight ahead. Although the present church was erected in 1870, the first congregation gathered for services in 1775 in a log cabin that stood nearby.

Turn right onto West Hill Road (County Route 628) and follow it into the borough of Glen Gardner, which was built on the power of the little mountain stream. The first mill was built in 1760, followed by another downstream in 1835 whose owner conceived the idea of starting a factory that manufactured picture frames. In 1863, five enterprising brothers named William, John, George, Oliver, and Joseph Gardner relocated from New York City and soon employed 700 craftsmen making picture frames and chair seats. In 1871, the town that sits between two mountains named itself Glen Gardner in honor of the brothers. The town's industrial era ended when the brothers moved away and the factory burned down.

Glen Gardner
Cowin Brothers Pony truss bridge in Glen Gardner.

A one-lane bridge spans Spruce Run on School Street. Fabricated in 1870 by William and Charles Cowin of Lambertville, this Pony truss bridge has interior beams sloping diagonally towards the center of the bridge to counteract the weight of vehicles that traverse it. Rehabilitated in 1993, it is listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.

Union Furnace Preserve
Highlands Trail at Union Furnace Preserve

Turn left on State Highway Route 31 and go two miles south to the Van Syckle's Road traffic light. Turn right, over a bridge that spans Spruce Run, and stop at the gravel parking area, where there is easy access for fishing in the stream and reservoir. Across the road is the county-owned Union Furnace Preserve, an undeveloped 100-acre wooded hillside that hosts a section of the Highlands Trail. As you enter the preserve and walk the trail marked with teal, diamond-shaped blazes, you will notice the hard-packed surface of an old millrace, a remnant of the Union Mill, another large gristmill built in the early 1800s.

From 1742 to 1752, two Philadelphians, William Allen and Joseph Turner, acquired 10,849 acres of fields and woodlands for establishing an iron furnace along Spruce Run, an iron forge along the South Branch of the Raritan River near the present-day town of High Bridge, and another furnace east of High Bridge, known collectively as the Union Ironworks. Iron production in the colonies required miners, woodcutters, charcoal makers, fillers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and teamsters. Trades associated with the furnaces included farmers, millers, and shopkeepers. The furnace along Spruce Run, Union Furnace, produced 500- 1,000 tons of iron a year for the casting of artillery and farm implements. Fired three times a day and tapped twice a day, temperatures within the stone-laden stack had to reach almost 3,000 degrees to melt iron ore. The forty slaves that lived on the property performed some of the most dangerous work.

Loyal to the English Crown, Allen and Turner fled during the American Revolution, but their young superintendent, Robert Taylor, cast military hardware for the Continental Army until 1781, when the forest were depleted of fuel. Taylor then shifted his attention to Union Forge along the South Branch of the Raritan River and developed one of the largest foundries in the country. In 1811, the 808-acre Union Farm, consisting of abandoned structures, livestock, and slaves, was sold to Hugh Exton, who would build the gristmill along Spruce Run. Following a succession of ownership, Hunterdon County acquired 92 acres of the farm, a large part of today's preserve. Rubble from the Union Furnace was removed during construction of the reservoir.

The remains of the Union Furnace lie beneath the water here at Spruce Run Reservoir.

The Elizabethtown Water Company of New Jersey was first drawn to the idea of building a reservoir at the confluence of Spruce Run and Mulhockaway Creek just before 1929. Land speculators bought almost 2,100 acres in anticipation of selling it to the water company, but the Great Depression waylaid everybody's plans. The state acquired 1,500 acres to build a game preserve, and in 1936, the remaining 600 acres went to Lloyd Wescott and his wife Barbara for $70 an acre. After they moved into their red clapboard farmhouse, the Wescotts restored the old farm buildings and built new metal barns. Farm tenants lived close to each of three complexes of cow barns. Lloyd's brother, parents and other relatives lived in other separate homes on the property, which he called Mulhocaway Farm (intentionally spelled differently from the name of the creek.) The Westcotts intended to breed healthy livestock, and when the Hunterdon County Board of Agriculture was introduced to the concept of artificial breeding of dairy cattle, Lloyd proposed to construct housing for Guernsey bulls. The farm's facility became the first artificial insemination station in the country.

In 1956, the State of New Jersey revived the plan for a reservoir in the fertile valley. The Westcotts negotiated a selling price and relocated to another farm in Delaware Township in 1959, considering the move a blessing since the structures and equipment had become obsolete. Theirs was the only farm to be inundated by water from Spruce Run Creek.


Doug Kiovsky is Assistant Park Planner and historian for the Hunterdon County Parks and Recreation Department. You can find additional information and trail maps at their website.

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Comments

Thomas J Miller
20 Aug 2014, 04:54
My gggf is the Adam Roth and Germaine was of course gggm. I've never been there before but have listened to my mother aunt and grandma and their stories of their grandparents farm. Would love to get any kind of pictures or other things to show them for a great surprise. Thanks. Email me Tj32miller@hotmail.com.
Marie Horatius
14 Aug 2014, 13:01
Hi,
My name is marie Horatius the activity director of ncc medical daycare, I will be bringing 32 senior clients on Tuesday, please let me know if there is a fee.

Thank you,
Marie Horatius
Faye Eschenfelder
15 Sep 2013, 09:16
To Susan Cramer, You had a note to me about a year ago to which I replied. I would very like to hear from you. Faye Dennis Eschenfelder
William Honachefsky Jr
22 Jan 2013, 09:34
Nice to see so many interesting comments on this particular article on the Spruce!\r\n
Jim Donelson
14 Nov 2012, 08:13
I never been camp watchung, but now as Scoutmaster of Troop 125 in south plainfield, nj and seeing alot of history, I want to take the troop there for a day trip to go for a hike. Troop 125 is 79 years old this year, you can check out our website:\r\nhttp://bsatroop125.tripod.com
Faye Eschenfelder
17 Aug 2012, 10:21
To: Susan Cramer,\r\n\r\nYour grandparent's surname is very familiar to me. I can't picture them, but where they lived is very familiar to me. Maybe my memory is playing tricks, but I believe we boarded with them for a short time when I was a baby in the very earlyforties before or after we lived in the home of Glenway Wescott. My parents were Grace and Ezra Dennis. My email address is: fde.lists@gmail.com. I would love hearing from either you or your mother. Faye
Susan Cramer
16 Aug 2012, 20:55
To Faye Eschenfelder: My grandparents lived and worked on Mulhocaway Farm for Mr. Wescott and my mother grew up there. I spent a lot of time there as well, before the reservoir. My mother has a lot of information about growing up there and the people who lived there. Mr. Wescott was very good to my grandparents. What was your family's name. My mom, or grandparents, probably knew them! (Harry and Kate Beers were my grandparents.)Great memories.
Don Eilenberger
15 Jul 2012, 16:10
Spent many weeks at Camp Watching growing up. Started with TR 125 in South Plainfield (Charlie Mohn was scoutmaster the whole time I was there) around 1957. Spent the entire summer of 1961 there as a CIT. I once got stone-house duty, one of the jobs was to play the hourly alert, so kids at activities knew it was time to move to the next one.\r\n\r\nUnfortunately, I fell asleep.. and after about a 3 hour period, they sent someone to wake me up. Last time I ever got that job. Back to the Craft's shop to teach wood-carving.\r\n\r\nMoved to Bridgewater in 1962 - and transferred to Troop 154 in Pluckemin (really a village named that.) Started going to Sabattis in the Adirondacks, the "primative" camp. Some weekend campouts were still held at Camp Watchung, expecially one winter one where I froze, and grew to hate hold weather. I still hate cold weather.\r\n\r\nLong time ago eh? Was in Glen Gardner today, and almost turned up under the old concrete bridge to head back toward the camp..
Paul Morrison
22 Jun 2012, 13:02
I went to Camp Watchung as a scout from TR 24 in South Plainfield. I was there in the summer of 1968 for 2 weeks. It was one of the greatest experiences of my childhood. We swam, boated, canoed, went to the rifle range and generally just had fun being kids. I think we did a swimming race called "over the puddle scuddle shuttle".\r\n I was lucky enough to go through my Order of the Arrow trial or ordeal at Camp Watchung. We moved stones all day to create a road bed through a stream, then they sent us out to spend the night in the woods with 2 matches and an egg... It was a great time, I'm only sorry I that I only went once.
Richard Davis Barber
04 Apr 2012, 06:03
My GGF Harvey Davis and GGM Catherine Apgar resided in the house next to the Pony Pratt Bridge in t Clarksville and now Glen Gardner, from the 1870s to 1945 and then their daughter Jessie Davis-Gordon reside there until the late 1950s. My GM Beulah Ruth Davis-Barber was born in the upstairs master bedroom. Harvey Davis acquired the property and operated an existing General Store next to the Spruce Run, which burned in 1906 and was never rebuilt. I have many fond memories playing along the Spruce Run and under the bridge in the 1940s and early 50s, as well as in the numerous buildings that existed on the property. Many of the buildings were "as is" when I was there and had many items from the 1800s.\r\n
Faye Eschenfelder
12 Mar 2012, 16:15
To Leland M. Roth: I was interested in your comments about the Mulhocaway Farm. As I mentioned in a previous posting, we lived on a Mulhocaway Farm when I was a child. Wonder if this was the house you talked about that we occupied from about the mid forties until 1950. Very unusual for a farm house, and I remember the house and farm very well. I have a few pictures. If my email isn't showing as part of this posting, please post again and I'll give you my address. Would very much like to be in touch with you. Faye Dennis Eschenfelder.
Leland M Roth
11 Mar 2012, 12:13
I am particularly interested in the buildings used on the Wescott's Mulhocaway Farm. In 1944, Portland, OR, architect, John Yeon, worked on a house for them for the farm. Whether it was ever actually built seems unclear. But perhaps the issue is moot if all their buildings were destroyed or are under water now. Can anyone tell me what became of the Wescott farm buildings, particular any residences?
Cathy Swidonovich (The Tyska's)
02 Mar 2012, 19:03
I grew up with so many memories. My grandparents had a home on RIver Road in Califon...I was blessed with the opportunity to visit every weekend of the season and loved the Jone's down the road from us. We used to wake up early, walk upstream and ride out tubes to the bridge and roll them back on the road then fish until night. Grandma loved fried eels. We made diamond rings from the fire flies and lived like kids should! It was the greatest!
Faye Eschenfelder
24 Jun 2011, 10:46
We lived on the Studer (sp) Place which was a part of the Mulhocaway Farms which was one of the farms flooded to create the Spruce Run Reservoir. I still have some pictures of Stone Blossom that was owned by Glenway Wescott, the brother of Lloyd B. Wescott. We lived in Glenway's home when I was an infant and my father was employed by Lloyd B. Wescott.
Richard E. Stem, Sr.
05 May 2011, 06:26
I can remember when I was a teenager, my father would take us to field trails held by the New Jersey Beagle Club, of which my father was a member, at various times from around 1957-1964,5. My father took my then 4yr. old son and myself to Spruce Run in 1975 with his new fishing boat and said the building on a hill, over looking the resevoir, was the club house they used during the field trials.
David Altamura
26 Mar 2011, 03:43
As i sip coffee out of my Watchung Scout Camp 1928-1978 50th annivarsary mug I wondered what had happened to the camp. Nice to see its not a devolopment of mc-mansions. I attended Scout Camp there from 1978-1980 and have many fond memories. I remember the lake was dug out and enlarged somewhat around 1980. I always wished I could have retieved my patrol placard that hung in the dining hall. I learned how to shoot at camp Watchung as my Scoutmaster was the range officer. We would go shooting several times a year there. Those lessons served me well as a US Marine during the Gulf War of 91. I remember swimming in the lake and the water carival that was held there during camp. The campfires were always fun and the fire ring was past the parade field on the lower part of the camp. It always seemed like such a long walk around the lake, across Spruce Run and up the hill in the dark to get back to our campsites. I became an Eagle Scout and entered into the order of the arrow after I had my ordeal at Camp Watchung around 1983-1984. Good Times - I live near Englishtown now and my son is a Cub Scout in Monmouth Council.
Wayne Grievo
22 Apr 2010, 20:25
I loved Camp Watchung. 1956, 1957 and 1958. August of '58 we had a strong hurricane. Had to cross Spruce Run on the Rope walk. Only way to get to the mess hall. Pretty exciting. The huge boulders were great to climb on and the "Green Hand" from the lake scare story was told every year. Remember, I think, though hard to believe, Wimpy? Big time entertainment at the mess hall. I always hated to leave when my two weeks came to an end. Long time ago. Feels like last week.
william honachefsky Jr
03 Mar 2010, 08:41
Doug \r\nDon't forget the Honachefsky tract abutting Union Furnace.
Allen Ogaard
13 Jan 2010, 16:31
I was a Counselor in Training (CIT) at Camp Watchung circa '61 or '62. I was assigned to the "Stone House" office. Among my duties was to fire the canon at 7:25AM then run inside and play revelie over the PA system. I actually play the bugle, so I was the one who played "To the Colors" at the end of the day before dinner. I, too, was from South Plainfield--Troop 24 sponsored by the VFW.
Frank Barulli
13 Jan 2010, 04:29
Does anyone remember the old signs that hung in the dining hall from each patrol? My dad was scoutmaster of troop 125 in South plainfield NJ for over 25 yrs, and took me there as a child. Later I went there with troop 309 From South Plainfield, I could write for days and not tell all the stories, cool ghost stories etc. E mail me anytime with memories!
Tom Ayling
18 Nov 2009, 15:18
I attended Camp Watchung from 1958 to 1962 and remember everything about the property. All the campsites, the dining hall, ect. I would love to visit the area sometime. I would appreciate any information, pictures or anything. I loved the article. That old stone house is where the bugle calls came from over a speaker from a 78 record.\r\nTom
William Honachefsky Jr
07 Oct 2009, 21:16
Nice job, Doug
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