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The Natives of Watchung
Before I dig deep into the Deserted Village, I first must discuss the Native Americans of Watchung that lived here before the first European settlers. The United States government policies towards Native Americans in the nineteenth century expanded into territories inhabited by Native American tribes.
The natives were pushed out and removed from their homeland and the European settlers moved in. The story says pushed out and removed, but I wonder if the Native Americans left without putting up a fight, before leaving what they only knew as home.
The name “Watchung” comes from the Lenni Lenape Native Americans, meaning “high hills” or from “watschu,” meaning “hill.”
Dreams of Success Turned to Failure
After reading many stories of the different business ventures that failed, I wonder if the land is cursed to anyone trying to succeed after pushing the Native Americans out of their homes? Was it the rumor of David Felt being cold and running the village strictly? Everyone worked six days and all had to attend church on Sundays. Did people leave, looking to get out of this Utopia they believed would bring better days?
Here’s a timeline of settlers who came to Watchung with dreams of success
1736 Peter Willcocks move from Long Island, he built a sawmill along the Blue Brook. This was to produce lumber for the farmers coming to the region.
1844-1845 David Felt bought 760 acres of land and built a printing factory along the brook. He built a town for his workers, and by 1850, 175 people were living in Feltville. He built thirteen double dwellings, two dormitories (one for women, one for men), a church, a general store, a barn, and a blacksmith shop. Felt retired in 1860.
1882 Warren Ackerman bought the property and converted the mill town into a summer resort, called Glenside Park. Glenside Park closed in 1916 due to people traveling down to the Jersey Shore for their summer vacations. The town became deserted for a short time.
Ghost and Witch Stories
When I came here I didn’t know what to expect. I have been to a few abandoned places and some have left me with chills. Of course, of all days to visit it had to be gloomy and looked even creepier. But for me, I felt a quiet and restful feeling. Before exploring the grounds, we went hiking through the trails for a little over 2 miles passing the cemetery on the hill.
The Watchung Reservation has many trails to explore. The reservation is over 2,000 acres and has a 6-mile historic trail.
Some may say they felt a haunting presence overcome them during their visit. I am a believer in ghosts and unexplained things caught on camera. Take a look at the ghost I caught on camera at Waterloo Village during a summer visit! But let’s get back to the Deserted Village. I love visiting abandoned places and taking photos of erie buildings. I like to think about the people who lived there at one time.
There is a story of missing sisters that went into the woods to never return. Before markings, it was easy to get lost in the woods. After the girls went missing people didn’t let their children go deep into the woods and some moved away. Some say, Satanists come to the woods and someone said they saw a fire in the shape of a pentagram. There have even been stone alters found in the woods. I wouldn’t be surprised by the things that have been done here. It’s pretty scary and I’m sure the hairs on my neck would curl even at night.
It seems to be only right to leave ghosts stories at this abandoned site. A creepy village tucked in the woods, this is a classic movie. I wonder why no movies haven’t been filmed here yet?
Take a drip to the Deserted Village to learn more about the history or to see ghosts. Or just come for a great hike out into nature. The village is located at 2 Cataract Hollow Road, Berkeley Heights. Park in the lot and walk for about five minutes down the paved road. Every day from dawn until dusk; the Visitors’ Center is open from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Self-guided tour: ucnj.org/parks-recreation/deserted-village/self-guided-walking-tour/
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