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A Guide To Its Present And Past
Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of New Jersey
American Guide Series

Originally published in 1939
Some of this information may no longer be current and in that case is presented for historical interest only.

Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2002

Tour 35
Ship Bottom-Manahawkin-Junction with State 40; State S40.

Ship Bottom-Manahawkin-Junction with State 40; State S40.
Ship Bottom to junction with State 40, 29.3 m.
Limited accommodations.
Three-lane concrete roadbed throughout.

State S40 runs northwest across Manahawkin Bay from picturesque fish- ing scenes on Long Beach Island to the sandy mainland. It passes through the almost flat pine barrens where a small population makes a bare living from berries, moss, and other swamp products. The western section of the highway penetrates the State's largest reservation, Lebanon State Forest. Superficially, State S40 is an uninteresting highway, designed only for speed. The road offers rare opportunities, however, to any motorist with a feeling for swamp life akin to that of Thoreau, who preferred swamps to fine gardens. "Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps," he wrote. "My spirits infallibly rise in proportion to the out- ward dreariness. Give me the ocean, the desert, or the wilderness! . . . I enter a swamp as a sacred place, – a sanctum sanctorum. There is the strength, the marrow of Nature."

It is easy to find a good swamp on the mainland between Manahawkin and the junction with State 40. The motorist should watch for a sandy side road near any small stream and turn off for l00 yards or so. Shoes and stockings should be left in the car, and then there is nothing to do except wade in. A typical list of discoveries in one hour's exploration in mid- summer is:

SHIP BOTTOM, 0 m. (10 alt., 277 pop.), a treeless little town on the gray-white sand at the widest part of Long Beach Island, thrives on fishing and summer visitors. A new FISHING PIER (adm. 25 cents) extends 584 feet into the ocean. At the foot of 14th St. lies the HULL OF THE FORTUNA, a three-masted Italian ship wrecked in the winter of 1909-10.

Ship Bottom's odd name is the center of controversy of date and detail rather than event. One tradition is that in 1817 Capt. Stephen Willits during a storm came upon a ship aground, bottom up. His men heard tapping inside and chopped a hole with an axe. Out stepped a beautiful young girl, whom they carried to shore, where she thanked them in a strange tongue, sank to her knees, and drew the sign of the cross on the sand. She was sent to New York and never heard of again.

The second version, dated 1846, duplicates the story of the capsized ship, the tapping, and the appearance of the beautiful young girl. Less adventurous, however, this maiden remained in the village, was properly wed, and ultimately became the ancestor of a Sandy Hook pilot.

At Ship Bottom is one of the six life-saving stations that guard this perilous coast. The wreck of the Powhatan in 1854 with a loss of 354 lives led to formation of a voluntary life-saving crew. One of the founders was Dr. William A. Newell, known as the father of the U. S. Life Saving Service, who had already obtained a Federal appropriation for this purpose (see MANASQUAN, Tour 36). On April 4, 1933, the Akron, U. S. Navy dirigible, was destroyed in a storm off this coast with the loss of 73 lives.

At Ship Bottom are the junctions with the unnumbered Long Beach Island roads (see Tour 35A and Tour 35B). At 0.6 m. a drawbridge crosses the channel of the Inland Waterway. Cedar stakes with a cross and triangle indicate the main channel. Stakes with discs and diamonds lead into side channels.

This short drawbridge leads to CEDAR BONNET ISLAND, a collection of tiny fishing islands whose shape resembles a sunbonnet. Close to the channel is a resort known to sportsmen as MOM'S PLACE (L). Skipper "Mom" traces her ancestry to a queen of the Lenape Indians. With one hand on the tiller and the other on the till, she keeps order while dispensing Barnegat hospitality and Jersey lightning.

Barnegat skiffs, molded cedar boats of broad beam with lapped strakes and engine aft, are frequently seen. They are open, for carrying big loads of fish; light enough to cross shallows in the bay, and sufficiently seaworthy to negotiate dangerous Barnegat Inlet.

Marshlands in the Barnegat Bay area are in the fall a favorite feeding ground for migratory waterfowl.

At 3.5 m. are PUBLIC HUNTING AND FISHING GROUNDS (R) bordering the bay, a 1,000-acre tract where food plants are raised to attract wild game.

MANAHAWKIN, 5.6 m. (25 alt., 825 pop.) (see Tour 18), is at the junction with US 9 (see Tour 18).

Close to the highway (R) on the northern outskirts is MANAHAWKIN LAKE, made by damming old Mill Creek to flood nearby cranberry bogs.

State S40 runs in a northwesterly direction through a low and thinly populated area, well covered with stunted pines. At 5.8 m. the road turns slightly L. for its passage in a straight line for the next 17 miles to the northwest.

At 13.2 m., on a wooded ridge, is the junction with a dirt road.

Left on this road to CEDAR BRIDGE FIRE LOOKOUT, 0.8 m. (open), a 60-foot tower with men on 24-hour duty. From the observation platform is a sweeping view of the forest.

CEDAR BRIDGE, 1.2 m. (120 alt.), is a primitive settlement on a low hill where forgotten Jerseymen whose ancestors were Colonial settlers struggle for a living with poor soil and collect sphagnum moss for florists. The old CEDAR BRIDGE TAVERN (R) was used by the Philadelphia-Tuckerton stagecoach passengers for many years before the Civil War. It is now known as Clayton's Grove, a weather-beaten, forgotten barroom.

State S40 drops down from the ridge with a view topping miles of wooded waste.

At 18.8 m., on a cleared knoll close to the road, is another FIRE LOOKOUT (R). An excellent view of the long stretch of the Jersey pine belt is available from the platform, reached by steel stairs. Even from the road there is a broad vista of miles of wasteland, covered with scrub oaks and stunted pines barely waist-high. The stubby growth is like a coarse lawn as it sweeps away to become a distant blue-green sea. A few straggling trees rise above the mass, emphasizing the lonely scene.

At 21.9 m. is the junction with a graveled road.

Left on this road is CHATSWORTH, 3 m. (95 alt.), a haven for deer hunters. with a Jersey Central R.R. station and a few straggling houses on the edge of the scrub wilderness. In autumn the frost-touched leaves are tossed by the wind, appearing as leaping flames over the vast area – a land on fire. This illusion attracts tourists, and it has also caused many false fire alarms.

Along the highway the forests close in (R). The old macadamized road (L) that State S40 replaced serves as a shoulder.

At 22.3 m. the road enters LEBANON STATE FOREST, a tract of 34 square miles providing free camping, picnicking, bathing, fishing, and hunting. Largest of the State reservations, Lebanon is designed to improve the surrounding barrens. Its white cedar inspired the name Lebanon. Native cedar trees have been planted in the least injured cut-over areas. Elsewhere it is hoped to replace with pines the millions of stunted oaks that grow only about 4 feet high in the thin soil.

At 23.6 m. is the junction with a dirt road.

Left on this road to a CAMPSITE, 1 m., in a small grove of silver birch and young pines. This is Butler Place, used as a hiding place for the settlers' cattle during the War of 1812 when the British were threatening this region. In 1830 an inn was erected here and the covered wagons, or "she-tops" as the traders called them, stopped en route to the shore towns. A footpath among the trees leads to tables, benches, and a pump that yields good drinking water. The grove was developed by the C.C.C. in 1936.

At FOUR-MILE CIRCLE, 27.6 m., is the FOUR-MILE RANGER'S HOUSE (campfire permits issued free). Opposite the house is the NEW JERSEY COLONY FOR THE FEEBLEMINDED, where specialists seek to reclaim the mentally undeveloped people who are a byproduct of the socially isolated group inhabiting the great pine area. More than 800 patients are in the long, low white buildings of the institution, founded 22 years ago. A large dairy and vegetable farm is operated. Hobbies are cultivated as an important part of the program; the boys here have nine thriving clubs, issue a weekly newspaper, and engage in handcrafts.

At 29.3 m., at a traffic circle, State S4o forms a junction with State 40 (see Tour 27), 7 miles east of Red Lion.

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