Morton Homestead Mystery

Historical Marker Pit-stop

Morton had a Homestead

Years ago I saw a blue historical marker tucked along a road I used to reach I-95.  The area was sealed off and was clearly neglected and sliding into ruin.  The only people who seemed to frequent the site were fishermen and geese.

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Naturally I had to explore!

On a rainy spring day I parked and explored the area.  I found grounds of the Morton Homestead in a terrible state of neglect.  The old stone and wooden lodging was sealed up tight and appeared to be in good repair, but the grounds were a mess.  The trails were failing and the old signs were severely damaged and fading.  The boardwalk edging along the creek was being consumed by plant growth, weed were growing wild near the creek as well.

Did I mention geese?   There may have been a goose-human stare down.  I\’m not saying I ran away. But I may have backed away slowly, apologizing for invading their space.

Over the years, I would watch fisherman enjoying the Darby creek either from the grounds or from the bridge.  And then one warm spring day, construction equipment showed up and started cleaning up the grounds.  Finally! The neglected property was getting some attention.

Signage Mystery

The signage at damaged from age and exposure to the elements.  And maybe an occasional teenager.  During the clean-up phase, I was concerned that these old signs may be replaced.  and there is one amazing sign that I simply couldn\’t risk \’losing\’ during the process. The sign about a Mystery Hole.

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Mystery Hole

At the Morton homestead, there is an old sign declaring that they \”found a 14\’8\” by 10\’4\” rectangular hole under the house – down to the bedrock.  There is a mystery surrounding this hole.\”

Mystery, indeed!  There are a few thoughts that run through my head when reading this sign:

  1. There are so many inappropriate joke opportunities
  2. I would not have thought finding a square hole in the ground would have been that mysterious.  I would have assumed the hole was for storage: root cellar, cold storage, etc.  But since it was declared a mystery, there must have been something unique about it to bring it up to a level of mystery
  3. The next part was completely unexpected, horrifying, and fascinating

Possible Explanation

The sign indicates a possible explanation.  I enhanced the image to help make it easier to see:

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Researching old court records, this petition was found dated 4/3/1678:

Jan Cornelissen (sp?) of Amosland complaying to ye Court that his son Erik is bereft of his natural sense & is turned quyt madd and yt bee being a poor Man is not able to maintain him… Ordered that three or four persons bee hired to build a Little Blockhouse at Amosland for to put in the said Madman.

Quyt Madd

And there you have it: the method for handling a family member bereft of his natural senses.  It is tragic and heart breaking on so many levels.  That is raw in-sight into history and family struggles summed up in a short request.

Even if this mystery hole found under the property was truly a root cellar, there was a hole dug somewhere to restrain a human being for – what I hope! – was their own safety.  Life can be difficult, and survival could be brutal.  I never expected anything so profound and unsettling to be found in a tiny piece of land, nestled along the Darby creek, on a (once) neglected homestead based in early American history.

Questions

So now I have questions I would like to get answered:

  1. What is a \”little blockhouse?\”  And is there some historical records on this?
  2. Can we see this mystery hole if we tour the Morton homestead?

Ferry Past and Present

There was apparently a humble, rope-pulled ferry at this location to allow for crossing the creek.  And next to the ferry a tavern was erected.  When the brittle cold of winter passes, the beauty of the creek is amazing.  I think it is time for a tavern again, and a new ferry dock!

A 3-season, open air tavern for sipping cold brews by the creek sounds like a wonderful plan.  It would be great to see kayaks roaming the creek, pulling up to the tavern for light meals and relaxing. Seriously – it seems we are missing such a great opportunity.