Ringing Rocks

IF YOU EVER find yourself in Milford, NJ, be sure to stop in at the Ship Inn–New Jersey’s first brew-pub. I did a number of years ago to cash in on a ticket for a FREE!! beer that I had received at the Frenchtown Wine Festival for doing an imitation of my English mother-in-law. She sounded a lot like a Monty Python character, bless her soul.

And after enjoying a refreshing beverage and maybe a plate of steamers, cross over the bridge there into Upper Black Eddy Pennsylvania and you’ll be on your way to another attraction—of an entirely different sort. Turn north onto Route 32 and in just a short distance you’ll see a sign for Ringing Rocks County Park.

The Ringing Rocks

The Ringing Rocks

You’re in for a strange sight. A open field of 7 or 8 acres strewn with boulders as if some giant had just poured them out of an immense bucket. But that’s not even the weirdest part. There’s a reason they’re called “Ringing Rocks”. If you bang on them with something hard, like another rock, they make a hollow metallic sound, like a hammer on an anvil. And there always seems to be plenty of visitors testing them out, many of whom bring their own hammers. The boulders are composed of diabase–volcanic basalt which contains large amounts of iron and aluminum. In the nineteenth century a Dr. J.J. Ott collected rocks of sufficiently varied pitches to play some tunes accompanied by the Pleasant Valley Band. A rock concert?

There is endless speculation as to how this field of boulders came to be. The first thought is that it was created by a receding glacier, but glaciers were not known to have traveled this far south. And glacial deposits would be in a valley or hollow, but this boulder field is actually at the top of a hill. Inevitably there are fringe explanations of meteorites, comets, strange magnetic fields and of course, paranormal activity, but most probably the rocks went through thousands of years of freeze-thaw cycles that broke them up into so many boulders.

Near the rock field is a lovely little waterfall, that may not have much water depending on the time of year you visit, but well worth the short hike to get to it.

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Tom Quick

This is about one of the early settlers of Milford, Pennsylvania.

IN 1733 THOMAS QUICK arrived and pitched a tent. His ancestral ties are somewhat vague—some sources state his homeland as County Ulster, some say Holland and some even cover all the bases and claim both. Quick built a log cabin and began clearing the land for farming which didn’t seem to bother his neighbors, the Lenni Lenape. The following year, young Tom Quick was born and here’s where the story picks up momentum. As the youngster grew, he spent more time with the Indians than his family, learning their language and how to hunt, fish, and trap and the ways of the forest. He became nearly an Indian himself.

Young Tom grew up living a life that most boys would have found idyllic. But as the French and Indian War loomed, the climate throughout the Delaware Valley began to grow unsettled. Increasing numbers of settlers were encroaching on Indian lands. It didn’t take much prodding on the part of the French to induce the Indians to drive the whites from their lands. The story is told that young Tom was out with his father and brother-in-law one day on some errand across the river, when the senior Quick was felled by a round from a marauding Indian’s rifle. Young Tom and the brother-in-law tried to drag the elder wounded Quick to safety, but  he was dying and commanded them to run for their lives. The two men then frantically made their way back across the frozen river. Tom paused after reaching the bank to see if they were being pursued and saw to his horror his now-dead father being scalped.

The shadowy figure of Tom Quick

The shadowy figure of Tom Quick

Something snapped in him and from this point on, Tom Quick swore vengeance on all Indians. Though he could have joined the British Army as a regular or scout, he preferred to exact his revenge as a lone assassin. Over the years, fact blended with fiction and he became the legendary Tom Quick, Indian Slayer; The Red Revenger; The Avenger of the Delaware. Many stories were told such as the time he hunted with an Indian who agreed to keep the hides of their game while Tom would keep the meat. After a successful hunt in which seven deer were taken, Tom lingered behind the Indian carrying the hides and shot him in the back. He later told of his deed saying he had shot a buck with seven skins. It was claimed he murdered an Indian family canoeing on the Delaware. When asked why he killed even the children he replied, “nits make lice.”

After the war was over and the hatchet was considered buried, Quick continued his independent rampage. Since there still deep scars left mentally and physically on the settlers, there didn’t seem to be an overwhelming desire to bring him to justice. To many he was a hero, but in today’s world his tendencies would more likely be diagnosed as that of a psychopath.

On his death-bed he claimed the personal achievement of having killed 99 Indians. The tale is told that he begged to have old Indian who lived nearby to be brought to him for killing, so he could claim an even one-hundred victims.

Needless to say, the Indian community hated and feared Tom Quick. An even more far-fetched story persists that when he did finally pass away, he was infected with Smallpox. Supposedly, after his burial Indians dug up his corpse, cut it into pieces and distributed them as souvenirs. The recipients then contracted the disease, thus Tom Quick took more victims even after his death.

In 1889, Milford erected the “Settlers Monument” and transferred Tom Quick’s remains there from his resting place in the nearby town of Matamoras. Legend or not, people eventually came to question wether someone of Quick’s reputation should be immortalized. Then in 1997, someone took a sledgehammer to the monument, causing extensive damage. It was repaired, but not replaced. Much controversy has ensued, but for the meantime a plaque has been installed on top of the grave in the middle of Sarah Street which reads:

quickmem

The Windmills of Your Mind

JUST a few miles north of Frenchtown, right on the river, is Milford, NJ. Milford hasn’t quite found it’s tourist groove yet, but is on it’s way.

The main road branches here as you enter the town. If you turn left, you will come to yet another of the 50+ bridges that cross the Delaware. And if you follow Route 519 to the right, (north) that will lead all the way to Phillipsburg, at the confluence of the Lehigh River. Along the way, you’ll find one of the quirks that make the back roads so enjoyable.

In the course of research for this book, I’ve acquired quite a few guide books and travelogues, some very helpful, some not so much. In one of them I found an attraction that seemed to speak to me—a windmill museum, in of course, Holland (New Jersey). Provided with directions that seemed only slightly vague and a quick study of Google maps, I felt fairly confident. Not that many roads–rural area–there was probably some kind of signage for it–how hard could it be to find? I’m going to condense this for you. After several hours of tracking through the hilly countryside of Hunterdon County, back-tracking, fighting gnawing hunger pangs and the wicked urge to relieve myself with no Super Wawa or fast food chain in sight, I finally found a road sign that looked promising. And it took only a few more false turns, some well-worn oaths and there I was, staring at an authentic six story Dutch windmill that was…closed for business. And looked like it had been for a long time.

Volendam Windmill Museum (closed)

Volendam Windmill Museum (closed)

Two of the mills four arms were missing, severed by a storm some years back and it had a look of general neglect. There was also an old, weathered sign advertising “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree Farm”. Obviously quite an enterprise at one time.

The windmill was the brainchild of Poul Jorgenson, a skilled engineer and toolmaker who spoke seven languages. Born in Denmark, he never forgot the kindness of a miller who allowed neighborhood children to sweep the mill’s floors for leftover flour during the harsh times of World War I when food was scarce. This experience prompted Jorgenson to build a real working mill to teach people about the industry. He traveled throughout many countries studying, sketching, measuring and photographing all types of milling operations so that he could incorporate the best features into his dream. After his retirement in 1965, Jorgenson began work on the mill, and along with his wife, May, built the entire structure by hand, using only the outside help of steel workers and masons. Incredibly, he and his wife were both in their sixties, carrying fieldstone and wrestling lumber up six flights of stairs to lay flooring. Not to mention being able to somehow install the one-ton millstone. They wound up with a working mill that could actually grind grain into flour, powered by the wind gathered by four sail arms 68 feet in length. The top or cap, could be rotated to meet the direction of the wind.

When completed they called their creation the Volendam Windmill Museum in honor of a town in Holland, and probably also because they were in Holland Township, NJ. Unfortunately, Poul Jorgenson died shortly after. But May carried on until 1993 when she passed away. Other family members continued but the attraction closed after the wind arms were damaged in 2007. There’s a certain sadness to the place, a broken and empty windmill sitting on a wind-swept hill.