Following the Footsteps of a New Jersey Legend, Jonas Cattell in the Modern World

Following The Footsteps Of A New Jersey Legend, Jonas Cattell. In The Modern-Day World.

“Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed. It is all part of the fairy tale.”
Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn.

I have conducted some in-depth research on the South Jersey area and the man who intrigues me most from the Revolutionary time period……is no other than….. Jonas Cattell!

I decided to follow his footsteps around South Jersey from his birth to his death; to where he worked and the route he took to warn the Patriot troops that the Hessians would march against Fort Mercer (in current day National Park) in a surprise attack. Today, Jonas Cattell is revered as a legend and hero.

Here is my modern-day journey in his footsteps of “Old Eagle-Eye, the great…. Jonas Cattell.”

Fort Mercer and Jonas Cattell Plaque

Fort Mercer and Jonas Cattell Plaque

Jonas Cattell was born in the Lavender Hills section of Deptford Township, New Jersey in 1758. This is located near present-day Caulfield Avenue adjacent to Clements Bridge Road. Cattell was reportedly born to mixed-race parents making him half white and half Lenape. When he reached adulthood he was a rather tall fellow for this time period, measuring approximately 6’1″.

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Near the old Lavender Hills estate that Jonas Cattell once lived.

Jonas Cattell served as an apprentice blacksmith under John Middleton of Haddonfield, New Jersey. He traveled to work daily from his home in Deptford to Haddonfield by foot. In fact, it is rumored that he hated to ride horses. John Middleton’s home stood at the present location of the Haddonfield Memorial High School.

Haddonfield High School

Near the location where Jonas Cattell was an apprentice. Current day, Haddonfield Memorial High School.

Cattell was also an avid hunter and knew the trails extremely well. He not only hunted with the Old Gloucester Fox Hunting Club, but he maintained their kennels in Gloucester Town. The hunts often ended at the “Death Of The Fox Tavern” in Mount Royal. His skill as a tracker and hunter warranted folks paying good money to accompany him.

Death of a Fox Inn, Kings Highway, Gloucester County

Death of a Fox Inn, Kings Highway, Gloucester County

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The historical marker.

One of Cattell’s favorite hunting locations was in the Monroe Township, Williamstown and Blue Anchor areas, where the deer and fox were plentiful.

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Near the vicinity of Jonas’s favorite hunting grounds. This shows the area off Piney Hollow Road on the border of Monroe Township and near Blue Anchor.

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More possible hunting grounds in Winslow.

On October 21, 1777, about 2,500 Hessians arrived in Haddonfield, New Jersey during the evening via the Old Ferry Road on their way to Red Bank. Totally unexpected, The soldiers pitched their tents in a field owned by John Kay.

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Evans Mill Pond Dam in Wallworth Park.

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The vicinity in where the Hessians most-likely took Jonas Cattell prisoner on the night before the attack.

The Hessian captured Jonas and a number other men making them prisoner, forcing the Americans to stay all night by the campfire in the middle of the road near Evans Mill Pond (on the border between Haddonfield and Cherry Hill.) Cattell overheard the Hessians talking about the planned attack on Fort Mercer the very next morning.

The following morning, October 22, 1777, the Hessians released Jonas Cattell. He knew he had to arrive at Fort Mercer before the troops did to warn the garrison about the impending attack. Records indicate that Cattell assisted in building Fort Mercer. Even though he was young, Jonas already posessed great skill and solid education.

Jonas ran the entire 10 miles from Haddonfield to Red Bank.

There were only a few routes available to him. I am however, only going to describe one. I’m not stating it is the correct route because other people have speculated on the EXACT journey he took.

We know that the Americans had already destroyed the bridge at Big Timber Creek.

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One speculated Hessian route, I took this photograph map at National Park aka Fort Mercer. On the map it even states the Big Timber Creek bridge is destroyed.

He supposedly traveled from Kings Highway to Warwick Road and then Davis Road.

Haddonfield, New Jersey

Haddonfield, New Jersey.  Kings Highway.

Warwick Road, Haddonfield

Modern Warwick Road, Haddonfield.

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Through that forest there is near the starting of Big Timber Creek. The bank and ravine was too steep for me to travel any further.

He then crossed Big Timber Creek just east of Clements Bridge Road.

Cattell reputedly borrowed a boat from Isaiah Marpole’s estate near Timber Creek in the Clements Bridge area. The boat had previously suffered damage and it quickly filled with water, resulting in Jonas getting soaked. The boat all but sank by the time he reached the other side.

He then took Clements Bridge Road to Caulfield Avenue to Deptford Road.

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Caulfield Avenue, the area where Jonas Cattel maintained his farmstead.

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Deptford Avenue, today.

Then he traveled down Hessian Avenue all the way to Fort Mercer, probably arriving about 3 hours ahead of the Hessians. He accomplished his mission and warned Colonel Christopher Green of the pending surprise attack.

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Cannon at Fort Mercer.

National Park, New Jersey

Current grounds of Fort Mercer, in National Park, New Jersey with the Delaware River in the background.

Due to Cattell’s warning, the American forces lost only 37 soldiers while the British/Hessians suffered a full defeat with very high casualties. Funny thing was the American soldiers were outnumbered 3-1.

After this battle, Cattell returned home and spent the rest of his days hunting and being an active member of society. Jonas lived to be 91 years old at a time when a long life was unusual.

Cattell Cemetery sign

Cattell Cemetery sign.

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Jonas Cattell’s gravesite.

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Jonas Cattell Gravesite, Deptford, New Jersey

Jonas Cattell Gravesite, Deptford, New Jersey.

A commemorative Jonas Cattell Run occurs every year, to honor him starting on Mechanic Street at Kings Highway in Haddonfield.

Gibbs' Tavern, Haddonfield

Gibbs’ Tavern, Haddonfield. Where the annual honoring of Cattell’s race begins.

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Old Gibbs Tavern & Smithy.

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Jonas Cattell marker at the old tavern site on Kings Highway and Mechanic Street.

A man gone, but not forgotten. His patriotic fervor still burns in South Jersey.

With gratitude to my mentor, Jerseyman, for assisting me in this story. ~The Yummygal

11 thoughts on “Following the Footsteps of a New Jersey Legend, Jonas Cattell in the Modern World

  1. History is so fascinating! I only wish I loved it this much in high school 😉 Thanks for sharing this amazing local history lesson!

    • He was a cool dude from what I have read! He’s in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as well Pam. He traveled on a bet to Cape May and back 160 miles on foot, in just 2 days. The more I learn about this man, the more I admire him. There’s a tale of him getting swallowed by a shark. The shark gets caught and brought to shore in Bridgeton, New Jersey by fisherman. They cut open the shark and out walks Cattell. There are other crazy urban legends. However, due to his incredible knowledge of the area, I do think that he may have completed the Cape May bet.

      A really cool dude. Cooler than Davy Crockett in my book and he’s our Jersey legend!

      Connected by DROID on Verizon Wireless

      • Yeah, definitely cooler than Davy Crockett. He’s piqued my curiosity, and I’m definitely going to be researching him a bit!

        I want to read up on the ‘getting swallowed by a shark’ thing. It’s obviously not true, but still a cool local urban legend 😉

        • He made lemonade in the shark because he had lemons and brown sugar on hand as he was swallowed, haha. YOU HAVE GOT TO READ IT. It is hilarious. Also, about him riding the sturgeon. This is another “urban legend.” Hahaha.

      • Hi – What Ripley’s Believe It or Not is Jonas Cattell in? Atlantic City? Also what is Pam? I love your blog! So good to see that you restarted in 2018. Thanks!!

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