Batsto Country Living Fair

Bill Britton

Spectators 'fawning' over Bill Britton's half scale Little Deere.

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130 Serpentine, Dr. Bayville, New Jersey 08721

Mention the words 'New Jersey' and usually the larger cities such as Newark and 'Joisey' City come to mind with people and cars bustling to and fro and pavement as far as the eye can see. This is a common misconception about the Garden State. It is true that along with the rest of the nation our state has been experiencing a decline in the amount of farmland and countryside, yet there are still some country places where one can have a nice day's outing. One of these getaways is Historic Batsto Village in Batsto, New Jersey.

Located in the central southern part of the state, Batsto came to prominence as an iron ore producer during the American Revolution and thus contributed to America's entry into the Industrial Age. Batsto produced what was then commonly referred to as 'bog iron'. This was iron ore that was literally scooped out of the bogs and wetlands that cover much of this area.

The creation of these ore beds is a complicated natural process. Iron rich aquiferous water would slowly pass through a swamp and mixing with the abundant decayed vegetable matter of the swamp would release these 'iron salts' into this organic matter. This brown sediment would settle to the bottom of the bog.

The one drawback of this renewable resource was that the percentage of iron to ore was not as high as the other methods of mining that were soon to follow. As a result, Batsto could not compete financially with the more efficient mining operations that began to develop in Pennsylvania. By the outbreak of the Civil War, Batsto had' ceased iron production altogether. Fortunately, much of this colonial iron works has been preserved or restored by our state park system.

On Sunday, October 20, 1991 Batsto held its Annual Country Living Fair. The day's activities included historic tours, colonial crafts, blacksmithing, cider making, shingle making, carpentry, food booths and flea markets, antique autos and nearly 200 gas and steam engines, models, tractors, and equipment on display. The weather was perfect and drew a crowd in excess of 30,000. Many of the visitors at the show were 'flatlanders' (Snuffy Smith's word for city folks). Most were viewing antique engines for the first time and had plenty of questions.

Our club, the Pinelands Antique Engine Association, was happy to be a part of this show for the second year. We enjoy sharing this hobby with the public and with fellow collectors from all over New Jersey.

If you enjoy visiting historical places and are a gas engine nut to boot, why not join us at Batsto on October 18, 1992? For information, please write or call me at (908) 269-6580.