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Jordantown and Its Cemetery by Paul W. Schopp


Jordantown and Its Cemetery

by Paul W. Schopp

      Originally located on the road leading from Merchantville to Fork Landing (known today as Park Avenue), surveyors first laid out town plots in the small settlement of Jordantown on Rudderow land during 1840. Among the oldest ante-bellum African-American communities in Camden County, it developed around a camp meeting (or “bush meeting”) site. Evangelistic gatherings at this camp ground first began in the 1830s. The attendees held the meetings in the groves where the underbrush had been removed. Various derivations exist for the name ³Jordantown,² but the most plausible one stems from the old Negro Spiritual accolades of the River Jordan.

      Traveling along Park Avenue in 1846, one would have found five or six dwellings and an African Methodist Episcopal Church for the black residents of the area. The community grew slowly, but by 1885, the village consisted of a large grouping of homes, Bethel AME Church, and a school house. Today, the village extends along Park Avenue as well as along Haddonfield-Sorrel Horse Road.

      Tucked behind the former Grossman Lumber Co. store (now Christ's Bible Church) is a cemetery known variously as Jordan Lawn, Jordon Lawn or St. Martin's Cemetery. It is unclear when the local residents first established this cemetery, but it does contain the graves of at least 51 veterans from the Civil War and World War I. All of these men survived their battles and died of natural causes in later years.

      Most of the Civil War veterans served as Privates in various infantry companies and regiments of the United States Colored Troops. Joining the ranks of the Colored Troops was not a simple matter, since New Jersey did not raise any regiments for the U.S.C.T. The men traveled to Pennsylvania and joined the 22 nd , 24 th , and 25 th Regiments; they were trained at Camp William Penn in Cheltenham Township, outside of Philadelphia. The highest rank achieved among the men buried in Jordantown belonged to Benjamin J. Collins, who became a First Sergeant in Company I, 22 nd Regiment of the U.S.C.T. Sgt. Collins served from January 1864 until October 1865. Battles fought by the 22 nd Regiment all took place in Virginia and included: Chapin Farms, Dutch Gap, Fair Oaks, New Market Heights and the siege of Petersburg.

      Other veterans buried in this hallowed ground served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War aboard the U.S.S. Montauk and the U.S.S. Unadilla. Thomas Nicholas and Augustus Wescott served as Landsman on the U.S.S. Princeton. A Landsman held a rank below a Ordinary Seaman.

      There are thirteen World War I veterans buried at Jordantown. Most served as Privates in either the 153 or 154 Depot Brigade, supplying the front line troops with needed supplies. Two worked with Army Engineers, but two were members of the ³Pioneer² U.S. Infantry of the American Expeditionary Forces.



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