Note: Click each picture to see it in full size.
MY SUMMER VACATIONS AT THE BATSTO MANSION
by Elizabeth Brown Pezzuto
A PRIVATE PLACE
I HAD CONNECTIONS
THE WAY IT WAS
ROUTINE AT THE MANSION
CHILDHOOD PLAY AND FANCIES
SPECIAL EVENTS AND TIMES
Anna Belle Bozarth,
and Little Howard Bozarth
Aunt Belle and Uncle Josh
| I HAD CONNECTIONS
My aunt and uncle were caretakers at the mansion
during the 1930s
and 40s. They were my father's sister and brother, Annabelle Brown Bozarth
(Aunt Belle) and Joshua Brown (Uncle Josh). Aunt Belle's husband,
William Bozarth (Uncle Will), was also a caretaker until he passed away in
1939. They lived in the lower level of the mansion.
Anna Belle Bozarth
THE WAY IT
Aunt Belle cleaned all 32 rooms of the mansion by
herself. In addition,
since Uncle Josh had a heavy workload, she helped him by mowing the
lawn. In the summertime, help arrived in the form of nieces and nephews.
My parents, Leon Abbott Brown and Myrtle Mae Gale Brown, had six children
- myself, Virginia Mae, Emma Pearl, Mildred Margaret, Leon Abbott, Jr. and
George Preston Brown. We lived on Weymouth road in DaCosta. These were
hard times, especially for a family of six children. We did our share to help
our parents by picking blueberries from June until September, for the Atlantic
Blueberry Company, now one of the world's largest blueberry farmers. From
the time I was 7 years old until my late teens, I would take turns with my
sisters and brothers and spend one week at the mansion to help Aunt Belle.
Believe me, we were so happy to be there and to have the run of the mansion,
that we were on our very best behavior.
While at the mansion, we girls helped Aunt Belle with dusting, mopping or running
errands. We would bounce over to the village to borrow a cup of sugar or milk.
As was the custom in those days, when the groceries arrived, those borrowed items
were immediately returned with added thanks. Some of the families we borrowed from were Aunt Florrie and Charley Simpson, Mr. and Mrs. Harley Toomey, the Leonard
Ford family, Annie Ballinger and Mary Gaskill, to name a few. There were a few work hands for jobs down in the village. They did carpentry and fixed whatever broke. I was told the dam broke one or two times in the middle of the night and,of course, this was an alarming situation. Everyone, who could come to help, was there. ROUTINE AT THE MANSION Uncle Josh kept all the grounds around the mansion neatly manicured.
He cut all the tall grass and weeds by hand with a scythe. I remember
that he always had a wheelbarrow or handsaw in his hands. They were
his main tools - nothing modern, of course. Don't think we kids didn't take
advantage of that wheelbarrow. Into it we would go and no matter how
much we got in his way, he never made a fuss. Even when he was exhausted,
he would give us piggyback rides. We would also go down to the "round" pond,
which he cleaned out with a regular rake.
THE HORSE BARN
I recall he created this pond as a watering hole for the horses.
I also recall that he had to keep the huge water tank in the mansion
filled to the brim. I even remember seeing it overflow one time.
We would go with Uncle Josh to the gates to make sure they were raked
out nice and clean. These are located right across Washington road.
The two other men I remember, who worked as hard as Uncle Josh, were
Carlton Gaskill and Leonard Ford.Once a day, in the early evening, we would go down to the "piggery" and
feed about 40 cats and kittens. They were good to have around as they
kept down the number of rats and mice, etc. What rascals they were!
They were feral cats that attacked our legs as we walked by. When he was alive, Uncle Will had a vegetable garden and Uncle Josh carried on with it.
I had so much fun picking tomatoes for the house, or just eating them.
One day I picked one, held it up to check for rot, and found myself staring
at a black widow spider! It was the only one that I have ever seen. It was jet
black with an orange hourglass shape under its body.
Brrr! I shiver at the thought of it!
BATSTO SPY HOUSE ,
"AUNT" FLORRIE SIMPSON AND "BUFFY"
I also recall that the icehouse was still in good use. The ice
was laid neatly down in rows with straw or hay. Uncle Josh
would score out a nice chunk, pick it up with ice tongs, and into
the icebox it would go. At one time, they used to make their own
ice, but when I was there, the Wescott Ice House of Hammonton
delivered the ice. At the close of the day, Uncle Josh would sit in his
Morris chair and meditate. That is, if we weren't on the arm of the chair, or
if he wasn't petting his lap dog. When it was time to go to bed, out came
all the kerosene lamps.
My sister Emma and I, Aunt Belle, Uncle Josh, and Granny Bakely
(who was the mother of the lady we called Aunt Florrie--who lived across
the water in the "spy" house), went to bed early and at the same time.
Granny Bakely was a nice lady who had trouble with her legs and who sat
quietly in the parlor. While sitting there, she taught me how to hand crochet
edges on handkerchiefs with a tiny needle. I still have some in all colors, which
she made. Emma and I, Aunt Belle, and Granny, slept on the third and fourth
floors. Uncle Josh went on up another flight, up a winding staircase. This was
the only time it seemed a bit eerie to me. We were very familiar with the flickering shadows cast by the lamps and we would make shadows of animal figures on the
wall with our hands.
PLAY AND FANCIES
One thing I distinctly remember my Uncle Will
saying was that
he had seen the Jersey Devil. This was a kind of matter-of-fact
thing to him, as he was no fabricator. He was a "facts only man."
He said it looked mostly like a kangaroo, as it took great leaps; the body
was furry. He even had me look for it out of the dining room window,
facing the woods. Well, I wanted to believe him, but I later learned
differently from a newspaper clipping under his death notice.
From the dining room window, mentioned above, one could see the
outside privy. This was a well-constructed building, and it was a six seater
- considered a rich man's privy. There were four adult seats and two children's.
I mean seats, not holes. In my early years at the mansion, we had only
the Sears Roebuck catalog as toilet tissue, but in the 1940s we had regular toilet tissue.
One summer, when I stayed at the mansion with my sister Ginny,
we were allowed to play table tennis on the dining room table.
(Believe it or not, this same table was always so beautifully laid out
when the Christmas teas were held until a few years ago.) While playing,
if Ginny and I heard people walking on the grounds, we would watch to see
if they were getting close to the house to peek in the windows,
just like they do today. That was when we loved to pretend the mansion was haunted. We would grab some of the throw pillows from the chairs and hide
under the windowsills. Then, when we heard the people talk as they looked
through the windows, we would toss the pillows up in the air and give them a jolt. As Kids, we thought this was fun!
There was a very comfortable large hammock type swing on the
grounds facing Washington road. It was made of heavy-duty canvas;
it had a flap that could be tied up by two large grommets in order to
take a snooze or drop it for a casual swing. It held four children easily;
we had many chats and songfests there.
One of the most fantastic memories I have of summers spent at the mansion
is of a large, beautiful green and yellow parrot called "Polly." Her most prolific
subject was "Belle." Whenever someone asked her "Where is Belle?" she would squawk out, "Belle's upstairs!" Yes, throughout the years, someone taught her some choice words. I forgot what they were, but she used to belt them out.
remember a beautiful brown and white horse named Bobbie.
We were allowed to feed him apples; he was so gentle.
I have a nice picture of Aunt Belle petting him.
There were also two mules called Pete and Jack. We didn't try to get cozy with them because they were too spunky.
I also remember a nice German shepherd called Nellie. She was great with children and wouldn't even bark as protection.
EVENTS AND TIMES
Hurricane hazel of 1946 was one storm I'll always
Just when we thought the storm had passed, and the sun was shining, there was a vivid flash of lightning that hit the mansion. It knocked the telephone and
wires out of the dining room wall. Then it went through the wall to the kitchen,
and the room facing the ice house. Suddenly, it knocked this great, thick splash board,
at the big double sink, across the room. Finally, it almost hit me, as I was sitting on a big pretzel can. Well I couldn't hear properly for a long time! It seems that it hurt one of my eardrums, because everything sounded as if it were coming from a deep well!
There was a family named Simpson, who had a really nice rope and wood seated swing. This was on a huge Elm tree limb, on their grounds. Hazel took that tree down with a roaring crash, roots and all. It was believed that the tree was at least 100 years old.
One of the best times I waited for, each summer, was when
the Wharton and Lippincott families (I believe they were the owners)
held their annual family reunion at Batsto. What a crowd! There were
perhaps 20 to 30 green canoes they carried down to the river. There
were people everywhere, lounging about on the lawns and picnicking.
We weren't allowed to mingle with them, so we stayed in our section
of the mansion. After they left, we had some good left-over canned food,
we were allowed to eat at our leisure. Most of the time they were there,
we were allowed to play the piano that was in the sitting room.
We learned to play "Chopsticks", "You are My Sunshine", and the "Old Rugged Cross."
In the main parlor, where we were most of the time, there was an old player piano.
We put in a piano roll and listened to some very nice old - time music.
for Batsto ---
The two ladies you see here, beside the plane, are
"Granny" Bakely and Aunt Belle.
The real reason why the plane landed is not clear to me,
but I believe it just needed fuel! Note the gas tank on the left.
Yes, Batsto was pretty up-to-date with necessities.
It landed just South of the kitchen.
(Photo taken July 29, 1940)
After Aunt Belle passed away, a beautiful couple,
Clarence and Julia Herman,
with their daughter Lois (photo below), cared for the Mansion for several years.
my sister Mildred passed away in January 1997, she gave me
a recipe that Aunt Belle had written in her "Olde English style" handwriting.
It was for a coffee cake which Aunt Belle baked in a wood stove, since that
is all there was in the mansion at the time. I made this cake in my gas stove;
it came out fine.
This is the recipe:
Aunt Belle's Coffee Cake
2c. brown sugar, 2t. cinnamon
1c. butter, 2t. cloves
1c. molasses, 1t. grated nutmeg
4 eggs, 1lb. raisins
1c. strong coffee, 4c. flour
1t. baking soda
Cream butter and sugar. Add molasses, the lightly beaten eggs and
coffee. In a separate bowl combine the sifted flour, spice and raisins. Mix all the
ingredients together. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Aunt Belle was a
very good cook; this was yummy.
I always associate the bible, as well as the cookbook, with Aunt Belle.
Every evening that I saw her, she read passages from the Bible faithfully,
and went to her knees to count her blessings. The fondest memories I have
of Aunt Belle, and my days at Batsto, was getting up on Sunday morning,
and putting on my best dress. Then I walked over the old bridge and through the village.
After walking up to the Pleasant Mills road, I attended services at the Batsto Pleasant Mills Church.
This quaint church, built in 1808, still holds services, to this day, under the pastorate of the Reverend Susan Flicker.
|During the 1950s, a lamppost in front of that church was dedicated in the name of Annabelle Bozarth; a beautiful memorial to Aunt Belle.|