Title: Books provide glimpse of the past via highways
Author: Kristy Davies
Horse-drawn carriages, long dresses and dirt roads grace the pages of two books showcasing the history of the White Horse and Black Horse pikes.
The books, written by Jill Maser, 50, of the Blackwood section of Gloucester Township, reflect the rich history of the multiple towns along the pikes through a gallery of photos.
A man, sitting tall in a World War I uniform upon a horse along the Black Horse Pike when it was a dirt road, waits for a celebration for returning World War I soldiers.
Women in long dresses holding umbrellas can be seen strolling along the beaches of Atlantic City and trains chugging along tracks pulling into stations that no longer exist are also in the books.
"I've always been curious about what's underneath the surface," Maser said. "I've noticed historical markers around New Jersey and decided there has to be something I'm not seeing in this part of South Jersey. Why did people settle here? Why is this area so old? They had to be more than just roads to the shore."
Maser, a fiction author, worked with Arcadia Publishing as part of its Images of America series to publish the White Horse Pike book in 2005 and the Black Horse Pike book that hit shelves in September.
She began researching the White Horse Pike first.
"I started digging around and found it fascinating," Maser said. "I had no idea the area was so rich."
She searched through files and photos at local historical societies and solicited neighbors, friends and acquaintances to provide photos.
The pike towns were known as stops along the way to the shore and were originally used as trails for the Lenni Lenape Indians and later for covered wagons, horse-drawn carriages and eventually automobiles, which changed the shape of the corridors with gas stations and repair shops.
"Once I knew I was going to write the White Horse Pike book I knew I'd write the Black Horse Pike," she said. "You can't have one without the other."
The Black Horse Pike book took two years to complete because of a lack of sources.
"The Gloucester Township Historical Society was a valuable source for photos and pointing me to other people," Maser said. "I have a lot of generous neighbors who also talked to me and opened their photo albums to me."
An accidental meeting because of a lost cat, led Maser to neighbor Deborah Wood who then offered some of her family photographs for the Black Horse Pike book.
"My father grew up in Blackwood and his family had a farm when it was farmland before all the developments took over," said Wood, 56, of the Chews Landing section of Gloucester Township. "We had a lot of old pictures and stuff from the area. It was hard to recognize where they were because it was all open land. It was good to see the old pictures of my family when I was very, very young."
Wood donated photos of lakes in Blackwood and the Blackwood Orchestra.
A 1910 photo of 11 musicians with solemn faces shows the orchestra, which frequently played at Blackwood Lake to entertain vacationers.
The books also include photos of paper mills, homes, stores, families and the construction of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.