Saddler's Woods is a 25.8 acre, old growth forest fragment
which provides a good example of what the landscape looked like when
European settlers arrived. Before European settlers arrived, the area
around Newton Creek was inhabited by the Leni Lenape Native American
tribes. The landscape was heavily forested around the creek area. A
Leni Lenape trail running between the ferry at Cooper's Point in Camden
and Haddonfield is now Haddon Avenue.
When Europeans first arrived in the area known today as Haddon Township,
(in the early 1600ís) the forests which covered New Jersey were cleared
for farms, pastures, residential and commercial use and timbered for
lumber and fuel. As the trees disappeared, the ecosystem of the forest
was badly compromised.
Born 1785, Died 1880
Descendants of Joshua Saddler and the Haddon Township
Historical Society are currently researching the story of Joshua Saddler
and new information and changes to some records will be ongoing as we
learn more about Joshua Saddler.
Records show that Jonathan Fisher was Joshua Saddler's
son-in-law and not an alias for Joshua himself.
We do know that in the early 1800s a fugitive slave,
Joshua Saddler escaped from a Maryland plantation. He reached New Jersey
and soon found work with Josiah or "Cy" Evans, a local Quaker
farmer. Upon learning of his new employer's negative feelings on slavery,
Joshua Saddler told him of his escape.
Mr. Evans received word of inquiries being made about Joshua by his
old master, who was in New Jersey on business. Mr. Evans feared for
Joshua's safety and eventually was able to bargain with the plantation
owner to sell him the runaway slave for a rather small sum. This act
secured Joshua's safety and freedom. Later, Joshua repaid Mr. Evans
the sum of his "freedom" money.
Joshua did well in the area and purchased plot and built
a small house on a wooded lot. As word spread of the new haven, other
African-Americans came and built homes. In time, a town was formed and
named "Saddlertown" in honor of Joshua Saddler.
Joshua Saddler gave protection to his wooded property in his will, stating
that none of his heirs could cut the timber down. For this conservation
ethic, the woods next to Saddlertown was named in Joshua's honor in
January of 2004.
Nearby, historic Rhoades Chapel was built by Quakers as a school for
African - American children.
Historic Rhoads Chapel
Found in Saddler's Woods
Although this jug
has Mineral Water imprinted on it, it was not used for water,
but rather for whiskey. Minnehaha means "laughing water" a sometimes
slang term for whiskey. This piece was found in the stream of
the woods after a summer storm, 2003. It dates to 1869-1887,
the years that Thomas Martindale and William Johnston worked
together as "Importers, Grocers, Wine and Spirit Merchants"
at 10th & Market Street in Philadelphia.
*source Jane Brahms
During the 1970's the woods were
earmarked for high rise apartments. Haddon Township high school student
Doug Hefty studied the forest and presented then -owner, Samuel Oshiver,
with an ecology report of the woods. Oshiver was so impressed with Doug's
findings that he decided not to develop the tract, limiting the development
of the Haddon View high rise apartments to across MacArthur Boulevard.
In June of 1987 ,over 300 residents attend a Township
meeting to protest the proposed a townhome development by Rosengarten
Development company. The planning and zoning board looked favorably
upon the development as an income stream for the Township.
Opposition to the townhome development was lead by
"The H -Team", a group of citizen activists who worked vigorously
to thwart the development. The H-Team, lead by Hugh Williams,George
Ames, Howard Rementer, Helene Williams,Carol McConnville, Elizabeth
Westcott, Bill Brahms, and Jane Brahms gathered petitions and contacted
government agencies such as the Army corps of Engineers to bring attention
to the wetland features in the woods. By January of 1988, the Mayor
and Commissioners began to back off of the plan to develop townhomes
citing the need to further study impacts to traffic, sewage treatment
capacities and water supply .
In 1990 the Township applied for Green Acres
funds to purchase the woods for recreation purposes.
In 1999,with Green Acres funds, the Township
purchased 15.3 acres of the land with the intention of developing athletic
fields. The Diocese of Camden owns the other 10.5 acres behind the Paul
VI School Fields. Several environmental and civic organizations ban
together to oppose development. The Newton Creek Watershed Association,
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, The Saddlertown Civic Association,
www.macarthurwoods.com, The HaddonLeigh Neighbors, The Green Valley
Tennis Club , The Haddonview Tenants Association, and The Audubon Wildlife
Society all played an active role in opposing development.
In February, 2002 Mathew Largess, an old growth expert and arborist
from Rhode Island, Dr. Whitmer of the Academy of Natural Sciences in
Philadelphia, and Dave Johnson, a forester for NJ DEP division of Parks
and forestry, aged several trees and determined that some of the forest
is old growth, with several trees over 150 years old. It was also determined
that the younger portion provides a protective buffer for the old growth
trees and that development on the secondary growth portion of the tract
would further the negative impacts to the remaining old growth ecosystem.
On Earth Day, April 22, 2003, with over 1800 petitions to preserve
the site, Haddon Township's Mayor and Commissioners adopted a Conservation
Easement drafted by environmental commission representative and candidate,
Kathy Hogan. The conservation easement preserves the Township owned
portion of the woods in perpetuity. The decision, made during a heated
election, ended the 3 year struggle to prevent athletic field development.
An ad hoc committee was then formed to investigate artificial turf to
improve existing township fields.
In January, 2004 Haddon Township formally named the area Saddler's
Woods in honor of Joshua Saddler, a runaway slave who wrote into his
will that , "none of the timber shall be cut thereon".
In June, 2004 Maggi Downham, David Jacobs and
Janet Goehner - Jacobs, founded the Saddler's Woods Conservation Association
to further care for the woods so many had worked so hard to save.
Today , over a thousand visitors every year enjoy
the woods for volunteer activities, tours or simple passive recreation.