Mr. Don Catts is our local historian. On this page you will find some of Don’s accomplishments as well as some of his recent projects.
But who is Don Catts? Don is originally from Gloucester City, NJ. After hunting and exploring the Pine Barrens for many years, he moved to Shamong in 1971. A retired construction engineer, he has been a charter member and supporter of the Indian Mills Historical Society since its inception in1973, he has been studying and exploring Shamong Township, playing an active role in recording the history of the community. He was the chairmen of the first Atsion Day, Chairman of Still Cemetery Project and has served as historical society treasurer, vice president, and editor of the “Indian Mills Historical Society Newsletter“.
Don received four awards from the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders History Recognition Program for Historic Website in2008, Historical Landmarks of Shamong Townshipmap in 2009, Historic Village of Atsion Map in 2016, discovery and mapping of the Lost Settlement of East Fruitland in 2017. His latest accomplishment is the building of a scale model of the historic “Half Moon and Seven Stars Tavern“. Through many years of archaeological work at the tavern site and researching its history, he has constructed a visual portrayal of this isolated pinelands tavern of the early 1800s.
When the the Indian Mills Historical Society was founded in 1973, one of the first projects on the agenda was to identify the historic sites in Shamong township and place a marker at each location. A whole separate page has been developed for the historical markers which can be found here.
Don has been working on a model of the Half Moon and Seven Stars Tavern, later known as The Flyatt Tavern. Click on the download link below to bring up a PDF of this project.
A beautifully framed deed of a cedar swamp in Shamong Township is the latest acquisition of the Indian Mills Historical Society, thanks to the quick action of Neil Wilkinson. See additional pictures of the deed here.
The 1.79 acre Cedar swamp called “ROUND” was part of a larger tract of swamp land owned by William Dyer and William Braddock who purchased it from David Evans. Richard Leeds bought the cedar swamp for $50, a fair price for 1.79 acres of cedar in 1877. Harvesting cedar was a major industry of the Pine Barrens in the 1800s.
Today the entire tract is a tax exempt property owned by the Township of Shamong. It lies just off Forked Neck Road directly across from the Dingletown Sports Complex, which at one time was Dr. Charles Ridgway’s Farm (See Map).
As soon as I read “southeast corner of Doctor Ridgway Farm”, I knew exactly where the cedar swamp was located. About forty six years ago, I surveyed the Ridgway farm for the Indian Mills Athletic Society who was planning to build athletic fields on the property. See The Original Dingletown Ballpark.
While surveying, I noticed a cellar hole on the property. That Saturday morning, my friend, the late Bob Jones, and I returned to explore the cellar hole. Now back in those days, our minds were not entirely on historical artifacts, we were actually digging for Captain Kidd’s Treasure or something like it. Unfortunately, we did not find Captain Kidd’s Treasure, but we did find many artifacts to indicate an 1800’s country doctor’s practice. Most of the artifacts were lost when Bob passed away. However, I did save some items. The house had apparently burned down; everything in the cellar hole was charred from the fire. The cellar hole was filled with broken jugs, ceramic pottery and many containers of all kinds.
Dr. Charles Ridgway was born in August 1824 in Sharptown, Salem Co. NJ. He practiced medicine for many years in Mullica Twp., Atlantic County. In 1859, the doctor married Sarah Jane Weeks of Weekstown, Galloway Township, in Atlantic County, NJ. They relocated to Forked Neck Road, which was called Dingletown Road at the time, in Shamong Township. Sarah Jane’s brother Asa was already living on Dingletown Road. When Dr. Ridgway died on May 14, 1862, his wife Sarah Jane and their three children moved to Camden, NJ.
Richard Giberson and Jim Sheasley obtained a 99 years lease on the property at Dingletown Road from the Township. The fields were designed by Bill Foster, Denny Burger and Don Catts, at Don’s kitchen table. The plans and sign were drawn by Don Catts with plywood and paint donated by Fritz Miller, while many local contractors donated materials and labor. The sign stood on site (mid 1970s) during the original construction. As the project plans expanded, a Green Acres grant was obtained resulting in design changes.
A question came up about the name Dingletown Sports Complex.
Dingletown was a very small settlement in Shamong Township. Although you will not find it on any map, local residents knew it well when I moved here in 1971.
When work started on the ballfields on Dingletown Road (Forked Neck Road today) Billy Foster and Donny Wells were calling it the Dingletown Field because it was in the section of Dingletown Road known as Dingletown.
It was suggested that Dingletown may have been a black community, named for a man named Dingle. There were several black families living in the area at one time however, none were named Dingle. After an extensive search for Dingletown and the name Dingle through the federal census records, deeds at the County Clerk’s Office, and local historical Societies, I could not find anyone, African American or otherwise, that lived in Shamong with the name Dingle. Some deeds I read did mention “the public road leading from Indian Mills to Dingletown”, todays Forked Neck Road.
It was also suggested that it was named after Dingletown, Ireland and that may be true. I had the same thought; however, with no record of anyone in the area ever coming from Dingletown, Ireland, it is just speculation.
We may never solve the mystery of Dingletown, but we know for sure it is a part of the history of Shamong Township.