Any excuse to drop Leadbelly is a good one.
I went to the pine barrens to find an obscure and strange place knows as Brooksbrae Brick Co. It was really fun driving around looking for it – one of my very favorite things about urban exploration. Here’s the best synopsis of what Brookbrae is about.
“Not far from the remains of the Wheatland factory, just south along the railroad tracks, lay the remains of another site associated with the clay industry. These are the remains of the Brooksbrae Brick Company factory; the same remains that Henry Beck, in his Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey, called the Pasadena Terra Cotta Company. Incorporated in 1905 to manufacture bricks on behalf of the Adams Clay Mining Company, a firm that excavated clay from mines just a mile south along the railroad tracks, the Brooksbrae Brick Company erected a state-of-the-art factory on a small parcel of land near the failed development of Pasadena. In full operation it could have produced thousands of bricks per day. However, the factory never reached that potential. In fact, it is doubtful that the factory ever began operation at all. In 1908, the owner of the Brooksbrae Brick Company, William J. Kelly, died and due to a problem with his will, his entire estate was frozen and became embroiled in litigation for the next decade. The Brooksbrae factory was mothballed until the problem with the will could be sorted out.
In 1915, there was an interesting incident that began with the laborers from the Central Railroad of New Jersey going on strike at the Brooksbrae siding. The strike tied up the rail lines and attempts by railroad management were unsuccessful in easing the tensions. In response to this, agents for the Brooksbrae Brick Company sent a caretaker to the factory. However, during a cold night, the elderly caretaker and his wife lit a fire in their stove without checking or cleaning the chimney’s flue. Smoke backed-up into the house while the couple slept, and within hours it was ablaze. The next morning it was found in ashes by several workers from the nearby Bullock cranberry bogs. After an investigation it was determined an accidental death with no foul play involved. However, the locals in the area, remembering the strike several days earlier, insisted that murder and robbery was the real cause. When Henry Beck recorded his tales about Pasadena, it was this last tale, about murder, that he attached to name ‘Peggy Clevenger.’
The problem with William Kelly’s will had finally been figured out by 1918. Due to an escape clause, the estate could be sold as seen fit by the executors and, the Brooksbrae factory was one of the first pieces to go. After the tragic deaths at the factory, it was sold and never completed.”
I thinks it’s pretty damned cool to stumble upon ruins like this. I took some pretty pictures of the scenery, too. The pine barren trees are like no pine trees I ever came upon growing up in Washington State. It’s amazing how you’ll find a million acres (literally) of them in a small, yet most densly populated state in the union.