Hidden Graveyard and Trading Post and Growing Up in Cranbury

This page is created verbatim from an email received from Crystal Van Kirk.

My name is Crystal Van Kirk. The only town I call my home is Cranbury. I've lived here, and have been a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury my whole life (only 21 years). My mother has also lived here her whole life. Her maiden name is Heagele. My Grandparents, Stella and Raymond, moved to New Jersey from Georgia (Stella) and Philadelphia (Raymond) after they were married. They originally purchased the old Keisler Farm located at the bend on Millstone Road. They sold that farm to Mr. Keisler and bought a farm house on Old Trenton Road just at the border of Cranbury and East Windsor.

The back portion of that farm house is an Indian Trading Post used by the Lene Lenape tribe.

My Grandparents then built their own house just next door. They grew Tomatoes for the old Campbell's Soup factory in Camden. I've also been told by many of the elders of the town that they had the best Sweet Corn around. Eventually my grandfather got sick and passed on. The farm became unmanageable and had to be sold.

That land was sold to Windsor Mills apartments. The reason I'm writing you has to do with the woods behind my house. As you must know, the Millstone river is one of the main dividers for Cranbury/East Windsor border. Well the Millstone river was also the lifeline for the Indians that resided here before us, which made it a great place to settle. Back by the river there is a path that can lead you to the recent Lockheed Martin building. If you venture slightly off of the path, you may stumble into some rocks. But these aren't just rocks, they are headstones. There's just a few, but some date back to 1500 and 1600's. We are pretty sure that these headstones marked the graves of Indians and slaves. We are not really sure who they are, but their rest was about to be disturbed.

When Lockheed Martin sold the building and the land, the graves were included. The demolition crew was mapping out the area which was to be flattened and the grave sites were in that perimeter. Mr. Keisler heard of what was going on and let people know that there was a piece of our history laying back there peaceful and unnoticed. I think the only people that knew about that were the people that grew up exploring and playing in those woods like myself. I remember as a little girl running back there all year round. When the grave sites were first pointed out to me, I didn't quite understand the meaning of them and just thought that they were "neat". But as I grew older and began to understand history and what it means to all of us today, I can now appreciate and treasure this little piece of American History in my back yard.

The property has now been donated to East Windsor township. They plan on building a township park so that everyone may enjoy and explore what I have always seen and learned. I also want people to learn about what this area has to offer and appreciate it rather than abuse it, we won't be here long enough to enjoy it. We must hold it close to our hearts and protect it.

As for the old Indian Trading post next door to my house, that has been abused and taken advantage of. I don't believe that once the house is vacated, it would be livable or even able to be fixed up. I'm saddened every time I look at the house and then remember the pictures of it from when my Grandmother was in her youth. This house should have been acknowledged and respected as an important part of our history, but now, no one will ever have a chance to see. It is just a shame. Hopefully, people will be able to visit the grave sites in the woods so they can experience all the emotions that I have the first time I realized what a treasure we have right here. At this moment in time, the paths are inaccessible from anywhere except private property, I'm hoping that will change.

Another thing that I would like all the true Cranbury residents to remember are the summers. Do you remember looking into the sky over the big open farm space and seeing those beautiful hot air balloons? I do, and I remember Peg Davison, the woman who let them go up in her fields. I also remember her having the time of her life going up in them. God bless you Mrs. D!!!! Michelle, I would just like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some of my memories growing up around Cranbury. I know that this is for Cranbury and this is in E. Windsor, but this is just a couple hundred yards from Cranbury. Sincerely, Crystal Van Kirk crystal@eurolink-systems.com

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