Perhaps there was a racetrack nearby?
Maybe a European settler had ridden a white horse down the road in the early days of West Jersey?
Or maybe it's a ghost horse, the Camden County equivalent of the Jersey Devil?
The answer, as I discovered, came from much farther back than the opening of the Garden State Park Racetrack in Cherry Hill (which was on another road, altogether). Chartered as a toll road in 1854, the White Horse Pike originally ran about 14 miles from Camden to the village of White Horse, which had taken the name of the tavern at its center. The White Horse Inn had been built in 1740 along a footpath the Lenapes had reportedly used as their road between the Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean. It's been theorized that the inn's owner, Elizabeth Bates, named her establishment for the natives' horses.
Scanning the roadside at highway speed can be daunting, even when you have to stop occasionally for traffic lights. I saw a muffler man hawking tires in Clementon, but beyond that, it was the usual assortment of chain drug stores, fast food joints and assorted mom-and-pop emporia. Some of those looked pretty old, but nowhere near colonial-era old.
|The Quaker Store in Stratford. Nice porch!|
Still, though: if the Quaker Store was the longest-standing building in the community, that meant the White Horse Inn wasn't to be found. Indeed, later research revealed that it was torn down in the 1970s to make room for a strip mall, likely the one where I stopped to take the photo above.
|The White Horse, in Hammonton|
The road had gotten really quiet by the time I drove reached the town limits of Hammonton, the self-proclaimed Blueberry Capital of the World. Traffic undoubtedly picks up substantially during growing season, but in early March there wasn't much going on. When I pulled into the lot of the quiet White Horse Farms to take a photo, I saw a red-tailed hawk dive toward the center stripe of the road and swoop up to perch on the adjacent roadside utility line. Something tells me he does that a lot, without consequence.
At least I found the White Horse, even if it wasn't the one I expected to see. And I discovered quite a few targets for pick-your-own during blueberry season. Elizabeth White would be quite satisfied.