A spidery-looking lighthouse still stands at the end of the road that led out to my grandfather’s farm in Salem County, New Jersey. This is the Finns Point Rear Range Lighthouse, standing at the intersection of Fort Mott Road and Lighthouse Road. The lighthouse was constructed in Buffgalo, New York, and transported to Pennsville, New Jersey by trains and mule wagons. It was then erected on its present site in 1875 as a navigational aid on the Delaware River and Bay. The Finns Point Front and Rear Range Lights served as an important aid at a point of entry and exit between the Delaware Bay and River for maritime traffic moving up and down the river. In 1950, after the Army Corps of engineers dredged the river channel to 800-feet wide and 40-foot depth, the finns Point Range lights became obsolete. the Front Range Light was demolished in the 1930s and replaced by an automated light in 1983. The Rear Range Light was restored in 1983 by a group of local citizens and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
If one turns northwest at the intersection in front of the Rear Range Light, the road leads out to Rt. 49. A left-turn there on Rt. 49 leads to Pennsville and onward to Deepwater where the DuPont Chambers Works is situated. A right-turn from Lighthouse Road where it intersects with Rt. 49 leads one to Salem. A point of interest in Salem is the old Salem Oak Tree. The town of Salem was incorporated in 1695.
By the Rear Range Light, if one continues on Fort Mott Road, the road leads out to the Civil War era Finn’s Point Cemetery and historic Fort Mott. One of my grandfather’s relatives, Mathis Eller, lies buried at Finn’s Point Cemetery.
Originally from North Carolina, that “Johnnie Reb” was taken prisoner at the Battle of Gettysburg. He died in the prison located on Pea-Patch Island, just across the river, while the Civil War continued to rage. Finn’s Point Cemetery is also the last resting place of Charles E. West, a relative of my grandmother. He too was from North Carolina. Today they are among 2,345 Confederate prisoners who died in Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island and were buried at Finn’s Point.
On May 9, 1997, William Reese, a caretaker at Finns Point Cemetery, was shot by a serial killer, Andrew Cunanan. Cunanan, who had previously murdered at least three other men, killed Mr. Reese who was working in this lonely spot, stole his car and drove to Miami, Florida. While in Miami Cunanan then murdered designer Johnny Versace.