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The Oldmans Creek Preserve



[From Historic Village of Auburn, Courtesy of Frances Quigley, Associated Printers, July 1978. With additions]


The town of Auburn was originally settled by Swedes and Finns who had large farms spread far from each other but often close to waterways that flowed to the Delaware River.  When the English crown gained control of South Jersey in the 16th century, migration by English Quakers increased substantially.  Auburn was part of the Penn’s Neck region that was held by the English Quaker, John Fenwick, who later transferred these lands to William Penn who, in turn, sold the lands to various owners. 


The town had several names over the decades.  The first appears to be Duel’s (or Dewell’s) Landing, due to the location of a landing on Oldmans Creek at the Salem Road (now Auburn Rd.) that was operated by Thomas Duel and which dates from at least 1758 and possibly earlier.  A bridge crossing Oldmans Creek from Woolwich was probably first established in 1743.  It is in this period that various businesses were established near the landing, forming a commercial community.


By 1779 the town was known as Lockhartstown and then, by 1802, it was known as Wrightstown.  By about 1820 it was called Sculltown and, finally, in 1864 the name became Auburn.  The first three names – Lockhart, Wright and Scull were the names of successive large landowners in Auburn.  

The house itself is known as the Gideon Scull house, after the landowner for whom the town was named for a time.  It was built in 1790 although the back portion of the house is earlier.  That section has undergone modification and no longer has its original fireplace although it does have walls and doors that date from an early period.  The front of the house did not have a porch originally, but a porch is visible in a 1914 photo, and is no longer present.  The house is federal in style and has many original interior features that remain. The large post and beam barn dates from 1800 and was moved to the property from its original home by Charles MacKannan.


From 1913 to 1938, the property was used as a summer residence for the Andrew Selak family.  Rebecca Selak sold it to the Cumberland County Boy Scout Council in 1938.  Named Camp Kimble in honor of Col. Evan Kimble of Vineland, it remained as a Boy Scout camp until 1967 when the Charles MacKannan family of Pitman purchased the property and developed a family campground known as Auburn Hills.  Families from all states as well as Canada, Europe, Australia, and various other countries vacationed here. The MacKannans ran the Auburn Hills Campground until 1982. 


The MacKannan family’s vision for seeing the property preserved forever was the impetus for the acquisition of the land by the South Jersey Land & Water Trust (SJLWT).  In partnership with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Conservation Resources Inc., and the state Green Acres Program, SJLWT preserved the Oldmans Creek Preserve Auburn Hills in the fall of 2009.  It now houses the offices of SJLWT.  


In 2021, the adjacent 30-acres on the Preserve’s southern side, part of the Homan-Mattson farm, was acquired by SJLWT and increased the Preserve’s size by over 75 percent.  That farm was established in the 1850s. Mr. Ralph Homan remembers his Mattson grandmother telling him that when his great grandfather operated the farm, produce was transported to the Oldmans Creek and placed on barges that could carry it to the Delaware River and across.  Later, the produce was transported to Swedesboro to the “Produce Auction.”

The Homan-Mattson land was acquired by SJLWT as public open space and wildlife habitat by a partnership of SJLWT, the state Green Acres Program, and the NJ Office of Natural Resources Restoration.  The property provides additional habitat for the region’s native and migratory bird populations as well as supporting other native wildlife, and it helps to protect the water quality of the Oldmans Creek.


21 Main St, Swedesboro, NJ 08085


The OCP is open from dawn to dusk

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