History of American Towns-Timbucktoo, not African Timbuktu, in NJ new discovery in Timbuctoo

Founded by Blacks

Timbuctoo was founded by freed blacks and escaped slaves with the support of local Quakers in the 1820’s. The name may have been from Timbuktu in Mali.It was also part of the Underground Railroad. Because of that it has been a secretive sort of place. In the middle of the 19th Century the town had 125 residents, a school, an African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and a cemetery. According to the 1860 census there were 150 residents and 37 dwellings.

It is identified in the U.S. Census as the “Village of Timbuctoo” as an entity within Westhampton Township in 1880. It is about a 45-minute drive northeast of Philadelphia.

The primary thing remaining is the cemetery containing the remains of black Civil War Veterans. Some of the residents and landowners have roots as far back as the early 20th Century.   At least two families are descendents of the original settlers.

Underground railroad mounument

Source

Map of Underground Railroad

Picture is in public domain because copyright has expired.
Picture is in public domain because copyright has expired.

Timbuctoo has been getting some recent attention because of an archeological excavation. A house buried under a hill or what appears to have been a house. Such artifacts as the clasp of a handbag, Mason jars and a Dixie Peach Pomade jar were among the bricks that broke away from the foundation, according to an article in The Washington Post August 3, 2010.

David Orr. A classical archaeologist and professor of Anthropology at Temple University said that the buried community has the potential to be a very important find in African American History, the Post reports. A geophysical survey leads archaeologists to believe the foundations of a whole village are buried under layers of dirt. There may be 18 houses and a church.

It was in June that the Temple University archaeologists began excavating the hill next to the Civil War cemetery where African American troops are buried. The artifacts are fragile ordinary things of everyday living. Things like jars for medicines and cosmetics.

Although this site in Timbuctoo has been known for years but it was when a black mayor of the township of Westampton, Sidney Camp pursued a geophysical survey that the excavation began. There has been much more interest in such projects as some prominent black academics, politicians and museums on African American history has developed in recent years.

“They are, they say, unearthing evidence not only of lives endured in slavery, but also of whole communities of escaped slaves hiding in small, self-sufficient communities.” According to the Post. Some of the items found appeared to be items that would have been bought from catalogs. By buying nationally the residents might have avoided racism at local stores. One resident remarked that he never knew there was anything underground.

In the 1820’s Quaker abolitionists sold land to black men. It was a thriving community until about 1930 when the Great Depression caused people to move out seeking better opportunity. The houses deteriorated and were razed leaving behind underground foundations. The church was torn down about ten years ago.

The true significance of this excavation and others is that it reveals a part of a group of people that we know little about. It helps rounds out the picture of Black history.

Sources: Material for this hub is from The Washington Post and Wikipedia.

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Comments 31 comments

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Interesting. I'd heard about the excavation but I had no idea the town was founded by freed blacks and slaves. I live in NY, so I'm not too far from there. I should visit the town sometime.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

It would probably be interesting. I ran across the Post article this morning and wrote this hub on impulse.Thanks for commenting.


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV

dahoglund,

Very interesting hub. I had never heard of Timbuctoo, New Jersey let alone the fascinating history of the freed slave community there. Thank you for the information on our heritage.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

The name grabbed me going thru the news items this morning and the story seemed interesting. Glad you liked it. Thanks for commenting.


Gawth profile image

Gawth 6 years ago from Millboro, Virginia

I have always wondered if there was such a place.


Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

Very interesting story; I never heard of this city. Thank you for the introduction.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Gawth,

So did I. .Thanks for reading it and commenting.

Coomon2009

I think it brings out that there are some aspects of our history that have been neglected. Thanks for your comment.


Kinghorn 6 years ago

Informative! So it's not fictional!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Bill

Glad to hear from you and thanks for commenting. It is not fictional. I found this report in the Washington Post. The thing is that only in recent years has there been an interest in the history of some things that are not mainstream.


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

very interesting. keep on writing I'll keep on reading.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for reading and hope you do keep reading.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Very interesting hub about a period of history going back to slavery and the underground railroad. Thanks for posting this.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for the comment. I think this may be only the beginning of more research into sites that nobody thought to investigate in the past.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

da this is fascinating. I hadn't heard about Timbucktoo's history and find it curious that an entire town might be buried underground- and such a recent town. I look forward to learning more about it. Thanks!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I suspect that as interest among historians and archeologists increases that other interesting things may be found. Thanks for commenting.


billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago

dahoglund very interesting with the freed slaves and the naming of the town Timbucktoo given the expression.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for the comment. It is partly interesting because it is just now being explored. Hopefully, other sites will be.


Ray Salvadori 6 years ago

Moved to NJ in 1966 from California. Studied map of area before moving and was fascinated by names like "Tabernacle" , Red Lion, and, yes, Timbucktu! When we settled in, we drove all over finding these places (lived in Medford, then) and learned about Timbucktu and its part in the underground railroad. Our area, and our pine barrens, are, indeed, a fascinating part of our United States; where the bog ore helped produce bullets for the revolution and iron pots for cooking... pots that didn't rust, I am told.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for reading my article and your comments.


noseystudent 5 years ago

I was looking for interesting religious history and stumbled across this, very interested in more info.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting.You can google the Washington post article cited in the beginning of my article.


Melvin Murray 5 years ago

I lived right up the hill from where they are digging most of my teen years.I was so blown away when i heard about what might be beneath the hill.I took a ride to the site from mount laurel where i now live and was back to the area where my grandparents lived for so many years.I can't wait to see what they find.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

That is interesting.Feel free to update me on what you find out.Thanks for commenting.


Deborah Murray 5 years ago

I remember the days when my sisters, cousins and I play up and down that hill. My grandparents had a park there were we had THE MURRAY'S FAMILY REUNIONS.My mother and father lived up the hill from my grandparents home where the digging is now being done. I lived there from birth to 18 years. I'm so exicted about the findings.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Yes, it must be exciting to see a slice of history right wheree you played as a child. Thanks for commenting.


Linda Murray Velez 5 years ago

When I heard about what was going on where I used to live, I was so excited. We use to play up and down the hill, my grandparents told us about the old graveyards, and to respect it,but little did we know today what we would find out, history in the making, and we are apart of it.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

It must be exciting. Thanks for sharing.


Helen (Murray) Woods 5 years ago

I lived in a awesome place where my grandparents lived. We, mother & father & family lived in this area. I was raised in the area from a little child. We lived in a little house in the back. I see now why there were spirits walking around. We were living in history and didn't know it. I love it.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for commenting and telling us your experience with this area.


Tina White 5 years ago

This is one of the happiest moments of my life. When I was a child visiting my grandparents Helen and Fred Lee Murray (who lived up the hill) on BLUE JAY HILL ROAD and my great grandparents Judge and Hettie Murray who lived on the land where the excavation is taking place (CHURCH ROAD) I would play up and down that hill beside the grave yard. Little did I know that I was playing on HISTORY. My family (THE MURRAY’S) moved to timbucktoo NJ in the early 1920’s. I have so many loving memories of that area, for instance we had our MURRAY’S FAMILY REUNIONS there and as children our yearly EASTER EGG HUNTS.

I’m collecting any information and pictures that I can get to pass it along to my children and grandchild about this HISTORICAL TIME FOR MY FAMILY AND I.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Since the story was in the Washington Post you might want to contact them for more information.Thanks for commenting.

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