How to use:
The Maurice River Reaches Map is easy to interact with the simple controls and features provided.
Listed below are the key features and descriptions of how they can be utilized.

Working with the controls
The map is fully draggable. Simply click anywhere on the map and begin dragging your mouse to move the map to specific areas.
move up click to navigate the map "up".
move down click to navigate the map "down".
move left click to navigate the map "left".
move right click to navigate the map "right".
zoom in click to "zoom in" for a closer look.
zoom in click to "zoom out" to back away from the map.
default map setting click to get back to the "default" map setting.
red buoy click to learn more about that reach.
Maurice River Recollections Project
River Reaches
Debra A. Barsotti
Research Journalist
Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River
and Its Tributaries, Inc.

The Maurice River Reaches Project
Owl's Cove
Reach #12

When so many names are attached to a tract of land, you can bet that there are some good stories to go with them. The 1876 Atlas of Cumberland County indicates that a T.S. Furgeson (spelling as in Atlas) owned nearly 700 acres on the western shore of the Maurice River. From this map, it is not clear where the boundaries of the property are and where exactly on the river his property was. But, at one time this property, now owned by the Nature Conservancy was called the Furgeson (later Ferguson) Farm.

But before that, there is a story - a romantic story, that local artist Pat Witt tells. Her grandmother's family lived in the house that was built on that property. *

Witt tells this story about her grandparents: When her grandmother was young and beautiful, and her grandfather was young and handsome, they devised a secret signal that let him know it was okay to come across to the western banks of the Maurice River for their little rendezvous.

"Mom-Mom would hang a white sheet from the attic window," Witt said. "When Pop-Pop saw it from across the river, he would row over to court her." Witt recalled stories about how winter posed new challenges for the sweethearts. The river often froze so thoroughly that blocks of ice were dug from the frozen river and brought back to the family farm. "In those winters, Pop-Pop would skate over," Witt said. When her grandfather would retell his tale, Witt would laugh and tease him. "Grandfather was a good old skate," she'd tell him.

In a different era, during the Depression, Ephraim Milton Weatherby, Sr. leased the property from George Pettinos.

Richard Weatherby, grandson of Ephraim, said that this farmland property sat behind the cabin that became known as Owl's Cove. By the time Ephraim came onto the scene, the Ferguson's no longer owned this land. The new owner, George Pettinos granted a one-hundred year lease to the elder Weatherby.

Richard Weatherby points to a photo and says, "That's where we farmed. The land behind Owl's Cove." (see aerial 1978 of Weatherby Farm)

(The little cabin that perches on the high banks closer to the Maurice River was dubbed Owl's Cove by William Leap. See below.)

Ephraim, Sr. eventually moved his family into the house** on that piece of property.
Richard Weatherby explained that although his grandfather leased the land from George Pettinos and Company; the property still carried the name of the previous owner. At the time, the locals knew the area as the Ferguson property.

"I wish I could show you the old farmhouse," Weatherby said. His grandfather, Ephraim, Sr. lived in that house until the day he died, at the age of 86. That was in the early 1970's. Richard's father kept the house for a few years after that, but old age and illness made it difficult. The Weatherby's eventually relinquished the lease.

"There is nothing left now but a shell," said Weatherby, "Kids burned it down in the early 80’s, which I think was terrible." Weatherby said that soon after his grandfather began farming the land and especially when the family took residence in the house, relatives, friends and locals referred to this as the "Weatherby property".

Within the boundaries of the property are plots that were mined by the various sand companies who had the rights to excavate the land. The now rather rolling landscape, indented from excavations, includes the site of the demolished cabin once known as Owl's Cove (taken down by the Nature Conservancy in 2005 for safety reasons) and the land and the ruins of the old stone farmhouse where Weatherby family (and perhaps Pat Witt's grandmother) lived until the 1970's.

The history of Owl's Cove began in the mid-1900's, when Holly Sayers, the foreman/supervisor for the sand company, moved out of the cabin that was built for him on the property. Weatherby said that Tony DiBruno, owner of long-gone Setter Inn up on Delsea Drive, Vineland, leased the cabin from Pettinos after Sayers vacated it.

That was about the time when Richard's father married and moved to Thompson Beach. The young family lived there until the mid 50's - when a storm leveled everything. Weatherby said that the family lost everything in that storm.

DiBruno, a friend of Richard's father, offered the cabin to the young Weatherby family. Richard recalled, "We were living up the river, in a cabin, because we lost everything we had."

DiBruno continued to hold the lease during that time. After the Weatherby family vacated the cabin and moved on, DiBruno let the lease on the cabin expire. "That's when Bill Leap got the lease," Weatherby remembered.

That was in 1962. William Leap of Runnemede, was seeking and found a place of solitude in the region. He was delighted with the cabin and the untamed wilderness that had taken hold after the sand excavations and farming ceased. It wasn't long before Leap brought his family to spend summers and weekends. Inspired by the sounds of the nightly creatures often silhouetted against the tall pines, Leap created a sign for that the secluded spot on the Maurice River, naming it "Owl's Cove."  He erected a sign with a picture of a great horned owl on the shore and boaters adopted the name as well.

After the death of his wife, Leap stopped coming to the cabin. His son Ken returned from time to time during the following years, but eventually the log cabin stood vacant. In 2004, the site of the cabin, the old farmhouse, and the surrounding terrain became part of the Nature Conservancy's 350-acre nature preserve. 6/06*Pat Witt's grandmother was Aida Brown. The time frame would put her grandmother at this house in the late 1800's Can this be verified? Who built the house and when, who lived there…was it the Furgesons house - who perhaps owned property in 1876… Was the structure part of Pettinos facility at any time?)