244 Years Ago Today, 10 Brutally Massacred in This Southern NJ House
This is one of those things that as a life-long resident of South Jersey, I knew nothing about. But the more I read about it, I became more and more intrigued about what happened inside this rather innocent-looking house.
Truth be told, I have driven past this place numerous times. I thought it was just an old house that stood the test of time and someone decided to save it and turn it into a park.
While that's true, the store here is much, much deeper and horribly tragic.
The property that this house sits on dates back to around 1673 (that's just shy of 350 years ago). The house that's there was built in 1734 -- it, obviously, pre-dates America by several decades.
That, alone, would be a reason to see this historic site -- and the brickwork in a stunning herringbone pattern on one side of the building is absolutely incredible to see (more pictures below).
But that's not necessarily why people tour this house.
Inside of its walls, something awful happened. But "awful" isn't a strong enough word to use. It was brutal. Cruel. Barbaric.
In 1778, as many as 10 people were killed inside and not a single gunshot was fired.
The Hancock House sits on Front Street in Hancock's Bridge, part of Lower Alloways Creek Township in rural Salem County.
A short version of a long story goes like this:
William and Sarah Hancock built this house in 1734. William died in 1762 and he left the home to his son, also named William. Fast forward a bit to 1776, which was a rather turbulent time in American history. And that's where this story begins to turn tragic.
In February 1778, George Washington ordered Gen. Anthony Wayne to look for food and horses in South Jersey. A month later, "Sir William Howe dispatched 1500 British troops and loyalists under Gen. Charles Mawhood to do the same," according to a brochure.
Mawhood's activity in the area angered those that lived in Salem County and they put up quite a fight.
Tired of the resistance, on March 20, 1778, Mawhood issued the following order, which was carried out at 5 AM the following day:
"Go - spare no one - put all to death - give no quarters."
And that's exactly what happened.
300 British troops attacked the Hancock House, which is where the local militia was stationed. Troops entered from the front and back of the home at the same time.
Out of the 20 to 30 people that were inside at the time, around ten were brutally murdered. Those killed were bayoneted to death.
Since that massacre, the house was utilized in different ways -- it was a tavern for a bit, a hotel, and even a private residence for a while (can you imagine living there?) until the State of New Jersey turned it into a historic site.
Oh, and many people claim the house is haunted. It is said screams can be heard and apparitions have been seen. And although the public is no longer allowed to tour the upper floors, it is said that blood can still be seen on some of the floorboards.
Should you be interested in visiting the Hancock House, it is open several days a week and a local guide will gladly tell you the fascinating history of this 288-year-old home (pictures of the interior are not allowed).
And a side note: this isn't the only quirky thing in Hancock's Bridge. Just a few minutes from the Hancock House is a bridge that's nearly 120-years-old and you can't drive on it. Pictures of that are below, too.