Lucifer[1} Came a Calling to Texas: A Field Reconnaissance of New Jersey’s Rancocas Creek Phosphorous Works and Associated Commercial and Social Relationships to Burlington County’s Rancocas Creek Watershed
Just west of Rancocas State Park’s western boundary in Mount Laurel, Burlington County, sits the crossroads community of Centreton. The community represents a unique slice of New Jersey’s maritime history and heritage and the location of a former phosphorous manufacturing facility that operated from about 1870 to between 1900 and 1905. Here, on the south side of the Rancocas Creek’s broad, sweeping tidal expanse, “Lucifer Came a Calling.” The manufacture of phosphorus in the United States commenced on a broad scale in and about 1870 here on New Jersey’s Rancocas Creek. Just west of the confluence of the North and South Branches of the Rancocas Creek near Texas Avenue sits the remains of the former Rancocas Chemical Works. This works has been poorly documented historically and the current study contextualizes its role as an important early American phosphorous manufactory in the Rancocas Creek watershed. The former works’ location along the tidal creek, its temporary partial exposure during tidal ebbs and flows, and its identification by the kayaking community also highlights the important contributions such recreational communities can offer to helping identify and preserve our state’s cultural heritage. See Map 1.
Kling, Dhalberg, and Wall-Reinus (2019) state that water trails constitute a valuable asset in natural landscapes for tourism and recreation as they provide infrastructure and access to nature, offer interpretation of the landscape, guide visitors to cultural features, and reduce the risk of damaging ecologically sensitive places. Indeed, author John Anderson has enjoyed New Jersey’s water courses to explore and document aspects of the state’s cultural and archaeological heritage. It is through such waterway exploration that archaeological traces of a once vibrant and important phosphorous works were identified, portions of which are found submerged in the creek, only to be exposed during the natural ebb and flow of the tidal watercourse. Maritime archaeologist Christer Lennart Westerdhal’s (1992) has identified the importance of transit zones on inland waterways. The maritime cultural landscape and more inland waterway use connected with shipping raw materials and finished goods via boat to and from such factories in New Jersey is evident as one navigates the Mid-Atlantic’s Delaware River drainage and its watershed. The Rancocas Creek and its use by manufactories like the Rancocas Chemical Works is an excellent example.
 Lucifer – so named in title as the Rancocas Phosphorous Works manufactured w white or yellow phosphorous matches. Matches that in this 1870’s manufacturing process lead to cases of “phossy jaw” cause by terms of the day “lucifer matches”