Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Jersey Nostalgia...And Hidden Jersey Gold?

Never knew it existed...until today, when way out in the Jersey hinterlands, at Ringeos Station (Hunterdon County), I saw this old girl rusting on a railroad siding:

The Central Railroad of New Jersey (reporting mark CNJ), commonly known as the Jersey Central Lines or CNJ, was a Class I railroad with origins in the 1830s, lasting until 1976 when it was absorbed into Conrail with the other bankrupt railroads of the Northeastern United States. Its main line ran from Jersey City west through New Jersey to Phillipsburg and across the Delaware River to Easton and Scranton in Pennsylvania. Branches stretched into southern New Jersey to Delaware Bay...

Ringeos Station, circa 1872:

And today, looking almost identical:

Ringoes is the oldest known settlement in Hunterdon County. The village grew up around John Ringo's Tavern on Route 179 on the Old York Road. The tavern was the site for many meetings of the Hunterdon Chapter of the Sons of Liberty formed in 1766..

And who was John Ringo? His last descendant tells the tale of pirates, Indians, and the American Revolution:

The Ringo Family History Series reflects John Ringo, son of Philip Janszen Ringo, came to an Indian cross road that is now Ringoes, NJ in about 1684. John Ringo was hiding out from some pirates who were after him for hijacking their ship with their loot. John Ringo died there in 1725. The rest of the descendants of Philip Janszen Ringo left New Amsterdam in 1701 and moved to the settlement at Assunpink Creek, now known as Trenton, where Philip Ringo, born 11-2-1682 started a grist milling business. He later moved to what is now known as Hunterdon County, where he continued his grist milling business and purchased a tavern in the village of Ringoes. His son, John Ringo operated the tavern. In 1774 a meeting of the Son's of Liberty" met at John Ringo's tavern where they wrote a petition to King George of England complaining of their treatment. Two years later America and England were at war. The American's won the war.The English lost their colony and stopped spending money in America. The Ringo family lost their farm, tavern and grist mill in a foreclosure by 1785. Almost all male members of the Ringo family served in the Revolutionary War and were given a 500 acre land grant in Kentucky. They all moved to Kentucky or Virginia. The Last Ringo to live in Ringoes, New Jersey, was yours truly, Jim Ringo. I discovered Ringoes in 1981 and bought a house on John Ringo Road, where I lived until 1984

Wild stories are still told to this day (literally) in Ringoes about John Ringo's ill-gotten gold, still allegedly buried within the town. Laughed when I heard it, but I was stunned to read that there was more than a grain of truth to this tale.

Apparently, before his sojourn to New Jersey, Mr. Ringo (already an accomplished sailor) was kidnapped by pirates and put to work on a slave ship; after some time (with the help of the slaves) he managed to overcome the pirates and take command of the vessel:

They sailed from there to New York City, where Ringo sold all the cargo that the pirates had except a heavy chest. After much trouble, he finally succeeded in opening the chest and discovered it to be full of GOLD.

He sold the ship and bought land for the two negroes, who had helped him, but he was afraid to stay in New York for fear of the pirates. He was quite well off due to his business deals and the gold was added fortune; however, Ringo realized that this treasure had been taken from people, who were murdered by the pirates and therefore determined never to use it.

Tradition has it that he decided to settle far back in the wilds of New Jersey, miles from civilization. There he lived to a ripe old age but never during his lifetime used any of the gold, which he had found in the chest. He buried it in the deep of night and died without disclosing the hiding place because he did not want any of his family to taint their hands with this “blood money.”

I'm going back next weekend, with a pick-axe and a metal detector...


Anonymous said...

Freaky story! Belongs in "Weird New Jersey"!

Anonymous said...

This story is similar to the legend of New Jersey town named "Money Island" located on the Delaware Bay side on Nantuxent Cove. No one has found any treasure yet!

Anonymous said...

Although this is "just" a legend, when two subdivisions were built over the last few years just behind the site of the John Ringo's Tavern in Ringoes, the land was deed restricted by East Amwell Township NJ to state that any gold found on the property in the process of excavating for the houses would belong to the Township. Old tale, but taken quite seriously in governmental quarters.

The JerseyNut said...

Wow. I am going to research that! Is the government that desperate that they need to be laying claims to "legendary" gold? How would they spend money earned through piracy and slave-trading, anyway?

And I wonder what the heirs of John Ringo would have to say?


Anonymous said...

Growing up in Ringoes in the 70's, we used to always try and find the Buried treasure. Never found it but we did find an abandoned graveyard behind the church.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually a heir of the Ringo''s and this sounds amazing :D

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

Did the Ringoes Family settle in Flemings County KY. There are towns call Ringoes Mills, Flemingsburg and Stockton.