Vincentown, NJ

by Dan Eisenhuth

 ”Vincentown? Where’s that?” When I first moved to Vincentown five years ago, I was very sensitive about that question, so I developed some non-committal, stock answers: “At the end of Church Road.” “Between Mount Holly and Medford.” “Near Route 206.” Seemed nobody knew where Vincentown was. It was embarrassing.

Today, however, whenever someone asks me where Vincentown is, I sidestep the question. Pinpointing the town would be like giving my wife’s telephone number to a stranger. If it is possible to have a love affair with a town, Vincentown and I are deeply involved.

It began when I first saw Vincentown covered with snow. It was a striking scene stolen from a New England Christmas card. The tiny Episcopal church, nestled beside the south branch of the Rancocas, with its arching roof and green shutters, looked as if it had just escaped from a model train layout. The waterfall where the gristmill once stood ran black and silver in the moonlight. The ancient, stately pine trees were festooned with snow.

Vincentown is the archetypal American town. Its streets – all eight of them – could be transplanted bodily to Massachusetts or Indiana or a mountain valley in Pennsylvania and look right at home. The homes are old – very old. Some date from when Vincentown was a carriage stop on the road from Philadelphia to the shore. Others date from the time Vincentown was a summer resort for the very rich who wanted to enjoy the town’s mirror-like lake and cedar water. The homes come in all styles – gothic, Victorian, and plain old South Jersey farmhouse, but they blend their diverse architectural styles into a scene so pleasing it defies description.

The most pleasant thing about Vincentown, however, is its people. The town seems lost in some kind of a time warp. The pace of living is slower than the 1970′s demand, in total defiance of the calendar.

For instance, there’s Al, the town’s only grocer, whose stockboys not only bag your groceries, but carry them to the car too. There’s Ed at the gas station who is always willing to come right to your house when your car won’t start. There’s Margaret Allen’s department store where you can buy anything in the world as long as you ask her to locate it. And there’s friendly Mrs. Wignal at the corner bank who makes cashing even my meager paycheck a pleasant experience. Personal contact, unlike elsewhere in our push-and-shove society, has not been forgotten in Vincentown.

It is a wonderful place to raise a child. Farmlands touch the town’s western border and pinelands are to the east with their deer and cranberry bogs. It is not unusual to look out the window and see horse and rider or ponycart on the street rather than an automobile. Crime is almost unheard of there.

During the summer, children flock to Mill Pond to swim, fish and canoe. During the winter, there’s sledding on Race Street (conveniently blocked off by the police department) and ice skating on the pond.

And in the quiet of the evening, when the town is bathed in the warm glow of sunset, chimed hymns float tranquilly over rooftops from a church tower.

It is the peacefulness of Vincentown, the restfulness, the sense of well-being the town imparts upon its citizens I like best. The signs of care are everywhere. Every headstone in the town cemetery carries a wreath at Christmas, and the cemetery is well cared for. People of Vincentown do not forget their ancestors or their heritage.

It is a place to live rather than just exist. A place where the family roots grow as deep as the massive trees that line the streets.

You become very possessive about the place after you’ve lived there for awhile. It is a dreamer’s dream to hope Vincentown never changes, to hope that the town fathers are foresighted enough to protect its unique character.

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